October 2012 Archives

Today's Quote

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"If you ask me anything I don't know, I'm not going to answer." -- Yogi Berra

In Other Courtrooms Throughout the Nation

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SAN JOSE, CA-- A man who admitted to selling unauthorized copies of movies, including "Cars 2," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," and "X-Men," was sentenced today to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay $200,200 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Ricardo Blanco, 28, was ordered to forfeit 20,750 counterfeit movies, $53,115 in cash and all equipment used to manufacture the unauthorized movies, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Blanco also admitted that he manufactured thousands of unauthorized copies of movies to sell in his store and hired several individuals to make copies of the movies in a room at a residence located on South King Road in San Jose. The employees transported movies to Mia's Fashions. One employee worked as a security guard and cashier at the store, federal officials stated.

The items were seized from Mia's Fashions and a residence located on South King Road in San Jose. Restitution will be paid to the Motion Picture Association of America, according to federal officials.

The prosecution is the result of a one-year investigation by the FBI.


SAN JOSE, CA-- Fu Tain Lu, of Cupertino, California, was sent to prison today for 15 months for selling microwave amplifiers, used primarily in communications and radar, to China, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Lu, 65, was the owner and founder of Fushine Technology Inc, a corporation.

Fushine had a sales representative agreement with Miteq Components Inc., a New York-based manufacturer of microwave and satellite communications components and subsystems.

In a press release, the Acting Special Agent in Charge Joel Moss of the FBI San Francisco Division said: "This case is an example of our determination to combat the transfer of sensitive U.S. technology that have national security implications and our commitment to a fair and secure commercial arena."


COLUMBIA, S.C.-- A former Colleton County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant pleaded guilty today in federal court of having conversations with a known drug dealer and revealing law enforcement sensitive information to him about federal investigations taking place in Colleton County and then, lying about to the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office stated.

Fred Allen Inabinett, 30, of Walterboro, was terminated from his job shortly after he was charged, state federal officials.

Inabinett is facing up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000, state federal authorities.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office.




Today's Quote

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"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." -- Benjamin Franklin

Court Reporter's Notebook

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Murder For Hire Trial Underway at Ventura County Superior Cour

Pacoima businessman Barry Carlisi wanted Tom MacAllister dead. So,  Carlisi hired his pal who lived in a bus housed in an industrial space owned by Carlisi.

Carlisi even met with his friend and now hit man Ruben Szerlip twice at an IHop at Agoura Hills in June 2010 to discuss how to kidnap and kill MacAllister - Carlisi wanted MacAllister  kidnapped , his body dismembered and cut into five pieces, the body parts frozen, put into a freezer that would be weighed down with chains and dumped in the ocean.

What Carlisi didn't know was that Szerlip  was wearing a wire during those IHop meetings.

He had a change of heart about killing MacAllister. He called the District Attorney's Office using a fictitious name and was put through to an investigator who referred the case to the Ventura County Sheriff's detectives who launched an investigation.

That's what prosecutor Anne Spillner told jurors Tuesday during opening statements in Carlisi's trial in Courtroom 25.

The 65-year-old Szerlip who is in witness relocation program was given immunity in exchange for testifying against Carlisi, according to prosecutors.

Law Enforcement Search Carlisi's Property for Evidence

The 57-year-old Carlisi, who is not in custody, is on trial for conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to kidnap, solicitation to commit murder and possession of marijuana for sale.

Sheriff's detectives executing search warrants on Carlisi's home in Bell City and vehicle to gather evidence for the conspiracy charges found a marijuana grow farm inside Carlisi's Bell City house.

Spillner told jurors that Carlisi bragged that he has been growing marijuana for 20 years.

"The defendant said he makes a lot of money on this. It can be hard work but it is worth it," Spillner said Carlisi is heard saying.

They also found other things including a freezer, plastic sheeting, nylon stockings, an ice pick, gloves, photos of MacAllister's house and firearms. 

Also found was a so-called "Oh, Yeah" file with a photo of MacAllister's sister, e-mails from MacAllister, a Sap weapon, pepper spray and a receipt for a GPS tracking device that can be put underneath a vehicle to track it.

There was also a list of all the places where MacAllister shops, visits or banks along with his sister's address.

Spillner said Carlisi wanted MacAllister dead because he was going to a very "bitter and vicious" divorce and child custody dispute with Shannon Carlisi who is Carlisi's niece.

MacAllister testified Tuesday.

Carlisi Has Hired Three Attorneys to Represent Him at His Trial

For his part, Carlisi has hired three lawyers to represent him - two from  Los Angeles  John Hobson and Michael Levinsohn and one from New York City, Jennifer  Lee Barringer.

Hobson  told the juror this case is about "sex, lies and deception," saying that Szerlip had a "hidden agenda" and it wasn't to help MacAllister.  Hobson said Szerlip was having a "secret sexual relationship;" with Carlisi's wife.

Detectives immediately focused on Carlisi during the investigation and never bothered to look at Szerlip story, said Hobson.

"The evidence will show that this is a one sided investigation that has a two-sided crime," Hobson said.

He described Szerlip as a "government agent" who has been put on a witness relocation program and has been given $30,000 for helping law enforcement.

Hobson said Szerlip has convictions for theft and domestic violence and his agreement of immunity with prosecutors doesn't require him to be truthful or to tell the complete story.

Szerlip was well-coached and prepared when he was working with law enforcement, Hobson said.

He said Szerlip was pushing Carlisi to get the crimes done.

Adding that his client sat with his brother Wayne Carlisi  and told him that he feared Szerlip.


The Marijuana Grow Farm Charge

Carlisi's other attorney Levinsohn told jurors during opening statements that Carlisi was growing medical marijuana for medical purposes.  Levinsohn said Carlisi and his associate are qualified medical patients who use marijuana and grow their own marijuana,  Levinsoh

Levinsohn said Carlisi has never made any profit from growing marijuana and the defense will put an expert on the stand to testify about marijuana grow farms and medical marijuana laws.

The Victim Takes the Stand

MacAllister took the stand and testified about his marriage to Shannon Carlisi who was the granddaughter of Frank Carlisi. He and his wife Mary raised Shannon Carlisi.

Frank Carlisi is the father of Barry Carlisi, said MacAllister. He said Shannon Carlisi had two children by a previous marriage. He said he and Shannon Carlisi had a baby girl in December 2001.

MacAllister described his marriage to Shannon Carlisi and said they were separated and filed for divorce in 2005. He said the divorce was one of the "worst" he had ever experienced and said he had been married one other time.

MacAllister said he had a good relationship with Frank Carlisi up until the divorce and the fight for assets and custody of the couple's child began. He said Frank Carlisi , who is now deceased, was upset that he was never told about the divorce before it was filed.

He said Frank and Mary Carlisi helped the couple move from Oceanside to West Hills and gave them more than $500,000 as a down payment for a home at West Hills so Shannon Carlisi would be closer to her family.

MacAllister  told jurors that Shannon Carlisi took his prized comic book collection that he began when he was a 9-year-old child.  He said he was stuck with two mortgage payments on the Oceanside and West Hills houses because the Carlisis refuse to sign the legal papers so the houses can be sold.

MacAllister ended up losing the houses to foreclosures and later, Frank Carlisi bid on the foreclosed West Hills house.

Also he said Frank Carlisi filed a frivolous lawsuit against him in 2007, and it resulted in him using all his money for legal fees. He said he got his sister Linda who is a lawyer to give him free legal representation and in the end, he was representing himself.

In May 2010, MacAllister said he got a  $16,000 for legal fees because of the malicious lawsuit they filed.  He said he also got $42,000 in June 2010 to settle the divorce that included compensation for the comic books, a 1963 Buick and tools.

"Did you have to declare bankruptcy as a result of this divorce?" Spillner asked.

"Yes," he replied.

Under cross examination, MacAllister denied posting up fliers in February 2009 that stated, in part, "Frank Carlisi is dead."



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In Other Courtrooms Throughout the Nation

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ATLANTA--A 50-year-old woman was sentenced last week to more than three years in prison for embezzling $800,000 from the law firm where she worked as a legal secretary, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

 Francine Fonger, 50, of Marietta, used her position to carry out an embezzlement scheme that last more than a decade, state federal authorities.

She was ordered to repay the $832,890 she stole..

 "Employers can significantly decrease their likelihood of being victimized in embezzlement and other occupational fraud schemes by implementing a variety of anti-fraud controls, such as those suggested by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners," said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian in a press release.


ORLANDO, FL - A 23-year-old man was indicted by a federal grand jury last week for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft and is now facing up to five years in prison if convicted, state federal authorities.

Dimitry Maksimchuk allegedly shined a laser, during nighttime hours, into the cockpit of a Seminole County Sheriff's Office patrol helicopter, state federal officials.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 signed by President Obama in February makes it illegal to aim a beam of laser pointer at an aircraft.

The law was enacted in response to a growing number of incidents of pilots being distracted or even temporarily blinded by laser beams, state federal officials.


MEMPHIS, TN - A 31-year-old man was sentenced last week to 30 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to one count of producing child pornography for using a Blackberry to record videos of a minor under the age of 10 who was forced to engage in sexually explicit conduct, according to federal authorities.

John Vincent LaBuda, a long-haul truck driver, was being investigated by the El Paso Police Department for having inappropriate sexual contact with a teenage runaway in Texas, according to federal authorities.

The El Paso officers found the videos on his phone in January 2010 while they were investigating LaBuda on the inappropriate sexual contact allegation.

LaBuda also pleaded guilty to the crimes related to the case in El Paso.


Court Reporter's Notebook

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Simi Valley Man Held to Answer in The Death of His Live-In Girlfriend

The victim's 15-year-old daughter came home and found her mother's badly beaten and bloody body on the bed, and her five-year-old step brother was missing along with her stepfather, according to a Simi Valley detective.

Detective Keith Eisenhour testified today during a preliminary hearing  for the girl's stepfather Jose Escobar Monterrozo who is accused of killing the girl's mother Claudia Menjivar, 33.

The couple lived together at a house where the slaying took place that is located in the 2100 block of Lupin Street in Simi Valley on Jan. 25.  The 5-year-old boy was the couple's son and the girl was Minjivar's daughter, according to court testimony.

The 36-year-old Escobar Monterrozo  is charged with murder and using a weapon, a club.

Attorney Justin Tuttle who is with the Public Defender's Office argued in court that this is a "classic" voluntary manslaughter case, saying that the slaying was committed in the heat of passion. He said his client was a peaceful and quiet man who snapped after the victim who demeaned and poked fun of him and kept seeing Alex Mendez.

 "The pain is building and building and building," said Tuttle.

Prosecutor Rameen Minoui told the judge that there was no surprise about Menjivar's affair, and the defendant had known that Mendez was having an affair with his wife.  The defendant told  Eisenhour and a family friend that if he couldn't have Menjivar nobody else could either.

Escobar Monterrozo probably told Menjivar  that as he "struck her over and over again," Minoui told the judge.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Matthew Gausco ruled that there was sufficient evidence to hold Escobar Monterrozo, for trial on murder charges.

Only two prosecution witnesses,  Eisenhour and Dr. Ronald Halloran, the county's former chief medical examiner, testified during  the entire hearing.

Most of today's testimony was given by Eisenhour who described the violent and bloody crime scene where brain matter was found on the floor as a result of multiple blows to the back of the head with a car steering wheel lock

Eisenhour told the court that Escobar Monterrozo told him that Menjivar struck him in the bridge of the nose with the lock.  He took it away and began repeatedly striking her with it, telling Eisenhour she posed a threat to him after he grabbed the weapon, according to Eisenhour.

The five-year-old was in another room yelling "mommy, mommy" but his mother was dead by that time, according to Eisenhour.

"If she wasn't going to be with him, she wasn't going to be with anyone," Eisenhour said Escobar Monterrozo told him.

Escobar Monterrozo left with the child after he killed Menjivar.  A short time later, the boy was dropped off at a neighbor's house after Escobar Monterrozo bought him a toy. Escobar Monterrozo was arrested around  7:20 p.m. after he was spotted by an officer.

During cross examination, Tuttle questioned the detective about the relationship between Minjivar and her lover Alex Mendez who lived in Maryland.  The two knew each other when they were young and lived in El Salvador, and she contacted him through Facebook in February 2011.

Eisenhour gave details of Menjivar's secret rendezvous with Mendez including trips to Universal Studios when he flew into Los Angeles on August  2011.  Eisenhour said Menjivar also spent Christmas with Mendez in Las Vegas in 2011, and her 15-year-old daughter who was in Ventura County tracked them down through her cell phone using a GPS program. 

On numerous times, Escobar Monterrozo confronted his wife about the affair and even called Mendez dozens of times to get him to stop, according to Eisenhour.   

Eisenhour  said the victim's daughter blamed Mendez for her mother's death.

Ronald O'Halloran, who was the county's chief medical examiner, testified that the victim had multiple blows to the back of the head along with a number of lacerations, bruises and abrasions throughout her body.

"In the vicinity of 10 (blows),  is my best estimate," said O'Halloran.




Thought You'd Like to Know

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In Two States a Criminal Defendant Can be Convicted With Less Than 12 Jury Votes

People have always taken the position that a jury in a criminal case has to have a unanimous vote of 12 jurors to get a conviction.


But that is not true: Oregon allows 10 to 2 votes and Louisiana allows votes of 9 to 3 to convict in a criminal case.


The whole idea of 12 jurors dates back to the 1300s.


But the U.S. Supreme Court in two 1972 cases -- Apodaca vs. Oregon and the Johnson vs  Louisiana cases - the court considered the constitutionality of these two states laws.


The justices in a 5 to 4 voted to uphold Oregon's and Louisiana's laws. So in two of the 50 states, a less than unanimous vote can result in a conviction.


In 1979, the Supreme Court revisited the jury size in the Burch vs. Louisiana case.


The court found that criminal convictions of 5 to 1 votes by a six-person jury violated the Sixth Amendment. If a jury is to be as small as six, the Supreme Court said, the verdict has to be unanimous.


For more information go to the source: University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law website: 





L.A. Customs Supervisor Arrested for Allegedly Taking Bribes

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LOS ANGELES - Federal authorities arrested a U.S. Customs and Border Protection supervisor on charges that he was accepting bribes to allow others, including his ex-wife, to smuggle goods into the United States so they could avoid paying duties and taxes, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Sam Herbert Allen, 51, of Diamond Bar, was arrested Wednesday after being indicted by a grand jury, federal officials allege.

During the time of the scheme, which officials claim occurred from September 2009 to March 2010, Allen allegedly received more than $100,000 as bribe payments.

Officials stated that Allen's alleged scheme cost the U.S. government to suffer a loss of at least $781,632 in unpaid customs duties and taxes.

Allen is accused of lying to investigators when he denied discussing a separate scheme to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. from Mexico, according to federal officials.

Allen's ex-wife Wei Lai was charged with crimes related to her role in the smuggling scheme in July 2011, federal officials stated.

She has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled to go to trial with another defendant in February, federal officials stated.

The Court Reporter's Notebook

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Key Prosecution Witness' Entire Testimony Tossed Out After She Takes the Stand in Burglary Trial

Closing arguments begin Thursday morning in Courtroom 41 in the trial of a man accused of burglarizing a yogurt business in Ventura, in a case where the testimony of a key prosecution witness was tossed out after she took the stand.

The witness Bana Pashalidis let it slip out on Wednesday while under cross examination by a defense attorney Paul  Drevenstedt  that she met the defendant Johnny Katrakazos last year after he was released from prison.

By law, jurors aren't allowed to hear a defendant's criminal history including prison sentences or past bad conduct unless these crimes can show a defendant's intent or motive.

The law states that this testimony can prejudice the jury.

Katrakazos is charged with commercial burglary, according to prosecutor Alvan Arzu.  If convicted, Katakazos is facing eight to 10 years in prison, said Arzu.

Officer David Webster testified that the defendant was arrested on July 2.

Katrakazos 's stepfather is Pashalids fiancée.  

Pashalids and Katrakazos' stepfather worked at a market and grill, which was two doors from the Tutti  Frutti Frozen Yogurt, the business  on Main Street in Ventura that was burglarized on June 27.

The burglary was caught on video but the images of the burglar are grainy, according to Ventura Police Officer Fabian Gutierrez.   

It shows the burglar breaking a window in the back of the yogurt store, grabbing the cash register drawer and driving away, according to court testimony.

Arzu said there was $200 stolen from the business.

In court, Pashalidis  said Johnny Katrakazos did some ceramic tile work for the market and grill which is owned by her daughter and son-in-law.

The owner of the  yogurt business, Mi Evarts, testified that she knew the owners of the market and grill business and saw Johnny Katrakazos working there. She said she hired him around April or May to work on the ventilation fan at her yogurt business.

Evarts said the defendant had been at the yogurt business six or seven times, including three or four times to buy yogurt.

 Both Pashalidis and Evarts identified Johnny Katrakazos as the person on the video.

But shortly after she started testifying,  Pashalidis said Johnny Katrakazos had been released from prison.

Immediately after she did so, the prosecutor asked for a recess and the judge agreed.

The jury left the courtroom.

A short time later and after much discussion by Judge Frederick Bysshee and the lawyers ,  Pashalidis said Arzu had told her not to say anything about Johnny Katrakazos' criminal past.

Drevenstedt  had told the judge that he wanted Pashalidis' entire testimony tossed out of court and that she no longer be allowed to testify.
"You can't un-ring the bell," Drevenstedt said about her prison remark.

Finding no wrongdoing on the part of lawyers, the judge decided that it was in the interest of justice along with avoiding an appeal based on error to strike all of her testimony and not allow her to continue testifying.

Pashalidis left the courtroom.

The judge told the lawyers that he might revisit the issue of a mistrial because of Pashalidis' testimony.

When Jurors returned, they were told that they weren't allowed to consider any of Pashalidis' testimony.   


Former Sheriff & Son Going to Prison for Beating Georgia Inmates

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GEORGIA  -  Former Sheriff  Stacy Bloodsworth, of Wilcox County, pleaded guilty Monday  to assaulting a jail inmate in 2009, and subsequently, conspiring to cover up the assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Bloodsworth, who was the acting sheriff, was upset about reports of a cell phone inside the jail.

The sheriff's son Austin Bloodsworth also pleaded guilty to kicking an inmate in the face multiple times when he was with his father at the jail, resulting in the inmate suffering a broken jaw.

Stacy Bloodsworth admitted to using a wrench to try and fix the inmate's broken jaw, federal officials stated.

 Austin Bloodsworth also admitted to lying to FBI agents and later, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to cover up the assault.

Three other defendants have also pleaded guilty to civil rights and obstruction of justice crimes in connection with the July 23, 2009 assault

"The Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute officers who cross the line and engage in criminal misconduct," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division.

On July 23, 2009 while he was acting sheriff, Stacy Bloodsworth was inside the Wilcox County jail with several people, including his son,  Willie James Caruthers, a county jail inmate trustee; Timothy King Jr., a Georgia Drug Task Force agent and Casey Owens, a Wilcox County jailer.

Stacy Bloodsworth ordered three inmates out of their cells because he was angry about reports that one of the inmates had a cell phone.  Stacy Bloodsworth hit all three inmates and watched other people strike the inmates, including his son, according to federal officials.

 After it appeared that his son had broken the inmate's jaw, Stacy Bloodsworth used a wrench in an attempt to put the inmate's broken jaw back into place, federal officials stated.

 A week later, the inmate was taken to a local hospital where his jaw had to be wired shut.

The other two inmates suffered lacerations, bruising and pain, federal authorities stated.

Stacy Bloodsworth admitted that he concocted a false story to cover up the assault and told the others to say that they got into a physical altercation after the inmate used a racial slur against Cruthers and Owens, federal officials stated.

In April 2011, Stacy Bloodsworth who was then the sheriff of Wilcox County lied to FBI agents about the assault.

Stacy Bloodsworth is facing up to 10 years in prison on the civil rights charge and up to five years on the conspiracy charge, according to federal authorities.

His son is facing up to five years on the conspiracy charge.


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L.A. Man Stole Elderly IDs, Going to Prison for More Than Six Years

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LOS ANGELES -- A Los Angeles man who stole the IDs of elderly victims was sentenced Monday to more than six years in prison for identity theft and credit card fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Doren Harold Ward, 37, was also ordered to pay nearly $300,000 as restitution, federal authorities stated.
In court, Ward continued to deny  that he knew the credit cards belonged to 45 victims, despite a jury finding him guilty of six felony counts in June, federal officials stated.
Authorities stated that they searched his apartment and found personal identifying information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth that belonged to 14 victims.
As part of the scheme, British co-conspirators impersonated elderly cardholders and asked credit card companies to send replacement cards to "mail drops" in Southern California.
Ward and other members of the scheme used to the cards to purchase or attempted to purchase more than $300,000 worth of luxury goods, including Rolex watches, and items sold at Louis Vuitton, Geary's in Beverly Hills and Ben Bridge Jeweler stores, officials stated.
Another member of this scheme - Sedrick Bagby, 36, of South Los Angeles - pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
Last month, Bagby was sentenced to nearly eight years in prison.


The Court Reporter's Notebook

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Hells Angel Sentenced to 90 Days in Jail for Misdemeanor Assault with a Baseball Bat


A member of the Hells Angels was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation for misdemeanor assault this afternoon stemming from an incident that happened earlier this year in Ojai.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Nancy Ayers reduced a felony assault charge to a misdemeanor against Archie Schaffer after commenting that the facts in the case "appeared quite muddled."

The judge also noted the 39-year-old  Schaffer, of Ojai, had a minimal criminal record.

In an interview, prosecutor Tate McCallister declined to comment on the details surrounding the incident which occurred on Feb. 14.

Court documents indicate that Shaffer allegedly used a bat on a female victim.

In court, McCallister opposed the reduction of the felony to a misdemeanor. But he agreed to dismiss other two other felony counts against Schaffer - vandalism over $400 and that he was under the influence of a controlled substance.

Schaffer's lawyer Anthony Zinnanti  also declined to give details about the crime, saying only that he believes this case was completely blown out of proportion because it involved the Hells Angels.

He said the decision was fair given the facts and circumstances.

Zinnanti declined to say whether Schaffer was still the president of the Santa Barbara Hells Angels.

Schaffer also declined to comment.

Zinnanti said his client was arrested several days after the incident. Schaffer, who owns a business,  declined to comment after the sentencing. He will report to jail on Nov. 26 to serve his sentence.

In September 2009, Shaffer was found not guilty of brandishing a weapon and reckless driving, felony crimes.  The judge dismissed a remaining felony.  Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on two other counts.

The following month, the judge blocked an effort by prosecutors to retry the counts where a verdict wasn't reached.



Satnam Singh's Lawyer Asked Judge to Reconsider a Preliminary Hearing Ruling Made by Another Judge.

Defense Attorney David Lehr filed a 995 motion which in the California Penal Code means asking a judge to dismiss one or more counts of a criminal complaint.

Lehr appeared today in a pre-trial hearing of his client Satnam Singh before Judge Bruce Young.

Singh, 50, is accused of hitting and killing bicyclist Nick Haverland last year in Ventura.

He is charged with second-degree murder, felony drunken driving, felony hit-and-run and misdemeanor hit-and-run. He also is charged with two counts of inflicting great bodily injury.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Defense lawyers filed 995 motions when they believe a judge or grand jury incorrectly held their client to answer to charges.

Most of the time, a 995 motion is filed after a preliminary hearing, which is a mini-trial where a judge determines if there is sufficient evidence to hold a defendant for trial.

The legal standard at a preliminary hearing is if there is probable cause to hold someone for trial. This is a much lower legal standard in criminal court than beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lehr said his client was intoxicated, sat in his vehicle for 20 minutes after the crash and wouldn't get out when ordered to do so by police who finally had to use a K-9 to get Singh to comply with their orders.

The judge noted that Lehr was arguing under the "implied malice" theory of second-degree murder.

Basically, Lehr is saying that the second-degree murder charges with implied malice haven't been legally met. 

Basically, the law states that implied malice means committing an act with a "wanton disregard" to human life or an act where there is a high degree of probability that death will result or a "conscious disregard" to human life.

Lehr said his client was intoxicated, sat in his vehicle for 20 minutes after the crash and wouldn't get out when ordered to do so by police who finally had to use a K-9 to get Singh to comply with their orders.

Prosecutor Richard Simon countered: "If he was so unconscious, how did he find his way home?"

 DA Investigator Cautions Parents of Victim Allegedly Murdered by Satnam Singh

District Attorney Investigator Adam Witkins politely cautioned the   parents of Nick Haverland who sat in the front row before today's pre-trial hearing that there were autopsy and crime photographs that they don't want to see.

In an interview, Susan and Jim Haverland said they understood what Mr. Witkins had told them  and will leave the courtroom when they know these images will be shown.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Bruce Young has to decide which  autopsy photographs have probative value and will be admitted during Singh's trial, sorting out what photos might be prejudicial  and could inflame the passions of  the jury, denying Singh a fair trial.

Usually, prosecutors trying murder cases will explain and caution the relatives and friends of victims that it is best that they aren't in court when these images of their loved ones go up on the screen.

As a journalist, I have sat through more than 100 murder trials in nearly 20 years of court reporting. I've covered federal and state courts during that time.  Like clockwork, as soon as the autopsy photos are shown in a trial, sometimes, and understandably so, I have seen the victims' family or friends of the victims burst out crying, storm out of the courtroom and  a few times, they have screamed at defendants.

 Most of the time, family and friends will just quietly sit in court and weep and sob, comforting one another. Heads bowed and eyes avoiding these images.

I can only imagine the hurt.



Zeta Hitman Sentenced To Life In Prison in Federal Court

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LAREDO, TX-- A hitman for the Zetas who was linked to the Gulf Cartel was sentenced to life in prison in federal court last week,  according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Gerardo Castillo-Chavez, whose moniker is "Cachetes" or Armando Garcia, was sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years following multiple convictions, federal authorities stated.

The 26-year-old Castillo-Chavez, who hails from Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas, Mexico, was convicted in January, federal authorities stated.

Eduardo Carreon-Ibarra, a co-defendant whose Spanish moniker is "Negro," is a Laredo native and was sentenced last week to 25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty in June,  say federal officials.

During the Castillo-Chavez's week-long trial, jurors heard testimony from several Zeta hitmen who committed murders in Laredo, Texas, as well as Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, and Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico, say federal authorities.

Jurors also heard testimony outlining murders and links to the Gulf Cartel and Zetas.

In addition, several defendants testified as witnesses at Castillo-Chavez's trial for the government and detailed cocaine and marijuana trafficking from Mexico to Dallas, Texas, and New York City.

Further testimony outlined murders and attempted murders committed by "sicario" (assassin) cells in Laredo between June 2005 and April 2006.

According to federal officials, testimony included that of three co-defendants, tied Castillo-Chavez to the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas between November 2005 and May 2009. Their testimony implicated "Cachetes" in the double murder of two males on April 2, 2006, the attempted murders of two others in March 2006 and in the grenade attack of a nightclub in Monterrey, Mexico, where four people were killed.

Carreon-Ibarra was identified as one of two sicario who were about to carry out the assassination of an unknown victim at a local nightclub in February of 2006.

Carreon-Ibarra and his partner were found in possession of semi-automatic pistols and two assault rifles, one fully automatic. Carreon-Ibarra was awaiting the delivery of grenades to be used during the assault at the nightclub when officers moved in to arrest the pair at a local hotel.

The federal authorities also presented telephone interceptions that described in detail the gruesome murders and disposal of the bodies of two U.S. citizens kidnapped and killed in Nuevo Laredo.

Castillo-Chavez was convicted of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, interstate travel in aid of racketeering, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime or a crime of violence.

Carreon-Ibarra pleaded guilty to interstate travel in aid of racketeering and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime or a crime of violence.

The case against Castillo-Chavez and Carreon-Ibarra was a result of a federal investigation dubbed Operation Prophecy spearheaded by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Laredo Police Department with the assistance of Homeland Security Investigations; FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; Border Patrol; U.S. Marshals Service; Webb County Sheriff's Office; and the Webb County District Attorney's Office.

The investigation targeted various cells of the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, with a primary focus on the sicario cells that carried out executions of targeted rival drug members on both sides of the border.



Calvin Sharp Trial Ends, Judge Will Rule in a Couple of Weeks

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By Raul Hernandez

Ventura County Star

Calvin Sharp's lawyer said Friday the evidence his client is insane is overwhelming, including the testimony of six mental health experts, two of whom were court-appointed psychologists who concluded he is a paranoid schizophrenic.

Attorney Todd Howeth, who is with the Public Defender's office, said dozens of people described Sharp as a kind, gentle and friendly person. Yet he took a meat clever and stabbed a 6-year-old boy to death along with stabbing the boy's mother, Sandra Ruiz, and a neighbor, Howeth said.

"Why would be hurt those he loved and cared about?" He said to the judge. "And he tries to take the heads off people he loved and cared about."

After 19 days of trial, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kevin DeNoce heard to closing arguments from Howeth and prosecutor Maeve Fox in a sanity trial, which is a civil proceeding.

Judge DeNoce said he will rule and issue a decision in about two weeks on whether Sharp was insane when he stabbed 6-year-old Sev'n Molina along with the boy's mother Sandra Ruiz and a neighbor Diane Cox who tried to intervene.

Since there is a lower legal standard in deciding a sanity hearing,  a judge determines whether it is more likely than not that Sharp was insane. The higher legal standard is beyond a reasonable doubt and it is used in criminal trials.

Prosecutor Maeve Fox said the defense mental health experts are either lying or in denial. She said Sharp was in a marijuana-induced and "fluctuating" psychosis, described him as being troubled man who is faking mental illness.

"The defendant isn't telling the truth about his own mental state," Fox told the judge. "He can't keep his story straight."

Fox said Sharp is malinger who witnesses said was stubborn, not intimidated and a 'spoiled" brat who loved to dominate and demean women. She said Sharp was upset because Ruiz had broken off a romantic relationship about six months before the attack and was in a jealous rage because Ruiz was dating another man.

Sharp, who is a former taxi cab driver and is in custody, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in March 2009. In May 2009, the district attorney decided not to seek the death penalty against Sharp. In November 2009, Sharp decided to change his plea to guilty by reason of insanity to first-degree murder and  two special circumstances along with other felony crimes.

Sharp is also accused of animal cruelty for killing his dog, Knuckles, before he stabbed the boy, his mother and a neighbor.

Forty-five minutes before the stabbings, Howeth said Sharp threw the dog he loved very much into oncoming traffic because he believed the animal was a "vessel" and a demon had entered into the vessel.

Howeth said eight doctors including Dr. John Horton who was Sharp's family doctor and Dr. Lana Le Chabrier, a psychiatrist hired by the district attorney who then testified before the grand jury, along with four defense psychologists and two-court appointed psychologists diagnosed Sharp as being paranoid schizophrenic.

Howeth said the doctors concluding that Sharp was a "walking textbook" for paranoid schizophrenia and insane when he committed the stabbings.  Howeth said Sharp believed he was getting radio signals from XM radio and was on a mission from God to eradicate demons that were destroying mankind.

Sharp's mother, aunt, nephews and nieces have mental illness issues and Sharp's wife, Jante and his young children were aware that Sharp; was delusional.

Howeth said Sharp loved Sev'n like a son but thought a demon was jumping from Ruiz to the boy and Sharp heard the demon in Sev'n curse at him and say, "I hate you."

"He was on a mission that was God-given, and he needed to eradicate demons from the world," said Howeth. "He never talks about being jealous"

 Howeth discredited and criticized the testimony of Kris Mohandie who is a police psychologist who was hired by the prosecution to examine Sharp.

Mohandie came up with two reports in November 2009 and concluded that Sharp was insane when he killed the dog but 45 minutes later he was sane when he stabbed the victims with a meat clever.

Fox said discredited the testimony of all the defense's mental health experts, noting that the defense itself paid $173,000 to a psychiatrist and three psychologists to testify and saying it is "witchcraft."

"It's a bunch of voodoo, frankly," said Fox. "It's people's best guesses. It's not pure science"

Fox said there isn't anything to indicate that Sharp was insane, saying that Mohandie's analysis was correct that the long-term use of marijuana fueled Sharp's violent behavior.

Blood tests taken after the slaying showed traces of marijuana and antidepressants in Sharp's system, court documents show.

Howeth said Mohandie testified that he has been paid $100,000 by the district attorney to testify in three or four cases in the last five years. He said Mohandie has testified in 95 homicide cases in Ventura and other counties, noting that the $100,000 is 2 percent of his earnings, which, Howeth said, totals $5 million over five years.

The Court Reporter's Notebook

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After the lunch break in the Calvin Sharp sanity trial today, prosecutor Maeve Fox resumed her closing arguments to the judge by saying that she wanted to point out the misinformation being reported on The Court Reporter blog.

She said prosecution's police psychologist Kris Mohandie wasn't paid $200,000 as reported in the Court Reporter blog to do mental health work on Calvin Sharp case. Ms. Fox said Mohandie was paid $60,000.

In the last five years, Ms. Fox said Mohandie did mental health work in three or four cases for the Ventura County District Attorney and was paid $100,000.

Ms. Fox's comments prompted Sharp's lawyer Mr. Todd Howeth to object, saying that Fox was looking and directing her comments at The Court Reporter blogger who was in the courtroom, and this was inappropriate argument.

Judge Kevin DeNoce said he'll allow some leeway since he is hearing the evidence and testimony.

Mr. Howeth later told the judge that Monhandie is paid $400 an hour, adding that his mental health experts were getting $175 an hour.

During a recess in the trial, Ms. Fox said Mr Howeth's employer, the Public Defender's Office, has shelled out shell out $170,000 to hire mental experts to testify for the defense in the Sharp case.

In addition, Ms. Fox said that the source who told The Court Reporter that Howeth agreed to have a judge preside over Sharp's sanity trial because this was the only way the District Attorney's Office would take the death penalty against Sharp off the table was incorrect.

Ms. Fox noted that the district attorney decided not to seek the death penalty against Sharp in May 2009. In November 2009, She said Sharp entered a guilty plea by reason of insanity to first-degree murder along with other felony crimes related to the stabbing of the 6-year-old child, his mother and a neighbor.


The  Calvin Sharp Sanity Trial  was packed with emotion and a Judge who complimented the prosecutor's and defense attorney's professionalism.

Judge Kevin DeNoce who presided over the sanity trial complimented the lawyers on their professionalism, saying the case was "extremely well litigated" by both attorneys.

Ms Fox is a feisty, seasoned and tough prosecutor who doesn't mince words, and Mr. Howeth, is perhaps, the best attorney at the Public Defender's Office.

During closing arguments, both lawyers were well-prepared and passionate in advocating for their side

Mr. Howeth's voice started cracking with emotion as he began his closing arguments and talked about the tragedy, describing the 6-year-old Sev'n Molina as a "beautiful and angelic child."

"I don't think we can do justice unless we acknowledge these emotions," he said.

The Court Reporter's Notebook

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Judge to Decide Whether Man Insane When He Killed a 6-Year-Old Boy

Closing arguments begin Friday morning in the Calvin Sharp murder case who is accused of stabbing to death 6-year-old Sev'n Molina along with stabbing the boy's mother and a neighbor who intervened to try and end the attack.

Sharp, who is a former taxi cab driver and is in custody, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in March 2009. In May 2009, the district attorney decided not to seek the death penalty against Sharp.

In November 2009, Sharp decided to change his plea to guilty by reason of insanity to first-degree murder and two special circumstances along with other felony crimes, including two counts of aggravated mayhem and animal cruelty because for killing his dog, Knuckles, half-an-hour before he stabbed the boy, his mother and a neighbor.

Both Howeth and Fox agreed to waive a jury trial and let a judge decided the sanity issue. The case was assigned to Ventura County Superior Court Judge Kevin DeNoce.

Closing arguments begin at 9 a.m. Friday in Courtroom 23.

Today, Judge DeNoce told Howeth and Fox that he's received 1,500 pages of reports along with getting 40 hours of interviews that were submitted as evidence in this hearing.

"I've gone through a lot of it. I've gone through the overwhelming majority of it," said DeNoce.

DeNoce is expected to make a ruling days after the trial ends, according to Howeth.

Judge Noce said Howeth will make closing arguments first since he has the burden to prove in these civil proceedings that Sharp was insane. The judge said Fox will then make her arguments  which will be followed by rebuttal arguments by Howeth.

If the judge rules that Sharp was sane when he committed the crimes, Sharp will spend the rest of his life in prison. However, if DeNoce finds that he was insane, Sharp will be sent to a state mental hospital.

A source told the Court Reporter that Howeth agreed to have a judge rather than a jury decide the sanity trial because that was the only way the District Attorney's Office would agree to take the death penalty against Sharp off the table.

The source said Howeth didn't want to run the risk of putting Sharp on death row, and there was a strong possibility that will happen because one of the victims was a child who was brutally stabbed.

In an interview today, Howeth declined to say whether this was true.

"I am going to do my talking in open court," said Howeth.

Howeth maintains in open court that six mental health experts, including two court-appointed psychologists, concluded that Sharp was legally insane and these doctors used "very strong language" to make this "an exceptionally strong case" for insanity.

The only psychiatrist to concluded that Sharp was sane was Kris Mohandie who was hired by the prosecution, which has paid Mohandie about $200,000 to do mental health work in the Sharp case, according to court testimony.


Prosecutor Maeve Fox said Mohandie was paid $60,000 to do work on the Sharp case. She said Mohandie has received $100,000 for working on three or four criminal cases for the District Attorney's Office in the last five years.

Howeth has argued in court that six mental health experts, including two court-appointed psychologists, concluded that Sharp was legally insane and these doctors used "very strong language" to make this "an exceptionally strong case" for insanity. Howeth had said the only psychologist who concluded that Sharp was sane was Kris Mohandie, who was hired by prosecutors. Mohandie wrote a report on Nov. 5, 2009, that Sharp was insane when he killed the dog but was sane when he killed the child and stabbed Ruiz half an hour later.

Howeth was very critical of Mohandie's findings and conclusions, including that Sharp was faking mental illness and was a malinger.

Fox argued in court papers that Sharp and Ruiz had broken off a romantic relationship about six months before the attack. Fox has said Sharp who was a drug user was in a jealous rage because Ruiz had started to date other men.

Blood tests taken after the slaying showed traces of marijuana and antidepressants in Sharp's system, court documents show.

All this raises the question that if Howeth believes very strongly that six mental experts had very strong opinions and were correct that his client is paranoid schizophrenic why would he agreed to go to a judge, any judge, to decide his client's fate, especially in a very gruesome, high-profile murder case involving the death of a 6-year-old child who was killed with a meat clever.

A source told the Court Reporter that Howeth agreed to do so because this was the only way the District Attorney's Office would agree to take the death penalty against Sharp off the table.

The source said Howeth didn't want to run the risk of putting Sharp on death row, and there was a strong possibility that would happen.

In an interview today, Howeth declined to say whether this was true.

"I am going to do my talking in open court," said Howeth.

Mohandie has testified in other high-profile criminal cases in Ventura County.

Mohandie testify as an expert in criminal trial of Brandon McInerney in August 2011 and the trial of Randolph Kling in 2009.

Fox, who prosecuted McInerney, put Mohandie on the stand to debunk the defense's psychologist Donald Hoagland testimony who said McInerney was in a dissociative state and not completely aware of his actions or the consequences of them.

Mohandie never evaluated McInerney who pleaded guilty to killing schoolmate Larry King in February 2008.

McInerney's  lawyer, Scott Wippert, tried to discredit Mohandie, questioning his involvement as a consultant on reality TV shows. He also questioned his analysis that McInerney showed symptoms of conduct disorder.

Mohandie stuck by his testimony.

The trial ended in a hung jury in September 2011.

In December 2011, McInerney pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

In May 2009, Mohandie testified in the trial of convicted killer Randolph "Randy" Kling who was sent to death row for murdering two Simi Valley William "Bill" Budfuloski, 53, and later his son, Michael Budfuloski, 31, on Feb. 24, 2004.

Mohandie said he didn't interview Kling but read thousands of pages of evidence including Kling's mental health and criminal records, to arrive at a diagnosis.

Monandie testified that was a severe psychopath who suffers from antisocial mental disorder and is a malingerer.

Mohandie  testified that he was being paid $350 an hour, and collected $15,000 from the county for 44 hours of work between March 2007 and December 2008.

Today's Quote

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"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face." - Victor Hugo

Two Mississippi Cops Plead Guilty To Accepting Bribes to Protect Cocaine Deals

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JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI - Two former Jackson Police Department patrol officers pleaded guilty to accepting bribes to protect a drug shipment coming into Hawkins Field in Jackson, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Former Officers Monyette Quintel Jefferson, 27, and Terence Dale Jenkins, 25, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to getting paid bribes to protect 100 kilograms of cocaine that was going to be coming in on an airplane to Jackson, federal officials stated.

Jefferson agreed to protect the shipment, according to federal authorities.

On June 25, 2010, an undercover FBI agent posing as a drug trafficker met with Jefferson and Anthony Ricardo Payne Jr. at a mall in Jackson, federal officials stated.

The FBI agent, Jefferson and Payne discussed protecting the shipment of cocaine that was coming into Jackson that day.

Later that day, Jefferson arrived at the airport in his patrol vehicle and met with the undercover  FBI agent, federal officials stated.

At 3:55 p.m.,  a different FBI agent working in an undercover capacity, arrived and simulated the purchase of about 20 kilograms cocaine from the first undercover FBI in the presence of Jenkins.

After the drugs were exchanged, the first undercover FBI agent paid Jenkins $5,000 for his help in protecting the drug transaction, federal officials stated.

Jenkins provided further protection by following the second FBI agent from the airport to Interstate 20 in Jackson, according to federal authorities.

On June 25, 2010, Payne who was in his patrol car met with the first undercover FBI agent at the airport to protect another 100 kilograms of cocaine.

Five minutes later,  the second undercover FBI agent arrived and simulated the purchase of 20 kilograms of cocaine, according to federal officials.

After the exchange, the first undercover agent simulated the payment for the drugs, and Payne was paid $5,000 for helping protect the drug transaction, federal officials stated.

 Jenkins was paid another $6,000 for his help and followed the third undercover with his patrol car to protect the agent who Jenkins believed was a drug dealer, federal agents stated.

Jefferson and Jenkins will be sentenced in January and are each facing a 10 year sentence, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Payne is pending trial.


The Court Reporter's Notebook

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Two Alleged  Oxnard Gang Members Will Stand Trial for Trying to Kill a Ventura Resident

A judge found sufficient evidence to hold two Oxnard men for trial in connection to an attempted murder, a shooting that was witnessed by two sisters, ages 9 and 13 years old.

After a two-day preliminary hearing, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Matthew Guasco said there was also sufficient evidence to convince him that the two alleged assailants Ricardo Juarez, 31, and Jesus Rodriguez, 22, are Colonia Chiques gang members.

Prosecutor John Barrick said Juarez and Rodriguez are facing 25 years to life if they are convicted of attempted murder and other felony charges assault with a firearm.

Court Reporter's Notebook

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A Jury Today Found An Oxnard Man Guilty of First Degree Murder After Jury Controversy

An Oxnard man accused of using a ruse to lure his victim to a dark and isolated place to kill him and steal his drug money was convicted of first-degree murder today.

Jurors also found true three special enhancements to the murder that Victor Chavira committed robbery, was lying in wait and discharged a firearm.

In addition, Chavira was found guilty of second-degree robbery and jurors found that he used a firearm during the commission of this crime. Also jurors found Chavira guilty of two counts of exhibiting a firearm and guilty of dissuading a witness, finding true that he was malicious, used threats and discharged a firearm.

Victor Chavira shot the victim Albino Ramirez who wanted to buy a large quantity of methamphetamine from drug dealers for $27,000, according to court testimony.

Chavira who was friends with Ramirez was the connection to drug dealers who had been selling Ramirez methamphetamine. Chavira fired six times at close range at Ramirez who was at the steering wheel of his sports utility vehicle.

The shooting took place as Ramirez's wife, Celia, and the couple three-year-old son sat in the backseat shortly after 4 a.m. on Aug. 6, 2008 on Lewis Road, just south of Pleasant Valley Road in Camarillo.

Ramirez's mother and Celia Ramirez wept after the verdicts were read.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Bennett  removed Juror No. 1 from the jury on Tuesday morning and replaced him with an alternate juror on Tuesday afternoon.

Juror No. 1 was the lone holdout in an 11 to 1 vote for first degree murder, and other jurors complained to the judge that he refused to follow the court's instructions, was "importing theories," speculating and acting as an advocate for the defense.

In removing Juror No. 1, Bennett said Juror No. 1 didn't follow the court's instructions and considered evidence not submitted in the case along with not listening to other jurors.

Prosecutor Chrystina Jenson told the judge that Juror No. 1 was a rogue jurist who was speculating, was showing sympathy to the defense and failed to follow the court's instructions.

Chavira's lawyer Joseph Lax argued in court that Juror No. 1 was "engaging" in the jury's conversations and discussions. The only reason the other jurors wanted him removed by the court was he had strong opinions about the case and they didn't like it, Lax told the court.

In an interview, Lax said he wasn't happy with the verdicts because he had argued for manslaughter. He said that as soon as Juror No. 1 was removed from the jury that pretty much ended his case to get a verdict on a lesser felony, saying that the removal was unfair.

Chavira will be sentenced on Nov. 28.





Court Reporter's Notebook

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The Jury Drama Continues in Murder Trial

The jury drama in Courtroom 48 continued on Tuesday with the judge removing a Juror No. 1 from the jury because others jurors complained that he refused to follow the court's instructions, that he was "importing theories,"  speculating and acting as an advocate for the defense.

Despite opposition from Chavira's lawyer, Judge Jeffrey Bennett removed the juror after interviewing eight jurors who sent notes to  him complaining about Juror No. 1.

Judge Bennett concluded that Juror No. 1 wasn't following the court's instructions and considering evidence not submitted in the case along with not listening to other jurors.

The judge said Juror No. 1 will be excused from jury duty and an alternate juror would take his place.

Chavira's lawyer Joseph Lax told the judge that jurors who were interviewed revealed that Juror No. 1 hadn't stop deliberating and questioned whether jurors who are simply lone holdouts should be removed.

"I don't want to see him relieved because he's doing what jurors should be doing," Lax told the judge.

Adding, "no one said he refused to talk. They don't like his opinion but I'm sure he doesn't like their opinions."

According to the jurors who were interviewed, Prosecutor Chrystina Jenson said Juror No. 1 was being unreasonable, was speculating and being an advocate for the defense.

"He is also failing to interact," she said.

She told the judge that the juror should be "thanked and excused" from jury service.

Lax said Jenson should move for a mistrial if she feels that way about Juror No. 1.

The jury sent out a note Monday afternoon that stated: "We can't reach an agreement on first degree murder."

They were deadlocked.

They received the case late Thursday afternoon after listening to closing arguments from prosecutor Chrystina Jenson and Chavira's lawyer Joseph Lax.

The trial began Sept. 25.

Chavira, of Oxnard, is accused of killing Albino Ramirez shortly after 4 a.m. on Aug. 6, 2008 on Lewis Road, just south of Pleasant Valley in Camarillo.

Prosecutors allege that Chavira used a ruse to lure Ramirez into a dark and isolated place by telling him that he could get him a large quantity of methamphetamine to Ramirez for $27,000.

Chavira then shot Albino Ramirez who was at the steering wheel in front of Ramirez's wife and the couple's then 3-year-old son who sat in the backset.

After much discussion with Jenson and Lax, the judge brought the jury back into the court and questioned the jury foreman.

The foreman said the vote on first-degree murder was 11 to 1. He didn't reveal the number of votes for guilty and not guilty because he was instructed not to do so by the judge.

The foreman told the judge that they could possibly reach a verdict on second-degree murder, a lesser felony.

The judge told jurors to continue deliberating on the charges and to submit questions if they needed to do so.

The jurors went back to the jury room and a brief time later, announced that they had arrived at a verdict. But later, a note was sent out that they didn't have a verdict yet. The jury foreman said jurors had notes to send out.

Initially, three notes were sent out with several questions about the case, including whether the two gunshot to the victim's cheek caused his death.

Shortly after 5 p.m. on Monday, the judge ordered that the jurors return to court at 10 p.m  Tuesday so the attorneys can decided how to answer their questions

On Tuesday morning the notes kept coming from the jury room. There were a total of 11 notes and more questions including is it possible to rob a dead man? Can the defendant be charged with lying in wait if he purchased the gun three days before he committed the crime? Were the victim and his wife legally married?

One note expressed concerns that Chavira, who used a Spanish-language interpreter, didn't get an adequate defense for his trial by Lax.

Jenson said there is a "rogue juror" who is not deliberating in good faith, and "specially, out of sympathy for the defense."

During the trial, Lax admitted to jurors during closing arguments that he spoke softly and because of this it was sometimes difficult for people to hear him.

In addition, the court reporter taking down the trial record had to ask the 82-year-old Lax to speak up or repeat what he said a few times because he spoke very softly.  Also before the trial started, the court offered Lax hearing aids but he declined to use them.

While discussing the jurors' notes, the judge told the attorneys that he could consider reopening closing arguments to help the jury with some of these questions, a suggestion made by Jenson.

Lax didn't oppose this but insisted that the jury first be questioned whether they had arrived at decisions on other felonies crimes that Chavira is charged with like lying in wait, robbery and discharging a gun.

Jurors were asked to consider finding Chavira guilty of a lesser crimes of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.

After much discussion with lawyers, the judge finally agreed to interview jurors who had signed and sent notes complaining about Juror No. 1.

One by one, jurors were brought into court and asked by the judge what they meant by stating that they want Juror No. 1 removed because he wasn't following jury instructions.

The juror replies were brief, including the following remarks.

Male Juror No. 11 said Juror No. 1 speculates and brings too many "what ifs" into the deliberations and is unreasonable.

"He wouldn't convict Gaddafi," the juror told the judge.

Male Juror No. 5 said Juror No. 1 can't make a decision regarding the credibility of witnesses and was speculating.

Female Juror 2 said the jury instructions were to begin deliberating first with the question of first-degree murder but Juror No. 1 wanted to start with the lesser felony charges. She said she was "embarrassed" to tell the court but  the jury did that to accommodate Juror No. 1.

Female Juror 10 said Juror No. 1 was becoming an advocate for the defense and speculating.

Female Juror 3 said Juror No. 1 is considering things that weren't evidence in the trial.

Juror No. 1 wasn't interviewed by the judge before being removed from jury service.

 The jury resumed its deliberations with the alternate juror after 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.



The Court Reporter's Notebook

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Two sisters - ages 9 and 13 years old - witnessed gang-related shooting just outside their bedroom window in Ventura, police testified.

Two  sisters witnessed a  gang-related shooting outside their bedroom window that left one man badly wounded in Ventura earlier this year, according to court testimony.

Monday morning, the two alleged assailants - Ricardo Juarez , 31, and Jesus Rodriguez, 22, - were in court for a preliminary hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to hold them for trial.

In an interview, Prosecutor John Barrick said the two defendants were each charged with street terrorism, attempted murder, assault with a firearm and a misdemeanor resisting an officer.

The alleged victim Benny Huerta failed to show up in court today after he was subpoenaed by prosecutors.

Ventura Superior Court Judge Matthew Guasco issued an arrest warrant for Huerta and set his bail at $1,000.

Barrick said in an interview that Huerta isn't a gang member.

The preliminary hearing which is expected to last two days will resume on Wednesday instead of Tuesday because of a conflicting attorney schedule.

Ventura Police Detective Edward Caliento testified that the sisters, ages 9 and 13 years, told him the shooting occurred between 25-50 feet from their bedroom window and next to a black Lincoln Navigator.

The 9-year-old said the men were arguing and using "bad words" and she saw the "teen-ager" pulled something from his pocket that she described as a gun and shot twice at the victim, Caliento testified. 

The 9-year-old girl called her older sister over to the window when she heard the confrontation, Caliento testified. He said the sisters didn't see the men fighting prior to the shooting.

"The mother was home but she was sleep," Detective Caliento testified.

Police testified that the incident occurred  on East Mcfarlane Street near North Ventura Avenue at  6:45 p.m. on April 17.

Officer Cameron Goettsche said he arrived on the scene and saw Huerta sitting on the front lawn of a house with a bullet hole to the chest and one to the lower left side.  Goettsche said there was a deep laceration on Huerta's right and that he was bleeding "profusely" from that wound.

Huerta said he was walking and two men walked up to him and said, "where you from?" and Huerta replied that he was from Ventura and didn't gang bang, according to Goettsche.

Under cross examination by Rodriguez's lawyer Wayne Tobin and Juarez's attorney Martin Zaehringer, Goettsche told defense lawyers that  Huerta  was shot by a handgun.

"He was very uncooperative. Refusing to answer questions," Goettsche said. "It was a very difficult interview, trying to get information from him."

The defense lawyers asked questions about the witness description of the defendants and inconsistent comments made by them.

A neighborhood  resident told the court that he was at home watching television when he heard someone trying to open his bedroom door to get inside his house. The resident said he saw Juarez and Rodriguez standing outside the bedroom window with blood on them and the older suspect was limping.

The resident said the older defendant, who he had identified in court as Juarez, offered him money to allow them. The resident said he refused to let them into his house, and Juarez told him: "If you say anything, you're going to have problems."

The two men were arrested a few blocks away after police responded and immediately began a search for the two.

Barrick said in an interview that he will present video recording from a surveillance camera in a liquor store where the two men are shown inside the store in a panicky state.

Jurors Say Can't Reach A Verdict in Murder Case, Reach a Verdict and Then Change Their Minds.

The jury sent out a note today that stated: "We can't reach an agreement on first degree murder."

The jury deliberating the fate of murder defendant Victor Chavira sent the note late Monday afternoon.

They received the case late Thursday afternoon after listening to closing arguments from prosecutor Chrystina Jenson and Chavira's lawyer Joseph Lax.

Chavira is accused of killing Albino Ramirez shortly after 4 a.m. on Aug. 6, 2008 on Lewis Road, just south of Pleasant Valley in Camarillo.

Prosecutors allege that Chavira used a ruse to lure Ramirez into a dark and isolated place by telling him that he could get him a large quantity of methamphetamine to Ramirez for $27,000.

Chavira then shot Albino Ramirez who was at the steering wheel in front of Ramirez's wife and the couple's then 3-year-old son who sat in the backset.

Outside the presence of the jury and after they sent out a note, the judge discussed the matter with Jenson and Lax.  Jenson wanted to know the jury's votes so the court could either declare a mistrial or whether it would be possible for jurors to continue deliberating and find Chavira guilty of a lesser felony, second-degree murder.

"I think we should inquire where the votes are," Lax told the judge.

Judge Jeffrey Bennett said jurors followed the instructions and advised the court as per jury instructions if they were unable to reach a verdict on first-degree murder count.

"That's a smart jury," said the judge.

After more discussions with lawyers, the judge brought in the jury.

The foreman told the judge that they were deadlocked on first-degree murder and didn't believe that with further deliberations they could arrive at a decision.

The judge asked the foreman that if they were to continue deliberating whether he believed the jury could reach a verdict on the lesser charge of second-degree murder.

"Yes, sir," said the foreman.

The judge said told the jury foreman that he needed two numbers and only two numbers from the jury: What was the vote on the first-degree murder charge, emphasizing that he didn't want to know how many were voting for guilty and how many for not guilty.

The foreman said it was 11 to 1.

The judge ordered that they continue deliberating, and encouraged them to send notes via the bailiff to the court if they wanted to do so.

A short time later, the jurors said they had reached a verdict.

Wait a minute, the foreman stated that they no longer had a verdict yet. The jurors now had notes to send to the court.

One juror wanted to know whether he should consider second-degree murder if he believes Chavira  is guilty of first-degree murder and the charge of lying in wait.

Another wanted to know whether the two gunshots to the victim's cheek caused his death. Another question was whether Albino Ramirez and his wife were legally married.

Was Chavira lying in wait if he got the gun three days before the committed the shooting was another question.

Shortly after 5 p.m., the judge ordered that the jurors return to court at 10 p.m  so the attorneys can decided how to answer their questions.





Q&A: Ventura County Jail and the LA Jail Report

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The Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence report was released last month by the Los Angeles County board of supervisors that was very damaging to Sheriff Lee Baca.

Among the findings were that the Sheriff Baca failed to address long-standing problems of excessive and unnecessary force by jail deputies against inmates.  Also, Sheriff Baca's senior leaders at the jail failed to monitor these problems, the report stated.

Taxpayers in Los Angeles County will probably get saddled with the financial burden to pay for lawyers to defend the lawsuits and for the damages suffered by inmates.

Here, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean answers questions for the Court Reporter Blog about the county jail, overcrowding and comments on the Los Angeles County jail report.

Q: How many inmates are currently housed at the county jail? How many are felons?

A: The inmate population at the county jail(s) fluctuates daily by as much as 50 inmates or more; this is based on a number of variables, e.g., remands, fresh arrests, releases, etc.  As of October 10, 2012, the custody population was at 1,608 inmates.  Of those, approximately 1,186 were in custody on felony related charges.  The number of sentenced inmates with felony convictions was 347.  The remaining 839 were in custody on a variety of felony charges.

 Q: What is the capacity of the county jail?

 A: The "board rated capacity" of the Ventura County Jail facilities (i.e., Pre-Trial, Todd Road, and East County) is 1,609.  We begin applying early release when the number reaches 1,600 and believe that our maximum capacity of bed space with all Quads in overflow would be around 1,850.


Q: Is there a problem with overcrowding at the jail? If so, why?

 A:Yes, there is a problem with overcrowding at our jail facilities.  Much of the overcrowding is a direct result of AB 109 the "Public Safety Realignment Act" that Governor Brown signed into law in 2011 and became effective on October 1, 2011.  Realignment has added around 250 inmates to our custody population, which has resulted in less bed space.  This has caused us to add bunk beds to the common areas in our housing sections, which has reduced the total dayroom space available in each section.  More bodies in the sections coupled with reduced space causes tension within the sections.  As a result, we have seen an increase in inmate-on-inmate assaults within our facility.


Q: What is being done to alleviate some of the overcrowding conditions?  

 A: The Sheriff's Electronic Monitoring Unit (EMU) was established in November of 2011 as a result of the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011.  This is a Detention Services based program, which assists with the management of the inmate population within our jail facilities.  Presently, the EMU consists of a senior deputy and a deputy.  They currently supervise 15-18 inmates throughout the County, but the total number of inmates being monitored can fluctuate with the overall inmate population.

In addition to the EMU, the sheriff applied to the presiding judge of the superior court to receive general authorization for a period of 30 days in order to release sentenced inmates.  This is commonly referred to asaccelerated release (Penal Code §4024.1). 


Q: Have you reviewed the Report of the Citizen's Commission on Jail Violence that was released last month?

 A: Not in it's entirety.

Q: How are you making sure that the problems that were reported by the commission about Los Angeles County jail don't occur at the jail in Ventura County?

 A: The Commission's report was very comprehensive and touched on a number of issues that had plagued the LASD jails for years, e.g., span of control, leadership, lack of training, and a culture that contributed to the excessive use of force.


Regarding use of force incidents within the Ventura County Sheriff's Office Detention facilities; all use of force incidents are reviewed immediately or in close proximity to when the incident occurs.

Our process has checks and balances whereby front-line supervisors review any videos of the incident and approve all reports.  The Facility Captain then reviews the reports and/or video's and determines whether or not the use of force is objectively reasonable and within Department policy.

Next, the Facility Commander reviews the reports and/or video of the incident.  Anything that is deemed unreasonable and/or outside of Sheriff's Department policy is sent to the Sheriff's Internal Affairs Unit.

Furthermore, most of the uses of force incidents are supervised by front-line supervisors, i.e., either a Sr Deputy or a Sergeant unless it involves an inmate assault on an officer, or inmate-on-inmate where immediate intervention is necessary in order to care for the safety of the inmate(s) or officer(s). 

Weekly, the Detention Services Supervisors provide training dealing with a wide range of topics including use of force policy's and ethical decision making.  They also reinforce our Department Core Values which are often recorded in commendations and evaluations.

Additionally, most use of force incidents are video recorded, which allows for immediate training by supervisors on dealing with inmate behavior and de-escalation techniques.


Q: How are complaints made by inmates alleging the use of excessive force or other grievances handled by the Sheriff's jail management?

 A: Complaints by inmates alleging the excessive use of force or other types of grievances are handled by way of a grievance process.

If an inmate wants to allege any type of complaint, they request a grievance, which is a written complaint about an issue regarding their treatment while in our custody.  Most grievances are handled at the lowest level possible, i.e., the deputy level, however, those pertaining to "citizen complaints" or force or discipline issues are directed to the Facility Captain.

If the grievance relates to a use of force allegation, the Facility Captain will objectively look into the allegation and meet with the Facility Commander in order to discuss the incident.  If videos are available they will be reviewed and a determination will be made as to whether or not the allegation needs to be investigated by the Sheriff's Internal Affairs Unit or handled in-house, i.e., within the jail(s).

Q: How many complaints were made by jail inmates alleging the use of excessive force in 2009, 2010 and 2011?

A: In 2009 there were (3) excessive use of force complaints that were sent to Internal Affairs.  For 2010 there were (5) allegations of excessive use of force, and in 2012 there were (4) allegations.  These investigations were conducted outside the Detention Services Bureau by the Internal Affairs Unit. 


Q: Does your agency keep track of the names of Sheriff's deputies who get repeated complaints by inmates alleging the use of excessive force?

A: There are a few different ways to respond to this question:  First, some use of force complaints require further investigation outside Detention Services and are therefore investigated by our Internal Affairs Unit.  In those cases, regardless of who is making the allegation, the investigations are retrievable by the deputy(s) name. 

The complaints that remain within the Detention Service Bureau that are investigated in-house and "sustained," e.g., inappropriate use of force, are kept in the deputy's file, but can also be retrieved via our computer reporting system.  The allegations that are "exonerated or unfounded" can be tracked by the same reporting system using the inmate's name.

Also, something to consider is that sometimes a deputy's name may appear in repeated complaints/grievances within the Detention Service Bureau; however, this is not an accurate representation of any wrong doing on the deputy's part.  For example, a deputy may work in an assignment where he or she has more contact with inmates, e.g., on the booking floor, and is obviously more prone to being assaulted by inmates.

Therefore, his or her name may appear in more use of force incidents, but there is no wrong doing on their part and this should be considered.

Q: Any final thoughts about this issue?  

 A: Realignment, along with over-crowding in our jails is not going to go away.  Over the last year we have seen an increase in our jail population, which we believe has had a direct causation with increased violence within our facilities.  Inmate-on-inmate violence has increased significantly over the last year. 

The reduction in day room space within the inmate sections causes more stress and tension, which then causes the inmate(s) to act out and either assault another inmate, or assault our staff.  In addition, the inmate's classification precludes us from making the best use of our bed space.  For example, we cannot house rival gang members in the same sections, and although we have double bunks in our cells, certain inmates require that they be housed by themselves, thus reducing our bed space.

Safety and security are our primary concerns and we will continue to be committed to provide for the safe, secure, and humane detention of those persons who are lawfully conveyed to our care.


To review the entire Citizens' Commission on Jail Violence report go to:



The Court Reporter's Notebook

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"I want it to stop," Judge James Cloninger told an alleged Colonia Chiques gang member who sat next to his lawyer at the defense table on Thursday.

What the judge wanted defendant Luis Tenorio to do is to stop glaring in a threatening manner at a prosecution witness  who was on the stand testifying against Tenorio.

Tenorio's hard stare instantly turned  to a soft half-smile after the judge's stern admonition. He appeared a bit embarrassed that the judge had caught  and doused his facial jujitsu, referred to as "mad dogging" on the streets.

The 21-year-old Tenorio  was in court for a preliminary hearing. He is being charged with street terrorism for threatening to "blast" a  motorist last month.

Prosecutor  John Barrick said Tenorio's girlfriend who was driving a vehicle struck the male victim's car and caused a rear-end collision that resulted in minor damage.

 The girlfriend with Tenorio inside the vehicle drove off, and so the victim followed her to get information from her. He had called 911.

"He was trying to get her to pull over. Eventually, she did pull over," said Barrick, adding that this happened near Channel  Islands High School.

Tenorio got out of the car and approached the victim in a very angry manner.

"He then comes to the victim and tells him to get out of the car, only he uses an expletive,"  Barrick.

The victim got out of the car, and Tenorio wanted to settle the damages without involving the police.

"The victim said, $200," said Barrick. "So the defendant goes back to the car, says something for a few seconds to the female who is driving.  Then he comes back and says, 'here is your $200. I'm going to blast you' and he makes a gesture like holding a gun."

The defendant and his girlfriend drive way, and he was arrested the  following day, Sept. 9, said Barrick.

Tenorio has also been charged with making criminal threats and violating the gang injunction, according to Barrick.

Tenorio  doesn't have much of a criminal record according to Barrick. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Judge Cloninger held him to answer to the criminal charges after listening to testimony.

Barrick said Tenorio is facing three years behind bars if he is convicted of the crimes.



The Thousand Oaks doctor who was recently convicted for sexually assaulting a patient under his care along with misdemeanor sexual exploitation of another patient and felony sexual exploitation hired a new lawyer.

Dr. Barry Lefkovitch, who is in custody, cut ties with his attorneys Brian Vogel and Robert Sandbach and hired Steve Powell, a Ventura lawyer.

Vogel and Sandbach represented the 57-year-old Lefkovitch during his trial.

Powell will handle Lefkovitch's appeal and represent him when the doctor is sentenced on Oct. 29.



The gag rule is still in place for the Joshua Graham Packer case.

Nothing significant happened Friday.

Packer's lawyers, Benjamin Maserang and Gay Zide, wanted records from the city of Ventura.

Packer, 22, is accused of fatally stabbing Brock and Davina Husted on May 20, 2009. Davina Husted was pregnant with the couple's third child.

Ventura's Assistant City Attorney Andy Viets told the judge that he is tired of going to court for the "fifth or sixth" time because of stream of records being subpoenaed by the defense. He argued that he has turned over everything that has been requested by the city.

Viets said the bottom line is that if he is ordered to turn over more records the city will do it.

Judge Patricia Murphy chided the defense, saying that she is going deny "overbroad and duplicate"  records' request from the defense unless there is new information - that the defense can prove - that needs  to be discovered.

She said this is becoming burdensome and time-consuming for the court to keep reviewing continuous defense requests for documents and records.

Also prosecutor Michelle Contois requested a sealed record that the defense subpoenaed and received be given to the district attorney to determine whether it needs to review it for its case.

The judge had an in-camera meeting  with defense attorney to unseal the sealed document, which means a private meeting in her chambers to discuss the relevance of the document with Packer's lawyers.

About 15 minutes later, the judge and defense attorneys came back to the courtroom, and the judge ruled that the document was "minimal materially" to the case and ruled that neither side could have it.

Judge Murphy ordered all sides to come back to court on Nov. 2.


Texas Mexican Mafia Members and Associates Indicted for Drug and Other Criminal Charges

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HOUSTON - Twenty-five alleged members or associates of the Texas Mexican Mafia, a violent prison gang, were indicted for trafficking in heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine along with being charged with firearms violations and distributing explosive materials, federal authorities announced Thursday.

Among those charged included Michael Mares, 50, a police who knowingly provided firearms to a convicted felon on two occasions, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The four-year investigation resulted in a sealed indictment on Oct. 4, which was unsealed following the execution of arrest warrants early Thursday

Today's Quote

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"Tact is the ability to make others believe that they are a lot smarter than you are." -- Unknown

Alleged Gang Members to be Retried for Santa Paula Drive-By Murder

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By Raul Hernandez

The district attorney will retry two men accused of a 2007 murder of a 27-year-old man during an alleged gang-related, drive-by shooting.

Prosecutor Stacy Ratner told Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger today at a hearing that the District Attorney's Office plans to retry Paul Carrillo, of Ventura, and his cousin Manuel Rodriguez, of Santa Paula, for the murder of Edgar Flores on Aug. 24, 2007.

Judge Cloninger set the trial for Nov. 14.

The decision to retry the case comes weeks after a mistrial was declared in the trial and after attorneys learned that during trial that a key prosecution witness and a co-defendant in this case allegedly told people during jailhouse conversations that he had lied during his testimony.

That witness Miguel Gonzalez, who admitted that he was the driver of the sports utility vehicle used in the drive-by, is now the center of a controversy for what he allegedly said in jail after taking the stand.

Gonzalez made a deal with prosecutors and agreed to plead guilty in 2011 to voluntary manslaughter and carrying a loaded weapon in connection with the killing. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison in exchange for his truthful testimony.

Rodriguez's lawyer Ron Bamieh said Gonzalez lied on the stand and he was recorded in jail conversations saying repeatedly saying that Ratner threatened him..

"Threatened him that if he didn't spice up his testimony and put a little 'hot sauce' on it that she would withdraw his deal, and he felt pressured at the trial to say things that were not true because he thought Ms. Ratner would pull his deal from him, " Bamieh said.

Bamieh said he's listened to the recorded jail conversations that Gonzalez had with others and is reviewing 12 more he recently obtained.

"Ms. Ratner has crossed the line," said Bamieh. "I agreed I wouldn't say anything about that.  I agreed I'd let them make a good decision about the case and keep quiet. They apparently want to go to trial. Deals are off. Now, I'll speak freely about what she did and said."

Bamieh said he interviewed Gonzalez last week. Bamieh said Gonzalez told him that Ratner was upset because of Gonzalez's  testimony, saying that  his lawyer told him Ratner wanted to withdraw the plea-bargain deal.

If Gonzalez is used as a witness he will seek to recuse the District Attorney's Office from prosecuting his client, Bamieh said.

Ratner said it hasn't been decided whether Gonzalez will testified in the murder trial.

Ratner said that Bamieh typically makes these allegations in murder trials against prosecutors, accusing them of unethical conduct . She declined to say whether she had reviewed any of Gonzalez's recorded jail conversations or comment on Bamieh possibly filing a recusal motion.

She said she will not go into any details surrounding this case, citing pending litigation. Also Ratner said she doesn't try her cases in the press, adding that Bamieh shouldn't be doing this either.

Bamieh said three prosecution witnesses, including the victim's brother Ronnie Flores, testified that they didn't see Rodriguez at the crime scene.

Ratner said it hasn't been decided whether Gonzalez will testified in the murder trial next month.

Gonzalez's lawyer Victor Salas who was at today's hearing said he hasn't had any conversations with Ratner about whether the deal with his client will be withdrawn.

"I assuming that if Mr. Bamieh's client Rodriguez is still in it then they are still going to be interested in hearing the testimony of Mr. Gonzalez," said Salas.

During the murder trial, Gonzalez testified that he and three others stopped the pickup in front of Flores' house in Santa Paula and were talking to a man Carrillo knew when Flores walked down the driveway.

Gonzalez said Flores had one beer in his hand and his left hand in his pocket as he approached the truck. Gonzalez said Flores asked him and the others, including Carrillo and Rodriguez, why they were disrespecting his house.

Carrillo stuck out his hand and shot Flores six times, and the truck sped away, Gonzalez testified.

Gonzalez testified that he saw Rodriguez give his gun to Carrillo and that Rodriguez said he would have shot Flores if he had been sitting in Carrillo's seat.

Gonzalez said Carrillo fired because he believed Flores had a gun in his pocket and was approaching them.


Ohio State Representative Named in a 49-Count Federal Indictment

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COLUMBUS, OH -- An Ohio State representative was named in 49-count indictment.

Representative Clayton R. Luckie between 2006 and 2010 failed to accurately list expenditures made by his campaign committee, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Those false filings account for over 20 counts of election falsification. The falsification includes failing to report hundreds of expenditures that were made from the campaign fund and falsely reporting expenditures that did not exist, federal officials stated.

"The community deserves honest and accountable public officials," stated Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Hanko. "The FBI will continue to identify and investigate cases of political corruption. In fact, our office has recently created a new public corruption squad in Columbus to further investigate potential unlawful activity in this area."

Luckie first took office in the House of Representatives in 2006, and in August of this year withdrew from the November 2012 ballot when he acknowledged the existence of this investigation, federal officials stated.




Today's Quote

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"Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it.. that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear"
-- Dale Carnegie.

Article About Ventura Attorney Who Represents "Anonymous" Hackers Published in The Atlantic

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An article about Attorney Jay Leiderman, of Ventura, was published by The Atlantic magazine this month.

Leiderman defends members of the hacker collective Anonymous whose activists launched "distributed denial of service attacks" or DDoS against Mastercard and PayPal, who stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks.

Among those who Leiderman has represented are a number of high-profile hackers, including Commander X who is wanted by the FBI for hacking into the Santa Cruz County website, to protest a ban on public sleeping,  according to the Atlantic Magazine.

Leiderman, who represents many of his hacker clients pro bono, is also the attorney for Raynaldo Rivera, a suspect who is accused of stealing information from Sony computer systems, the magazine stated.

The Atlantic article titled "Hacktivist's Advocate: Meet the Lawyer Who Defends Anonymous"  is in a Q&A format.

Here is an excerpt from the  article:

Q: You've said about DDoS attacks that "they are the equivalent of occupying the Woolworth's lunch counter during the civil rights movement," but under U.S. law DDoS attacks are illegal. Do you think the law should be changed?
LEIDERMAN: Oh, absolutely. Keep in mind that I didn't say that in an unqualified manner about DDoS. If you were knocking someone's front page offline to ultimately rape their servers and take credit-card information and things like that, that's not speech in the classic sense. When you look at Commander X's DDoS, what he was accused of in Santa Cruz, or with [the] PayPal [protests], these are really perfect examples. And very rarely in law do we have perfect examples.

Take PayPal for example, just like Woolworth's, people went to PayPal and said, I want to give a donation to WikiLeaks. In Woolworth's they said, all I want to do is buy lunch, pay for my lunch, and then I'll leave. People said I want to give a donation to WikiLeaks, I'll take up my bandwidth to do that, then I'll leave, you'll make money, I'll feel fulfilled, everyone's fulfilled. PayPal will take donations for the Ku Klux Klan, other racists and questionable organizations, but they won't process donations for WikiLeaks. All the PayPal protesters did was take up some bandwidth. In that sense, DDoS is absolutely speech, it should absolutely be recognized as such, protected as such, and the law should be changed.

To read the entire Atlantic magazine interview go to: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/10/hacktivists-advocate-meet-the-lawyer-who-defends-anonymous/263202/




Arizona State Rep. Caught Accepting Bribe from FBI Undercover Agents Posing as Businessmen

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WASHINGTON--An Arizona state representative admitted in court that he solicited and accepted a bribe from representatives of "Company A," which turned out to be a fictitious company run by FBI undercover agents.

The agents told Rep. Paul Ben Arredondo that they wanted to develop real estate projects in Tempe, Arizona, federal officials stated.

Arredondo pleaded guilty last week in federal court in Phoenix to accepting a bribe in exchange for promises of to use his influence as a city councilmember and state representative from February 2009 to November 2010.

Arredondo, 65, of Tempe, was a Tempe city councilmember for approximately 16 years, until July 2010. In November 2010, Arredondo was elected to the House of Representatives of the Arizona State Legislature.

He said that the things he took included tickets to college and professional sporting events and tables at charity events with his choice of guests, federal authorities stated.

Arredondo also admitted to mail fraud, defrauding donors to the Ben Arredondo scholarship fund, which he established in 2001.

According to federal prosecutors, in support of the fund, federal officials stated that Arredondo solicited and received contributions--in part by telling prospective donors that the fund would pay for college fees and books for "average" students.

Arredondo never told prospective donors that a portion of their donations would be used to make scholarship payments for the benefit of his own family members. Through 2011, Arredondo caused the scholarship fund to pay approximately $49,750 to three different educational institutions in Arizona on behalf of seven of his relatives.

Arredondo pleaded guilty to one count each of honest services mail fraud and mail fraud. Each charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the amount gained or lost in the scheme.

He will be sentenced in January.



Q&A: Diversity on the Ventura County Bench and Gov. Brown

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Members of the Ventura County Diversity Bar Alliance and Women Lawyers of Ventura County met with Mr. Joshua Groban, who is Gov. Jerry Brown's senior advisor for Policy and Appointments, last week in Los Angeles.


"The meeting was a result of our written request to the Governor earlier this year.  We had a frank discussion with Mr. Groban about the need for diversity on the judicial bench in our county," said Attorney  Jill L. Friedman, of Ventura.


Friedman agreed to answer questions for the Court Reporter blog:


Q: When was the Ventura County Diversity Bar Alliance formed and what is goal of the organization?


The Diversity Bar Alliance was formed in January and its mission is for the advancement and empowerment of women, people of color, and those historically underrepresented and disenfranchised in the legal profession, through education and advocacy in order to promote equal justice for our community and achieve excellence and diversity in our legal profession.


Q: How many members belong to the Alliance?


There are about 120 members.

VCDBA is comprised of the presidents from each of the minority bar sections in Ventura County: Ventura County Mexican American Bar Association; Women Lawyers of Ventura County; Ventura County Asian American Bar Association; and Ventura County Black Attorneys Association.


Q: Why is diversity on the bench important when the law is the guiding factor in the decision-making process?


 Diversity is vitally important to achieve fair and equal justice because judges, like all people, view facts through the prism of their own life experience.

Studies have shown that the human brain is hard wired to use shortcuts in analyzing situations based on stereotypes we hold about those we encounter. When people surround themselves with others who look and think like them, it only serves to reinforce those stereotypes, not challenge them. Judges need to decide facts without resorting to stereotypes because each situation is unique, and generalizations have no place in the process.

Diversity on the bench helps to break down stereotypes and increase the chance that cases will be decided on an accurate assessment of the facts.


The law is the guiding factor, but a judge applies the law to the facts as the trier of fact decides them, so it is critical that those deciding the facts do so without allowing stereotyping to inform the decision making process.


For a more in depth analysis of how diversity or a lack thereof impacts actual justice, see Michael Nava's law review article  The Servant of All: Humility, Humanity, and Judicial Diversity, 38 Golden Gate U. L. Rev. 175 (2007-2008).  See also the bibliography at www.aallnet.org/caucus/bllc/judicial-diversity-bibliography.pdf ,Voices of America: Enhancing Diversity on the Bench By Cynthia Loo,  http://www.laprogressive.com/voices-america-enhancing-diversity-bench-2/


Q: How does Ventura County rank in the state as far as diversity on the bench?


Among the worst: See http://www.judicialselection.us/judicial_selection/bench_diversity/index.cfm?state=CA for diversity on the bench statewide in California, and compare those statistics with our local bench.


We have no Latina judges, no African American judges, no Asian American judges and few women judges. The Judicial Council's Administrative Office of the Courts has also compiled demographics for the bench in each county and Ventura ranks among the bottom in terms of diversity.


Q: What were you told by Mr. Groban when you met with him last week?


Mr. Groban made it very clear to us that he and the Governor seriously take into consideration diversity, are aware of the importance of diversity, and are committed to diversifying the bench. 


He encouraged VCDBA to continue its efforts at increasing the pipeline of qualified minority candidates by telling our members to apply now and not to wait until there are more vacancies on the bench.


He also provided us with some great insight into the appointment/decision-making process as well as what the Governor is looking for in a qualified candidate - e.g., intellectual curiosity, judicial temperament, diverse life experiences, excellence in whatever field, reputation and being known in the community. 


Q: Are there going to be any follow-up meetings or discussions with Mr. Groban or perhaps, Gov. Jerry Brown, about diversity on the bench?


Yes, all of us who attended the meeting with Mr. Groban on Sept. 27 were pleasantly surprised  by how open and candid he was with us, and receptive to our concerns.


We all thought that meeting went very well and was productive.  We walked away encouraged by what Mr. Groban told us, and felt positive about the prospects of improving the diversity of our local bench. We are also now more familiar with this administration's protocol for assessing applicants and their objectives when making judicial appointments.



Q: Are there any plans to raise funds to support  women or minority judicial candidates who the association supports or endorses?


At this time VCDBA does not have plans to conduct any fundraising and is focused on educating our members and the community-at-large about the judicial appointment process and the continued need for diversity on the bench.



Judge Denies Mistrial for Convicted Port Hueneme Killer

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By Raul Hernandez



After a lengthy hearing, a judge on Friday denied a request for a new trial for a Port Hueneme man convicted of brutally stabbing his girlfriend in 2009.

Jonathan Aaron's lawyers Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson had filed a motion for a mistrial, saying Aaron was denied effective legal assistance of counsel during his trial last year. He was denied a fair trial, which is in violation of the due process clause of the constitution, Wippert said.

Wippert and Bramson said Aaron's trial lawyer, Russell Baker of the Public Defender's Office, failed to explore Aaron's mental health issues, including suicide attempts and schizophrenia, to consider raising a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.

In November, Aaron, 29, was convicted of murdering Valerie Victoria Ankerstrom-Clarke, 20, of West Hills, in October 2009. Aaron killed her at his Port Hueneme home because she was going to end their relationship, according to court testimony.

Aaron used a butcher knife to stab Ankerstrom-Clarke 20 times before he slit her throat. Afterwards, Aaron began repeatedly stabbing himself, according to court testimony.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge David Hirsh heard a full day of testimony Thursday. The judge said he found Baker's testimony "credible and persuasive" and Baker was constantly evaluating Aaron's case.

Outside the courtroom, Wippert said he disagreed with the judge's ruling but is confident an appeals court will overturn it because, he said, Baker didn't defend Aaron.

"He did no investigation. For anybody to not think that is astounding. It's beyond me," Wippert said.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Bill Haney, who opposed the defense's mistrial motion, said in an interview that Aaron was convicted because of overwhelming evidence against him.

"He was expertly defended by Russell Baker. Russell Baker is without a doubt one of the finest attorneys in Ventura County. He challenged our case with vigor, with professionalism and with total preparation," Haney said. "I was very disappointed to see these two out-of-town attorneys attack his credibility given the integrity he had demonstrated to the courts and to the county Bar Association."

Wippert and Bramson told the judge that just two defense witnesses put on the stand during Aaron's trial: the surgeon who treated Aaron for his self-inflicted stab wounds after he killed Ankerstrom-Clarke; and Aaron's mother, Nevin Aaron.

Testimony from Nevin Aaron indicated that Aaron has a family history of schizophrenia. She testified that Russell told her to keep her answers short and not say anything about any mental health issues.

Bramson told the judge that Jonathan Aaron is on anti-psychotic medication, tried to commit suicide in jail after his arrest and has had auditory hallucinations. In 2008, Bramson said, Aaron was treated at a county mental health facility after he tried to kill himself.

Haney told the judge Aaron abuses women and evidence indicated he intended to kill Ankerstrom-Clarke because she was leaving him, later telling police that he did wrong and wanted to be given death or life in prison.

"It's rational yet evil," Haney said.

Baker testified that he spent hours talking to Aaron in jail, going through what happened numerous times. Aaron said he was going to show Ankerstrom-Clarke the knife and tell her he was going to kill himself if she left him, Baker said.

"He always told me he always loved Valerie and how brokenhearted he was that she was dead and he was the cause of it," Baker said.

Baker had argued during the trial that Jonathan Aaron became enraged and felt provoked when the Ankerstrom-Clarke grabbed the knife from him, and he began stabbing her.

Baker testified that he hoped the jury convict Aaron of second-degree murder, despite asking them to convict him of voluntary manslaughter. Baker testified Aaron had never been diagnosed with mental disorder other than depression, according to what his mother told a grand jury.

"I believe Jonathan Aaron did not have significant mental health problems," Baker testified.


Alabama Cop Convicted in Federal Court of Beating a Handcuffed Man

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BIRMINGHAM-- A federal jury on Wednesday convicted Birmingham police officer for using excessive force when he beat a handcuffed defendant in 2007, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI.

The jury deliberated less than an hour and a half hour before finding Corey L. Hooper, 34, guilty of depriving the civil rights of Martez Gulley when he repeatedly struck the man with his hands and fists while Gulley was handcuffed and secured in the backseat of a patrol car on September 6, 2007. The jury found Hooper not guilty of a second charge of using excessive force when he fired an X26 Taser stun gun at another handcuffed defendant on August 4, 2007.

"Few police officers violate their oaths to uphold the law and protect the public, but those who do must be held accountable, as this defendant was today," U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said in a press release. 

"Police officers who abuse their authority undermine the dedicated men and women who put their lives on the line every day," FBI Agent Robert E. Haley stated. "The sentence handed down today sends the right message to those in law enforcement who would engage in such conduct."

Hooper is scheduled for sentencing February 27.

Hooper could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Today's Quotes

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"I don't try to intimidate anybody before a fight. That's nonsense. I intimidate people by hitting them."
- Mike Tyson, former heavyweight champion

"I ain't the same person I was when I bit that guy's ear off."
 - Mike Tyson, former heavyweight champion

Pennsylvania Cross Burning Could Result in Long Prison Sentence

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JOHNSTOWN, PA - A man who put a cross in the front yard of a minor victim who was socializing with a black juvenile and spent a few minutes in the woods watching the cross burn is facing up to 20 years in  prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Ryan M. Held, 21, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to Interfering with housing, stated authorities

"Every citizen has the right to be safe in their own home, free from racial intolerance and intimidation,"  U.S. Attorney David Hickton stated in a press release. "We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute criminals whose actions are driven by bigotry and hate."

Held saw the white minor victim socializing with a few friends, one of whom was a black juvenile. Just before midnight, Held returned to the property and put a cross in the front yard of the female victim, according to federal authorities.

"Held spend a few minutes laying in the woods bordering the property watching the cross burn and waiting to see if anyone emerged from the residence," federal authorities stated.

Held will be sentenced in February, officials stated.

The FBI conducted the investigation.


Today's Quote

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"Knowledge will give you power, but character respect." -- Bruce Lee

Ventura Man Wants to Move His Gross Vehicular Manslaughter Trial to Another County

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A defendant accused of being involved in a crash that killed a 20-year-old Ventura College student last year will ask for a change of venue on Wednesday when the case is set for a jury trial.

Businessman Satnam Singh's lawyer David Lehr has a tough legal road ahead to prevail in changing his client's jury trial for gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated to another county.

The law states that simply saying that Singh got bad press doesn't mean that he will get his trial moved.

Singh, 50, of Ventura, struck Nick Haverland, who was riding his bike to Ventura College for an exam, and narrowly missed a friend riding with him. Singh then drove to his Ventura home less than a mile away, police said.

Police officers said Singh, who appeared to be very intoxicated, had been involved in a series of accidents before he hit Haverland, including crashing into a mother and her 13-year-old daughter who were on bikes. Both suffered broken arms.

Basically, a defendant is entitled to a change of venue if his attorney can prove that an impartial jury cannot be impaneled.

The California Supreme Court adopted a standard set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1966 Sheppard vs. Maxwell: The state guideline is set in the 1968 case of Maine vs. Superior Court: A criminal action must be transferred if there is a "reasonable likelihood" that without a change of venue, the accused will not receive a fair, which violates due process clause of the constitution.

The law states that a defendant cannot simply say that because of "adverse publicity" he is entitled to a change of venue. But a defendant must prove in court through public opinion surveys or testimony that this adverse publicity has saturated the jury pool, according to the 1970 case Clift vs. Superior Court.

Under the California penal code there are five factors a court needs to consider in deciding to grant a change of venue: 1) the nature and gravity of the offense. 2)size of the county. 3)The status of victim and accused. 4)the nature and extent of the publicity. 5)the existence, if any, of political overtures in the case.


Two Courthouse Rumors: One True, and One Bogus

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Word has it that Ventura County Superior Court Judge James Cloninger in Courtroom 27 plans to retire.

Two attorneys who are eyeing the vacant post are veteran prosecutor Michael Lief and Defense Attorney Ron "Who Represents the Star on First Amendment Issues" Bamieh.

"It's official I'm thinking about it," Bamieh stated later, adding that his decision to run for office depends on whether his good friend, Attorney Bob Calvert, decides to run.

The matter came up today at the courthouse hallway.

Outgoing veteran prosecutor Bill Haney said he will support Lief and was surprised to learn that Bamieh was considering a judicial run.

Bamieh who arrived later also appeared surprised that I found out from sources about his possible run for the judicial post if it becomes vacant.

Laughing,  Haney said he's definitely going to support his friend Michael Lief and even plans to do some of the grunt work for Lief: putting up campaign signs.

The easygoing Haney who is a tough prosecutor, and Bamieh, a former prosecutor, were at a hearing today in the Jane Laut murder case.

Haney, who is leaving the District Attorney's Office after 17 years to go into private practice, often trades playful taunts and teasing with Bamieh.

Today was no different.

After the Laut hearing,  Bamieh said "you can quote me on this" when I asked some questions about the Laut case.

With a raised voice, he proceeded to tease Haney who was a few feet away. Bamieh said that the real reason Haney was leaving the district attorney was because Haey was afraid to go to trial against him.

Haney 's laughter immediately filled the hallway when he heard this, and he muttered a curse word as he walked away, grinning and shaking his head.

 Another rumor at the courthouse is that Bamieh wields some kind of influence at The Star newsroom on story coverage.

That is completely false, utterly ridiculous, and quite frankly, silly.

However,  two prosecutors who have tried to get judges to gag Bamieh in a couple of criminal trials, including a murder case, made arguments with no basis in fact that Bamieh has influence on how to cover a story and when a reporter should be in court.

The two DAs made these arguments with straight faces in front of two judges.

In a white-collar-criminal case,  a judge temporarily granted the prosecutor's request and gaged Bamieh. Later and after Bamieh filed his legal opposition papers, the judge lifted and denied the gag order.  In the murder case, the judge rejected the prosecutor's arguments for issuing a gag order, saying that there was no legal basis for it.

Pssst, seriously: This is how it works.  It's called the First Amendment. I cover the courts so I spend a lot of time there, and I get paid to be a journalist.

A few defendants who are involved in high-profile criminal cases including Jane Laut have hired Bamieh to represent them, and I write about high-profile cases.

It's not that complicated.

If an editor at the Star or any newspaper ever told me that certain stories or people were taboo because of who the person is or the subject matter involved, I would put my stuff in a box, walk out of the newsroom door and never look back.

It's never happened, and I have worked at four different newsrooms in the last 30 years.


Violent LA Street Gang Members Convicted on Gun and Other Charges

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LOS ANGELES - Three members of the Pueblo Bishops Blood, a violent South Los Angeles criminal street gang, were found guilty of federal racketeering, narcotics and gun charges, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The three - Kevin Eleby, 48,  known as "L," Jason Davis, 26, known as "Lil' G-Red," and Rashaad Laws, 35, "Big Time" - were among 46 defendants charged as a result of the investigation targeting the Bishops Blood, say federal officials.

  The convictions came following a four-week trial were the trio was convicted of engaging in narcotics and firearms trafficking, murder, witness intimidation and armed robbery as part of the gang's efforts to terrorize and control the Pueblo del Rio housing projects in Los Angeles, according to federal officials.

Eleby and Davis are facing a mandatory sentence of 30 years in federal prison. Laws faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years behind bars, stated federal authorities.

Today's Quote

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"Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke." -- Will Rogers.

Texas Jury Convicts Gulf Cartel Boss

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BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS - A federal jury last week convicted a high-ranking member of the Gulf Cartel Plaza,  according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Juan Roberto Rincon-Rincon is facing not less than 10 years in prison and up to life in prison, federal authorities stated.

Rincon, 41, from Matamoros, Mexico was convicted of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute as well as conspiracy to import into the United States more than five kilograms of cocaine and 1000 kilograms of marijuana from January 2002 until his capture on Oct. 26, 2011, federal officials allege.

Rincon Rincon, also known as Primo or X-5, was in charge of maintaining control to ensure safe passage of the Cartel's narcotics and ensuring no narcotics passed through his area with his approval or knowledge, federal officials stated.

For more than a decade, Rincon-Rincon was a close associate  of Jorge Eduardo Costilla, also known as El Coss, who has been the head of the Gulf Cartel drug trafficking organization since the capture of Osiel Cardenas-Guillen in March 2003.

Costilla was arrested by Mexican officials two weeks ago, according to federal authorities.

Man Arrested in Thailand is Facing Long Prison Sentence for Alleged Ponzi Scheme

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 LOS ANGELES - A man who fled the county last year after the collapse of a $7.6 million Ponzi scheme pleaded guilty today to mail fraud charges, according to the U.S.  Attorney's Office.

Daniel Nelson Tyson, 55, is facing up to 20 years in prison, stated federal authorities.

Tynon ran a Van Nuys-based investment company called Dant Corporation and promised investors annual returns of 18 percent, with the income purportedly coming from investments in  county property tax liens, federal officials allege.

More than 40 victims invested a total of $8 million.

Tynon was arrested by the Royal Thai Police, Immigration Bureau and was escorted back to the U.S. by postal inspectors, federal authorities stated.

The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.