Newsletter: Essential California: The O.C. jail snitch case — whatever happened?

Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer says he won’t let the county’s infamous jailhouse snitch scandal go unanswered, but years of stalled investigations and legal defeats have left some police watchdogs and activists crestfallen.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, April 22, and here’s what’s happening across California:


Stalled investigations: Five years after one of the nation’s most infamous jailhouse snitch scandals rocked Orange County and spawned multiple investigations, no one has been disciplined, fired, or prosecuted for misconduct. And on Friday, a deputy attorney general said that the state investigation — the only avenue for criminal charges — has been closed. For those closest to the case, there is a fear that the public will never truly know what went on inside Orange County’s jails. Los Angeles Times

A safe haven for transgender youth: The nation’s first long-term transitional housing shelter for transgender youth quietly opened nearly two months ago in San Francisco. The nondescript Victorian house in Haight-Ashbury fills an urgent need for its five initial residents, offering a refuge from bullying and abuse that they might not find anywhere else. San Francisco Chronicle


Embattled L.A. lawyer Michael Avenatti has been accused by prosecutors of embezzling nearly $2 million from an NBA player’s ex-girlfriend, who Avenatti represented at the time. Avenatti has denied any wrongdoing. Los Angeles Times

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Disabled parking: In her first story as the Los Angeles Times’ new Westside beat reporter, Sonja Sharp takes a look at the city’s disabled parking crisis. Fraudulent and improper use of disabled parking placards can keep the coveted blue parking spots from the people who truly need them. With the spots taken, disabled Angelenos routinely miss work and social events because they physically can’t escape their cars. The Los Angeles City Council recently voted to increase the fine for disabled-parking placard fraud to $1,100 from $250, saying it would deter abuse, but experts have their doubts. Los Angeles Times


The Wing lands in West Hollywood: The Wing, a much-buzzed-about members-only and women-focused working space, opened its first Los Angeles location last week, complete with a “Ladies Library” stocked by the ​Strand​ Bookstore and Skylight Books​. Take a peek inside at the pastel interiors and art. Hollywood Reporter

Free rides: On Monday, Southern California transit agencies will celebrate Earth Day by urging commuters to help the environment by leaving their cars at home and riding the bus, the train or a bicycle for free. Los Angeles County’s transit agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is waiving its $1.75 fare all day. Los Angeles Times


Who gets counted? The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments this week on whether a question about citizenship can be added to the U.S. census. A citizenship question would probably deter immigrants from responding, potentially resulting in an undercount. The high court’s decision will have massive ramifications for California, as census numbers are used to determine federal funding and political representation. Washington Post


Outgunning Texas: California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, the state’s top law enforcement officer, has made a national name for himself suing the Trump administration on a variety of policy issues (including the U.S. census citizenship question). Now, after just two years, California is set to surpass the total number of lawsuits that the state of Texas filed against the feds during the eight-year Obama presidency. CalMatters

New election system: In 2016, California lawmakers enacted a sweeping new election system that they pledged would result in higher turnout, lower costs and a better overall experience for voters. Three years later, it remains unclear whether the California Voter’s Choice Act has delivered on those promises. The real test will likely come with the state’s presidential primary next March, when 10 counties (including Los Angeles) join the switch from election day polling places to multiday vote centers. Los Angeles Times



Roman Polanski is suing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, arguing that the organization behind the Oscars failed to follow proper procedures when they expelled him last May and that his membership should be reinstated. The “Chinatown” director fled the country after pleading guilty in 1977 to unlawful sex with a minor and has lived in exile in Europe for the last four decades. The Academy issued a statement saying it stood by its decision to expel Polanski, who is considered a fugitive by the U.S. criminal justice system. Los Angeles Times


Clearer skies: New research shows that the presence of “tule fog” — a dense fog that often blankets the Central Valley and San Francisco Bay — has declined sharply over the last few decades. The decrease in fog correlates with an overall downward trend in air pollution. SFGate

John Muir Day: Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a proclamation declaring Sunday, April 21, to be “John Muir Day” in the state, honoring the 19th century naturalist and author whose activism helped establish Yosemite National Park — and the entire National Park System. Sierra Sun Times


Ye has risen: Kanye West led Coachella festival-goers in a 100-singer-strong gospel Easter service on Sunday morning. West’s “Yeaster” was the first morning performance in the festival’s 20-year history. Los Angeles Times

Kanye West among his followers during his Sunday service at Coachella.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Serious loyalty: Tim Cromwell, an eighth-grade history teacher from Corona, attended the very first Coachella in 1999 to see Tool and Rage Against the Machine. Cromwell has been back to Indio every year since, and he — along with other longtime festival-goers — discusses what has changed over the years. Press-Enterprise


Housing crunch: As rising rents in coastal areas outpace pay, California’s teachers are being hit especially hard by the state’s crushing housing crisis. Nowhere is the gap between teacher pay and housing costs wider than in the Bay Area. San Francisco Chronicle

“Boyz N the Hood” director John Singleton was placed in intensive care after suffering what’s been termed a mild stroke. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles area: Sunny, 73, Monday. Sunny, 81, Tuesday. San Diego: Sunny, 68, Monday. Sunny, 72, Tuesday. San Francisco area: Sunny, 71, Monday. Mostly sunny, 72, Tuesday. San Jose: Sunny, 81, Monday. Mostly sunny, 87, Tuesday. Sacramento: Sunny, 86, Monday. Mostly sunny, 88, Tuesday. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Rep. Norma Torres (April 23, 1965) and Barbra Streisand (April 24, 1942).

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.