San Francisco Bay Area Thursday Morning News Roundup

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Stray Pony Found Wandering Around Richmond Iron Triangle Neighborhood

Animal Services personnel are looking for the owner of a pony found wandering in Richmond's Iron Triangle neighborhood early Wednesday morning, authorities said.

Police officers found the small horse munching on shrubbery in the front yard of a home near Seventh Street and Nevin Avenue around 3 a.m., police Detective Nicole Abetkov said.

Animal Services Deputy Director Rick Golphin said an on-call officer went to retrieve the horse and brought it to the agency's stables in Martinez.

He said Animal Services has previously picked up a couple of stray horses that wandered away from ranches near Giant Highway.

The agency is attempting to locate the pony's owner and is considering it a stray rather than an abandoned animal, he said.

Golphin described the horse as a "healthy looking" female white-and-brown pony estimated to be between 5 to 8 years old.

Missing Alameda Resident Dies After Rescue From Water

A missing 73-year-old man died after he was found floating in the waters off an Alameda boat ramp Wednesday morning, fire officials said.

The man was reported missing at 9:16 a.m. Wednesday. About two hours later police received another call reporting a body floating in the water at the Grand Street Boat Ramp, according to the Alameda Fire Department.

The man was quickly pulled from the water by a fire department rescue swimmer and rushed to the hospital. He was declared dead there at 11:50 a.m.

Investigators confirmed that he was the missing man reported earlier in the morning, fire officials said. He was identified by the Alameda County coroner's bureau as Hing Yiu of Alameda.

There was no indication of foul play but police are continuing to investigate the death.

Two Men Ordered To Stand Trial For Deaths Of Two Teen Girls In East Oakland

A judge Wednesday ordered two men to stand trial on charges that they're responsible for the gunning down of two teenage girls near Brookdale Park in East Oakland last November.

At the end of a preliminary hearing that lasted a day and a half, Alameda County Superior Court Jon Rolefson said prosecutors produced sufficient evidence to have 18-year-old Diantay Powell face a trial on two counts of murder for the deaths of 16-year-old Bobbie Sartain and 15-year-old Raquel Gerstel shortly after 5 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2012.

Powell also faces the special circumstance of committing multiple murders and could face the death penalty if prosecutors seek that punishment and he's convicted. If prosecutors don't seek the death penalty, he could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Rolefson said prosecutors also produced sufficient evidence to have Antonio Edwards, 20, stand trial on an accessory charge for allegedly driving Powell away from the shooting scene.

Oakland police said at least two-dozen shots were fired in the incident.

A 16-year-old juvenile who was with Powell, Edwards and the two teenage girls at the time of the shooting testified on Tuesday that the shooting occurred after Powell announced to the group, which he said was hanging out in a car driven by Edwards, that his girlfriend would be joining them.

The juvenile said Powell's comment angered Sartain and she slapped Powell but he retaliated by slapping her.

Gerstel came to Sartain's defense by getting out of the car, which was parked in the 2600 block of Minna Avenue, and argued with Powell, but Powell then shot her, the 16-year-old said.

Sartain tried to run away and yelled that she wouldn't tell anyone that Powell had shot Gerstel but Powell shot her as well, the juvenile said.

When Gerstel fell to the ground after being struck by the initial shots, Powell walked up to her and fired three to five more bullets into her body at close range, the youth said.

Another witness in the case, 30-year-old Albert Rich, who has prior convictions for false imprisonment and illegal gun possession, testified on Tuesday that Powell admitted a few days after the incident that he had fatally shot Gerstel and Sartain.

According to family members and friends, Gerstel and Sartain were friends who grew up together in Alameda. Gerstel lived in San Leandro and was a freshman at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo. Sartain lived on High Street in Oakland, a few blocks from where the shooting happened.

Hospital Patient Who Jumped Into Contra Costa Canal Found Dead In Water

A dive team has found the body of a man who jumped into the Contra Costa Canal earlier this week after leaving a local emergency room, Contra Costa Water District officials said.

The man, who was a patient at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, exited the hospital and jumped into the canal near Lone Tree Way and James Donlon Boulevard around 7:30 p.m. Monday, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District officials said.

Fire and medical crews arrived at the scene within minutes and began searching for the man near where he entered the canal as well as downstream, Battalion Chief John Kipp said.

Kipp said a nurse and a paramedic also jumped into the water in an attempt to rescue the man, but were unable to save him.

The crews scoured the waterway with the help of Antioch police and a California Highway Patrol helicopter, but were unable to locate the patient and called off the search after about three hours, he said.

Patrol crews from the water district, which maintains the canal, continued to search for the man on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The man was found dead in the water Wednesday afternoon, Contra Costa Water District spokeswoman Jennifer Allen said.

A Contra Costa County coroner's deputy said personnel are attempting to identify him.

Kipp said the fire district responds to about two calls each year involving someone falling into the canal's fast-moving water.

Italian Consulate Clerk, Wife Sentenced In San Francisco After Plea Agreement In Housekeeper Abuse Case

An Italian consulate clerk and his Brazilian wife were sentenced in federal court in San Francisco Wednesday after pleading guilty last month to the misdemeanor charge of using an unauthorized document for a Brazilian woman to work as the couple's servant.

Giuseppe Penzato, 56, and his wife Kesia Penzato, 34, of San Francisco, both appeared in court late Wednesday morning, where they were sentenced to five years' probation and ordered to pay $13,000 to the unnamed victim by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen.

Both declined to comment in court at their sentencing. Kesia Penzato was using a Portuguese translator during the proceedings.

The sentencing came after a plea agreement was made on April 17 in which the Penzatos admitted to using a document that was not legally authorized because it was a visa application that said the woman would be working only for the couple.

The woman also worked for a second employer, Italian Vice Consul Marcello Curci, according to an affidavit filed with a 2011 criminal complaint.

Originally the couple was charged with felony counts of obtaining false labor by means of threats, force or restraint and conspiring to obtain false labor from the woman during a three-month span when she worked for them as a housekeeper in late 2009.

The heavier counts, levied in a federal criminal complaint in 2011 and then a grand jury indictment in 2012, were dropped as a result of the plea agreement.

The Penzatos were arrested on the original charges on June 24, 2011, when Giuseppe Penzato worked as an administrative clerk for the Italian consulate in San Francisco.

According to the affidavit, it was alleged that the couple violated labor and human rights when they forced the woman to work for little pay for 60 hours per week after promising better working conditions.

The Penzatos said in a 2011 court filing that they denied the charges of abuse and charged that the woman was trying to find a way to live in the U.S.

A civil lawsuit was also filed against the Penzatos in federal court in San Francisco in 2010.

That suit, with similar allegations of abusive working conditions, is still pending, according to Jane Doe's attorneys Lisa Nguyen and Cindy Liou.

Chen acknowledged that there is a broader set of issues that should be litigated as part of the civil case and that Wednesday's sentencing was based solely on the charge of the violated working terms.

U.S., California Needs High Speed Rail To Compete Globally, Reduce Pollution, Official Says

A top transportation official said Wednesday that the United States must remain dedicated to building high-speed rail systems to confront pollution, population increases and competition from rest of the world.

Ron Diridon, chairman of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association's advisory board in Washington, D.C., said that California in particular is faced with a population that will hit 65 million in 2060 and so has to develop new, clean mass transit systems.

"We can't expand our freeways anymore," Diridon told a meeting of the San Jose Rotary Club in downtown San Jose. "We can't double deck them. We can't expand our feeder streets."

"We just can't do it on single-passenger vehicles," he said. "If we don't have mass transportation, we don't have a Silicon Valley."

Construction on California's planned $68.5 billion high-speed rail system starts this summer with a $990 million phase stretching from Merced in the Central Valley to Fresno, Diridon said.

He described the state's planned 790-mile rail route, with 26 stations, as "the largest construction project in the nation's history."

Future phases will go north from San Diego to Irvine, Los Angeles and Palmdale and eventually Gilroy, San Jose, San Francisco and then Sacramento by 2029 without crossing any roadways, he said.

The high-speed line, reaching speeds of about 200 mph, would be integrated so that passengers could use existing mass transit venues such as Caltrain, BART and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority's light rail trains and buses, Diridon said.

The combination of transit systems would make it possible for someone in Fresno on their way to Paris to check their bags on the high speed train, reach San Jose in 51 minutes, take a shuttle to Mineta San Jose International Airport and later pick up their bags at customs in France, he said.

"That's the international or national trip of the future, that our airport, because we plan carefully for it, will be able to accommodate," Diridon said.

Diridon, a mass transit expert and former head of the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University, said that California and 32 other states are working on high-speed systems, but the United States still has to catch up with the rest of the world.

Japan has had a 200 mph train system since 1964, Germany, Italy and Taiwan have 200 mph systems in place, France has a 357-mph train and China, with the world's longest rail system, has train cars traveling at 230 mph.

Europe will have a massive set of speedy trains from Scandinavia to Turkey and Moscow to Madrid by 2020, he said.

The United States will find those countries "tough to compete with" because they will be able to get more of their workers faster to markets and businesses at greater distances, Diridon said.

Youth Center Serving Ashland Dedicated

A state-of-the-art youth center that will serve youths in the Ashland community in unincorporated Alameda County was dedicated at a ceremony Wednesday.

Alameda County officials say they believe the REACH Ashland Community Center, a $23 million redevelopment project, is the largest facility of its kind in the country.

REACH offers a variety of services and is an acronym for recreation, education, art and culture, careers and health.

County officials said the 31,500-square-foot center, located at 16335 East 14th St. and 163rd Avenue in San Leandro, is the result of a decade-long effort led by local youth who mobilized because they felt Ashland, an enclave between San Leandro and Castro Valley, lacked adequate recreational opportunities and services for youth.

Among the community's problems are gang violence and some of Alameda County's highest school dropout and teen pregnancy rates, according to county officials.

The youth center, which provides all of its services to youth free of charge, includes a community health clinic, library, day care facility, multi-media room, dance studio, weight room, arts room and a café.

It is managed by the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency and is operated in conjunction with a number of community partners, including La Clinica de la Raza, the San Lorenzo Unified School District, the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, the Alameda County Library and the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs' Activities League.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, whose district includes Ashland, said in a statement, "The focus is on youth, but this facility really is a beacon of hope for the entire Ashland community."

He said, "It has the power to transform the lives of young people who until now have had little or no access to the many opportunities and services that are available here."

County officials said the youth center has transformed a stretch of East 14th Street that had been run-down and is bringing new architecture and increased foot traffic to a community that had lacked a central gathering space.

They said the youth facility is the centerpiece of a new youth complex that also includes the newly-constructed Jack Holland Sr. Park and the new open multi-use gymnasium at Edendale Middle School.

Pedro Naranjo, the Center's Executive Director, said in a statement, "A lot of groups and individuals have come together to make this project happen. We are in the process of accomplishing something very special."

Pair Arrested After Brief Pursuit Through San Francisco

Two men were arrested after a brief car chase through San Francisco Wednesday afternoon, a sheriff's spokeswoman said.

Deputies with the department's warrant service unit were in the area of Sixth and Market streets at about 2:35 p.m. when they saw a motorist commit a traffic violation and tried to pull over his car, sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Fahey said.

However, the driver refused to yield, speeding away down Market Street then making an illegal left turn onto Stockton Street, Fahey said.

The deputies were about to call off the pursuit because of the risk to public safety when the driver pulled into a dead-end alley along the 700 block of Stockton Street and ran from the car, Fahey said.

The deputies detained a passenger, while responding police officers searched for the driver, Fahey said.

A witness reported seeing the suspect jump over a nearby fence, and he was eventually taken into custody.

Authorities recovered ammunition from the car, as well as items such as jewelry and cellphones that may have been stolen, she said.

The names of the two men in custody were not immediately available, Fahey said.

Woman Admits Making Up Story About Robbery, Attempting Kidnapping In Pleasanton

A woman who told police last week that her purse was taken from her and the robbers tried to kidnap her infant son in Pleasanton admitted Tuesday that she fabricated the story, a police sergeant said.

Jennifer Flores, 23, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of filing a false police report after she said last Wednesday that two men followed her, pushed her down and grabbed her purse and then her baby, Sgt. Kurt Schlehuber said.

She said she was pushed onto the ground near the Las Positas Garden Townhomes on West Las Positas Boulevard around 6:20 p.m. and one of the men took her stroller with her infant son, tipped it over and then tried unsuccessfully to pull the baby from the stroller.

She said the men then ran off with her purse.

After the reported incident, detectives talking with Flores said they found several holes in her story and looked at surveillance footage from a Domino's Pizza restaurant in Pleasanton, Schlehuber said.

The footage allegedly shows Flores leaving her purse at the pizzeria one hour before she reported the robbery.

The purse was with the employees during the time the purported crime would have occurred, Schlehuber said.

The following day, Flores returned to the pizza parlor to pick up her purse, yet continued to tell detectives details about the made-up robbery.

At her arrest at her job in Dublin Tuesday afternoon, police found the purse on her, which was when she admitted she made up the entire story and there was no truth to what she had reported last week.

Schlehuber said the woman is indeed married with a baby and that she had misplaced the purse, in which she had placed her paycheck.

He said she did not explain her motivation for making up the story instead of reporting the purse as missing.

The attempted kidnapping alarmed residents, many of whom called police in the past week worried about crime in the area, Schlehuber said.

"People freak out when they hear there was an attempted kidnapping in Pleasanton," Schlehuber said.

Schlehuber said many resources were put into the case. The Police Department said nearly $3,000 was spent on staff time and resources to investigate the false report.

The department is seeking restitution for the lost funds.

Flores was booked at Santa Rita Jail where she remains on $10,000 bail.

She is set to be arraigned at the Gale-Schenone Hall of Justice in Pleasanton this afternoon, according to jail records.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report

Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are expected to be in the 50s to mid 60s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.

Mostly clear skies are likely this evening. Lows are likely to be around 50, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.

Partly cloudy skies are expected Friday morning, becoming sunny later in the day. Highs are expected to be in the 50s to mid 60s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph.

Paid for by Phil Ting for Assembly 2012. FPPC ID# 1343137