Things That Matter

Ruben Martinez Jr. Exonerated After 11 Years In Los Angeles Prison

In 2008, Ruben Martinez Jr. was sentenced to 47 years and eight months in prison for crimes he never committed. Nearly 13 years after his arrest, Martinez walked out of the Los Angeles Superior Court a free man, exonerated from his wrongful conviction. “I did not do this time by myself,” Martinez said on the court steps. “My family did time. My wife did time with me, did the 11 years with me. I couldn’t do it on my own, by my own strength. It was God’s strength that got me through this.” His wife, Maria Martinez, a secretary for the sheriff’s department, appealed the conviction five times only to be rejected each time.

Ruben may have never experienced freedom if Maria didn’t pull some strings to convince prosecutors to look at his case, a sobering detail for innocent inmates without connections.

Ruben and Maria were all smiles as their unjust chapter came to a close.

Credit: @LADAOffice / Twitter

“All my husband wanted was for the truth to be revealed. Well, the truth has been revealed, and he’s a free man,” Maria Martinez said. Ruben had never wavered in his innocence and even turned down a plea deal that would have given him a two and a half year prison sentence. “I am sorry for this injustice and I am so happy that you did not give up on us and allowed us to share this moment,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey, pictured in the blazer, told the Martinez family. 

“Mr. Martinez and his wife proved to be unstoppable in their pursuit of his freedom,” DA Lacey told reporters. “Throughout this terrible experience, the two were never deterred by setbacks and instead demonstrated remarkable strength and dignity through what I imagine must have been a dark time in their lives.”

Ruben Martinez Jr. was convicted, even though he was working when the crimes were committed.

Credit: @oborraez / Twitter

All it took was one witness to identify Ruben as the armed robber who held up the same auto body shop five times. During the 2005 to 2007 sprees, Ruben was employed at a temporary employment agency and has proof that he was working during two of the robberies. In fact, Ruben had to endure two trials that failed to prove his innocence. The first trial ended as a mistrial after the jury was deadlocked. During the second trial, two key witnesses to his innocence were not called by either the defense or the prosecution. He was convicted and sentenced to 47 years and eight months in prison on nine counts of armed robbery.

But Maria was relentless in proving his innocence.

Credit: @LADAOffice / Twitter

After five rejected appeals, Maria leaned on close family friend and retired homicide detective, Catherine Wills. Wills and her husband were so close with the Martinez’s that Wills’s husband walked Maria down the aisle and gave her hand to Ruben. Wills and Maria compiled six months of research into a binder to give to DA Lacey. Wills’ credibility and persistence went a long way. “I told them, ‘Look, I’m 82 years old now, and I’m not going to die until Ruben Martinez is out of prison,'” Wills reportedly said.

In 2015, DA Lacey’s office created a unit dedicated to reviewing wrongful conviction claims, but Ruben’s case is only the third case supported in four years. Still, it was DA Lacey’s unit that “painstakingly tracked down witnesses and uncovered employment records and pay stubs that confirmed that Mr. Martinez could not have committed two of the crimes that were clearly the work of the same serial robber,” CNN reports Lacey to have said.

Ruben says that he has “no grudges.”

Credit: @LADAOffice / Twitter

Ruben is the first person that DA Lacey exonerated without any legal representation. “Although the vast majority of convictions are correctly upheld, I knew that, at times, the pursuit of justice, which depends on human beings, is not perfect,” Lacey told reporters. “And Mr. Martinez’s case serves as a stark reminder to all of us: Despite our best efforts, we don’t always get it right.”

“The Lord Jesus Christ is a part of my life, and there’s no grudges.” Ruben told the crowd. “People are human people do make mistakes. But what touches me is when the DA got behind me and stamped me … and proved me innocent — so what grudge?” What’s next for Ruben? Right now, he’s just excited to get his driver’s license and get a job.

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Man Buys Pepper Spray For Street Vendors To Protect Themselves During Rash Of Attacks On Street Vendors

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Man Buys Pepper Spray For Street Vendors To Protect Themselves During Rash Of Attacks On Street Vendors

tatz909 / Instagram

We have all seen the multiple videos of street vendors being attacked. Some have lost a day’s wages, some lost their equipment, and at least one street vendor died in an attack. One man decided to step up and bought pepper spray to give to street vendors to protect themselves.

Instagram user @tatz909 bought a lot of pepper spray in Los Angeles to help the street vending community.

In recent weeks, we have seen an increased level of violence against street vendors. The neighborhood street vendors in cities across the country are being attacked, in broad daylight, while trying to provide for their families during this pandemic. That’s why @tatz909 took it upon himself to buy as much pepper spray as he could to give to street vendors to protect themselves.

“This is for you to protect yourself,” the man can be heard telling street vendors off-camera. Their gratitude for the seemingly small gesture is so evident in their emotional replies.

According to a tweet, the man takes donations to do this and is looking to do it again.

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Giving out free pepper sprays to all street vendors

A post shared by Tatz (@tatz909) on

The recent attacks on street vendors have been startling. One assault in Long Beach took place in the middle of the day and two young men physically assaulted a man in his 70s for his daily wages and equipment. The assaults have been broadcast all over social media and people are demanding something be done to protect the street vendors.

This is the heartwarming content we are all desperate to see right now.

This is so wholesome and wonderful. There is something special about how the Latino community looks out for its own. There is a solidarity in the Latino community when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable of our society.

The reactions from the street vendors are very touching with some really breaking people’s hearts.

The woman at the end is exceptionally heartbreaking. She is so thankful to the man for providing her with the pepper spray she has wanted for a long time to feel safe. What a special moment.

Thank you, compa!

You are doing the important work to make sure our community is strong and protected. Everyone should take a moment to thank this man.

READ: Police Are Looking For Two People Who Attacked An Elotero In Long Beach

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva Threatens To Cut Sexual Assault Investigation Unit Because Of Proposed Budget Cuts

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Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva Threatens To Cut Sexual Assault Investigation Unit Because Of Proposed Budget Cuts

Josh Lefkowitz / Getty Images

Law enforcement in Los Angeles is facing budget cuts already because demonstrators are keeping up the pressure for police reform. COVID-19 has added pressure to Los Angeles County to make some additional cuts and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva is warning what the cuts mean to the department at large.

Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva is warning residents about the impact of the proposed budget cuts.

Sheriff Villanueva issued a statement titled “DEFUNDING THE LASD BUDGET $145.4 M.” In the letter, Sheriff Villanueva warns that the budget cuts will lead to the elimination of the Special Victims Bureau. The bureau is responsible for investigating the physical or sexual abuse of children and women. The sheriff names other departments that will be eliminated in response to the upcoming budget cuts.

“It’s unconscionable,” Sheriff Villanueva told CBS Los Angeles. “These are the major detective units of the entire department. They serve the entire county of Los Angeles. Those four units…are the cream of the crop of investigative units throughout the entire nation, and as the largest county in the nation, I cannot see how we move forward without these four units,” he said.

The sheriff took the time to attack the “Defund the Police” movement.

“The CEO and the Board have embraced the “Defund the Police” movement and are cynically hiding behind accounting maneuvers, knowing well that loss of revenue in sales tax can be made up by equitable distributing more stable revenue streams like property taxes,” reads part of Sheriff Villanueva’s statement. “This is not acceptable and a willful abandonment of the top priorities of local government: keep people safe.”

Sheriff Villanueva is also refusing to enforce orders to close the beaches for the 4th of July weekend in Los Angeles County.

Sheriff Villanueva told the press that his department was not included in talks about the closure so the sheriff’s office will not enforce the order. Los Angeles County is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases as the rest of California deals with the same. The Los Angeles Health Department ordered the beaches, piers, and boardwalks closed for the holiday weekend to fight the sudden spike in cases.

“Closing the beaches and prohibiting fireworks displays during this important summer holiday weekend was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but it’s the responsible decision to protect public health and protect our residents from a deadly virus,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said in a statement. “The Fourth of July holiday weekend typically means large crowds and gatherings to celebrate, a recipe for increased transmission of COVID-19.” 

Sheriff Villanueva’s actions as sheriff are making some Los Angeles County residents wanting him to leave the office.

At the beginning of his term as sheriff, Villanueva rehired a police officer who was fired for domestic violence allegations. The police officer who was rehired set off a legal battle that landed in court with a judge having to decide whether or not to let the police officer stay.

Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff handed down an injunction ordering rehired police officer Caren Carl Mandoyan to surrender his gun and badge. Additionally, the judge ordered, “Sheriff Alex Villanueva cease to recognize or hold Mandoyan out as a Deputy Sheriff or a County employee.”

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