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Arrest Over Supergraphics

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The city is finally getting very serious in its war on supergraphics, with one arrest and four warrants over the huge and illegal building-side ads.

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The latest from the L.A. Times:

Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich intensified his crackdown on illegal billboards, securing arrest warrants against four people accused of putting up supergraphics without permits....

The move comes several days after the jailing of a Pacific Palisades man [Kayvan Setareh, owner of 6800 Hollywood] on $1-million bail over a contested eight-story sign on Hollywood Boulevard....

Trutanich promised in last year's election campaign that he would crack down on unpermitted signs, responding to complaints from neighborhood groups that had accused the city of being impotent in the face of the outdoor advertising industry....

Trutanich also secured misdemeanor criminal warrants against four companies, including Yorkbury Investments and Yorkwood.,,,,the city attorney also obtained warrants against Community Redevelopment Assn., a private company, and Hangtime Installers Inc. Community Redevelopment filed a suit last year seeking to strike down a 2008 city moratorium on new supergraphics, saying it had been denied a permit to place a sign at 6800 Hollywood.

Tim Rutten at the L.A. Times has a good explanation of why Trutanich's initial bail demand on Setareh was out of line:

On Friday, Trutanich had Pacific Palisades businessman Kayvan Setareh arrested for ignoring warnings from the city attorney's office and allowing an eight-story supergraphic to be draped on a building he owns at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue. Setareh reportedly has a history of ignoring city regulations and neighborhood complaints about graphic ads on several other buildings he owns in Hollywood.

The problem is that even scofflaws are entitled to due process. Trutanich found a feeble-willed judge who was willing to set the landlord's initial bail at $1 million. By having him arrested on a Friday, the city attorney essentially gave Setareh a choice: Pay the nonrecoverable $100,000 a bail bondsman would have charged to write the bond, or spend the weekend in jail, because it takes three to four days to secure release by putting up your own real property as surety. (The bail was subsequently reduced to $100,000.)

Putting aside the question of whether there's any ethical proportionality in demanding $1 million bail for three misdemeanor charges, are we really supposed to believe that Setareh -- with all his holdings in Los Angeles -- is a flight risk? Bail is not a punishment; it simply is a way of enforcing a defendant's promise to appear in court. In this case, though, Trutanich essentially imposed a choice between jail time or a $100,000 fine on a defendant who'd never had a minute -- let alone a day -- in court and is entitled to the presumption of innocence.

For some of the history of the city's war against these ads that some consider aesthetically displeasing, see these City of Angles reports from October and May.

(Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

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