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A California man was charged with fraud after securing millions in funding and using most of the money on himself, prosecutors say

On paper, Legends looked like a box-office hit. Adam Joiner billed his movie as an anachronistic mash-up of legendary 19th-century American figures, a steampunk Avengers tailor-made to satiate the ever-expanding appetite for big-ticket, fantasy-action pictures.

With Endgame, the latest Avengers installment, grossing more than $1.2bn in its opening weekend, it isnt hard to understand how Joiner was able to secure a relatively measly $14m in investment for the project.

The only problem? Beyond its screenplay, Legendsdidnt exist and it never would.


Joiner, 41, was arrested on 27 August and was charged in a Los Angeles federal court with wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft. Prosecutors allege he orchestrated an elaborate scheme of fraud, convincing at least two foreign firms to invest millions in Legends. Through email and telephone communications, and a series of forged documents, federal prosecutors say, he claimed to have executed distribution agreements with companies like Netflix and Amblin Partners, Steven Spielbergs production outfit.

In reality, no such agreements were made, the prosecutors charge, and Joiner did very little with the ill-gotten funds to produce a film. He spent much of the money on himself, including on the purchase of a $5m home in Manhattan Beach, California, the FBI special agent Nathan Cherney wrote in an affidavit to the criminal complaint.

Sweeping epics in the style of Game of Thrones or the recently Disney-fied Star Wars universe have inspired an undeniable gold rush for premium content so much so that the genre has, in some ways, come to define the contemporary economics of the film industry.

The success of Marvel, the comic publisher turned studio juggernaut, has been particularly game-changing, building the concept of epic film universes.

Its success inspired a slew of other franchises to pursue film-verses, the media reporter Ashley Rodriguez wrote for Quartz in 2017. Lucasfilm, also owned by Disney, borrowed the model forStar Wars, which studio boss Kathleen Kennedy hopes to carry on for another decade. Hasbro is rolling out its Transformers and GI Joe franchises into a broader movie-verse, based on its popular childrens toys. Warner Bros and JK Rowling are creating a cinematic universe set in the Harry Potter authors magical world.


The story behind Legends begins in South Korea, according to the affidavit to the criminal complaint. Paul Huh, a director with Korean Investment Partners Co, Ltd (KIP), told the FBI he met Adam Joiner in late 2015 through John Yi, a Korean associate. Joiner hailed from Granite Bay, California, a small town of just over 20,000 in the Sacramento area. He described himself as the owner of a film production company called Dark Planet Pictures, LLC, the affidavit says, and claimed to be seeking investment to produce a screenplay written by his brother, Andrew.

Adam had registered Dark Planet with the California secretary of states office in 2014, and although the companys registration is currently inactive, he and his brother are listed as one-time officers. (Andrew Joiner has not been named in the case against Adam.)

Joiner came to the table with what he claimed was a pre-existing relationship with Netflix, Huh told the FBI. Things have begun to pick up steam with Netflix as a potential distributor of the film, Joiner wrote in a February 2016 email to Huh that is referenced in the affidavit. I have another meeting with them this week, he added.

On Netflix, I have another good meeting with them yesterday, and expect to receive a contract from them by the end of the week, Joiner allegedly wrote three days later.

Before KIP would agree to invest in Legends, Huh wanted to see a copy of the Netflix deal. He told investigators he received a fax bearing a Netflix-branded cover sheet two days later. It included a letter, dated 5 April 2016, purporting to confirm that an agreement between Netflix, Inc and Dark Planet Pictures, LLC, was executed March 31st 2016. The letter was allegedly signed by an individual titled Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs/Content Acquisition.

Avengers: Endgame grossed more than $1.2bn in its opening weekend. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

That same day, according to the affidavit, Joiner forwarded an email that purported to come from said executive, and used an email address affixed to a Netflix domain. Attached was what the FBI alleges to be a fabricated distribution agreement between Netflix and Dark Planet. The agreement was reportedly signed by Joiner on behalf of Dark Planet, and by an individual titled Chief Content Officer on behalf of Netflix.

The affidavit says Joiner then forwarded an email from a third executive on 8 April, 2016, which read: Look forward to making this movie!

Huh was convinced. Through one of its subsidiary investment funds, KIP wired $4m (half of the agreed-upon $8m) into a Bank of America account in the name of Legends Film Co, LLC.

FBI interviews with the aforementioned executives (all identities were redacted in the affidavit) revealed the agreement and associated communiqus had been falsified. The executives said they werent familiar with Joiner, Dark Planet, or Legends; and two of the executives were no longer Netflix employees (one had only ever been a contractor to begin with). They denied the signatures on the agreement were theirs.

The following month, acting on behalf of Dark Planet, Joiner allegedly entered into another investment agreement, this time with two Chinese firms: Star Century Pictures Co, Ltd, and one of its affiliates, PGA Yungpark Capital, Ltd. That agreement referenced a supposed commitment by Netflix to acquire the distribution rights to Legends, which was cited in the contract as a material basis for [Star Centurys] decision to invest, according to the affidavit.

Attached to the agreement was the same fabricated distribution agreement that Joiner is alleged to have provided KIP, with the forged signature of one of the purported Netflix executives. On 3 June 2016, Yungpark wired $6m into the Legendsbank account.


With roughly $10m in hand, Joiners alleged machinations progressed.

On 29 June 2016, according to the affidavit, he wrote in an email to Paul Huh: [W]e are expecting to secure Don Murphy by this Friday to be our name Producer for the film. Murphy is perhaps most famous for producing the high-budget, CGI-heavy Transformers trilogy. In the email, Joiner claimed Murphy had proposed bringing in the director Michael Bay, who also directed the Transformers films, as well as other battle-scene-packed pictures such as Armageddon and Pearl Harbor.

In a later email to Huh and Star Century executive Ma Xue, Joiner allegedly wrote: We agreed to terms verbally yesterday with Guillermo del Toro and his agent. Del Toro is another director-darling of the fantasy and sci-fi genres, having directed two Hellboy films as well as the critically acclaimed Pans Labyrinth.

Guillermo del Toro. Photograph: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Murphy later told the FBI he had been retained by Joiner to produce Legends though the project had been pitched under an alternate title, Folkwar. Under the agreement, Murphy was to receive $1.2m in exchange for producing services. Half of that amount was paid to an escrow account linked to the project.

In hiring Murphy, Joiner may have been trying to make good on earlier alleged representations to KIP and the Chinese investors as part of the production agreement, Murphy was expected to secure a distributor for the film.

Though Murphy had taken steps toward the production of the film, such as contacting agents and film talent, no actor or director had committed to the film including Guillermo del Toro, the affidavit reads.

Joiner later notified Murphy that he would be closing the escrow account due to lack of interest in the project, the affidavit says, and transferred him $200,000 possibly some form of kill fee. Murphy told the FBI he emailed Joiner in the summer of 2017 to formally end their business relationship. Joiner never responded, and Murphy hasnt heard from him since.

Still, the web of lies seemed to expand. Joiner soon informed KIP executives that he was courting Amblin Partners to replace Netflix as the distributor for Legends. On 2 December 2016, John Yi, Huhs Korean associate, circulated a memorandum of understanding between Dark Planet and Amblin to KIP personnel. According to the affidavit, it provided that Amblin would take over distribution rights to Legends and was signed by Joiner and, purportedly, Michael Wright, formerly the CEO of Amblin.

Wright, currently president of the Epix cable network, later told the FBI he did not know Joiner, and was not familiar with Dark Planet or Legends. He denied having entered into any of the purported agreements and claimed the signature on the memo circulated to KIP staff was not his.

In March, Joiner emailed Paul Huh a statement for the Legendsbank account, investigators contend, indicating a balance of more than $11.7m. FBI analysis of the account revealed the statement to be a forgery, and that during the period reflected, it only held $32,628.93.

Later that month, Joiner allegedly told Huh that production was delayed due to internal politics with Amblin. He claimed that the actor Bradley Cooper had turned down a lead role, according to the affidavit, and as a result, a newly brought on co-producing studio, Universal, had refused payment to Amblin.

Perhaps catching on to the grift, or perhaps believing Joiner failed on a good-faith effort to produce an ambitiously high-value movie, executives at KIP requested their investment be returned. Joiner agreed, and allegedly promised to immediately reimburse them.

But the payment, the FBI says, never came through. On behalf of KIP, Yi contacted Don Murphy to inquire about the holdup. This allegedly caused Joiner to email Yi on 13 July 2017 with what appears to be a veiled legal threat: I understand you attempted to contact Don Murphy and his office. Please cease and desist any attempts at contacting Mr. Murphy, whether in person or by phone, or it shall be deemed harassment.

The FBI says accounting of the bank account allegedly maintained by Joiner for producing Legends revealed that, aside from the amounts wired from KIP and the Chinese investors, only two deposits were made: a $10,000 transfer from an account in the name of Allison Joiner, whom FBI officials believe to be Adam Joiners wife, and a $600,000 counter credit that appears to be a recalled check for the same amount.

Star Wars has fueled a gold rush for premium content. Photograph: Lucasfilm Ltd/2017 Lucasfilm Ltd

There were several withdrawals, according to the analysis: in June 2016, $165,500 went to an escrow account seemingly unrelated to production FBI investigators believe that was a security deposit for the purchase of a Manhattan Beach, California, property. A payment of $5,192,916.92 was made in August of that year allegedly the full payment for that property. Investigators speculate two transfers amounting a total of $4,360,000 to a bank account under the name of Stock Car Willie, LLC, were linked to a film project of the same name Joiner may have been developing. And between April of 2016 and June of 2017, a total of $1,345,000 was transferred to another account in the name of Adam and Allison Joiner, according to the analysis.


Joiners case is hardly the only Hollywood content con to have made headlines. As of publication, the so-called Con Queen of Tinseltown an evasive, thus-far unidentified figure who stands accused of stealing thousands of dollars from film-makers and producers by impersonating studio honchos like Amy Pascal of Sony remains at large.

Hollywood is more susceptible to impersonation-type frauds, says Sneana Gebauer, executive managing director and head of the US investigations and disputes practice at K2 Intelligence, a private firm currently investigating the Con Queen case. Identity theft is becoming more prevalent everywhere, but its easier to do on high-profile people, because theres so much information out there. [Producers] put their persona out there, theres a name recognition. Its easier to impersonate these people than someone who is high-net-worth but might be more private. They have a file of information to leverage.

Foreign investors can be especially vulnerable to these ploys, Gebauer says. Hollywood has been very successful at winning the world over with the film industry, she explains. Everybody loves American movies, everybody loves American music. If you are a newly minted Chinese millionaire or billionaire, of course youre going to want to put money in what appears to be a renowned Hollywood production. If you get lucky, Gebauer adds, you may get significant return on your investment. Or you get invited to all these parties, and get to mingle with the stars.

It is possible it was not necessarily clean money, Gebauer speculates on the funds in Joiners alleged accounts, noting that foreign intermediaries have sought to launder money through Hollywood productions before. Riza Aziz, a producer for The Wolf of Wall Street, is currently standing trial in a Malaysian high court for allegedly funneling funds stolen from the countrys sovereign wealth fund through the film project. Aziz is the stepson of Malaysias former prime minister Najib Razak, who is accused of orchestrating the embezzlement.

But there are elementary steps an investor can take to avoid becoming ensnared in plots like these, Gebauer says: You dont have to hire an investigative firm like ours to do the basic Googling. If youre going to give someone $4m to produce a movie, there better be something on the internet to establish his track record. You would want to meet others involved in the project, not just him.


On 18 September 2019, federal prosecutors entered a plea agreement with Joiner into the record under which he agreed to plea guilty to one count of felony wire fraud. Neither Netflix nor Don Murphy responded to requests for comment on this story. Adam Joiner, KIP and Star Century Pictures could not be reached for comment.

Joiners scam particularly resonated in the film community, perhaps because it had all the elements for what could have been an entirely legitimate, and perhaps successful, production. It could have even been a multi-installment universe. The screenplay was written adequately enough to persuade a bona fide action-flick impresario, Don Murphy, to sign on. And to be sure, $14m pales in comparison to the $356m it cost to produce Avengers: Endgame but its a significantly larger chunk of change than most independent film-makers have to play with.

Thats what really gets me, Andy Phillips, an independent screenwriter and film-maker based in Los Angeles, says. This guy had a viable script, and resources most indy film-makers would kill for. He wasted it all.

The writer is currently employed by a company with a prior business relationship with Amblin Partners.

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Star steps down as general director and withdraws from future performances, marking end to US career

The opera star Plcido Domingo has resigned as general director of Los Angeles Opera a company he helped found amid allegations of sexual harassment that span several decades.

Domingo also withdrew from all forthcoming performances at the LA Opera, his last scheduled shows in the United States, signaling an end to his half-century career in American opera.

Domingos announcement on Wednesday comes a week after he backed out of scheduled performances at New Yorks Metropolitan Opera, just one day before opening night, amid building pressure from within the company. Other institutions including the Philadelphia Orchestra and San Francisco Opera also canceled Domingos appearances, citing anti-sexual harassment policies.

I hold Los Angeles Opera very dearly to my heart and count my work to create and build it as among my most important legacies, Domingo said in a statement. However, recent accusations that have been made against me in the press have created an atmosphere in which my ability to serve this company that I so love has been compromised.

Though Domingo is still scheduled to perform at various venues in Europe, the 78-year-old singer has faced fierce criticism following the publication of accounts by the Associated Press from nine women who said that he harassed them over three decades beginning in the late 1980s. The women described instances of unwanted kissing, groping and sexual advances along with threats to their careers if they resisted.

A few weeks later, the AP published 11 additional accounts, including that of singer Angela Turner Wilson, who said Domingo reached under her clothes and grabbed her bare breast while the two were getting ready for a Washington Opera performance during the 1999-2000 season.

It hurt, Wilson told the AP. Then I had to go on stage and act like I was in love with him.

Domingo responded that he believed their interaction had been consensual.

In August, LA Opera, which Domingo has led for 15 years, announced that it had hired a law firm to lead an independent investigation into his conduct but allowed him to continue as director.

In response to Domingos resignation Tuesday, the executive committee of the LA Opera board of directors thanked the singer for popularizing opera in the consciousness of Los Angeles and said that he had performed more than 300 in Southern California.

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Drakeo the Ruler speaks to the Guardian about twice facing charges for a murder he didnt commit: Its not about justice

The Los Angeles district attorney is prosecuting the rapper Drakeo the Ruler for a murder he didnt commit, arguing in court that his rap lyrics, videos and collaborations are evidence of a conspiracy.

The case moving forward this week marks the third time Drakeo, whose legal name is Darrell Caldwell, is facing charges stemming from the 2016 murder of 24-year-old Davion Gregory. After Drakeo beat a murder charge this summer, prosecutors are launching a new trial against the 25-year-old rapper, arguing he is the leader of a gang responsible for the homicide. The alleged gang is his rap crew, the Stinc Team.

Drakeo is, once again, facing life in prison.

When is this going to be over? When is it going to stop? When are they going to leave me alone? Drakeo said in a recent phone call from the Mens Central Jail in downtown LA, where he has been incarcerated for 18 months. It feels like some kind of vendetta. Its not about finding justice. Its about taking my career from me.

Civil rights activists across the US are closely watching Drakeos case, saying its a critical free speech test and an egregious example of racist and aggressive policing of black men and their creative expression. Experts estimate there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of similar cases of law enforcement severely punishing rappers for their songs.

They dont understand us. They dont understand our culture. So they demonize us, said Brandon Duncan, a San Diego rapper known as Tiny Doo, whose rap album was also used as a key piece of evidence in gang-related charges. They are telling us we cant speak, that you can go to jail for your music.

A rising career, stalled by police

Drakeo was born in 1993 in South-Central LA and started a dance crew with his brother when he was a teenager. He got into rapping early and formed a group with friends called Too Greedy, a name they adopted in middle school. They later called themselves the Stinc Team.

Rapping was a way to make money, and stay out of the streets, he said.

On the night of 10 December 2016, Drakeo, then 23, drove with a dozen friends to a South LA party. A shooting broke out among the guests, and Davion Gregory was killed. Rumors spread online that Drakeo was involved, since his Mercedes was seen leaving the scene. Records suggest law enforcement nearly immediately began investigating him as a suspect, watching hours of his rap videos.

A month later, police raided Drakeos apartment, found guns and arrested him. During questioning, a Los Angeles sheriffs department (LASD) detective, Francis Hardiman, told the rapper his music would be the soundtrack in a trial. Jurors dont like to see that stuff your rap videos of you talking about shooting, Hardiman said.

The detective cited one lyric, chopper makes you go ugh (chopper is slang for rifle), and added that a district attorney could prosecute the rapper by playing that line over and over again:

Im not a giant rap fan, just so you know, Hardiman added.

Drakeo signed a plea deal and went to prison on a weapons possession charge. He was released in November 2017 and returned to music, earning national acclaim as a standout in a new generation of LA rap. The Washington Post called his December 2017 album Cold Devil one of the most mesmerizing and intimate rap albums to ever float out of LA, with a delivery that might be the most intoxicating sound to waft across California since the arrival of Snoop Dogg.

But LASD wasnt done yet.

Lyrics and music videos on trial

In September 2018, Drakeo was indicted on a wide range of felonies related to the December 2016 incident, including murder, conspiracy murder, criminal gang conspiracy, shooting from a vehicle, illegal possession of a firearm and a number of attempted murder charges for other victims.

Prosecutors knew that Drakeo hadnt killed Gregory detectives had obtained audio recordings documenting a 17-year-old alleged gang member confessing to the killing and a man linked to Drakeos rap crew confessing to firing additional shots. But they argued during the trial in May 2019 that the rap crew was a criminal gang that planned the killing.

As his moniker suggests, he is the leader They rap about their crimes, the prosecutor Shannon Cooley said.

Detective Hardiman told the court he used the greatest crime-fighting tools on earth Google and social media and found a music video featuring Drakeo and one of the men involved in the shooting, holding a gun that he said matched the ballistics at the crime scene.

Hardiman also cited a Drakeo lyric from a diss track in which Drakeo spoke about driving around with a rival rapper tied up in the back.

Prosecutors said Drakeo was plotting to kill the rapper, and that his crew ended up killing Gregory instead.

There is no gang, its a rap group

Drakeo and his lawyers have argued that the prosecutors narrative was manufactured and that the analysis of his music was laughable.

The whole point of me starting to rap is I get to rap and talk about these things and not do these things, he told the Guardian. And what would you rather, me rapping about stuff that Im not actually doing, or out there doing it? Its not real. Rapping is rhyming and pretending. Its a persona.

How are you gonna tell me what I mean? he added.

Drakeos lawyers said the rapper had had a previous run-in with the law (attempting to steal from a liquor store at age 16) and that some in his rap crew had been involved in petty crime, but that Stinc Team was fundamentally not a gang.

The lyric about the rival rapper stemmed from standard, harmless rap beef, his lawyers said. The rapper himself later said on social media that Drakeo wasnt seriously trying to kill him. The DAs own witness also said Drakeo didnt know the shooting was going to happen.

There is no gang. Its a rap group. What the fuck? Im not a gang member and my friends are not gang members, Drakeo said, arguing he was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

In July, a jury acquitted Drakeo of all murder and attempted murder offenses. The jury convicted the rapper of a single firearms possession charge and was deadlocked on two counts criminal gang conspiracy and shooting from a vehicle.

The DA announced last month that it planned to retry the case and bring him to trial again for the two hung counts.

Hundreds prosecuted for rap: Tip of the iceberg

For the gang conspiracy charge Drakeo is still facing, LA prosecutors are relying on an opaque California penal code called 182.5, a number that now sparks fear in some rap communities. It allows DAs to prosecute people who allegedly benefit from criminal gang activity.

As Cooley, the DA, recently explained in court, this law is so broad, she doesnt even have to prove Drakeo had intent or an agreement to kill anyone: All this is saying [is] if you are an active participant in your gang, and someone from your gang commits murder, and you benefit from that murder, that you get convicted.

The law received national scrutiny in 2014 when San Diego prosecutors accused the rapper Tiny Doo of gang conspiracy, alleging that his album that referenced gun violence provided evidence that he benefited from local gang-related shootings. He was not accused of participating in any of the crimes, and a judge dismissed the case after he spent eight months in jail.

Like Drakeo, Tiny Doo said his life unraveled as a result.

Tiny Doo: I live in fear every day. Photograph: Sam Levin/The Guardian

I live in fear every day, because they can charge me for a crime someone else committed, the 37-year-old said, noting that the jail time badly damaged his children, whom he was raising by himself, and forced him to miss the funeral of his grandfather. He said 182.5 laws were akin to slave codes used to take people away from their homes and their families.

Defendants often take plea deals when threatened with this kind of charge, making it difficult to know how widely it is used. Erik Nielson, a University of Richmond professor co-authoring a book on the subject, said hes identified more than 500 total cases since 1991 in which rap has been used as evidence, but added this was the tip of the iceberg.

Police rely on rappers music because its easy to watch YouTube videos and its often effective, said Nielson, who testified in Drakeos case: You dont have to do police work, and you get convictions .. It makes it very easy to pin crimes on people who were not involved.

The broader problem is the law gives police wide discretion to brand anyone a gang member simply based on where they live, added Jess Jollett, an activist who worked with Tiny Doo. If the DA convicts Drakeo, it would set a terrible precedent, she said: That means prosecutors no longer have to gather evidence. They dont have to build cases. They can point to a name on an Excel sheet and say, go get that person.

Drakeo said: I will be going to trial again for literally the same thing. What was the point of me getting acquitted if they were going to say I can benefit from a murder that I didnt do, from some imaginary gang that doesnt exist, that Im supposed to be the leader of? This shit is crazy.

Drakeo says he does not get to leave his cell most days. Photograph: Instagram/courtesy Drakeo

LASD declined to comment. Philip Stirling, the LA prosecutor taking over the case, told the Guardian he did not plan to use Drakeos rap music as much in the new trial and defended the continued charges, saying Drakeo was morally responsible for what happened and that his gang benefited from the murder.

The way they can promote their gang is by having money, having girls, having status, having power, and all of that comes from this culture of violence, he said. Obviously, being a good rapper or being a good football player may have some relevance. But frankly, it comes down to violence.

Condemned to solitary after a tweet

In January, Drakeo had a friend post a message on his Twitter and Instagram accounts venting his frustration at the process and impact on his career. I NO LONGER WANNA BE A RAPPER ANYMORE. THANK DETECTIVE HARDIMAN FOR TRYNA USE MY LYRICS AGAINST ME. I WILL BE PULLING ALL MY MUSIC DOWN TOMORROW. U CRUSHED MY DREAMS #THANKDETECTIVEHARDIMAN the post read.

Hardiman subsequently argued in court that the post and comments below it led to threats against him and requested that the rapper be placed in solitary confinement, according to Drakeos attorney, John Hamasaki. Drakeo had not violated any rules while locked up, Hamasaki said.

During his last 18 months in jail, Drakeo has spent eight in solitary, Hamasaki counted. He has filed a motion asking a judge to dismiss the case, and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Drakeo said he does not get to leave his small cell most days. He never interacts with other inmates, he said, and he can only make phone calls twice a week.

Hes become so accustomed to being in a cell by himself that he found it difficult to go to trial and be in a larger room where everyone was looking at him: Its fucking with my mental state of mind, he said.

Hes also missed the entirety of his two-year-old sons life while in jail. Asked what he longed for most on the outside, he said, My son, my son, my son. He tries to sleep as much as possible to pass the time, but he said he has written at least a hundred songs and six mixtapes while inside. Hes ready to record as soon as he gets out. He thinks hell call one of them A Cold Day in Hell.

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Darrell Fields, 62, who was known as Mr Guitar, was often seen playing music on the street and at neighborhood events

Los Angeles homeless advocates and Skid Row residents are mourning the death of a beloved guitarist who was killed when his tent was set ablaze in what authorities say was an intentional act.

The gruesome death of Darrell Fields, a 62-year-old musician who was well-known in downtown LA and worked extensively with a local advocacy group, was a particularly brutal representation of a severe and worsening homeless crisis in the region. The deadly fire on Monday night came as a scathing government audit found that LAs top homeless outreach agency had dramatically failed in its goals to place people into housing.

We are in a full-scale emergency, said Kayo Anderson, a Skid Row advocate who was friends with Fields for years and played with him in a band. We no longer have the luxury of walking at a snails pace to get this done. If Darrell was a housed person, he would still be with us. Thats an indictment of us all.

Anderson, 42, has stored Fields guitars and keyboards inside his office at the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA Can). I cant even express to you how genius he was, Anderson said of Fields. He was just brilliant and uniquely gifted. He was also a big-hearted human who wouldnt hurt a fly.

Prosecutors have charged Jonathan Early, 38, with Fields death, saying he intentionally lit Fields tent on fire while he was asleep in an act that involved the infliction of torture. It is unclear if Early and Fields knew each other or what the motive might have been.

Fields friends said he never got into conflicts with anyone, and they said he suffered as a result of the extreme lack of housing options for people like him in the city.

LA countysofficial count this year found that there are now more than 36,000 homeless people in the city of Los Angeles, a 16% uptick from the previous year. Across LA county, more than 11,000 people are living in tents and makeshift shelters. There are also more than 5,000 homeless seniors 80% of whom are unsheltered.

Kayo Anderson holding one of Darrell Fields instruments. Photograph: Sam Levin/The Guardian

On Wednesday, the LA controllers office said that the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (Lahsa) had missed five of its eight goals last year. Instead of meeting its target of placing 10% of homeless people they assessed into permanent housing, the agency only placed 4% of them, the audit revealed. Lahsa has said the controllers report was misleading, that the agency had contacted record numbers of homeless people, and that there was not enough shelter space and housing to meet the demands.

Adam Rice, another LA Can organizer who knew Fields, said LA authorities have failed the homeless population. Darrell had been on the street for so many years. Why are there not proper spaces for him to live and be safe? We need permanent housing four walls, a door, privacy. This is a human right.

Rice said he blamed the LA mayor, Eric Garcetti, and other local government officials for failing to create adequate housing options and instead spending significant money on police and practices that criminalize people living on the streets.

There are not enough empty beds, even if everyone wanted to go into these horrific shelters, said Angela James, LA Cans deputy director of finance and operations, who said she greeted Fields nearly every day. People dont have a choice.

She added that the citys controversial sweeps, in which city workers clear homeless encampments,were a source of stress for Fields. She also noted that local lawmakers were focused on passing laws restricting people from living in vehicles and creating new limits on where people can sleep outside, which only exacerbates the crisis: Where can they be? Were basically saying: Its illegal for you to exist.

Alex Comisar, a spokesman for Garcetti said in an email that the mayor was committed to saving lives by getting people off the streets and indoors as quickly as possible.

He was a bright light

Fields, whose legal name was Dwayne Fields, was a community fixture at Skid Row, friends said, often seen playing music on the street and performing at neighborhood events.

Darrell Fields was originally from Michigan. He lived in Los Angeles with his longtime partner, Valarie Wertlow. Photograph: Courtesy of LA Can

He was known as Mr Guitar, said Anderson, noting that Fields had just performed Saturday night at a fundraiser at LA Can.

Fields was originally from Michigan and later lived in Las Vegas where he worked as a musician, said Anderson. He had performed in a Jimi Hendrix cover band, wrote his own music and loved singing blues and gospel.

He was what I wish I could be, said Sir Oliver, a local DJ who worked with Fields and recalled how skillfully he played a guitar that only had two strings on it. He had so much talent, and everyone on Skid Row knew how good he was. How could this happen?

Fields lived with his longtime partner, Valarie Wertlow. Both artists, they had moved to LA to find gigs, and eventually couldnt afford housing, said Pete White, LA Cans executive director. Fields landed temporary housing a few times, but never found a long-term housing option for him and his partner, he added.

He helped me with my guitar playing, White continued. Im heartbroken. He was this bright light and shining star that used art for healing.

Fields was a regular presence at LA Can, said Anderson: He was houseless, but he wasnt homeless. This was his home.

He added, All that man wanted to do was love Valarie and play music. It was a simple, beautiful life, and he loved it.

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Friends, family and fans gather in Los Angeles as blogger reads letter from Barack Obama to crowd

Nipsey Hussles legacy as a persistent rapper, community activist, uniter, a doting father, a protective sibling and a loving son were underscored at his public memorial service on Thursday, with deeply personal testimonies from those closest to the rapper, including his fiancee, Lauren London; collaborator and dear friend Snoop Dogg; and his mother, who said she was at peace with the death of her superhero son.

Beyonce and Jay-Z were among the celebrities who attended the three-hour event in Los Angeles at the Staples Center, where the last celebrity funeral held at the concert arena was Michael Jacksons in 2009.

The arena was packed with more than 21,000 fans and drove home the important impact Hussle, who was just 33 when he died, had on his city and the rest of the world.

My son Ermias Joseph Asghedom was a great man, said Angelique Smith, dressed in all white. Standing onstage with Hussles father, Dawit Asghedom, she declared: Ermias was a legacy.

London, in dark sunglasses, was emotional but stood strong onstage as she told the audience: Ive never felt this type of pain before.

London called Hussle majestic and brilliant and said she had learned so much from his presence. She added though she was hurting, she was really sad for their son, Kross, whom she feared wouldnt remember his dad: My pain is for my two-year-old.

A blogger, Karen Civil, read a letter from Barack Obama. Ive never met Nipsey, but Ive heard his music through my daughters, and after his passing I had the chance to learn more about his transformation and his community work, the former president wrote. While most folks look at the Crenshaw neighborhood where he grew up and only see gangs, bullets and despair, Nipsey saw potential. He saw hope.

Snoop Doggs words to immortalize his friend were both serious and silly, as he told old stories about Hussle and their brotherhood. This a tough one right here, he said.

Hussles father said he knew his son was strong because when he was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck but he prevailed. He was a fighter, he said.

Stevie Wonder was the last performer to pay tribute to Hussle, who he said he had the chance to meet. Before he sang his song Rocket Song, one of Hussles favorites, Wonder denounced gun violence and told the audience: Theres enough people being killed by guns and violence.

A DJ called the event a celebration, and indeed, Hussles mother danced in the aisle in tribute to her son as the R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius sang the Mariah Carey song Fly Like a Bird while fighting back tears.

A montage of photos featuring the rapper from infancy, childhood and adulthood, with fellow rappers, his family and his fiancee, the actor Lauren London, were shown to the crowd, set to Frank Sinatras song My Way. Singer Anthony Hamilton invoked the spirit of a church service as he performed in Hussles honor. The Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan, hailed Hussles ability to bring different factions together.

A fan holds a sign up along the procession route for Nipsey Hussle following his memorial at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on 11 April. Photograph: Kyle Grillot/AFP/Getty Images

People from Eritrea attend the memorial for slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, an Eritrean American, on 11 April. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

A sign outside the Staples Center bears the image of Nipsey Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom. Photograph: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

A makeshift memorial is filled with candles for Nipsey Hussle outside his Marathon clothing store in Los Angeles. Photograph: Jae C Hong/AP

Hussle was killed last month at age 33 in front of a store that he tried to use to empower his south central Los Angeles neighborhood. Most who filed in for the public memorial at the arena Thursday were young adults, but ages ranged from small children to the elderly.

Were here for a great man. Were all here for big Nip. It wasnt his time, said Wutup Levy, 27, of Long Beach, California.

Daren B Harris waited outside the arena before the doors opened with his grandmother and other family members, who wore black T-shirts with Hussles face on them. Harris said he grew up listening to the rappers music and followed his journey to improve his community.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, said Harris, 23, who lives in South Los Angeles. He was a treasure.

Harris grandmother, Reba Johnson, said she couldnt miss the occasion to celebrate Hussles life. He was bigger than his music, she said.

A fan at the memorial service wears a shirt with an image of Nipsey Hussle. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

A fan wears shoes in tribute to Nipsey Hussle at the late rappers memorial service. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Books with an image of Hussle on the cover were handed out to service attendees. The book of nearly 100 pages contained numerous photos of Hussle with London, his children, and friends such as Russell Westbrook and Snoop Dogg. It also had heartfelt messages from Rick Ross, the Game and LeBron James.

Ive never cried myself to sleep over any public figure before, but Nipseys presence meant so much for our community, the actor Issa Rae said in her message inside the book.

The hearse carrying Hussles coffin was scheduled after the funeral to go on a 25-mile lap through the city, including past the strip mall where his The Marathon clothing store is located. Finally, it will arrive at a funeral home in the citys Crenshaw district, where the rapper was born on 15 August 1985.

Fans wait for the funeral procession following a memorial for Nipsey Hussle along Slauson Avenue in Los Angeles on 11 April. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/Reuters

Masons attend the memorial for Nipsey Hussle in Los Angeles. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Eric R Holder Jr, who has been charged with killing Hussle, has pleaded not guilty. Police have said Holder and Hussle had several interactions the day of the shooting and have described it as being the result of a personal dispute.

Hussle, whose real name was Ermias Asghedom, was an Eritrean American father of two. He was a beloved figure for his philanthropic work that went well beyond the usual celebrity giving back ethos.

Following his death, political and community leaders were as quick and effusive in their praise as were his fellow hip-hop artists.

Hussle recently purchased the aging strip mall where The Marathon is located and planned to redevelop it into new businesses and affordable housing, part of Hussles broader ambitions to remake the neighborhood where he grew up and attempt to break the cycle of gang life that lured him in when he was younger.

For a decade, Hussle released much sought-after mixtapes that he sold out of the trunk of his car, helping him create a buzz and gain respect from rap purists and his peers. His said his stage name, a play on the 1960s and 70s rhyming standup comic Nipsey Russell, was given to him as a teen by an older friend because he was such a go-getter, always hustling.

He received a boost when Jay-Z bought 100 copies of his 2013 mixtape Crenshaw for $10,000.

Last year, he hit new heights with Victory Lap, his critically acclaimed major-label debut album on Atlantic Records that made several critics best-of lists. The album debuted at No 4 on Billboards 200 albums charts and features collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Cee-Lo Green.

On Thursday, his family and friends vowed to continue his work, and London told the crowd: The marathon continues!

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Police believe Eric Holder, 29, fatally shot the rapper over a personal dispute on Sunday

Authorities in Los Angeles have detained a suspect in the shooting death of the rapper Nipsey Hussle.

The Los Angeles police department said on Tuesday it had detained Eric Holder, the 29-year-old suspected of shooting Hussle on Sunday, in Bellflower, a city about 20 miles south-east.

Hussle, 33, whose real name is Ermias Asghedom, was shot multiple times in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon and rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A coroner determined the artist had died of gunshot wounds to the head and torso.

Holder had argued several times Sunday with Hussle while standing outside the rappers South Los Angeles clothing store and later returned with a handgun and opened fire, the Los Angeles police chief, Michel Moore, said in a press conference on Tuesday.

The chief did not reveal how the two men were acquainted or offer any details about their dispute, but he said the disagreement between the two men was personal and did not involve gang activity.

At the same news conference, the Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, announced plans to deploy new resources to try to roll back the violence. Hussles killing came amid a spike in gun violence in the area.

The police chief and the president of the citys police commission had been scheduled to meet with Hussle on Monday to discuss the relationship between the police force and the inner city.

Both Moore and the police commission president, Steve Soboroff, said they were devastated when they learned Hussle had been killed on the eve of their talk.

An emotional Soboroff read from the email Hussle sent asking for the meeting.

Our goal is to work with the department to help improve communication, relationships and work towards changing the culture and dialogue between LAPD and your city, the email said.

Tuesdays arrest follows a tense scene during an impromptu memorial on Monday night in the parking lot where Hussle was shot.

A man brandishing a gun caused a panicked stampede. At least 19 people were injured in the chaos, including two people who were taken to hospitals in critical condition, police said.

Its been a tough few days for Los Angeles, Garcetti said. Nipsey Hussle was an artist who touched our city and lives.

Hussle grew up in South Los Angeles and was a member of a street gang during his teenage years.

But he had since become a community organizer. He had recently purchased the strip mall where the shop is located and planned to redevelop it into a mixed-use commercial and residential complex.

The plan was part of Hussles broader ambitions to remake the neighborhood where he grew up and attempt to break the cycle of gang life that had lured him in when he was younger.

The rapper sold demos for just a few dollars in those streets before becoming an underground phenomenon for a decade with his much-sought-after mixtapes. Last year he had a mainstream breakthrough with his album Victory Lap, a major label debut that got him a Grammy nomination.


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Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, 89, was locked in legal battle over sale of Los Angeles site to pop star

An 89-year-old Catholic nun who has battled pop star Katy Perry for years over the sale of a Los Angeles convent has collapsed and died while attending court proceedings about the case, according to media reports and supporters.

Sister Catherine Rose Holzman, one of two ageing nuns who were fighting the sale of the eight-acre (three-hectare) convent, died on Friday in Los Angeles county court, Fox affiliate KTTV reported.

The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary property in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles that pop star Katy Perry is buying Photograph: Nick Ut/AP

Holzman had earlier told KTTV as she entered the courthouse with Sister Rita Callanan: To Katy Perry, please stop. Its not doing anyone any good except hurting a lot of people.

On Saturday a website set up to back the nuns legal battle carried a picture of Holzman with the caption Rest with the angels our most precious treasure.

A spokeswoman for Perry, one of the worlds top-selling pop stars, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Los Angeles county medical examiner and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles did not respond to queries about the cause of death.

At the center of the legal dispute is the property Holzman and other members of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary had once lived in.

Holzman and Cullanan, among five nuns who had lived at the convent, had sought to sell the property for $15.5m to restaurateur Dana Hollister, who wanted to convert the property into a hotel.

The archdiocese sued to block the sale in 2015, arguing the nuns did not have authority to sell the property to Hollister.

A judge ruled in 2016 that the sale was invalid, paving the way for Perry to buy the site from the archdiocese.

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A possible plan to move the citys dogs onto a plant-based diet has the backing of prominent vegans such as Moby, but others warn it could get messy

Proponents say it will make Los Angeles the worlds progressive capital. Sceptics say it will mean diarrhea, lots of diarrhea.

The proposal, which has divided scientists and animal rights groups and inflamed social media, is to put dogs in the citys public shelters on a vegan diet.

The Los Angeles animal services commission is considering the idea after lobbying by prominent vegans, including Moby, the dance music pioneer.

The commission unanimously voted earlier this month for a feasability study and analysis of the benefits and risks. A report detailing pilot project options is expected in February.

Roger Wolfson, a commissioner and television screenwriter who is driving the initiative, cites ethical, environmental and health reasons to switch dogs to plant-based food.

Currently more than 20,000 chickens, 10,000 turkeys and 1,000 lambs die each year in order to be churned into food for the 33,000 dogs in LAs public shelters, he said.

We are the department of animal services, not the department of animal companion services, he told the Guardian this week. So we need to start from a place of avoiding unnecessary killing of animals. We already shelter pigs and chickens and turkeys and we wouldnt think about killing them unnecessarily. So if dogs can get their needs met without killing animals we owe it to the citizens of Los Angeles to try.

Wolfson, who was a political speechwriter in Washington DC before moving to LA and writing for shows such as Fairly Legal and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, also cited the impact of meat and dairy consumption on deforestation, greenhouse gases and ocean dead zones.

Several high-profile allies endorsed Wolfsons proposal at a public hearing in November, including the musician and DJ Moby, who owns a vegan restaurant in LA. If we adopt this, its just one more thing that proves to the world that Los Angeles really is the progressive capital of the world, he said, according to meeting minutes, which used his real name, Richard Hall.

Musician and vegan restaurant owner Moby is a supporter of the plan. Photograph: Kris Connor/WireImage

However, the citys chief veterinarian, Jeremy Prupas, cited clinical nutritionists, a veterinary toxicologist and other experts who advised against a vegan diet. In addition to health questions, workers at the understaffed shelter would confront canine diarrhea, a big issue, Prupas said.

Armaiti May, an LA-based veterinarian who supports the proposal, told the Guardian that abrupt changes in diet can lead to looser stools but that a gradual transition would avoid major problems. Its a small issue in the grand scheme of things. May believes meat-based kibbles have fuelled a cancer and allergy epidemic in dogs.

Tracy Reiman, executive vice-president of the animal rights group Peta, said a vegan diet was healthier and more ethical than feeding dogs factory farmed animals who have endured miserable lives and gruesome deaths and whose dead, dying, diseased, or disabled carcasses are found in most commercial dog foods.

Other voices urge caution. Lisa Freeman, a veterinary nutritionist and Tufts university professor, told the New York Times earlier this year there were no long-term studies on the effects of veganism in dogs. We know a lot about dog nutrition, but there are unknowns as well it isnt easy to formulate a high-quality diet for dogs, and its particularly difficult with a vegan diet.

Social media has bristled with arguments for and against, the latter insisting dogs need meat.

Owners who have put their dogs on vegan diets say diarrhea fears are overblown and that health benefits are tangible. Winky had been plagued with recurring ear infections which disappeared permanently after I phased the meat-based food out of his diet, Karen Dawn, an author and activist, wrote in an LA Times op-ed.

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The Queens of the Stone Age frontman said I dont have any excuse or reason to justify what I did after photographer Chelsea Lauren was left with a bruised eyebrow

John Homme, frontman of hard rock band Queens of the Stone Age, has apologised after appearing to deliberately kick a female photographer during a performance.

Homme was performing with the band in Los Angeles when he kicked Chelsea Lauren in the face. Lauren told Variety the attack was obviously very intentional He looked straight at me, swung his leg back pretty hard and full-blown kicked me in the face. She later went to hospital, and said on Instagram my neck is sore, my eyebrow bruised and Im a bit nauseous. She said that she planned to file a police report.

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Josh Homme apologises for kicking concert photographer

Homme wrote an apology online, saying he was in a state of being lost in performance and very sorry. I would never intentionally cause harm to anyone working at or attending one of our shows. He later posted a video apology, saying that he didnt intend to kick Lauren: I kicked the camera of a photographer, and that camera hit the photographer in the face.

He added: I dont have any excuse or reason to justify what I did. I was a total dick, and Im truly sorry, and I hope youre OK Im gonna have to figure out some stuff, I think. Cos rocknroll is a wonderful thing. Its supposed to save and help people, not mess them up.

Homme, who has fronted the band since its formation in 1996, also deliberately cut his face during the same performance, as well as verbally abusing fellow performers Muse and calling the audience retards. He was sued earlier this year by an autograph collector who alleged he verbally abused him and assaulted him by grabbing him by the shoulders.

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A beetle and a fungus are killing off the trees that have become synonymous with the city, making way for trees that give more shade and use less water

They are the sultry, swaying backdrop to countless films, posters and music videos, an effective way to announce: this is Los Angeles.

Palm trees greet you outside the LAX airport, they line Hollywood Boulevard, stand guard over the Pacific and crisscross neighbourhoods poor and rich, a botanical army of stems and fronds which symbolise the worlds entertainment capital.

Apparently not for much longer. LAs palm trees are dying. And most wont be replaced.

A beetle known as the South American palm weevil and a fungus called Fusarium are killing palm trees across southern California. Others are dying of old age. Itll change the overall aesthetic because palm trees are so distinctive. Its the look and feel of Los Angeles, said Carol Bornstein, director of the nature gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

A city tally in 1990 estimated the number of palms on city streets at 75,000, a number which has not been updated but is destined to plunge in coming decades, the Los Angeles Times reported this week, citing officials.

No one knows how many will die, or how fast. For palm lovers, the even worse news is that they wont be replaced, perhaps not even mourned.

Authorities will instead plant other species that give more shade and consume less water important factors for an overheating city. By the middle of the century, LA is expected to be three to five degrees fahrenheit warmer and to have triple the number of extreme heat days.

Palms are decorative and iconic, but Los Angeles is facing more and more heatwaves, so its important that we plant trees that provide adequate shade to protect people and cool the city down, said Elizabeth Skrzat, programme director for City Plants, the citys tree planting arm.

History may record this as the moment La La Land put utility ahead of adornment.

The city will continue to plant trees in certain designated areas, including Hollywood, and developers and homeowners will probably continue to plant palms. I seriously doubt that palms will disappear entirely, said Skrzat.

Becky Saava, a Ugandan tourist, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Photograph: Rory Carroll for the Guardian

Even so, the looming die-off dismayed Becky Saava, 40, a tourist from Uganda who stood beneath giant palms on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They should sustain them find out what fungus is killing them and fix it, leave the city the way it is now. Palm trees are part of it. They make the place so beautiful.

Across the street, Marcel Hidouche, a tour bus operator standing beneath another palm, said LA would rue their dwindling. Theyre relaxing. I feel like Im on vacation, like Im on an island and not in a big city. We come for the sunlight, not the shade.

The town of Fillmore, 50 miles north of Hollywood, has special reason to lament. In 2012 it cut down 26 queen palms to make its downtown resemble a more generic, anytown USA to lure film and TV productions.

Only one species of palm Washingtonia filifera, the California fan palm is native to the state. All other species, from the exuberant, feather-topped Canary Island date palm to the more austere, svelte Mexican fan palm, are imports.

Franciscan missionaries in the 18th century were believed to be the first to plant palms ornamentally in LA, a trend that took off in the early 20th century, when palms started adorning boulevards, parks and gardens.

It wasnt the best choice of plants for a Mediterranean[-style] city. Especially one that has expanded so dramatically, said Bornstein.

David Fink, policy director of Climate Resolve, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes climate solutions for southern California, said the citys love affair with palms was not necessarily a mistake but that it was time to move on.

The iconic association of palm trees with Los Angeles is a positive, but were now in a period where we have a better understanding of whats needed. It makes sense that we replace the palms with trees that have wide expanses of shade and help cool things down. Heat, he added, killed more people than other weather events combined.

Marcel Hidouche, a tour bus operator, on Hollywood Boulevard. Photograph: Rory Carroll for the Guardian

Climate change has made California hotter and drier, a boon to bugs that destroy vegetation, said Andy Lipkis, the president of TreePeople, an LA-based advocacy group. Palms afforded LA little protection from heat, drought and flooding, plus they served as a habitat for the Norway rat, but their die-off signalled a wider crisis, he said.

Its a wake-up call. Millions of trees are dying in southern California. One price tag for removing the dead trees over the next 30 years is $37bn. Trees have a much harder time growing and thriving in cities today because the climate is much harsher.

For all the advantages of other species, however, Lipkis said part of him would miss the palms. Something that drives me crazy is people think of trees as decoration rather than life support. But I must admit there is something that they convey that goes along with the image, he said in a phone interview.

Im parked in a canyon right now watching four palms sway in the breeze. They dont belong here, but theres something a little bit good for the soul in the look.

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