La Mesa Police Releases Video Of Controversial Shooting, San Diego PD Blows Past Overtime Budgets, County’s COVID-19 Latino Outreach ‘Lacks Urgency’ And SDSU Emeritus Debate
KPBS Midday Edition / July 23, 2020
PHOTO BY LA MESA POLICE DEPARTMENT
Nearly two months after Leslie Furcron was shot in the forehead by a bean bag round during a protest in front of the La Mesa Police Department Headquarters, the department has released video of the incident and the name of the officer who shot her. Plus, with the scrutiny on police funding in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, KPBS investigative team found that the San Diego Police Department routinely goes over its overtime budget. Also, the Chicano Federation said the county’s outreach effort to the Latino community, which is hardest hit by the pandemic locally, lacks urgency. And, Gina Champion-Cain, a prominent San Diego businesswoman, faces upto 15 years in prison for cheating her investors out of $400 million in a Ponzi scheme. Finally, a proposal currently making its way through committees of SDSU's Faculty Senate that would allow the university’s president to revoke the emeritus status of anyone who causes "harm to the university's reputation" is causing controversy among current and past faculty members.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Lamesa police released video of protest or Leslie for Crohn's shot with a beanbag
Speaker 2: 00:10 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Alison st. John. This is KPBS mid day edition.
Speaker 2: 00:24 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 00:24 A report on the San Diego police department's use of overtime pay. What we think is more true is that
Speaker 2: 00:31 Unintentional decision not to be upfront about the costs that we're putting into policing.
Speaker 1: 00:36 The Chicano Federation challenges, the counties COVID outreach efforts and cancelled culture pops up in a debate over professor emeritus status at SDSU. That's a head on mid day edition.
Speaker 1: 01:01 The Lamesa police department has released a video montage of the events surrounding the beanbag shooting of African American protest. Leslie, for Cron, the incident had been during the May 30th demonstration outside Lamesa police headquarters. One of many protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd. 59 year old Leslie for Chron was shot in the forehead with a beanbag by police. She was badly injured and continues to suffer a loss of vision in one eye. According to where Turney the video of the shooting taken from police body cam was shot at night, and it's not completely clear, but Lamesa police say it shows for crying, throwing something in the direction of Sheriff's deputies before she was shot by LMA. So police detective joining me is KPBS reporter max Rivlin, Nadler, and max. Welcome. Hi, we now know the name of the police detective who shot for Crohn. Who is he and what have Lamesa police disclosed about him?
Speaker 2: 01:59 Yeah, and a release, uh, late yesterday, they identified him as detective Eric Knudsen, a 12 year veteran of the police department. They say since the incident, since the protest, he's been on administrative leave as, uh, the investigation into possible criminality of his actions is being undertaken by both the department and the district attorney,
Speaker 1: 02:19 The shooting incident is captured from Newton's vantage point. He was quite a distance away from Leslie for Chron. When the shot was fired, wasn't he
Speaker 2: 02:28 Detective was around 96 feet away. According to the video released by the Lamesa police department, he was, um, you know, behind a small barrier and on a little ledge right next to the police department. Um, in fact, he was, he was so far away at the moment, uh, right after he shot. He said that, you know, he had been shooting at a man, so he couldn't get a clear view of the Leslie for Crohn, who is in her late fifties. And, uh, you know, obviously a woman, a grandmother at that
Speaker 1: 03:00 Here's audio from the police video as the shot was fired.
Speaker 2: 03:14 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 03:15 Now, obviously, as you said, the police detective thought that Leslie for Chron was a man when he fired that shot. So is the police officer, therefore the police detective anywhere near the direction that for Cron was allegedly throwing the object?
Speaker 2: 03:33 No, the object was not being thrown at this specific detective at the parking lot. At that time. Sheriff's deputies had cleared out the parking lot after several rounds of tear gas, as well as Lamesa police department, uh, officers and Sheriff's deputies firing these being backgrounds from the top and side of the police department. So the parking lot was fairly clear in which she was throwing an object towards were these Sheriff's deputies who were in the parking lot, um, overhead video and, and my vantage point at the time, cause I was there, um, the object that she threw got nowhere close to where the deputies were. And in fact, you know, from what you hear the officer saying after he's shot, it's unclear whether he was saying that this was a person who was throwing moments before or had been throwing objects throughout the day.
Speaker 1: 04:22 And we do actually see on the video, some objects coming towards the direction of the police detective who shot the bean bag, the some objects coming to that balcony from protestors toward police. Isn't that right?
Speaker 2: 04:37 Yeah. Earlier in the day, um, you know, obviously the video released here is showing the police perspective. It's what the, uh, law enforcement would like the public to see about the incident. Obviously a lot more is going to be handed over to the district attorney as well as mr. Crohn's lawyers. Um, you know, they're showing these eight officers, um, getting pelted by rocks. There's several large rocks that are thrown, that were taken from landscape around the, uh, police department. Um, so it's showing that from their vantage point, there were several projectiles coming at them. Um, but it's not showing as the perspective of the protestors who at the same time we're dealing with, uh, tear gas, bean bags, um, things like that. And not only protesters, but people who had kind of just come to see what was watching. Cause I was often across the street and still having to Dodge bean bags and tear gas as well.
Speaker 1: 05:28 Remind us about the injury that Leslie for Crohn's suffered.
Speaker 2: 05:31 So the shooting left for crown with, um, multiple fractures to her skull and, um, uh, at least, um, as of June 23rd had blinded her on her left eye. Um, it was unclear if she will regain use of that eye. Um, and there haven't been any updates in her condition since then
Speaker 1: 05:49 She's filed a claim against the city of Lamesa accusing police of excessive force. What has her attorney said about the release of this police body cam footage?
Speaker 2: 05:59 I've I've reached out to the, uh, lawyer, Dante Prada I've yet to hear back, but he did tell the union Tribune last night, uh, after the body camera footage was released, that it was showing a can thrown by, you know, a grandmother, not something that would have been retaliated against by a beanbag, you know, to, to her face.
Speaker 1: 06:18 Now most of the video released by Lamesa police contains images of the whole day of demonstrations. And the shooting only makes up about two minutes of the seven minute video have police given any reason for that.
Speaker 2: 06:32 They haven't. I mean, it's tough when you have instances incidents like this, that stretch out for an entire day to give the entire context and kind of a fairly condensed video we've seen in other use of force incidents that have been released lately. We get the body camera footage from before, during, and after the incident here, it's only a small slice, but what they're trying to do is put, put it in the context of kind of the, the heightened tension around the police station that day, again, as I said, you know, that's only one perspective, it's the police officer's perspective and it's law enforcement's perspective, and they're totally entitled on their YouTube channel to put that out there and try to kind of push exactly what they were up against on that day. But a lot more is going to come out about this case and about exactly what happened at Lamesa on, on that day as the district attorney and plaintiff's lawyers and civil rights advocates, who've announced several lawsuits stemming from the protest in early June. Um, get much, much more discovery from what happened, because as you saw, there was a ton of video taken from social media, body camera footage, surveillance, helicopter. These are things that are all going to be disclosed in a matter of time.
Speaker 1: 07:40 That is the Lamesa police response to the shooting of Leslie for Cron.
Speaker 2: 07:45 So from day one, they've been deeply apologetic about, um, you know, the, the fact that she was injured during this incident. Um, they haven't at any point kind of claimed liability because obviously this is now a legal matter. They've said they're praying for her recovery. And here's what, uh, chief Walt Vasquez said in a release last night that accompanied the body camera footage, that we will continue to nurture a safer place. So they want to move forward after this incident and try to, uh, as he says, heal the wounds because this was a protest that eventually turned into a night of destruction of local businesses. And, um, you know, a lot of people there are hoping that it sparks larger conversations about relationships between local law enforcement and citizens and Lamesa and how the situation was able to get to a point where, you know, we saw somebody have permanent damage from a shot, one single shot, you know, from a police officer during an entire day, as
Speaker 3: 08:56 Of here to, for peaceful protest.
Speaker 1: 08:59 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, max Revlin Nadler and max. Thank you.
Speaker 3: 09:03 Thank you.
Speaker 1: 09:15 In addition to the demonstrations in Lamesa protests over the killing of George Floyd brought thousands of protestors into downtown San Diego and San Diego police were deployed at full force at the site of those protests in the aftermath of the rallies and demonstrations, activists have been calling on city leaders to cut the police budget and give more money to libraries, parks, and affordable housing. But as KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen explains even when its budgets are lean, SDPD has a track record of overspending
Speaker 3: 09:52 On May 31st thousands of San Diego gathered in downtown San Diego to protest the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer [inaudible] that afternoon and evening police declared an unlawful assembly and used to tear gas, Sten, grenades, and pepper balls to disperse. The crowds protestors said that escalated and otherwise peaceful demonstration while police say it was necessary to secure the area either way. It was an expensive day for city taxpayers in the following days and weeks, police racked up more than 100,000 hours of overtime responding to protests by mid June, SDPD had blown past its overtime budget by more than $11 million. And the overspending is not a fluke, a KPBS review of city budgets and financial reports found SDPD has spent beyond its overtime budget in all of the past 10 fiscal years together. The decade of overspending totals, more than $61 million. Our office has raised concerns with police overtime, exceeding budgeted levels, quite consistently.
Speaker 3: 11:00 Beaucoup Patel is a fiscal and policy analyst with the independent budget analysts office. All departments have a responsibility to spend within their budget. Um, including the police department, police department is a little unique because especially the use of overtime, uh, if there's an emergency or a public safety issue that needs to be addressed, typically that's done through overtime. Some overtime pay is also mandatory. Officers are guaranteed overtime when they work on holidays, for example, or have to appear in court. But the biggest portion of the police overtime budget is discretionary. When police captains allow officers to work beyond their regular eight hours, we have to be honest about where the desire for policing comes from Kira green is executive director of the progressive think tank center on policy initiatives. Police have justified extending shifts into overtime by saying the department is understaffed green disagrees and says the use of overtime reflects the over-policing of some San Diego neighborhoods.
Speaker 4: 11:59 It's always the case that policing is racialized. Um, and so as this city has become more people of color we've. Now we've heard a call for more policing and that's not going to solve our problems. It's actually is our problem.
Speaker 3: 12:13 Green says SDPD is consistent. Overspending on overtime could mean one of two things, either all the mayors and police chiefs over the past decade have been really bad at predicting how much the department would need to spend on overtime. Or
Speaker 4: 12:26 What we think is more true is that this is an intentional decision not to be upfront about the cost that we're putting into policing and to do at the front end of the budget cuts and all kinds of programs under the argument that there's not enough money. And then on the back end of the budget to put that money back into policing,
Speaker 3: 12:43 DPD declined our request for an interview and refuse to respond to written questions about overtime spending council, president Georgette Gomez says the police budget does need more scrutiny to that end. She and council member Monica Montgomery commissioned a deep dive report into police spending. So the council can find areas to cut responsibly. So when we are having the budget discussion and the budget allocations, we can actually make decisions based on that information. Versus when we're in the official budget hearings, it makes it hard because a lot of the information is coming at us very, very quickly, but also at times, very late, despite a flood of calls to cut the police budget council members last month approved mayor Kevin Faulconer his proposal to increase it by about 5% to $566 million. The police overtime budget also went up to about 34 million, but in an effort to crack down on overspending, the council is also requiring SDPD to provide a detailed account of overtime use.
Speaker 3: 13:45 As soon as half of the budget is exhausted. Council member, Chris ward, who cast the only vote against the budget, says this is the level of oversight needed right now. And I think that what you're hearing from many council representatives is an increased interest in engaging directly, um, with police operations and with, with the police budget itself, to be a little more transparent and clear about what it is we're doing, how we're spending it and what other alternatives might be out there for consideration. The deep dive report on SDPD budget is expected sometime in the late summer or fall. Joining me is KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew. Welcome. Thank you, Maureen. Now it was just a few years ago that the big issue with police in San Diego was that there weren't enough of them and that the city wasn't paying enough to recruit or retain enough police officers.
Speaker 3: 14:36 How has that situation changed? Well in 2017, mayor Kevin Faulkner struck a deal with the police officer's association to give them a series of raises. And it's true that SDPD offered relatively low pay compared to other comparative agencies like the Sheriff's department or police departments and the neighboring cities. And so those raises really, um, uh, brought SDPD up to par with some of those other agencies. They were, they were approved also unanimously by the city council. So that certainly reflects how times have changed. Um, but since then the police have been steadily building up their staffing levels, filling some of those, um, vacant positions with new recruits. They're not where they want to be right now, but they have definitely made a lot of progress. And one thing that I learned in reporting this story is that the council hasn't really had an in depth conversation about the number of officers that the department needs. The goal has always been to get to the staffing levels seen before the great recession. Um, but now we're seeing more interest from the council and taking a closer look at those numbers and perhaps, maybe they'll decide that we can do okay with the number of officers that we have right now.
Speaker 1: 15:46 Now over the 10 years that you looked at wasn't overtime pay sometimes use to boost an officer's overall compensation.
Speaker 3: 15:55 I can't say whether that was the intent of, uh, over time. Um, it is true that, uh, in 2012 proposition B froze the pay of, um, virtually all city employees. Um, but any overtime hours that the off police officers earned during that period, certainly helped their pay and browsing through some of the salary data that we found. Uh, some officers earned $0 million in overtime. Others might've had half of their earnings at the end of the year, uh, from overtime. So it definitely provided a big pay boost to certain people.
Speaker 1: 16:25 Do we know how most of the police overtime pay is spent?
Speaker 3: 16:30 It's not easy information to find. Uh, I can say that the independent budget analyst office was a big help, as I mentioned in their story. Police chose not to give us an interview or ANSI answer any of our questions in writing, but we did get a memo that was released in response to some council member questions. And about a third of the, uh, overtime budget was listed as extension of shift. That's when officers are working past their eight hours, just to keep more police officers on the beat, walking the streets, et cetera. And that's the biggest portion about a 10th of the overtime budget was listed as going to holiday pay, uh, and about a quarter was categorized as other, and with some more digging, we found out this is actually related to a lot of the policing of homelessness. So officers, for example, a company, civilian city staffers, while they clear homeless encampments in case there's some sort of confrontation and also neighborhood policing is a new division that was created by the department in 2018 to centralize a lot of the quality of life complaints that they respond to many of which are related to homelessness.
Speaker 3: 17:36 So this is absolutely the overtime budget growing is absolutely connected to the city's use of the police department to respond to homelessness.
Speaker 1: 17:45 Now, Kira green, Oh, the center for policy initiatives told you communities of color are not asking for more police to make them feel safer. But former district attorney Paul thinks told us on this show last week, that when he had town hall meetings, he was always asked by the community for more police in the neighborhood that was in the early two thousands. So is it fair to say attitudes have shifted and are shifting?
Speaker 3: 18:11 It's a hard question to answer. I think it's fair to say communities are pretty divided on whether police presence makes their community safer. Uh, council president Georgette Gomez told me in our interview that after a recent shooting in her district, she also got a flood of emails and calls for more police presence. Um, but it's also true that many in San Diego simply don't trust the police and see them as more of a threat to their safety. So our attitudes changing, I think it's hard to say, but definitely based on the size and the frequency of the protests that we saw against police violence in recent months, I think more people and in particular, more white people are viewing the police with a lot more skepticism than they did before.
Speaker 1: 18:49 Considering the moment that we're in. Why did the San Diego city council vote to raise the police budget?
Speaker 3: 18:55 Well, the main reason, and it is true, uh, was that the city had promised salary and benefit increases for the police. Uh, and those personnel costs are pretty baked into the budget. Um, the mayor and city council could have chosen to reduce the budgeted positions in the police department. Uh, there was a hiring freeze in most city departments after COVID-19 hit the budget really hard. And there were even a few layoffs. Um, but, uh, the police were mostly spared from that. It's also true that these calls to defund the police were not a major part of the discourse in San Diego before George Floyd's death. The police department had a budget review committee, a hearing on May 4th when they presented their budget in greater detail. And that was three weeks before George Floyd's, uh, killing by a police officer. And so, uh, you know, if there had been 10 hours of public testimony in that hearing, or if this whole conversation had started earlier, then there might've been a different outcome, but it was fairly hard to change. Um, on the day that the city council was approving the police budget
Speaker 1: 19:55 And is the police department unique among city agencies in blowing past its overtime budget?
Speaker 3: 20:01 It's not the fire department is the other main sort of culprit in this, um, spending beyond its overtime budget. And that's also been called out as an issue in the IBA reports over the years. Uh, one thing that we did learn was that the fire department, uh, at least in the most recent fiscal year did have higher vacancy savings. Um, and this is when you know, you budget for a position that ultimately you can't fill. So that's money that set aside that was unspent. And often that offsets over time spending those vacancy savings were higher in the fire department than they were in the police department. So kind of the overall budget balance, um, is greater in the, or at least most recently was greater in the police department in terms of actually overspending. Overall,
Speaker 1: 20:44 I've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter Bowen, Andrew,
Speaker 5: 20:48 Thank you. Thank you, Maureen tune in tomorrow for a closer look at calls to shift money from policing to mental health services,
Speaker 5: 21:11 As the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, it's becoming clear that in San Diego, the Latino community is being hit harder than other parts of the population. While Latinos make up 34% of the region's population, they make up 60% of infections and 45% of the deaths this week County health officials announced they're stepping up outreach and testing in the Latino community, but at least one local community group is disappointed with the county's response and is urging officials to do more yesterday. On Medea addition, we talked with the county's health department about its latest outreach efforts in the Latino community. Today we have with us Nancy Maldonado, who is CEO of the Chicano Federation. Nancy, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you. Thank you for having me on today. So now what would you say are the reasons why the Latino community is being hit so much harder by the virus than other communities?
Speaker 5: 22:01 I think it's, it's a combination of reasons. Um, but I think ultimately what we're seeing is that COVID-19 is exacerbating the structural inequities that already existed. And what we're seeing is the devastating consequences of years of failure to address those inequities. But, you know, our, our community doesn't have the same access to healthcare access, to affordable housing. You know, the community, our community lives disproportionately in poverty. And, you know, there's, there's lots of research to suggest the health consequences of living in poverty. The list goes not really. So now yesterday we heard from the County that they're about to launch a increased outreach to the Latino community, and they're increasing the number of testing sites and they're adding contract tracers and, uh, contact tracers and underserved areas. Does, does that respond satisfy you? I think it's a step in the right direction, but you know, as you know, was, we all know this is, this is a very layered situation and it's not enough to just put testing sites.
Speaker 5: 23:06 It's not enough to just increase contact tracing. We also have to talk to the community and understand what some of these barriers and concerns around being tested or getting contacted by a contact tracer might be. And so we have to, you know, when, whenever we go into these situations, they have to be informed by communities so that we can address them in a way that's culturally relevant and is really addressing the needs of the community. So part of what we've done here on our own at Chicano Federation is to partner with UC San Diego, to do studies, to find out what the barriers are, what the misconceptions are, so that can inform our community. And we can address these, uh, you know, whatever these ideas or thoughts are so that people will participate in testing and in contact tracing. And I think that's the piece that's been missing and, and quite honestly should have been addressed months ago.
Speaker 6: 24:01 So for example, it's all very well to, um, outreach and suggest people need more testing, but if in fact they test positive and, and, um, need to stop work. Uh, they may not want to know if they're positive because if they stopped work, their family would suffer. Right? I mean, what, what do you think is missing from this approach?
Speaker 5: 24:19 Some support systems in place for, if you are the sole income earner in your family and you test positive, there needs to be some support system for that family, right? So if that person does have to stop, stop working, you know, will there be some financial assistance to help during that time? In addition to that, if this person doesn't have the ability to self isolate at home, you know, is there a program, a hotel rooms set up so that this person can go so that they're not exposing their family? Like I said, you know, I recognize that there, there are a lot of layers to this, but, you know, we, we have been asking for a comprehensive approach and a comprehensive plan because one, one approach is not, is not the solution. And so we do need to look at this holistically and address the whole family and address the whole picture, not just one aspect of it.
Speaker 6: 25:11 No. In response to the criticism from the Chicano Federation, uh, Barbara Jimenez, who was with us yesterday, uh, had this to say on the show,
Speaker 5: 25:19 We need everyone's support. We look forward to working with organizations. Um, we encourage any organization that feels like there's specific gaps, um, to really help us in getting those messages out. Um, and again, we cannot do it alone and we really, really, um, appreciate and, and like the opportunity to continue to work with all those trusted messengers and those organizations that have been doing tremendous work in the community
Speaker 6: 25:48 That was Barbara Jimenez from San Diego County health department. Uh, so what would you respond to that when she says the County cannot do it alone? I mean, what makes the County such an important part of the response in your view?
Speaker 5: 26:01 And I agree wholeheartedly with that. The County can't do it alone. And, and I understand that, but the County does is kind of the glue that holds us all together and they have the ability to help us as community based organizations really get this message out to, to our families. And so we have been in touch with the County and they have been receptive to our feedback and hopefully moving forward, we will take that approach because we have suggested that in order to really reach communities, it has to be done through a trusted messenger. And for San Diego, that trusted messenger is community based organizations. And it's not just Chicago Federation. We have some amazing nonprofit nonprofits in San Diego who, who can help in this effort as well. So I'm in 100% in agreement that this doesn't fall on the County. It, you know, just by themselves and that there are a lot of community based organizations that want to help and that, you know, will help if we can all come together and do this together.
Speaker 6: 26:58 I know that Chicano Federation is working with the housing commission to distribute, uh, rental relief. Although whether there'll be enough money in there to meet the needs, I guess is anyone's guess. And you're also planning to lobby for more money for childcare. Do you think that the coordination between the various agencies in San Diego to support people is enough at this point,
Speaker 5: 27:18 You know what the rent relief alone, this program just launched a few days ago. And, um, our staff has been really overwhelmed and quite honestly saddened to hear the need and the stories that come from our community. And a lot of them were not able to help through this program, right, because there are limitations. Um, and it's been, it's, it's taken an emotional toll on our staff to have to turn away so many people the needs are so widespread that, you know, there has to be, we all have to come together and we all have a responsibility to, to step up and to help our community. The more we coordinate, the more we work together, the more of an impact we will have. What would you like to see happen next? Well, you know, I think first and foremost, there is an urgent need to, to get education out to our communities.
Speaker 5: 28:08 I would love to collaborate with the County with, with some of our other nonprofit partners who are doing amazing work to make sure that first and foremost, we stopped the spread. But then second, I think we also really need to dig deep into the data to look at where these inequities lie. And one of the things that we're seeing is that someone's income determines their chances of getting this virus and the zip code that they live in determines the chances of contracting this deadly virus. And that is something that we cannot allow to continue. I think we need to stay focused on addressing the systemic inequities and make sure that we, we really see the desperately needed change that we need to see in this County.
Speaker 6: 28:50 We've been speaking with Nancy Maldonado, who is CEO of the Chicano Federation. Nancy, thanks for joining us. Thank you
Speaker 7: 29:06 A well known
Speaker 6: 29:07 San Diego business woman pleaded guilty yesterday in connection with a $400 million Ponzi scheme. Hundreds of investors were ensnared in the conspiracy over the last several years, according to the plea agreement revealed in federal court union Tribune, reporter Lori Weisberg spoke with KPBS host, Mark Sauer earlier today about the scandal. Here's that interview,
Speaker 7: 29:28 Laurie, this is a complicated story. That's ongoing. Give us a thumbnail who is Gina champion Kane, and what's the scheme she's pleading to?
Speaker 5: 29:37 Well, I think most people who, um, go out to eat would know Jamie champion Kane
Speaker 8: 29:42 As, um, a high profile restaurant tour, and probably they're most familiar with her for her, um, patio restaurant chains, but most of those restaurants are gone in the wake of this scandal. So she was thought of as a respected business woman, but that all then all fell apart when she became under, she came under investigation by both the sec, and then later by the FBI and us attorney's office. What she did was she came up with a scheme that had nothing to do with her restaurants, um, where it was a liquor license lending scheme that Pete, Pete people, the restaurant jurors, or bar winters that needed to get liquor licenses need to put up money to do that. So she came up with a scheme where she solicited investors to invest money for high interest loans, and she would pay them the high interest. And then they would loan this money to the people via Gina champion can at her companies to these, uh, bar and restaurant owners. And then they, once they, once the liquor licenses were secured, the money would be returned. The problem was, it was all, it was all a scam. She, there were no liquor license loans, no liquor licenses that she was purchasing. Instead she diverted, um, hundreds of millions of dollars to her and her companies. And we later found out through the us attorney's office yesterday, but they were being used to prop up her businesses, pay off credit card debt, uh, box seats at charger and Padres game jewelry from Tiffany's homes, um, expensive cars.
Speaker 7: 31:14 So really spending a lot of money on herself and not involved with making the investors whole at all. Right,
Speaker 8: 31:21 Right, right. And, and to give it a sense of credibility, um, early on, she would, um, she would pay back investors and, you know, give them back if they wanted their principal or she gave them their interest payments were about 200 million of the 400 million that went in and out, went back to give them the sense of, Oh, this, this really is decent. I'm getting my money back. I'll just roll over my money and put more money in. So that's how she kept it going. But in a classic Ponzi scheme, she's using new money to pay, pay others back. And that went on from 2012 to 2019.
Speaker 7: 31:55 Right. And when after all those years, how did it finally unravel
Speaker 8: 31:58 Unraveled? When one of the investors, they don't say if he was a, he or she was a victim or not went to the sec and complained about it, the sec launched investigation. And then, and then, um, then the FBI did as well, us attorney's office as well. So it, and we don't know who this so-called investor is. That was the tipster, but that's, that's how it got started. Her chief financial officer for company wa uh, pled guilty to the conspiracy yesterday. But there's a big question Mark, on whether, um, there's others complicit, namely Chicago, title, Chicago title as a well known title insurance company that she used for holding all these funds in escrow. Um, we do know from some of the filings and lawsuits against Chicago title, that, um, there were escrow officers who these investors believe were in on the scam. Um, we don't know if we believe that they're those individual escrow officers are under investigation. They no longer work for Chicago title, but the title company, their attorney yesterday says, we don't believe we are a target of this investigation. So this is an ongoing probe. And we'll soon see that there were other people who helped Gina champion King carry this out.
Speaker 7: 33:12 And champion Kane is working with prosecutors right now. So, uh, we really don't know what jail time or if any jail time, but she's, she's facing what, 15 years, right?
Speaker 8: 33:21 Yeah. It's five years for each of the three charges. And, you know, as you've listened to the us attorney yesterday, Robert Brewer, um, give his speech during the press conference, you, you came away with the impression she's gonna get some, get some prison time, even though it could be reduced based on how cooperatives me. He said, one of his quotes was this Ponzi scheme is finally over and she will be punished. Um, and I, I, you know, you, you have to think that it means more than restitution. Cause I don't know that she has any money for restitution.
Speaker 7: 33:53 And what about the investors? You mentioned early on some got paid, uh, years ago in the early years of the scheme, but will they ever be made whole,
Speaker 8: 34:01 And that, that is a big question. That's why you seen, um, multiple lawsuits being filed against Chicago title, um, because they're, they're going after deep pockets and they believe that Chicago title is culpable. So some are hoping that they get money that way. One group of investors, about 43 of them already settled, um, was Chicago title just recently. And they got about 65% of their losses back. Uh, but there's also all of chain of champion. Kane's assets are in receivership, multiple bank accounts, real estate. And the receiver is trying to, um, she's been spending a year going through all these assets, trying to see what money can be recovered. There was a lot of debt. So there's not a lot of hope that she's going to recover a lot right now the assets are about 15 million. So you can see that that doesn't anywhere near approach whatsoever
Speaker 7: 34:52 Begin to cover it all has championed Cain said anything to you or anything publicly about her crimes?
Speaker 8: 34:57 No. From day one I've, you know, I've tried to talk to her or her attorney with no, no success yesterday. She wouldn't, she wouldn't comment when she was in the hearing for sec, uh, case she, she took the fifth. So she's never said a word until this plea agreement where, you know, the wording in that plea agreement, she and her attorneys have to agree to. And one of the really interesting things in that plea agreement is the, the lengths to which she went to conceal what she had done. When she learned there were dual investigations going on
Speaker 7: 35:30 Right now, this case comes on the heels of a kickback scam involving the rabbi from Habbat of Poway was wounded the 2019
Speaker 9: 35:38 Attack there in which a gunman killed a congregant and wounded others during a service. It also follows by decades, the noted Ponzi scheme by financier J David Dominelli for listeners. Who've been around San Diego a while, but this one dwarfs those other scams. Right?
Speaker 8: 35:53 Right. So they, the one involving the rabbi that you referred to is about 18 million. Um, there've been various estimates of that. How much has been lost, um, in the, um, J David Case, but about a hundred million. And so I'm thinking with, even with inflation, that it still, um, this still
Speaker 9: 36:14 The big daddy of them all, is there something in the water here is San Diego, right?
Speaker 8: 36:21 Yeah. I know you would think so. And there's an interesting quote that I just came across that at the time that J David Dominelli scheme came to light, the us attorney at the time said, we may never use the term Ponzi scheme. Again, we just may hear people ask, is this another J David scheme? And early on, when this story broke, people were saying, wow, is this as big as the J David scheme? And it was, it was
Speaker 9: 36:46 Same scam by any name. Well, thanks very much, Laurie. It's quite a story. Thank you.
Speaker 6: 36:52 KPBS host, Mark Sauer, interviewing reporter Lori Weisberg of the San Diego union Tribune.
Speaker 6: 37:08 Academic freedom is at the heart of America's higher education system. But our proposal under debate at San Diego state university is raising questions about limits to freedom of speech. The universities, academic policy and planning committee is suggesting a new policy that could strip retired professors of their Ameritas status for conduct that harmed STS use reputation in the interests of disclosure. I note here that KPBS is a service of San Diego state university to explore the proposed policy. We're joined by Gary Robbins, who is the science and technology reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. And he's written about this new proposal, Gary. Thanks for joining us. Thank you. So tell us about the proposal, which would tie emeritus status to the behavior of retired professors. How did you learn about it and what would the policy do?
Speaker 9: 38:00 This came as a tip from a faculty member. Um, what the university is thinking about doing is having a rule by which they could revoke someone's a Meredith status. If they did anything to harm the university's reputation, either before they got that status or after it was kind of an unusual thing, because the message that came across was only about a paragraph long, and it didn't define what harm the university's reputation actually means, nor did it lay out what the impetus for this was. Um, the university is more than a hundred years old. Um, and you know, you thought perhaps it might have this kind of thing. So I asked the university about it and they said they were trying to close a gap, uh, that they had never put in some type of rule by which they could revoke a Meredith status. Um, if someone say committed a criminal act or violated university, uh, uh, uh, regulations, and this is coming up at a time where the university has kind of been tortured by some of his own faculty publicly. Um, there's a, um, uh, a Meredith faculty member named Stewart Hurlbert, who has been a real critic of the university on a lot of different levels. Um, and he's gotten into it a lot with one of the, um, biology graduate student associations. That association has called him a racist for some of the things that he's posted online and insensitive
Speaker 6: 39:19 Clarify for us. What is the significance of Ameritas status? What does it mean and what kind of benefits are at stake here for SDSU employees?
Speaker 9: 39:27 Well, it was kind of a perk. Um, so if you're a retired emeritus professor, you, uh, where the, in most cases have access to an office, you were able to use it, or you would be able to use the, um, uh, computer system, for example, you would be able to continue with research. Um, so many aspects of your life would remain the same. And a lot of retired professors want that
Speaker 6: 39:47 You were mentioning that the possibly one of the targets might be Stewart Hurlbert. Um, but I mean, is he really the trigger for this? Do you think at this time?
Speaker 9: 39:57 Well, I don't know. And that's what made the story kind of frustrating when I found out about it, I CA I reached out to the committee, there's a small committee that came up with this idea. And I, you know, I tried to get ahold of the chairman, DJ Hopkins to say, tell me more about this. Where did this come from? What was the spark that led you guys to do this? What were the deliberations like? And how come you didn't explain what, um, harm the university's reputation means he didn't respond to me, but he passed it on to the administration for comment. And what they said was, well, we're closing a loophole and then they emphasized, Hey, this is the faculty doing this. This is not us.
Speaker 6: 40:36 So it's unclear really where this proposal is even coming from. Uh, where would it go to be furthered?
Speaker 9: 40:44 So, um, this week it was supposed to go to another committee that's larger. Um, the, the administration said that it can go through these various committees and possibly end up before the full university Senate for a vote perhaps in the fall. Um, I don't know if it's gonna remain a proposal or not. I was hearing some chatter yesterday that it might be, uh, pulled because of the controversy in gender, but I don't know that for sure.
Speaker 6: 41:09 So now, would this change the rules for somebody who was retired, who had a marital status? So they would have a different protection, freedom pre speech protections from someone who was actively still teaching at the university.
Speaker 9: 41:22 So what, what they're really fundamentally saying is that if you're an emeritus faculty member, you have to behave yourself. And the same thing applies to a regular faculty. They said, they'd never have written a rule to specifically point to them and make sure that these things apply to them as well.
Speaker 6: 41:41 Talk to other professors apart from, um, Stuart Holbert about this, what are their concerns?
Speaker 9: 41:47 They don't like it at all. They think it's, um, in infringement, on free speech, they feel like it's a method that university could use to intimidate them, to get them not to talk about controversial subjects. There's also some feeling on campus that this is an extension of castle culture. If, um, you could give the university the right to essentially cancel someone out that they don't like. You know, if that person is saying things that are making the university feel uncomfortable, then you essentially cancel it out and saying, well, this person doesn't follow the rules. If embarrass the university, the faculty is concerned that they may also try to do it for legitimate reasons to mazel free speech and academic freedom. Right.
Speaker 6: 42:27 Do you know if this kind of policy allowing revocation of America status is in place anywhere else in California universities?
Speaker 9: 42:34 Well, we were trying to find out, uh, that, uh, over the past air. So in one of the notes we saw, it said that, um, there was a similar rule in place in some other California state university campuses, but it didn't say which ones, this has been an ongoing problem here, where we asked the university questions and they don't get back to us in a timely way, or really in a candid way. It's happening on a lot of issues with San Diego state. So there's been some confusion because the university isn't really talking very clearly about it.
Speaker 6: 43:01 Well, SDSU did send KPBS a statement about the purpose of their proposed rule. And it says, uh, in part, the drafted preliminary policy language is not in response to any one individual, but rather than response to a lapse in existing policy, like you mentioned before, and that continues currently, there is no way to revoke a marital status, should an emeritus faculty, staff, or administrative violate university policy, or commit a criminal act. What do the critics of this policy say to, to that explanation?
Speaker 9: 43:30 The faculty say is, well, perhaps you do need a rule, but we're worried that you're actually doing it for another reason that you have an ulterior motive that you really want to have some type of tool that can pressure critics and keep them quieter if they want a Meredith status, or if they want to keep a marital status,
Speaker 6: 43:48 What happens next to this proposal?
Speaker 9: 43:51 So it's unclear. Um, it looks like it's gone through the Senate executive committee, but we still haven't heard back on that. So the way the university wrote their message, it sounded like, well, this could be revised and it could literally end up before the university Senate this fall, which is right. You know, it's not far away. So perhaps in two or three months, we're going to see this come before the university Senate, which where it will become more public. Okay.
Speaker 6: 44:15 Well, Gary, thank you for your reporting on this issue. We'd been speaking with Gary Robbins, who is the science and technology reporter for the San Diego union Tribune.