Newsletter: Essential California: Former assemblyman was under investigation when he resigned and took job at USC

Former state Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas in 2016.
( Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, Aug. 16, and here’s what’s happening across California:


Former Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas was the subject of two sexual harassment complaints at the time he stepped down from the Legislature last year while citing health problems, according to documents reviewed by The Times and sources familiar with the matter. Ridley-Thomas, who has denied any wrongdoing, went on a few months later to become a professor of social work and public policy at USC. A university source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said USC had found no evidence that Ridley-Thomas informed administrators he was under investigation. USC fired Ridley-Thomas last month amid questions about his appointment and a $100,000 donation to the school from his father’s campaign funds. Los Angeles Times

Cadet scandal fallout


A former Los Angeles police officer accused of sexually abusing a teenage member of the department’s heralded cadet program was sentenced to two years in prison Wednesday after pleading no contest to statutory rape charges. Robert Cain, 32, pleaded no contest to oral copulation with a minor and unlawful sex with a minor, a little more than a year after he was arrested by former Police Chief Charlie Beck as part of a widening scandal involving the LAPD’s signature youth program. Los Angeles Times

What to do about offshore drilling?

When the Trump administration proposed opening California waters to drilling at an unprecedented scale, state leaders said they would do whatever it takes to keep new oil operations at bay. But promises only go so far. Now, some state lawmakers are trying to lock those pledges into law — safeguarding the coast from offshore drilling no matter the whims of future administrations. Despite decades of lawsuits and regulations, the state’s ability to block offshore drilling depends largely on who’s in power in Sacramento. Los Angeles Times

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The Los Angeles Philharmonic and architect Frank Gehry unveiled his design Wednesday for the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center @ Inglewood.
(Gehry Partners)


Scooter wars: L.A. temporarily banned rental scooters in March. So why are they everywhere? Los Angeles Times

Exciting times: The Los Angeles Philharmonic and Frank Gehry on Wednesday unveiled designs for its YOLA Center, a former bank building that the architect will remake into a 25,000-square-foot youth orchestra hall and performance space in Inglewood. Los Angeles Times

Plus: “A video circulating in Inglewood this week appears to capture Mayor James Butts telling an activist to ‘go choke yourself,’ but the city’s original version of the recording posted online has been altered to remove the insult.” Daily Breeze

Encouraging sign: The campus of the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center has a shameful past. Now it’s slated to become a haven for homeless veterans. NPR


South of the border: Mexico’s new president has a radical plan to end the drug war. His slogan on the campaign trail was “Hugs, not gunshots.” Vox



In court: Former Assemblyman Matt Dababneh filed a defamation lawsuit Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court against a lobbyist who accused him of forcing her into a bathroom and masturbating in front of her. Los Angeles Times

The fight over AB 375: “Facebook and Google made billions mining personal data, and fought off anyone who threatened to stop them. Then came a challenge in their own backyard.” New York Times Magazine

Orange County intrigue: “FBI agents in California and Washington, D.C., have investigated a series of cyberattacks over the past year that targeted a Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.Rolling Stone

Tit for tat: Walt Disney Co. has put a hold on plans to build a luxury hotel in the Disneyland Resort’s shopping district, citing a feud with Anaheim officials over tax subsidies that the Burbank media giant was expecting to get from operating the hotel. Los Angeles Times

The next celebrity president? “Harvey Levin is casting the TMZ primary.” Bloomberg Businessweek

Just asking: “What have we done to trigger [Rep. Devin] Nunes into chipping off at least $30,000 from his $7-million war chest in an absurd, desperate attempt to discredit Central California’s leading news organization?” Fresno Bee



Judicial appointment watch: Is Trump finally ready to turn his sights to remaking the 9th Circuit Court? Los Angeles Times

Bail reform: California lawmakers haven’t released the details of landmark legislation meant to overhaul the way judges assign bail, but the bill’s former supporters are raising alarm over possible changes that could give judges more power to incarcerate a wide array of people. Los Angeles Times

Got him: A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy pleaded guilty Monday to operating a drug trafficking scheme in which he escorted what he thought were large quantities of narcotics into the state in exchange for cash, negotiating payments of up to $250,000 with an undercover federal agent, court documents show. Los Angeles Times

Big court decision: “Brooke Adams, 5, has suffered from seizures her whole life. On Monday, she attended her first day of kindergarten — after a judge issued a ruling that she could be given medical cannabis while at public school.” Sacramento Bee


For the weekend warriors: “Tim Palmer wrote the book on California rivers. Here are his eight favorite spots.” California Sun


RIP: Aaron Cox, the 24-year-old brother-in-law of Angels star Mike Trout and until recently a pitching prospect in the team’s minor league system, died Wednesday morning, the Angels announced. A cause of death was not listed. Los Angeles Times

Tesla troubles: Tesla Inc.’s stock stumbled Wednesday morning after a report that the Elon Musk-led automaker has been sent subpoenas by the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding plans to take the company private. Los Angeles Times

A fun one: “How to have bullfights in California? Use Velcro.” New York Times

A Bay Area brouhaha: Garbage companies are refusing your recycling. The trade war with China will make it worse. San Francisco Chronicle

Yum! The improbable rise of Teddy’s Red Tacos. L.A. Taco


Los Angeles area: sunny, 85, Thursday; partly cloudy, 86, Friday. San Diego: partly cloudy, 80, Thursday; partly cloudy, 82, Friday. San Francisco area: partly cloudy, 65, Thursday and Friday. San Jose: partly cloudy, 80, Thursday; sunny, 85, Friday. Sacramento: sunny, 92, Thursday; sunny, 96, Friday. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Anthony Amarante:

“I was a soldier from Burbank stationed in Bamberg, West Germany, back in the 1970s when the Mel Brooks film ‘Blazing Saddles’ came out. Watching it at the base theater with everybody else was enjoyable, even up to the end of the film when Brooks on a horse goes riding out of the Warner Bros. studio lot and onto Olive Avenue. I stood up and started screaming like an idiot, ‘yeah, Burbank, hey, Olive Avenue, I live four blocks away!’ Needless to say everybody else in the theater, people from Ohio or Louisiana or Oregon and the like, were not impressed. They threw popcorn at me and told me to shut up and sit down.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.