Wednesday Morning News Roundup
Jury Deliberations To Begin Wednesday For Two Officers Accused Of Illegal Searches
A federal jury is due to begin deliberating today in the trial of two San Francisco police officers accused of conspiring to enter and search residential hotel rooms without a warrant.
Officers Arshad Razzak, 42, and Richard Yick, 38, have been on trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg since Jan. 12.
Closing arguments began Tuesday and the case will go to the jury after completion of the final prosecution rebuttal argument this morning.
The two officers, who were suspended without pay after being indicted last February, are both accused of conspiring to violate civil rights through illegal entries and searches of single-room occupancy residential hotel rooms between Dec. 23, 2010, and March 1, 2011.
They are also charged with a specific deprivation of civil rights during a search of a room at the Henry Hotel at Sixth and Mission streets on Dec. 23, 2010, in a drug investigation. Razzak is additionally accused of falsifying a police report and an informant’s pay slip related to the incident.
But specific charges that the officers illegally entered and searched another Henry Hotel room on Jan. 5, 2011, were dropped by prosecutors a few days before the trial began.
The civil rights investigation began after San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi in March 2011 released hotel surveillance videotapes that appeared to show officers entering the rooms without a warrant or consent of the occupants.
In both incidents, Razzak, Yick and other officers were working as plainclothes detectives and were following up on tips that people in the rooms possessed drugs.
Police arrested one man in the first incident and a man and woman in the second incident on suspicion of heroin possession, but the cases were dismissed after the surveillance videos came to light.
In Tuesday’s closing arguments in Razzak’s and Yick’s case, defense attorneys argued that prosecutors hadn’t proved the existence of a conspiracy between the two officers.
Yick’s attorney, Peter Furst, told the jury that Yick entered the Henry Hotel room on Dec. 23, 2010, after another officer opened the door with a master key.
Both Furst and Michael Rains, Razzak’s defense attorney, said the two men didn’t know each other well or work together often and that it didn’t make sense that they would conspire with one another.
But prosecutor Rodney Villazor told the jury during his closing, “They intended to go into a room without a warrant. They intended to give false evidence. They knew that what they were doing was unlawful.
Suspects In Kidnapping And Murder Of Santa Rodsa Man Appearing In Court This Week
A Petaluma woman is scheduled to be arraigned in Napa County Superior Court today on charges related to the murder of a Santa Rosa man in March.
Angela Martinez Arias, 41, is charged with kidnapping and carjacking in connection with the murder of 44-year-old Reynaldo Pacheco, who disappeared on March 24.
He left his residence in a black Range Rover and was reported to be heading to an unknown location in Napa, Sonoma County sheriff’s Sgt. Shannon McAlvain said.
Pacheco intended to return to Santa Rosa in time to pick up his child from school at 3 p.m., McAlvain said. The Range Rover was captured on a video at the 7-Eleven store on First Street in Napa where Pacheco’s debit card was used around 2:30 p.m., McAlvain said.
Napa County sheriff’s detectives found his body in a rural area of Napa County near Lake Hennessey on April 3. Napa County Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Pike said his battered body had been smashed with rocks.
Arias, who owned Botanica Ile Oshun Elegua in Rohnert Park, a business that sold religious items, had a business relationship with Pacheco that failed, Pike said.
Pacheco went to Arias’ business on March 24, and she and Pacheco drove in Pacheco’s Range Rover to a rural area near a Petaluma ranch, Pike said. There they met Mauricio Tovar-Telles, 24, and Miguel Angel Garcia, 32, both of Napa who were waiting for them.
It’s believed the two Napa men beat Pacheco, tied him up and dropped Arias off in Sonoma, Pike said. They then picked up Norberto Guerrero Gonzalez, now 29, and drove Pacheco to the Lake Hennessey area where he was killed, Pike said.
Garcia then sold Pacheco’s Range Rover in Vallejo, but it has been recovered, Pike said.
On April 1, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office tried to serve a search warrant from Napa County to Garcia for possession of weapons and stolen property and child endangerment offenses at a trailer on Hoff Road in Kenwood.
During a standoff with Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies, Garcia admitted his involvement in Pacheco’s murder, according to the Napa and Sonoma County sheriff’s offices. The standoff ended when Garcia fatally shot himself.
The Napa County Sheriff’s Office then found Pacheco’s body on Sage Canyon Road in Napa County on April 3.
The Napa County District Attorney’s Office filed murder, kidnapping and second-degree robbery charges against Guerrero Gonzalez and Tovar-Telles on April 24. Tovar-Telles also was charged with carjacking.
Their preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Napa County Superior Court.
Elderly Woman Missing Since This Afternoon May Head To SJ
An elderly woman missing out of Salinas since Tuesday afternoon may be heading to San Jose, police said.
Lucy Chacon Santa, 79, walked away from her home in the area of Rhode Island Street and Rhode Island Circle around 2 p.m., according to police.
Her family is concerned for her because she only took one day’s worth of medications, police said.
She was last seen wearing purple sweatpants, a thick gray hoodie and black boots, according to police.
She walks with a limp and has early onset dementia, police said.
In a past incident she walked away, was found near Foods Co grocery store on East Alisal Street and suffered from a fall, police said.
In 2008 she went missing and was found in San Jose, where her family had previously resided, according to police.
Her family believes she may be on her way to San Jose, police said.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to call Salinas police at (831) 758-7321.
Gas Line Struck On Tully Road Expected To Be Repaired By Wednesday Morning
A gas line struck in San Jose near the Eastridge Center shopping mall Tuesday afternoon is expected to be repaired this morning, a utility spokesman said.
The gas leak was reported at 2:54 p.m. at a strip mall in the 2100 block of Tully Road, Fire Capt. Christopher Salcido said.
PG&E spokesman J.D. Guidi said crews were able to stop gas flow on the 4-inch distribution line shortly after 6 p.m. and estimated repairs to be completed by 7 a.m. today.
The leak prompted the evacuation of 12 businesses on both sides of the street, Salcido said.
No injuries were reported, according to Salcido.
Tully Road has been closed between Quimby Road and Capitol Expressway as crews make repairs, Salcido said.
Guidi expected the roadway would remain closed until 7 a.m. today.
Guidi estimated that repairs would be completed in time for the affected businesses to open during normal business hours today.
A third-party contractor struck the line and halted gas service for 57 customers, according to Guidi.
A truck carrying compressed natural gas was called to the scene to provide service for the impacted customers by hooking into the gas line, the spokesman said.
Guidi said crews were “working safely and quickly as possible” to provide gas service for customers sometime Tuesday night and to repair the line.
Police Investigating Double Homicide This Evening
Two people were shot and killed in West Oakland on Tuesday evening, police said.
Officers were patrolling in the area where they heard shots fired in the area of 10th and Willow streets shortly before 5:30 p.m., Oakland police Officer Reginald Brown said.
Two people were found suffering from gunshot wounds in the 1000 block of 10th Street, Brown said.
One of the victims was pronounced dead at the scene and the other was transported to hospital but succumbed to their injuries, he said.
No arrests were made and no suspect information was immediately available.
Inmate Dies After Suffering From Medical Condition In Jail Today
An inmate who was in custody at Monterey County Jail suffered from a medical condition and died Tuesday, according to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.
Mark Vasquez Pajas, 56, of Greenfield, was arrested on suspicion of evading a peace officer, delaying a peace officer and drug possession on Monday, sheriff’s officials said.
Pajas was being held in a one-person holding cell at the county jail where he suffered from a medical incident Tuesday, according to the sheriff’s office.
Deputies performed first aid on him and requested for medical assistance, sheriff’s officials said.
Pajas was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead, sheriff’s officials said.
Body Found Off Mallard Island Was In Water For More Than A Month
The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office released new information Tuesday evening after performing an autopsy on a decomposing body found Sunday in the waters off Mallard Island near Bay Point.
Sheriff’s officials believe the body was in the water for more than a month.
The identity of the decedent has not yet been established, but is believed to have been an older man of Hispanic, Asian or Caucasian descent. He had a hip replacement and spinal surgery, as well as a tattoo of a tiger on his left upper arm, according to the sheriff’s office.
He was wearing blue slacks and a thermal top, and there was a Leatherman-brand multi-tool on his belt, sheriff’s officials said.
The cause of death is still pending toxicology tests.
The body was found by people fishing in the vicinity of Mallard Island, who reported it at 8:49 a.m. Sunday. The body was recovered by the sheriff’s marine patrol unit, but investigators have not yet determined how long the body was in the water.
Anyone with information about the case has been asked to contact the Contra Costa County coroner’s office at (925) 313-2850. Anonymous tips can be made by calling (866) 846-3592 or sending an email to [email protected]
Deputy Sheriffs Union Sues 4 Contra Costa Co. Supervisors For Alleged Retaliation Threat
The Contra Costa County Deputy Sheriffs Association sued the county and four members of the Board of Supervisors in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday for allegedly threatening retaliation for the union’s participation in a petition drive.
The petition, sponsored by several county employee unions, called for a referendum on a 33 percent pay raise that board members voted by a 4-1 majority to give themselves in October.
On Tuesday, in the face of the petition, the board gave final approval to a law rescinding the raise.
But Jim Bickert, a labor representative for the deputy sheriffs’ union, said the cancellation of the raise didn’t make any difference to deputies’ decision to sue.
The lawsuit is based on claims of violations of the deputies’ constitutional free speech rights and a state law requiring public employers to bargain in good faith in employee contract negotiations.
It asks for an injunction barring the supervisors from retaliating against the union in contract negotiations or employment terms. The suit also seeks a financial award.
County spokeswoman Betsy Burkhart said the county administration and county counsel’s office do not comment on pending litigation.
In addition to the county, the lawsuit names as defendants the four supervisors who voted for the pay raise: Karen Mitchoff, Mary Piepho, John Gioia and Federal Glover.
Supervisor Candace Andersen, who is not named in the lawsuit, voted against the raise, which would have increased the board members’ salaries from $97,483 to $129,227 per year.
The lawsuit alleges that Piepho and Mitchoff made specific comments in December that threatened retaliation for the union’s participation in the drive to gather petition signatures.
It alleges that Piepho told former union president Ken Westermann during a meeting on Dec. 11 that the association “made a bad decision and it is not going to end well for you guys.”
The suit also alleges that in a telephone conversation on Dec. 19, Mitchoff told Bickert that the supervisors had been committed to a salary increase for the deputies but that as a result of the referendum, the deputies were not going to receive the raise.
Mitchoff allegedly told Bickert, “I’m only going to be around for the next four oreight years. But the DSA is going to suffer for many years to come,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit does not attribute any statements to Gioia or Glover.
A case management conference on the lawsuit is scheduled for April 23 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler in San Francisco.
Female Pedestrian Struck By Vehicle After Collision Dies
A woman who was standing on a sidewalk in downtown Santa Rosa died Tuesday afternoon when a vehicle that was involved in a collision overturned on her, a Santa Rosa police sergeant said.
The woman was taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital where she died, Sgt. Marcus Sprague said.
The two vehicles collided around 2:30 p.m. at Third and B streets near the Santa Rosa Plaza shopping center, police said.
Police Ask For Public’s Help In Solving Double Homicide In 2014, Nye Homicide In 2013
Oakland police on Tuesday asked for help from the news media and the community in solving the fatal shooting of two 19-year-old men in East Oakland a year ago.
Killed in the shooting at Longfellow and 100th avenues at about 2:15 p.m. on Jan. 19, 2014, were Lamar Broussard and Derryck Eugene Harris, Oakland police said Tuesday.
However, police declined to release their names in the days following the double homicide.
Family members of Broussard and Harris joined Oakland police Lt. Roland Holmgren and homicide investigator Leo Sanchez at a news conference Tuesday at the shooting scene.
Investigators also discussed the shooting of Broussard’s younger brother, 13-year-old Lee Weathersby III, in the 1400 block of 104th Avenue on 9:26 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2013, less than three weeks before Broussard and Harris were killed.
Weathersby died a day after he was shot.
Investigators provided a photos of the victims and are asking for help from anyone who may have seen Broussard and Harris in the area of 100th and Longfellow avenues shortly before they were shot or seen Weathersby in the 1400 block of 104th Avenue shortly before he was shot.
Police also are asking for help from anyone who witnessed the shootings or saw suspects fleeing from the shooting scenes.
People with information are asked to call the Oakland Police Department’s homicide division at (510) 238-3821, Crime Stoppers of Oakland at (510) 777-8572 or the department’s tip line at (510) 773-2850.
Oakland police and Crime Stoppers of Oakland are offering a reward of up to $30,000 for information leading to arrests in the unsolved homicides.
Free Muni To Be Offered To Disabled, Low- To Moderate-Income Seniors
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday to waive the Muni fee for riders with disabilities and for low- to moderate-income seniors, many who live with fixed incomes and struggle to afford public transportation as the cost of living in the city increases.
Dozens of San Franciscans, including disabled individuals in wheelchairs and elderly citizens, came en masse to San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday afternoon to urge the SFMTA board of directors to approve a pilot program that will provide free Muni for seniors and persons with disabilities beginning March 1.
The pilot program has an end date of June 30, 2016, but the SFMTA plans to consider extending it prior to the end date.
SFMTA board chairman Tom Nolan was among the advocates for the program and addressed a large crowd of San Franciscans on the steps of City Hall prior to the board’s scheduled vote.
Currently, seniors and people with disabilities pay $23 per month or 75 cents per ride to travel on the city’s buses and light-rail vehicles.
Nolan said the pilot program that brought free Muni to San Francisco youth has been a huge success and showed that many other San Franciscans could benefit greatly from free public transportation.
He said he hopes private companies will step up and help fund the program in the years to come, just as Google helped fund the Muni program for the city’s youth.
Ursula McGuire, a board member of the nonprofit Senior and Disability Action, who is both elderly and wheelchair-bound, spoke at the SFMTA board meeting Tuesday following the rally, stating that the program would help her and others with disabilities get around with greater ease.
McGuire said Tuesday’s decision is a critical step to ensure everyone, including those with disabilities and fixed incomes, can participate in the community and access all that the city has to offer.
Many other people with disabilities, including Cristina Rubke, a member of the SFMTA board, expressed their approval of the program on Tuesday.
Rheema Calloway, an organizer with Causa Justa, said the program will help address the city’s growing economic divide and help many of the city’s most financially needy individuals, who already struggle to pay for rising costs of medical co-payments, rent and groceries.
San Francisco supervisors Eric Mar, David Campos, Jane Kim and Norman Yee also attended the board meeting and thanked the board members for supporting the program.
SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said starting today the application for the program would be available online at www.sfmta.com/freemuni or by calling 311.
Police Say 2 School Girls Approached By 2 Men Last Month
Novato police on Tuesday disclosed what it called a “suspicious incident” involving two 11-year-old female students in December.
Police said the Sinaloa Middle School girls were approached by two men between 20 and 30 years old on Center Road while they were walking to school.
The girls ignored the men’s attempt to interact with them and continued walking without further incident, Lt. Oliver Collins said.
The men, one of whom appeared intoxicated, did not make any attempt to make physical contact with the students or talk to them further after the girls walked away, Collins said.
“While this interaction may not be criminal in nature, it is out of the ordinary,” Collins said.
Collins said police are releasing information about the incident to inform the public about it. Police remind parents and guardians to advise their children not to interact with strangers and be aware of their surroundings.
Police encourage students and parents to report suspicious persons to them and the Novato Unified School District, Oliver said.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact Novato police.
Defense Attorney Says Accused Killer Acted Under Duress
A 20-year-old Hayward man accused of murder and arson for the strangulation death of a Castro Valley woman whose home was also set on fire acted under duress, his attorney said Tuesday.
In his opening statement in the trial of Cody Nicosia on charges stemming from the death of 58-year-old Barbara Latiolais on Oct. 17, 2012, defense attorney Richard Humphrey alleged that co-defendant Christian Birdsall, 18, forced Nicosia to participate in the crime.
Birdsall was only 16 at the time of the incident but is being prosecuted as an adult. He will be prosecuted separately at a later date.
In addition to murder and arson, Nicosia, who was 18 at the time of the crime, and Birdsall are accused of the special circumstance of committing a murder during the course of a robbery. They both face life in prison without the possibility of parole if they’re convicted.
Humphrey said duress isn’t a defense to murder but it is a defense to special circumstances murder.
Humphrey, a veteran defense lawyer, has represented Nicosia for two years but Nicosia fired him two weeks ago, just before jury selection began, and elected to represent himself. However, Humphrey stayed on as his legal adviser.
Nicosia, who was dressed in dark gray pants and a light gray shirt, started to give an opening statement Tuesday but stopped after only about five minutes, telling Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson, “I can’t do this.”
In his brief remarks to the jury, Nicosia admitted he was involved in the crime.
During the lunch break in the case Tuesday, Nicosia decided to stop representing himself and let Humphrey represent him again. Humphrey then gave his opening statement after lunch.
Prosecutor Adam Maldonado told jurors that Nicosia and Birdsall committed the crime because they wanted to steal guns, jewelry, rare coins and cash from the home in the 2400 block of San Carlos Avenue in Castro Valley that Latiolais shared with her longtime boyfriend, retired San Francisco firefighter Michael Rice.
Nicosia and Birdsall planned their crime for Oct. 17, 2012, because they knew Rice was out of the state at that time, Maldonado said.
They were familiar with Latiolais’ house because Birdsall had done yard work for her, he said.
Birdsall attended Redwood High School in Castro Valley and was living in Hayward with Nicosia, who graduated from Castro Valley High School in June 2012, and Nicosia’s father, according to Alameda County sheriff’s officials who arrested the two suspects.
Three Puppies Found Abandoned In Trash Bag At Park
Three very young terrier puppies are alive and well after being found in a trash bag Monday near a garbage can in Pleasant Hill’s Paso Nogal Park, Contra Costa County animal control officials said.
A man and woman were walking their Australian shepherd in the park when the dog alerted them to the trash bag, which had been tied shut with the puppies inside. The animals were taken home, cleaned up, fed and brought in to the Contra Costa Animal Services shelter.
Rick Golphin, the agency’s deputy director, said the puppies are in good hands and can be put up for adoption in a day or two.
“They’ve all been medically assessed,” Golphin said. “We’ll probably make a decision on making them available (today). At that time, they will be available to the public unless something else occurs.”
Anyone with information about the former owners of the puppies or how they came to be found in a trash bag in the park is asked to call (925) 335-8366.
Anyone interested in volunteering with Contra Costa Animal Services can contact volunteer coordinator Cindy Smith at (925) 335-8300.
Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area
Skies today will be partly cloudy in the morning and become sunny by the afternoon. Highs will be around 60 degrees with east winds of 5 to 10 mph.
Skies will be partly cloudy tonight with lows in the upper 40s and northwest winds of 5 to 10 mph.
Skies will be mostly clear Thursday with highs around 60 degrees. Winds from the north could reach 5 to 15 mph.