LOS ANGELES DRAGNET OPINION
In Wednesday, March 3rd's Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times, a piece by Tim Rutten made a number of misleading, poorly researched, and flat-out false statements in response to Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's handling of "Dragongate;" this past weekend's top story about the arrest of 'businessman' Kayvan Setareh for violating the Los Angeles City ban on SuperGraphics.
A lie is defined as 'an intentionally false statement,' and while Rutten's shameful hit piece was full of false and misleading statements, the question posed is, did Rutten intentionally publish false statements, or was he merely reckless?
Was Rutten so obsessed with writing anything he possibly could think of to diminish and belittle the efforts of the City Attorney's Office to finally take charge of enforcing the Citywide ban on illegal and unsafe signage, that he could not be bothered to check facts and concealed relevant facts?
Now editorials are not supposed to be 'fair and balanced,' neither are they neutral. They present an opinion, but it should be an informed opinion, not a blogger's inane drivel. It should be factually correct, and not omit those inconvenient truths that undermine the validity of author's opinion. Sadly, Tim Rutten appears to have breached standards one should expect from the LA Times by blogging drivel instead of opining. But was it intentionally false? You decide.
Rutten's hit piece can be found by clicking here assuming, that is, that the LA Times does not do the right thing and retract it immediately and apologize to Trutanich and Judge Mildred Escobedo for reasons that should become clear as you read on.
The essence of Rutten's 'opinion' is that Trutanich acted unethically in asking for $1M bail. Is there "any ethical proportionality" Rutten rhetorically asks "in demanding $1 million bail for three misdemeanor charges, are we really supposed to believe that Setareh -- with all his holdings in Los Angeles -- is a flight risk?"
Ruttten suggests that the $1M bail was not "ethically proportional" because Pacific Palisades businessman Kayvan Setareh was not a "flight risk." In doing so, Rutten implies that Setareh is not a flight risk, and that being a flight risk is the only consideration to be made in setting bail. Not True.
If Rutten had bothered to research the question of bail, he might have stumbled across California Penal Code Section 1275(a):
"In setting, reducing, or denying bail, the judge or magistrate shall take into consideration
the protection of the public,
the seriousness of the offense charged,
the previous criminal record of the defendant, and
the probability of his or her appearing at trial or hearing of the case.
The public safety shall be the primary consideration."
Flight risk is but ONE of FOUR considerations that a judge makes when setting bail, and public safety is the primary consideration. There was no mention of 'public safety' in Rutten's hit piece. Perhaps that's not surprising as Rutten is not a lawyer. But he is married to a lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer.
Rutten is married to non other than Leslie Abramson, who perhaps is best remembered for using all her skill in the defense of the murderous Menendez brothers, and then invoking her fifth amendment right against self incrimination when questions arose over whether she re-wrote portions of an expert witness's notes. Makes you wonder if Abramson was the source of Rutten's conveniently selective knowledge of the law relating to bail. You can have your opinion about that.
Not satisfied with questioning Trutanich's ethics, Rutten denigrates Judge Mildred Escobedo by saying "Trutanich found a feeble-willed judge who was willing to set the landlord's initial bail at $1 million."
Not true. You don't 'find a judge,' you go to the judge assigned by the court to issue arrest warrants. As for calling Judge Escobedo "a feeble-willed judge," what evidence does Rutten offer to support that 'opinion?' Or is it Abramson's 'opinion?' You decide.
All of which leads us back to the real issue about the $1M bail that was conveniently omitted by Rutten, public safety
The risks that these unauthorized supergraphics present was well described to Judge Escobedo when she was asked to set bail. Apparently tt wasn't the possibility of 4,000 square feet of vinyl falling down on pedestrians or, god forbid, Hollywood's elite as their limos deposit them at the Oscars, that impressed her all that much.
It was the statement of a fire captain who described the very real dangers a firefighter would face if he or she had to tackle a fire at this 12 story office building where the majority of the windows were obscured by the Dreamworks banner for their upcoming movie "How to train your dragon."
Windows are one place that people trapped inside a burning building can be rescued when smoke and fire below makes it impossible to leave the building. It is also one way that a fire can be tackled from above. But when you cannot see the windows, it is very unsafe for a firefighter to try to guess where the window is, and then have to cut through the vinyl to get to the window. Imagine how much worse that gets if the vinyl itself catches fire?
Why should the work of firefighters be made even more dangerous than it already is, just because of the vanity of big Hollywood who wanted an advert in full view of the Oscars cameras, and the greed of a 'businessman' who wanted to make a fast buck?
The public safety concerns were real and validly considered by Trutanich in asking for the bail, and validly considered by the judge who agreed and granted the bail.
Rutten also states that "The bail was subsequently reduced to $100,000" as if to suggest that the $1M originally imposed was too high. What he doesn't tell you is that the bail was only reduced after Setareh agreed to remove the supergraphic, and thereby reduce the danger to public safety. An inconvenient truth for Rutten that he either willfully did not want you to know, or he simply forgot? You decide.
Rutten also tells you something wholly untrue when he says "Trutanich essentially imposed a choice between jail time or a $100,000 fine on a defendant who'd never had a minute -- let alone a day -- in court and is entitled to the presumption of innocence."
There are two untruths here.
First there's the "presumption of innocence." Not true. That, as Ms. Abramson should know, does not apply when deciding bail. The judge has to assume that the charged crimes were committed by the defendant when assessing and setting bail.
Second, this business about "a defendant who'd never had a minute -- let alone a day -- in court." Not true. Mr. Setareh has had many days in court with his previous cases with the City Attorney's Office. As we now know, another factor for a judge to consider in assessing bail is defendant's previous record - he has a record of prior non-compliance with building and safety laws relating to "all his holdings in Los Angeles."
This Opinion poses the question of whether Rutten lied by intentionally making false statements, or whether Rutten was foolish and blinded by political bias in his need to denigrate Carmen Trutanich and Judge Mildred Escobedo? You decide.