Things That Matter

The One Instance Where Discrimination Didn’t Win

It’s time for the city of Los Angeles to pay up for setting illegal curfews on its residents…and it’s going to pay BIG money.

As much as $30 million will settle the class-action lawsuit that blames the LAPD for setting curfews on residents as part of gang injunctions that were previously deemed unconstitutional as reported by the Los Angeles Times. Most of the money will go towards job training of former gang members and those who felt they had been illegally stripped of their freedom by the LAPD.

“This is taking an injustice that never should have happened and turning it into an opportunity to start over,” attorney Anne Richardson told the newspaper.

The 2011 lawsuit was filed after Christian Rodriguez was arrested while living in the Mar Vista Gardens housing projects, within the territory of the Culver City Gang Boys. Here’s the thing, Rodriguez is not a gang member and does not associate with any gangs. Yet, he was still arrested for violating the 10 p.m. curfew in 2009, two years after these types of curfews were said to be illegal.

“Because I was wrongly labeled as a gang member, I couldn’t even be outside helping my mom with the groceries at night,” Rodriguez stated. “I got involved in this case to help others who like me,  did nothing wrong but unjustly live in constant fear of doing something that might be perceived by a member of LAPD as a violation. I want my 2-year-old daughter to grow up without that fear.”

READ: This Ex-Gang Member Used To Run The Streets Of L.A., Now He’s An Emmy-Nominated Actor

Read more from the Los Angeles Times.

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Here’s What Is Going On With The LAPD Officer Who Filed A False Police Report

Things That Matter

Here’s What Is Going On With The LAPD Officer Who Filed A False Police Report

NYT / Twitter

At the beginning of 2019, Empire actor Jussie Smollett famously reported that he had been the victim of a hate crime. About three weeks later, Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report—it had been discovered that the attack was staged, and that Smollett himself had planned the whole thing. Although the charges against Smollett were dropped, he was all over headlines last year, earning a national reputation as a liar and ultimately being fired from his role on Empire.

In August of 2019, a similar situation arose within the Los Angeles Police Department, when a sheriff’s deputy falsely claimed that he was shot by a sniper outside the Lancaster police station. After days of searching for the alleged gunman, it became clear that Angel Reinosa had fabricated his story. He had not been shot, after all—instead, he had used a knife to create fake bullet wounds in his uniform, asserting that his bulletproof vest had saved his life.

“There were many things that didn’t add up,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Kent Wegener. No bullets had been recovered from the scene, and they had no leads on a suspect—they searched a nearby apartment building, assuming that the shooter was inside, but of course they found nothing.

But this didn’t exactly surprise investigators and colleagues, who were suspicious of Reinosa’s story from the very beginning. A number of sheriff’s officials told the LA Times that “his radio call about the incident was too calm even for a veteran, a hole in his shirt too big for the minor wound he claimed to have suffered.”

The LA Times also reported that by the end of the day that Reinosa made the report, the search for the suspected gunman had been halted. Homicide detectives, assisted by forensic experts, instead turned their attention to Reinosa. And by 9:30 PM, Reinosa’s involvement in the case was considered highly suspect. Not long after, he admitted to the police that he had fabricated the incident, though he didn’t reveal his motives for doing so.

In the case of Jussie Smollett, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a press conference that the motive for feigning the hate crime was fiscal in nature. He claimed that “Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career, because he was dissatisfied with his salary.” Folks have speculated that Reinosa’s situation was rather similar—it had to do with a certain dissatisfaction at work.

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said that sheriff’s officials had divulged details about Reinosa’s difficulties with his first year in the field. Typically, the first year constitutes a probationary training period that all deputies must complete before becoming deputies, and Reinosa was struggling to keep up.

“He was not advancing through the training program at an adequate pace,” Parris said. “There had been a lot of attention on him.”

And just a few days ago, Reinosa was taken into police custody when he was served an arrest warrant during a traffic stop. He was arrested for insurance fraud and for filing a false police report, and he was transferred to Los Angeles County Jail. His bail was set at $40,000, and unlike Smollett, Reinosa was not able to immediately settle his case with a payment.

Authorities say that the charges of insurance fraud are related to the workers comp claims Reinosa made after the incident. If he is convicted of these charges, he could face up to five and a half years in county jail.

As soon as authorities discovered that the shooting had been a hoax, they called an 11 PM press conference to address the situation. In an interview, Sheriff Alex Villanueva confirmed the desire to ensure that Reinosa’s actions were met with what they deemed the appropriate legal response.

“We are all appalled and disappointed. We took the deputy at his word at first,” Villanueva said. “We intend to hold the individual responsible for breaking the law and most importantly for betraying the community.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by authorities in Smollett’s case, as well as Smollett’s fellow Empire cast members. Lee Daniels, the creator of Empire, referred to the “pain and anger and sadness and frustration” that he and his cast endured, adding that he and his team “really [didn’t] know how to deal with it.”

He also said that Empire “was made to bring America together” and to “talk about the atrocities that are happening right now in the streets”—a message that was in direct contrast with Smollett’s actions.

The Lancaster sheriff’s website expressed a similar sense of disappointment, yet also emphasized the importance of community in situations like these:

“We are saddened by the outcome of the investigation, but are so grateful to our community for their cooperation on Wednesday and your ongoing support everyday. The actions of one individual are not indicative of who Lancaster Sheriff’s Station Deputies are.”

Defamation Of Character Is One Reason The Inspiration Of ‘Hustlers’ Is Suing J.Lo’s Production Company

Entertainment

Defamation Of Character Is One Reason The Inspiration Of ‘Hustlers’ Is Suing J.Lo’s Production Company

hustlersmovie / Instagram

It’s been a crazy few months for Jennifer Lopez who starred in “Hustlers” and earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role and is expected to get an Oscar nod as well. However, the real-life stripper, Samantha Barbash, who helped inspire the film and Lopez’s character, Ramona,  won’t be congratulating her anytime soon.

That’s because Barbash is suing Lopez’s film studio Nuyorican Productions, STX Entertainment, Gloria Sanchez Productions, and Pole Sisters LLC, claiming filmmakers defamed her and failed to uphold her civil rights. While Lopez is not specifically named in the lawsuit, her production company is. As of now, she has yet to comment on the lawsuit. 

According to TMZ, Barbash is filing a lawsuit for $40 million; $20 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages. She is also asking for a court order that would require producers to turn over all copies of the film. The lawsuit reads that Barbash was contacted by producers of the film multiple times for her consent but ultimately never gave it. Production of the film would go on without her approval. 

According to Barbash, the film “Hustlers” is a direct depiction of her and claims that the character Ramona is still too similar to her.  

“Hustlers” focuses on the story of Destiny (Constance Wu) who is trying to make ends meet as a club dancer. She becomes friends with a successful dancer, Ramona (Lopez) who takes her under her wing. In the film, the duo partakes in a scam where they take advantage of Wall Street bankers and drug them, eventually taking their money. 

The movie was originally based on a 2015 New York Magazine story, “The Hustlers at Scores,” which describes the real-life events of Barbash and her experience as a club stripper at Score’s Gentlemen’s Club in New York. Barbash would eventually plead guilty to conspiracy, assault and grand larceny for her role in the real-life scheme in 2016, serving five years probation. While the film was based on the New York Magazine Story, Barbash claims that the character Ramona is a direct depiction of her. 

 “Defendants did not take caution to protect the rights of Ms Barbash by creating a fictionalised character, or by creating a composite of characters to render J-Lo’s character a new fictitious one; rather they engaged in a systematic effort to make it well-known that J-Lo was playing Ms Barbash,” the suit reads. 

“While we have not yet seen the complaint, we will continue to defend our right to tell factually based stories based on the public record,” STXfilms spokesman Steve Elzer told the LA Times.

This isn’t the first time we hear of a potential lawsuit from Barbash, who has been threatening legal action before the film was released back in September. 

Barbash might have planning to file a lawsuit from the very beginning as she spoke to the New York Post about it last April, months before the movie’s September release. She pointed out to the New York Post that she was a hostess and was never a stripper as depicted in the film. 

 “We’re putting a stop to it because she’s actually misrepresenting me. I was never a stripper. It’s defamation of character,” Barbash said. “It’s my story she’s making money off of,” Barbash fumed. “If she wants to play me, then she should have gotten the real story.”

When the movie was doing its press run, Barbash was interviewed by Vanity Fair about her thoughts on the film. She told the magazine that she “wasn’t that impressed” with “Hustlers.”

“Everyone has been asking, ‘Did I see the movie?’ So I thought, ‘Why don’t I just see the movie,’ because I knew I was going to have a lot of interviews about it this week,” she told Vanity Fair. “I wasn’t really that impressed. I was impressed with Jennifer. She was incredible. Her body looked incredible. She had it down to a tee, but it wasn’t factual.”

While she wasn’t a fan of the movie as a whole, Barbash did give credit to Cardi B’s role in the film ultimately saying that she wished she would have played her character in the movie.   

“I love Cardi,” Barbash said. “Her 10 minutes was a great 10 minutes… It’s funny because, when I first heard that the film was coming out, [my business partner] said [she wished] Cardi would have played me. Even though she is not an actress, she was in the strip club world and she gets it. She would have maybe played a better me. Not taking away from Jennifer. But just because Cardi was in the business.”

READ: Alex Rodriguez Wrote A Sweet Instagram Post After J.Lo Didn’t Take Home A Golden Globe