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Sacramento protects criminals once again

As a newspaper editor, I’m livid.

Your state Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom – no supporters of law enforcement – have just screwed newspapers and their readers.

Thanks to state Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), it will soon be next to impossible to obtain mugshots of suspects arrested for crimes. His bill, AB 1475, will make it illegal for our law enforcement to release mugshot of suspects.

Predictably, Newsom signed the bill. He has built his career on protecting criminals.

The state freely continues to flood felons onto our streets to continue their thieving ways while shielding their pictures from being released so you won’t know what they look like.

Low is one of the most reprehensible lawmakers in Sacramento. His bill will prohibit a police department or sheriff’s office from releasing booking photos of a suspect arrested on suspicion of committing a nonviolent crime unless specified circumstances exist.

The bill would also require a police department or Sheriff’s office that shares a booking photo of an individual arrested for the suspected commission of a nonviolent crime to remove the information from its social media page, upon request, unless the same specified circumstances exist.

I became aware of this matter Friday when I spoke to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department public information officer about two thieves who spent the day stealing packages and mail in rural Ceres and Hughson. The two who were arrested – Jeremiah Stephens, 27, and Rachael Fowlkes, 25 – admitted stealing and were found with stolen goods and stolen mail. When I asked for mugshots of the pair the PIO was afraid of being sued and my request was not honored.

It seems that since lawmakers don’t believe in locking up people for too long and to release criminals back onto the streets to victimize us then we should all know what they look like.

Stephens was released from jail on PRCS for a prior conviction of stealing cars. Some people never learn and go right back to their old ways.

Low doesn’t think you have a right to know. He doesn’t believe in the free dissemination of information. He feels when mugshots are released without waiting for a conviction or for charges to be formally filed, “then the internet mobs rush to judgment.”

Sometimes judgments are a good thing and essential to survival.

Low, who proudly notes on his website that he “was the youngest openly LGBTQ+ mayor in the country at age 26,” is apparently concerned that mugshots are “often unflattering” and “posting these images often is to shame and ridicule suspects.”

Would it help, Assemblyman, if we brought beauticians into jail to do hair and makeup first, maybe give a shave for the first time in months, before snapping the mugshot? Maybe make them a little more flattering and palatable to your taste before sharing mugshots? Maybe, Assemblyman Low, you could explain why you think police routinely go around arresting people without cause.

Another question for Low: Why is it bad to shame a suspect by running his photo on social media or in the papers? If you ask me, a little public shaming is warranted and just might cause some criminals to turn from their shameful ways?

The politically liberal Sacramento Bee announced in July 2020 it was limiting the publication of police booking photos, surveillance photos and videos of alleged crimes, and composite sketches of suspects provided by law enforcement. “Publishing these photographs and videos disproportionately harms people of color and those with mental illness, while also perpetuating stereotypes about who commits crime in our community,” wrote the Bee last year.

Who are they kidding? Has the Bee looked at the ethnic makeup of California prison population lately? These are not stereotypes but facts: California prison inmate population is 44.1 percent Hispanic, 28.3 percent black and 21 percent white.

But never fear, the Bee assures all they won’t stop publishing video footage of police officer accused of using force. They say that publishing these videos is “one way to hold those in positions of power accountable.” It’s a mystery to me why McClatchy doesn’t also believe that publishing mugshots holds criminals accountable.

But from the Bee’s statement, we know they don’t believe officers deserve due process before such videos are released.

* * * * *

The Modesto Bee recently held a Zoom forum for the three candidates running for the open Ceres City Council seat. Someone asked me if we were going to do the same and I replied that we would be going with a print format (since we are a newspaper) and allow the three candidates to answer questions.

Laurie Smith submitted her response on time and her answers published last week.

We reminded Jim Casey on Friday, Aug. 13 that we hoped he would respond by Monday, Aug. 16 since our production day was on Aug. 17. There was no response until Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 17 – far too late to include in the Aug. 18 edition. You will find his response in today’s edition.

When we didn’t receive any response from Connie Vasquez we called her to make sure that she actually received the questions. She explained that she was too busy to answer since her daycare business was minus an employee. Vasquez also stated that she didn’t understand why we were doing the questionnaire as we had published some preliminary articles about the candidates. Those articles, however, did not delve into many of the issues facing Ceres. 

I ran for a city council seat in another locale in 1990, won with the top vote and served a four-year seat. I would have jumped at the chance to have the community newspaper print my answers to questions. You’d think that someone running for office would made such a questionnaire a priority but then again Javier Lopez blew us off last year and won – I suspect because of ballot harvesting. But it also raises another important question: If elected, how much time would Vasquez even have to study the council agenda packet and accept any committee assignments that are expected of members?

* * * * *

Politicians like sleazy Gavin Newsom make me sick.

He knows that Larry Elder is leading the GOP pack for his job so now he has to go on the attack, saying Elder is “even more extreme than Trump in many respects.”

Larry Elder would be the first black governor of California. But what are people like Aimee Allison, a leader of Women Against the Recall, saying? She suggested that Newsom could appeal to Democrat women of color by reminding them that Newsom may have a chance to appoint a woman of color to the U.S. Senate seat should Sen. Dianne Feinstein leave office before her term ends in 2024. (Staffers say Feinstein is showing signs of senility like Joe Biden).

Apparently only color matters anymore to Democrats but let me get this right: Forget that a black man would occupy the highest office in California – I’m surprised nobody on the Left has accused him of not being black enough – but let’s keep a white governor in office because he might appoint a black U.S. Senator? The Left always makes race an issue until the answer is to elect a conservative person of color to office or appoint one to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s really never been about promoting blacks – just liberal folks who happen to be people of color.

Don’t sell Larry Elder short. As a black governor, he mostly certainly could appoint a person of color to a vacant Senate seat.

Newsom boasts that he appointed Kamala Harris to the U.S. Senate seat. Judging by how wildly unpopular Harris was a presidential candidate and how unpopular she is as vice president, Newsom appointing her to that open Senate seat is enough justification to throw him overboard on Sept. 14.

* * * * *

The race- and COVID-obsessed mainstream media is so crafty in their liberal slant.

Let me help you with their headlines:

CNBC: “Texas Gov. Abbott, who banned mask and vaccine mandates, tests positive for Covid.”

What they wanted to say was: “Ha ha, serves this right-wing leader right.”

“Stephen Colbert, Michael Moore, and other Celebs compare Trump voters, Republicans to Taliban.” This was posted by Daily Wire, which was intended to show how over-the-top ridiculous liberals can get. Colbert and Moore are among my least favorite of TV personalities besides Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg.

MSN headline: “Voting rights activist: ‘We’re going to fight’ effort by Georgia GOP to takeover local elections.” The truth is that Fulton County, where Atlanta is, has a long history of mismanagement, incompetence, and a lack of transparency when it comes to running elections - including during 2020.

This Sacramento Bee headline: “Larry Elder Thinks Minimum Wage Should be This; $0.00.” What a stupid headline only intended to spark outrage! A more accurate headline would have been: “Elder: Minimum wage kills jobs, causes inflation.” I agree with him. Minimum wage mandates are bad. If you want to make a “living wage” get skills worth the higher pay. Otherwise, all it does is causes businesses to cut jobs and drives up the cost at fast-food restaurants.

And here is one from yesterday: “Can California’s Mail-in Ballots Save Gavin Newsom in Recall Election?” Sure, that’s why Democrats want all-mail ballots – more time to harvest ballots and cajole those who haven’t made intelligent voting a priority to just check the box for them.

* * * * *

The age of Nazism has descended upon us in the flyover part of the state – you know that area between Sacramento and LA skipped over by lawmakers. The power-drunk Democrat “Gods under the Dome” (state lawmakers) are dictating that you must “show your papers” when attending any indoor gathering of 1,000 or more people. That means if you want to go see a show at the Gallo Center you have to be vaccinated and show proof or prove you are COVID free. Imagine, healthy people now being persecuted.

I can imagine the lines to get inside with be longer – if Gallo manages to book an act worth seeing because the lineup has been less than stellar for years.

* * * * *

In response to the fiasco in Afghanistan caused by our new president, former congressional candidate Ted Howze did not mince words on Facebook last week. He said: “This disaster is courtesy of the MEDIA!

“Small minded trolls working for media organizations like McClatchy (Sacramento Bee, Modesto Bee & Fresno Bee) are in huge part to blame for this mess. Their ridiculous need to suck up to the socialist left is born of their personal need as a bunch of inconsequential nerds to feel important. They aren’t!

“How do we fix this? Cancel ALL local print media subscriptions if you still have them. Don’t share their social media posts or comment on them, let them wither away in silence. Start following and participating with your own local online news providers who are working hard to get you the facts.

It’s time to cancel the Fake News!”

Notice Ted didn’t include us or our sister newspaper, the Turlock Journal.

* * * * *

There are a lot of good folks still around.

A senior woman named Zineh had a tire fail along Highway 99 in Keyes and she was stuck in the center median. A man named Terry happened along and jumped right into action, selflessly changing the tire for her. The Modesto CHP office recognized him with a social media post, saying that Terry “turned a traumatic event into an inspiring act of kindness.”

* * * * *

I don’t know of anybody who had anything bad to say about Tom Westbrook, except for the single malcontent who makes his miserable opinions known at nearly all City Council meetings.

Tom spent 20 years with the Ceres planning staff and then became city manager last year. He leaves with a wealth of institutional knowledge.

I could always count on Tom to shoot straight and call me as quickly as he could. He treated everyone like they wanted to be treated.

His last day was on Monday and it’s a huge loss. It has the feeling of the loss this community suffered when James G. Marshall back in the 1980s.

I’ve known a lot of city managers since I started with the Courier back in 1987. I liked Marshall as an affable manager and a straight shooter. I enjoyed the tenure of Gary Napper in the 1990s. While he was not popular with some, Toby Wells was a true professional and left last year. Some city managers were not so fun to have around like Tim Kerr who was horrible about returning calls and Brad Kilger who always acted put out whenever somebody challenged him. Never so with Tom. I think he suffered fools gladly.

Tom is off to Red Bluff where he will take an obviously less stressful position as community development director. We wish him well and we hope to see him when the new Walmart Supercenter opens and hosts a ribbon cutting ceremony sometime later this year. He, more than anyone with the city, optimistically facilitated the project despite much very aggravating legal blocks from that opposition group.


This column is the opinion of Jeff Benziger, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or 209 Multimedia Corporation. How do you feel about this? Let Jeff know at