Orange County’s Other Victims’ Rights Rally. (And Lou being Lou.)


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The grisly police murder of Kelly Thomas was a

The grisly police murder of Kelly Thomas was a catalyzing moment for OC citizens’ realization of the brutality of some cops and the fact that they can get away with anything under our DA.  But apparently not catalyzing enough.

Yesterday our District Attorney, Tony Rackauckas, held his 8th Annual Victims’ Rights Rally (previously Rally and March, but this year there was no march.)  Victims of street crimes, DUI tragedies, and whatnot, get a chance to speak, to meet other crime victims, and feel a little solidarity and healing, as The Register reported this morning.

diaryMore than that, though, this thing is a huge PR event for our embattled DA, known now more than ever as one of the most corrupt and incompetent in the nation.  Local politicians of both parties rush to be part of the proceedings to communicate their toughness on crime, and brass from the sheriff’s department and OC’s many police forces take the opportunity to strut their stuff in front of a sympathetic crowd.

But there are other crime victims in the county who aren’t so welcome at this gala event – that would be the victims, and relatives of the victims, of OC’s many brutal cops, and of a DA who never prosecutes police brutality but pursues draconian “justice” against the poor and dark.  not against policeThis crowd, we’ll call them “dissenting victims,” started attending these victims’ rights rallies and marches back in 2013;  last year it seemed like there were nearly as many of them as there were establishment people.

This year Tony’s office changed the rules for the event.  It was now to be all inside and there would be no march.  According to their registration page it would still be open to the public, but anyone who wished to attend had to register.  Immediately about twenty of the “dissenting victims” went through all the correct hoops and registered.

shirtBut things turned out differently.  Three of the dissenters – Gabriela Hernandez, Villamar Ortiz, and Donna Acevedo-Nelson – went to the registration table and were checked in… but then the DA’s people started to panic.  It was comical – some stood inside staring out at us through the dark windows;  others huddled together to figure out a game plan to keep us out.  They created barriers.

They came up with a brand new rule, never written on the registration page:  In order to attend you had to be invited by or part of a 501c3.  Well, that may have been changing the rules, but not a problem for some of us.  Many of the dissenters were members of “Young Survivors” which is a 501c3, and Donna is part of an organization, “Anaheim Community Coalition.” which pushes for police reforms and oversight in the City of Kindness.

They came up with other new obstacles – no signs inside!  The rules had originally said no holding signs up while victims are speaking.  But still no problem – friends outside could keep the signs while the registered dissenters went inside.  Still no dice.  None shall pass.

correa at paradeThen who happened to leave the event early and walk right past us but hardcore law-and-order, Rackauckas-endorsed, Congressional candidate Lou Correa!  We complained to him, we have passes, we registered, this event is supposed to be public, we followed all their rules, but they won’t let us in!

Uncomfortably grinning, he tried various lame excuses.  “I can’t do anything, I’m just a private citizen!  Tell them I’m just a private citizen, Vern!”  protested the former County Supervisor, Assemblyman, State Senator, and current Congressional candidate.  He absurdly said to Donna, “Why don’t YOU get them in, you can do anything!”

Finally he gave in (ostensibly) and said “You’re right, Vern.  I’m going to go back in there and tell them you guys have passes.”  And he marched back in.  We looked at each other.  Really?  That would be cool.  But can we trust Lou?  After 15 minutes we figured he’d escaped out some other exit.  And sure enough we never saw him again that day.

Thanks Lou.

(video by Naui)

Who are some of these other, unwelcome Victims?

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The more socially acceptable victims, who were let inside yesterday’s event, the ones who make Rackauckas and police look good, like heroes and protectors, got to tell their stories yesterday and feel a little better.  So let’s hear from the ones who were locked outside.

huizarsGenevieve Huizar (at left with husband John) is the mother of Manuel Diaz, the 25-year old who was shot twice from behind, fatally, while fleeing from police on Anna Drive (as now that I think of it, Lou Correa himself has admitted to doing when he was a young Anaheim Latino.)   He was killed in July of 2012 by Officer Nick “Backshot” Bennallack, who had also killed Bernie Villegas five months earlier, for playing with a friend shooting a b-b gun at a bottle in his apartment parking lot.  Manuel was unarmed and not wanted for any crime, but Bennallack supposedly thought he MIGHT be armed so he shot him without a warning, duh.

As always DA Rackauckas found no wrongdoing;  worse, a typical clueless OC jury (probably all Rackauckas voters who can’t imagine police wrongdoing) rejected Genevieve’s $5 million lawsuit, the cop’s ace lawyer having done such a good job at making Manuel seem like a potential menace.  Genevieve continues to fight for justice, alongside her husband.

donna passDonna Acevedo-Nelson, at right sporting her “pass” which did not allow her to pass, is the mother of Joel Acevedo, the 21-year old who was shot fatally by Officer Kelly Phillips the day after Manuel’s killing, leading to that long hot summer’s days of rage.  This time the cops photographed the corpse in the presence of a gun (a common police “throwaway” model, left awkwardly between his feet) and Phillips testified that Joel had turned around while fleeing and started shooting at him so Phillips had to fire back in self-defense – a story that DA Rackauckas took as the gospel truth.

But the paths of the bullets through Joel’s body don’t fit Phillips’ story, and several witnesses saw something very different – Phillips’ partners holding down a handcuffed Joel as Phillips executed him.  Most of these witnesses have moved away, intimidated by the police it’s said.  And the one who tells the story most clearly and completely – Joel’s brave friend Vanessa who has no reason to lie – was painstakingly “discredited” by police and DA:  she was forced by threats of losing her children to accept a gang charge, after which the DA’s report exulted that a jury would never believe her now.  The case is currently in limbo, but Donna continues to advocate for police reform and oversight, and rushes to film any situation that looks like it could turn violent.

marieMarie Sales (left) was there representing Tustin tragedy.  She has no idea what the Tustin police had against her sons, neither of whom had any criminal record or gang involvement, or what they whispered to her 19-year old Paul Quintanar that scared him so much that he took off on a reckless and fatal sprint onto the 5 freeway.  Two days before that the police had jumped and beat up Paul’s 21-year-old brother for reasons unknown. 

This particular night Paul had just bought a bottle of water at 7-11, and when he left the store three Tustin police detained and searched him repeatedly.  When one of them leaned forward and said something quietly to him, he broke away running and jumped over a fence.  (One pursuing cop fell on his back trying to do the same.)  The chase ended with Paul dying in traffic on the freeway offramp.  When the family complained to the DA they were told “We are NOT your friends.”  They tried unsuccessfully suing the police on their own, but witnesses who’d spoken to them before seemed scared to come forward.

reneeNot everybody gets killed, fortunately.  Renee Balenti (right) is the wife of Buena Park’s Boaz Balenti, who was NEARLY beaten to death by a menace to humanity named Anaheim narcotics officer Scott McManus.  One fine afternoon in 2008, McManus disobeyed orders and violently rammed Boaz’ brand new truck with his SUV, believing him wrongly to be some big drug dealer he’d been after.  The collision injured Boaz’ shoulder and he wasn’t able to quickly remove himself from his seatbelt when ordered to, so McManus and his partner ripped him from the driver’s seat, threw him to the ground, bashed his face on the concrete for a while, then hogtied him and threw him into their SUV.

From there Boaz was taken to the hospital, looking a lot like Kelly Thomas’ after picture, then put under arrest for Assault with a Deadly Weapon on a Police Officer – McManus actually tried to claim that it was Boaz who rammed HIM.  When a police investigator from Internal Affairs found that, just as witnesses claimed, it was the cop who rammed Boaz, that investigator was later punished and demoted for his honesty, but the DA did give up trying to prove that lie.

Boaz still had to spend some time in jail because he had some pot in his truck, and had rolled through a stop sign just before being rammed.  But when he got out of jail he and Renee sued the APD for their terrible experience – his expensive truck was demolished, he sustained permanent damage in his shoulder, and still suffers PTSD from the attack.  No luck with the jury – devious Anaheim attorney Moses Johnson painted Boaz as a scary gangster using exaggerated events from his distant past, so presumably the typical OC jurors felt he deserved his face, body and truck bashed up for absolutely no offense.

Scott McManus, who had had SIX previous incidents of excessive force (some of which are described here) went on to fuck up big time again, jumping out of his moving car to get some bad guys while his car went on to bang up a bunch of parked cars, and FINALLY was demoted from narcotics at least.  And what can the Balentis do now but continue to attend protests like yesterday’s, and offer solidarity to other police victims.

aguirresAn essential element of Rackauckas’ reign of injustice is not only turning a blind eye to brutal cops (and corrupt politicians) but also criminalizing poor minority youth and forcing exaggerated punishments on them.  A celebrated case we’ve written about is that of young Jesús Aguirre, whose tireless parents are pictured to the left.  Harassed and bullied throughout his youth by (now-demoted) Buena Park cop James Woo, when he finally got busted at the age of 16 for something that should probably have gotten him 2-4 years, T-Rack’s prosecutors managed to get Jesús a life sentence plus 25 years in Pelican Bay.  After international outrage, and a lot of work from a lot of us, we managed to get that reduced to 19 years, which is still obscene.  His parents continue to fight for justice for Jesús and other victims of draconian “justice.”

gabyDid I say “criminalizing poor and minority youth?”  An essential tool for doing that is T-Rack’s beloved gang injunctions.  Orange County’s greatest warrior against these overused and usually unconstitutional travesties is Gabriela Hernandez (right.)  We’ve written about gang injunctions on this blog before, they are a great way to criminalize all the young men and women in a vast swath of a city – often (but not always) one that you want to clear out and gentrify.  Right now justice warriors are fighting against three new injunctions – two in Placentia and one in Santa Ana.

Gabriela tells me that her “frustration at being an incarcerated youth myself throughout my adolescent years [in Santa Barbara] led to my activism, based on wanting to give others second chances.  I’ve been calling out the OCDA on all their corruption from political, to police, to injunctions, to youth getting excessive sentences.”

teresaWhen I showed up to last year’s march, I thought “What victim of Tony Rackauckas can I represent?”  And then it struck me – the taxpayer!   So much of what this worse-than-no-DA DA does costs us untold millions unnecessarily, from the $4 million lost unsuccessfully defending the overreaching Orange Varrio Cypress injunction, to the waste of more millions unsuccessfully defending his redundant program to ban sex offenders from parks, to the costly and redundant DNA bank he keeps and cherishes except when it might exonerate someone, to ALL the disastrous waste stemming from his jailhouse-snitch scandal and the botched prosecution of mass-murdering Scott Dekrai.

Yes, brothers and sisters, we are ALL victims of Tony Rackauckas and his foot soldiers.

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About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.