Category Archives: Crime and courts

Suspect sought in fatal stabbing

Santa Ana police are looking for a suspect in the stabbing death of man during a brawl that erupted in a commercial district on Saturday.

Police were called to 1919 S. Main St. about 12:37 p.m. on reports of a fight between two men, said Cmdr. Larry Coleman. When officers arrived, they found a wounded man on the ground with at least one stab wound, he said.

The man was transported by paramedics to a local hospital, where he died, Coleman said. Police searched the area for the suspect but were unable to find him.

The victim's identity was not released.

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

Scattered showers, thunderstorms expected across Southland

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

-- Catherine Saillant

UCLA student faces assault charges after frat party

A UCLA student arrested on suspicion of choking a woman at a fraternity party will face charges of assault, intent to commit rape and false imprisonment, campus police said.

Paul Meyer, 20, was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail after his arrest Friday, authorities said.

UCLA police said they responded to a call about 2:30 a.m. Friday about an assault at the Theta Chi fraternity house on Gayley Avenue near the Westwood campus.  They said the suspect, a fraternity member, allegedly choked the victim, a 20-year-old woman.

She was treated at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and released; Meyer was arrested without incident at the scene, police said. He faces a March 12 arraignment hearing.

An investigation of the incident is continuing.

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

Scattered showers, thunderstorms expected across Southland

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

--Jean Merl

‘Onion Field’ police officer honored with Hollywood Freeway signs

Onion field

Signs honoring LAPD Officer Ian Campbell, whose slaying by kidnappers was chronicled in the book and movie "The Onion Field," were placed alongside the Hollywood Freeway this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the famous case.

The signs were placed on both sides of the Gower Street overpass, a short distance from where Campbell and his partner Karl Hettinger were kidnapped.

On March 10, 1963,  Gregory Ulas Powell and Jimmy Lee Smith, both ex-convicts, kidnapped Campell and  Hettinger at gunpoint and drove them to a remote spot between two onion fields in Kern County. There, Campbell, 31, was fatally shot, while Hettinger managed to escape and summon help.

The incident was made famous in Joseph Wambaugh’s book, “The Onion Field,” and the subsequent movie of the same name starring actor James Woods.

A replica of the Campbell sign was to be unveiled Saturday at a ceremony at the Los Angeles Police Museum. Wambaugh and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, as well as the Campbell and Hettinger families, were expected to attend.

Powell and Smith were sentenced to death for the kidnappings and murder, but both sentences were eventually commuted to life.

Smith, who was released from prison in 1982, died six years ago in a Los Angeles jail, where he was serving time for a parole violation. Powell died in state prison in August.

Hettinger's decision to surrender his pistol to the kidnappers, who were holding Campbell at gunpoint, haunted him for the rest of his life. He died in 1994. LAPD officers are now instructed never to give up their weapons under any circumstances.

Last year, city officials dedicated the intersection of Gower Street and Carlos Avenue, the site of the kidnappings, to Campbell.

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

Scattered showers, thunderstorms expected across Southland

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

--  Cindy Chang

Photo: Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, left, presents a commemorative plaque to Valerie Campbell-Moniz, right, at the dedication of a Hollywood intersection in honor of her father, LAPD Officer Ian Campbell, in August. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

School board member violated ‘public trust’ as pimp, D.A. says

Mike RiosA Moreno Valley school board member who was convicted of running a prostitution ring out of his home was sentenced Friday to 14 years in state prison in what a prosecutor described as a "breach of the public trust."

Cleveland Johnson, president of the Moreno Valley Unified School District board, called the sentencing of Mike Rios "a relief."

"There were a lot of things that Mr. Rios did that didn't make much sense," Johnson said Friday afternoon. "He really didn't care about us, or the district."

Riverside County Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Brusselback said  Rios' actions and his total lack of remorse called for a stiff prison sentence. Rios continues to insist he was the victim of a political vendetta, which Brusselback said was evidence of a "warped sense of reality."

Superior Court Judge Gary Tranbarger brushed aside a request by Rios' defense attorney to limit the sentence to four years in prison, or probation. Rios, shackled and dressed in a bright orange jail outfit, showed little emotion as the judge read the sentence in a Riverside courtroom.

In February, a jury convicted Rios of 23 felony charges, including a dozen counts of pimping, five counts of pandering and six counts of insurance fraud.

During the trial, young women testified that Rios ran a prostitution ring in 2011 and 2012. One of the women told the jury that Rios approached her on the street with a school district business card in his hand and a job opportunity on his mind: He wanted her "to gather girls and sell them," she said.

The young woman, identified in court only as Valery, testified that she and others worked as prostitutes for Rios. In addition, she said, she helped recruit other young women for him.

"He told me we had to get the best-looking girls so we could get more money for them," she said.

Prosecutors said that Rios ran a prostitution ring out of his Moreno Valley home, that he acted as a pimp for three adult female prostitutes and that he tried to recruit another adult woman and two minors. Rios recruited women, took provocative photos of them in his home and posted the photos in online ads, they said.

Deputy Public Defender Michael J. Micallef argued during the trial that Rios ran a business involving women stripping, dancing and performing for money but that it "had nothing to do with sex."

-- Hailey Branson Potts and Phil Willon

Photo: Mike Rios. Credit: Los Angeles Times

UCLA student attacked woman during fraternity party, police allege

A 20-year-old student UCLA student was arrested after allegedly strangling a female student during a party at a fraternity house early Friday, police said.

The incident took place at 2:30 a.m. at the Theta Chi fraternity house on Gayley Avenue, authorities said.

Police allege that Paul Meyer, who lives at the house, attacked a woman who was attending the party.

KTLA News reported that Meyer and the woman knew each other, but the extent of their relationship was not disclosed.

The woman was taken to a hospital and released.

UCLA police told the Daily Bruin that Meyer was being questioned Friday by detectives and that he would be transferred to an Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department facility this weekend.

City News Service reported he was set to be arraigned in court Tuesday and was being held on $100,000 bail.

-- KTLA and a Times staff writer


Former coach pleads guilty to molesting boy

A former sports coach and teacher's aide pleaded guilty Friday to molesting a boy and could face nearly 30 years in prison.

Jorge Luis Dominguez, 26, met the boy when he was a sports coach at Los Angeles Academy of Arts & Enterprise, authorities said. According to a statement from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, Dominguez began molesting the then-12-year-old boy in June 2009 and continued to do so until he was arrested on May 17, 2012.

At the time of his arrest, Dominguez was a teacher's aide at Gratts Learning Academy, according to the district attorney's office.

On Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Dominguez pleaded guilty to one felony count of possession of child pornography and 10 felony counts of lewd acts with a child, authorities said.

He is scheduled to be sentenced May 9.

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

L.A. County sheriff's deputy charged with beating girlfriend

Lion attack: Woman's wounds a 'merciful way to go,' coroner says

-- Ari Bloomekatz

Former official with San Diego County Indian tribe admits embezzling $57,000

A former official with the La Posta Band of Mission Indians in San Diego County pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to embezzling $57,000 from the tribe.

Troy Teague,  38, of El Cajon, was executive  director of the La Posta Gaming Commission from 2006 to 2011, responsible for maintaining the commission's financial records and making payments on commission credit cards and a checking account.

Although he knew that he could not use commission funds for personal expenses, he used a credit card and the checking account to pay for membership in a gun club, Home Depot charges, car audio/video components, vacation expenses, restaurant bills, car rentals and entertaining at a comedy club, according to federal prosecutors.

Teague faces a possible five years in prison when sentenced. He pleaded guilty guilty to embezzlement and theft. The tribe's casino, near the community of Boulevard, closed last year.

--Tony Perry in San Diego

 

O.C. gang member who gunned down dealer for drugs found guilty

An Orange County gang member has been convicted of gunning down a drug dealer in a plot to steal his drugs, prosecutors said Friday.

Joseph Baez, 28, was found guilty by a jury on Thursday of second-degree murder with sentencing enhancements for his ties to a street gang, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney's office.

Prosecutors also noted that Baez, a resident of Orange, has a 2008 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. He faces a maximum sentence of 85 years to life in state prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in June.

On Jan. 3, 2010, prosecutors said that Baez -- along with Robert Reil and Christian Galindo -- plotted to steal drugs from a dealer named Bernal Ezquivel Felix. A fellow gang member, Amour Villamar, was asked to arrange a meeting in Orange for that night.

About 11 p.m., prosecutors said they left for the meeting, with Baez and Reil carrying firearms. They pulled over in a residential area on Oak Street, in Orange, where Baez and Reil waited out of sight as Felix approached in a white sedan. Villamar got out of the sport-utility vehicle they rode in together and got into the back seat of Felix's car, according to prosecutors, under the pretense of buying drugs.

Then, prosecutors said, Baez sneaked up to the driver's window and shot him through the window, killing him. The car was still moving and stopped after it struck a parked car. Villamar left Felix's car empty-handed, and they all fled the scene.

Reil, 33, was found guilty by a jury a year ago of felony counts including first-degree murder during the commission of a robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and street terrorism. He was sentenced in May to 50 years to life in state prison.

Galindo, who drove the getaway car, pleaded guilty in 2011 to one felony count each of voluntary manslaughter and being an active participant in a criminal street gang. Galindo, 27, was sentenced to 12 years and four months in state prison.

Villamar, 33, is charged with one felony count of first-degree murder during the commission of a robbery, with sentencing enhancement for connections to a criminal street gang. She has two prior convictions: possession of methamphetamine for sale in 2004 and for the unlawful taking of a car in 2009.

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

L.A. County sheriff's deputy charged with beating girlfriend

Lion attack: Woman's wounds a 'merciful way to go,' coroner says

 -- Rick Rojas


Lion killed woman by accident, family believes

The lion that killed a 24-year-old intern at a Fresno County wild cat park probably killed the woman by accident, her family said.

Diana Hanson's family said that to their knowledge all safety rules were followed.

"It sounds like it was an accident, maybe the latch had not been completely closed. ... You know, house cats are smart, they can open doors," her brother Paul Hanson told the Associated Press. "It wasn't a vicious attack ... because you would expect severe lacerations and biting on the neck and that was not the case."


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/03/08/4109200/family-death-of-woman-in-lion.html#storylink=cpy
 Fresno County Coroner David Hadden said Hanson's body was found in a larger enclosure that the intern had been cleaning. The lion --  a 4-year-old male named Cous Cous -- had just been fed in a smaller enclosure and somehow "escaped," Hadden said.

Dale Anderson, the founder of Project Survival's Cat Haven, declined to answer questions about how the attack happened when he toured the Dunlap facility with reporters Thursday. But a close look at the enclosure showed that the den where the lion was being fed was separated from the larger enclosure by a heavy gate that could only be lifted up.

During the attack, officials said, another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, to no avail. Sheriff's deputies arrived and fatally shot the animal. By the time rescuers reached Hanson, she was mortally wounded.

A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and "some suffocation," Hadden said. The neck injury appeared to come from a swipe from the lion's paw. The body had "numerous claw marks and bite damage" elsewhere, probably  inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.

An investigation into the incident by the Fresno County Sheriff's Department and other agencies is ongoing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking into whether there might have been any violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, although a spokesman said the last 10 federal inspections of the park found no violations and no penalties or enforcement actions issued.

Cal/OSHA investigators were at the park Wednesday and requested more information about employee procedures and training, said Peter Melton, an agency spokesman.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to examine samples taken from the lion, looking for any underlying conditions or health issues that might have contributed to the attack, said Janice Mackey, a department spokeswoman. Results were expected in the coming weeks.

Project Survival's Cat Haven houses lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars in enclosures on a boulder-strewn hillside about half a mile off the main road to Kings Canyon National Park. The nonprofit sanctuary, which raises money for conservation causes, gets about 10,000 visitors a year. According to the organization's website, Cat Haven raises big cats and "promotes the conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitat by educating visitors."

For Hanson, getting an internship at the 100-acre park was the culmination of a lifelong love of big cats, friends and family members said.

As a young girl, she drew pictures of tigers and told people she wanted to be a "pet store lady" or zookeeper. After graduating from college, she moved to Kenya to work at a wildlife conservancy. Then on Jan. 1, the 24-year-old and her father drove from Washington to Dunlap,  where Hanson began a six-month internship at Cat Haven.

"She was living her dream," said her older brother, Paul Hanson. "She was living her destiny as far as being able to work with those animals. That was what she wanted in life."

The park will be closed for the length of the investigation, authorities said. Officials there were shaken by the events.

"She was doing what she loved, and she did it with joy every day that she worked here," park President Wendy Dabbas said Thursday night, breaking into sobs. "I'm so sorry that this happened."

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

Scattered showers, thunderstorms expected across Southland

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

-- Kate Mather in Los Angeles and Diana Marcum in Dunlap

Movie theater robber who left no fingerprints gets 7 years prison

A robber who impersonated a police officer to hold up a Buena Park movie theater in 2008 was careful to wear latex gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints. But what Fernando Manuel Ruiz didn't realize was that he left DNA on the gloves he left behind.

And that mistake led to him getting sentenced this week to seven years in state prison, authorities said.

With law enforcement across Orange County now turning to DNA to solve crimes, Buena Park police submitted a sample to the county's DNA database.

In August 2010, Ruiz  submitted a DNA sample for a misdemeanor violation for false registration of a vehicle. A month later, he was linked through his DNA to the armed robbery at the movie theater and was arrested by Buena Park police and investigators with the Orange County district attorney's office.

Ruiz was convicted last October of second-degree robbery and false imprisonment by violence or deceit with sentencing enhancements for being armed with a deadly weapon and impersonating a peace officer.

In 2008, he entered the Krikorian Buena Park Metroplex 18 movie complex armed with a gun. According to prosecutors, Ruiz approached the manager and, identifying himself as a Buena Park Police Department detective, claimed to be investigating another robbery.

Ruiz sought access to the safe to check the serial numbers on the money.

He entered the manager’s office, looked at the serial numbers and then made several cellphone calls before pointing a weapon at the manager and tying him up with a telephone cord.

  A female employee entered the office, and Ruiz tied her hands behind her back using a computer mouse cord. He then stole $7,000 in cash from the safe and fled.

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

L.A. County sheriff's deputy charged with beating girlfriend

Lion attack: Woman's wounds a 'merciful way to go,' coroner says

-- Richard Winton

Moreno Valley school board member gets 14 years in pimping case

Mike Rios, a Moreno Valley School Board member convicted of running a prostitution ring, was sentenced to 14 years in state prison.A Moreno Valley School Board member convicted of running a prostitution ring was sentenced Friday to 14 years in state prison.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gary Tranbarger brushed aside a request by Mike Rios’ defense attorney to limit the sentence to four years in prison, or probation.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Brusselback said Rios' actions and his lack of remorse called for a stiff prison sentence.

"Given his position on the school board, the crimes he committed are a breach of the public trust of the highest order," Brusselback said.

The prosecutor said Rios continues to claim that he did nothing wrong and that he was the victim of a political vendetta, an assertion Brusselback described as a "warped sense of reality."

Rios, shackled and dressed in a bright orange jail outfit, showed little emotion as the judge read the sentence in a Riverside courtroom.

In February, a jury convicted Rios, a member of the school board since 2010, of 23 felony charges, including a dozen counts of pimping, five counts of pandering and six counts of insurance fraud.

During the trial, young women testified that Rios ran a prostitution ring in 2011 and 2012. One of the women told the jury Rios approached her on the street with a school district business card in his hand and a job opportunity on his mind: He wanted her "to gather girls and sell them," she said.

The young woman, identified in court only as Valery, testified that she and others worked as prostitutes for Rios. In addition, she said, she helped recruit other young women for him.

"He told me we had to get the best-looking girls so we could get more money for them," she said.

Prosecutors said Rios ran a prostitution ring out of his Moreno Valley home, that he acted as a pimp for three adult female prostitutes and that he tried to recruit another adult woman and two minors. Rios recruited women, took provocative photos of them in his home and posted the photos in online ads, they said.

Deputy Public Defender Michael J. Micallef argued that Rios ran a business involving women stripping, dancing and performing for money but that it "had nothing to do with sex."

Micallef said Rios plans to appeal the conviction.

ALSO:

Small fire damages Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley

L.A. County sheriff's deputy charged with beating girlfriend

Woman accused of selling fake Disneyland tickets on Craigslist

-- Phil Willon in Riverside

Photo: Mike Rios. Source: Moreno Valley Unified School District

 

Lion attack: Woman’s wounds a ‘merciful way to go,’ coroner says

The Fresno County coroner said the 24-year-old intern killed by a lion earlier this week died quickly and in a "merciful" way.

Details into the death of Dianna Hanson on Wednesday are sparse, but Fresno County Coroner David Hadden told The Times the woman's body was found in a large enclosure that the intern had been cleaning. The lion --  a 4-year-old male named Cous Cous -- had just been fed in a smaller enclosure and somehow "escaped," Hadden said.

"It was a merciful way to go," added Hadden in an interview with the Fresno Bee.

A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died from a fractured neck and "some suffocation," Hadden said. The neck injury appeared to come from a swipe from the lion's paw. The body had "numerous claw marks and bite damage" elsewhere, likely inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden told The Times.


Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2013/03/07/3202894/autopsy-shows-numerous-bites-scratches.html#storylink=cpy

Dale Anderson, the founder of Project Survival's Cat Haven, declined to answer questions about how the attack happened when he toured the Dunlap facility with reporters Thursday. But a close look at the enclosure showed that the den where the lion was being fed was separated from the larger enclosure by a heavy gate that could only be lifted up.

During the attack, officials said, another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, to no avail. Sheriff's deputies arrived and fatally shot the animal. By the time rescuers reached Hanson, she was mortally wounded.

 An investigation into the incident by the Fresno County Sheriff's Department and other agencies is ongoing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking into whether there might have been any violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, although a spokesman said the last 10 federal inspections of the park found no violations and no penalties or enforcement actions issued.

Cal/OSHA investigators were at the park Wednesday and requested more information about employee procedures and training, said Peter Melton, an agency spokesman.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to examine samples taken from the lion, looking for any underlying conditions or health issues that might have contributed to the attack, said Janice Mackey, a department spokeswoman. Results were expected in the coming weeks.

Project Survival's Cat Haven houses lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars in enclosures on a boulder-strewn hillside about half a mile off the main road to Kings Canyon National Park. The nonprofit sanctuary, which raises money for conservation causes, gets about 10,000 visitors a year. According to the organization's website, Cat Haven raises big cats and "promotes the conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitat by educating visitors."

For Hanson, getting an internship at the approximately 100-acre park was the culmination of a lifelong love of big cats, according to friends and family members.

As a young girl, she drew pictures of tigers and told people she wanted to be a "pet store lady" or zookeeper. After graduating from college, she moved to Kenya to work at a wildlife conservancy. Then on Jan. 1, the 24-year-old and her father drove from Washington to Dunlap, where Hanson began a six-month internship at Cat Haven.

"She was living her dream," said her older brother, Paul Hanson. "She was living her destiny as far as being able to work with those animals. That was what she wanted in life."

The park will be closed for the length of the investigation, authorities said. Officials there were shaken by the events.

"She was doing what she loved, and she did it with joy every day that she worked here," park President Wendy Dabbas said Thursday night, breaking into sobs. "I'm so sorry that this happened."

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

Scattered showers, thunderstorms expected across Southland

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

-- Kate Mather in Los Angeles and Diana Marcum in Dunlap

Judge refuses to lower bail for doctor charged with murder

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge on Friday denied a defense request to lower the $3 million bail for a Rowland Heights physician charged with second-degree murder in the overdose deaths of three patients.

Lisa Tseng has been in jail for a year awaiting trial on charges that she recklessly prescribed powerful painkillers to young patients seeking to abuse drugs.

In a 23-page bail motion, Tseng's attorneys described the effects of Tseng's incarceration on her sons, one of whom started elementary school while his mother was in the county's lockup. When Tseng was arrested March 1, 2012, her sons, ages 6 and 9, thought she "had taken a short trip to China on work-related matters. They believe that she is still in China," according to the bail motion.

Judge George G. Lomeli said that "although it is a very sad situation," the charges against Tseng are serious, that three young men were dead and that her bail was appropriate.

Tseng's attorney, Tracy Green, said the bail is "very high" and that the case will take a "long time to try." Tseng, she said, is not a threat to the public because she surrendered her medical license. 

Tseng's case is the first time the Los Angeles County district attorney's office has sought murder charges in connection with a physician's prescribing practices. Tseng is charged in connection with the deaths of Joey Rovero, 21, an Arizona State University student who died in San Ramon, Calif.; Vu Nguyen, 28, of Lake Forest; and Steven Ogle, 24, of Palm Desert.

ALSO:

Woman found dead at beach had recently given birth

Armed standoff in Watts leaves 2 dead, 1 critically wounded

$1 million in marijuana found at Vandenberg base was camouflaged

-- Hailey Branson-Potts

twitter.com/haileybranson

 

L.A. County sheriff’s deputy charged with beating girlfriend

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy has been charged with repeatedly assaulting a woman after she discovered on Christmas Day that he was involved with another woman, Orange County prosecutors said Friday.

Mark Eric Hibner, 44, of Anaheim, is charged with three felony counts of domestic battery with corporal injury and one felony count of criminal threats involving his now former longtime girlfriend. He is also charged with threatening to kill another woman, with whom he had previously had children, prosecutors said. 

He is expected to be arraigned Friday morning in Fullerton. He was arrested Dec. 30 by Anaheim police after a series of alleged attacks. He has been relieved of duty without pay, said L.A. County sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Hibner got into an argument with the alleged victim on Christmas Day after she discovered a "sexually suggestive voicemail from another woman on the defendant’s cellphone," according to prosecutors. The alleged victim then contacted the woman, who confirmed she was having a sexual relationship with the deputy, prosecutors said.

The 22-year veteran of the L.A. County Sheriff's Department is accused of escalating the argument by grabbing the woman's hair and spitting and throwing a lighted cigarette at her while also punching her in the chest, according to prosecutors.

Hibner is also accused of attacking the victim again on Dec. 29, prosecutors say, when he allegedly grabbed her by the hair, pulling it side to side and calling her derogatory names.

He then allegedly pushed her onto the bed, straddled her, pinned her down with his knees on her shoulders and covered her mouth with his hand. He is also accused by prosecutors of repeatedly threatening to kill her.

The alleged assaults continued the next day. Prosecutors allege that Hibner, after waking the victim and dragging her to the living room by her hair, began choking her with his forearm across her throat.

The victim began crying, begging the deputy to stop and banging her foot on the floor to wake the neighbors. Hibner is accused by prosecutors of then trying to cover her mouth, pinching her nose and threatening to make her pass out before spitting on her and throwing a lighted cigarette at her.

Hibner on Feb. 19 met the mother of his children for a child visitation exchange, prosecutors said, and threatened to kill her if she appeared in court at a hearing scheduled for two days later. The hearing concerned a protective order for the crimes against his first alleged victim, according to prosecutors.

ALSO:

Small fire damages Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley

Lion attack: Cat 'escaped' into larger cage where intern killed

$1 million in marijuana found at Vandenberg base was camouflaged

-- Richard Winton 

Conservative activist James O’Keefe ‘regrets any pain’ to ACORN worker

Conservative activist James O'Keefe will pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former employee of the group ACORN, according to court records.

As part of the settlement, O'Keefe says he "regrets any pain" suffered by Juan Carlos Vera, who was interviewed by O'Keefe and an associate in ACORN's office in National City, Calif., near the U.S.-Mexico border, on Aug. 18, 2009.

The video, aired repeatedly on television, appears to show that Vera was willing to help O'Keefe smuggle underage girls into the U.S. to act as prostitutes. O'Keefe and his associate, Hannah Giles, had gone to the ACORN office without an invitation.

News of the agreement was first reported by Wonkette.

In the settlement, O'Keefe says that before the video was shown on TV or posted on the Web, he was unaware of Vera's assertion that he had called the police to report O'Keefe and Giles for proposing an illegal act.

Vera's lawsuit was filed by Eugene Iredale, one of San Diego's top criminal defense and civil rights attorneys. The lawsuit was filed on the assertion that O'Keefe broke a state law prohibiting the surreptitious recording of someone's voice and image.

But O'Keefe's attorney, Michael Madigan from a Los Angeles firm, called the $100,000 payment a "nuisance settlement" and said that O'Keefe "has a full career ahead as a talented investigative journalist."

O'Keefe's actions in the National City incident, and in similar videos elsewhere, were celebrated by some commentators for supposedly showing the hypocrisy of ACORN and the left-leaning political bias at National Public Radio, where O'Keefe masqueraded as a Muslim political operative seeking agreement that "tea party" supporters are racist and xenophobic.

But some journalists blasted O'Keefe for underhanded tactics and acting as an agent provocateur rather than as a reporter.

A report in 2010 by the office of the California attorney general said that O'Keefe and Giles were given immunity from prosecution when they agreed to provide complete and unedited copies of videos made in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and National City.

ACORN employees "may be able to bring a private suit against O'Keefe and Giles for recording a confidential conversation," according to the report, completed while now-Gov. Jerry Brown was attorney general. Brown had been asked to investigate by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Among O'Keefe's deceptions, the report said, was that in the videos he is shown wearing "stereotypical 1970s pimp garb" but that when he visited the ACORN offices, he was wearing a suit and tie.

--Tony Perry

Woman accused of selling fake Disneyland tickets on Craigslist

YenokyanA Hollywood woman has been arrested on suspicion of selling bogus Disneyland tickets on Craigslist to at least half a dozen families.

Some of the families didn't learn of the scheme until being turned away at the theme park's gates, police said.

The woman, Alisa Yenokyan, 22, was arrested about 6 p.m. Wednesday after she met officers posing as potential Disneyland ticket buyers at Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue in Los Angeles, said Glendale police Det. Jonathan Owen.

The officers responded to one of her Craigslist ads and offered to buy two adult and two child tickets for $50 each, he said.

“I think this type of crime hits home with a lot of our victims,” Owen said, adding that some victims indicated that they would remember the scam “for the rest of their lives.”

Yenokyan allegedly possessed 20 additional Disneyland e-tickets, along with ledgers that included the number of tickets sold and phone numbers of victims, police said.

Detectives also discovered hundreds of text messages on her cellphone from potential ticket purchasers, Owen added.

Yenokyan reportedly claimed she bought the tickets from an unknown man and made copies of them to resell on Craigslist because “she can't find a job and needed money to survive,” Owen said.

Yenokyan allegedly conned families out of thousands of dollars for several years by selling the fake Disneyland tickets out of her previous apartment in Glendale, Owen said. 

Among her more recent alleged victims is Compton resident Jesus Vaca, 24, who said he paid Yenokyan $500 a year ago this month for 10 tickets that turned out to be bogus.

He had saved up money and planned to take his niece to the theme park for her birthday.

“That really hurt me. It upset me a lot,” Vaca said.

Yenokyan had presented him with e-tickets, a copy of her driver's license and cellphone number to demonstrate the tickets were legitimate, Vaca said.

It wasn't until he and his girlfriend drove home that Vaca said they noticed the tickets appeared to be altered. They tried calling her, but she didn't pick up. And soon after, they said they found that Yenokyan had allegedly posted a different ad with the same phone number.

He decided to set up a sting involving his friend who contacted her and posed as a buyer interested in six tickets.

Vaca, his uncle and girlfriend went along with his friend to meet Yenokyan in Glendale to buy the tickets. As his friend and Yenokyan met, Vaca video recorded the alleged incident and confronted her.

But he said she quickly ran inside the gated apartment building and urged them not to trespass.

Yenokyan was eventually arrested on suspicion of identity theft, grand theft and making threats, Owen said.

Vaca reported the incident to police and gave them the video recording.

Despite Vaca's setback, he said he still took his niece and family to Disneyland, setting him back even more money. He was forced to dig into his savings and put some other expenses on hold.

“Five hundred dollars is a lot of money,” Vaca said.

Anyone who may have purchased bogus tickets from Yenokyan is asked to call the police department's Financial Crimes Unit at (818) 548-3101.

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S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

Armed standoff in Watts leaves 2 dead, 1 critically wounded

Lion attack: Cat 'escaped' into larger cage where intern killed

— Veronica Rocha, Times Community News

Follow Veronica Rocha on Google+ and on Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA.

Photo: Alisa Yenokyan. Credit: Glendale Police Department.

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

A bicyclist who killed an elderly pedestrian while racing through a busy San Francisco intersection nearly a year ago, igniting debate about who owns open space in the famously congested city, will be tried for felony gross vehicular manslaughter.

Superior Court Judge Andrew Y.S. Cheng ruled Thursday that Chris Bucchere, 36, should face the felony charge, believed to be a rarity for a bicycle collision that resulted in a death.

If convicted, Bucchere could face a maximum of six years in prison.

Sutchi Hui, a 71-year-old San Francisco resident, was walking with his wife through the busy intersection of Castro and Market streets when he was hit by Bucchere in March 2012. He died of his injuries four days later at San Francisco General Hospital.

Ted Cassman, Bucchere's attorney, argued during the preliminary hearing that the charge should be reduced to a misdemeanor. He could not be reached for comment on the judge's ruling.

"Court testimony indicated that [Bucchere] was going at least 30 mph and that he ran two red lights and a stop sign prior to going through the intersection where the collision occurred," said San Francisco Assistant Dist. Atty. Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office.

"Today the judge reaffirmed our decision to charge this case as a felony," said Dist. Atty. George Gascon. "I hope this case serves as a reminder to all that there are life-altering consequences to not following the rules of the road."

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Woman found dead in sand faced prostitution charges

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L.A. tax hike popular in South L.A., unpopular many other places

-- Maria L. LaGanga in San Francisco

Lion broke woman’s neck with paw, coroner says

The woman killed in a lion attack at a Fresno conservancy appears to have died after the big cat snapped her neck, coroner's officials said.

Dianna Hanson was killed at the park Wednesday, when a 4-year-old male lion named Cous Cous attacked her. Another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, but by the time authorities reached her, she was dead. The cat was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies.

A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and “some suffocation,” said Fresno County Coroner David Hadden. The neck injury appeared to have come from a swipe of the lion’s paw. The body had “numerous claw marks and bite damage” elsewhere, probably inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.

Authorities on Thursday continued investigating the circumstances of the attack. Hanson and one other volunteer were alone on the roughly 100-acre park when the attack occurred about 12:30 p.m., officials said. Friends of the workers said the routine was to feed the cats about noon, typically by putting food in a small enclosure, getting out and then letting the animals inside from a larger enclosure.

Officials have not specified the details of the incident, including whether the lion was in the larger enclosure or the feeding area.

But Hadden said Hanson’s body was found in the larger enclosure and it was his understanding that the lion had just been fed in the smaller enclosure when it “escaped.”

A necropsy on the lion was also scheduled to be performed Thursday, said Janice Mackey, a spokeswoman for California Fish and Wildlife. Officials were to collect samples from the lion, looking for any underlying conditions or health issues that might have contributed to the attack. Results are expected in a couple of weeks.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking into whether there might have been any violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. Cal/OSHA investigators were at the park Wednesday and requested more information about employee procedures and training, said Peter Melton, an agency spokesman.

The last 10 federal inspections of the park found no violations, and a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said no penalties or enforcement actions had ever been issued.

At a brief news conference Thursday outside the park’s gates, sanctuary founder Dale Anderson said Cat Haven had been “incident-free” since 1998.

“Our whole staff...,” he said, fighting back tears. “It’s devastating.”

Project Survival's Cat Haven houses lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars in enclosures on a boulder-strewn hillside about half a mile off the main road to Kings Canyon National Park. The nonprofit sanctuary, which raises money for conservation causes, gets about 10,000 visitors a year. According to the organization’s website, Cat Haven is not a rescue facility for unwanted big cats. Rather, the group raises big cats and “promotes the conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitat by educating visitors.”


Cous Cous, who was raised at the park since he was 8 weeks old, was one of Hanson’s favorite animals, her father reportedly wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday. Hanson had apparently shown her father the lion when he helped her move to Dunlap, Calif., in January.

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No charges against adult center staffer who refused to do CPR

-- Kate Mather and Diana Marcum

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

Marijuana
Authorities have confirmed that a large amount of marijuana with an estimated value of at least $1 million was discovered Thursday near a boat that had crashed on a beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base.

According to a statement from Vandenberg officials, the marijuana was found near an overturned boat north of Wall Beach and was removed by Homeland Security investigators, who assumed control of the investigation about 5:40 p.m.  

Authorities were developing a plan to remove the boat, fuel and outboard motor, the statement said.

It was not immediately clear if anyone had been injured or arrested in the incident.

Before the arrival of Homeland Security investigators, Vandenberg officials said they were continuing to  "search for potential suspects.” Base personnel were told to avoid the area and contact base security right away if they see suspicious people or activity, officials said.

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Woman found dead in sand faced prostitution charges

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L.A. tax hike popular in South L.A., unpopular many other places

-- Ann M. Simmons and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: A marijuana plant is grown in the closet of a Southern California home. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

O.C. foster parent charged in sex assault of girls in his home

A Santa Ana foster parent has been charged with sexually assaulting three girls who lived in his home, who were 9, 11 and 15 at the time of the alleged crimes, authorities said Thursday.

Felipe Hernandez, 66, has been charged with multiple felony counts related to the rape and molestation of the minors. If convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 65 years in state prison and have to register as a lifetime sex offender, according to a joint statement from the Orange County district attorney's office and the Santa Ana Police Department.

Hernandez is being held on $1-million bail and is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

Authorities said that between Feb. 1, 2006, and March 31, 2006, Hernandez allegedly used force to rape and molest a 9-year-old girl.

Between Jan. 1, 2009, and Aug. 21 of last year, Hernandez is accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. Authorities said Hernandez allegedly told the 15-year-old that he would not give her money and threatened to take away her cellphone and laptop if she did not comply.

Then, between Dec. 6, 2006, and Aug. 21, he is accused of raping an 11-year-old girl several times.

The investigation began after a family member of Hernandez discovered a memory card that allegedly contained a video of him inappropriately touching the 15-year-old girl, and the family reported it to Santa Ana police.

Authorities said the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Supervising Dist. Atty. Investigator Anthony Sosnowski at (714) 347-8794 or Det. Ed Zaragoza of the Santa Ana Police Department at (714) 245-8386.

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Lion attack: Intern likely died from paw swipe to neck

Boat with drugs crashes on beach near Vandenberg AFB 

Death of woman found on beach still a mystery, police say

-- Rick Rojas in Orange County