Monday, July 11, 2016

Oakland SRO Tenants Sue Tech Housing Investors for Harassment

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Jul 11, 2016 at 12:51 PM

Residents of the Hotel Travelers allege that their new landlord, Danny Haber, is trying to push them out of their homes. Last Friday, some of the building's residents filed suit against Haber to stop what they characterize as a pattern and practice of harassment.

The Hotel Travelers is one of Oakland's dwindling number of SRO hotels. According to city staff, SROs are "naturally occurring" affordable housing that should be preserved, but recently, investors like Haber have purchased SRO buildings with the intent of remodeling them into boutique hotels or apartments for more affluent renters or tourists.

Unlike San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities, Oakland has no laws to preserve existing SRO housing.

According to the tenants' lawsuit, since purchasing the Hotel Travelers, Haber has reduced maid services, causing trash to pile up in the hallways, removed mailboxes and the 24-hour front desk service,making the building less secure, removed the building's wifi, and allowed the elevator to go unfixed for weeks, forcing elderly and disabled residents to walk up narrow flights of stairs.

See also: Last Days at Downtown Oakland's Hotel Travelers?

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Express Wins Seven National Awards at AAN 2016

by Nick Miller
Mon, Jul 11, 2016 at 9:01 AM

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We interrupt your Monday morning for some navel-gazing and back-patting.

The Association of Alternative Newsmedia is a group that counts more than 113 weekly or "alt" papers and websites from all over the country as members. Each year, AAN convenes for a gathering of journalism training, secret-sharing — and dranks. That convention was this past weekend in Austin, Texas, and it culminated with its annual award ceremony.

More than 821 entries were submitted to AAN this year. The Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland judge everything from news features to front-cover designs. And the Express writers walked away with seven prizes this year, including:

First place for Arts Criticism to managing editor Sarah Burke.

First place for Arts Feature to contributor Sam Lefebvre.

First place for Political Column to former editor Robert Gammon.

Second place for Food Writing to food editor Luke Tsai.

Third place for Photography to former staff photographer Bert Johnson.

Third place for Feature Story to former staff writer Sam Levin.

And second place for Freedom of Information reporting to editor Nick Miller (for his work at his former paper, the Sacramento News & Review).

Congrats to all the winners. (Now, back to work!)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

District Attorney Fires Former Oakland Police Captain Who Flirted with Teenager at Center of Sex-Crime Scandal

by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston
Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 4:11 PM

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Former Oakland police Captain Ricardo Orozco, who once led OPD's anti-prostitution enforcement efforts in East Oakland, has been fired by the Alameda County District Attorney, the DA's office confirmed today.

Orozco's termination comes weeks after he was identified by the Express as one of the East Bay law-enforcement officers who solicited the woman known as Celeste Guap for sex. 

The DA's office did not share results of the investigation, but Guap shared a lewd text message with the Express in which Orozco wrote to her, "I would love your taco!" According to Guap, Orozco invited her to dinner on at least one occasion, but the two never met in person.

On June 15, the DA announced that Orozco had been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into his conduct with the young woman.

Orozco attended the 117th Oakland Police Academy and joined the force in 1987. He worked narcotics, special duty, and internal affairs before becoming a captain. In 2006 he attended the FBI's 227th National Academy.

As captain, Orozco oversaw OPD's Area 3, which included the stretch of East 14th Street from Lake Merritt to Fruitvale Avenue, one of the epicenters of human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors in California. One of Orozco's initiatives, while he led Area 3, was the distribution of "Dear John" letters to people suspected of soliciting sex workers.

#PhilandoCastile #AltonSterling #BlackLivesMatter — Share Your Words and Thoughts With the Express

It may be too soon to reflect. But for those of you who feel the urgent need to share, send your thoughts our way.

by Nick Miller
Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 12:25 PM

Shock, sadness, outrage — like most Americans, we here at the Express are in disbelief over the latest law-enforcement killings in this country. After all these years and all these deaths ... it's still happening.

We're definitely going to write about this in next week's issue. But we also want to give over pages in our July 13 paper to you, our readers. For many, it may be too soon to reflect. But for those of you who feel the urgent need to voice frustration and anger — as well as steps toward solutions — the Express would like to amplify your perspectives. It's your paper next week.

The details: Email what you have to say, anywhere from 100-500 words, with the subject line "#BlackLivesMatter" to Editor@EastBayExpress.com. The Express will publish letters and essays online and in next week's issue. Deadline is ASAP, but Monday at the latest. Please be sure to include your name and city.

Take care,
The Express team

Federal Police Officer Offered to Pimp East Bay Teenager at Center of Oakland Police Sex-Abuse Scandal

'Waiting for u to make us$$$$'

by Darwin BondGraham and Ali Winston
Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 11:54 AM

Defense Logistics Agency guard William Johnson. - INSTAGRAM
  • Instagram
  • Defense Logistics Agency guard William Johnson.
A San Joaquin County-based federal law-enforcement agent asked the teenager at the center of the Oakland police sex-crime scandal if he could act as her pimp, according to text messages obtained by the Express.

William K. Johnson, a guard for the federal Defense Logistics Agency, a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense, sent multiple text messages to the eighteen year-old who goes by the name Celeste Guap, asking her to make money for him through sex work.

In interviews with the Express, Guap said that Johnson initiated contact with her over Instagram in May, after initial news reports about her exploitation by numerous East Bay cops. These messages show that Johnson solicited her for sex. According to Guap, they met at the hot tubs on University Avenue in Berkeley and then traveled out to Johnson's home in Vacaville.

"If you know I'm in the middle of a police sex scandal, why get involved with me," Guap said about her contact with Johnson.

Additional text messages provided by Guap show that, on multiple occasions, Johnson offered to serve as Guap's exploiter in order to earn more money through sex work.

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"What u doing today," Johnson texted Celeste on one morning in May.

"Hide lol" she replied.

"Ur supposed to make us rich" Johnson wrote back.

When Celeste asked how, Johnson replied, "BP."

"BP," according to Guap, refers to Backpage.com, a website sex workers use to advertise themselves to customers.

In another text message exchange Johnson wrote that he was "Waiting for u to make us$$$$."

Guap replied, "Lol I'll pay you daddy; )"

Johnson wrote, "Ok....when will you start" and "How much can you pay me?"

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When the Express first contacted the Defense Logistics Agency about Johnson's contact with Guap in mid-May, Spokesperson Dawn Bonsell, replied that Johnson was not under investigation. On June 9, the Express followed up, asking if an investigation had been opened yet, but Bonsell stated again that Johnson was not under investigation.

On July 6, KQED reported that the DLA had "reassigned" Johnson to administrative duty. Patrick Mackin, the deputy director of public affairs for the DLA, confirmed to KQED that an investigation has been opened.

Johnson was placed on administrative duties on June 14, the day the Express named him in a story.

Reached by phone today, Johnson told the Express that he "can't talk to the media," and hung up.

DLA spokesperson Michelle McCaskill said today that the agency cannot release any more information about the investigation.

The San Joaquin County District Attorney does not currently have an inquiry open into Johnson, according to Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Judge Rules Hayward Misinterpreted Records Law After Charging $3,247 for Police Body Camera Video

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 4:13 PM

A police body camera.
  • A police body camera.
An Alameda County judge has ruled that police departments cannot charge fees for redacting body camera video footage. According to government transparency advocates, the ruling, by Judge Evilio Grillo, ensures that police departments can't charge fees that effectively stifle disclosure.

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