San Jose Ex-Teacher Guilty of Molesting Young Girls, Faces 75 Years to Life
A former San Jose teacher faces a sentence of 75 years to life in prison after his conviction Thursday of molesting five young girls at an elementary school, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.
A jury in Superior Court in San Jose found Craig Chandler, 36, guilty on all five felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 and five additional multiple victim allegations, Deputy District Attorney Alison Filo said.
The felony convictions and multiple victim accusations, which are enhancements to sentencing, amounted to 15 years per count and Chandler could be sentenced to 75 years to life at a hearing set for Sept. 27, Filo said.
The mother of one of the five girls was in the courtroom when the verdict was read and "is incredibly relieved to be on the other side of this case," Filo said.
"The facts in this case are unimaginable," Filo said. "The tragedy that was inflicted by Mr. Chandler is unspeakable and the district attorney's office is certainly proud to have represented the victims to the best of our ability and hope this brings some closure to them so that they can move on with their lives."
The female victims were between the ages of 7 and 9 when Chandler molested them during recesses in his classroom at O.B. Whaley Elementary School in East San Jose sometime during the 2010 to 2011 and 2011 to 2012 school years, Filo said.
San Jose police arrested Chandler at his home Jan. 10, 2012.
The district attorney's office alleged that Chandler abused the girls by putting his penis in their mouths after blindfolding them alone in class during recess in what he said was a touch and feel game.
Each of the girls, who were all Chandler's students, testified in court for the prosecution and were "incredible," Filo said. "They were amazing."
The number of victims and the discovery of sperm on two children's chairs in Chandler's classroom that matched his DNA were among the things that persuaded the jury to convict him, Filo said.
Another key factor was the descriptions the children gave while on the witness stand about what happened to them in Chandler's classroom, Filo said.
"When you look at their testimony on the whole, there is just no other explanation for this conduct," Filo said.
"The children were made victims by duplicity, they were made victims by Mr. Chandler's hiding what he was doing," Filo said. "My greatest hope is that these children forget about being in Mr. Chandler's class and never realize the kind of victim that he made them."
Chandler's lawyer, Brian Madden, failed to persuade the jury during the trial that his client had been the victim of "a rush to judgment" by parents and police and that investigators asked the girls leading questions to which they gave biased and inconsistent answers.
Members of the Chandler's family, who attended his two-week trial, wept as the verdict was read.
Chandler, who was hunched over the defendant's table, at one point shook his head slowly.
Bart and Unions Battle to Win Public Support
BART officials and union leaders held dueling news conferences Thursday to try to win the public's support with only three days remaining before another potential strike Monday morning.
The day started with Antonette Bryant, the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, which represents 945 station agents, train operators and clerical workers, and other union leaders alleging at a morning news conference that BART management's lead negotiator, Thomas Hock, has a history of engaging in hardball tactics and forcing strikes.
Bryant accused Hock and BART of engaging in "surface bargaining," which she said is a technique designed not to make progress.
Bryant said, "We come to the table every day to bargain but we can't bargain with ourselves," alleging that BART management isn't participating in a meaningful way.
BART management spokespersons then held a midday news conference to say that although the transit agency's employees deserve a raise, their new contract must address the escalating cost of their benefit packages.
BART spokesman Jim Allison said the agency's medical costs have grown 251 percent in 12 years and its pension costs have grown 126 percent in 10 years so it must begin to "normalize" employees' benefits too so they're closer to those earned by other public employees.
BART must keep its costs under control because it will need to make $6 billion in improvements to keep its trains system safe and reliable, Allison said.
Management met at the bargaining table at noon with negotiators for ATU Local 1555 members and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents 1,430 mechanics, custodians and clerical workers, but talks ended at about 4 p.m. because union members left to participate in a rally and march at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland that was scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
At the morning news conference, Bryant said the unions' felt justified in planning to leave the talks at 4 p.m. because management has left the bargaining table early at other sessions when the unions wanted to keep talking.
Bryant said the purpose of the rally and march is to "unite riders and workers" and said union leaders would be available to resume negotiations Thursday night.
However, BART spokesman Rick Rice said at 5 p.m. that he hadn't heard of any plans to resume the talks.
But he said negotiating sessions are scheduled for each of the next three days.
Bryant said union leaders have reached tentative agreements on some minor issues in the contract talks but said the two sides still have a lot of work to do before they can reach agreements on the big issues in the talks, which are wages, pension contributions, health care contributions and worker safety.
San Leandro Man Charged with Manslaughter for Fatal Crash
A suspected drunken driver has been charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for a crash that killed a 57-year-old woman in San Leandro early Sunday morning, prosecutors said.
Akeem King also has been charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and or drugs causing great bodily injury in connection with the crash, which occurred in the 14500 block of Washington Boulevard at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, killing Lomina Faumuina, 57, and critically injuring Ronald Gene Hill, the man who was driving the car she was in.
King was also injured in the accident and was hospitalized.
San Leandro police said King was traveling at about 100 mph when it crashed head-on into the vehicle carrying Hill and Faumuina.
Bay Point Man Gets 21 Years for 2010 Fatal Shootings
A man was sentenced to 21 years in prison Thursday for the fatal shooting of a friend in Bay Point in 2010.
Bay Point resident Prudencio Rubio, 33, received the sentence in a Martinez courtroom in connection with the killing of 35-year-old Hector Sanchez, a friend with whom he used and sold methamphetamine, according to attorneys.
Rubio was initially charged with murder for the fatal shooting but accepted a plea deal last month in exchange for the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter with an enhancement for the use of a gun.
Deputy District Attorney Molly Manoukian said that at the time of the shooting, Rubio and Sanchez were in an ongoing dispute over a woman and that Sanchez had threatened the defendant in the days leading up to the shooting.
Rubio appeared to be in a drug-fueled, paranoid state of mind when Sanchez paid him a visit at his Bay Point home the afternoon of Aug. 11, 2010, Manoukian said.
At some point during the encounter, the defendant shot Sanchez multiple times, killing him.
Rubio also shot himself in the leg in the process, then fled in his yellow Ford Escape and led police on a chase on state Highway 4, according to police.
When officers caught up with him a short time later, the defendant refused to get out of his car and repeatedly put a gun to his head.
Police said a hostage negotiation team was able to coax Rubio out of the SUV after about an hour and arrest him.
Rubio will be on lifelong parole upon his release from prison.
23 Year-Old Antioch Rapper Killed in Shooting
A 23-year-old man with ties to Richmond and Antioch was killed in a shooting in Antioch on Wednesday night, according to the Contra Costa County coroner's office.
Lavonta Crummie, a Richmond resident with an address in Antioch, was shot and killed around 7:30 p.m. on Delta Fair Boulevard near Buchanan Road, according to police and a coroner's deputy.
Crummie was pronounced dead at the scene.
An unidentified Vallejo man was also struck by the gunfire and taken to a hospital where he remains in critical condition, according to police.
No arrests have been made.
According to Crummie's Facebook page and other online records, the 23-year-old was a North Richmond rapper who went by the name of "Macho".
Police said witnesses described the suspect vehicle in the shooting as a gold four-door car that is possibly a Honda or Chevrolet.
Korean War Vet from SF Buried in San Bruno; Was Identified 60 Years After Death
After more than six decades of uncertainty, a family Thursday finally was able to bury the remains of a Korean War veteran from San Francisco who was identified recently via DNA technology.
Army Sgt. First Class Joseph Steinberg, 31, was among more than 100 U.S. soldiers who were taken as prisoners during a battle in 1951 and later died of malnutrition at a prison camp, his family said.
However, Steinberg's body remained missing until recently when scientists at a U.S. military DNA identification laboratory were able to identify them among boxes of remains that North Korea gave to the U.S. in the early 1990s.
Steinberg's niece and nephew were among more than 100 people who came out to the Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno to see the missing soldier laid to rest.
"Never in a million years could I imagine this happening," said Marlene Baisa, Steinberg's niece who grew up with him in San Francisco's Mission District.
"Uncle Joe was a shining light in a very large family," Baisa said, recalling dancing and spending time with him before he joined the Army and served in both World War II and the Korean War.
"I have missed Uncle Joe my whole life," she said.
Baisa said Steinberg's brother Charles frequently wrote letters to the federal government asking for more information about what happened to his remains but passed away before receiving an answer.
Joseph was buried next to his brother Charles. Ron Smith, Steinberg's nephew, was only 4 years old when he died, but later joined the Marine Corps and said he wanted to attend the memorial service to honor his uncle and his military service.
Smith said Steinberg was apparently forced to march 100 miles to the prison camp where he eventually died.
He said it remains unclear why Steinberg died of starvation while other U.S. prisoners eventually were released and walked free.
"I would like to think others walked out because he considered the guy to his left and the guy to his right more important," he said.
The program for the memorial service showed a San Francisco Examiner photo from 1953 of Baisa holding a photo of her missing uncle.
Baisa said that although it has taken 62 years to bring her uncle to his final resting place back in the Bay Area, his memory lived on through his family.
"He's always been right here," she said, pointing to her heart.
Redwood City Man Who Killed Poodle Sentenced to 3 Years Felony Probation
A man who killed a poodle received his sentencing Thursday, which included three years of felony probation, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
Marcos Montano-Topete, 33, attacked his 16-year-old next-door neighbor's 26-pound poodle Globsis with a brick March 26, 2012, Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti said.
The dog whimpered in a pool of its own blood in front of Topete's home, and ultimately had to be euthanized by the Peninsula Humane Society.
Topete was found guilty Feb. 8 for felony counts of malicious killing of an animal and animal cruelty.
The unincorporated Redwood City resident was sentenced to three years felony probation; one year in county jail, 352 days of which have been credited; 12 counseling sessions pertaining to animal care; and restitution of $800 to be paid to the victim.
He is not allowed to live in a home or work where animals are present, Guidotti said.
Topete had been out of custody on $10,000 bail bond during the trial.
Alameda County Judge Faces Probation After Elder Abuse Plea
A former Alameda County Superior Court judge who was accused of stealing the life savings of his elderly neighbor in the Berkeley Hills over a period of more than a decade faces only five years' probation under a plea agreement reached Thursday.
Paul Seeman, 58, was charged with 12 counts each of perjury and offering a false or forged instrument, three counts each of elder theft and grand theft, and two counts of unauthorized disclosure of information.
Of the 32 total counts, all were felonies except for the two counts of unauthorized disclosure of information, which were misdemeanors.
Seeman had potentially faced a lengthy sentence if he'd been convicted of all the charges against him, but the Alameda County District Attorney's Office agreed to dismiss most of the charges and to accept his no contest plea to two felonies: one count each of elder abuse and perjury.
Seeman's hearing at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland was handled by retired Placer County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens, as all Alameda County judges had recused themselves from his case.
Couzens will sentence Seeman at a hearing Oct. 22.
The charges against Seeman stem from allegations that he stole from his neighbor, Anne Nutting, after her husband Lee died in 1999 at age 90.
Nutting died at the age of 97 in April 2010.
Berkeley police had investigated Seeman for more than two years before he was arrested in his chambers at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland on June 15, 2012.
He spent one night in custody at the Glenn Dyer Jail, which is next to the courthouse, but then was released on $552,000 bail.
Seeman was put on leave shortly after he was arrested but continued to receive his judicial salary until he agreed in March to resign from his job as judge.
A declaration filed in court by Berkeley police states that Seeman befriended Nutting in December 1998 after her husband fell at the couple's home on Santa Barbara Road and police found the home to be uninhabitable because of hoarding.
Police said Seeman obtained power of attorney for the couple the next month after he found $1 million in stock certificates and uncashed dividend checks in their home.
According to police, Seeman arranged the sale of two Santa Cruz properties the couple owned after Lee Nutting died in late 1999 and by August 2004 he had assumed control of nearly all of Anne Nutting's monetary affairs, putting his name on her financial accounts, which contained more than $2.2 million.
District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick said that as a result of Seeman's convictions, he is barred by law from judicial office and disbarred from practicing law in California and he will be required not to "harm, molest or annoy" Ali Mehrizi, who married Anne Nutting after Lee Nutting did and is her surviving husband.
Drenick said Seeman has already paid the amount of $299,436 in restitution for loan and interest costs and will pay an additional restitution of $5,649 before he's sentenced.
District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said in a statement that she believes, "Justice is served through the resolution of this case" because Seeman "will never serve in a position of trust or authority again as a result of these convictions."
O'Malley said Seeman "was removed from his judicial seat as a result of this case" and will be on probation for five years "with extensive terms and conditions."
O'Malley said, "Paul Seeman is not a free man; he is under the authority of the Probation Department for the next several years" and can be sent to county jail or local prison if he violates any term or condition of his probation.
She said, "Seeman has paid for his breach of trust as a judicial officer and, he has paid for his financial abuse of the elderly victim who has since passed away."
Seeman's lawyer, Laurel Headley, didn't return a phone call seeking comment on his case.
Oakland Movie Theater Allowing Patrons to Pay What They Want This Month
To thank moviegoers for their support, patrons of a movie theater in Oakland will be able to pay whatever amount they want this month as part of a program that will also benefit local nonprofits, the theater's general manager said.
The New Parkway Theater, located at 474 24th St., is kicking off Karma Cinema Month through the end of August, general manager J Moses Ceaser said.
The New Parkway opened late last year and sells beer, wine, pizza and other meals that can be taken into the theater during a movie.
Although under different management, the theater is similar in spirit to the Parkway Speakeasy Theater, which was at a different location and closed in 2009 because of financial difficulties.
To thank all of the community members who fought for a new theater, The New Parkway will allow patrons to pay whatever they want, whether it's nothing or an amount well above the normal price of a movie ticket, Ceaser said.
"We'll get everything across the range," he said. "But if someone gives nothing, they're still going to get the same phenomenal treatment as someone who donates $100."
Theater staff will also be giving out various freebies to moviegoers this month as thanks for their support, Ceaser said.
"There are hundreds if not thousands of people who helped get the theater open," he said. "The theater is only open right now because of their generosity."
To increase its commitment to the community, the theater is donating 30 percent of its ticket sales in August to four local nonprofits -- Alameda County Community Food Bank, College Track, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Hopalong Animal Rescue.
Ceaser said the idea for Karma Cinema Month came from his experience volunteering at Karma Kitchen, a restaurant in Berkeley that allowed customers to pay in advance for a future customer's meal.
"As you come through the door, you're told by the greeter that your meal is paid for, and at the end you would have the opportunity to leave a donation for future diners," he said. "It was totally based on trust and generosity."
Woody Allen Film 'Blue Jasmine' Filmed in SF Opens in Bay Area Theaters Friday
The latest Woody Allen film starring Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin that uses San Francisco as the drama's setting is opening in Bay Area theaters today.
"Blue Jasmine," written and directed by Allen, is about a wealthy New York City woman who finds herself broke.
She heads to San Francisco to live with her sister while discovering a new lifestyle.
Many parts of the film were shot in San Francisco for four-weeks last August, San Francisco Film Commission executive director Susannah Greason Robbins said.
She said the film does a good job of "showcasing the off-the-beaten track parts of San Francisco" and not just the iconic locations.
Last summer there were sightings of Allen, along with actors Blanchett, Peter Sarsgaard and others, in the Mission District and downtown and Union Square areas.
There was also filming in the Marina District, near Ocean Beach in the Sunset District and in parts of Marin County.
Robbins said the movie crew was mostly locally hired.
The film opened in Los Angeles and New York last week and before the opening there was a special screening last Thursday with some of the cast and crew in San Francisco, Robbins said.
The film will be screened at select theaters in San Francisco, Oakland, Mill Valley, San Rafael, Albany and Pleasant Hill.
Redwood City Man Arrested for Carjacking, Fleeing from Law Enforcement
A man was arrested following a carjacking early Thursday morning in Redwood City, police said.
Bryan Rios Serrato, 19, of Redwood City, allegedly brandished a knife at a 29-year-old man in his car while in the garage of his apartment complex in the 1000 block of Beech Street around 2:50 a.m., according to police.
The victim gave Serrato the keys to his car when the suspect demanded his wallet, according to police.
The victim pushed the suspect and ran, and Serrato got into the car and fled, police said.
Officers responded to a countywide be-on-the-lookout for the car, and about two hours later, a San Mateo County sheriff's deputy spotted it near Woodside Road and El Camino Real, police said.
Serrato fled at a high rate of speed when the deputy attempted to conduct a traffic stop, and a short pursuit ensued, ending when Serrato crashed the car in the 400 block of Roosevelt Avenue, police said.
He then ran away from the car and the deputy pursued and caught up to him in the 500 block of Lincoln Avenue, according to police.
Serrato was arrested after a brief struggle.
The victim was not injured in the carjacking.
Serrato was booked into San Mateo County Jail on suspicion of carjacking, robbery, felony evading with a vehicle and assault on a law enforcement officer.
Novato Pickup Truck Passenger Injured by Crash
A Point Reyes man suffered major injuries when he was hit by the pickup he was riding in after it was struck by a box truck on southbound U.S. Highway 101 in Novato on Wednesday afternoon, a California Highway Patrol officer said.
A motorist passing by the 1977 Ford pickup indicated there was an unsecured item in the back of the truck, CHP Officer Andrew Barclay said.
The driver, Jared Sperry, 38, of Point Reyes, pulled over on the right shoulder just south of the Redwood Landfill.
His passenger, Aaron Mudrich, 30, got out of the 1997 Ford pickup to secure the item around 2:20 p.m., Barclay said.
Javier Rodriguez, 30, of Alameda, was driving a 26-foot Freightliner box truck south in the No. 2 slow lane and moved into the No. 1 fast lane when he saw the pickup on the side of the road, Barclay said.
As Rodriguez was changing lanes, he heard a loud bang from under the box truck, which then turned hard to the right and hit the left front of the Ford pickup, Barclay said.
The crash caused the Ford pickup to rotate and strike Mudrich, Barclay said.
The pickup then rolled onto the driver's side injuring Sperry.
The box truck continued across the shoulder of the highway and into a field on the west side of the road, Barclay said. Sperry and Mudrich were taken to Marin General Hospital, and Rodriguez was not injured, Barclay said.
Witnesses also stated there was a bang from the box truck before the crash, Barclay said.
The incident is under investigation, but the loud bang might have been from the blowout of the right front tire that would have caused the box truck to turn hard to the right, Barclay said.
Two tires on the box truck were flat when the CHP arrived, but it's unknown when they became flat, Barclay said.
The back of the Ford pickup was empty except for a rope that might have been hanging out of the back of the truck, Barclay said.
Intoxication is not believed to be a factor.
The incident is a reminder to motorists on highways not to get out of vehicles unless there is an emergency, Barclay said.
Market Street Bicycle Barometer Tallying Riders Again After Turned Off In June
The bicycle barometer in San Francisco's Mid-Market neighborhood had been turned off in June but was up and counting again Thursday, a transportation agency spokesman said.
The electronic counter on the south side of Market Street between Ninth and 10th streets had been off for a city repaving project since June 8, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesman Paul Rose said.
Crews worked Wednesday evening to reactivate the counter, which was back to tallying the number of bicyclists that pedal by in time for the morning commute, Paul Rose said.
The 7.5-foot-tall and 1.5-foot-wide device was installed in May.
The SF Bicycle Coalition gave a $20,000 donation toward the $70,000 installation project.
The device aims to encourage bicycling as an alternate commute option. Transit employees are working with the city's Department of Technology and the Department of Public Works to maintain and monitor the barometer.
There were 2,254 riders tallied on the counter as of Thursday afternoon.
Bay Area Weather Forecast 8/2
Cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this morning, becoming sunny later in the day. Highs are likely to be in the 50s to upper 60s, with winds up to 20 mph in the afternoon. Mostly clear skies are expected this evening, with patchy fog after midnight. Lows are likely to be in the mid 50s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph. Cloudy skies and patchy fog are likely Saturday morning.Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s to mid 60s, with southwest winds up to 20 mph.
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