Newsletter: Essential California: Inside a secret 2014 list of problem sheriff’s deputies

About 300 L.A. deputies are on the Brady list, a secret record of problem officers.

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Dec. 9. Here’s what you don’t want to miss this weekend:


A Times investigation

Before we get to coverage of the fires sweeping Southern California, let’s go inside the secret 2014 list of hundreds of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies with histories of misconduct. A version of the list, reviewed by The Times, now includes about 300 deputies and is so tightly controlled that it can be seen by only a handful of high-ranking sheriff’s officials. Not even prosecutors can access it. Sheriff Jim McDonnell wants to give the names on the list to prosecutors, who are required by law to tell criminal defendants about evidence that would damage the credibility of an officer called as a witness. But McDonnell’s efforts have ignited a fierce legal battle with the union that represents rank-and-file deputies. The is all especially significant, because deputies on the list have been identified as potential witnesses in more than 62,000 felony cases since 2000, according to a Times analysis of district attorney records. In many of those cases, the deputies’ misconduct would probably have been relevant in assessing their credibility. Los Angeles Times


Plus: Sex. Lies. Abuse. How these L.A. deputies landed on a secret 2014 list of problem officers. Los Angeles Times

And: We’re continuing to report on these L.A. deputies with histories of misconduct. Submit a tip here. Los Angeles Times

Now to the fires

Despite the easing of Santa Ana winds across the region, the five-day fire siege of Southern California continued to grow on Friday, boosted by unpredictable wind patterns. Legions of firefighters battled more than half a dozen major blazes in Southern California. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. Across Ventura, Los Angeles and San Diego counties, fires had destroyed more than 500 structures and charred about 159,000 acres by Friday afternoon. Los Angeles Times


Plus: The first fire-related fatality from a series of wildfires that have covered Southern California in smoke and ash was confirmed Friday, authorities said. Virginia Pesola, 70, of Santa Paula was found dead in a car that had been involved in a crash along an evacuation route in a burn area of the Thomas fire in Ventura County on Wednesday night. Los Angeles Times

A sad week for horses

Though there has been one fatality, human life has been remarkably preserved in the wildfires this week. But for horses — animals born and bred to run — the death toll has been staggering. More than 66 are known to have died. At least 35 perished at San Luis Rey Downs on Thursday afternoon, and 29 at a Sylmar ranch overrun by the Creek fire Tuesday. There are reports of dead or missing horses and ponies from small farms and ranches throughout the region. Some owners won’t know the fate of their animals until evacuation orders are lifted and they can search their properties. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Five longtime friends hadn’t spoken in years but met in Santa Paula by chance as they helped save homes from the flames. Los Angeles Times

Dababneh resigns

Assemblyman Matt Dababneh said Friday he is resigning at the end of the month, a decision that comes four days after he was publicly accused of masturbating in front of a lobbyist and other inappropriate behavior. Dababneh, a Democrat from Woodland Hills, has strongly denied the allegations and told The Times that his resignation should not be construed as a tacit admission of wrongdoing. Los Angeles Times

SoCal’s newest heavy hitter

The Angels pulled off a massive surprise Friday, earning the commitment of Japan’s Shohei Ohtani, one of the most widely wooed prospects in baseball history. Ohtani, a pitcher with a triple-digit fastball and a hitter with tape-measure power, agreed to sign with the Angels for relative peanuts, a decision that could alter the franchise’s course for years to come. They could slot him atop their starting rotation and in the middle of their batting order. Los Angeles Times



Give them a call: The Los Angeles County Assessor’s Office has set up a disaster relief telephone line to help the owners of properties damaged in the county’s three fires to apply for property tax relief. Los Angeles Times

Makes sense: Hospitals across Southern California reported that high numbers of patients with breathing problems caused by this week’s wildfires visited emergency rooms. Los Angeles Times

Deported, divided: How a mom’s return to El Salvador tore her family in two. Washington Post

By the border: Officials have begun testing how easily someone can climb over the border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa port of entry, progressing to the next phase of a process that may make President Trump’s vision a reality. Los Angeles Times

On the gridiron: Rams receiver Sammy Watkins is looking forward to playing against the Philadelphia Eagles and his brother, Jaylen. Los Angeles Times


1. Before-and-after images of the devastating fires in Southern California. Los Angeles Times


2. The LA Weekly’s new era starts with backlash; some advertisers step back. Los Angeles Times

3. Where can you afford to rent in California? Los Angeles Times

4. LiAngelo Ball leaving UCLA is the best news the Bruins could have gotten. Los Angeles Times

5. A wildfire in Ventura County destroys more homes and reaches the Pacific Ocean. Los Angeles Times


Cadet scandal: If the group of young Los Angeles police cadets accused of stealing department vehicles had any fear of getting caught, they certainly didn’t show it. For weeks, according to documents, the teens drove to and from LAPD-related events and on joyrides as far away as Corona and Santa Clarita. Some of the cadets used the cars to perform “doughnuts” behind an Inglewood store, and one drove a stolen LAPD vehicle to his job at a Ross Dress for Less store. Los Angeles Times

California connection: Earlier this week, Time magazine announced its “Person of the Year” as the Silence Breakers — those who have gone public with the sexual harassment they experienced. One of the women featured on the cover is Adama Iwu, a founder of the We Said Enough group that has called attention to sexual misconduct in state politics. Time

Plus: Read this story about how “Harvey Weinstein relied on powerful relationships across industries to provide him with cover as accusations of sexual misconduct piled up for decades.” New York Times

Our Interior secretary: “Early in [Ryan Zinke’s] political career, the Interior secretary irked fellow Republicans with his willingness to stand up for conservation. Things have changed, and whether you love or hate his ideas, know this: He’s one of the few Trump-era Cabinet secretaries with the juice to make things happen, and he’s got the boss’ back.” Outside

Great story: Meet Vel the Wonder, the grafitti-loving rapper who “learned how to freestyle while rolling with a [tagging] crew back in the day. Friends set up a makeshift studio in a closet where Vel recorded her first bars when she just turned 22. She liked what she heard, but still never thought rapping would become a definitive part of her creative life.” OC Weekly

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.