San Francisco Bay Area Friday Morning News Roundup

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SF: State Files Court-Ordered Plan to Reduce Prison Population

Gov. Jerry Brown and state prison officials have reluctantly filed a plan in federal court in San Francisco to reduce California's prison population by 9,300 inmates by using alternate facilities, leased space in county jails and out-of-state prisons.

A small number of prisoners -- less than 650 -- would be released early because of extra credit for good conduct or through early parole of low-risk ill or elderly convicts, under the plan.

But any more early releases would "jeopardize the public safety," state lawyers wrote in the brief.

The plan, filed shortly before a midnight deadline Thursday, was ordered last month by a three-judge federal panel, which threatened to find Brown and other executives in contempt of court if they failed to produce a plan.

The judges are presiding over two long-running civil rights cases that challenged medical and mental health care in the state's 33 adult prisons.

In 2009, the panel concluded that severe overcrowding was the primary cause of "woefully and unconstitutionally inadequate" health care and ordered officials to reduce the population of the prisons to 137.5 percent of capacity, or a little more than 110,000 inmates.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that decision in 2011.

Brown and Beard contend that health care now meets constitutional standards and no further reduction is needed, but the three-judge panel rejected that argument in its April 11 ruling.

It said the final reduction of 9,300 must be completed by Dec. 31.

Beard said Thursday that while the state complied with the order to file a plan, it still intends to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Emily Harris, a spokeswoman for Californians United for a Responsible Budget, a coalition of prisoner advocacy groups, criticized the plan for a lack of emphasis on sentencing and parole reform.

"The proposal just continues to shuffle people around," she said. 

Santa Clara Co.: Atorney Says 'Mass Hysteria' Led to Arrest in Alleged Starbucks Poisoning 

The attorney for a woman released without charges Thursday after being accused of placing two bottles of poisoned orange juice into a Starbucks refrigerator in San Jose said her arrest was "a case of mass hysteria."

Dennis Lempert spoke to reporters outside the San Jose home of Ramineh "Romi" Behbehanian, 50, after she was released from jail early Thursday evening and questioned whether witnesses actually saw his client place the bottles in the refrigerator and whether the bottles contained poison at all.

Behbehanian had been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and felony poisoning after a customer said she swapped out two bottles of orange juice with her own tainted bottles that she brought to the store in a Starbucks bag on Monday afternoon.

Police said the fire department responded to the coffee shop, located at 6009 Snell Ave., and determined that the bottles allegedly contained lethal doses of rubbing alcohol.

The case remains under review and Behbehanian has not been charged yet.

"We were not able to file charges because the investigation is not complete," Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Luis Ramos said.

He said prosecutors either had to charge Behbehanian or release her by Thursday afternoon.

"It does not mean that charges will or will not be filed. There was just not enough time under the penal code to charge her," he said.

She was released early Thursday evening from the Elmwood Correction Facility, Santa Clara County's jail for women in Milpitas, sheriff's spokesman Deputy Kurtis Stenderup said.

As she returned home in Lempert's black BMW Thursday, Behbehanian shielded her face with a hooded sweatshirt from reporters gathered outside and declined to answer questions.

Her attorney, however, charged that the district attorney's office has not found anything harmful in the orange juice containers and suggested it was possible that the juice had fermented on its own.

"I have not seen any evidence of any contamination of anything in the Starbucks store," he said.

He also suggested that the witnesses may have been mistaken when they indicated that Behbehanian had placed the bottles in the refrigerator, and said sometimes witnesses "see things which are not there."

SJ: Update: Firefighters to Remain at Scene of Recycling Facility Fire Overnight

Firefighters planned to remain on the scene of three-alarm fire at a San Jose recycling facility to break apart bales of newspaper and cardboard still smoldering after a stubborn fire that took nearly four hours to control, a fire captain said.

The fire was first reported at 6:04 p.m. at the facility on East Alma Avenue between South Seventh and South 10th streets, Capt. Rob Brown said.

Firefighters arrived to find a fire at the facility spreading throughout the lot, about 100 yards long and 40 yards wide, with the bales of bound cardboard and paper for recycling in flames.

The response was quickly raised to two alarms and eventually to three alarms as firefighters fought to control the blaze, Brown said.

It eventually was called under control at 9:41 p.m., but firefighters planned to remain at the scene throughout the night and into the morning breaking apart the bales and dousing them with water to extinguish any smoldering remnants.

The metal structure of the building remains intact, but there is most likely extensive fire damage to the machinery inside, Brown said.

The business was closed for the day at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported. 

SF: Supes Scrutinize Security Measures at Upcoming Large Events

Following the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon last month, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors held a hearing Thursday to review security plans for the large-scale events planned over the next several months in the city.

Supervisor Eric Mar called for the hearing, held Thursday afternoon at the board's neighborhood services and safety committee at City Hall, shortly after the April 15 bombings that killed three people and injured scores of others at the Boston race.

Mar said he wanted to see if any security measures should be revised before upcoming events like the Bay to Breakers race on May 19 or other events like the Pride parade, Outside Lands music festival and America's Cup races in the city later this year.

One proposal floated by police Chief Greg Suhr was to install more surveillance cameras along Market Street to allow authorities to monitor the events in real-time, but Suhr backed away from that plan during Thursday's hearing.

The chief said rather than install new cameras at this time, the Police Department will be mapping the current layout of cameras along Market Street and working with private businesses that have surveillance cameras to cover any blind spots.

Mar and fellow Supervisor David Campos said they had expressed reservations about Suhr's initial proposal.

"We have to balance the need to keep our public safe with a respect for privacy rights," Mar said.

Campos said terrorist attacks often lead to law enforcement actions "that go beyond where we should be."

Campos also criticized an announcement made earlier this week by Bay to Breakers organizers that large backpacks would be banned at the race.

"I don't know if that's really going to address the problem," he said.

One speaker during the public comment portion of the meeting said he did not mind cameras during the large events, especially with so many people who have smartphones with cameras on them as well.

Police Deputy Chief John Loftus echoed the importance of public participation in preventing crimes at the events.

"Our collective safety is a shared burden," Loftus said. "If you see something, say something." 

Burlingame Man Found Guilty of Murdering Roommate in Attack with Mallet

A jury reached a guilty verdict Thursday morning in the case of a Burlingame man who beat his roommate to death in December 2011.

Lawrence Hoffman, 65, faces 26 years to life in prison after the jury deliberated for a day and half and returned Thursday morning to San Mateo County Superior Court with a first-degree murder verdict, according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Hoffman was on trial for murdering his 70-year-old roommate Joe Consentino in an attack at their shared apartment in Burlingame on Dec. 5, 2011.

During the trial Hoffman argued that his roommate, who had verbally abused him for weeks, had threatened him, according to prosecutors.

He said Consentino confronted him in their Garden Drive apartment holding a mallet and ready to strike and spewed vitriol at him.

Hoffman said he had been able to get the mallet and "snapped" and attacked Consentino with the weapon.

He continued to hit him on the head twice more after he had fallen to the ground.

The man was found with a 5-inch fracture on his skull.

Hoffman then covered the body with blankets and put an air freshener near the body before fleeing to the Los Angeles area, according to prosecutors.

He also tossed blood-covered clothing and the mallet in a Dumpster.

The weapon was never recovered.

Burlingame police discovered the body on Dec. 8 -- the same day Hoffman was arrested in Glendale, Calif., after he told an acquaintance about the deadly attack.

He is scheduled to return to court to be sentenced on July 12 at 2 p.m.

Santa Rosa: Woman Accused of Fatally Stabbing Her Mother Found Mentally Incompetent

Two doctors have concluded that a Sebastopol woman is mentally incompetent to stand trial for killing her mother at their Sebastopol area home in February.

A hearing will be held May 15 on 24-year-old Julia Franzen's willingness to take medications, Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell said.

A separate hearing then will be held to determine where she will be housed until she is restored to competency, Staebell said.

Franzen never entered a plea to killing her mother, Nancy Franzen, 59, in their Tocchini Street home on Feb. 4.

Criminal proceedings were suspended pending the doctors' reports on her mental competence.

Nancy Franzen's body was found on the floor of a bedroom after Franzen showed up at a neighbor's house with a knife and blood on her hands, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said.

Franzen told her neighbor she had just killed someone then ran back to her house, sheriff's Lt. Steve Brown said.

Court records show six cases since March 2011 involving domestic violence, battery, false imprisonment, vandalism and violations of probation by Julia Franzen.

During that time she was found both mentally competent and incompetent, ordered to participate in an anger management program and allowed to have peaceful contact with her mother.

Nancy Franzen worked as a nurse at Palm Drive Hospital and at the Sutter VNA & Hospice, now known as Sutter Care at Home. 

SF: U.S. Secretary of Education, Mayor Note School Improvements From Federal Funding

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee visited a middle school in the Mission District Thursday morning to call attention to the improvements made in the wake of federal funding to the city's school district.

Duncan, Lee and other top school officials held a roundtable discussion during a visit to Everett Middle School, one of nine schools in San Francisco that was awarded federal School Improvement Grants in 2011.

The historically low-performing schools in the city's Mission and Bayview districts were given $45 million over a three-year period that went toward professional development and coaching for school staff, among other improvements, according to school district officials.

Since 2008, those nine schools have had an 18.4 percent gain in English language arts proficiency and a 26.9 percent gain in math proficiency, district officials said.

Duncan said he was "absolutely inspired" by the improvements made at Everett.

He said during Thursday's visit, he talked to an eighth-grader there who "said she was terrified to come to this school as a sixth grader, and now this school has a wait list."

Lee said the federal funding has helped reduce barriers for low-income students and those who speak English as a second language.

"Once we get rid of those barriers, our kids who come from all over the world will compete on an international basis," he said.

Duncan said he is working to get more federal funding from Congress, but "they look at education as an expense instead of an investment."

He said in the meantime, San Francisco can come up with creative ways to maintain funding for the schools, noting that the mayor has sought help from the private and nonprofit sectors.

"People want to be part of a winner," Duncan said.

"We've gotten something started and he's got a heck of a story to tell."

The federal School Improvement Grant funding ends this September.

The other schools in San Francisco that received the funding are Bryant Elementary, Cesar Chavez Elementary, George Washington Carver Elementary, Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8, John Muir Elementary, John O'Connell High, Mission High and Paul Revere K-8. 

Oakland: San Leandro Police Look for Homicide Leads in Chinatown

San Leandro police came to Oakland's Chinatown neighborhood Thursday to look for leads in the case of an Alameda man who was fatally shot in front of his mother-in-law's house in San Leandro in March.

Sgt. Ted Henderson said police initially believed that the motive for the slaying of 33-year-old Delun "Allan" Pan at about 9:20 p.m. on March 22 was "straight forward" and that he was killed by suspects who were trying to rob his mother-in-law, who lives in the 15500 block of Harbor Way.

Henderson said investigators haven't ruled out robbery as the motive, but he said "we don't want to put all our eggs in one basket" and are looking at other possible motives for the shooting.

He said police came to Oakland's Chinatown because Pan worked in that area and "was well-known in this community."

"We want to talk to people and make sure that we're not missing out on any leads," Henderson said.

Police want to explore the possibility that Pan's death could be connected to his work, he said.

Pan worked for a cellphone business in Chinatown and also had a real estate license, according to Henderson.

He said he and other officers planned to distribute 200 flyers about Pan's homicide to people in Chinatown.

Henderson said it's not clear if one suspect or multiple suspects were involved in the shooting.

He said police only have a general description of a black male who was driving a dark-colored sedan.

Pan's wife and mother-in-law witnessed the shooting but because the incident was so emotional for them police aren't sure if they provided a totally accurate description, Henderson said.

The killing of Pan is San Leandro's only homicide so far this year.

San Leandro police are asking anyone with information about the shooting to call Detective Josh Brum at (510) 577-3235 or their anonymous tip line at (510) 577-3278. 

SF: Man Stabbed While Walking Dog at Duboce Park

A man walking his dog in San Francisco's Duboce Park early Thursday morning was stabbed, police said.

The 38-year-old man was at the park, located at Duboce Avenue and Scott Street, around 1:30 a.m. when the dog ran free, according to police.

The victim approached a male suspect who was also at the park to ask if he had seen the dog.

The suspect told the victim that he should get himself and the dog out of the park.

The victim felt threatened and made a kicking motion at the suspect in hopes of scaring him, according to police.

That was when the suspect took out a knife and stabbed the man in the leg, police said.

The victim was treated for an injury not considered life-threatening.

The man with the knife managed to elude police. 

Contra Costa Co.: Accused Child Molester Held Several Childcare Jobs Throughout County

A man charged with molesting multiple children was employed at childcare centers and churches throughout Contra Costa County over the past two years and as recently as last week.

Anthony D'Tiole, 23, is being held at county jail in Martinez on $5.6 million bail and has been charged with four felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a child under 14 years old, according to county records.

The 23-year-old was arrested at a KinderCare facility in Clayton on April 18, where he had been working for two days.

KinderCare corporate spokeswoman Colleen Moran said D'Tiole was immediately fired and was never left alone with children during his brief time at the facility.

He also passed a background check before being hired and did not have a criminal record, she said.

"It's paramount to us that we hire employees that are caring and thoughtful because parents entrust us with the most important people in their lives...and its important to us that we maintain that trust," she said.

According to his LinkedIn profile, D'Tiole has held childcare jobs at locations throughout Contra Costa County since graduating from Saint Mary's College of California in Moraga in 2011.

In the online profile, the suspect said he was hired as a Sunday school teacher for first and second grade children at Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church in 2011.

Morgan Murray, the church's pastor, said D'Tiole worked at the church up until a week ago and is no longer employed there.

"To the best of our knowledge, none of the allegations are connected to Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church," he said, noting that he had been advised not to comment on the matter by the church's legal counsel.

Representatives from Our Savior's Lutheran Church of Lafayette, where D'Tiole was employed from 2010 to 2011, were not available for comment Thursday.

Walnut Creek police Lt. Steve Gorski said a police investigation is ongoing with the collaboration of Orinda police and other neighboring agencies.

He said police believe D'Tiole, who also worked as a babysitter, may have victimized other children in the area. 

Daly City: Man Killed in I-280 Crash Was Chef at SF's Greens Restaurant

The victim of a fatal crash on Interstate Highway 280 in Daly City on Tuesday morning was a chef at San Francisco's Greens Restaurant, executive chef Annie Somerville said Thursday.

JohnPaul Ueber, 32, of San Francisco, worked under Somerville at the prominent vegetarian restaurant located at Fort Mason.

"He was a very integral part of Greens," Somerville said.

She said Ueber had worked there since 2004 when he started as an extern through the California Culinary Academy where he studied.

He had made his way through the ranks, advancing from lunch chef, to sous-chef to head chef, Somerville said.

The crash happened at about 8:15 a.m. Tuesday on northbound I-280 near state Highway 1 after Ueber lost control of his Honda SUV and struck the center divide.

The SUV overturned and came to rest in the far left lane.

Ueber, who was alone in the car, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Somerville said Ueber had just dropped off his fiancee at work and was returning to the city.

She described Ueber as a proud San Francisco native who had attended Drew College Preparatory School.

"He just loved the city," she said.

He also loved to cook."He was a very multi-talented person," she said. 

"A very accomplished person. Super energetic, always moving forward."

A social man who spent his free time outdoors, Ueber was also a true leader, Somerville said.

"He was super responsible," she said. "He was great at teaching people to be efficient."

She said he had a knack for showing people how to prepare certain dishes and learn the Green repertoire.

While in the Greens kitchen, "he thought like a vegetarian," according to Somervile -- although she said he was by no means a vegetarian in his personal life.

Somerville said the staff is devastated by the loss, but that the restaurant is still open and running.

"Everyone is stepping up as he would wish us to do," she said. 

Livermore: Man Arrested for Alleged Child Molestation

A Livermore man was arrested for alleged child molestation on Wednesday, and investigators believe there may be other young victims in the community, a police spokesman said.

Detectives arrested Joshua Isaiah Rojas, 28, at his Livermore home on Wednesday night on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 years of age, according to police spokesman Steve Goard.

The arrest came after a sexual assault investigation that began in March.

Rojas was arrested without incident and taken to Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, where he is being held on $100,000 bail, according to jail records.

Police believe there may be more victims in the area and are asking parents to talk to their children if they have had contact with Rojas.

He is set to appear in court in Pleasanton for arraignment at 11 a.m. today.

Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to call Livermore police at (925) 371-4700. 

Weather Forecast for the San Francisco Bay Area

Sunny skies are likely in the Bay Area this morning.

Highs are expected to be in the lower 60s to mid 70s, with westerly winds up to 20 mph in the afternoon.

Clear skies are likely tonight.

Lows are likely to be in the lower 50s, with southwest winds up to 20 mph.

Sunny skies are expected Saturday morning.

Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s to lower 70s, with southwest winds up to 20 mph.

 

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