June 16, 2011
Bonds Asks Trial Judge To Overturn His Conviction
Home-run champion Barry Bonds asked a federal judge in San Francisco today to overturn his conviction on the only count on which he was found guilty in April.
The count was obstructing justice by giving evasive testimony in 2003 to a grand jury investigating steroid distribution by the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, or BALCO.
Bonds' lawyers argue in papers filed with U.S. District Judge Susan Illston that a statement the trial jurors identified as evasive was rambling but not untruthful, and was therefore not a crime. "Unauthorized rambling is not a crime," the defense attorneys wrote.
The former San Francisco Giants slugger's motion asks for either a judgment of acquittal or an order for a new trial on that count.
At Bonds' trial in Illston's court in April, the jury deadlocked on three other charges that he lied when he told the 2003 grand jury he never knowingly took steroids or human growth hormone or received any kind of injection from his trainer, Greg Anderson.
Illston declared a mistrial on those charges and is scheduled to set a new trial date on those counts at a July 1 hearing, unless prosecutors decide not to retry Bonds.
At that hearing, Illston is also expected to give prosecutors a deadline for filing a response to the today's motion.
Joshua Eaton, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, said prosecutors have no comment on retrial plans or the defense motion. "We are not commenting on any matters related to the Bonds prosecution," Eaton said.
The 2003 statement that the trial jurors found to be evasive was Bonds' response to a prosecutor's question about whether Anderson had ever given him anything that required a syringe to inject himself with.
In that answer, Bonds said he did not talk to Anderson about the trainer's business.
He referred to himself as a "celebrity child with a famous father," baseball player Bobby Bonds, and said, "I just don't get into other people's business because of my father's situation, you see."
Bonds' lawyers say in the motion that Bonds did directly answer that same question at least four other times in the grand jury testimony when he denied receiving injections from Anderson."The government may not have liked his answers, but Mr. Bonds did answer the questions put to him about injectable steroids," the attorneys said. "A single nonresponsive answer, coupled with responsive answers to the same question, cannot be criminally evasive, cannot be material and cannot be intentionally obstructive," the lawyers wrote.
The motion also contends that Bonds didn't receive the legally required notice of the charge against him because the allegedly evasive statement was not specifically cited in the 2007 indictment filed against him.
Bonds, 46, set Major League Baseball's single-season home-run record of 73 while playing for the Giants in 2001 and hit the all-time record of 762 in his last season in 2007.
Bonds is one of 11 people who were eventually indicted in connection with the BALCO investigation on charges of illegally distributing drugs or lying in connection with the probe.
The others all pleaded guilty or were convicted of various charges.
Suspicious Package At Federal Building Deemed Harmless
A suspicious package that prompted a shelter-in-place warning at the Federal Building at 450 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco this afternoon has been deemed harmless.
"The situation has been resolved. All clear, all clear," the building's occupants were told over a loudspeaker at 2:20 p.m.
The package was discovered on a conveyor belt in the building's basement mailroom at about noon, San Francisco Police Officer Albie Esparza said.
Esparza said the department's bomb squad aided in the probe.
During the two-hour investigation, occupants of the fourth through 20th floors of the building were instructed to shelter in place.
People on the first through third floors were told to move to the Turk Street side of the building, and those on the basement and sub-basement floors were evacuated.
Shelter-In-Place Warning Issued At Federal Building On Golden Gate Ave
Occupants of the Federal Building at 450 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco have been told to shelter in place because of an unspecified emergency.
An announcement over the building's loudspeaker early this afternoon stated that emergency crews were responding to a situation.
No details were given. The building's occupants were told, "this is not a drill," and were instructed to shelter in place until further notice.
People on the first through third floors were advised to move to a higher floor.
Man Pistol-Whipped During Carjacking Attempt In Visitacion Valley
A man was pistol-whipped during an attempted carjacking in San Francisco's Visitacion Valley neighborhood on Tuesday night, police said.
The attack was reported at about 10 p.m. in the first block of Brookdale Avenue.
The 26-year-old man was in his car when two men approached and one pointed a handgun at him, according to police.
The suspects demanded the victim's car and when he refused, one of them hit him in the face with the gun and then they both ran away, police said.
They had not been found as of this morning. The victim was taken to San Francisco General Hospital to be treated for his injuries, which are not life-threatening.
Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.
San Francisco Bay Area Wednesday News Roundup
Prop 8 Ruling by Homosexual Federal Judge Upheld
A federal judge who overturned Proposition 8 last year was not required to disqualify himself because he is in a long-term gay relationship, another jurist ruled in San Francisco Tuesday.
Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware Tuesday afternoon turned down a bid by Proposition 8 sponsors for the nullification of now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker's 2010 ruling that the same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional. They had argued that Walker could benefit from his own ruling because he might want to marry someday.
"It is not reasonable to presume that a judge is incapable of making an impartial decision about the constitutionality of a law solely because, as a citizen, the judge could be affected by the proceedings," Ware wrote.
The decision leaves Walker's ruling intact while proceedings shift back to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the Proposition 8 sponsors are seeking to appeal Walker's conclusions.
If Ware had invalidated Walker's decision, the appeal would have been moot and there would instead have been a new trial on a lawsuit filed by two same-sex couples in 2009.
The appeals court has stayed Walker's ruling during the appeal, leaving the 2008 measure in place for the time being. Proposition 8's sponsors and their committee, Protect Marriage, claimed in papers filed in April that Walker had a conflict of interest because the existence of his long-term relationship raised the possibility that he might want to wed his partner.
Walker publicly disclosed this spring, after retiring, that he had a 10-year relationship with a male physician, but said he saw no need to have stepped down from the case.
He has not stated publicly whether he may ever want to marry.
Charles Cooper, a lawyer for Protect Marriage, said the group's legal team "obviously disagrees with today's ruling."
"Our legal team will appeal that decision and continue our tireless efforts to defend the will of the people of California to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman," he said.
EBMUD Directors Approve Budget, Water Rate Increases
East Bay Municipal Utility District directors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a two-year operating budget that calls for water rate increases of 6 percent a year for each of the next two years.
The rate increases generated little controversy, as only four people spoke on the matter at Tuesday's meeting and board members said only a handful of their constituents had contacted them to oppose the increases.
EBMUD board chairman John Coleman said the increases are needed to maintain the agency's strong bond rating, which will hold down ratepayer costs for major construction projects and infrastructure maintenance.
The first rate hike for the water agency's 1.3 million customers in Alameda and Contra Costa counties will take effect on July 1, and the second increase is scheduled to occur on July 1, 2012.
The increases mean that the typical residential water customer who uses 270 gallons of water a day will see their bill go from $38.66 per month to $40.98 a month in fiscal 2012 and to $43.45 per month in fiscal 2013.
The average residential wastewater customer's monthly bill will go from $15.10 now to $16 in fiscal 2012 and $16.94 in fiscal 2013. EBMUD directors approved a $372 million operating budget for fiscal 2012 and a $395 million budget for fiscal 2013.
Water agency spokesman Charles Hardy said the budgets for the next two years represent only a modest increase over this year's $369 million budget even though the agency's debt service costs have risen and increases are expected in operating expenses for facilities and infrastructure maintenance and petroleum-based products such as paving materials.
Hardy said EBMUD has balanced its budget in recent years by cutting its spending, not filling positions that open up when employees retire or take other jobs and having employees forego pay raises.
SJ City Council Reaches Job-Saving Agreement with Police Union
The San Jose City Council Tuesday afternoon unanimously approved an agreement with the San Jose Police Officers' Association on concessions that will save the jobs of 156 police officers.
A tentative agreement was reached on June 3, but was not ratified by the members of the association until Tuesday morning.
Union members voted 674-429 in favor of ratifying the agreement. Even with the concessions, the city is still expected to lay off around 100 police officers amid a $115 million budget deficit, David Low, a spokesman for Mayor Chuck Reed, said.
The terms of the proposal include a 10 percent reduction in salary and benefits for a savings of $12.9 million, but allow an arbitrator to decide whether the reduction will be ongoing or one-time.
If the arbitrator decides the reduction should be ongoing, the contract terms will be for two years and if it is one-time, the terms will be for one year. The terms also allow the city to outsource policing at the airport.
Negotiations on pension reform and sick leave payouts, however, are ongoing.
Anti-Violence Video Results in Illegal Gun Chargs, Misdemeanor Citations
A well-intentioned but poorly planned effort to make an anti-violence video resulted in a 14-year-old student being arrested on illegal gun charges and two school employees being given misdemeanor citations, Oakland police and school officials said Tuesday.
Police officers thought a real gunfight was going on when concerned citizens notified them that a small group of teenage boys was running around with rifles at Union Point Park on the Embarcadero at about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, police spokesman Holly Joshi said.
It turned out that the boys were students from the United for Success Academy and were making an anti-violence video under the supervision of a 50-year-old male teacher and a 25-year-old female counselor, Joshi said.
Most of the guns were replicas, but a 14-year-old boy was carrying a .22-caliber rifle that he had bought on the street, she said.
The 14-year-old was charged with illegal possession of a rifle and taken to Alameda County Juvenile Hall, and the school employees were issued misdemeanor citations for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, according to Joshi.
Oakland schools spokesman Troy Flint said the school employees "had a lapse in judgment" and have been placed on administrative leave while the incident is being investigated.
Flint said one of the school employees had notified someone from the Oakland Police Department about the video shoot but he admitted that most officers didn't know about the filming and the incident could have turned violent.
"There was a potential for a violent or lethal situation, but fortunately there wasn't a confrontation," Flint said.
Joshi said the students and school employees were cooperative with police.
But she said that if the school employees had notified the Police Department about the filming ahead of time, "no one would have given them permission to run around in a park with rifles."
Flint said the video project was "a well-intentioned effort to highlight problems with violent activity" in the community and was part of an ongoing anti-violence program at United for Success.
SF Supes Approve Treasure Island Redevelopment Plan
A plan to transform San Francisco's Treasure Island got final approval from the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
The board voted unanimously in favor of the $1.5 billion project, a week after a long meeting in which the supervisors considered -- and eventually rejected -- an appeal of the environmental review of the proposal.
Over the next two decades, developers plan to add up to 8,000 residential units, up to 140,000 square feet of commercial space and as much as 100,000 square feet of new office space to the island, as well as new and upgraded roads and infrastructure, including a new ferry terminal.
The city has been working to redevelop the 404-acre island in the middle of the Bay since the U.S. Navy closed its base there in 1997.
Opponents of the plan argued that the environmental review did not adequately address various impacts of the project, including increased congestion on the Bay Bridge, the island's vulnerability to flooding from a tsunami or liquefaction from an earthquake, and toxicity left behind at the site of the shuttered naval base.
Work on the project is scheduled to start in mid-2012, with the construction of homes and retail spaces beginning in 2014.
Redwood City Boys Arrested for Sexual Assault
Five Redwood City middle school boys have been arrested for allegedly attempting to sexually assault two 12-year-old girls on a school field trip in March, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office.
The five Kennedy Middle School students were arrested June 8, shortly after two female students told their school counselor they had been sexually assaulted on an outing to Stulsaft Park in Redwood City three months ago.
The counselor immediately informed the school principal, who in turn informed police, Redwood City School District spokeswoman Naomi Hunter said.
All of the students -- the victims and their alleged attackers -- were between the ages of 12 and 14 and were part of the school's Newcomer Program, which provides support and instruction to students who have been in the U.S. for less than a year, Hunter said.
School district officials Tuesday vowed to conduct a thorough investigation into the incident and examine all safety policies and procedures pertaining to school trips, district director of assessment and spokeswoman Jane Yuster said.
"Our number one message to parents is that their kids are safe in Redwood City schools and on school-sponsored trips and activities," Yuster said. "The district is very concerned that this potential incident took place," she said.
The five boys were arraigned Monday at the San Mateo County Youth Services Center on felony charges of assault with intent to commit rape, sexual battery and committing a lewd act on a minor under the age of 14, according to the district attorney's office.
Massey Pleads Not Guilty by Insanity of Gross Murder
Jess Willard Massey pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity Tuesday to the murder of Napa State Hospital psychiatric technician Donna Gross last year.
Two doctors will evaluate Massey's mental health and report to Napa County Superior Court Judge Mark Boessenecker on Aug. 1 when a trial date might be set, Deputy District Attorney Allison Haley said Tuesday afternoon.
Massey, 37, was held over for trial in May on murder, robbery and kidnapping charges.
He allegedly strangled psychiatric technician Donna Gross at the Napa State Hospital where he was a patient on Oct. 23.
Gross, 54, of Concord died of asphyxiation after she was attacked in an enclosed courtyard at the Napa hospital. Gross took a dinner break around 4:30 p.m.
She bought gum at a Target store and checked back in at the hospital at 5:15 p.m., Napa County Sheriff's Capt. Tracey Stuart said. She was robbed of jewelry, gum and less than $2, Stuart said.
Gross's watch, two necklaces and her earrings were found in Massey's room and the gum was found in a trash can on Massey's ward, Stuart said.
The sheriff's office believes Massey used his hands and arms to strangle Gross, Stuart said.
Massey was sent to Napa State Hospital after pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to stabbing a woman in a Sacramento parking garage in May 1996.
Haley said a jury will decide if Massey is guilty of Gross's killing and if convicted, whether Massey was insane at the time.
Arson Fire Damages Richmond Elemnetary School
A suspected arson fire seriously damaged the old main building at King Elementary School in Richmond on Monday night, Richmond fire Battalion Chief Merlin Turner said Tuesday.
The fire was reported at about 8:15 p.m. at the school, which is at 234 S. 39th St. Initial reports indicated that several buildings were burning and firefighters quickly called for a second alarm, Turner said.
When crews arrived, they found flames engulfing the entire old main building, which was scheduled to be demolished this summer.
A new, two-story building has been built next to the old building and will house the school in the upcoming school year, West Contra Costa Unified School District spokesman Marin Trujillo said.
It took 22 firefighters about 45 minutes to get the blaze under control, and two firefighters were treated at the scene for minor burns, Turner said.
The El Cerrito Fire Department assisted. Turner said the fire looked like it had multiple points of origin and was "definitely suspicious."
Police and fire investigators were still investigating Tuesday while crews from the school district boarded up the damaged building.
The new building sustained only minor smoke damage, which Trujillo said would be repaired before school begins again on Aug. 25.
"Luckily it impacted the old building and not the new building," Trujillo said.
He said there were some materials still inside the old building, but the school district's insurance would likely cover the loss.
By the time the new school year begins, Trujillo said the burned building will be removed and the students will occupy the "beautiful brand-new building," which is nearly complete.
A playground will be built on the footprint of the old building once it is gone.
"We're really happy that the new building was not impacted. King is on the way up and this won't slow them down," Trujillo said.
SF Mayor Lee Answers Supes' Questions
In the middle of a busy day of meetings with national and foreign dignitaries, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee paid a visit to the Board of Supervisors for his voter-mandated monthly appearance in board chambers Tuesday.
The mayor answered questions submitted by supervisors on a variety of topics, including affordable housing, foreclosures, graffiti and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
Lee gave scripted answers to the questions and did not announce any new policies on the various issues.
The format of the mayor's appearances has brought criticism from some supervisors who say it lacks spontaneity and prevents in-depth discussion, since the rules don't allow for a back-and-forth between the two sides.
Outside board chambers after the question time, the mayor talked about meeting first lady Michelle Obama at a lunch in the city earlier Tuesday.
Lee said he was "quite spirited" by the meeting and "came back here to say 'Let's go to work.'"
Tuesday evening, he was scheduled to attend a dinner with Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, who recently announced he will open a consulate general for his country in San Francisco.
Hillsborough Police Investigating Home Bulgaries
Police in Hillsborough are trying to determine if a series of home burglaries that have been reported in the city this month are related.
Inspector Peter Gould said the string of residential break-ins are similar in that they take place during the day when many homes are unoccupied, but so far no common suspect descriptions have emerged from witness accounts.
"They're similar only because of a similar technique," Gould said, adding that in most cases the burglars appeared to have quickly forced their way in, stolen cash or jewelry and quickly fled.
"There is no commonality in the vehicles or description of the suspects," he said.
The most recent burglary occurred in the city Monday at a home in the 1500 block of Bellevue Avenue, sometime between 9:10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Gould said.
A suspect or suspects forced open a back door to gain entry and took cash and jewelry before fleeing. In three other recent burglaries -- two on June 1 and a third on Friday -- the burglars also gained entry to the victims' homes by prying open rear sliding doors or French doors, Gould said.
The police department is reminding residents to help prevent break-ins by being certain all side and rear doors are securely locked.
Home alarm systems have been also an effective deterrent, Gould said. The police department is asking residents to immediately report any suspicious people or activity in residential neighborhoods by calling 911.
Hillsborough police is meeting with several other police agencies to compare similar burglaries that have recently plagued Peninsula communities.
Coast Guard Rescues Marin Boaters
The U.S. Coast Guard performed a water rescue off of the Marin County coast Tuesday morning, towing six people away from a rocky shoreline after the boat's battery died.
The five adults and one child aboard a 29-foot Bayliner boat called the Coast Guard at 9:38 a.m. to report they were disabled about half a mile north of Muir Beach, Coast Guard search and rescue controller Aaron Coffin said.
It appeared the boat's battery had died, prompting the Coast Guard to advise the boaters to anchor and put on personal floatation devices. When the anchor did not hold well, the Coast Guard dispatched a helicopter and two boats, Coffin said.
"They were at the mercy of the weather. Luckily they put in the call to the Coast Guard," Coffin said.
The rescue boats reached the disabled boat 15 to 20 feet from rocks and safely towed the distressed boat into the Presidio Yacht Club, where it was safely moored just after noon.
No one was injured, according to Coffin. "Another half hour and it would have been disastrous," Coffin added.
Hall of Famer Joe Montana Recovering from Ranch Injuries
Hall of Fame football player Joe Montana's much-anticipated presentation on a luxury hotel project at Tuesday night's Santa Clara City Council meeting has been put on hold until he recovers from injuries he suffered at his Calistoga ranch over the weekend.
His attorney, Robert Mezzetti, said Montana was driving around in a small car on his ranch, and in an attempt to avoid hitting his daughter, veered off into nearby woods and hit a tree.
He was taken to a hospital and received treatment for a number of injuries, including a black eye that required stitches, chest pain, and leg injury, Mezzetti said.
He has been released, but Mezzetti said they have asked the city council for a continuance until Montana is recovered.
Montana was supposed to present a proposal to lease and develop a luxury hotel on two city-owned parcels of land north of Tasman Avenue, across from the planned stadium for the San Francisco 49ers next to the Great America theme park.
The hotel would include an upscale restaurant and would open for business around the same time that the stadium is scheduled to open, in fall 2015.
"He's excited about the project," Mezzetti said. "It looks like a win-win for everybody."
The meeting had not yet been rescheduled, but Councilman Kevin Moore said he is looking forward to hearing about the project when Montana recovers.
"For this guy, it will just be another comeback for him. We'll have to wait a couple of weeks, but the main thing is he's healthy."
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MTA Holding Community Meeting On New Bus Facility Under Construction
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is holding a community meeting today to provide an update on the construction of a new bus facility in the city's Bayview neighborhood.
The Islais Creek facility will include a bus yard to house 184 vehicles, a building to wash and maintain the buses, and administrative offices, according to Muni officials.
The facility is being built on 8.4 acres of city-owned land at 1301 Cesar Chavez St. Construction began in March and is expected to wrap up in July 2012.
As part of the project, the agency is creating a space along the Islais Creek shoreline for public access that will include a small pedestrian bridge and public art.
The space will also foster local wetlands to allow colonization by native plant and animal life, according to Muni officials.
Today's meeting is scheduled to run from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and will take place at the Muni Metro East Maintenance facility, located in Room 235 at 601 25th St.
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Tonight's Screening Brings Never-Before-Seen City Images To Big Screen
Film lovers in San Francisco will be treated to new views of the city tonight when a local film archivist screens his latest project.
Rick Prelinger, a renowned collector of film ephemera, will be presenting a collection of stock footage, outtakes, and home movies, all of which share one thing in common -- San Francisco is the star.
Prelinger has selected footage from the 1930s through the 1960s to give viewers a glimpse of a time gone by through glossy never-before-seen Hollywood feature outtakes and amateur home movies from residents and tourists in tonight's screening of "San Francisco Top to Bottom: The City Seen by Hollywood and Home Moviemakers."
Better known to film and history buffs for his vast film archive and his annual presentation, "Lost Landscapes of San Francisco," Prelinger is also the co-owner of Prelinger Library with his wife Megan.
There is no Dewey Decimal System at this library, where guests are encouraged to be hands-on and make themselves at home among the collection of historical goodies that focus mainly on 19th and 20th century American history and culture.
A research library that has been mainstreamed for the public, the collection consists of printed ephemera, periodicals and government documents. "We're fascinated by what happens when you put historical documents in the hands of ordinary people who may not be professional historians," Megan Prelinger said.
The library houses the couple's personal collection that they opened up to the public in 2004 and the two scholars refer to the space as an extension of their home.
Tonight's screening will bring history to the big screen and offer local film and history lovers a chance to revel in both.
The screening is sponsored by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society and is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Kanbar Hall at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.
Judge Denies Bid To Nullify Walker's Prop 8 Ruling
A federal judge in San Francisco today denied a bid by the sponsors of Proposition 8 to have him nullify a decision that overturned California's ban on same-sex marriage.
The sponsors of the voter initiative claim the original judge in the case, now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, had a conflict of interest because he has had a 10-year relationship with another man and might want to get married.
Walker ruled last year that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.
That ruling is now being appealed, but Proposition 8 supporters have meanwhile claimed that Walker should have been disqualified from hearing the case because he had an obligation to disclose his relationship and to say whether he wanted to marry.
A lawyer for two couples who sued to block Proposition 8 argued that Walker's ruling is being challenged simply because he is gay and said it is unfair to question his integrity.
U.S. District Judge James Ware heard two hours of arguments on the issue on Monday, and issued his decision this afternoon.
Oracle Racing Catamaran Capsizes During Demo
If a preview on Monday was any indication, a pledge by organizers of the 2013 America's Cup race that their San Francisco racecourse will challenge the world's best sailors could very well come true.
Oracle Racing crewmember Shannon Falcone suffered dislocated rib cartilage when he was thrown from a capsized AC45 catamaran at about 3 p.m. during a demonstration by two of the team's next-generation America's Cup boats.
Helmsman Russell Coutts also fell from the boat, crashing through the wind sail, but did not need medical attention, according to a post on the Oracle Racing team's website. "It was all in slow motion," Falcone said in a statement. "I didn't think it was going to go all the way over."
The giant catamaran capsized as it was being maneuvered into place for its second media exhibition race of the day, according to Oracle Racing. Both bows of the boat buried in the water, and the catamaran tipped and capsized to starboard.
An Oracle chase boat picked up Falcone and brought him to a San Francisco Fire Department rescue boat, which then took him to the Golden Gate Yacht Club, fire Deputy Chief Pat Gardner said.
Falcone was able to walk to an ambulance waiting at the club that transported him to a hospital for precautionary X-rays.
Gardner said the fire department has been working with the America's Cup race committee on protection and safety procedures.
The department had its rescue teams in place for the first time on Monday. "Everything worked the way it was supposed to," he said.
Monday was also the first time Oracle Racing has sailed in its home waters since winning the 33rd America's Cup in Spain 16 months ago, and it marked the first on-the-water action related to the America's Cup race since San Francisco was named host city of the event.
Early Morning Two-Alarm Fire Appears To Be Accidental
A two-alarm fire that burned between two buildings in San Francisco's Western Addition neighborhood early this morning appears to have been accidental, a deputy fire chief said.
The fire was reported at 12:58 a.m. between two residential buildings at 1127 Elm St. and 1580 Golden Gate Ave., Deputy Fire Chief Pat Gardner said.
Elm Street is an alleyway between Golden Gate Avenue and Turk Street.
Firefighters responded and extinguished the blaze by 1:37 a.m., a fire dispatcher said. No one was injured by the fire.
The two buildings were briefly evacuated, with all but one resident able to return home after the blaze was put out.
The American Red Cross is assisting that displaced resident with temporary housing, Gardner said.
The blaze caused about $400,000 in damage to one of the buildings and about $50,000 in damage to its contents, he said.
While the fire appears to have been accidental, its exact cause had not been determined as of this morning, Gardner said.
Woman Robbed In Soma Early This Morning
A woman was robbed of her backpack, cellphone and shoes in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood early this morning, police said.
The robbery was reported at about 4:10 a.m. near the intersection of 11th and Mission streets.
The 28-year-old victim was approached by a man who demanded her property, according to police.
As two other men also approached the woman, she became frightened and complied with the demand, police said.
The suspects fled with the items, and remain at large. The victim was not injured during the robbery.
Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Police Department's anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444 or send a tip by text message to TIP411.
San Francisco Bay Area Tuesday News Roundup
Vallejo Special Education Teacher Arrested for Raping Developmentally Challenged Student Aide
A 56-year-old special education teacher who works at a Vallejo elementary school was arrested Monday on suspicion of raping a developmentally challenged student aide, police said.
Jerry Johnson is alleged to have committed the sexual assault on the Loma Vista Elementary School campus during school hours, police said.
Johnson teaches students who are in kindergarten or pre-kindergarten.
According to police, the victim is 18 years old but has the mentality of a 7-year-old.
The victim, a student aide of Johnson's, assisted other developmentally disabled students, police said. Johnson was taken into custody in Elk Grove, the same city where he resides, with the assistance of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, according to Vallejo police.
Johnson was arrested on a warrant for $750,000 on suspicion of rape of a person who is incapable of consenting due to their mental and developmental disabilities, police said.
Police are asking for the public's help in determining if similar incidents have occurred.
Anyone with information is asked to contact police Detective Cpl. John Garcia at (707) 648-4517.
Man Found Competent to Stand Trial for Murder of Mother
Psychiatrists at Napa State Hospital have found a Danville man competent to stand trial for the 2006 bludgeoning death of his mother, Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Dan Cabral said Monday.
Andrew Mantas, now 21, was 16 when his mother, 43-year-old Dimitra Mantas, was beaten to death with an aluminum baseball bat in the family's Danville home on Nov. 6, 2006.
Police arrested Andrew Mantas just hours after the slaying as he was driving through Blackhawk country club on a stolen golf cart.
He told police he thought someone was after him, his attorney Daniel Horowitz said in the weeks following the slaying.
Horowitz could not be immediately reached for comment Monday afternoon, but has said in the past that Andrew Mantas had been suffering from a progressive mental illness for at least 18 months before his mother's death.
In the weeks before his mother's death, Danville police had documented at least two incidents where Andrew Mantas had randomly attacked people, Horowitz said.
Neighbors also told police that Andrew Mantas had been behaving strangely and knocking on their doors asking for help, Horowitz said.
Just days before Dimitra Mantas was killed, she took her son to her priest and told him she believed he was possessed by demons.
The priest told her that her son needed immediate psychiatric help, Horowitz said. But when Dimitra Mantas took her son to a hospital, hospital staff refused to admit him, Horowitz said.
They told her to take him home and make an appointment for him with a psychologist the following week, Horowitz said.
Two days later, Dimitra Mantas was beaten to death. In the months that followed, Horowitz said Andrew Mantas had no idea his mother was dead or that he had allegedly killed her.
He heard voices and was diagnosed with several severe mental illnesses.
Andrew Mantas has been charged as an adult and his next hearing is scheduled for June 27 in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.
Arbitrator Declares Agreement Rejected by Muni Operators' Union to Become Binding Contract
Less than a week after members of the city's transit operators' union voted down a tentative agreement between the union and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, an arbitrator declared that the terms of that rejected agreement are to become the operators' binding contract for the next three years.
On Wednesday, union members rejected the agreement, which had been signed by union representatives and SFMTA management, by a vote of 944 to 488.
Union leadership had made a yes-vote recommendation.
That tentative agreement was the product of three months of bargaining between the SFMTA and Transport Workers Union Local 250-A.
In accordance with Proposition G -- passed by city voters last November -- an arbitrator then became responsible for the contract and had to decide between each side's final offers on outstanding issues.
Monday, arbitrator Carol Vendrillo ruled that the terms of the tentative agreement would be binding between the SFMTA and the more than 2,000 union members.
According to Vendrillo's decision, the terms of the agreement "represent the best resolution of these protracted labor negotiations and are in the best interest of both the parties and the riding public."
Vendrillo's decision is final and binding.
The new contract will take effect on July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, and will remain in effect until 2014, according to the SFMTA.
An arbitration hearing was held with SFMTA management and union representatives on Thursday, when both parties presented their last best offers.
"Further discussion made it clear ... that if any provision of the [agreement] were altered, the careful equilibrium that the parties had established in that agreement would be upset, and virtually all aspects ... would have to be re-opened," Vendrillo wrote in her decision.
In effect, Vendrillo ruled in the union's favor on economic concessions and in the SFMTA's favor regarding discipline and grievance procedures. "
We view this decision as a win for our members on wages, benefits and pension issues," local president Rafael Cabrera said in a statement.
A federal judge in San Francisco said Monday he hopes to rule quickly -- possibly within 24 hours -- on a bid by sponsors of Proposition 8 to have him nullify another judge's decision overturning the ban on same-sex marriage.
"I understand this is an important case," U.S. District Judge James Ware told attorneys after hearing two hours of arguments on the issue. "It is my intent to give you a written decision quickly ... so that you can move beyond this and go back to other matters," Ware said.
The sponsors of the voter initiative claim the original judge, now-retired U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, had a conflict of interest because he has had a 10-year relationship with another man and might want to get married.
Charles Cooper, a lawyer for the Proposition 8 sponsors, argued that Walker had an obligation to disclose his relationship and to say whether he wanted to marry.
"That is a fact clearly relevant," Cooper argued. Walker ruled last year that Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.
That ruling is now on appeal, but Proposition 8 supporters have meanwhile claimed that Walker should have been disqualified from hearing the case.
After retiring, Walker disclosed this spring that he has a longtime gay partner, but has never commented on whether he wants to marry. Ware noted that there is no direct evidence that Walker was interested in getting married.
Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer for two couples who sued to block Proposition 8, argued that Walker is really being challenged simply because he is gay and said it is unfair to question his integrity.
The motion is "frivolous, deeply offensive and unfortunate," Boutrous told the judge.
"We assume that all federal judges will decide cases based on the law no matter what their background," Boutrous said.
Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against OPD, Alameda Sherrif
A class action lawsuit filed Monday alleges that the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office violated the rights of 150 people who were arrested after former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle was sentenced last Nov. 5.
The suit, filed in federal court in Oakland, claims that Oakland police unconstitutionally and unlawfully arrested the protesters without probable cause and sheriff's deputies caused them pain, discomfort, embarrassment and humiliation by holding them for up to 24 hours with little access to restrooms or food.
The lawsuit, filed by attorneys affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild, also alleges that deputies forced some of those arrested to provide DNA samples even though the arrests were only based on the allegation of participating in an unlawful assembly, which is a non-violent misdemeanor.
The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages for the protesters who were arrested as well as an injunction that would force the Oakland Police Department to comply with its crowd control policies.
The lawsuit was filed only hours after Mesherle, 29, was released from the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail at about 12:30 a.m. Monday.
Mehserle shot and killed Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man who was unarmed, after Mehserle and other officers responded to reports that there was a fight on a train.
Mehserle admitted in a highly-publicized trial last year that he shot and killed Grant but claimed he had meant to use his stun gun on Grant and fired his service gun by mistake.
Alameda County prosecutors sought to have Mehserle convicted of murder, but in a verdict on July 8 jurors only convicted him of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
On Nov. 5, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Robert Perry sentenced Mehserle to two years. Mehserle was released from custody Monday because he was given credit for time he served in jail before and after his conviction.
A rally was held in downtown Oakland that evening, after which some demonstrators marched toward the Fruitvale BART station.
Sonoma County Supes Will Restore $6M to Budget
Sonoma County's Board of Supervisors indicated Monday afternoon they will restore nearly $6 million to the 2011-12 budget, including money for the sheriff's office's Henry-1 helicopter.
The five-member board took several straw votes to restore funding during Monday's first day of budget hearings.
The hearings will continue today and official votes on any funding restorations are expected Wednesday.
The board reviewed the budgets of the Health and Human Services departments, and justice services that include the district attorney's, public defender's and sheriff's offices and the probation department.
The county is trying to cut $42.8 million from the general fund budget, reducing it to $379.3 million.
The total 2011-12 county budget is $1.2 billion.
The justice services' budgets were targeted for $21.7 million in cuts and Health and Human services for $7 million in reductions. Justice services comprise 51 percent of the general fund budget.
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas, whose office faces a $12.4 million cut and loss of 56 positions, said it would cost $350,000 just to mothball Henry-1, maintain it for possible sale and to lease the hanger at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport through the end of the year.
The helicopter's budget has already been cut by $900,000, Freitas said. Restoring $900,000 and increasing total funding to $1.2 million with the use of one-time funds would reduce its 24/7 service to a 40-hour week.
The helicopter would also be on call after hours but off duty two days a week, Freitas said.
The helicopter performs searches, rescues, law enforcement duties and has fire-fighting capabilities.
Board members said the sheriff's office should consider recouping some of its helicopter expenses by requesting donations for searches and rescues and by charging out-of-county residents who are rescued in Sonoma County.
Among the sheriff's office's programs that might be spared cuts are funding for Henry-1, for retaining three employees in a domestic violence and sexual assault unit and a violent crimes and property crimes unit, and for partial funding of a gang crimes unit.
Those restorations total $1.9 million.
San Mateo Attorneys File Motion to Dismiss Discrimination Lawsuit
Attorneys for San Mateo County Monday filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed in April that alleges the county's system of holding countywide elections to vote for its Board of Supervisors discriminates against minority residents.
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area said in its April 14 civil suit that the county's at-large rather than by-district elections dilute the voting power of Latino and Asian communities, which combined make up nearly 50 percent the county's population.
"The motivation for bringing the suit is that there is a voting system in place that dilutes Latin and Asian voting power," Lawyer's Committee director of litigation Robert Rubin said.
The lawsuit claims that the diminished ability of some minority residents to elect representatives to the Board of Supervisors is a violation of the California Voting Rights Act, Rubin said. Joe Cotchett, an attorney representing the county, said that San Mateo is a charter county, and as such is entitled by the California Constitution to choose its own system of electing supervisors.
The state's 12 charter counties have the option to conduct supervisorial elections by district or in at-large elections.
"We are a charter county and under the Constitution we are allowed to do that," Cotchett said. "Our system is constitutionally correct." Monday's motion to dismiss the case was based on that constitutional right, Cotchett said.
Of the state's 58 counties, San Mateo County is the only one that elects its supervisors with at-large elections.
The option to switch to district elections has been put before voters on three occasions -- most recently in 1980 -- and each time has failed to pass, Cotchett said.
The preservation of at-large elections is in the best interest of the people of San Mateo County, Board of Supervisors president Carol Groom said in a statement.
"At-large voting honors the principle that public officials are accountable to the entire community," Groom said. Rubin disagreed. "I think that the folks in the Asian and Latino communities feel otherwise," he said.
Prosecutors Will Not Seek Death Penalty for German Tourist Shooting
Prosecutors said Monday they will not seek the death penalty against six people charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a German tourist near San Francisco's Union Square last year.
A total of seven suspects were arrested last month and an eighth is still being sought in connection with the death of Mechthild Schroer, a 50-year-old woman from Minden, Germany, on Aug. 8, 2010, in the 400 block of Mason Street.
Phillip Stewart, 19, Marcus Blueford, 19, Delvon Scott, 20, Willie Eason, 19, and Raheem Jackson, 17, were charged with murder, while Gethsamine Pita, 18, and a juvenile were charged with being an accessory to murder, prosecutors said.
The suspects were set to be arraigned and enter pleas in San Francisco Superior Court Monday, but the hearing was continued to July 19.
But at Monday's hearing, Assistant District Attorney Eric Fleming told Judge Jeffrey Ross that prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty in the case after taking into account the defendants' ages and prior criminal histories.
Schroer, who was visiting the U.S. with her husband Stefan, was apparently caught in the crossfire of a shootout between two groups of people outside a private party, police said.
The couple had been staying at a nearby hotel.
Two teens, a 15-year-old boy and 19-year-old woman, were also hit by the gunfire but survived. None of the three victims were the intended targets, according to police.
The chaotic shooting generated extensive evidence-gathering -- Fleming said at Monday's hearing that there was enough documentation to fill 80 compact discs worth of memory for each suspect.
All seven suspects were also charged with the commission of a crime in association with a criminal street gang, but police have said that all seven are not members of the same gang.
They are all being held on bail amounts ranging from $1 million to $7 million.
Judge Suspends Trial Against Fisherman's Wharf Worker
A judge in San Francisco Monday suspended criminal proceedings against a Fisherman's Wharf souvenir shop worker accused in the January killings of two employees at a neighboring business in order to allow a psychologist to assess the defendant's mental competency.
Hong Ri Wu, 56, is suspected of shooting Feng Ping Ou, a 30-year-old woman, and Qiong Han Chu, a 30-year-old man, at about 8:20 p.m. on Jan. 30 inside the souvenir and luggage shop where they worked at 269 Jefferson St., police said.
Wu, a San Francisco resident, pleaded not guilty in February to two counts of murder, with special allegations of firearm use and multiple murders.
Earlier this month, Wu's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kleigh Hathaway, said in San Francisco Superior Court that she had doubts about Wu's ability to participate in his own defense.
At a mental competency hearing Monday morning, Hathaway said her doubts stem from her conversations with Wu, who was not in court Monday.
Hathaway said her client does not appear to understand the nature of the charges against him or seem capable of assisting in his own defense.
Judge Garrett Wong decided to suspend the criminal proceedings after appointing a forensic psychologist, Dr. Amy Watt, to look into whether Wu is competent to stand trial.
Wu is scheduled to return to court on July 13, when Wong will consider the doctor's report on his competency.
Wu is accused of walking into the victims' store and shooting them. He worked at a nearby competing store and knew Chu and Ou, police said.
The victims, both San Francisco residents, died inside the store.
A gun believed to be the murder weapon was recovered at the scene. Investigators believe the shooting stemmed from a rivalry between the two stores, which sold similar items.
Berkeley Police Suspect Arson in Berkeley Hill Fires
Berkeley police believe that two fires that broke out simultaneously at homes a block away from each other in the Berkeley hills early Wednesday morning are suspicious and likely were caused by arson, a police spokeswoman said Monday.
However, Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said the blazes are still under investigation and that there was no definitive proof of arson at this time, as it may take several weeks to complete lab work to analyze the materials found at the two homes.
Kusmiss said the reason that police believe the fires were caused by arson is there is no evidence that they were caused by spontaneous combustion or some other type of accident.
Another factor is that the blazes occurred in the middle of the night, when arsonists are less likely to be seen or caught, she said.
Police are concerned about the fires because blazes that occur when people are asleep can be "very deadly," Kusmiss said.
Berkeley Fire Chief Debra Pryor said last week that her department sent three engines and a ladder truck to respond to a report that a car was burning in the driveway of a home at 548 Cragmont Ave. at 12:43 a.m.
Wednesday. As the ladder truck approached the blaze, its crew noticed a second blaze at 494 Cragmont Ave. and diverted to that house, she said. At 548 Cragmont Ave., the car fire transferred to an outside building -- a combination of a garage and storage area -- but did not transfer to the house, Pryor said.
The fire was soon brought under control, and no one was injured, she said. Pryor said the fire at 494 Cragmont Ave. was small and was confined to an area outside the house and firefighters were able to put it out quickly with fire extinguishers and a garden hose.
No one was injured in that blaze either, she said.
San Rafael Firefighters Put Out Two Arson Fires
San Rafael firefighters extinguished two suspected arson fires Monday afternoon, Fire Chief Chris Gray said.
Witnesses saw a person, possibly a woman, in the area of both brush fires, Gray said.
A 500-square-foot fire started around 1 p.m. near a homeless encampment behind the Falkirk Cultural Center at 1408 Mission Ave., Gray said. The blaze was quickly extinguished, Gray said.
The second fire at 2:10 p.m. burned about an acre a few hundred yards away, Gray said. Thirty firefighters extinguished that fire in about 45 minutes, Gray said.
The fires are a reminder that heavy vegetation from the rainy spring and winter is now drying out and is combustible, Gray said.
Eight engines responded to the fires.
No injuries were reported, Gray said.
San Rafael police are also investigating the suspected arsons.
Santa Clara Man Arrested for Murder of Maria Orozco
Police have arrested a Santa Clara man in connection with the murder of Maria Orozco, whose body was found earlier this month in a garbage bag in Sunnyvale.
Feliciano Valencia-Santiago, 47, was arrested at about 7:50 p.m.
Friday as he was riding a bicycle in the area of El Camino Real and Halford Avenue in Santa Clara.
Detectives tracked him down after receiving numerous leads. Orozco's body was found on June 5 in a large, loosely cinched garbage bag near some bushes in the 800 block of Ticonderoga Drive, according to the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety.
Detectives believe Orozco, a 46-year-old San Jose resident, was murdered in a house in the 800 block of Revere Drive in Sunnyvale, less than a mile from where her body was found.
The house has been vacant since a fire broke out there in December, police said.
The Santa Clara County medical examiner's office determined that the cause of Orozco's death was trauma to the head.
Valencia-Santiago was booked into Santa Clara County Jail on a homicide charge.
The California Department of Justice assisted in the investigation.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety at (408) 730-7110. Those who wish to remain anonymous can provide information by sending an email to SVTIP@tipnow.org.
Early Morning Fire Leaves One Displaced
One person was displaced by a two-alarm fire near San Francisco's Alamo Square this morning, a fire dispatcher said.
The blaze was reported at 1127 Elm St. at 12:58 a.m. and firefighters had the fire under control by 1:37 a.m., the dispatcher said.
No one was injured and the American Red Cross was contacted to assist the displaced resident with temporary housing.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
June 15, 2011
What better way to enjoy the sweet UV rays than to spend the day outdoors practicing and training in the art of firefighting? A number of cadets sat atop a roof at the San Francisco Fire Department Training Facility at 19th and Folsom on Tuesday, learning the proper way to use a chainsaw to breach...
It’s 7 a.m., 54°, and headed to 70°. Details are here. We Built This City had its camera on the moon at 20th and Guerrero. Mission Mission had its camera on the birdman at the Highway 101 entrance, and I know what Andrew means — I’ve never noticed this, either. And Broke-Ass Stuart recommends comida...
Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137