San Francisco Bay Area Friday Morning News Roundup

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Louvre Representatives Sign Agreement, Loan Rare Art To Legion Of Honor

Thursday marked an important moment in the history of the San Francisco fine arts scene as the director of Paris' Louvre and the head of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco met to sign an exchange agreement and open a new exhibition of French art.

At the end of a long, pristine white corridor on the Legion of Honor's lower floor, in a room flanked by glass cases of rare, polished porcelain artifacts, some of them centuries old, Louvre director Henri Loyrette sat next to Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco Board President Diane Wilsey.

Just after 10 a.m., the two signed an accord that establishes a formal exchange linking the museums until at least 2017.

"Without question," Wilsey said, Thursday marks one of the most exciting things ever to happen to the Legion of Honor.

The accord, Wilsey explained, is part of an agreement between "the mother church of all museums" and San Francisco's de Young and Legion of Honor museums in which the two will exchange exhibitions, objects of art, educational material and ideas.

The accord will last for at least the next five years, "which is much longer than some marriages last," Wilsey said.

According to Wilsey, the first wave of art lent to the Legion as part of the accord is a rare collection titled "Royal Treasures from the Louvre: Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette."

The exhibit includes some of the Louvre's most precious treasures, including Louis XIV's personal collection of hard-stone vases mounted in gold and gemstones, the museum said.

Strikingly lit, the vases are made of solid stone amber, jade, rock crystal, agate, and amethyst and placed in glass cases throughout the exhibit.

According Marc Bascou, a representative of the Louvre, some of the actual stone pieces date back to the late Roman Empire.

Family of Man Killed Outside Home In Berkeley Hills Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against The City

The wife and two sons of a 67-year-old man who was killed outside his home in the Berkeley Hills in February filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city Thursday, alleging that it was negligent in the way it handled the situation.

Peter Cukor, who owned a logistics consulting firm, was killed outside his home at 2 Park Gate Road at about 9 p.m. on Feb. 18.

Daniel Jordan Dewitt, 23, who grew up in Alameda, has been charged with murder for allegedly killing Cukor with a flowerpot but a judge ruled in March that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial.

Dewitt's attorney, Brian Bloom said Thursday that Dewitt is being state mental hospital and he's due back on court on Jan. 25 for a progress report on his mental health.

The suit on behalf of Andrea, Christopher and Alexander Cukor, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, says that when Peter and Andrea Cukor saw a suspicious trespasser, later identified as Dewitt, on their property shortly before 8:45 p.m. on Feb. 18, Peter Cukor called the Berkeley Police Department's emergency number to ask that an officer be sent to their home right away.

The suit says a dispatcher told Cukor that an officer would be sent to his home "soon" but alleges that the dispatcher acted "with gross negligence and in bad faith" because the dispatcher knew officers wouldn't respond.

R. Lewis Van Blois, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the Cukors, said Thursday that the Police Department had "plenty of officers" on duty that night but the department's priority was to have them monitor Occupy Wall Street protesters who were marching from Oakland to Berkeley.

Van Blois said an officer who heard Cukor's call offered to go to Cukor's home but was told by his superiors not to respond.

Van Blois said the Police Department has the right not to send an officer to a potential emergency situation but in Cukor's situation they should have told him they weren't sending someone immediately but if the threat continued he should call them back.

The suit alleges that Cukor relied on the dispatcher's representation that an officer would be responding so when no officers came after several minutes he went outside to see if police were having trouble finding his house, as that had happened on a previous occasion when an officer had been dispatched there.

The suit says, "Peter Cukor would not have gone outside if he did not believe that a trained and armed professional police officer was approaching his home and would arrive at any moment or was in the street near the home but needed assistance to find the driveway."

When Cukor went outside with a flashlight, Dewitt confronted him and ultimately killed him, according to the suit.

Buster Posey Named 2012 National League MVP

San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey was named the 2012 National League Most Valuable Player Thursday afternoon.

Posey, 25, has racked up a number of awards this year, including Comeback Player of the Year, a National League batting title, the NL Hank Aaron Award for best hitter, and a NL Silver Slugger for best hitter at his position.

In 2010, he was named NL Rookie of the Year.

Posey, a 2012 All Star, batted .336 this year, while hitting 24 home runs and driving in 103 runs.

He was part of both World Series championship teams for the Giants, in 2010 and this year.

The Baseball Writers Association of America chooses the MVP.

Vallejo Fire Chief: Three Fires Within 12 Hours Were Arson

Three two-alarm fires that burned within a half-mile of each other and less than 12 hours apart are believed to be cases of arson, Vallejo Fire Department Chief Paige Meyers said Thursday afternoon.

"The way they were set and the form of the accelerant are similar. There were obvious signs of deliberately set fires," Meyers said. The first fire, reported around 8:15 p.m. Wednesday, burned in a house in the 1400 block of Alabama Street.

The second blaze, at the Vintage Cocktail Lounge at 732 Tuolumne St., started around 2:30 a.m. Thursday, and the third was reported at 7:30 a.m. Thursday in a pet clinic at 1207 York St., Meyers said.

All the structures that burned were badly damaged, Meyers said.

All 18 firefighters and a battalion chief who were on duty responded to the blazes, Meyer said.

There were no witnesses, and Vallejo police are looking for suspects, Meyers said.

Contra Costa County Jury Deliberating Conviction Of Man Who Murdered Former Girlfriend and Her Male Friend

A Contra Costa County jury is now weighing the fate of the man who murdered his former girlfriend and her male friend on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza.

Nathan Burris, 49, who is representing himself in Contra Costa County Superior Court, took the stand in Martinez Thursday to present closing arguments in the penalty phase of his capital murder trial.

The jury that convicted him last week on murder charges with special circumstances for fatally shooting Deborah Ross, 51, of Richmond and 58-year-old Ersie "Chuckie" Everette of San Leandro on Aug. 11, 2009 began deliberations Thursday afternoon to decide whether to sentence Burris to life in prison or to death.

His testimony Thursday morning came after closing arguments by Chief Assistant District Attorney Harold Jewett, who reminded the jury that the district attorney's office is seeking the death penalty in the case.

Jewett advised the jury that they are tasked with reaching the most just verdict, regardless of their own views on the death penalty or the perceived wishes of the family or of Burris himself.

Whether or not the death penalty is ever carried out, depending on state law at the time, the prosecutor told the jury that their condemnation of the defendant should "echo through the depths of time."

Jewett Thursday described Burris as a "psychopathic killer" and a sociopath who is devoid of a conscience.

"Nathan Burris is motivated by hate and he has been for most of his life," he told the jury Thursday morning. He reminded them of an incident in 1993 when Burris allegedly threatened to kill managers at an Oakland housing complex where he had just quit his job if they failed to deliver his last check within three days.

During testimony on Wednesday, Burris also spontaneously confessed to committing a string of armed robberies at Walgreens pharmacies in San Francisco during the mid-1990s -- a factor that Jewett said the jurors have the right to consider when determining a sentence.

The defendant himself testified earlier in the trial that his anger and hatred for Ross and Everette, the man Burris believed she was dating, spurred him to go to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza where Ross was working as a toll-taker during rush hour on Aug. 11, 2009. There, he shot and killed Everette as he sat in a pickup truck parked at the toll plaza, then ran over to the tollbooth where Ross worked and opened fire on her.

Thursday, he reiterated his oft-repeated stance that it's all the same to him whether he is sentenced to death or to life imprisonment, and that he is ready to accept his fate.

City College Students, Staff Protest Proposal To Consolidate Diversity Departments

More than 100 City College of San Francisco students, teachers and their supporters held a rally Thursday to encourage the school to not consolidate diversity departments as part of a plan to maintain its accreditation.

The group, which gathered at City College's Ram Plaza on the Ocean Campus, included members of the school's departments of women's studies, LGBT studies, labor and community studies and studies of various ethnic groups.

Those departments could be consolidated as part of a revamping of City College's administrative structure, one of several problems cited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, which in July placed the school on "show cause" status.

City College last month submitted an action plan responding to the problems identified by the commission and has until March 15, 2013 to submit another report showing progress made toward resolving the problems.

Elizabeth Arruda, chair of the women's studies department, said the attempt to consolidate the departments "is happening nationwide," while others argued that taking away the departments' autonomy would dilute their quality and possibly lead to their elimination.

Shanell Williams, president of the Associated Student Council for the Ocean Campus, said each department "enriches students' learning environment." Williams said, "We're here Thursday to defend diversity."

Other speakers criticized another proposal that would reassign department chairs back to full-time teaching roles, a move school officials said would create savings of more than $2 million annually.

Forklift Operator Killed At East Oakland Plastics Company

A worker who was killed in an industrial accident at an East Oakland plastics company Thursday was a forklift operator who was trying to service a forklift, a Cal/OSHA spokesman said.

Peter Melton of Cal/OSHA said the worker at Super Link Plastics Inc. at 888 92nd Ave., identified by Oakland police as a 34-year-old Oakland man, was using one forklift to lift up and service a second forklift when the second forklift came down and crushed his head.

Oakland police said they received a 911 call from the company about the accident at 9:43 a.m. Thursday and when officers arrived the man wasn't breathing.

The Oakland Fire Department and Paramedics Plus responded and pronounced the man dead, police said.

Melton said Cal/OSHA's investigation into the accident will focus on whether Super Link Plastics implemented adequate safety measures and training for its forklift operations. He said the agency has six months to complete its probe.

Melton said after Cal/OSHA officials conducted a routine inspection at the company in November 2011 they issued two violations for minor seat belt and electrical issues and proposed a $395 fine but the company has challenged the findings.

He said a Super Link Plastic worker sprained his ankle when he fell while disposing of garbage at a public garbage facility on May 2, 2011, but after Cal/OSHA investigated the matter it decided not to cite the company.

Four Arraigned Thursday In Jewelry Scam At Alemany Farmers' Market

Three women and a man were arraigned in San Francisco Superior Court Thursday in connection with a scam in which they tried to dupe people into giving them jewelry and cash at a farmer's market last weekend, District Attorney George Gascon said.

Ying Liu Tam, 38, Ah Chung Liu, 48, Mudi Wu, 44, and Yong Hua Zeng, 53, were arrested Saturday after allegedly trying to scam two women at the Alemany Farmers' Market at 100 Alemany Blvd.

Three of the suspects approached a woman and told her she was plagued by evil spirits and that a purification ceremony was needed on her jewelry and money to get rid of the spirits, police Inspector Marty Dito said.

However, the woman had remembered media reports earlier this year in which three people were arrested for a similar scam, so she decided to go to the Ingleside Police Station rather than her home and came back with police officers, Gascon said.

The suspects tried to flee in a taxi once police arrived but were arrested.

Investigators quickly learned that a second victim had already given the suspects more than $10,000 in jewelry and cash and that property was recovered, Dito said.

All four pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon to various charges for the incident.

Tam and Liu were charged with felony grand theft, extortion, attempted extortion and attempted grand theft. They are being held on $200,000 bail each, prosecutors said.

Wu and Zeng are each being held on $100,000. Wu's charges are attempted extortion and attempted grand theft while Zeng's are extortion and grand theft.

All four will return to court on today to set a preliminary hearing date.

Prosecutor Alleges Pair Killed Antioch Man Over $150 Debt

A Contra Costa County prosecutor alleges that a man and woman charged with murder in connection with a fatal shooting in Antioch last week killed the victim over a $150 debt.

Felicia Viscaina, 25, and Joshua Perry, 31, both from Antioch, were arraigned on murder charges in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Pittsburg Wednesday. The pair is accused of killing 44-year-old Vaughn Walker outside of his home on West 18th Street in Antioch the night of Nov. 8, according to police.

Viscaina had been released from County Jail only a week earlier after serving a year sentence on car theft charges and was also on parole for residential burglary charges at the time of the slaying, Deputy District Attorney Mary Knox said.

The prosecutor said the two went to confront Walker about $150 he owed them. The suspects allegedly shot Walker, who died from his injuries around 9:30 p.m. at a local hospital.

Knox said the pair then attempted to flee to Yosemite with the help of Forrest Murray, 30, of Antioch, whose car apparently ran out of gas before he could help carry out the plan.

Murray was charged with possession of ammunition and being an accessory after the fact.

Attorney Says Ruling Overturning Affirmative Action Ban In Michigan Could Set A Precedent For California

A lawyer for a civil rights group that won a ruling overturning a ban on affirmative action in Michigan public university admissions Thursday said the decision could pave the way for renewal of a limited affirmative action program in California.

In Thursday's decision, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati by an 8-7 vote struck down a Michigan voter-approved ban on affirmative action in admissions of women and minority-group members at the University of Michigan and other public colleges.

That ruling conflicts with a decision in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in April upheld Proposition 209, a similar prohibition enacted by California voters in 1996.

George B. Washington, a lawyer for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, said, "I am virtually certain" the U.S. Supreme Court will review the Michigan case to resolve the conflict between the two appeals courts.

If the high court takes the case and "if we win, it will open the door to affirmative action in higher education," Washington said.

"I think this ruling (by the 6th Circuit) is a nationally important decision, partly because California and Michigan have the two greatest public university systems in the nation," he said.

Washington, a Detroit lawyer, was also one of the attorneys representing the coalition and 46 minority students in the unsuccessful challenge to Proposition 209 in California.

In the Michigan case, the group challenged Proposal 2, enacted by Michigan voters in 2006.

Both the Michigan and California initiatives were state constitutional amendments proposed by former University of California Regent Ward Connerly and both banned race- and sex-based preferences in state government employment, contracting and education.

The coalition's recent lawsuits challenged only the parts of the two measures that applied to public universities. The suits were based partly on a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed the University of Michigan's law school to consider race as one of a number of factors in admissions.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report

Rain and isolated thunderstorms are expected in the Bay Area today. Highs are likely to be in the lower 60s with eastern winds around 5 mph.

Rain is likely tonight. Lows are expected to be in the mid 50s, with winds from the southeast up to 20 mph.

Showers are likely Saturday, with highs around 60. Winds from the southwest are expected to be up to 20 mph.

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