San Francisco Bay Area Friday Morning News Roundup
Prosecutor Seeking To Try Alleged Prostitute With Three Men In Monte Sereno Murder Case
A prosecutor has filed a motion in Santa Clara County Superior Court to add an alleged prostitute to the case of three men charged in the murder-robbery of Monte Sereno man Reveesh Kurma in his home on Nov. 30.
Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith said he has asked a Superior Court judge to consolidate the case of accessory to commit murder against Raven Chanel Smith with the other defendants to try all four together.
Smith's motion is set to be considered Monday in Superior Court in San Jose during a plea hearing to be heard by Judge Kenneth Shapero, Smith said.
Javier Garcia and Deangelo Austin, both 21, and Lukis Anderson, 26, have been charged with killing Kumra, 66, and beating his wife Hariner Kumra in an early morning robbery of cash and valuables at his home in the 18000 block of Withey Road.
Melissa Adams, Austin's attorney, has filed two defense motions, one to bar television cameras from recording her client at hearings and another to unseal investigative files so she may copy them, Smith said.
At the request of the district attorney's office, the court has sealed police information used to arrest the defendants "to protect further investigation," Smith said.
Prosecutors have declined to describe Dixon's association with the three men and why she is considered an accessory in Kumra's murder.
Dixon was arrested on the accessory charge and prostitution, drug possession and drunk in public charges during a police sting operation on Dec. 18 in Mountain View.
Dixon's attorney John Ambrosio said in December that Dixon had known Kumra professionally and she provided administrative service to him.
However, prosecutors have filed gang-related charges against Austin and Garcia and included a gang-enhancement allegation against Dixon when she was arrested last month, the district attorney's office said.
Dixon was not mentioned in an amended complaint filed by prosecutors on Dec. 31 in which the district attorney's office said it would seek the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole against Austin, Garcia and Anderson.
Since Kurma was killed during the commission of a robbery, it qualifies as a special enhancement under California law and a sentence of life imprisonment or death may be imposed if the three men are convicted of first-degree murder, prosecutors said.
Monitor Says Oakland Police Reform Efforts Are Declining
An independent monitor who is overseeing long overdue reforms in the Oakland Police Department says in his latest quarterly report that the department's compliance efforts are continuing to decline.
Robert Warshaw, in a report filed late Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson, who approved the settlement in 2003 of a police misconduct case, said his report "marks the second consecutive quarter of overall decline in the department's agreed-upon tasks" to comply with the settlement.
Warshaw said, "The shift from stagnation to decline should be as unacceptable to all parties as it is to us."
Warshaw said he's particularly concerned that the department has failed to adequately investigate citizen complaints and that officers aren't reporting the misconduct of fellow officers.
The settlement required Oakland police to implement 51 reforms in a variety of areas, including improved investigation of citizen complaints, better training of officers and increased field supervision, but Warshaw said the department is still not in compliance with 11 tasks, two more than the previous quarter, even though all the reforms were supposed to have been completed five years ago.
Among the other reforms are improving the way officers report their use of force on suspects and implementing a computerized early-warning system to identify officers who are prone to abusing suspects.
The slow progress in complying with the mandated reforms prompted civil rights attorneys John Burris and James Chanin, who represent the plaintiffs in the case, to seek a federal takeover of the Oakland Police Department last year.
But in an agreement reached in December, Oakland will instead hire an independent, court-appointed "compliance director" to be in charge of completing all the reforms. The plaintiffs and the city have submitted potential candidates to Judge Henderson, who is expected to appoint someone soon.
Warshaw said that in police misconduct cases stemming from Occupy Oakland protests last year, "A common thread running through these investigations is that officers consistently refused to say that they saw, knew, discussed or observed the actions of fellow officers who were often close by."
Warshaw said he agreed with an outside investigator who commented that a theme throughout the investigations "was the reluctance to view, ponder, assess, scrutinize or evaluate another officer's use of force."
The monitor admitted that Oakland police at times have "an extraordinarily difficult job" and officers often have to deal with provocative protesters, some of whom threw rocks and bottles.
"Undoubtedly, it is difficult after standing in a line with fellow officers while confronted by a large, hostile and threatening crowd, yelling the vilest sort of insults and hurling all manner of dangerous missiles and projectiles, to later be called upon to offer evidence of your fellow officers' misconduct," Warshaw wrote. "That is, nevertheless, exactly what we expect of our police."
In reviewing use-of-force incidents, Warshaw also expressed alarm at a case in which he said two officers who were serving a search warrant involving a misdemeanor crime "pointed their firearms at a sleeping 19-month-old child who, of course, posed no immediate threat to the officers or others." But he did not give additional details about the incident.
Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan and Mayor Jean Quan haven't responded to requests to comment on Warshaw's report.
The reforms are the result of the Jan. 22, 2003, settlement of a lawsuit filed by 119 Oakland citizens who alleged that four officers known as the "Riders" beat them, made false arrests and planted evidence on them in 2000.
Three of the officers faced two lengthy trials on multiple criminal charges stemming from the allegations against them but they ultimately weren't convicted of any crimes. The fourth officer fled to Mexico and was never prosecuted.
Two Bay Area Singing Contestants Advance In Latest Episode of 'American Idol'
Two Bay Area singers are advancing to the next round in the televised singing competition "American Idol."
During Wednesday night's episode of the show's 12th season, contestants were given "golden tickets" to go to Hollywood for the chance to become finalists, including an Oakland native and a Concord high school teenager.
Kamaria Ousley, who graduated from Skyline High School in Oakland in 2001, will continue competing for a chance to be a musical star, something she discussed in an American Idol interview posted on YouTube Wednesday.
She said she was "excited" and "elated" to receive the ticket.
"I thought this is another step toward my goal," she said in the interview.
The Oakland native asserted, "There's no one like me," while exuding confidence that she will continue to move forward in the competition.
According to her Facebook page, she graduated from the Berklee School of Music in Boston in 2005.
A younger contestant, 16-year-old Briana Oakley, also made it to the next round after performing in Long Beach, Calif., during Wednesday's episode.
She sang "Up to the Mountain" by Patty Griffin and talked about being bullied when she was younger and growing up in Antioch.
She now attends Carondelet High School in Concord, an all-girls Catholic school, where a staff member from the dean's office said Thursday morning that Oakley's success on the show is "very exciting for us."
PETA Protestors Strip Down On Last Day Before Nudity Ban Takes Effect
Members of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals took advantage of the last day to be legally nude in public in San Francisco by stripping down in front of City Hall Thursday to protest the use of animal skins for fashion.
Seven PETA volunteers got naked and stood in front of City Hall holding signs saying "Bare skin, don't wear skin."
San Francisco's ban on nudity was enacted by a 6-5 vote of the Board of Supervisors in December and will take effect today.
PETA campaigner Matt Bruce said, "This is the last day, and we thought it would be a fun and upbeat way to bring attention to a serious issue."
He said, "Whether you're a nudist or not, we can all agree skinning animals alive while they're fully conscious is wrong."
Bruce said PETA has used nudity in past demonstrations in San Francisco and will have to alter its approach in future protests.
"We're as naked as the law allows us to be," he said.
The protest drew mostly amused looks from passersby, including dozens on a tourist bus who snapped photos on their cellphones.
A federal judge earlier this week rejected an attempt by nudist activists to block implementation of the ordinance on the grounds that it violated their constitutional right to free speech.
Violators of the ban, which has exceptions for children under the age of 5 and permitted events such as the annual Bay to Breakers race and the Folsom Street Fair, will be cited and fined $100, with rising penalties for additional offenses.
Nudist activists plan to hold a protest at noon today outside City Hall to test whether the law will be implemented, according to Gypsy Taub, one of the four nudists who filed the lawsuit in federal court.
Taub wrote on her website, "If the city chooses to get us arrested or cited, it will give us great ammunition for future legal battles."
The nudists are preparing to file an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and will also file an amended lawsuit showing that their rights to free expression are being violated by the ordinance, Taub wrote.
"The struggle to overturn the nudity ban will continue until the ban is defeated," she wrote.
Another one of the activists, George Davis, plans to announce at the rally his candidacy for District 8 supervisor, the seat currently occupied by Scott Wiener, the author of the nudity ban.
City College Stakeholders Show Solidarity, Call For Increased Enrollment
City College of San Francisco stakeholders joined in solidarity Thursday to call on students to continue enrolling at the school despite accreditation concerns that could lead to its closure.
State Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, convened the meeting with representatives from the school's administration, faculty, students and other groups associated with City College, which is facing a looming deadline set by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.
The commission last July placed City College on "show cause" status, citing problems with 14 different aspects of the school, and required it to file a report by March 15 showing that significant steps are being taken to resolve the issues, which included having too many campuses and excessive non-instructional faculty costs.
If the school fails to show improvement, it could have its accreditation revoked and be shut down when the commission issues its ruling on June 10.
Ting, who called himself a proud former City College student, said "we are determined to keep this institution open and accredited."
He said, "We're reminding students who may have been wondering or thinking about other wonderful community colleges around the Bay Area ... don't enroll there, enroll at City College."
School spokesman Larry Kamer, who came to the meeting on behalf of interim chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman, said City College has dropped from about 34,000 full-time students to under 32,000 in the past year, and said that reduction puts a strain on the school's budget.
"Our belief is a lot of it is the focus and publicity on the accreditation issues we have," Kamer said.
The latest bad news came earlier this month when City College special trustee Bob Agrella told the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges that the school will likely not meet the March 15 deadline.
Agrella cited remaining disagreements with the teacher's union, which is unhappy about various issues including salaries, layoffs and the dismantling of the school's department chair structure, which would reassign department chairs back to full-time teaching roles.
American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 president Alisa Messer, who also attended Thursday's meeting, said she did not want to talk about the divisions that still remain between the school's administration and faculty.
"Today the message is really about what we agree on," Messer said.
The various officials encouraged current or prospective students to apply today, which is the final day to sign up for full-term credit classes for the spring semester.
More information about applying can be found online at www.ccsf.edu.
Man Accused Of Slaying Ex-Girlfriend's Boyfriend Arrested In San Pablo, Charged With Murder
Police have arrested a man who allegedly shot and killed his ex-girlfriend's boyfriend in San Pablo a few days before Christmas, a police sergeant said Thursday.
San Pablo resident Donte Marquee Smith, 24, was arrested on Tuesday and has been charged in Contra Costa County Superior Court for the murder of 30-year-old DeJuan McDonald and the attempted murder of Schylon Stewart, according to police.
Police said Smith ambushed Stewart, his ex-girlfriend, and McDonald, her new boyfriend, shooting at them as they drove in the 1700 block of Rumrill Boulevard in San Pablo the morning of Dec. 21.
The shooting left McDonald dead and Stewart uninjured.
Police quickly identified Smith as the shooter and have attempted to locate him over the past month.
On Tuesday, investigators located Smith's Nissan Sentra parked in a concealed spot in an apartment complex parking garage in the 500 block of 21st Street in Richmond. Both of the car's license plates had been removed, police said.
Officers set up surveillance on the complex and detained Smith as he left an apartment later that day. He was arrested without incident.
Police said Smith had changed his appearance, which had been broadcast since the murder, by cutting off his dreadlocks.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call Detective Shawn Ray at (510) 215-3150.
Terrier Reunited With Palo Alto Owner After More Than Four Years Missing
A Palo Alto man was reunited with a family dog Tuesday, more than four years after it had gone missing, according to a Peninsula Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals spokesman.
Oreo, a Boston Terrier, was found wandering near Security Public Storage on Hyde Court in Daly City Tuesday, and a passerby called the humane society to report it, society spokesman Scott Delucchi said.
A human society officer picked up Oreo and noticed he had a leg injury that had gone untreated for some time, Delucchi said.
When the dog arrived at the humane society, he was scanned for a microchip, which traced him back to Palo Alto resident Brandon Springer.
Delucchi said Springer told a humane official that Oreo was his grandmother's dog, but she had passed away last year.
A gate in Springer's grandmother's yard was left open, which allowed Oreo to escape nearly five years ago, Delucchi said.
Springer told officials he believed Oreo went to nearby Cubberley Park where he would go for daily walks.
The park was host to a soccer tournament, and Springer said he believed someone at the tournament took Oreo, Delucchi said.
Despite Oreo having both a microchip and collar with his owner's contact information, the person who claimed him did not report it, according to Delucchi.
With Oreo now in Springer's possession, he planned to take him to his primary veterinarian for further tests on the leg. The extent of Oreo's injury is unknown.
Springer has two dogs, and said he will take Oreo home to see if they all get along. If not, the Daly City resident who found Oreo expressed interest in adopting him, Delucchi said.
"It's a happy ending," Delucchi said.
The humane society advises everyone to microchip their pets to have a similar ending, should the pet go missing.
Boys And Girls Clubs Of San Francisco Announces 'Youth Of The Year' Winner
The Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco Thursday named its citywide "Youth of the Year" winner.
At a luncheon in the grand ballroom of the Palace Hotel at 2 New Montgomery St. in San Francisco, the organization announced that the honor would go to Brianna Benson from its Visitacion Valley Clubhouse, spokeswoman Brittany Johnson said.
Benson, 17, was selected by a panel of five judges, edging out six other finalists to earn the honor. She will hold the title for one year.
Each finalist -- selected from more than 17,000 Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco members -- took part in a three-month leadership development program from October to January, culminating in Benson's selection, Johnson said.
The program included public speaking, one-on-one mentorship, essay writing and team building to help them grow as leaders, she said.
The "Youth of the Year" award is given annually to a young person who has overcome personal challenges, shows commitment and passion toward the local clubhouse, participates in community service, excels academically and makes contributions to her family, Johnson said.
"This program really sets up the kids for success in life," Johnson said. "We try to help instill the skills they need to have a great future."
A senior at City Arts and Technology High School, Benson has overcome a number of challenges, according to Johnson.
Benson was abandoned by her biological mother at a young age and was in and out of homeless shelters after her father quit his job to take care of her.
In 2007, Benson nearly took her own life through a drug overdose.
She survived, and is now living in San Francisco's Bayview District with her father, stepmother and nine stepsiblings, Johnson said.
Benson gave a speech at Thursday's event in front of more than 600 people including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, police Chief Greg Suhr and supervisors John Avalos, Norman Yee, David Campos and Jane Kim, expressing her appreciation of the club.
By being selected, Benson earned a $10,000 scholarship to continue her education.
She stands to earn more scholarship money should she advance past future stages of the competition, Johnson said.
She currently holds a 3.5 GPA and is scheduled to graduate this June, then head to Biola University, a private Christian school in La Mirada, Calif.
Benson plans to pursue a degree in science and hopes to earn a career as a prenatal nurse.
Benson will now compete with other "Youth of the Year" winners in Northern California, Johnson said. It then goes to a statewide contest, followed by regional and national competitions, she said.
Each of the other San Francisco finalists -- Mario Borajas, Imani Payton, Hector Sanchez, Naim Algaheim, Dayra Bonales and Iesha Gosman -- received $2,000 in scholarship money, Johnson said.
Wife Of Santa Rosa Junior College Police Officer Suspected Of Stealing Parking Money Also Arrested
The wife of a Santa Rosa Junior College police officer suspected of stealing parking fee money was arrested Thursday for possession of stolen property and being an accessory, a Santa Rosa Police Department sergeant said.
Karen Holzworth, 49, of Santa Rosa, was booked in the Sonoma County jail under $45,000 bail. She posted bail and was released, Sgt. Mike Lazzarini said.
Her husband Jeffrey Holzworth, 51, was arrested in November for grand theft and embezzlement of parking fee money at the college. Police said several thousand dollars were found at various locations.
The Sonoma County District Attorney's Office has not yet filed charges against Jeffrey Holzworth. He is scheduled to appear in Sonoma County Superior Court Wednesday.
Holzworth worked as a Santa Rosa Junior College police officer for 28 years.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Ariyoshi said Holzworth was responsible for maintaining the parking meters that accept one- and five-dollar bills.
The investigation began after Santa Rosa Junior College Police Department Chief Matt McCaffrey informed Santa Rosa police an employee notified him of the alleged embezzlement, Santa Rosa police Sgt. Lance Badger said.
Fairfield Man Sentenced For Killing Girlfriend In 1996
A Fairfield man was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison Thursday for the murder of his girlfriend in 1996.
Lonnie J. Kerley, 53, was convicted of second-degree murder earlier this month in Solano County Superior Court for killing 35-year-old Danna Lori Dever.
Dever's remains were found in a shallow ditch along on Flannery Road just east of state Highway 113 on July 8, 1996, but the badly decomposed body was not identified until more than a decade later.
In August 1996, Kerley told Fairfield police that Dever had left him and their 9-year-old daughter that June and that he had not seen her since, according to the Solano County Sheriff's Office.
Authorities were finally able to identify Dever's body through a thumbprint on May 16, 2007, and investigators determined that she had been badly beaten, sheriff's officials said.
Kerley was named as a person of interest in the case, and his Fairfield home was searched in July 2007.
The unsolved case was reopened in August 2010, and new information led to Kerley's arrest on Oct. 29, 2010. He was indicted by a grand jury in August 2011.
Kerley had been arrested in January 1996 for domestic violence against Dever. At that time, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count and was placed on 12 months' probation.
Deputy District Attorney Krishna Abrams said Dever's stepmother and a cousin told the court they are thankful that the jury convicted Kerley, even though it took 17 years for justice to be served.
"They said Kerley had been living large since the murder and has never shown any remorse," Abrams said.
Inmate On Death Row Since 1982 Found Dead Thursday Morning
An inmate on death row was found deceased at San Quentin State Prison Thursday morning.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 61-year-old James Leslie Karis, who was on California's death row, was found unresponsive in his cell and subsequently pronounced dead at the prison at 6:40 a.m.
The cause of death remains under investigation.
Karis was sentenced to death on Sept. 17, 1982 by a Sacramento County jury for the rape and murder of Peggy Pennington, 34, and the attempted murder of Patty Vander Dussen, 27, on July 8, 1981.
Karis abducted the two women during their daily walk around the El Dorado County Welfare Department, where they were employed.
According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Karis had been on death row since Sept. 20, 1982.
Since California reinstated capital punishment in 1978, 13 condemned inmates have been executed in California, 57 have died of natural causes and 21 have committed suicide. Additionally, one condemned inmate was executed in Missouri and six have died of other causes.
There are 729 offenders on death row in California, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report
Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are likely to be in the lower 60s, with northeast winds up to 15 mph.
Mostly clear skies are likely this evening. Lows are expected to be in the mid 40s, with winds around 5 mph.
Sunny skies are likely Saturday. Highs are expected to be around 60, with western winds up to 10 mph.
Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137