Good morning, California.

“The intentional killing of another person is wrong. And as governor, I will not oversee the execution of any individual.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom, who today plans to sign an order putting an end to the death penalty in California.

Newsom seeks to deal death blow to the death penalty

Gov. Gavin Newsom made clear in his campaign that he opposed capital punishment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign an order declaring a moratorium on California’s death penalty today, a move taken by no other California governor, including Jerry Brown, an avowed death penalty opponent.

Newsom made clear during the 2018 election campaign that he was against capital punishment, CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall writes. His order will:

  • Grant a reprieve for 737 individuals facing death sentences in California, though no one will be released from prison.
  • Withdraw California’s lethal injection protocol.
  • Close the execution chamber at San Quentin.

Newsom: “I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people.

“In short, the death penalty is inconsistent with our bedrock values and strikes at the very heart of what it means to be a Californian.”  

In an interview with the L.A. Times’ Phil Willon, Newsom noted: “We’re poised to potentially oversee the execution of more prisoners than any other state in modern history.”

But upon taking office, Newsom directed his legal advisers to assess his options.

“The minute I got elected, in the transition, I prioritized this issue. I don’t want to react to something. I want to be proactive. And I have been very proactive in trying to determine what the best path is.”

By signing the order, Newsom will join a select group of governors who have acted to curtail capital punishment, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Death penalty's shaky legal status

California's lethal injection chamber.

Voters approved an initiative in 2016 that seeks to speed executions. It hasn’t worked.

No one has been executed in California since 2006 when a federal judge, acting on a suit by death row inmates, concluded that the state’s method of lethal injection was not constitutional. 

  • On behalf of family members of murder victims, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which helped write the 2016 initiative, filed a case asking the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to end that moratorium.
  • Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s deputies argued to uphold death sentences in the appellate courts. But earlier this month, Becerra filed a brief opposing the families’ request:

“While Petitioners’ intense personal interest in these issues is understandable, they do not have legal standing to seek the relief they request, nor do they satisfy the factors required for a stay.”

Assemblyman Marc Levine, a Marin County Democrat, plans to introduce a measure today that would ask voters in 2020 to end capital punishment. At last count, 24 Democratic legislators had signed onto the measure.

Operation Varsity Blues

More than two dozen wealthy California parents were accused of cheating, lying and bribing to get their kids get into elite universities, in what federal authorities dubbed Operation Varsity Blues and called the largest admissions fraud ever charged.

Schools include Stanford, UCLA, USC, University of San Diego, as well as Yale, University of Texas, Wake Forest and others.

William Rick Singer, who of  Newport Beach and formerly of Sacramento, operated the college admissions company. He has pleaded guilty to a scheme in which he orchestrated $25 million in bribes to grease the way for nearly 80o families to get their children into the colleges of their choice. He called it a “side door,” and is cooperating with the feds, the New York Times reports.

The indictment unsealed in Boston alleges:

  • Rich people paid tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars in “donations” to Singer’s supposed nonprofit arm, Key Worldwide Foundation.
  • Singer and his cohorts used the money to pay bribes to college coaches and entrance test administrators, help students cheat in a variety of ways on exams, and falsify records to suggest they were worthy of sports scholarships.
  • At least 33 parents, 26 of whom are Californians, were involved.

They include two actresses, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, one of whom was a star of “Full House” and the other in “Desperate Housewives,” as well as Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli. Also charged:

  • William E. McGlashan Jr., head of a global San Francisco private equity firm.
  • Douglas Hodge, the former head of a major investment fund.
  • Bruce Isackson, president of a high-end Woodside real estate firm, who is accused of making the payment in the form of $251,000 in Facebook stock.
  • Napa Valley vintner Agustin Huneeus, Jr.

Money matters:

  • Huneeus donated $30,000 to help elect Gov. Gavin Newsom last April. Upon learning of the indictment, Newsom gave the $30,000 to the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Newsom spokesman Nathan Click told me.
  • UCLA placed its men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, on leave after he was indicted on charges of accepting $200,000 in bribes. His salary in 2017: $227,419, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Assemblyman-physician faces child abuse charge

Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula of Fresno.

Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula took an unpaid leave of absence Tuesday after the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office charged him with child abuse for an incident involving his 7-year-old daughter.

Arambula, 41, is a Fresno Democrat, an emergency room physician, the father of three daughters, and the son of a former assemblyman. His leave will continue at least until the misdemeanor criminal charge against him is resolved.

His statement: “The allegation that I may have harmed one of my daughters is false and unthinkable. While politics may have influenced the decision to file, we are confident that our judicial system will find this allegation to be false.”

The Fresno Bee reported that police responded to a call from his daughter’s elementary school in December and arrested Arambula. Arambula said he spanked the girl on her butt. The  Bee quoted Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer as saying the girl suffered an injury that was not on her buttocks.

  • Arambula has introduced several bills this year dealing with health care for poor people, substance abuse treatment, mental health care, and crisis services for foster kids.
  • He chaired the Assembly health and human services budget subcommittee, but is being replaced by Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes of Grand Terrace.  On Monday afternoon, he held a four-plus-hour hearing on funding to improve mental health care.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon: “Due to the seriousness of the allegation and the need for due process, I respect his decision to take an unpaid leave from the Assembly while he addresses this charge.”

Take a number: 142,717

Most teens are pre-registering to vote with no party preference.

California will remain blue for years to come, and the GOP’s pain is generational, based on the latest pre-registration numbers. Through Feb. 10, 142,717 16- and 17-year-olds pre-registered to vote, Secretary of State Alex Padilla reports.

Their affiliation:

  • No-party preference: 51.5 percent
  • Democrats: 31.66 percent
  • Republicans: 10.42 percent


Commentary at CALmatters

Susan Bonilla, Computer Science Strategic Implementation Plan Panel: Computer science is an essential 21st century skill for college, careers and civic participation. Yet many California students lack access to meaningful opportunities to learn computer science. If we are committed to closing the academic achievement gap, we must close the growing computer science access gap for all students.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: The Trump administration is refusing to pay more than $300 million for repairs to Oroville Dam. California officials should be grateful it’s not zero.

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See you tomorrow.