Why City Hall Paid This Journalist's $10,528 Legal Tab
It rhymes with "Eric Spaghetti," and the taxpayers were forced to swallow it.
The Los Angeles Police Department and LA City Attorney Mike Feuer have — once again — coughed up a five-figure sum payable either to this column or its legal team. This time, it was for my legal tab, and only after City Hall squandered a bundle in own costly staff time.
That’s their modus operandi; protect the corrupt, cover up, deny, dodge, abuse, threaten, drag feet and squander resources before cutting a fat check to block this column’s access to a few public records that the LAPD claims mean a whole lotta nothin’.
Way back in 2019, I petitioned the court for a small portion of the LAPD’s Computer-Assisted Dispatch (CAD) records to explore what myriad credible sources within city government told me and others in City Hall’s sphere: that an alleged “domestic incident” took place at the home of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti that required a police response beyond the capabilities of his normal security detail.
The information I had was very specific, including the date and the name of the lead officer, Captain Art Sandoval, who allegedly oversaw the LAPD’s response to the residence.
SIDEBAR: No small surprise, Sandoval, now retired, is married to another (also-retired) LAPD “fixer” named Captain Patricia Sandoval. A few years earlier, under political pressure to make my reporting more onerous, she unlawfully threatened me with arrest if I didn’t give her my LAPD press pass. She offered no explanation and cited no misconduct. I opened my iPhone and recorded her City Hall rant, but refused her demand and walked away. The incident was witnessed by Sergeant Frank Preciado who, in an unrelated matter, later sued the LAPD for her alleged racism and retaliation, scoring a settlement of his own. While the LAPD has since renewed my press pass twice, its harassment, retaliation and payouts like the one shown above, continue.
Back to where we left off…
CAD records document which officers and vehicles are dispatched to specific locations at precise departure and arrival times, among other things. I pursued these records because, like a row of dominoes, they are exceedingly if not impossible for the LAPD to alter, which would also likely be a crime.
Now, why would the LAPD and City Attorney not want me to see where Art Sandoval and other personnel were on a certain date and time if it claims no such incident took place at Garcetti’s residence? Why would City Hall spend all of that staff time since 2019 fighting me in court over it until late 2022? Why did it eventually cough-up this cash?
My best guess is that the LAPD would then have to explain why it didn’t write, or wrote and hid, an incident report that would destroy what remained of Garcetti’s political future. The LAPD does such things to protect Garcetti and other politicians (like those who may need to sober up after a dubious crash before administering a field sobriety test) who approve its contracts, because it, too, is a political beast. Also, the LAPD did it because it mistakenly thought that this solo journalist is easily intimidated.
The pursuit of those records remains on my To Do list, as I did not agree to stop seeking them through the same or other avenues.
The LAPD has a lengthy history of paying journalists for its abuses, as well as for hiding public records, as noted in this settlement with the ACLU of Southern California.
In our other entanglements, the LAPD and City Attorney paid me $10,836 in 2020 after I exposed two officers, Tracy Banuelos and Brian Hun, had falsified sworn court documents when I compared their dated signatures to the USPS postmark on the envelope in which they mailed them to me. The settlement was due also to a Deputy City Attorney named Jonathan Peralta Bislig maliciously violating LA Superior Court Rule 1.20 by illegally posting online personal information of mine he obtained from the DOJ background report I had to purchase in order to get my press pass. Bislig then refused to take it down, requiring an emergency sealing by the judge. After an 18-month investigation, Bislig got a warning letter from the State Bar of California in response to my complaint.
Bislig’s colleagues continue to harass this column in other ways.
Soon, I will haul the City Attorney’s office back into court because one of them, Deputy City Attorney Strefan Fauble, maliciously exposed other elements of my personal information to City Hall gadflies who it had previously deemed so dangerous that it acquired temporary restraining orders against them, including one for Mr. Fauble’s residence.
Fauble was also the subject of my exposé on his maliciously denying possession of, and then his falsifying the date on, public records related to now-disgraced former City Council President Nury Martinez trying to jam her termed-out father figure, Councilmember Herb Wesson, into Mark Ridley-Thomas’s job after she suspended him due to his federal indictment for bribery. Another lawsuit and Bar complaint will soon be heading Mr. Fauble’s way for those activities.
Earlier this summer, the LAPD and City Attorney were ordered by a judge in Compton to pay me $340, and perhaps additional anticipated court costs, for once again posting my unredacted DOJ background report on its portal for a half hour.
In 2021, yet another judge ordered the LAPD to provide reasonable accommodations for me in the City Hall media room within 120 days. It has ignored that order and has not yet paid the order to cover my court costs. Accordingly, I filed a new claim against the city.
City Hall’s tactics are akin to heavyweight champion George Foreman’s punching strategy in his October 1974 Rumble in the Jungle against Muhammed Ali, who won with his rope-a-dope strategy. Like Foreman then, City Hall keeps losing.
Amusingly, after one recent court hearing, a City Attorney investigator asked me in the hallway if I was interested in sitting down to resolve the issue at hand. I immediately replied I am always interested in talking in order to stop the city’s harassment, threats and intimidation that get in the way of my telling truthful stories.
I explained to the investigator that included harassment like an LAPD senior lead officer named Trent Berry breaching the locked curtilage of my garage to place his business card on my car door window after I legally fed squirrels in a nearby park.
More than two years since that investigator’s inquiry, I am still waiting on the city’s invitation to chat.
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(Daniel Guss, MBA, was nominated for three 2022 LA Press Club awards and was a runner-up in 2021 and 2020. He has contributed to Mayor Sam, CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, KCRW 89.9 FM, KRLA 870 AM, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Downtown News and the Los Angeles Times in its sports, opinion, entertainment and Sunday Magazine sections among other publishers.)
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