Friday Morning News Roundup
Black Friday Protest Supporters Pack Bart Meeting, Demand Board Drop Restitution Request
Supporters of demonstrators who shut down BART service for several hours on Black Friday packed a BART board meeting Thursday and demanded the agency ask the District Attorney’s Office to rescind a request for $70,000 in restitution.
On Nov. 28, more than two-dozen black activists chained themselves to two trains at the West Oakland BART station, shutting down service for more than three hours. Those arrested have since referred to themselves as the “Black Friday 14.”
Over a hundred people who were not allowed inside the meeting due to capacity constraints gathered in the lobby, singing, holding signs and chanting slogans made popular over the last several months of demonstrations to protest the killings of unarmed black men at the hands of white police officers.
Inside the meeting, public testimony continued for more than three hours, ending in the protest song, “Which side are you on? (We’re on the freedom side)” and chants of “Pass the resolution, drop the restitution.”
In response, board member Rebecca Saltzman said she would introduce a resolution to ask the District Attorney to rescind the restitution demand. She was seconded by board member Zakhary Mallett.
“I will work with my colleagues on the language of the resolution,” Saltzman said. “We want to thank you for coming tonight.”
Her proposal was met with applause and chants of “We will win” as several dozen people flooded out of the room. When they got outside, the group made a large circle in the lobby and held hands.
Rheema Calloway, one of the Black Friday 14, said she felt good about the director’s pledge.
“It’s definitely been a long road,” Calloway said. “From getting hauled off to jail at Santa Rita. For many of us it was the first time being arrested for something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
Several speakers questioned why the Black Friday 14 was being targeted and asked to pay restitution or perform community service when other protesters arrested on BART property are not facing the same charges. One demonstrator described how her twin sister, who is white, was arrested after walking out on the freeway and said all charges were dropped against her.
At least two people spoke in support of the restitution fees and said BART was within its right to enforce issues of public safety.
One Officer Convicted, One Acquitted Of Violating Civil Rights In Hotel Room Search
One San Francisco police officer was convicted and a second officer was acquitted in federal court Thursday of conspiring to carry out illegal searches of residential hotel rooms in drug investigations.
Officer Arshad Razzak, 42,was found guilty of four counts by a jury in the court of U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco. He will be sentenced by Seeborg on April 28.
Officer Richard Yick, 38, was acquitted of the three charges leveled against him.
The charges related to the search of a room in the residential Henry Hotel at Sixth and Mission streets in San Francisco by Razzak, Yick and two other officers on Dec. 23, 2010.
Razzak was convicted of conspiring to violate civil rights by entering and searching rooms without a warrant or consent of their occupants and then falsifying police reports between that date and March 1, 2011.
He was also found guilty of depriving the hotel resident in the Dec. 23, 2010, search of her civil rights, falsifying the pay slip of a confidential informant and falsifying a police report that said officers knocked on the woman’s door and received permission to enter.
Yick was acquitted of the first three charges and was not accused of the fourth. Both officers are San Francisco residents.
The conviction was the second within two months in a federal prosecution of San Francisco officers accused of misconduct.
Both cases stemmed from a civil rights probe initiated by the FBI after San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi in March 2011 released hotel surveillance videotapes that appeared to show officers entering rooms without a warrant or consent, contrary to the accounts given in police reports.
In the first case to go to trial, Sgt. Ian Furminger, 47, of Pleasant Hill, and Officer Edmond Robles, 47, of Danville, were convicted in a different judge’s court on Dec. 5 of charges related to a scheme in which they stole money and property they seized during searches in 2009 and divided the proceeds.
A third defendant in that case, former Officer Reynaldo Vargas, pleaded guilty to four charges and testified against his former colleagues at their trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer.
Furminger and Robles are scheduled to be sentenced by Breyer on Feb. 23 and Vargas’s sentencing has not yet been set.
California Community College Board Of Governors Ends Agency’s Exclusive Right To Accredit State’s Community Colleges
The California Community College Board of Governors decided this week to open up competition for the accreditation of community colleges in California by removing language from their regulations that gave the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges a monopoly.
California Community Colleges Vice Chancellor for Communications Paul Feist said Thursday that the decision to change the regulation, which allowed ACCJC the exclusive right to accredit California’s two-year community colleges, follows a recommendation by the Bureau of State Audits in April.
The change also comes just days after San Francisco Superior Court judge Curtis Karnow tentatively ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office against the ACCJC in response to the commission’s efforts to disaccredit City College of San Francisco.
Karnow ruled that the ACCJC carried out unlawful business practices and “is liable for violations of the Unfair Competition Law.”
California Federation of Teachers president Joshua Pechthalt welcomed the California Community College Board of Governors’ decision, which he said is a necessary prerequisite to eventually replacing the ACCJC.
“This move, following on the heels of the San Francisco Superior Court’s finding last week that the rogue accreditor broke four laws in its irresponsible decision to disaccredit City College of San Francisco, places the agency on notice that its destructive actions have consequences,” Pechthalt said in a statement released Thursday.
Pechthalt said the ACCJC “cannot be trusted, and does not deserve to hold that position any longer” and commended the Board of Governors’ decision.
Feist said this change will allow the California Community College’s chancellor to choose an accrediting commission recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Feist said accreditors, such as those that oversee four-year colleges or other geographic locations, could expand into this role in the future now that the regulation has changed.
He said the Bureau of State Audits recommended the regulation change in an April report. The change could increase the quality of commissions, by adding competition and flexibility.
Feist said, however, that because accreditation is granted on a seven-year cycle, it would take “at least a decade to move any colleges over to a new accreditor.”
Charter Bus Company Family Members Plead Guilty To Tax And Bank Fraud Charges
A member of a San Jose family that ran a charter bus company has been sentenced in federal court to one year and 10 months in prison for conspiring to commit tax fraud and conspiring to defraud banks in home loan applications.
Elena Moreno, 40, the bookkeeper of Quality Assurance Travel Inc., was sentenced on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose. She pleaded guilty to the two counts on Aug. 20.
Moreno’s husband, Fidencio Moreno, and brother-in-law, Arturo Moreno, have also pleaded guilty to various charges and are due to be sentenced by Koh on Feb. 4.
Fidencio and Arturo Moreno are co-owners of the company, which is based in Santa Clara.
Among other services, the company ran charter buses to the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino, operated by the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, in Coarsegold, Madera County, between 2006 and 2010.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline Ciraolo of the U.S. Justice Department said prosecution documents showed that the three family members failed to report more than $967,000 in cash receipts, most of which was money paid by passengers for trips to the casino over four years.
A federal grand jury alleged in a 2012 indictment that while the defendants reported checks paid by the casino for bus service contracts for the years 2006 through 2009, they did not report additional cash payments of $20 provided by passengers who were not preferred customers of the casino.
Last year, prosecutors obtained a revised indictment additionally charging the defendants with fraud in home loan applications for four San Jose properties owned by various family members.
Fidencio Moreno pleaded guilty before Koh on July 30 to one count of conspiracy to commit tax fraud. He agreed in his plea agreement that a sentence of three years and five months in prison would be an appropriate penalty, according to a prosecution filing.
Arturo Moreno pleaded guilty on July 30 to two counts of conspiracy to commit tax fraud and conspiracy to commit bank fraud in home loan applications.
Ciraolo said Koh ordered Elena Moreno to pay a total of $423,000 in restitution for the bank fraud as well as to forfeit $3.3 million in bank loan proceeds and her interest in two San Jose properties.
Ciraolo said the three Morenos have already paid more than $200,000 in restitution to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service for losses associated with the tax fraud.
Exploding Tires On Wheelchair Rattle Civic Center
The sound of exploding, over-inflated tires on a wheelchair caused a shelter-in-place order and partial evacuation of the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael Thursday morning, a sheriff’s lieutenant said.
The wheelchair belonged to the grandfather of a sheriff’s deputy who was attending a ceremony honoring sheriff’s personnel for their length of service, Lt. Doug Pittman said.
The grandfather said he had the tires of the wheelchair inflated at an auto shop before he attended the 9 a.m. ceremony in the Board of Supervisors chambers, Pittman said.
Two minutes after the ceremony ended at 9:47 a.m., one of the tires of the wheelchair in the hallway exploded, Pittman said.
“No one could discount gunfire as the source of the sound,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies spilled out of the chambers and began conducting a room-to-room search of third-floor offices. Employees of the County Administrator’s Office evacuated the building, Pittman said.
The second tire exploded about five minutes later. The wheelchair owner then noticed the tires had exploded and others in the hallway noticed their rubber remnants on the floor, Pittman said.
After the wheelchair owner was interviewed, “we felt comfortable that the tires were the source of the noise,” Pittman said.
The sound of the explosion was amplified because of where the wheelchair was left in the corridor, he said.
An “all-clear” was issued at 10:37 a.m. The California Highway Patrol and San Rafael police also responded to the incident.
Marin County spokesman Brent Ainsworth said the nearby Venetia Valley School on North San Pedro Road was locked down as a precaution during the incident.
Ainsworth said 970 employees work at the Civic Center at 3501 Civic Center Drive in San Rafael.
Driver Killed In Midnight Solo Vehicle Collision
A man was killed in a solo vehicle collision in Los Gatos early Thursday morning, according to police.
The collision was reported near Shannon and Short roads around midnight.
Officers and fire firefighters found a vehicle off the road, with a male driver in his 40s inside, police said.
The driver was pronounced dead of his injuries at the scene. His identity has not yet been released pending notification of next of kin.
Man Arrested In Alleged Sexual Assault Of Child Under 10
Police arrested a 38-year-old Fairfield man Thursday on suspicion of sexually molesting a child under the age of 10.
Fabian Salazar was arrested after a search of his home in the 300 block of San Andreas Street on suspicion of several felony charges related to the commission of lewd acts on a child, one of which carries a potential prison sentence of 25 years to life, police said today.
Bail was set at $2 million.
Salazar was identified as a suspect after police were approached in November last year regarding a sexual assault on a child.
He is alleged to have molested the victim over a two-month period, police said today.
27-Year-Old Man Pleads Not Guilty To Human Trafficking, Rape Of 2 Minors
A 27-year-old San Francisco man facing allegations of human trafficking of minors and rape pleaded not guilty Thursday, according to a San Francisco District Attorney’s spokesman.
Jamar Geeter has been charged with 16 felony counts, including human trafficking involving a minor and rape, according to San Francisco District Attorney spokesman Max Szabo.
“These allegations are incredibly serious and highly disturbing,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said.
“Anyone found guilty of such egregious crimes should spend the rest of their life in prison,” Gascon said.
Geeter was chrarged with ten counts of rape by force, violence, or by threat of bodily injury of a person 14 years or older. He also faces two counts of human trafficking involving a minor, two counts of forcible oral copulation of a minor, one count of assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury, one count of criminal threats, as well as multiple enhancements for kidnapping and the commission of these offenses against a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old victim, according to Szabo.
Geeter, if found guilty, faces a potential life sentence.
The defendant was previously arrested in September 2009, along with two other suspects, in connection to a shooting in the city’s Bayview District.
In that incident, Geeter was riding in a Ford Thunderbird from which shots were allegedly fired at a group of people standing on the sidewalk, according to police.
While no one was struck by the bullets, police saw the suspect vehicle speeding away from the area and detained its four occupants, arresting three, including Geeter.
The defendant remains in custody in lieu of $3 million bail and is scheduled to return to court at the San Francisco Hall of Justice at 9 a.m. on Monday.
Medi-Cal Applicants To Receieve Faster Determination On Eligibility
Medi-Cal applicants will now be granted temporary benefits if the Department of Healthcare Services cannot determine their eligibility within 45 days, following a ruling by the Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday.
Advocates with Bay Area Legal Aid said this week that the ruling will help low-income Californians who might have otherwise gotten stuck in a kind of limbo while the state worked through a backlog of 900,000 applicants.
At least one of those applicants reportedly died during the wait.
Plaintiff Frances Rivera’s son, Robert Cribbs Jr., reportedly died of a pulmonary embolism while waiting for a determination on his Medi-Cal application. Two months after Cribbs’ death, Rivera received a letter stating that her son had qualified for Medi-Cal, according to Bay Area Legal Aid.
The State Department of Healthcare Services said Thursday that they’ve reduced their Medi-Cal backlog by more than 95 percent, but there are obstacles in processing some of the remaining applications.
Some are from individuals who have not yet provided documents or other information needed to determine their eligibility. There are also duplicate applications that will have to be removed from the system, officials said.
There are roughly 12 million people enrolled in Medi-Cal, and 2.7 million of them have been enrolled since Jan. 1, 2014, due the program’s expansion under the Affordable Care Act, officials said.
Rivera vs. Douglas, the case that led to this week’s ruling, accused the state of leaving hundreds of thousands of California residents without healthcare.
It was filed by a coalition of legal organizations including Bay Area Legal Aid, Central California Legal Services, Multiforum Advocacy Solutions, National Health Law Program, Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County and Western Center on Law & Poverty.
Police Arrest 3 Sureno Gang Members In Slaying Of Juvenile
A third suspect was arrested Thursday in the death of 17-year-old Cesar Gonzales, who was shot down at his Salinas home by alleged Sureno gang members, police said.
The arrest of a 17-year-old boy today followed the arrests of a 16-year-old suspect on Wednesday and 18-year-old Jose Guadalupe Diaz in the Jan. 13 slaying of Gonzales outside his residence in the 600 block of Market Street, Salinas police Cmdr. Vincent Maiorana said.
Gonzales was shot shortly after 6 p.m. when, according to witnesses, a gray van with three people inside stopped in front of his home, Maiorana said. The van sped away after the shooting.
Police believe the three suspects, all Salinas residents and alleged members of a Sureno criminal street gang, “were acting in conjunction together” in the fatal shooting, Maiorana said.
Diaz was booked into the Monterey County Jail and the two juveniles into Juvenile Hall, all on suspicion of murder with gang enhancements, he said.
Police arrested them using leads provided by the public. Officers worked shifts of up to 20 hours without any days off during the investigation, assisted by violence suppression unit officers, the Monterey County Probation Department and the county STING Task Force, he said.
The arrests followed an on-going intense law enforcement crackdown against gang members by Salinas police in response to four local homicides this month, including at least two related to shootings by Sureno members, Maiorana said.
Those and other recent shootings, including the wounding of a 13-year-old boy shot in a drive-by attack on Santa Rita Street on Saturday, are thought to have involved Sureno members looking for members of the rival Norteno gang to shoot at, he said.
Jose Christian Regalado, 18, a suspected Sureno member, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder with gang enhancements the evening of the shooting, police said.
Detectives have found links between the shooting of the 13-year-old and Gonzalez’ death, but the details are not being released, Maiorana said.
Police are not sure whether Gonzalez or the 13-year-old were gang members, he said.
Costumed Man Wanted By Fbi In Connection To String Of Bank Robberies
The FBI and San Francisco police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a costumed man believed to be responsible for robberies at six banks and a foreign money exchange kiosk in San Francisco over the past three months.
During the robberies, the man wore a fake mustache, a dark-colored fedora hat, a black trench coat and at times, a fake beard, according to FBI officials.
Investigators with the SFPD and FBI believe the man may be Caucasian, possibly in his 30s or 40s and between 5 feet 7 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall.
According to investigators, the suspect has a very thin build and very pale skin.
The man is suspected of carrying out robberies at a Chase Bank near the city’s Fisherman’s Wharf area in October and at a Citibank in Pacific Heights in November. He is also suspected of robbing a Union Bank in the Japantown area and a Chase Bank in Pacific Heights during December.
On Jan. 12, the man is suspected of robbing both a Bank of the West and a Citibank in the Richmond District.
He is also suspected of robbing a Travelex Worldwide Money currency exchange kiosk in the Castro District on Jan. 14, according to FBI officials.
8 Arrested After Police Find 15 Illegal Gambling Machines Inside Residence
Eight people were arrested Tuesday after San Jose police responding to a reported fight in East San Jose instead found an illegal casino with 15 slot and video gambling machines, a spokesman said Thursday.
Police received a 911 call about a male and female fighting at a residence in the 100 block of South Capitol Avenue south of Alum Rock Avenue. Officers witnessed people fleeing from the home when they arrived, police spokesman Officer Albert Morales said.
Police found 15 illegal slot and video gambling devices inside the residence as well as some narcotics and cash, Morales said.
At least 20 people at the scene were rounded up and detained and officers arrested eight of them for outstanding arrest warrants and on suspicion of possessing narcotics, he said.
Police never located any victims of the reported fight, he said.
A vice officer will take over the investigation of the illegal gambling operation at the residence, including interviews with some of the detainees, Morales said.
Possession of a gambling machine is a misdemeanor in California and police might follow up and recommend further charges to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, he said.
DA Files Charges Against Suspect In Police Shooting
The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has filed charges against a Richmond man shot by police last week.
Marceleno Gonzales, 20, will face charges of carrying a loaded and unregistered firearm, a clerk at the district attorney’s office said today.
Gonzales was shot by a Richmond police officer on Jan. 15 after he allegedly pulled out a semi-automatic handgun when the officer tried to confront him, according to Richmond police.
Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan said the semi-automatic pistol had an extended magazine and investigators later found a sandwich bag full of methamphetamine and other bags of marijuana in the suspect’s clothing.
Gagan said the district attorney’s office is also investigating the officer’s use of force in the incident. Gagan said Gonzales was still in the hospital as of Wednesday.
There is no court date set yet for the charges against Gonzales.
Muni Rider Punched In Face, Has Dog Stolen
A man was punched in the face and then had his pit bull stolen while aboard a San Francisco Municipal Railway bus in the city’s South of Market neighborhood early Thursday morning, police said.
The 18-year-old victim was riding the bus near the intersection of Sixth and Mission streets shortly before 2:40 a.m. when a man, described as being in his 20s, approached him, according to police.
The suspect punched him in the face and then took the dog out of the victim’s backpack and exited the Muni bus with it, police said.
No arrests have been made in connection with the assault and robbery, according to police.
Driver Sentenced To 3 Years In Prison For 2013 Dui Crash
A 61-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to three years in state prison for injuring a motorcyclist while driving under the influence in South San Francisco in 2013, according to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.
At 11:46 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2013, a police officer observed San Francisco resident John Donohoe turning onto the wrong side of Westborough Boulevard and heading west in the eastbound lanes before colliding head-on with a motorcycle.
The motorcycle’s passenger reported pain to the back and neck and the driver suffered a broken leg, with fractures to the fibula and tibia, prosecutors said.
Donohoe admitted to having consumed five beers before driving and tests revealed a blood-alcohol content of at least 0.14 percent, prosecutors said.
Donohoe entered a plea of no contest on Sept. 11 to one count of felony drunk driving causing injury with an added enhancement for great bodily injury.
His sentence from San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Karesh also includes paying restitution to the victims of the crash, prosecutors said.
Majeed Samara, Donahoe’s defense attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment today.
18 Workers Paid Back Wages In Lockheed Martin Settlement
The U.S. Department of Labor announced this week that it reached an agreement with Lockheed Martin Corp. involving allegations the company violated wage laws while under contract with the U.S. Coast Guard in Petaluma.
Eighteen workers have been paid $201,000 in back wages as a result of the settlement, according to the Department of Labor.
An investigation conducted by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Lockheed violated requirements of the federal Service Contract Act by improperly classifying technical instructors and course developers in categories that were not reflective of the duties they performed and paying the workers incorrect prevailing wages.
Susana Blanco, district director for the Wage and Hour Division in San Francisco, said in a statement that government contracts are specific in how employers should determine pay and benefits.
“Government contractors, large and small, should be aware of their obligations under the law,” Blanco said.
According to the Department of Labor, which announced the settlement Tuesday, the SCA requires contractors and subcontractors performing services on covered federal contracts of more than $2,500 to pay their service workers no less than the wages and fringe benefits prevailing in the locality.
Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area
Skies today will be sunny. Highs will be in the lower 60s with northeast winds of 5 mph.
Skies will be mostly clear tonight with lows in the lower 50s and light winds.
Skies will be sunny and mostly clear Saturday with highs around 60 degrees. Winds from the northeast could reach 5 to 10 mph.
There is a high surf advisory in effect from 6 a.m. today through 6 a.m. Sunday.