Chevron USA Inc. Agreed to Pay $2 Million in Restitution Related to Last Year's Refinery Explosion
Chevron USA Inc. pleaded no contest to six misdemeanor criminal charges in Contra Costa County Superior Court Monday and agreed to pay nearly $2 million in restitution and fines related to last year's massive fire at its Richmond refinery.
The explosion and blaze on Aug. 6, 2012, were caused by a leak from a corroded crude oil distillation pipe and created a huge plume of polluted black smoke.
More than 15,000 people were treated at local hospitals for respiratory problems and other illnesses.
The criminal charges were filed jointly Monday by District Attorney Mark Peterson and state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
A Chevron lawyer entered the energy company's no contest plea during the company's subsequent arraignment before Superior Court Judge William Kolin in Martinez.
In a no contest plea, a defendant neither admits nor denies a charge, but agrees to accept liability for the sentence that would go with a conviction.
The six misdemeanor charges included two air pollution counts: discharging illegal amounts of carbon from the refinery's crude oil unit into the air and emitting a visibly dark cloud of contaminants on Aug. 6, 2012.
The other four counts were for state Labor Code violations affecting workers at the refinery.
They include failing to repair and continuing to use equipment operating outside safety limits; failing to require employees to use protective respiratory equipment; and failing to prevent non-emergency personnel from entering the emergency area last Aug. 6.
The fourth count was failing to implement an effective injury and illness prevention program for employees on Aug. 25, 2012.
Chevron agreed in the settlement to pay $1.28 million in fines and penalties, $575,000 for investigation and response costs by three government agencies, and $145,000 to Richmond BUILD, a worker training organization.
The company also agreed to inspect all carbon steel pipes that may be at risk of corrosion from sulfur compounds in crude oil heated to high temperatures.
District Attorney Mark Peterson said, "This criminal case achieves our goals of holding Chevron accountable for their conduct, protecting the public and ensuring a safer work environment at the refinery."
Chevron said in a statement, "We are committed to continuous improvement in process safety and reliability at the refinery."
Company spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said workers have spent more than 1.9 million hours repairing and improving the crude oil unit and have inspected more than 16,000 pipe components during the past year.
Chevron USA is an energy and refinery subsidiary of San Ramon-based Chevron Corp.
The three agencies that will be reimbursed for costs are the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, $299,000; the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, $185,000; and the state Attorney General's Office, $90,000.
Naked Acrobatic BART Harrasser Ordered to Stand Trial
A man accused of stripping naked and harassing people while doing acrobatic moves at a San Francisco BART station in May was ordered Monday to stand trial on seven felony and misdemeanor charges.
Yeiner Garizabalo, 24, was held to answer on two felony counts of false imprisonment, four misdemeanor counts of battery on public transportation and one misdemeanor count of sexual battery for the May 10 incident at the 16th Street Mission BART station.
A BART employee testified during the preliminary hearing in San Francisco Superior Court Monday afternoon that Garizabalo ran naked through the station, kicked him and grabbed his genitals while also grabbing several passengers and performing a backflip and other acrobatic moves.
The incident was captured in a video posted on YouTube that went viral via social media in the weeks afterward.
Maintenance worker Duane Bullard said he saw Garizabalo slide down an escalator into the station, then flip while pulling his underwear down around his ankles.
"His body was built like Bruce Lee and he was doing stuff I've only seen in karate movies," Bullard said.
Bullard testified that he tried to confront Garizabalo, a Colombia native who began making monkey-like sounds and had charged at a young woman who was exiting the fare gates.
Garizabalo kicked the woman, who suffered only minor injuries and was able to run away to safety, Bullard said.
When Bullard tried to confront him, Garizabalo began growling like a gorilla and kicked him in the groin, then grabbed Bullard's penis, the BART employee said.
Garizabalo was also playing with his own genitals and his "eyes were wide open and glossy" during the incident, which continued as he confronted other passengers who were trying to leave the station, including an older man who he grabbed around the neck, Bullard said.
San Francisco and BART police eventually arrived and took Garizabalo into custody on a psychiatric hold.
His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Paul Myslin, said of the case, "It's painfully obvious this is a mental breakdown."
Myslin and fellow defense attorney Andres Orphanopoulos argued that Garizabalo had suffered an isolated manic episode and was now on medication to address the issue.
They asked for his bail to be reduced from $100,000 and for the felony counts to be reduced to misdemeanors, but Judge Andrew Y.S. Cheng kept the bail at that amount while ordering Garizabalo held on the two felony charges along with the five misdemeanors.
Cheng noted though that "there may be an alternative solution down the road" to resolve the case, such as a referral to behavioral health court.
Garizabalo had been performing with the Berkeley-based circus troupe ClownSnotBombs before the incident and members of the troupe came to Monday's hearing to support him.
The troupe members declined to speak to reporters Monday, but one of the members said before Garizabalo's arraignment in June that his behavior had become erratic in the days before the incident and that he did not know what he did at the station until he was told about it later and saw the video.
Garizabalo will return to court on Aug. 19 to be formally arraigned on the seven charges.
Salinas Police Arrest 21-Year-Old Man in Gang -Related Shooting Early Monday
Salinas police have arrested a 21-year-old man in a gang-related shooting early Monday morning that killed two people and wounded five others outside a taqueria, a police commander said.
Giovanni Pacheco was taken into custody early Monday afternoon on suspicion of two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder after the suspect fired into a crowd at the Taco's Choice eatery at 608 Williams Road, police Cmdr. Dave Shaw said.
Police responded to a call about a shooting at 1:38 a.m. Monday following a fight involving some agricultural field workers in the restaurant that spilled into the parking lot, Shaw said.
In the parking lot, the suspect used a handgun to fire "quite a few shots" at the crowd, hitting seven people, including a 22-year-old man shot multiple times who died at the scene, Shaw said.
Another victim, a 28-year-old man, later died at a hospital, police said.
Among those wounded were three 25-year-old men -- one with life-threatening injuries -- as well as a 53-year-old woman and a 24-year-old man, Shaw said.
Police believe the shooting was gang-related and are in the process of identifying the people present during it, Shaw said.
Police located Pacheco based on interviews with witnesses, Shaw said.
Some of the wounded are recovering and have yet to be questioned, Shaw said.
"We're trying to find out exactly why the fight started as well," Shaw said.
The identities of the homicide victims are not being released until family members are notified, Shaw said.
Monday's shootings came as Salinas has been experiencing a wave of violence that has claimed the lives of seven people since July 24.
The killings have taxed the city's Police Department, which has been suffering staff cutbacks, Shaw said.
"We are drastically understaffed," Shaw said. "We are pretty much spent right now."
Meanwhile, police are still seeking a suspect in the shooting death of 23-year-old man in Salinas on Sunday morning, Shaw said.
Police responded to a report of shots fired at 10:21 a.m. Sunday at 1126 Parkside Drive and then the family of Rubin Francisco, 23, called to say that he had been shot, police said.
Francisco died at the scene after police officers attempted to administer CPR, police said.
His family members told police that Francisco had only been in Salinas for 15 days and was not affiliated with a street gang.
Witnesses in the neighborhood told police that the shooter drove away in a dark-colored compact car, police said.
Salinas police urge anyone with information about Monday's shootings or Francisco's death to call the Police Department at (831) 758-7321 or the tip line at (831) 775-4222.
Stockton Man Charged for Murder During July 4th Shooting in East Oakland
A Stockton man has been charged with murder and three other men have been charged with lesser offenses for the shooting death of Mortesse Wayne in East Oakland the night of July 4, authorities said Monday.
Wayne, 23, of Oakland, was found shot in the 5700 block of Elizabeth Street, near Seminary Avenue, at about 9:48 p.m. on July 4 and was pronounced dead at a local hospital two days later.
Oma Lyons, 37, was arrested on a murder warrant by Stockton police and a U.S. Marshals Service task force at his home at 9426 Snow Creek Circle in Stockton at about 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday, according to a probable cause statement filed in Alameda County Superior Court by Oakland police Officer Bradley Baker.
Multiple witnesses identified Lyons as the man who discharged a firearm and struck Wayne in his head, Baker said.
Lyons admitted in an interview with Oakland police that he was at the scene of the murder but then decided he wanted to speak to an attorney so the interview was terminated, Baker said.
In addition to murder Lyons is charged with discharging a firearm and causing Wayne's death, an allegation which could add 25 years to his prison term if he's convicted of murder.
Lyons has three prior felony convictions, one for possession for sale of cocaine base and two for possession of marijuana for sale, according to the district attorney's office.
Prosecutors also charged Purvis Ellis, 27, of discharging a firearm with gross negligence and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Baker said Ellis was arrested on a warrant at 1759 Seminary Ave. in Oakland on July 27.
Baker said Ellis "was identified by name and photo as a person who was discharging a firearm in the air just prior to Wayne being shot and killed by Oma Lyons."
He said Ellis was prohibited from carrying a firearm because he was convicted and sent to prison for possession of drugs for sale.
Jason Santana, 33, who was arrested last Tuesday, and Brian Lyons are both charged with being an accessory after the fact to Wayne's murder.
Authorities were unavailable for comment on whether Brian Lyons is related to Oma Lyons.
Baker said Santana "was identified by name and photo as a person that collected expended shell casings from the crime scene after Wayne was shot."
But after Santana was arrested he gave a statement denying he was at the scene when Wayne was shot, according to Baker.
Prosecutors charged Santana with having four prior felony convictions, which could add to his prison sentence if he's found guilty. His alleged prior offenses are possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of a controlled substance with a firearm, sale and transportation of a controlled substance and possession for sale of cocaine base.
Brian Lyons also is accused of four prior convictions: two for possession of marijuana for sale and one each for possession of a firearm by a felon and sale and transportation of a controlled substance.
Oakland police said their investigation into the shooting is ongoing and anyone with information about it should call their homicide section at (510) 238-3821, Crime Stoppers of Oakland at (510) 777-8672 or a tip line at (510) 777-2805.
Ernest Dronenburg Set to Dimiss Lawsuit Filed Against Same-Sex Marriage in California
As promised, San Diego County Clerk Ernest Dronenburg asked the California Supreme Court Monday to dismiss a lawsuit in which he asked the panel to stop same-sex marriages in the state.
Dronenburg announced Friday that he planned to withdraw his July 19 petition because he believes it is similar to another lawsuit filed by the sponsors of Proposition 8, the state's now-blocked voter initiative banning gay marriage.
"At this point my case could be considered duplicative and slow the process," Dronenburg said on Friday.
His attorneys filed a one-sentence request for dismissal with the San Francisco-based court Monday.
Gay and lesbian weddings resumed in California on June 28, after a federal appeals court lifted a stay of a U.S. trial judge's 2010 injunction prohibiting enforcement of the 2008 initiative.
Two days earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court left that injunction in place when it ruled that the sponsors of Proposition 8 had no standing, or legal authority, to appeal the trial court ruling.
Dronenburg and the Proposition 8 sponsors both argued in their state high court lawsuits that the injunction should protect only the two gay and lesbian couples who filed a federal civil rights challenge to the initiative. Both couples married on June 28.
The state Supreme Court denied an immediate stay in both lawsuits, but is still considering the request by the Proposition 8 supporters and their committee, Protect Marriage, for a full review of their petition.
In his original filing on July 19, Dronenburg said his arguments were similar to those of the initiative backers. But he said that as a public official whose duty to issue marriage licenses was directly affected, he additionally presented "unique interests and injuries that are particularized to him."
Dronenburg was later criticized by several members of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors for taking action and retaining an outside lawyer, Charles LiMandri of the Rancho Santa Fe-based Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund, without the board's direction.
The board held closed hearings on the clerk's action last week.
In Friday's statement, Dronenburg said that because the issue of the Proposition 8 sponsors' standing has not been raised in briefs submitted to the state Supreme Court in the past few days, he now feels confident his claims will be addressed in the other case.
Last month, 24 other county clerks, among the state's 58, signed on to briefs opposing Dronenburg's lawsuit and saying they believe the injunction applies statewide.
Tradgic Shooting of 19-Year-Old San Jose State University Student
A 19-year-old woman shot and killed Saturday while a passenger in a car in downtown San Jose was a student at San Jose State University slated to return to classes later this month, a spokeswoman said Monday.
Kimberly Joyce Chico had been enrolled at the college since June 2012 and was to begin her second school year there on Aug. 20, university media relations director Pat Lopes Harris said.
"It's very rare that we have a student caught in the wrong place at the wrong time like this," Harris said. "Very tragic."
"Our prayers and our thoughts go out to her and her family," Harris said.
Chico, who was at first identified by San Jose police as Kimberly Joyce Estrada, was shot at about 1:20 a.m. Saturday in the area of South Second and East San Salvador streets, police Sgt. Jason Dwyer said.
She was in the passenger seat of a car when someone standing outside fired a gun at her, Dwyer said.
"At this point we don't have a motive, we don't have any suspects identified," Dwyer said.
"Whether somebody was shooting directly into the car, or whether it was just driving through as shots were being fired outside the car and she just happened to be there, we don't know," Dwyer said.
"In a case like this, where the homicide detectives literally have nothing to go on, it's always somebody from the community that gives us a kick start and points us in a certain direction with the investigation."
The shooting happened in the area of East San Salvador that has a high concentration of nightclubs and potential witnesses, Dwyer said.
"Somebody saw something, somebody knows something about this case," Dwyer said.
The driver of the car carrying Chico was not hit and called 911, Dwyer said.
Chico was transported to Regional Medical Center where she was pronounced dead, Dwyer said.
The homicide marks the city's 30th of the year compared to 25 at this time in 2012, Dwyer said.
FBI Investigate Series of Robberies in San Francisco and San Mateo Counties
A group who robbed a series of banks in San Francisco and San Mateo counties in the past few months allegedly struck again last week in San Francisco's Richmond District, FBI officials said Monday.
A group of at least three men robbed a First Republic Bank at 6001 Geary Blvd. on Thursday afternoon, according to the FBI.
The same suspects are also believed to be connected to the robberies of a Bank of America at 1007 Taraval St. in San Francisco on June 6, as well as two bank robberies in San Francisco and Millbrae on June 3 and another on April 19 at a Wells Fargo at 725 Irving St., FBI spokesman Peter Lee said.
In each case, witnesses described three suspects entering the bank armed with at least one handgun and taking money from teller drawers.
During the most recent robbery on Thursday, one of the suspects also struck a bank employee in the head, San Francisco police said.
The suspects are described as three black men between 20 and 35 years old, two of whom are about 6 feet to 6 feet 2 inches tall while the other is between 5 feet 8 and 5 feet 10 inches tall, FBI officials said.
The suspects have slim to medium builds and were seen wearing thick jackets, gloves and clothing to mask their heads and faces, according to the FBI.
The FBI has released surveillance photos of the suspects that were taken during the various bank heists.
Anyone with information about the suspects, who should be considered armed and dangerous, should call their nearest FBI office or 911. Calls in the San Francisco area can be made 24 hours a day to (415) 553-7400 and tips can also be submitted online to tips.fbi.gov.
Sen. Barbara Boxer Visits Oakland to Promote New Health Care Law
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, came to Oakland Monday to promote the nation's new health care law, saying it will help millions of Americans get the health care they need.
Speaking at La Clinica de La Raza community health center in Oakland's largely Hispanic Fruitvale district, Boxer said the Affordable Care Act is providing funding for construction and renovation projects at community health centers across the country.
Health centers in California such as La Clinica de La Raza are receiving $509 million of that funding, she said.
Boxer said community health providers also will get funding to inform residents about their new health care choices and their eligibility for financial assistance or guaranteed coverage through Medicaid.
In addition, Boxer said it's important to educate residents about new coverage that will be available through California's new state-run health care exchange, which is called Covered California and will start enrolling people on Oct. 1.
Jane Garcia, the chief executive of La Clinica de La Raza, which is based in Oakland and operates 31 clinics in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties serving 85,000 patients annually, said the clinics plan to enroll thousands of new patients.
"We're ready for ObamaCare and we're excited to be part of a wild movement," Garcia said.
Referring to the Oct. 1 start for enrolling people in Covered California, Herb Schultz, the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said, "We're 57 days away from making history."
Schultz said that's because the local implementation of the Affordable Care Act will start at that time and millions of people will be able to get affordable health insurance for the first time.
Among those will be about 56,000 Alameda County residents who will be eligible for Medi-Cal subsidies, he said.
Boxer said Covered California and similar state-run health care exchanges that will begin in all 50 states will provide marketplaces where people can compare a wide range of health plans that would allow them to get coverage for as little as $162 a month and find out if they can get subsidies to make coverage even more affordable.
Boxer said the new law, which is already in place but has many provisions that won't take effect until next year, is "a big deal" because many people across the country, including 7 million Californians, currently don't have health insurance.
She said one of the law's most important elements is banning insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
As an example of the law's significance, Boxer then introduced Castro Valley resident Sage McCollister, who said the law is already helping her family because she was able to get insurance for her daughter Leah, who was born seven years ago with neutropenia, an autoimmune disorder that makes her vulnerable to serious infections.
McCollister said she applied to eight different insurance companies to try to get insurance for her daughter but none of them offered plans that were affordable.
She said that after the law went into effect she was able to get insurance for Leah for $8 a month and that helped her afford to have Leah get an expensive procedure to treat a spinal cord problem that could have resulted in paralysis.
McCollister said that without the Affordable Care Act, "My family would be bankrupt and Leah wouldn't have gotten the health care they need."
Victim of Fatal Berkeley Shooting Thursday has been Identified
A man who was fatally shot in Berkeley on Thursday night has been identified as 24-year-old Dustin Bynum, police said Monday.
The shooting happened at about 9:15 p.m. in the 1800 block of San Pablo Avenue, near the Albatross Pub.
Officers responded to multiple reports of shots fired and found Bynum, a Berkeley resident, suffering from gunshot wounds, police said. He was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The murder was Berkeley's third of 2013 and came 13 days after Jermaine Davis was found shot in the 1800 block of Derby Street at about 6:50 p.m. on July 17. Davis died at a hospital a short time later.
Bynum was shot about a block and a half from the spot in the 1000 block of Delaware Street where 34-year-old Zontee Jones was fatally shot shortly after 11 a.m. on Feb. 4.
Two suspects have been arrested and charged with murder in connection with Jones' death, but no one has been arrested for the deaths of Bynum or Davis.
Gun Battle in Santa Cruz Leaves One Watsonville Man Dead
A rolling gun battle that left a Watsonville man dead began after two coworkers who belonged to rival gangs spotted each other while driving on Mission Street in Santa Cruz Friday, police said.
Police arrested Marcus Bates, 22, and Michael Bates, 18, both of Aptos, on suspicion of homicide and Marisa Arroyo, 18, on suspicion of being an accessory to the crime and destroying evidence.
According to police, Marcus Bates and the victim, 31-year-old Alejandro Garcia Sanchez, worked together at a Santa Cruz business and had previously fought there.
They spotted each other while driving on Mission Street shortly before 11 p.m. Friday. Three cars exchanged gunfire and Sanchez was hit and crashed his car in a Burger King parking lot, police said.
Police said they have recovered the vehicles driven by the suspects and all had been hit by gunfire.
Investigators are asking anyone who witnessed the shooting, may have video footage, or found fragments of the cars or bullets to contact Santa Cruz police at (831) 420-5820.
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