Sunday, November 14, 2010


Remember the headlines back in August of 2010 about homeless people living in recreational vehicles dumping human feces on the streets of Venice? The typically tolerant and progressive residents in Venice had enough and wanted action, and City Attorney Carmen "The Clown" Trutanich promised to "Get tough" and lock up the RV dumpers to let them know just how seriously he took residents' complaints.

Well things didn't turn out quite so well for the residents, but certainly went well for the RV dumpers. Trutanich reneged on his demand for "90 days in jail" and instead agreed to a "slap on the wrist" for the dumpers, dumped the residents of Venice, and then tried to blame a soft on crime judge for the less has satisfactory result (the dumpers got community service, not jail).

Let's be clear, nobody is defending the disgusting and dangerous practice of dumping bio-hazardous human waste on the streets of any community, and just because a person is unfortunate enough to find themselves homeless and forced to live in a RV is no excuse. But is is even worse that the City's "Top Cop" not only doesn't care, but tries to blame others for his actions.

Trutanich originally told Alex of "Yo! Venice" (a Venice community blog) that "they were taking the RV issue very seriously." Alex (who does not use his or her real name in fear of reprisals by the homeless community), had lead the fight against the RV dumpers, and apparently took photographic evidence of the offenders re-offending after being released from custody.

Trutanich also told the LA Times that 'he intended to file criminal charges against a motor home dweller who was arrested but released after serving two days in jail. "When it hits the fan, it hits my office too," Trutanich said of the dumping.'

Trutanich also  appeared on NBC's 'The Filter' where he told host Fred Roggin that "We are going to make sure this doesn't happen again in the city, ever." Roggin wrapped up the interview telling viewers that offenders faced 6 month is jail and $1,000 fine.

So how was it that despite Trutanich's threats of serious jail time, the only punishment was community service?

According to KFI reporter Steve Gregory Trutanich wanted them both to spend 90 days in jail. "The defendants decided they would not accept that offer," said Trutanich. "They plead open to the court on all counts and the judge sentenced them to probation."

Trutanich wants you to believe that the dumpers escaped his "90 days in jail" demand by "pleading open" to a judge who obviously did not take dumping human feces on the streets of Venice as seriously as Trutanich, Alex, or the rest of the Venice community.

But we believe that Trutanich was being less than honest in blaming the judge for the soft on crime sentence. The devil's in the details, so let's look at the details and try to unravel the web.

First of all, what exactly does "pleading open" mean? The short answer is that it means the dumper threw herself on the mercy of the judge and asked for an "indicated sentence." It happens when a person charged with a crime feels that the plea bargain deal being offered by the DA or the City Attorney is too severe.

So in this case, Lindsay Estilette (one of the two dumpers) with the help of her Public Defender must have said something like "Judge 90 days for what I did so too much, I have no record, and I'll never do it again, so what sentence would you give me if I plead guilty?"

Now this is not a one-sided conversation, and it occurs in open court, or at a side-bar conference with both sides. You can be sure that the judge would have asked the City Attorney the reasons for the 90 days in jail sentence. Having heard from both sides, the judge would have said something like "If you plead open to the court, I'll give you no jail time and community service," and the City Attorney can do nothing about it.

We just said the City Attorney can do nothing about it, and usually that is the case. Judges can and do undercut the offers made by DAs and CAs and there's nothing that "the People" can do about it.

Remember, though, we also said the devil's in the details.  In this case, Lindsay Estilette and her co-defendant were not throwing themselves on the mercy of a judge, rather it was a Court Commissioner - Mark Zuckman to be precise. A Court Commissioner is not a judge, and that's a huge detail that Trutanich probably doesn't want you to know.

A Court Commissioner  does not have the same power as a judge. In fact, under the California Constitution Article 6, Section 22 and California Rules of Civil Procedure 259, unless both sides "stipulate" (i.e. agree) to a Commissioner having power, there is very little that a Commissioner can do other than routine non-contested "ministerial" functions.

So in this case there really was something Trutanich could have done to avoid the slap on the wrist; Trutanich could have refused to "stipulate" to Commissioner Zuckman and insist that a Judge hears the case.
Don't forget that Judges are elected by the voters and, perhaps, are more in touch with sentiments in the community and might well have believed that the outrageous actions of the defendants deceives more than a slap on the wrist. What Trutanich could and should have done was insist on a Judge, maybe that way justice would have been done.

But Trutanich didn't insist on a Judge, didn't argue the facts to a Judge, and instead tried to hide behind a so-called "open plea" to a Commissioner that he did not have to agree to. There's a word for that, and you know what it is.

Trutanich's blogger was too busy buying what Trutanich was selling to ask questions and probe the details (the so-called "City Hall Insider" appears to be part of Trutanich's misinformation team). Now, through TRU is False you know the facts and you can decide. We believe that Trutanich just blowing smoke claiming to "Get tough" on the RV dumpers, and that he instead dumped on the residents of Venice.

You might be wondering why Trutanich would chose to dump on his own constituency and not play hard ball with the RV dumpers. We believe Trutanich had his reasons, and you won't like them any more than Trutanich will like you finding out that TRU is False.


Angry Venice resident said...

Thank you for explaining the open plea with more detail than Trutanich or his press agent. I knew there was something very fishy about the way this case was handled and did not realize that Trutanich could have insisted on a real judge hearing the case.

Trutanich is trying to divide the Venice community, and I think this was his way of showing some people what happens when you don't do what he wants. Having read this I now understand what a manipulator he is - the Godfather photo is a perfect fit.

Anonymous said...

After 8 years of having Jack Weiss as our completely ineffectual represenative in City Council, we had three objectives in the City Attorney election:

1) Anyone except Jack Weiss
2) No way can we have Jack Weiss as City Attorney
3) Anything to beat Jack Weiss

Trutanich helped us accomplish our objectives as much as we helped him accomplish his.

I don't think any of us care about Venice - their liberal attitudes have just come home to bite them in the ass. As for the Neighborhood Prosecutors, they're a bunch of spineless do-nothings who want to become politicians and Nuch was right to shut them down. I really don't see the problem with the Judge that Nuch tried to help - if there was anything illegal about it, you can be sure there would be an investigation.

Anonymous said...

Ha Ha Ha! Cooley lost the AG election. Now Noooch won't get the keys to the DA's office handed to him on a plate from his buddy. Noooch is gonna have to wait until 2012 before he can run for DA, and that means he will be judged by his record - it won't be pretty if the first half of his administration is anything to go by.