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One sentenced following arrest during Santa Clarita billboard signature-gathering process

Posted: May 8, 2014 12:52 p.m.
Updated: May 8, 2014 12:52 p.m.

Of the eight people arrested during 10 days of signature-gathering at local stores only one has been prosecuted, found guilty and sentenced to three days in jail, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Between April 19 and 29, when petitioners gathered signatures in a bid to overturn a city ordinance allowing installation of electronic billboards, six men and two women were arrested by deputies of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station — most times acting on behalf of people making citizen’s arrests.

Prosecutors have not filed charges against four of the eight arrested, District Attorney spokesman Ricardo Santiago said Thursday.

The case against three alleged “blockers” was “reviewed for filing consideration but was declined for further investigation,” he said.

In the end, only one person was prosecuted as a result of all the calls for assistance that prompted a response by local sheriff’s deputies.

On April 25, Eugene Smith, 55, of Clearfield, Utah, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor petty theft, Santiago said.

“The victim was Walmart,” Santiago said. “Smith was sentenced to 3 days in jail, 36 months summary probation.
“He was ordered to pay $140 in restitution and a $100 fine,” he said.

None of the arrested petitioners lives in the Santa Clarita Valley.  

They included: A 56-year-old Canoga Park woman charged with theft of personal property; two men, aged 23 and 27, from Anaheim Hills and Hillsboro, Mo., charged with intentional interference with public transportation and a 45-year-old woman from Bellevile, Ill., charged with battery.

The three other “blocker” petitioners initially charged with trespassing include: a 67-year-old man from Olympia, Wash.; a Moreno Valley resident, aged 42, and a 44-year-old man from who lives in Snohomoish, Wash.

Despite the reports of “blockers” interfering with that process, petitioners came away with the minimum number of signatures they needed Monday, according to city officials.

The Santa Clarita City Council approved an ordinance in March to move forward with a proposal from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to take down 62 billboard structures along the Metro right-of-way inside city limits in exchange for giving Metro the right to construct three, double-sided digital billboards on city-owned property off Interstate 5 and Highway 14.

The referendum petition seeks to force the city to either repeal an ordinance that allowed for the billboard deal or allow a public vote by the people on the issue.

Organizers say they collected 18,000 signatures from residents. Petitioners trying to reverse the city’s decision were required to gather at least 11,170 valid signatures, according to Gail Morgan, city spokeswoman.

Los Angeles County officials are expected to verify each and every signature to ascertain the total number of valid signatures, Morgan said.
On Twitter @jamesarthurholt


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