Wednesday, August 9, 2017

By Staff Reports

A San Fernando Valley man faces possible prison time Monday for violating the Clean Air Act by conducting scores of fraudulent smog check inspections.

Jermaine Elroy "Aria" Williams, 33, of Woodland Hills, pleaded guilty in February to a federal conspiracy count. The charge carries a possible penalty of up to five years in prison.

Williams was among nine defendants charged two years ago in a 44-count indictment that focused on Smogz R Us, a shop that operated on West 54th Street in South Los Angeles.

The charges included conspiracy and various counts of making false statements in connection with more than 1,300 bogus smog checks conducted at the location.

According to the indictment, the defendants engaged in a form of fraudulent smog testing in which vehicle identification information was entered into smog testing equipment to make it appear that a particular vehicle was being tested—while a substitute "clean" vehicle was tested in order to obtain a passing grade.

Once the bogus tests were completed, the defendants submitted phony Certificates of Compliance to California's Vehicle Information Database, falsely certifying that vehicles passed the emissions checks when they were never tested, prosecutors said.

Williams had previously been banned by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge from working in the smog or emissions industry, according to federal prosecutors.

Part of the federal Clean Air Act prohibits a person from knowingly making false statements and certifications in relation to the smog check program.





#NoConfederate campaign against HBO slave drama takes off

By Lynn Elber

A social media campaign to derail HBO's planned modern-day Southern slavery drama quickly caught fire, prompting the cable channel to ask detractors to withhold judgment until they see “Confederate.”

The campaign, with “OscarsSoWhite” activist April Reign among its organizers, asked people to tweet to HBO with the hashtag “NoConfederate” during Sunday's broadcast of the channel's “Game of Thrones.”

“Game of Thrones” is produced by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who are developing the recently announced “Confederate.” The pair, who are white, will work on “Confederate” with husband-and-wife Malcolm Spellman (“Empire”) and Nichelle Tramble Spellman (“The Good Wife”), who are black writer-producers.

Reign tweeted Sunday night that (hash)NoConfederate rapidly shot to the top ranks of Twitter both nationally and internationally. It didn't take long for HBO to respond to the campaign that amplified earlier criticism of the project.

“We have great respect for the dialogue and concern being expressed around ‘Confederate,”' the channel said in a statement. “We have faith that Nichelle, Dan, David and Malcolm will approach the subject with care and sensitivity. The project is currently in its infancy so we hope that people will reserve judgment until there is something to see.”

In announcing “Confederate” earlier this month, HBO described the story as following “a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone,” including freedom fighters, politicians, abolitionists and executives of a slave-holding conglomerate.

A backlash quickly followed, including from writer Roxane Gay (“Hunger,” “Difficult Women”). Her July 25 opinion piece for The New York Times carried the headline, “I Don't Want to Watch Slavery Fan Fiction.”

“It is curious that time and again, when people create alternate histories, they are largely replicating a history we already know, and intimately,” Gay wrote. “They are replicating histories where whiteness thrives and people of color remain oppressed.”

Last week, HBO programming president Casey Bloys acknowledged missteps in how it announced the drama series but defended its value.

“File this under, ‘hindsight is 20-20,”' Bloys told a TV critics' group. HBO was misguided in putting out a press release instead of having the producers explain the idea more fully in media interviews, he said.

The show won't be “whips and plantations,” Bloys said, but will draw a line between America today and its past as it tries to advance the discussion on race relations. The more producers can weigh in about why the project is important, the more it will make sense, Bloys said.

But an interview the show's creative team gave after the initial outcry failed to stem the (hash)NoConfederate campaign. In comments to the website Vulture, Nichelle Tramble Spellman said that the drama isn't going to be “the big ‘Gone With the Wind' mansion.”

“Confederate” isn't expected to start production for at least a year, Bloys has said, noting that Benioff and Weiss are working on the final season of “Game of Thrones,” with the premiere date yet to be settled. The fantasy drama's seventh and penultimate season just began showing.