Category Archives: Venice Beach

Venice Boardwalk Rampage trial: Alice Gruppioni’s husband testifies

An Italian man whose newlywed wife was struck and killed by a car driven onto the Venice boardwalk testified today that the motorist gave no warning as he weaved down the crowded tourist destination.

Testifying in the trial of 39-year-old Nathan Louis Campbell, who is charged with murder and other counts for allegedly driving his car down the boardwalk on Aug. 3, 2013, Christian Casadei told jurors through an Italian interpreter that he was holding his wife’s hand when he spotted the car careening through the crowd of tourists and locals.

He said he tried to pull his wife — 32-year-old Alice Gruppioni — into a doorway to avoid being struck.

“I tried to pull her,” he said. “After that, I felt, like, a hit. I closed my eyes and when I opened them back up, I was on the ground.”

Casadei, who fought tears throughout his testimony, said that when he got up, he was “surprised, I thought it was a movie.”

But his wife was nowhere to be seen.

“I was screaming her name … I thought she had fled but I wasn’t able to find her,” he told jurors.

When he finally found her, “she was lying on the ground, face-down on the asphalt with blood next to her head and that’s it … she was not moving.”

He said he took her by the hand as she struggled to breathe, but she was unable to say any last words to him.

In addition to murder, Campbell is also charged with 17 counts of assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of leaving the scene of an accident.

In opening statements last week, defense attorney James P. Cooper III conceded to the seven-woman, five-man jury that Campbell drove down the boardwalk, but said he was “actually avoiding hitting a number of pedestrians.”

On the stand today, however, a woman who was on the boardwalk said Campbell appeared to swerve directly at pedestrians.

“There was a path where a driver could have gone and avoided people,” Diane Hlywiak testified, adding that the driver instead took a path toward pedestrians.

Hlywiak testified that she heard the car speed up and the driver “started aiming at people,” but her statement was stricken from the record following an objection by Cooper.

In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Victor Avila said last week that Campbell was angry because he believed a drug dealer had cheated his friend — with one witness expected to testify that Campbell had threatened to run the dealer over. Instead, Campbell struck Gruppioni and 17 other people with his 2008 blue Dodge Avenger, with the Italian woman “on the hood of his car for over 300 feet” before her body slid off, the prosecutor said.

Campbell walked into the Santa Monica Police Department a few hours later and said, “I’m the one you’re looking for. I’m the one who hit all those people,” the prosecutor said.

A blood test performed at 2:26 a.m. — hours after the car careened down the boardwalk — showed Campbell’s blood-alcohol content at 0.09, just over the legal limit, Avila said.

Rescue teams aide 45-foot sailboat in Venice after heavy winds break keel

Rescue teams on Sunday afternoon aided a boat on its side in Venice and quickly afterward had to get to a wayward vessel in Dockweiler State Beach drifting close to the shore, fire officials said.

At about 3 p.m., BayWatch Santa Monica and BayWatch Del Rey were dispatched to a 45-foot sailboat knocked on its side and had its keel broken because of heavy winds, said Brian Hogue, a rescue boat captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Four people were on board and the captain at one point fell overboard, but was rescued, Hogue said.

There were no other injuries.

They had gotten as close as 100 feet from the pier, Hogue said.

Immediately after the rescue, BayWatch headed to Dockweiler in Play Del Rey to tie down a 1920s sailboat after its anchor was dislodged by heavy swells that in turn dragged the vessel within 30 yards of the beach, Hogue said.

High surf will continue to batter Southern California’s coast today amid dangerous rip currents and perilous conditions for swimmers, the National Weather Service said.

A high surf advisory issued by the NWS will be in force until 11 p.m. Tuesday along the Los Angeles and Orange county coasts amid a “high” risk of rip currents and surf of between five and eight feet in height, with sets reaching 10 feet along some south-facing beaches. The highest surf is expected to occur around Malibu and Zuma beaches through Tuesday morning.

High Surf Advisory In Force Until Late Tuesday Night

High surf will continue to batter Southern California’s coast today amid dangerous rip currents and perilous conditions for swimmers, the National Weather Service said.

A high surf advisory issued by the NWS will be in force until 11 p.m. Tuesday along the Los Angeles and Orange county coasts amid a “high” risk of rip currents and surf of between five and eight feet in height, with sets reaching 10 feet along some south-facing beaches. The highest surf is expected to occur around Malibu and Zuma beaches through Tuesday morning.

The NWS said the high surf is the result of a long-period swell produced by a storm in the southern hemisphere.

“Very strong rip currents will affect many beaches through Tuesday,” the NWS warned in a statement. “In addition, south-facing harbors and bays across the Channel Islands, including Avalon, Port San Luis, San Simeon, and Cayucos could see significant currents capable of dislodging moored vessels and docks.”

The weather service had a special warning for swimmers.

“Remember, swim near a lifeguard or when in doubt, stay out,” the statement said. “Do not climb on jetties as large waves can sweep you off the rocks easily. Never turn your back to the ocean as sneaker waves can inundate beaches and pull people into the water.”

Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, Lifeguard Division

Second Earthquake within a Month Rattles Los Angeles

Residents in Venice and across Los Angeles were jolted out of bed this morning by a magnitude 3.9 earthquake centered one mile northeast of Baldwin Hills, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

No damage or injuries were reported. The Los Angeles Fire Department declared the area safe after surveying a 478-square-mile area spanning 106 neighborhood fire stations, spokesman Erik Scott said on Twitter.

The earthquake was the third temblor within the past month near the Newport-Inglewood fault. A magnitude 3.5 quake was recorded there on April 12 and a 3.4 on April 30.

USGS officials consider today’s 4:07 a.m. shaker relatively shallow and said it was not severe enough to cause major damage. But that didn’t stop shaken Los Angeles area residents from taking to Twitter and other social media to verify the earthquake and share their experiences.

Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismologist with the USGS in Pasadena, pointed out on Twitter that the Baldwin Hills area has experienced major earthquake activity every year since a magnitude 4.7 quake on May 18, 2009. “Little earthquakes happen all the time,” she posted, “and we can’t find a significant pattern.”

Earth Quake May 3 2015 Earthquake May 3 2015 Twitter

Top 10 Reasons There Will Be No Topless Bathing At Venice Beach

By Steve Stajich

Sorry to race right to the finale, but … there will not be any nude or “topless” sun bathing on Venice Beach. Not because of any lack of support for rights or women having parity in the ability to cast off their tops… but because I am offering this sensible list of Top 10 Reasons There Will No Topless Bathing At Venice Beach.

One: Sometimes, unlike the song “Bobby McGee”, freedom is actually another word for “Your idea is terrible.” The word “freedom” has been bantered about after a vote by the Venice Neighborhood Council asserting that allowing topless sunbathing for all would support women getting the same right as men to take off their upper body clothing. But where will that Council stand on defending the privacy of those women, if they are topless in a public space? Their privacy, or what we might call their freedom to be free without harassment or… Okay, this gets us to…

Two: Sorry that I wasn’t older during the 1950’s when a lot of Freudian thinking manifested itself in the early Playboy magazines. Because I might have been one of the voices who said about Playboy, “Fellas, I think this is going to make entire generations of males obsessed with certain parts of the female anatomy in a certain juvenile way.” Let me put that in digital terms: Enter “affordable colleges” into Bing… and you get 65 million results. Enter “big boobs”… and you get 94 million results. That’s too close, people, in a country trying to get smarter.

Three: There’s no argument that it helps… anything. Proponents have called it “a serious equality issue.” Perhaps, but again… that’s only if you are completely unaware of every single other thing that is happening in society. Would Venice ban children under 18… or are we to view the thinking here that somehow the long-term impacts would be educational, so the sign would read “Nude Venice: Fun for the Whole Family!”

Four: The idea that it’s a cultural statement is hooey. In an April 23 piece in the LA Times, the neighborhood council noted that Venice Beach was “founded and designed around the European culture of Venice, Italy” and that “topless sun bathing is commonplace throughout Europe, much of the rest of the world, and many places within the U.S.” But why stop at Italy? Let’s have the council vote for the sophisticated elegance of having mistresses as in France and to adopt the economy of Greece.

Five: This is the worst kind of nostalgia. Forty years ago, some Venice residents basked on the beach in the altogether. The LA Times reports that it brought media, creepy men in leisure suits with their cameras, and life guards struggled to bring people in from the surf who wore nothing the rescuers could hold on to. People say that revivals of burlesque shows are charming and quaint. Take sun, add beer, stir in groups of young men in their 20’s and 30’s… and I think the charm goes away and is replaced by something more akin to “Two and Half Men” if it had been produced for Spike by nine-year-olds.

Six: I think there’s a little bit of a denial in play, wherein women who would bare their breasts at a beach would achieve some sort of liberated and fair treatment and be recognized for a kind of social courage, rather than finding themselves objectified by observers who have no concern whatsoever for any thinking behind the women taking off their tops. That’s not right, it’s not us at our best, and it’s certainly not fair. But we’re talking about some serious rewriting of the code of male socialization here. Enter the name of “Mad Men” actress Christina Hendricks into your search engine and see how far male-dominated media has evolved since the “Playboy” era often represented in that series.

Seven: Um, this is what the Venice Neighborhood Council has time to dwell on? I’m dying to hear the connection between assisting the homeless in Venice and nude sunbathing. On second thought, if there is any kind of connection I’d rather not hear it.

Eight, Nine, and Ten: I readily concede that Americans have some real hang-ups when it comes to their bodies and the sexualizing of something as simple as lying out in the sun and not wanting the silhouette of a swimming suit on your tan. But you don’t magically erase retro attitudes overnight, and we’re already suffering a huge crisis of civility in this country. Make a sandwich out of Rush Limbaugh, “fans” beating other fans into mental handicap at baseball games, the too often banal level of attack in partisan politics, the reduction of important and critical social agendas to memes with pictures on them, the expression of anger against injustice by means of burning buildings, the shouting on television “discussion” shows, the Neanderthal insistence on gun “rights” in the face of gun deaths… and you don’t have any argument for untethering the civility of clothing.

Thanks for the chuckle, Venice. Now, everybody, back to work.

Can Your Butts Before They End Up In Ocean

Mike Newhouse.
Mike Newhouse.

By Mike Newhouse

As the President of the Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) important issues facing Venice come across my desk every day.

Those issues are familiar to most of us, and are issues we face every day. Whether it’s parking, development, homelessness, crime or trash, we all have opinions, and we make them heard.

However, lately a more subtle issue has struck me as equally important. Though it has become common, albeit offensive, it dawned on me that we live in a beautiful seaside community where somehow we have resigned to “accept” people throw their cigarette butts on the sidewalk, in the street or worse. And, in a way, what is even stranger, is that people commonly see this happening, and don’t do anything about it. Perhaps it seems rude, or even dangerous to confront someone on the street. Maybe it’s unsanitary to simply pick it up for them after they are gone. In any event, that butt ends up in the street, and ultimately in the ocean.

In fact, this was the scene of my front yard, sidewalk and street on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night party we hosted. To be sure, none of our guests meant anything by it, and to the person I would characterize everyone as “progressive,” “green,” and generally “considerate.” But, it’s just too easy to be lazy and flick your butts into the street, rather than take 10 seconds to crush it out and throw it in the trash. As I swept my yard and gutters that Sunday morning, I started thinking about what can be done.

To be clear, this column is not about smoking; that’s a different discussion. It’s clear that smoking is legal where it is, and illegal where it’s not. This column is about realizing that almost every one of those butts end up in our ocean. Cigarette butts make marine animals sick and sometimes kill them. I’ve watched my kids dig sand castles, and dig up butts.  I’m sure even younger children will put them in their mouths. I’ve seen butts floating in the water when I surf, and if you really want to see how much of a problem this is, walk the shoreline after a good rain. It’s shocking to see the amount of butts that wash onshore.

Nor does this seem to be a class or a race issue. I’ve seen homeless guys toss their butts, as well as clearly wealthy people tossing them out of expensive cars. It almost seems to be as much of a habit as smoking itself.

So, I’ve decided to start calling people out on their behavior. To be sure, I am as polite as possible, and not looking for a fight. “Excuse me, would you mind picking that up, my kids find them washed up on the beach all the time,” or “Do me a favor, can you stamp that out and throw it in the trash so it doesn’t end up in the ocean.”

As a last resort, I will pick up the butt myself, and throw it away. So far I’ve had nothing but understanding, and almost apologetic responses to my requests. Indeed, I really do think tossing butts is part of the habit of smoking. But, like millions of smokers who have quit, those still smoking can certainly break that part of their habit, when they focus on the harm it causes.

Remember, the bottom line is litter is litter, and cigarette butts are possibly the best example of how destructive littering can be.
Do us all a favor, if you smoke, can your butts.  If you don’t, please take the time to ask a smoker to do so, for all of us.

Mike Newhouse is a 19-year Venice resident, an attorney, and president of the Venice Neighborhood Council (