Judge blocks ordinances
LOS ANGELES — Citing free speech guarantees, a federal judge has blocked two ordinances enacted this year that would allow the city of Los Angeles to collect more than $3 million in annual fees from owners of outdoor billboards.
U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson issued the 17-page ruling Thursday.
At issue was a $314-per-sign fee imposed for annual inspections of about 10,000 billboards that are supposed to protect the city’s aesthetics and ensure public safety.
“The only hardship the city will suffer is lost revenue, which can be recouped if the ordinances are ultimately found to be constitutional,” Wilson wrote.
Three media conglomerates, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc., Viacom Outdoor Inc. and National Advertising Co., had sought the preliminary injunction against the ordinances, which were set to take effect Thursday.
Richard Kendall, who represented the billboard companies, said his clients were gratified by the judge’s ruling, while a spokesman for the city attorney’s office said he was disappointed.
Women testify against officer
SAN BERNARDINO — Three women who testified at a pretrial hearing for a former police officer alleged he used his late-night patrols to hunt for potential sexual-assault victims.
Ronald VanRossum, who has been fired from the department, faces 43 felony counts of rape and other charges involving 13 women, including several who have filed claims against the city seeking damages.
The three women who testified at Thursday’s hearing — all referred to as “Jane Doe” — are all convicted felons. They told Superior Court Judge Kurt J. Lewin that VanRossum intimidated them with threats of arrest and violence.
Jane Doe No. 3 said she was on methamphetamine when she met VanRossum in late 2001. She said he handcuffed her, drove her around the city for about 30 minutes, then took her to an abandoned building, where he allegedly raped her.
In the following weeks, VanRossum allegedly drove near her home and stared at her, she said.
“That man stalked me,” she said.
But defense attorney Bill Hadden accused her of fabricating the story in order to sue his client and the city for $5 million. She denied the allegation.
Jane Doe No. 2 said she was outside a liquor store in August 2000 when VanRossum approached. She said she was driven to a parking lot near an abandoned building and raped behind the officer’s car, then warned not to report the incident.
Teacher pleads guilty
VENTURA — A former elementary school teacher has pleaded guilty to child pornography charges, a prosecutor said.
James Robertson, 57, of Thousand Oaks pleaded Thursday to one count of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of possessing child pornography, Deputy District Attorney Howard Wise said. He faces up to nine months in jail when he is sentenced Dec. 9.
Robertson taught at White Oak Elementary in Westlake Village and was an educator for nearly 30 years in the Las Virgenes Unified School District.
He was arrested Aug. 5 after police received a tip and found a cache of child pornography at his home, most of which had been downloaded from the Internet, Wise said.