Inmates Escape from Orange County Jail – A Discussion of the Crime of “Escape”

Posted on Sunday, January 24th, 2016 at 10:37 am    

On Friday three inmates accused of major felonies escaped from the Orange County Men’s Jail, located 40 miles from downtown Los Angeles in the Santa Ana area. The three men were in custody pending pre-trial proceedings and trial for unrelated charges of murder, kidnapping, and torture.  An area-wide manhunt is now underway.

The Orange County Sheriff announced the escapes today.  The Sheriff’s Office has determined that the inmates escaped by cutting through half-inch steel bars, climbing through a sewage pipe, and using bed sheets tied together as a rope to climb down four stories.

While the charges that the inmates faced are certainly serious, their act of escape may also meaningfully lengthen their sentences.  Under California law, escaping from a jail when facing felony charges is itself a felony (although a prosecutor has discretion to charge the offense as a misdemeanor). Escape is defined as

  • “an unlawful departure”
  • “from the limits of an inmate’s custody”
  • by an individual lawfully in custody

People v Gallegos (1974).  Conviction of “escape” can result in a prison sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years, depending on the decision of the sentencing judge.

An escape attempt for inmates who have yet to face trial will also likely impact their upcoming trial.  This is because prosecutors are given wide latitude to show evidence of the defendant’s conduct that indicates “consciousness of guilt.”  That is, assuming a judge does not determine that the incident would unfairly prejudice the jury against the defendant, a prosecutor can show evidence of the escape to demonstrate that the defendant knew he or she was guilty and wanted to escape the prospect of conviction at trial.  Fleeing from police or otherwise avoiding capture are other examples of conduct by an accused that can frequently be used at trial to show consciousness of guilt.

As the search for the three inmates continues, check back for updates on the status of the manhunt and on whether they will indeed be charged with and prosecuted for the crime of escape.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.


Misdemeanor Criminal Charges Arise Out of Drone Use In Downtown Los Angeles

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2016 at 2:35 pm    

On January 21st the City of Los Angeles announced the first criminal charges against a drone operator.  City Attorney Mike Feuer said that the two defendants, who are 20 and 35 years old respectively, will face misdemeanor charges. For the younger defendant, this is the second time he allegedly flew his drone in restricted areas.

It is a misdemeanor under Los Angeles law for an individual to operate a drone within five miles of an airport, 25 feet of a person, or in excess of 500 feet in the air.  Besides having a misdemeanor on one’s personal record, this may also result in up to six months in jail and a fine.  The Los Angeles drone ordinance is posted here: LA Regulations on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which can be found online.

According to the City Attorney’s office, the defendants operated a drone near the Los Angeles Police Department’s helipad in downtown LA, and the presence of the drone required a police air vehicle to divert from its intended landing path.

Legislatures and local government entities are passing drone laws with increasing frequency, although enforcement with criminal sanctions has been rare so far.  As technology has developed, drones have become more and more sophisticated and are now posing significant dangers to airborne aircraft and even people who may inadvertently come into contact with a drone flying at a very low altitude.

It is unclear at this early state what, if any, defenses are being raised by those charged with the drone laws.  The Los Angeles city ordinance (cited above) does not mention the required mental state of the defendant.  This could mean that, unless a court interprets an implied required mental state, the defendant may not be able to argue that the drone’s entrance into the five-mile area near the airport was an accident.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.


Beverly Hills Businessman Arrested on Major Federal Fraud Charges

Posted on Thursday, January 14th, 2016 at 9:26 am    

Beverly Hills, CA, businessman Ataollah Aminpour was arrested January 13th on federal criminal charges for allegedly defrauding his employer Mirae Bank of $33 million.

Mr. Aminpour will be prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.  He faces up to 30 years in federal prison.

The fraud charges stem from the period of time when Mr. Aminpour was chief marketing officer for Mirae Bank.  He is accused to bringing loan applicants to the bank and then conspiring with the applicants to falsify their financial situation so as to qualify for large loans.  For example, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office he loaned an applicant $1.3 million dollars for one day so that the applicant could represent to the bank that he had approximately $1.4 million dollars in his bank account as collateral for a loan.

Mr. Aminpour profited from these actions by also misrepresenting to Mirae Bank the true value of the businesses that the loan applicants were purchasing.  When the bank loaned more money than was actually necessary to buy the businesses, he allegedly took the excess money for himself.  The total amount of the loans equaled $150 million, amounting to a $33 million loss for Mirae Bank.  Mr. Aminpour’s actions contributed to the bank’s collapse in 2009.

Under federal law, an individual commits bank fraud when, in an effort to “defraud a financial institution,” he or she “knowingly and willfully:”

  • “falsifies, conceals, or covers up … a material fact,” or
  • “makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation,” or
  • “makes or uses any false writing or document knowing [it] to contain any materially false . . . statement or entry”

Full text of bank fraud definitions can be viewed in the United States Code, at 18 U.S. Code § 1001 and 18 U.S. Code § 1344.

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, Eileen Decker: “Over the course of nearly four years, Mr. Aminpour was able to skim money from many of these loans, which allowed him to profit at the expense of the bank and taxpayers who had to bail out the failed financial institution” Mirae Bank.   U.S. Attorney Decker’s full comments are listed on her office’s website.  We will post an update here with any new occurrences in the case, including a possible guilty plea or the setting of a trial date.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.


Latest Update on Venice Beach Shooting of Homeless Man

Posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 at 10:20 am    

In the latest update on the Venice Beach police shooting of a homeless man, the Los Angeles Police Chief has called for charges against the officer involved, Officer Clifford Proctor.

By way of background, in May of 2015 amidst the national discussion of police conduct, Officer Proctor shot Brendon Glenn, a homeless man who was not armed.  Proctor had forced Glenn to the ground and, according to LAPD investigators, Proctor shot Glenn twice in the back when Glenn attempted to push himself up.

You can read the most recent Los Angeles Times story here: L.A. Police Chief Beck backs charges against officer who fatally shot Venice homeless man, L.A. Times, Kate Mather, January 11, 2016.

Officer Proctor initially reported that Glen was attempting to take Proctor’s weapon and that he fired in self-defense.  However, based on a review of forensic evidence and eyewitness reports, the LAPD investigators determined that Glenn did not make a movement directly towards Proctor’s gun but was merely pushing himself up off of the ground.  These findings are what prompted LAPD Chief Charlie Beck to recommend criminal charges.

If charges are filed, it will be the first time in 15 years that the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has filed charges against an officer for an on-duty shooting.

The District Attorney’s Office has not specified whether they will charger Proctor, but his conduct could fall under one of a number of homicide crimes under the California Penal Code.  CA Penal Code section 187 defines murder as “the unlawful killing of a human being or a fetus with malice aforethought.”  Malice includes acts where the offender intended to kill the victim, knew his actions would kill the victim, or acted with “conscious disregard for human life.”  Proctor could also face charges for lesser homicide and non-homicide offenses.

LAPD Chief Beck does not have final authority over whether Proctor is prosecuted.  District Attorney Jackie Lacey will make that decision.  However, it does not bode well for Proctor that his chief has recommended charges.

Talk to a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor, and award-winning criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, has a track record of success handling violent crime cases. He has been on the winning side of hundreds of cases. To receive a 100% free and confidential consultation from Aaron today, please call this number: (310) 424-5816.