LA District Attorney Settles Case Against Nativo Lopez

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Alexis Calvo

A settlement not totally to the liking of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office was finally reached after twenty-four months of attempting to bring to trial the case against Nativo Lopez, National President of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana. Originally charging Lopez with eight felony counts of voter fraud and perjury in June 2009, District Attorney Steve Cooley finally conceded to eliminate seven counts and stand on one count of voter registration fraud, a felony wobblier, which will be reduced to a misdemeanor and expunged from the record (constituting a dismissal) after twelve months assuming Lopez complies with probation conditions of 400 community service hours.

The original case was filed by the district attorney in June 2009 with four felony charges and subsequently amended to include four additional felony counts for a total of eight. After one year the D.A. was unable to bring the case to a preliminary hearing, and actually came close to losing the case, Commissioner Kristi Lousteau, the first judge to hear the matter, was overheard to say by the eleventh month of the case. The D.A. then moved to convene the Los Angeles County Grand Jury to obtain an indictment, which it successfully did in June 2010. One year later, after three different judges ordered Lopez to be examined by court-ordered psychiatrists on six separate occasions and three incarcerations lasting from four hours to five days, including two instances of strict solitary confinement, and having been before six superior court judges, the case was finally set for trial on June 22nd before Superior Court Judge William Ryan.

Lopez sought to have private counsel engaged after defending the case himself for most of the two years with no previous legal court experience. However, two judges denied him the right to legal counsel of his choice and imposed on him the public defender over his repeated objections on the record. Judges George G. Lomeli and Patricia Schnegg also denied him additional time for private counsel to prepare for a trial.

With literally one day to prepare for a trial, review all discovery documents, interview prospective witnesses, and prepare pre-trial motions, the defense was inclined to offer a settlement in the interest of the defendant. At the end of the day, the district attorney’s office was motivated to drop seven felony counts, not seek any jail time, and settle for a plea on the one felony charge (defined as a wobblier – could be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor), which it conceded would be reduced to a misdemeanor and ultimately dismissed from the record once Lopez completes the community service hours. On the other hand, conviction of the eight felony counts was the equivalent of a 48-year prison sentence.

Lopez never conceded that he had not taken up residence in his Boyle Heights office during the height of the historic immigrants’ rights marches of 2006 thru 2008, the period under investigation by the D.A.’s office. Cooley conceded that Lopez had been registered to vote in only one location, not two, and that he voted only once in each of the elections – never in two jurisdictions and never more than once. To the prosecutor’s insistence that Lopez verbalize a plea of guilty to the one count, Lopez responded, “a plea of guilty has been entered because it is in my interest to do so based on the plea agreement reached with the district attorney’s office.” Judge Ryan immediately found this acceptable and so ordered.

Lopez was quoted as declaring, “I am happy to put this behind me, and ironically glad that District Attorney Steve Cooley brought the charges against me. Over the past two years I was forced to study the law, the judicial system, the common law, courtroom decorum and procedure, and the Uniform Commercial Code, like never before. Cooley put me on a course of study that I would not have otherwise pursued. With this knowledge I am now positioned to help literally tens of thousands of others to work their way through the legal system. I now intend to continue a serious study of law and commercial remedies for the layperson. I have turned lemons into lemonade.”

The offenses for which Lopez was charged are actually extremely common.

The most common occurrences of an individual registering to vote in a domicile where he does not live 100 percent of the time are college students living and studying elsewhere, but maintaining their voter registration address in the residence of their parents; business-persons who have a business address and a residence address elsewhere; and individuals who frequently travel and have multiple residences. Many people have made the observation that the prosecution by the D.A.’s office against Lopez was politically motivated and heavy-handed in terms of the multiple felony charges.

Dissimilar to other public officials charged with criminal offenses in the recent past, Lopez was not accused of texting pornographic photos of himself to women, soliciting sex from prostitutes, laundering money, trafficking arms, abusing drugs or alcohol, attempting to bribe a government official or soliciting a bribe for himself, sexual assault on a women, or other such felonious crime. He was accused of registering to vote from his office domicile and voting from that address and allegedly residing elsewhere – and because of that he received the wrath of Cooley’s office with eight felony charges.

Lopez was actually born in Boyle Heights and has maintained offices in East Los Angeles since the 1970s with the numerous organizations with which he has been affiliated over the past forty years, including the Center of Autonomous Social Action (CASA), Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, and the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA). He has participated in multiple electoral and political campaigns throughout the Los Angeles metropolitan region, which have resulted in the election of many public officials, both Latino and non-Latino. His most prominent and recent activities in the region were the historic immigrants’ rights marches and economic boycotts.

ORIGIN OF THE CHARGES

The origin of the charges against Nativo Lopez stemmed from an internal dispute within the Green Party Los Angeles County Council. Old guard conservative leadership led by Michael Feinstein lost their power sway to a reform slate, which came to prominence in the primary elections of June 2006. Lopez represented the Senate District 22 as a county party delegate, encompassing the cities of Boyle Heights, Maywood, and parts of the city of Los Angeles, and immediately became a target of harassment, surveillance, and spying by the Feinstein faction.

Feinstein’s group refused to concede the reins of leadership to the reformers and launched attacks against a number of its leaders, including Lopez.

Court documents revealed that the source of the original complaint to the California Secretary of State’s Office, and subsequently to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, was the Feinstein cohorts. This party faction worked with state and county police agencies to run Lopez out of the Green Party. Lopez actually ceased any party activities in 2008 after concluding with other party activists that this party could not be a viable alternative to disaffected Democratic and independent Latino voters. State and county detectives and investigators conducted surveillance against Lopez in 2008 and 2009, with the connivance and cooperation of the Feinstein faction, prior to filing the criminal charges in June 2009. “Feinstein and his allies were not interested in a darker hue of green for the Green Party by way of recruiting thousands of new adherents of color to the party as we had intended and repeatedly proposed,” stated Lopez. “And the party has remained a miniature cult under the control of white party activists in the face of a colored tsunami of demographic shift throughout California, but especially in the Los Angeles metropolitan region,” he concluded.

ONLY REGRETS

At the conclusion of the case, Lopez expressed that, “I only regret that we did not have the opportunity to challenge the manner in which the county grand jury is convened by the district attorney’s office, which truly does not reflect the racial and ethnic composition of the surrounding community of Los Angeles – of the accused; and that we were not permitted the time to challenge the selective prosecution trajectory of the D.A.’s office over the years, which has been oriented against persons of color.”

He also expressed his deep gratitude to the many people that stood by him on some fifteen court appearances, and contributed to his defense, especially the hard-working immigrant workers who took days off from work to accompany him to the court.

*Reproduction of this article is permitted. Please credit the author.

calvoalexis@ymail.com

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Two Years After: the Independence of Kosovo

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

San Francisco–Your reporter has held up writing the particulars of this speech by the current President of Kosovo for a month and a half to wait for that democracy’s second anniversary of their independence from Serbia (on February 17th) of the largely (ethnically Albanian) and (religiously) Islamic nation in the Southern Balkan Range of the Southeast Europe).

About two to three years ago, personalities from that greater area were making themselves available to American opinion makers quite regularly – including journalists, but after the freedom of Pristina (the Kosovar capital), interest waned in North America.  Yet, his Excellency, the President, (Doctor) Fatmir Sejidu spoke here on the Pacific Coast of the United States of America during January.

The Delaware-sized Republic of Kosovo is (politically) considered the world’s latest nation.  Currently, sixty-four countries have recognized the Republika Kosovo (Kosoves) as sovereign including Washington, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the European Union (EU) plus the continued fiscal support of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank.  Despite the dire warnings of twenty-four months ago, Kosovo has become a stable political entity over the past two years.

American citizens failed to recognize the complexity of the struggle partially because of the failure of U.S. media outlets to explain the historical roots of the conflict: 

In the Seventh Century, the ancestors of the modern (now Orthodox) Serbs (Kososki) immigrated into the region, but were to be replaced by a branch of the Albanians, the Kosovars (now 88% of the population) who were eventually subsumed into the Medieval Serbian Empire, but were later incorporated into the Ottoman (Turk) State as a result of the Battle of Kosovo fought in 1389.  The modern history of the Kosovans began after the First Balkan War (1912) which was fought just before the First World War.  At first it was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia founded in 1922; then, the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia as a result of the Second World War (established in 1946).  The great tragedy of the federation of Yugoslavia was that the former State Executive, General Tito, did not build the political basis for the union of States after his presence; so, this country degenerated into its constituent warring factions.  Under the Former Yugoslavia, the Kosovar’s territory was an autonomous Province within Serbia itself, but its self-government was revoked by Belgrade in 1989.  On February 17th of 2008, Pristina declared itself independent.

Although it is the 168th largest country the world in land mass (10,887 sq. km.), it is miniscule in compassion even to most U.S. States.   The Kosovars border three countries that block its access to the sea, and is poor in natural resources.  The demographic ratios show promise for the future, though, (highly tilting towards people in their mid-20s).    The majority of the citizenry are Albanian Muslims with the (Christian) Orthodox weighing in at fewer than 10% with six negligible minorities over three Muslim and Christian groups.

The host of this program of the World Affairs Council of Northern California and the Commonwealth Club of California that had invited Sejdiu to San Francisco, surprisingly, stressed that there were “Many strong views on Dr. Sejdiu’s subject.  Threateningly, the host stated that “Disrupters will be ejected and cited!  Join me in deference to a head of State!”

Fatmir stated on this the second anniversary of the success of our struggle to join the community of nations; we should remember our horrific (epic) battle with (our neighbors,) the Serbs.  It was a conflict for the indigenous Kosovars to reclaim their birthright (terrain) from ethnic cleansing.  He claimed it was the first incidence of a foreign intervention for human rights.  (Your author disputes this, but the interventions by the West against the reactionary and repressive forces in the Former Yugoslavia were one of the more noble ventures in the latter part of the Twentieth Century.)

Sedjiu asserted we could not succeed through negotiations alone with Serbia.  Thus, the international community of peoples supervised the talks.  We now have military co-operation with your country (the U.S.A.) as well as cordial relations with our neighbors.  A state of peace presently exists!

We are having good economic growth despite previous predictions.  Doing what heads of States often do, he “made a pitch” for the Republic’s financial prospects:  We have minerals (unfortunately not strategic ones), and the basis for energy (again, unfortunately, it is coal which adds to Global warming).  Our most valuable asset is our well-educated youth (who are leaving Kosoves in droves because of the lack of opportunity in their native land).

A severe strain upon the commonweal is the fact that the Serbians were stole well-earned pensions from the Kosovans before they left.  The new Administration in the Capital, Pristina had to “pick up the pieces,” and had to devote much needed legal tender to maintain the hard-earned social safety net of the workers!

Concluding the Doctor-President stated “Kosovo is…committed to a peaceful society…Kosovo is committed to integration with Europe,” and friendship with the United States!

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