(March 9, 2007) -- Councilmembers Rae Gabelich and Patrick O'Donnell have agendized an item asking the City Council on March 13 to direct preparation of a resolution putting CA's fifth largest city on record supporting AB 790 by Assemblywoman Betty Karnette (D., LB) to make witness intimidation an automatic felony (instead of a misdemeanor or felony now) and add a four year prison term if the witness intimidation relates to a criminal street gang.
In their agendizing memo, Councilmembers Gabelich and O'Donnell write in pertinent part:
Witness intimidation is a fundamental threat to our public safety and to the ability
of our justice system to operate effectively and fairly . Threatening or harming
witnesses or victims can have a chilling effect on the willingness of other
witnesses to come forward and testify, crippling the ability of prosecutors to
present evidence . This threatens the very foundation of our justice system.
...Adding tougher laws against witness intimidation can serve as a further
deterrent and will send a message that the residents of Long Beach and the
State of California will not tolerate this assault on the basic principles of our
In a release, Councilwoman Gabelich said, ""We have seen in Long Beach lately where witnesses have expressed fear of testifying because of concern about their safety and the safety of their family. This is unacceptable. People must feel safe to come forward and give testimony."
Councilman O'Donnell, who chairs the Council's State Legislation Committee, said in the relase, "I am proud to bring this important bill to my colleagues for their support. It is vital that we protect those with the courage to step forward and testify in criminal cases."
As previously reported by LBReport.com, the LB Police Officers Association (via its President/LBPD Lt. Steve James) has endorsed the bill...and hopes to be included as a co-sponsor of the measure.
And following a March 5 candidates forum for the 6th district Council seat, candidates Ahmed Saafir, Al Austin and Lillian Parker also told LBReport.com that they support Assemblywoman Karnette's bill.
Assemblywoman Karnette has indicated to other media outlets that she introduced the bill after learning what happened to a prosecution witness in the Halloween night beating case. That witness, an 18 year-old African-American woman who was at the time a Long Beach resident, awoke on the second day of trial to find six males she didn't recognize outside her residence atop her car. On the last day of her court testimony, a vehicle rammed her car while it was parked outside her residence. To date, no one has been apprehended or named as a suspect in connection with what took place.
Responding to the ramming event, LB Mayor Bob Foster said at the time that he spoke personally with L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley about what took place...and D.A. Cooley told Foster that he was examining what federal and state law(s) might be involved.
Mayor Foster said at that time, "This is a very serious matter. As deplorable as the Halloween night occurrence was, everybody depends on the justice process to be here for everyone." He added, "What's happened here is an assault on this process, an assault on the very foundations of the Republic, the very foundations of our civil structure. This is very serious and the appropriate wheels are in motion to deal with this."
One of the defense lawyers in the case, John Schmocker, told LBReport.com at the time that he and his client and her family condemned the attack and his client was not involved in any way with what took place. He added that he believed other defense counsel shared his views in deploring what had occurred.
The prosecution in the trial subsequently informed the Court that what happened to the first witness played a role in another prosecution witness, an African American male, being pressed by his spouse to end his testimony, which was in fact curtailed before it was completed.
LBReport.com posts the text of Assemblywoman Karnette's proposed AB 790 below:
BILL NUMBER: AB 790 INTRODUCED
INTRODUCED BY Assembly Member Karnette
An act to amend Section 136.1 of the Penal Code, relating to
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST
AB 790, as introduced, Karnette. Witnesses: intimidation.
Existing law makes witness intimidation, as specified either a
misdemeanor or a felony.
This bill would make witness intimidation, as specified, only a
felony, and would provide an additional 4-year term of imprisonment
for a person who intimidates a witness, as specified, for the benefit
of, at the direction of, or in affiliation with a criminal street
Because this bill would increase the duties of local prosecutors,
it would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local
agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the
state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that
This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this
act for a specified reason.
Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes.
State-mandated local program: yes.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1. Section 136.1 of the Penal Code is amended to read:
136.1. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (c), any person who
does any of the following is guilty of a public offense and shall be
punished by imprisonment
in a county jail for not more than
one year or in the state prison:
(1) Knowingly and maliciously prevents or dissuades any witness or
victim from attending or giving testimony at any trial, proceeding,
or inquiry authorized by law.
(2) Knowingly and maliciously attempts to prevent or dissuade any
witness or victim from attending or giving testimony at any trial,
proceeding, or inquiry authorized by law.
(3) For purposes of this section, evidence that the defendant was
a family member who interceded in an effort to protect the witness or
victim shall create a presumption that the act was without malice.
(b) Except as provided in subdivision (c), every person who
attempts to prevent or dissuade another person who has been the
victim of a crime or who is witness to a crime from doing any of the
following is guilty of a public offense and shall be punished by
imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year or
in the state prison:
(1) Making any report of that victimization to any peace officer
or state or local law enforcement officer or probation or parole or
correctional officer or prosecuting agency or to any judge.
(2) Causing a complaint, indictment, information, probation or
parole violation to be sought and prosecuted, and assisting in the
(3) Arresting or causing or seeking the arrest of any person in
connection with that victimization.
(c) Every person doing any of the acts described in subdivision
(a) or (b) knowingly and maliciously under any one or more of the
following circumstances, is guilty of a felony punishable by
imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years under
any of the following circumstances:
(1) Where the act is accompanied by force or by an express or
implied threat of force or violence, upon a witness or victim or any
third person or the property of any victim, witness, or any third
(2) Where the act is in furtherance of a conspiracy.
(3) Where the act is committed by any person who has been
convicted of any violation of this section, any predecessor law
hereto or any federal statute or statute of any other state which, if
the act prosecuted was committed in this state, would be a violation
of this section.
(4) Where the act is committed by any person for pecuniary gain or
for any other consideration acting upon the request of any other
person. All parties to such a transaction are guilty of a felony.
(d) Every person attempting the commission of any act described in
subdivisions (a), (b), and (c) is guilty of the offense attempted
without regard to success or failure of the attempt. The fact that no
person was injured physically, or in fact intimidated, shall be no
defense against any prosecution under this section.
(e) Nothing in this section precludes the imposition of an
enhancement for great bodily injury where the injury inflicted is
significant or substantial.
(f) The use of force during the commission of any offense
described in subdivision (c) shall be considered a circumstance in
aggravation of the crime in imposing a term of imprisonment under
subdivision (b) of Section 1170.
(g) Notwithstanding Section 186.22, every person who violates
either subdivision (a) or (b) for the benefit of, at the direction
of, or in affiliation with a criminal street gang shall be, upon
conviction of a violation of subdivision (a) or (b), sentenced to an
additional and consecutive term of four years.
SEC. 2. No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to
Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California Constitution because
the only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school
district will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or
infraction, eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty
for a crime or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the
Government Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the
meaning of Section 6 of Article XIII B of the California