Bad week for the Los Angeles Times. First a well-liked educator appears to have committed suicide after the paper published its controversial public-school teacher ratings database that gave the man, Rigoberto Ruelas, a lackluster review.
Now the Los Angeles police union is taking the Times to task for publishing the names of witnesses — including that of a 15-year-old — in a case involving a Mexican Mafia-connected gang.
The case involves the 2008 murder of sheriff's Deputy Juan Abel Escalante, who prosecutors say was gunned down by a member of the Avenues set in Cypress Park and his associates after they mistook him for a rival.
The Times last week got into witness testimony of how the shooting allegedly went down, including the names of those witnesses who have stood up on the District Attorney's side.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League argues that the only thing publishing witnesses names does is make them targets of criminals who have made it their business to intimidate and attack “snitches.”
The LAPPL states:
It is a universally well-known fact that it is extremely difficult to get people to cooperate in gang cases by testifying in court. Understandably, witnesses often have deep fears of retaliation by other gang members. .. The Times even named a 15-year-old boy who is trying to disassociate himself from the dangerous and often retaliatory Avenues gang. He cried several times on the witness stand while testifying against the alleged shooter and an accomplice.
… Why was it important for the public to know the name of the witness who testified? His name added nothing to the story and, in fact, the overwhelming majority of the people who read it would not know him. However, that name did have significance to the scant few who did know him, and with potential troubling consequences we outlined above …
… The Los Angeles Times handed a “green light list” to the Mexican Mafia and other Avenues gang members, needlessly compromising the safety of the witnesses named in the article. We join LAPD investigators, Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies and the District Attorney's office in being appropriately outraged by what we see as a serious lapse in journalistic judgment and ethics.