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Today’s Headlines: ‘An epidemic of hate’ in California

California Attorney General Rob Bonta
California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, shown at a March news conference, said 2020 “wasn’t just about a deadly virus. It was about an epidemic of hate.”
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

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‘An epidemic of hate’ in California

Anti-Asian hate crimes more than doubled in California in 2020, according to a report from the state attorney general, underscoring fears among Asian Americans about being targeted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, hate crimes reported to law enforcement rose 31% in the state last year, with attacks against Asians up by 107%, according to the report released Wednesday. Hate crimes against Black people, which constituted a majority of racially motivated attacks last year, increased by 88%. Anti-Latino crimes rose 38%.

“For too many, 2020 wasn’t just about a deadly virus. It was about an epidemic of hate,” state Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta said.

The report backs up other studies that found hate crimes rising in California and across the country in recent years amid growing political polarization, emboldened hate groups and the stresses of a global health crisis. The rhetoric of then-President Trump and others, blaming China for the pandemic because it originated there, has intensified anti-Asian sentiment in some quarters.

The state Department of Justice’s report tracked hate crimes — criminal acts motivated at least in part by characteristics such as race, gender or religion — reported to law enforcement agencies in California. It did not monitor racist attacks that were purely verbal. Hate speech is largely protected by the 1st Amendment, becoming a hate crime only if there is a threat to a person or property.

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Despite the huge increases last year, state Justice Department officials say that hate crimes are still probably underreported.

More politics

Donald Trump’s company and his longtime finance chief have been indicted on charges stemming from a New York investigation into the former president’s business dealings, two people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. Allen Weisselberg surrendered to New York prosecutors on Thursday morning to face criminal charges.

Donald Rumsfeld, the two-time Defense secretary and one-time presidential candidate whose career was upended by his role in the Iraq war, has died. He was 88.

— The House voted largely along party lines to create a special committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump crowd.

For more news and analysis, sign up for our Essential Politics newsletter, sent to your inbox three days a week.

Bill Cosby sex assault conviction overturned

Bill Cosby was freed from prison after Pennsylvania’s highest court overturned his sexual assault conviction, a stunning reversal in a case that marked the first celebrity trial in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

The 83-year-old comedian once known as “America’s Dad” served nearly three years of a three- to 10-year sentence after being found guilty of drugging and assaulting Temple University sports administrator Andrea Constand at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004.

In the 79-page opinion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote that a “non-prosecution agreement” between Cosby and former Montgomery County Dist. Atty. Bruce Castor meant that the actor should never have been charged in the case. The judges barred any future prosecution.

Castor, who is best known for defending Trump during his February impeachment trial, had concerns at the time about the success of the case against Cosby, absent a confession from the actor. He agreed not to prosecute him so that he wouldn’t be able to invoke his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination in a subsequent civil action brought by Constand. There was no evidence that promise was ever put in writing, according to court records.

Cosby made several incriminating statements during his depositions in the civil case that were later used in his criminal trial by Castor’s successor after dozens of women across the nation came forward to accuse the comedian of sexual assault.

Hollywood mogul wants to combat homelessness

As a humanitarian crisis roils Los Angeles on its streets, one of the city’s wealthiest residents, Hollywood executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, has begun meeting with local officials to understand homelessness better and offer some ideas about how he might help.

In recent weeks, Katzenberg has discussed the issue with several members of the Los Angeles City Council and aides to Mayor Eric Garcetti, raising questions about how he might influence homelessness policy and whether he intends to bankroll efforts to get people off the streets.

It’s partly been a listening tour for Katzenberg, who has deep pockets and has donated to countless politicians at the local, state and national level. But he also came with a message, according to three people who spoke with him: People are angry about what’s playing out on the city’s streets and want change.

Contribution records show that Katzenberg also has been giving locally, donating $50,000 in 2017 to the campaign for Measure H, which raised taxes to pay for social services that help Los Angeles County’s unhoused. A year earlier, he contributed $100,000 to Garcetti’s campaign for Measure M, the half-cent sales tax to support public transit and transportation programs.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

In 1940 the stars attended a charity fundraiser for the Red Cross at the Hollywood Park horse racing track. Times sportswriter Paul Lowry reported the following day:

“Red Cross day brought a crowd of 18,500 persons to Hollywood Park yesterday afternoon and tossed records into the discard right and left. The returns to the mercy fund were estimated at $40,000 by the track management. The exact total will not be known until a complete check is made of pari-mutuel handle, concessions, admissions, program sales and other items. Jockeys donated their services, owners split their purses.”

July 1940: Hollywood stars Don Ameche (holding binoculars), Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart watch the action at Hollywood Park.
July 1, 1940: Hollywood stars Don Ameche (holding binoculars), Hedy Lamarr and James Stewart watch the action at Hollywood Park.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— A major explosion in South Los Angeles damaged buildings and injured at least 17 people, including police officers, as a bomb squad attempted to safely detonate improvised explosive devices that had been seized from a home along with thousands of pounds of illegal fireworks.

— L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti intervened when his former high-level advisor pushed up against a female aide in a small elevator, the woman testified in a deposition. The allegation is the latest development in a sexual harassment suit that alleges the mayor witnessed the advisor’s behavior.

— An East L.A. woman has been charged with murder in the deaths of her three children, who were found inside the family’s home earlier this week, according to prosecutors.

— A kayaker who dipped a hand in the waters north of Catalina Island was bitten by a shark Wednesday morning, prompting the closure of a one-mile stretch of coast for 24 hours.

— The newly launched Metro Micro program is offering on-demand ride-share service for Angelenos at just $1 a ride.

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NATION-WORLD

— A former municipal official in Florida who assured condo board members that their building was in “very good shape” three years before it collapsed has left his new job, a city spokesman said. Meanwhile, thousands of people from across the Miami area have flocked to a wall dedicated to those missing in the collapse.

— The grim toll of the historic heat wave in the Pacific Northwest became more apparent as authorities in Canada, Washington state and Oregon said that they were investigating more than 100 deaths probably caused by scorching temperatures that shattered all-time records.

— North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated top officials for coronavirus-prevention failures that caused a “great crisis,” raising the specter of a mass outbreak in a country that has claimed to have no cases.

— Actor Allison Mack, who became a key figure in the NXIVM cult led by convicted sex trafficker Keith Raniere, has been sentenced to three years in federal prison.

John Ascuaga, the son of Basque sheepherders who became a northern Nevada gambling icon after he bought a small coffee shop with a few slot machines in 1960 and turned it into a major hotel-casino he operated for more than a half-century, has died at age 96.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— The new film “Zola” hits like a lightning bolt. Director and co-writer Janicza Bravo knew she had to make it after reading the original tweets by A’Ziah “Zola” King.

— Tyler, the role model? On a sincere and ambitious new album, Tyler, the Creator comes into his own, writes pop music critic Mikael Wood.

— Netflix’s “Somos.” tells the story of a 2011 mass killing in Allende, Mexico. It doesn’t glamorize the drug trade, but it still bears Hollywood’s mark, writes television critic Robert Lloyd.

James Franco has agreed to a $2.2-million settlement in a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing him and his associates of fraud and sexual exploitation.

BUSINESS

— It’s rare these days to see California’s Democratic and Republican House members agree on much of anything. But the state’s powerful and often-generous tech industry remains one of those exceptions as a bipartisan group voted against advancing antitrust legislation.

Robinhood Financial will pay a record $70-million penalty to settle allegations from the United States’ brokerage regulator that it misled millions of customers. The Menlo Park, Calif., firm has faced criticism in the uproar over meme stocks.

SPORTS

Chris Paul scored 41 points but the Clippers couldn’t complete a comeback in the Western Conference finals as the Phoenix Suns advance to the NBA Finals.

— The first L.A. team in the National Women’s Soccer League, Angel City FC, revealed a crest celebrating the team’s values and Southern California roots.

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OPINION

— Election Integrity Project California touts itself as a nonpartisan elections watchdog. It sounds noble, but it’s really the “Big Lie” coming to California, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Will Biden choose fossil fuel or Minnesota’s rivers — and a cooler planet — in the fight against Enbridge Inc.'s Line 3 oil pipeline, asks journalist Alan Weisman.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The UNC-Chapel Hill board of trustees has decided to offer tenure to Nikole Hannah-Jones, key architect of The 1619 Project for the New York Times. Her application had been halted earlier after a board member questioned her qualifications. (Associated Press)

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, says it is no longer a photo sharing app. The company is looking to lean into entertainment and video after seeing the success of competitors such as TikTok and YouTube. (The Verge)

ONLY IN L.A.

Last year, pandemic restrictions prevented Los Angeles plant lovers from experiencing a beloved summertime ritual: standing in line at the Huntington in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the corpse flower, the world’s largest flower famed for its surreal beauty and horrific stench. But the doors are open once again and “Stinky” is ready to bloom before an audience.

Today’s newsletter was curated by Daric L. Cottingham and Laura Blasey. Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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