San Francisco Bay Area Thursday Morning News Roundup

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U.S. Judge Temporarily Blocks Prop 35 Internet Disclosure Requirement

A day after California voters approved Proposition 35, a federal judge Wednesday temporarily blocked the new law's requirement that the state's 73,000 registered sex offenders must immediately give police a list of their online screen names and Internet service providers.

U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson issued the temporary restraining order in San Francisco in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Wednesday morning by two registered offenders and a nonprofit group.

The temporary order will remain in effect until a Nov. 20 hearing on whether Henderson should grant a longer-term preliminary injunction against the disclosure requirement.

Henderson wrote in a four-page order, "The court finds the plaintiffs have raised serious questions about whether the challenged sections of (the law) violate their First Amendment right to free speech and other constitutional rights."

Proposition 35, the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, was approved by 81 percent of voters in Tuesday's election, according to the secretary of state's office.

In addition to mandating that registered offenders must report their Internet information, it increases prison sentences and fines for people convicted of sex trafficking.

The plaintiffs are challenging only the disclosure requirement, which they claim infringes on their free-speech right to express their views on law reform and other topics anonymously.

The registered offenders who filed the lawsuit used the pseudonyms of John Doe, described as a 75-year-old Alameda man, and Jack Roe, described as a former California resident who wants to return to the state.

They were joined in the lawsuit by a group called California Reform Sex Offender Laws, which says it believes that no sexual abuse is ever acceptable, but that laws should be based on sound research and common sense.

The plaintiffs are represented by lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Napa Man Arrested on Suspicion of Burglarizing Nancy Pelosi's Home and Several Others

A Napa man was arrested Wednesday morning on suspicion of burglarizing six residences, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's St. Helena house twice, a Napa County sheriff's captain said.

The five burglaries in Napa County and one in Solano County occurred in the past week, Capt. Tracy Stuart said.

The suspect, Kevin Michael Hagan, 21, admitted the six burglaries since Halloween, including those at Pelosi's residence on Zinfandel Lane outside St. Helena on Nov. 5 and 6, Stuart said.

Deputies found a glass door to the main Pelosi residence and a glass door to the pool house had been smashed when they responded to an alarm there around 2:50 p.m. on Nov. 5.

No one was home at the time and it's unknown what was taken, Stuart said.

On Nov. 6 at 9:50 a.m., a caretaker at the Pelosi home discovered plywood that was placed over the broken glass doors the day before had been removed, and someone entered the main house and pool house, Stuart said.

It appeared someone looked through drawers and cabinets, Stuart said.

Sheriff's deputies responded at 10:10 a.m. Wednesday to a residence at 2150 Silverado Trail outside St. Helena after a caretaker found an upstairs door open and a locked bedroom door, Stuart said.

Thinking someone might be inside the house, the caretaker called police, Stuart said.

A sheriff's deputy discovered a window had been removed and a suspect was inside the house, Stuart said.

Hagan was found and admitted burglarizing the Pelosi residence twice and two other properties on Zinfandel Lane, Stuart said.

Stuart said Hagan did not realize it was Pelosi's home the first time he burglarized it but he was aware the second time.

Judge Dismisses Murder Charge in David Lewis Killing, D.A. Weighs Options

A San Mateo County judge on Tuesday dismissed murder charges against a man suspected of fatally shooting East Palo activist David Lewis in San Mateo in 2010, ruling that police had inappropriately obtained a confession, the district attorney said.

Gregory Elarms, 60, has been accused of following Lewis to the Hillsdale Shopping Center on June 9, 2010, where he allegedly shot the man once in the stomach with a .44-caliber handgun, fatally wounding him, according to the district attorney's office.

Six months after the killing, an anonymous caller in Pittsburg contacted investigators at the San Mateo County Police Department and claimed he had information regarding Lewis' murderers, according to police.

The caller, who turned out to be Gregory Elarms, allegedly said he needed protection because Lewis' killers had been threatening him.

District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said that detectives offered to meet with Elarms.

While he was in police custody but before he was arrested, the suspect allegedly confessed to the murder and "muttered" something about needing an attorney.

When Judge Stephen Hall dismissed the murder charge and a related gun charge on Tuesday, he ruled that the confession -- a key piece of evidence in the case -- was inappropriately obtained, and that Elarms' Miranda Rights had been violated, Wagstaffe said.

"While we respect the judge's ruling, we believe it is erroneous," he said.

He said the district attorney's office will be reviewing the case and possible options for moving forward, such as appealing the judge's decision or re-filing murder charges.

The murder holds particular interest to the community because of Lewis' decades of work in East Palo Alto and the Bay Area, advocating for "the downtrodden" and working to reintegrate former inmates and parolees into productive roles in society, Wagstaffe said.

"We have to do everything in our power to make sure Mr. Elarms faces justice," he said.

Elarms, who had been ruled incompetent to stand trial until earlier this year, remains in custody without bail at San Mateo County jail, Wagstaffe said.

He is still facing a weapons charge for being found with an illegal sharp object while in custody, Wagstaffe said.

Rep. Stark Loses Congressional Seat to Stalwell

Alameda County prosecutor Eric Swalwell has defeated 20-term incumbent Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th congressional district race in the East Bay.

Swalwell, 31, received 53.1 percent of the vote and Stark, 80, got 46.9 percent. Both ran as Democrats.

The district includes all or parts of Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, Sunol, San Ramon, Castro Valley, Hayward, Union City, San Leandro, Fremont, Danville, Byron and Tracy.

Swalwell couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday but Stark issued a statement saying, "It has been my honor to serve the people of the East Bay for the last 40 years."

Stark said, "I have worked hard to deliver results: accomplishments like writing the COBRA law to make health insurance portable between jobs, bringing the first computers to schools, and crafting President Obama's groundbreaking health care law."

He said, "I went to Washington by running against an unpopular war and for women's rights, opportunity for children and dignity for seniors. I leave knowing that the landscape has changed, but the needs of my constituents remain."

Stark said, "I congratulate Mr. Swalwell on his victory. I am happy to be of assistance in the future."

Second Suspect Arrested in Connection with Post Giants Victory Muni Bus Arson

San Francisco police arrested a second suspect Wednesday in the destruction of a San Francisco Municipal Railway bus following last month's Giants' World Series win.

Nicholas Hudson, 19, of Daly City, was arrested in South San Francisco at 10:15 a.m. and booked into San Francisco County Jail on arson and vandalism charges, police said.

The arrest stems from riotous celebrations after the Giants victory against the Detroit Tigers that included the torching of a Muni bus on Market and Third streets around 12:30 a.m. on Oct. 29.

Another suspect, Gregory Graniss, 22, was arrested Oct. 30 after he was connected with the bus vandalism.

A San Francisco Chronicle photographer had captured a picture of a man smashing the windshield of the bus with a metal police barricade. The photograph circulated through social media and Graniss was identified as the suspect and he turned himself in to police, police said.

Graniss has since pleaded not guilty to felony vandalism and willful tampering with a passenger transit vehicle for the 8X-Bayshore Express bus that he allegedly targeted.

Graniss is out of custody on $40,000 bail and will return to court on Dec. 17 for a pre-hearing conference.

Police said additional suspects are wanted for breaking windows of the bus including a white man in his 20s wearing all dark clothing and a baseball cap who apparently used a skateboard to break windows on the side of the bus.

Another suspect was photographed using a barricade to break the Muni bus windows. That man is described as a black man in his 20s wearing a red shirt with gray horizontal stripes, police said.

Fate of Development Measure Remains Up in the Air

The fate of a ballot measure that would allow more flexibility in the development of large parcels of land in West Berkeley remained up in the air in updated election results released late Wednesday afternoon.

Measure T, which would amend the West Berkeley Plan and the city's zoning ordinance for areas west of San Pablo Avenue, is trailing by only 26 votes, or 50.04 percent to 49.96 percent.

The gap in the results posted by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters shortly after 4 p.m. is smaller than the 123-vote margin in the results announced shortly after midnight.

It will take several more days to count additional vote-by-mail and provisional ballots, voting officials said.

Countywide, about 85,000 vote-by-mail ballots and 40,000 provisional ballots still need to be tabulated. Voting officials don't have a breakdown of how many of those are from Berkeley.

Measure T would allow buildings 75 feet high on six large parcels in West Berkeley. However, projects couldn't be built until the City Council adopts rules requiring developers to provide community benefits, such as affordable housing or job training requirements.

Supporters say the measure would create jobs and allow property owners to develop unused lots with the potential to generate millions of dollars in revenue to the city to pay for enhanced amenities and services to the community.

But opponents say big new buildings would create an eyesore in the area and force rents to increase, making it less affordable for artists who currently work in the area.

The gap also narrowed slightly Wednesday in the margin against Measure S, which would ban sitting on sidewalks in the city's commercial areas from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.

The measure trailed by 1,055 in the results announced just after midnight but the margin decreased to 1,101 votes in the updated tally late Wednesday afternoon.

However, Measure S still faces an uphill battle because it trails by 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent.

Supporters say the measure is needed to reduce the number of street people who loiter in front of stores because they scare customers away and hurt business.

But opponents say the measure discriminates against people who happen to be poor and the city already has an ordinance that prohibits people from lying on the sidewalk during daytime hours.

School District Apologizes, Drops Claim that Former Student May Have Been Partly to Blame for Sexual Abuse by Teachers

A woman suing the Moraga School District on charges of failing to act on her complaints of sexual abuse by teachers in 1996 Wednesday accepted an apology from the district for suggesting she may have been partly to blame for what happened, her lawyer said.

The school district's governing board at its meeting in Moraga Wednesday morning issued a formal apology to Kristen Cunnane for charging in its answer to her suit that she may have been "careless and negligent" prior to the alleged abuse.

"The Governing Board and its attorneys, Stubbs and Leone, apologize to Ms. Cunnane for any anxiety or distress caused by the inclusion of this defense in its response to her pleading," the district stated.

The district board will "withdraw the defense of comparative fault and any assertion of carelessness or negligence on the part of Ms. Cunnane" from its defense pleadings, according to the statement.

Cunnane, 30, a swimming coach at the University of California at Berkeley, issued a response though her San Francisco attorney Paul Llewellyn.

"We appreciate the apology and are pleased that the district is formally withdrawing the defenses," Llewellyn said. "We hope this signals the start of a more productive dialog."

A spokeswoman for school district Superintendent Bruce Burns said that Burns would have no further comment beyond the statement.

Cunnane has asked for unspecified damages in her suit against four defendants, including the district, a former principal and vice principal of Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School and a former district superintendent, charging they failed to act on her complaints of sexual abuse in the 1990s.

The plaintiff claims that the defendants did not follow up on her reports of sexual mistreatment by Julie Correa, a gym teacher, and Daniel Witters, a science teacher, in 1996 when Cunnane was a child enrolled at the middle school in Moraga.

Witters committed suicide that year after the sex abuse charges from Cunnane surfaced. Correa was convicted last year of rape and sexual battery and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Transportation Sales Tax Measure Still Narrowly Trailing

A measure that would double Alameda County's transportation sales tax to a full 1 cent was still narrowly trailing in updated election results released shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Measure B1 has received 65.6 percent of the vote, but that's short of the 66.6 percent, or two-thirds majority, needed to pass.

However, the results could change because about 85,000 vote-by-mail ballots and 40,000 provisional ballots in Alameda County still need to be tabulated.

Alameda County Registrar of Voters officials said it will take several more days to count the remaining ballots.

The county's transportation sales tax was first passed in 1986. Measure B1 would make the tax permanent and increase it from a half-cent to a full 1 cent.

It would raise money to increase spending on roads, freeways, public transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements and transit-oriented developments.

Opponents said in their ballot argument that the measure is "a massive tax increase" that would disproportionately harm working families because a greater percentage of their income goes to sales taxes.

Measure A1, a countywide measure to raise funds for the Oakland Zoo, also remains slightly short of the two-thirds margin it needs for approval. The latest results show 62.75 percent of voters for it and 37.25 percent against.

Measure A1 would generate $112 million over a 25-year period to pay for the basic needs and care of zoo animals, facility upgrades, staff, education programs and field trips.

 


Cloudy skies and showers are likely in the Bay Area this morning. Highs are expected to be in the upper 50s, with western winds up to 20 mph.

Cloudy skies and showers are likely tonight, with lows likely to be in the upper 40s, and western winds up to 15 mph.

Mostly cloudy skies are expected Friday, with a chance of thunderstorms and hail in the morning. Highs are expected to be in the mid 50s, with northern winds up to 10 mph.

 

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