Wednesday Morning News Roundup
Joseph Naso Sentenced to Death for Murder of Four Notherne California Women
After hearing evidence in Marin County Superior Court for three months, excluding a two-week break in July, six men and six women jurors took
a total of less than nine hours to convict former commercial photographer Joseph Naso of killing four Northern California women and sentence him to death.
Naso, 79, of Reno, Nev. was stoic when the death sentence decision was read Tuesday around 4 p.m., about 24 hours after he told the full panel that included nine alternate jurors, "I wish I had a group picture of you. I thank you and wish you well."
Naso's advisory counsel, Deputy Public Defender Pedro Oliveros, said he had "braced" Naso for the death penalty verdict.
"He was prepared for both resolutions," Oliveros said.
After deliberating 5 1/2 hours on Aug. 20, the jury convicted Naso of the murders that occurred between 1977 and 1994. The panel deliberated three hours Tuesday before agreeing on the death penalty. The alternative was life in prison without parole.
The death sentence applies to three of the slain women, Carmen Colon, 22, Pamela Parsons, 38, and 31-year-old Tracy Tafoya. The death penalty was not in effect in California when the body of 18-year-old Roxene Roggasch was found near Fairfax in January 1977.
Prosecutors Dori Ahana and Rosemary Slote presented what seemed like endless evidence, much of it found in Naso's Reno home after his arrest in April 2010, that connected Naso to the strangulations of the four women who worked as prostitutes.
It included photos Naso took of women dressed in lingerie and heels who appeared dead or unconscious. Naso admitted during the trial his fetish for photographing women in nylons and high heels.
The evidence also included Naso's and his ex-wife Judith's DNA that were found on two of the four pairs of pantyhose on Roggasch's body.
Photos of Parsons, who Naso admitted photographing after he picked her up hitchhiking, and newspaper stories about her and Tafoya's deaths in Yuba County, were found in Naso's home.
Naso, who told the jury he was a "packrat" and a collector, kept a handwritten "list of 10" that contained references to 10 "girls" Naso is believed to have killed, where they were from or where he dumped their bodies. The bodies of the four women Naso killed were found in Marin, Contra Costa and Yuba counties.
Naso also kept what the prosecution called a "rape diary" in which Naso described picking up and sexually assaulting women in various cities over several decades.
Dr. Park Dietz, a well-known forensic psychiatrist, testified Naso fit the profile of sexually sadistic killers and rapists who save "mementos" of his victims that can include clothing, news articles and photos.
He said the killers and rapists prey on vulnerable and trusting women such as prostitutes and sometimes pose as photographers to lure their victims for their own sexual gratification.
Throughout the trial Naso insisted he was an accomplished working commercial photographer, a family man and a good father to his son. He called the rape diaries "date diaries" and said only two of his "dates" filed complaints about his behavior in 1958 and in 1961.
He said the presence of his DNA on the pantyhose found on Roggasch's body meant only that he might have had sex with her.
Child Hospitialized by Debris after Fruitvale Shooting
A child was hospitalized after being hit by glass debris in a shooting near Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, an Oakland police spokeswoman said.
Police initially reported one person was hit by gunfire in the 1500 block of 27th Avenue around 4:45 p.m., however it appears only the child was injured by shattered glass, Oakland police Officer Johnna Watson said.
It appears no one was hit by bullets, Watson said.
The child was taken to the hospital and is in stable condition, Watson said.
Watson said at least one vehicle was involved in the shooting.
Blind Minister and Seeing-Eye Dog Struck by Hit-and-Run Driver
A blind East Palo Alto minister and his seeing-eye dog were struck by a car Monday night, according to police.
The Rev. Albert Macklin of the New Sweet Home Church of God in Christ was walking on Myrtle Street near Sparrow Court around 8:05 p.m. when a car hit him and his dog.
Macklin said Tuesday that he was uninjured in the incident, save for some "emotional trauma." His black lab guide dog escaped unscathed but is disoriented.
He said the pooch will soon be evaluated by officials from a guide-dog organization.
"I actually stayed home today," he said. "I got ready to go, but I couldn't get back on the street today."
Police said the driver stopped and asked the minister if he was OK and said she was going to move her car, but drove away from the scene instead.
Macklin said the driver was female based on her voice, but that he did not have other information about the car or what she looked like.
He said she did not give him a chance to tell her if he or his dog were injured in the collision before driving away.
He hopes to identify the person who jeopardized his safety.
"It's just not safe for me to walk to the church," he said. He said he is considering hiring someone to drive him to his workplace in the future.
Macklin said he walks every day from his East Palo Alto home to his church, located at 2170 Capitol Ave., and has never had a problem at the intersection.
However, he said he thinks speed bumps should be installed because Myrtle Street is prone to speeding.
Anyone with information about the hit-and-run is asked to call East Palo Alto police at (650) 321-1112 or send an anonymous email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous texts and voicemails can be sent to (650) 409-6792.
Bay Area Communities Recieve Federal Grants for New Police Officers
Oakland, East Palo Alto and Vallejo were among 39 California communities to receive nearly $20 million in federal grants to hire new police officers, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
As part of the 2013 Community Oriented Policing Services or "COPS" hiring program, the city of Oakland was awarded over $4.5 million to add up to 10 new officers to its police force, the highest amount given to any police agency this year, according to the justice department.
"This is a great day for the people of Oakland, who deserve and need a stronger police force," Mayor Jean Quan said in a statement.
Oakland was forced to lay off dozens of officers since 2008 due to budget cuts, and the Police Department has since worked to replenish its ranks through officer union concessions, federal grants and gradual re-hiring as the city's finances improved.
Oakland police Interim Chief Sean Whent said that a new class of police academy cadets is scheduled to graduate on Friday, only the second class to graduate in more than four years.
"The Oakland Police Department is thankful for the grant funds given to us by the federal government," Whent said.
Other Bay Area communities to receive funds through the 2013 COPS program were Alameda County, which received $2.2 million for eight sheriff's deputies, Vallejo, which received $1.06 million for four officers, and the cities of Hayward and East Palo Alto, which each received $250,000 for two new officers.
Communities that were awarded COPS hiring grants were selected based on fiscal need, local crime rates and community policing plans, according to the DOJ.
Woman Pleads Not Guilty in the Murder of a Monte Sereno Man
A woman charged along with two men in the murder of a wealthy Monte Sereno man pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court and a judge set a preliminary hearing for Nov. 19.
With her not guilty plea, Katrina Fritz, 32, is the only one of the three defendants in the Nov. 30, 2012, murder and robbery of 66-year-old Raveesh Kumra to enter a plea.
Fritz's attorney argued that by entering her plea, Fritz had the legal right to request a preliminary hearing within only 10 days, but lawyers for her co-defendants said they needed more time to review evidence in the case.
Chris Givens, representing co-defendant Javier Garcia, told Judge Daniel Nishigaya that he had only received discovery documents Tuesday and that Garcia was not ready to plea to the charges.
Nishigaya set the preliminary hearing for the three defendants for Nov. 19 after Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith said that the proceedings would take about three days.
Fritz, Garcia, 21, and Fritz's brother Deangelo Austin, 21, are charged with murder and robbery with special circumstances in the death of Kumra, a former winery owner.
Kumra died of asphyxiation after he was tied up and gagged during a late-night home invasion and robbery of cash and valuables in his home in Monte Sereno, prosecutors said.
The man's wife, Harinder Kumra, was also bound and beaten but was able to contact police after the robbery.
Prosecutors allege that Garcia and Austin carried out the robbery with the assistance of Fritz.
Cellphone records show Fritz and Austin were talking with one another during events at the Kumra home and that she continued to help her brother as he was wanted by Los Gatos-Monte Sereno police, according to prosecutors.
Garcia and Austin also are charged with false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon in the beating of Harinder Kumra with a blunt instrument, according to prosecutors.
The district attorney's office alleges that Austin is a member of "The Money Team," an Oakland-based street gang, and that Garcia is a member of another Oakland gang, "Ghost Town."
Fritz was among the prostitutes whom Kumra once hired and entertained at his home on Withey Road in Monte Sereno and in hotels in nearby Los Gatos, according to prosecutors.
The district attorney's office dropped charges against two other defendants in Kumra's murder, Raven Dixon and Lukis Anderson, in June.
Chevron and Contra Costa County Agree to End Property Tax Lawsuits
Contra Costa County supervisors unanimously approved an agreement with Chevron Tuesday that will put an end to property tax lawsuits against the county and should save the county millions of dollars and boost strained relations between the county and the oil giant.
The settlement agreement comes after nearly a decade of legal battles between the two entities over the taxable value of Chevron's Richmond refinery between the years 2004 and 2013.
Under the agreement, the local refinery's taxable value for 2012 will drop from $3.87 billion to $3.28 billion, according to county documents.
Chevron also agreed to forgo an $8 million refund that would normally be awarded because of that decrease, relieving local agencies from having to repay the tax revenue, county administrators said.
The agreement came after 18 months of negotiations, which took a turn when a new round of Chevron staff came to the table and with retired Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Coley Fannin mediating, according to county assessor Gus Kramer.
Kramer said the settlement was "tantamount to Galileo and the pope coming to an agreement on gravity."
"We've been light years apart...and there's been a lot of give and take, but I think it's going to be a good thing for the taxpayers of Contra Costa County," Kramer said.
Over the past decade, Chevron has sought hundreds of millions of dollars in tax refunds from the county, according to the company's own estimates. In 2009, it was awarded $17.8 million in property taxes paid for the years 2004 through 2006.
The company also has three pending separate court cases challenging the county's assessment of the refinery's taxable value, which it agreed to drop as part of the settlement.
"(Chevron) is waiving its claims to hundreds of millions of dollars in tax refunds and has agreed not to pursue its past tax appeals," oil company spokeswoman Melissa Ritchie said in a written statement.
"(Chevron) believes this process has fostered a better relationship with the county assessor and will help bring the assessed value for the Richmond refinery in line with other refineries in the Bay Area and the United States."
Ritchie said the settlement would also "bring greater fiscal stability to Contra Costa's local communities, including the city of Richmond, and will preserve funding for essential services and the county's schools."
The settlement does not prevent Chevron from filing future litigation against the county about the refinery's taxable value. However, the agreement holds that company representatives will meet with the county assessor's office each year to confer about the value.
New Oakland Bike Path Complete
A new experimental bicycle pathway along 40th Street in Oakland aims to help drivers and bicyclists travel on the busy street.
The city's first green bicycle pathway was completed Saturday, running through the Piedmont Avenue commercial district, by the MacArthur BART station and into Emeryville.
A series of sharrows, or shared-lane bicycle markings, stretch along the road shared by motorists and bicyclists for eight-tenths of a mile, Bicycle and Pedestrian Project Manager Jason Patton said.
The path is part of the city's Bicycle Master Plan to increase bicycle access to BART stations, Patton said.
The pathway is broken into two segments starting from Webster Street to Telegraph Avenue with a brief break for an existing bicycle lane near state Highway 24 and then continuing from Martin Luther King Jr. Way to Adeline Street, Patton said.
According to the city's Public Works Agency many bicyclists travel along the "door zone" area where parked car doors open and the pathway would provide more clearance for motorists and bicyclists to share the roadway.
The city's Public Works Agency is overseeing the experimental pathway in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration and California Traffic Control Devices Committee.
Patton said the pathway is a non-standard traffic control device that needs to be regulated by state and federal agencies for consistency.
While the pathway is still experimental in nature, Dave Campbell, Advocacy Director at the East Bay Bicycle Coalition said he doesn't think it will work for the 40th Street corridor.
Speed limits should be between 20 to 25 mph for such a pathway, also referred to as a super sharrow, to work to accommodate the number of vehicles traveling on a street, Campbell said.
While the speed limit on 40th Street is set at 30 mph motorists tend to travel 40 to 50 mph while bicyclists travel at 12 to 15 mph, Campbell said.
Community members have notified the city's Public Works Agency of speed complaints and will continue collecting data on the pathway through October, Patton said.
They will be collecting information such as the number of bicyclists and speed of vehicles on the road, Patton said.
The city is looking to put more green bicycle pathways on city streets including Broadway between Grand Avenue and 25th Street, Patton said.
Anyone who would like to comment on the bicycle pathway can send an email to email@example.com.
Man Taken in for Psychiatric Evaluation After Two Disruptive Public Outbursts
A man who threw concrete and bricks at police while on a building's ledge in San Francisco's Financial District on Monday afternoon is the same person who stood atop a signpost for hours last week, police said Tuesday.
The man was taken to San Francisco General Hospital for psychiatric evaluation early Tuesday morning after the incident began around 3 p.m. Monday, according to police spokesman Officer Gordon Shyy.
Police responded to a report of a shirtless man on the promenade at Four Embarcadero Center on Drumm Street. When the officers made contact with the man, who was wielding a knife, he immediately hopped onto the ledge of the building and threatened to jump, police said.
During a standoff, the man vandalized a large window on the building and also threw concrete chunks and bricks at officers below, according to police.
Police negotiators were eventually able to convince the man to come off the ledge and took him into custody at about 12:15 a.m., Shyy said.
The man, whose name is not immediately being released, is in his mid 20s and is a Bay Area resident.
Shyy said he is the same man that stood atop a "Do not enter" sign on Drumm Street between Clay and Sacramento streets starting around 10 a.m. Friday.
Police shut down the street until the man eventually came down around 2 p.m. During that incident he had also taken off his clothing.
Shyy said he had been taken to San Francisco General Hospital on Friday and was not arrested after he underwent a psychiatric evaluation.
He remained at San Francisco General Hospital for further mental evaluation Tuesday afternoon, Shyy said.
Upon his release he faces charges that include assault with a deadly weapon, vandalism, trespassing and brandishing a knife, according to Shyy.
Van Ness Imporvement Plans Approved
Plans to make over San Francisco's Van Ness Avenue with a bus rapid transit project were approved Tuesday afternoon, a transportation agency spokesman said.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors unanimously approved the project that is estimated to cost about $125 million and be completed by spring 2018, spokesman Paul Rose said.
Under the proposal, two lanes in both directions on Van Ness between Mission and Lombard streets will become dedicated bus lanes.
The separated lanes will be used by the 47-Van Ness and 49-Van Ness/Mission Muni bus routes and Golden Gate Transit buses.
The lanes will run in the middle of the thoroughfare with landscaped medians where passengers will board. The outer lanes in both directions will be used by other motorists.
There will be 10 bus stops in the northbound direction and nine for southbound passengers, Rose said.
Transportation officials hope the bus-only lanes will expedite travel time by eliminating left-turning slowdowns and giving traffic signal priority to buses.
There will also be pedestrian improvements, signal upgrades, new streetlights, and new landscaping and roadway resurfacing, according to the plan.
The road-to-sidewalk ratio of the corridor will not change under the proposal.
Transit officials are expecting various improvements along the corridor after the changes, including buses running 30 percent faster and an increase of passenger capacity for Muni bus routes.
The buses will be switched to longer vehicles with bigger capacity, and both Muni routes will run every seven and a half minutes, which is a more frequent pace, Muni officials said.
The corridor operates as U.S. Highway 101 through the city, therefore Caltrans was required to review the plans and approved the project earlier this month.
The San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which consists of the city's Board of Supervisors, approved the transit plan last week.
The next step is approval from the Federal Transit Administration, which will review the environmental impact of the project and will approve federal funding.
About $75 million is slated to come from a federal program, $36 million from a city sales tax and the remaining $14 million from other local, regional and state sources.
Construction on the project is expected to start in winter 2015.
Wells Fargo Financial Advisor Pleads Guilty
A financial advisor who formerly worked for Morgan Stanley & Co. and then Wells Fargo Advisors has admitted in federal court in San Francisco to forging an elderly widow's name to $1.8 million worth of checks, prosecutors announced Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Adorean Boleancu, 47, of Napa, admitted during a guilty plea on Friday to having signed his client's name, without her authorization or knowledge, to $1.8 million worth of checks drawn on her brokerage account and home equity lines of credit.
Haag said Boleancu admitted he wrote the checks for his personal benefit and made them payable to his family members, his girlfriend, another female acquaintance, cash, and financial companies where he had credit card accounts.
Boleancu pleaded guilty during the court session before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg to one count of wire fraud committed in 2009.
He was originally charged in a federal grand jury indictment in July with a total of 27 counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and aggravated identity theft allegedly carried out between 2007 and 2010.
The plea averts a trial that was scheduled to begin Sept. 23.
Boleancu will be sentenced by Seeborg on Dec. 17.
The wire fraud conviction carries a possible maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, plus a $1 million fine and restitution to the victim. Seeborg is expected to consider federal sentencing guidelines when determining the penalty, however.
Boleancu worked as a vice president and financial advisor for Morgan Stanley & Co. from 2004 to 2008, and as a vice president for Wells Fargo Advisors, a subsidiary of San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co., from 2008 to 2011, according to the indictment.
The now-83-year-old widow was his client at both institutions between 2007 and 2011, the indictment said.
In a separate civil proceeding, Boleancu agreed in March to a settlement with a private regulatory agency, the Washington, D.C.,-based Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
The settlement required him to pay the widow $650,000 in restitution for money allegedly taken from her through checks drawn on her home equity lines between 2008 and 2010.
The settlement document said Boleancu accepted, but did not admit or deny, the agency's findings.
The widow was "an inexperienced and unsophisticated investor" who relied on Boleancu's professional advice and experience, the settlement said.
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