California’s Pets and Property Laws Explained

A family in Orangevale is asking for answers after an unknown driver hit and killed their beloved German Shepard.

Patron was a guardian, protector and member of the Gallico family, owner John Gallico told CBS13’s Rachel Wulff. He wants to know who was responsible for hitting and killing the beloved pet when it was trying to rescue another family dog, Luna, earlier this month.

Gallico says he believes the tragedy was an accident, but also says he thinks the driver knew he or she must have hit something. He’s filed a police report, but authorities say even if they do catch the driver, it’s unlikely criminal charges will be filed in connection with the dog’s death if it was merely an accident.

Mark was asked to explain why during the CBS13 story:

 

“It’s been interpreted by the courts that dogs, specifically domesticated pets, are property,” Mark said. “If you cause damage to that property, it’s a violation of the law.”

Though it might be a violation, it’s possible the driver — whoever they might be — would only face misdemeanor hit-and-run charges as well as a charge of filing a failing to report the incident, Mark said.

But Mark said the charges could be bumped up to a felony if authorities decide the driver was willfully cruel in connection with the animal’s death.

Click here to read the full story on CBS13’s website.

Do Laws Prevent Sex Offenders From Living Near Schools?

Mark spoke with CBS13 after an Olivehurst grandmother complained about a registered sex offender living near an area elementary school.

Robyn Gorham said she was stunned to learn that several registered sex offenders were living just feet away from Cedar Lane Elementary School where her grandson is set to start classes.

She used the Megan’s Law website, a database maintained by the state, to track nearly a dozen registered sex offenders within three-quarters of a mile of the school. Gorham said she was particularly concerned about one person who had been convicted of lewd acts with a minor.

Gorham said she was surprised because she figured there was a law that prevented sex offenders from living near a school. But Mark explained there was no blanket law, adding whether a person can live near a school after being convicted of a sex crime is largely decided on a case-by-case basis.

“A sex offender can’t live by a school if the parole officer determines they cannot,” Mark said. “Those officers can impose all kinds of restrictions, whether they can have contact with children, stay away from children, and how far away [they have to be].”

Mark said the offender at question is no longer on parole. Though they have to register on the database, they’re not breaking any law by living so close to the school.

Read the full story on CBS13’s website here.

Split Jury Verdict in Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire Trial

A jury acquitted the master tenant and leaseholder of  a warehouse that became the epicenter of one of California’s most-deadliest structure fires.

Derick Almena, 49, was found not guilty on 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the December 2016 blaze at the Ghost Ship Warehouse in Oakland.

The jury hung on similar charges against his co-defendant, 29-year-old warehouse leaseholder Max Harris, who faces the possibility of a re-trial. The judge overseeing the case declared a mistrial for Harris.

Mark wasn’t involved in the case, but spoke with FOX40 News following the jury’s verdict to offer his legal expertise.

“I was surprised by the outcome,” Mark said, noting that images presented at trial may have weighed heavier on their deliberations.

At the end of a trial, jurors are given a set of instructions by the judge before they enter into deliberations, the outcome of which usually results in a verdict.

“They generally try to do what they consider to be the right thing, regardless of what instructions they get, regardless of how the attorneys argued…” Mark said.

Jurors will be heavily questioned by both sides if Harris is to be re-tried.

Watch the full video from FOX40 News below:

Analyzing William Barr’s Statement on Robert Mueller’s Report

Attorney General William Barr submitted a summary of his conclusions from Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged geopolitical interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The summary said there wasn’t enough evidence that showed the president’s campaign directly inspired or colluded with Russian individuals to influence the outcome of the 2016 election. It also did not definitely say whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.

In the letter, Barr said the public would soon be allowed to read the report, subject to some redactions based on sensitive information that appears within.

Speaking to FOX40 News, Mark — who once worked as a federal public defender — said Mueller’s decision to defer criminal charges to the Attorney General and the Department of Justice was understandable.

“This is about indicting a president,” Mark said. “So he defers it to the attorney general with the faith that the attorney general…would do the right thing.”

Mueller’s report could contain enough facts that Congress could ultimately decide the evidence showed conduct that could be impeachable.

“There’s no dispute that Russia interfered with the election,” Mark said. “People associated with the president, Mr. Trump, had things to do with Russian interference, but not colluding…it’s a simple summary of a really big, big tome.”

Mark said that Attorney General Barr is a partisan advocate of the president.

“It’s very carefully worded,” Mark said of the summary. “He clearly says there’s a lot in it that Mueller wrote, and [Barr] made the determination not to press charges.”

Watch the full video from FOX40 News below:

 

Mark Appears as Expert During FOX40’s Special Coverage on Stephon Clark Decision40’s special coverage of Stephon Clark decision

Mark offered his insight and legal expertise during FOX40’s extensive coverage of the Stephon Clark shooting case.

On March 2, Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert decided against criminally charging several Sacramento Police Department officers in connection with the death of Stephon Clark last year.

Clark, 23, was shot as he fled from officers during an encounter in Sacramento’s Meadowview neighborhood on March 18, 2018. He was not armed at the time of the shooting.

“For a long time, there’s been calls for an independent branch of the government that will investigate and prosecute police misconduct shootings,” Mark said. “… There’s a lot of ways this could have been handled better.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s First Amendment Threat to Journalists

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has issued an edict to a pair of investigative reporters who obtained police discipline data following a California Public Records Act request filed with the state’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.

The documents included records related to around 12,000 current and former officers as well as individuals who applied to be officers. The list contained accusations of criminal conduct against some of those officers, including allegations of shoplifting, child molestation and murder.

Becerra’s officer later told the journalists the list was inadvertently disclosed to them and ordered the journalists to destroy and not disclose it. They refused, disclosing the list in a series of reporting from the U.C. Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program in collaboration with a handful of other newsrooms.

Becerra has since contemplated criminal charges against the reporters for their disclosure, something press freedom advocates say is a serious threat to their First Amendment protections and civic duty to inform the public.

Speaking to FOX40 News, Mark said freedom of the press is hard to challenge in court, even if journalists have records that normally wouldn’t be disclosable, as long as the reporters don’t obtain the records through illegal means.

“It’s very difficult for [police or prosecutors] to take [the records] from you, to punish you for having them or to prevent you from publishing them,” Mark said.

See the video below:

Wife of Accused Golden State Killer Joseph DeAngelo Files for Divorce

A new twist in the Golden State Killer saga has opened up new possibilities in the trial against Joseph DeAngelo, the man charged with several decades-old crimes.

Speaking with FOX40 News, Mark said DeAngelo, who has been behind bars for 10 months, faces a new legal hurdle as he awaits what could be California’s biggest criminal trial in state history.

 

Court records show DeAngelo’s wife filed for divorce in state superior court last year.

“There’s now a divorce pending, which means they’re no longer legally married, and that’s significant,” Mark said. “I think this is a treasure trove for the prosecution now. She can really be a domestic diary of the daily activities of this person.”

If the couple had remained married, defense attorneys for DeAngelo could have stopped prosecutors from forcing his wife to testify, citing spousal privilege. But now she can testify, though with certain limitations.

“She can’t talk about [specific] communications, but she can talk about observations — he wasn’t home this night, this night he came home with these clothes, this night he took the truck,” Mark said.

The trial could still be up to a year away.

Read the full story on FOX40’s website by clicking or tapping here.