Thursday Morning News Roundup
State Sen. Calls For Ouster Of CPUC President Over PG&E Emails
State Sen. Jerry Hill announced Wednesday that he will seek to have the state legislature remove California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey over allegations that he made inappropriate arrangements with PG&E officials.
Hill said he will seek Peevey’s ouster if he is re-appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown at the end of this year. The legislature, which is currently out of session and will return on Dec. 1, can remove him from the post only if two-thirds of assemblymembers and senators approve the legislation, Hill said.
Hill also planned on demanding that Commissioner Mike Florio resign from his post.
The corruption allegations were made against Peevey and Florio after the release of emails between PG&E and CPUC officials that were the subject of a penalty hearing Tuesday in San Francisco. Outside, representatives of a consumer advocacy group and the city of San Bruno called for a wider probe of new messages released a day earlier.
Tom Long, a lawyer with The Utility Reform Network, or TURN, said a newly revealed email message by a now-fired PG&E executive in 2010 describing a dinner meeting with Peevey was “smoking gun evidence of political corruption” and “quid pro quo deal-making.”
Yacknin is considering what penalties to impose on PG&E for another set of emails that were disclosed by the utility on Sept. 15 that allegedly show judge-shopping by PG&E for an administrative law judge to preside over a gas transmission and storage rate case.
Both TURN and San Bruno requested a wider probe in filings submitted to the administrative law judge.
The new batch of messages disclosed in a PG&E filing with the CPUC on Monday include Cherry’s letter to Bottorff describing his May 30, 2010, dinner with Peevey and a set of December 2013 exchanges between Cherry and Florio on PG&E’s bid to raise the pressure in a disputed natural gas pipeline in San Carlos.
In the email, Cherry told Bottorff, who was his supervisor, that Peevey requested that PG&E contribute $100,000 to a 100th anniversary dinner for the CPUC and at least $1 million to a campaign against a ballot measure aimed at rolling back the state’s greenhouse gas reduction law.
Cherry wrote, “Mike is aware we are looking for a good GRC (gas rate case) decision” and said Peevey told him to expect the decision in January “around the time of the PUC’s 100th anniversary celebration.”
“I told him I got the message,” Cherry wrote to his supervisor.
Cherry also wrote that he “jokingly” suggested that if the commission allowed a $26 million payment to PG&E for an energy conservation program, “we could come up with $3 million or so” for the ballot measure opposition campaign.
Two Men Charged With Felony Assault In ‘Vicious Attack’ Inside Men’s Room At Levi’s Stadium
Two men were arraigned on felony assault charges Wednesday and held on high bail amounts in a violent beating of two cousins at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara on Sunday that left one victim suffering from paralysis after having part of his skull removed, prosecutors said.
Amador Anguiano Rebellero, also known as Jose Ramos, and his brother Dario Rebellero, appeared in jail clothes in Santa Clara County District Court in San Jose before Judge Hector Ramon, who set Amador’s bail at $350,000 and Dario’s at $75,000.
The Rebellero brothers were arrested at Levi’s Stadium shortly after 1:20 p.m. Sunday at the San Francisco 49ers football game when they allegedly got into a fistfight with the two victims while waiting for a toilet inside the men’s room on the north side of the stadium, according to Santa Clara police Lt. Kurt Clarke.
Deputy District Attorney Deborah Hernandez said that she asked for a high bail for Amador Rebellero because his victim in the fight ended up with bleeding in his brain, had to have part of his skull surgically removed to relive brain swelling and has paralysis.
The fight was an “unprovoked, vicious attack” that occurred despite the presence of about 50 witnesses, some of whom videotaped the incident, and began when Amador’s victim tapped him on the shoulder to let him know there was a vacant bathroom stall for him to use, Hernandez said.
“That tap basically has put this victim in severe condition and probably will affect his life forever,” Hernandez said.
A video of the altercation, which was taken by a bystander in the rest room, posted on YouTube and went viral, showed the beatings of both victims and the one who suffered brain damage lying unconscious on the floor, Hernandez said.
Each brother is charged with felony assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and Amador is charged with an additional count of felony assault producing paralysis, Hernandez said.
Former Prostitute Claims Defendent Implicated Himself Numerous Times In 2012 Monte Sereno Murder
A former prostitute testified Wednesday in San Jose that a defendant in the 2012 murder of a Monte Sereno man made incriminating statements both before and after a home invasion robbery that ended in the victim’s death by asphyxiation.
Katrina Fritz, on the stand for a second day as a prosecution witness in Santa Clara County Superior Court, said that murder defendant Marcellous Drummer asked her if the victim had gold at his home prior to the robbery and later told her things that tied him to the crime scene.
Drummer is on trial separately from co-defendants DeAngelo Austin, who is Fritz’s brother, and Javier Garcia, in the slaying of Raveesh Kumra, 66, the former owner of a Saratoga winery.
Kumra choked to death while gagged by duct tape in an early morning robbery of cash, collectable coins, jewelry and other valuables from his home on a large Monte Sereno estate on Nov. 30, 2012.
Fritz, who was also charged in Kumra’s murder, pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to charges of robbery with gang enhancements and false imprisonment, avoiding murder charges, to get a sentence of at most 17 years as part of plea deal for her testimony against the three men.
Prosecutors claim that Austin, Garcia and Drummer entered Kumra’s home based on information supplied by Fritz, including a drawing of the man’s home and where to find a side door to sneak inside.
Under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith, Fritz testified that Drummer said to her before the robbery “I’ll bet you they have a lot of gold” and when she asked him why he wanted to know, he replied “You know how much gold is worth now?”
Austin planned the robbery and Drummer was present when she met with them after agreeing to help them locate Kumra’s estate and describe the rooms inside his home, Fritz said.
In November 2012, Austin contacted Fritz, a longtime prostitute in the Bay Area who also worked in Texas, by phone to tell her he wanted to rob Kumra, to whom Fritz had provided sexual services from 1999 to 2011, the witness testified.
She said that in the hours before the robbery, she met in Oakland with Austin and Drummer and told her brother “not to do too much” when robbing Kumra, to which she said Drummer “told me he got this.”
Fritz said that she drove to her home in Pittsburg and went out to dinner with her boyfriend when Austin called her two or three times, finally from Kumra’s estate, telling her “he was going in,” and she commanded that he stop calling her.
“I didn’t want to be part of it,” Fritz said.
City Council To Mull Proposal To Redirect Chevron Funding To Hospital
Richmond’s City Council voted Tuesday night to take steps to use settlement money from Chevron to prevent the looming closure of West Contra Costa County’s only public hospital.
The council voted unanimously to approve a motion by Mayor Gayle McLaughlin stating its intent to redirect $15 million from a $90 million community investment agreement with Chevron to Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo, which has drastically downsized in recent months amid an ongoing financial crisis. Chevron has promised to distribute the $90 million to the city over 10 years in exchange for the city’s approval of its $1 billion refinery modernization project.
If approved by Chevron, the bulk of the reallocated $15 million would be cut from Richmond Promise, a scholarship program meant to send every graduating public high school student in the city to college. Funding would also be diverted from a job-training program, law enforcement initiatives and a program to provide Internet access in low-income neighborhoods.
City Councilman Corky Booze, who abstained from the final vote, initially introduced a proposal to redirect $20 million destined for green transportation programs and a solar farm project.
But city staff said Tuesday night that the city must spend $30 million of the Chevron funding on greenhouse gas emission reductions programs under the company’s Environmental and Community Investment Agreement with the city. Reallocating the funding to non-green energy programs might be possible, but legally risky, city staffers said.
The council also voted to direct City Manager Bill Lindsay to meet with representatives from the county and neighboring cities about contributing funds to keep Doctors Medical Center open.
The board of supervisors earlier this year voted to transfer $6 million to the financially troubled hospital but has said it can’t afford to provide ongoing funding.
On Tuesday night, the council also directed Lindsay to meet with Chevron to request that the company accelerate the previously agreed-upon multi-million-dollar payments to the city.
Second Suspect Arrested In Bennett Valley Jewelry Store Robbery
Santa Rosa police arrested a second suspect Wednesday in connection with an armed jewelry store robbery in July that ended in a shootout between the suspects and store owner and multiple injuries.
Johnny Tasker Douglas, a 34-year-old parolee from Oakland, was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping with the intent to commit robbery, attempted murder, robbery, firearms charges and a gang enhancement in connection with the July 10 robbery of Bennett Valley Jeweler at 2700 Yulupa Avenue, according to police.
The robbers smashed several display cases and took Rolex watches, but a backpack containing the watches was left behind when the robbers fled, police said.
A female employee of the jewelry store suffered a minor injury when she was shot during an exchange of gunfire between the store owner and robbers.
Police had been searching for Douglas since shortly after the robbery. An alleged accomplice, Jimmy Lee Terry, was arrested at the scene of the robbery after he was shot four times in the upper body by the jewelry store owner.
Police believe Douglas, 34, was also wounded during the shootout. He is thought to have fled the robbery in a stolen red Ford Mustang parked nearby, leaving Terry behind, and then later abandoned the vehicle in a nearby neighborhood.
Detectives learned that evening that Douglas was treated at an East Bay hospital for gunshot wounds but left against medical advice, police said.
He was identified as a suspect after evidence technicians match DNA evidence from the car to his records in a state database.
While they were unable to locate Douglas, on Monday they learned he had been arrested in Oakland on a parole hold, and obtained an arrested warrant. He is expected to be transferred to Sonoma County shortly.
Terry, 43, has also been charged in connection with the robbery.
Prosecutor Asks For Conviction In Alleged Murder Plot
A prosecutor told jurors Wednesday that there’s sufficient evidence to convict three men of conspiracy and premeditated attempted murder for allegedly trying to murder a man from a rival group in East Oakland three years ago.
In his closing argument in the lengthy trial for the three men in Alameda County Superior Court, prosecutor John Brouhard alleged that they wanted to kill the reputed target in May 2011 in revenge for a shooting earlier that month in which two of their friends were wounded.
Brouhard said the alleged plot was discovered by investigators from the Oakland Police Department, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Secret Service who were wiretapping the suspects and became concerned when they heard phone conversations indicating that they were planning to murder the alleged victim.
Brouhard said that on May 17, 2011, the suspects located the target at 35th and Broookdale avenues in East Oakland and several gunmen tried to kill him but the target escaped unharmed. However, two women were wounded by gunfire, he said.
Brouhard said the group’s alleged leader, Patrick Shields, 31, arranged another attempt to kill the target at a residence in the 3000 block of Curran Avenue at about 10:30 p.m. the following night and co-defendants Wynn Brewer, 32, and Cyrico Robinson, 27, also participated in the plot.
Brouhard said officers surrounded a car occupied by Brewer, John Sloan, 23, and Davon Jackson, 30, also known as Antoine Jackson, in the 3000 block of Curran Avenue but the suspects refused to obey commands by police that they surrender.
Brouhard said Brewer ran from the car with a gun in his hand and hid in a nearby yard and Sloan ran from the car with a gun in his hand.
Joyner shot and killed Sloan because he raised his gun toward him, Brouhard said.
Taking the witness stand in his own defense on Tuesday, Shields admitted that he is a “hustler” and that he sold marijuana and codeine and was involved in credit card fraud but said there wasn’t a plot to murder the alleged victim in the case.
Shields said that before he was arrested, “I’d never seen or heard of him (the alleged victim) in my entire life.” He alleged that police officers misinterpreted the things he said in his wiretapped phone conversations, which were littered with street lingo.
94-Year-Old Man Who Died As Carbon Monoxide Alarm Sounded Identified
An elderly man who was found dead at a residence in San Francisco’s Parkside neighborhood Wednesday morning has been identified, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Firefighters responded to a carbon monoxide alarm that was reported at 5:08 a.m. at a multi-unit residential building at 1255 Taraval St. that had apparently been sounding for hours, according to fire officials.
Aron Grabois, a 94-year-old San Francisco resident, was declared dead at the scene, according to the medical examiner’s office.
A second person was transported to a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening, fire officials said.
Fire officials were not able to release information about the cause of Grabois’ death or information about injuries suffered by the person transported to the hospital.
PG&E crews responded to the scene at about 5:50 a.m. to inspect the building.
PG&E spokesman Jason King said that when PG&E crews arrived at the building, firefighters had already aired out the building and there was no evidence of high levels of carbon monoxide in the air.
King said an inspection of the apartment building found no gas leaks. He said a check of the building’s gas appliances, such as stoves, is underway.
According to King, PG&E officials were told that the elderly man who died had suffered a heart attack during the evacuation of the builidng.
He said Grabois’ wife, who was in the same unit at the time, exited the building uninjured.
61-Year-Old Man Killed By Big-Rig In Hit-And-Run
A 61-year-old man was killed Wednesday when he was knocked off his motorcycle in Fremont by the rear axle of a big-rig, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The big-rig driver then fled the scene of the crash, which was reported on eastbound Highway 262, also called Mission Boulevard, just off of Highway 880 near Kato Road at 1:18 p.m., CHP officials said.
The driver of a truck pulling a chrome double tanker trailer hit the motorcyclist with the rear axle of his truck and then drove away from the collision scene.
The motorcyclist, a Fremont resident riding a 2004 Kawasaki, was pronounced dead on the highway. After searching the area, officers have been unable to locate the big-rig, according to the CHP.
The on- and off-ramps from Mission Boulevard to I-880 were closed for the investigation, CHP officials said, and reopened shortly after 3 p.m.
Police Release Sketch Of Suspect In Flashing Cases
Palo Alto police have released a suspect sketch after two young girls were the victims of indecent exposures about a half-mile apart earlier this week.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, a 10-year-old girl was out walking her dog near Byron Street and Seale Avenue between Jordan Middle School and Walter Hays Elementary School, police said.
A suspect in a four-door Volvo sedan pulled up next to her and asked her if she wanted to touch his penis. She noticed that his genitals were exposed and ran home to tell her parents what happened, police said.
Officers are looking into whether the case involved the same suspect who pulled up next to a 14-year-old girl at 4:47 p.m. Monday in the 1600 block of Bryant Street, near Castillija School, a middle and high school for girls.
When the girl turned and looked inside that suspect’s navy blue pickup truck, she saw that his penis was out and he was masturbating while making eye contact with her, police said. He did not speak to her and drove away.
While the description of the cars was different in each case, police said the suspect himself had a similar physical description.
He was described as a white man in his late 20s to mid 30s with short brown hair and a medium build, police said.
In Monday’s incident, the suspect was wearing a black V-neck T-shirt and black aviator-style sunglasses and on Tuesday the suspect was wearing a black-and-white checkered shirt with a white collar, police said.
Officers have increased patrols in areas where students walk to school and are conducting surveillance in the area where the exposures happened to try to locate a suspect.
Passenger Hit With Hammer By Uber Driver Speaks Out About His Recovery
A passenger who was attacked with a hammer allegedly by his Uber driver in San Francisco last month spoke publicly Wednesday about the potentially permanent damage caused to his vision in the attack and how he hopes to prevent similar attacks from happening to other passengers.
San Francisco resident Roberto Chicas, 35, appeared with his eye swollen shut and was joined by his attorney Harry Stern.
Chicas said waking up in the intensive care unit of a hospital after being knocked out by a blow to the head with a hammer was a jarring experience and that he hopes no one will have to experience similar situations when trying to get home from a night out on the town.
Chicas, who works as a bartender, is unable to work as a result of his injury. He said he is happy to be alive, but that his doctors said he could lose his eye if it doesn’t heal properly.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon has also expressed his concerns about the safety of transportation network companies following the arraignment of the Uber driver, 26-year-old Pacifica resident Patrick Karajah, following the assault.
Gascon said that Karajah does not appear to have a criminal record, but because he was working for Uber at the time, the company could be held liable.
Gascon said that Karajah picked up the three passengers around 2 a.m. on Sept. 22 in his UberX vehicle as the three friends were leaving a bar.
Stern, Chicas’ attorney, said Chicas and his friends had been out in the area of Mission and Second streets and that the first stop was supposed to be in the Lower Haight neighborhood, but for some reason, Karajah got on the highway and headed south.
When the passengers questioned Karajah about his route, a dispute resulted and the driver asked the two men and the woman to get out of his car near the intersection of Alemany Boulevard and Ellsworth Street, just off of Interstate Highway 280, Gascon said.
Stern said the two men got out of the vehicle and when the woman checked the seat to make sure they didn’t leave anything behind, Karajah brandished the hammer at her.
Karajah then turned toward Chicas and struck him in the face with the hammer.
Following the attack, Karajah fled the area before being arrested, Gascon said.
Karajah pleaded not guilty to assault with a deadly weapon and battery causing serious bodily injury. He is out on $125,000 bail, Gascon said.
Inmate Found Dead In Cell At North County Detention Facility
A Sonoma County jail inmate was found dead in his cell early Wednesday morning, a county sheriff’s sergeant said.
Diego Armando DePaz, 31, of Santa Rosa, was serving a 15-day sentence in the North County Detention Facility in Santa Rosa for violating his probation in a misdemeanor DUI case.
He was given until Monday to begin serving his sentence and turned himself in around 7 p.m., Sgt. Cecile Focha said.
An inmate noticed DePaz was not stirring during the morning’s noise, lights and announcements around 4:50 a.m. Wednesday, Focha said.
When a correctional deputy checked DePaz’s bunk he found him unresponsive, Focha said.
Other deputies and a jail nurse responded and continued lifesaving efforts with oxygen and an Automated External Defibrillator until fire department paramedics arrived, Focha said.
DePaz was pronounced dead at 5:14 a.m.
Standard medical and psychological intake screening disclosed no concerns, and there were no behavioral or medical incidents while DePaz was in custody, Focha said.
DePaz was not assigned to a work crew and the reason for his death is not immediately obvious, Focha said.
The Sonoma County District Attorney’s and Sheriff’s offices usually investigate inmate deaths, but the Marin County Sheriff’s Office’s coroner’s division will conduct an autopsy and investigate the cause and manner of the death, Focha said.
Health Officials Confirm County’s First Enterovirus 68 Case
Contra Costa Health Services officials have confirmed that a resident under 18 years old is the county’s first case of the contagious enterovirus 68.
The child, whose age was not disclosed, was initially hospitalized for the illness but has since recovered, county health officials said Wednesday afternoon.
The U.S. is experiencing an outbreak of enterovirus 68, with 664 confirmed cases in 45 states and the District of Columbia since mid-August, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Several of those cases have been reported in Bay Area counties.
Enterovirus 68 typically causes mild symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, sneezing and body aches, although more severe symptoms can include wheezing and difficulty breathing.
Children and teens are more likely to fall ill from the virus and children with asthma may suffer more serious symptoms, according to county health officials.
Almost all of the confirmed cases of enterovirus 68 in the U.S. over the past two months have been children and most have asthma or a history of wheezing, according to the CDC.
There is no vaccine or any specific treatment other than management of symptoms, health officials said.
Man Killed In Officer-Involved Shooting In Soma Tuesday Identified
A 26-year-old Oakland man who was killed after allegedly taking part in a vehicle burglary in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood Tuesday night has been identified, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Oshaine Evans was declared deceased just after 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to the medical examiner’s office.
Officers assigned to monitor the area of AT&T Park around the time that the San Francisco Giants’ playoff game was ending saw a suspicious vehicle casing other cars near Jack London Alley and Bryant Street around 9 p.m., San Francisco police Officer Gordon Shyy said.
Officers watched the suspects emerge from their car and then burglarize a Mercedes SUV parked on Jack London Alley, Shyy said.
When the officers approached the suspect vehicle to make contact with the suspects, they noticed that the driver, identified as Evans, had a handgun, according to Shyy.
One of the officers ordered Evans to drop the handgun but he refused, police said.
In defense of himself and others, an officer discharged his firearm, Shyy said.
Both Evans and a rear passenger in the vehicle were struck by the gunfire, according to Shyy.
The vehicle’s front passenger attempted to flee on foot but was quickly apprehended by officers on Bryant Street.
Evans and the other suspect hit by gunfire were taken to San Francisco General Hospital.
Evans died from his injuries, while the second suspect struck is expected to survive, Shyy said.
The suspect that was not taken to the hospital was instead taken to the Southern Police Station for questioning by investigators.
Police have not yet released the identities of the two other suspects.
Evans’ firearm was recovered at the location of the shooting, as was all of the stolen property from the Mercedes SUV, police said.
The officer who discharged his gun will be on 10-day administrative leave, which is standard practice following an officer-involved shooting, according to Shyy.
The investigation into the case remains ongoing, Shyy said.
72-Year-Old Woman Stabbed Last Month Died Today
A 72-year-old woman who was stabbed in Berkeley during an attempted carjacking three weeks ago died Wednesday morning, police said.
Nancy Jo McClellan of Emeryville had been treated at a medical facility for injuries she suffered when she was stabbed allegedly by 18-year-old Kamau Berlin in the vicinity of Russell and Otis streets at about 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 19.
Police said arriving officers saw a man fleeing the area who matched the suspect description given by callers and were able to detain him in the 2900 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Way after a foot pursuit. The suspect later was identified as Berlin, a Richmond resident.
Police said it appears that Berlin allegedly stabbed the woman several times during the attempted carjacking.
After the incident, Berlin was charged with attempted murder and attempted carjacking.
Berkeley police said they will now seek to have the attempted murder charge against Berlin upgraded to murder.
Berlin, who is being held without bail at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Oct. 24 to enter a plea.
SJ Man Identified As Pilot Killed In Air Tanker Crash In Yosemite
The pilot of an air tanker that crashed in Yosemite National Park while responding to a wildfire on Tuesday evening has been identified by Cal Fire officials as 62-year-old San Jose resident Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt.
Hunt, a 13-year veteran pilot of Dyncorp International, which is under contract with Cal Fire, left from Hollister and was responding to the Dog Rock Fire when officials lost contact with the plane late Tuesday afternoon.
Emergency personnel were able to find the crash site on Tuesday night and determined Hunt had died, Cal Fire officials said.
“We continue to mourn the tragic loss of Craig,” Chief Ken Pimlott, Cal Fire director, said in a statement. “We know wildland firefighting is an inherently dangerous job, but Craig made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The Dog Rock Fire was reported around 2:45 p.m. Tuesday between the Yosemite National Park boundary and Arch Rock Entrance Station, according to National Park Service officials.