San Francisco Bay Area Friday Morning News Roundup

Reset News Feed's picture

12-Year-Old Bicyclist Dies After Collision With SUV In Novato

A young girl who collided with an SUV while riding a bicycle in Novato Thursday afternoon has died from her injuries, Novato police said.

The 12-year-old girl was riding her bike west on Novato Boulevard shortly before 3 p.m. when she collided with the SUV traveling east on the same road around Sandy Creek Way, near San Marin High School.

The girl was transported in critical condition to Novato Community Hospital and then flown to Children's Hospital Oakland where she died at about 5:30 p.m.

The driver of the SUV stopped at the scene and cooperated with the police investigation. Police said it does not appear that the man was intoxicated or committed any traffic violations.

Police are continuing to investigate the collision along with the Marin County Sheriff's coroner's office.

Any witnesses to the crash have been asked to call Novato police at (415) 897-1122.

Confrontation Between Police, Protesters At Site Of Occupy Encampment Cleared Last Night

Forty-five protesters were arrested during a cleanup of an illegal Occupy encampment in downtown San Francisco late Wednesday night, a police spokesman said.

Thirty-nine protesters camping on the sidewalk in front of the Federal Reserve building at 101 Market St. were cited for illegal lodging around 11:30 p.m., San Francisco police Officer Albie Esparza said.

At least five others were booked into jail, including one person on a felony warrant, Esparza said.

At least one juvenile was also arrested at the camp.

Esparza said that police had been distributing leaflets to those camping in the area illegally in recent weeks to warn protesters that the encampments were not allowed and would be removed.

The Occupy encampment was completely cleared by 2:15 a.m. Thursday.

Officers have been monitoring the area Thursday to ensure that campers do not return, Esparza said.

The camp had been erected last fall at the height of the Occupy movement and was the surviving remnant after a nearby camp at Justin Herman Plaza was cleared last winter.

The tents went up as part of the nationwide Occupy movement that began in New York City in September 2011.

Caltrain Receives $40 Million In State Funds To Begin Modernization Project

Caltrain Thursday received nearly $40 million in state funds to pay for the first phase of modernizing and electrifying the popular Peninsula rail system.

Transit advocates, regional politicians and Caltrain officials gathered at Millbrae Station Thursday morning to celebrate the decision of the California Transportation Commission, which approved the release of $39.8 million for advancing the Caltrain Modernization Program.

The initial influx of state money will help pay for installing an advanced signal system that will allow more trains to run per hour per day.

The advanced signal system and additional trains will accommodate a growing demand for daily rail service in the region, while preparing the Caltrain right-of-way between San Jose and San Francisco to eventually coexist with high-speed trains.

"This is a turning point in the history of Caltrain," U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier said Thursday. "From this point forward, change will accelerate so that by 2019, we will have an ultra-modern electric train system to serve our 21st Century economy."

Speier referred to the modernized trains as "brainiacs," because computerized locomotives will operate with the signaling system to prevent train-to-train collisions, enforce speed restrictions and improve the overall safety of the transit system.

Assemblyman Jerry Hill agreed that the modernized Caltrain system will offer a safer, quieter, and more environmentally friendly alternative to the current diesel-powered system, while potentially taking thousands of driving commuters off congested roadways.

"This project will take cars off the road, create local jobs, lead to more frequent Caltrain service and reduce emissions," Hill said.

Joining Hill and Speier at Thursday morning's ceremony were Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, state Sen. Leland Yee, Caltrain Joint Powers Board President and San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, and San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board Chairman Tom Nolan.

Vallejo Man Arrested For Rape And Kidnapping

A Vallejo man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of raping a woman after terrorizing her with a pellet gun earlier this month, a police lieutenant said.

Johnie Milton Burton, 30, was arrested as he was leaving his home located near where the sexual assault was reported, Lt. Jim O'Connell said.

The victim had been walking in the 600 block of Laurel Street on Sept. 10 around 12:50 a.m. when a man approached her from behind and covered her mouth and nose, O'Connell said.

The suspect carried her to on a walkway connecting Laurel and Russell streets, threatened her with a semi-automatic handgun and threatened to shoot her before sexually assaulting her, O'Connell said.

Police found a semi-automatic pellet gun during a search of Burton's home, O'Connell said. Vallejo police said that the victim identified Burton as the attacker.

Burton is a toll collector at a Bay Area bridge, O'Connell said.

He was booked into the Solano County jail for rape by force, sodomy by force, kidnapping, terrorist threats and exhibiting a weapon, police said.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Detective Raul Munoz at (707) 648-4524.

One Year Since Prison Realignment, ACLU Says More Reform Needed To Control Overcrowding

With Monday marking one year since the state's prison realignment legislation went into effect, the American Civil Liberties Union of California Thursday released an assessment of the realignment process thus far and how voters perceive the state's criminal justice system.

State prison realignment, or AB 109, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in April 2011 and went into effect Oct. 1, 2011. The law moved low-level offenders from state prisons to county facilities in an effort to quell prison overcrowding.

The ACLU determined through their assessment and polling the state has not adopted enough reforms to make realignment successful, which would include reducing the prison population and lowering recidivism rates.

The state's recidivism rate is at about 70 percent.

According to the ACLU, the state prison population has decreased by about 25,000 inmates in the past year, however more than 7,000 jail beds have cropped up in county facilities.

Meanwhile, jail expansion is in the pipeline for many counties, including in San Mateo County, amounting to an additional 10,000 beds statewide, ACLU officials said.

Facing pushback from law enforcement interest groups, according to the ACLU assessment, many counties are continuing to funnel money toward jail construction and focusing on "incarceration-only" models to fight crime.

The ACLU claims there is a perception that other methods make counties seem "soft on crime," according to California ACLU criminal justice and drug policy director Allen Hopper.

Backed by a recent poll, the ACLU found California voters across party lines, genders, ages, geographic regions and ethnic groups tend to support further prison reform options.

According to polling data released earlier this year by Tulchin Research, 75 percent of state voters favor investing public money in more prevention and alternatives to jail for non-violent offenders.

A large component of prison overcrowding is keeping those awaiting trial for nonviolent offenses behind bars.

Judge Orders Psychiatric Examination of Man Convicted Of 1985 Murders

A judge Thursday ordered a psychiatric examination for a man who was convicted of murdering two Grateful Dead followers at a homeless encampment in Berkeley in 1985 but recently won the right to a new trial.

Ralph International Thomas, now 58, is charged with murdering Mary Gioia, 22, and Greg Kniffin, 18, early the morning of Aug. 16, 1985, at the encampment near the Berkeley Marina, which was set up by the city of Berkeley and called the Rainbow Village.

The two victims were beaten and shot at close range with a high-powered rifle and their bodies were found later that day in the San Francisco Bay near the Berkeley Marina.

Thomas was scheduled to enter a plea Thursday, but nothing has been simple in the long-running case, which has been the subject of numerous appellate rulings since he was convicted of two counts of murder plus the special circumstance of committing multiple murders and sentenced to the death penalty at his trial in Alameda County Superior Court in 1986.

Judge Carrie Panetta suspended Thomas' case after defense attorney Susan Walsh said she wasn't ready for him to enter a plea because she has concerns about whether he is competent to stand trial based on her recent conversations with him.

Three psychiatrists will now examine Thomas and their findings will be presented at a hearing in Panetta's courtroom on Nov. 15. 

According to the evidence that was presented at Thomas' trial 26 years ago, Gioia and Kniffin were so-called "Deadheads," or followers of the Grateful Dead, and were staying at the encampment because a local Grateful Dead concert was expected the following weekend.

The evidence against Thomas was circumstantial, including evidence that he owned a rifle that could have been used in the murders, owned a corncob pipe found at the murder site near the Bay, and was seen with the two victims the evening before they were killed.

Raid On Santa Rosa Backyard Pot Gardens Nets Pot Worth More Than $2 Million And Weapons

Fifteen people were arrested during a raid on backyard marijuana gardens in the Roseland area of southwest Santa Rosa Wednesday, a Sonoma County sheriff's lieutenant said.

Armed with 33 search warrants, law enforcement officers from several agencies, including the FBI and California Highway Patrol, entered and secured several homes, vacated the residents and uprooted 1,150 plants in the backyards, sheriff's Lt. Dennis O'Leary said.

The homes are in four blocks around the Bellevue and Moorland avenues area south of the Corby Avenue automobile showrooms, O'Leary said.

The raid also netted 96 pounds of processed marijuana, six guns, -- including a short-barrel rifle with a silencer -- a half-pound of cocaine, five grams of methamphetamine and $25,000 in cash.

The street value of the marijuana is in excess of $2 million, O'Leary said.

A complaint about the presence of backyard marijuana gardens led to the raid, authorities said.

"This area is known for being a high crime area involving gang activity," O'Leary said.

"The purpose of these search warrants is to rid the neighborhood of illegal marijuana operations that may be financially benefiting gangs and that illegal grow operations often lead to further crimes against law abiding residents of the neighborhood," O'Leary said.

Santa Rosa police and the Department of Homeland Security also participated with the sheriff's office in the raid that started around 9 a.m.

San Francisco Bay Area Weather Report

Cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected in the Bay Area this morning, becoming partly cloudy later in the day. Highs are likely to be in the upper 50s to mid 60s, with southwest winds up to 10 mph.

Mostly clear skies are likely this evening, with patchy fog after midnight. Lows are expected to be in the lower 50s, with southwest winds up to 15 mph.

Mostly cloudy skies and patchy fog are expected Saturday morning, becoming sunny later in the day. Highs are likely to be in the mid 60s to lower 70s, with light western winds up to 10 mph in the afternoon.

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