Good morning. It’s Friday, Jan. 19.
- L.A. Innocence Project takes up case of Scott Peterson.
- Widespread rain and snow on tap through early next week.
- And L.A. Times journalists to walk out over planned layoffs.
The L.A. Innocence Project has taken up the case of Scott Peterson, who was found guilty in 2004 of killing his pregnant wife Laci in a case that became a staple of tabloid and cable news coverage. Lawyers for the group, part of a network of organizations that has exonerated hundreds of wrongly convicted people, said in a court filing that “new evidence now supports Mr. Peterson’s longstanding claim of innocence and raises many questions into who abducted and killed Laci and Conner Peterson.” KGO | S.F. Chronicle
Two San Francisco entrepreneurs this week launched an artificial intelligence bot version of long-shot Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips, in one of the first known uses of AI in a political campaign. Matt Krisiloff and Jed Somers said they formed the super PAC We Deserve Better, quickly raising $4 million, after losing confidence in President Biden. Setting aside a thicket of ethical questions, they used samples of Phillips’ voice podcasts, interviews, and speeches to create the bot, which can manage stilted conversations with visitors at the site Dean.bot. Washington Post
One day last October, Amy Trapp got a call from an unknown number. She picked it up and heard her son Will, a college student on the Central Coast, crying, saying he’d been in a car accident. Trapp panicked. A man purporting to be a police officer came on the line. Will had injured a pregnant woman, he told Trapp. Another man claiming to be Will’s public defender told her to pull out $15,000 for his bail. “I would have done anything he said,” Trapp said later. Hours later, the scam was exposed in a call to the police: The perpetrators had used AI to simulate Will’s voice. S.F. Chronicle
It’ll be another rainy weekend across California. Forecasters said back-to-back storms would deliver heavy rain and up to 3 feet of high-elevation snow across the state between Friday and Wednesday, bringing flood risks to already drenched areas of the North State and Central Coast. On the bright side, meteorologist Jan Null predicted that the storms would nudge much of California from precipitation deficits to surpluses after our dry fall. Weather Channel
- Regional outlooks:
The Sonoma County District Attorney ran a public service campaign that featured a mother telling how she lost her daughter to a fentanyl overdose at a playground. “She saw some white powder and touched it,” the mother says. “That’s all she did.” The only problem: It never happened. Not only is the story fake, toxicologists have refuted claims by law enforcement that an overdose through skin contact is even possible. District Attorney Carla Rodriguez acknowledged the fabrication, but defended the message. “I am not concerned about people being too alert about the dangers of fentanyl,” she said. “Period.” Northern California Public Media
Maximiliano Sosa Jr. was in the throes of a mental health crisis on the morning of Nov. 4. Holding a pair of kitchen scissors in the Fresno apartment of his estranged wife, he told responding police officers, “This doesn’t end well.” In body cam video, Sosa appears to get Tased, causing him to stumble toward the officers who shoot and kill him. Sosa, a father of two, was 33. He didn’t need to die, wrote columnist Marek Warszawski. Fresno Bee
During California’s drought in 2022, farms drained a section of the Merced River dry for almost four months — and officials only found out after the fact. The previously unreported episode came as a shock to some experts. “This just isn’t something we see,” said Jon Ambrose, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “This isn’t something that should be seen as normal.” Even so, the draining of one of California’s major waterways doesn’t appear to have been a crime, the N.Y. Times reported.
On this week’s California Sun Podcast, host Jeff Schechtman interviews San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan. The mayor said he’s tried to bring an approach to government borrowed from Silicon Valley: focused on clear goals and public metrics. “If it’s just virtue signaling and political posturing then I’m not interested,” he said.
A judge declared a mistrial Thursday in the trial of an off-duty LAPD police officer who opened fire on a family inside a Costco store in Riverside County in 2019, killing an intellectually disabled man and wounding his parents. After more than three days of deliberating, jurors told the judge they were deadlocked on the manslaughter charge against Salvador Alejandro Sanchez. His lawyer portrayed the outcome as a vindication. “It was a tragedy,” he said, “but it wasn’t a crime.” Prosecutors said they would consider whether to retry the case. Desert Sun
“This is the Big One.”
Los Angeles Times journalists planned to walk off the job Friday to protest expected job cuts in the first newsroom work stoppage in the paper’s 142-year history. Insiders told Times reporter Meg James that management planned to lay off at least 100 employees, or roughly 20% of the newsroom. A former top editor estimated the newspaper was losing about $50 million a year. “Relying on a benevolent owner to cover expenses, year after year, is not a viable long-term plan,” a spokeswoman for owner Patrick Soon-Shiong said. L.A. Times | The Wrap
For years, city leaders have deflected state pressure to permit more housing in Beverly Hills, where the number of residents has actually fallen since 1970. So last month, a judge ordered a halt to all building permits until the city produces an acceptable blueprint to increase housing. That means no kitchen remodels, living room upgrades, or pool grottoes for one of the world’s most opulent enclaves. “I’m shocked by the judgment,” said Murray Fischer, a real estate attorney. “It would mean that the city is at a standstill.” L.A. Times
In case you missed it
Five items that got big views over the past week:
- In California’s northeastern corner is a little resort where each room has a private soaking tub fed by the area’s geothermal hot springs. The state’s tourism arm recommended Surprise Valley Hot Springs as part of a road trip through picturesque Modoc County. Visit California
- At least 30 Jewish families have gotten permission to transfer their children out of Oakland schools since Oct. 7 over what they described as intolerable antisemitism. Margot Nijsure said she told her 11-year-old: “I’m responsible to keep you safe, and I don’t know that I can keep you safe in the Oakland school district.” Jewish News
- In a new memoir, Crystal Hefner recounts her life as a Playboy model and the last wife of Hugh Hefner. Crystal, now 37, and other girlfriends who lived in the Playboy Mansion were paid $1,000 a week and were expected to cater to the aging pornographer sexually. It felt like her destiny, she said. N.Y. Times
- America’s oldest and largest Japanese community. A stretch of road transformed into a bustling car-free promenade. And a legendary dive bar where the dance party is seemingly endless. San Francisco journalist Laura Kiniry to shared her seven favorite locals-only gems. BBC
- When Mingwei Samuel saw a picture of a man with chronic pain sitting on a curb while waiting for a bus, he hauled a bench to the stop and hitched it to the bus stop sign. The guerrilla installation was a hit. He’s since followed up with four more benches in what’s being called a “seating insurgency.” Berkeleyside
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The California Sun is written by Mike McPhate, a former California correspondent for the New York Times.
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