Wednesday San Francisco News Roundup
Two Women Dead in Murder Suicide Were Mother and Daughter
Investigators have determined that two women found dead Monday in Novato and San Francisco as part of an apparent murder-suicide were mother and daughter, police said Tuesday night.
At 1:52 a.m. Monday 33-year-old Hollis Puccinelli of Vallejo reported to Novato police that she suspected her mother, 69-year-old Judith Dunaway, of abusing Puccinelli’s 3-year-old daughter.
A Novato police officer attempted to get more information from Puccinelli, but she was uncooperative. The officer asked Vallejo police to respond to Puccinelli’s residence, but she left prior to their arrival, according to Novato police.
Investigators believe Puccinelli went to Dunaway’s home between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., where an altercation ensued.
Shortly before 6 a.m., Novato police received a phone call from one of Dunaway’s relatives requesting a welfare check in the 300 block of Silvio Lane.
Responding officers found what appeared to be blood on the exterior of the residence. After making entry officers discovered Dunaway on the living-room floor. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police.
Puccinelli’s vehicle was found in San Francisco, parked near 45th Avenue and Wawona Street. Police say they found her inside with a self-inflicted injury to the neck.
Puccinelli was transported to a hospital where she was pronounced dead, according to police.
Forensic examinations were performed on both bodies Tuesday, and the Marin County coroner’s office will determine the official cause of death, police said.
Chow Claims Selective Prosecution; Lee, Breeed Deny Allegations
Chinatown association leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow asked a federal court in San Francisco Tuesday to dismiss racketeering and organized-crime charges against him on the grounds that he was the target of an alleged “politically tainted selective prosecution.”
Chow, 55, the leader or “dragonhead” of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association in San Francisco’s Chinatown, made the claim in a court filing seeking either dismissal of his indictment or the right to gather additional evidence on his contention.
U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero will hold a hearing on the request on Aug. 21.
Chow claims the FBI and prosecutors targeted him because of “his outspoken and open dialogue relating to past criminal activity and ties and his increasing legitimate political influence,” while failing to go after other public figures, including Mayor Ed Lee, whose names surfaced in the multi-year FBI probe.
The brief alleges that Lee received $20,000 from an undercover agent who was posing as a Georgia businessman in 2012 in contributions to retire his 2011 mayoral campaign debt.
The allegations that Lee received the contributions previously arose in other court filings and news reports last year.
P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for Lee’s current reelection campaign, said, “We have reviewed today’s filing. While it appears others may have tried to engage or ensnare Mayor Lee and any number of other people in their own wrongdoing, there’s absolutely nothing in today’s filing by Raymond Chow’s attorneys that suggests that Mayor Lee himself or his 2011 campaign did anything wrong or inappropriate.
“As we have stated previously, Mayor Lee’s campaign is committed to following the letter and spirit of all campaign finance laws. If and when the Mayor’s campaign receives specific information from the government about any questionable contributions, we will take immediate and appropriate actions,” Johnston said in a statement.
Chow is one of 29 people charged last year in a lengthy indictment that included both organized-crime charges against Chow and others and political corruption charges against former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and political consultant Keith Jackson.
Yee and Jackson both pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on July 1 to one count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy to receive campaign contributions in exchange for political favors by Yee.
The contributions were for either Yee’s debt for his unsuccessful mayoral run against Lee in 2011 or his campaign for secretary of state, which he dropped out of after being arrested last year.
Yee and Jackson are due to be sentenced by Breyer on Oct. 21.
Chow and seven other defendants are due to go on trial in Breyer’s court on Nov. 2, following jury selection beginning Oct. 19.
The charges against Chow and others include organized-crime racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to receive and transport stolen liquor, conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and money laundering of the proceeds. The supposedly stolen and contraband goods were supplied or offered by undercover FBI agents.
Prosecutors allege the organized-crime enterprise was carried out by a criminal faction of the Chee Kung Tong, a fraternal association formed to aid Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans.
Chow, who is in pretrial custody without bail, was previously convicted of racketeering and gun charges and admitted to having been a gang member. He and his attorneys maintain he turned his life around after being released from prison in 2003 and has devoted himself to community service through the Chee Kung Tong.
The brief alleges that Chow and others were targeted for their perceived political allegiances and association with the Chee Kung Tong, “while others were not indicted due to their political affiliations, potential of disruptive fallout, social connections and more.”
The supporting documents filed with the brief include a series of short excerpts of undated statements by unidentified FBI agents that were made, according to Chow’s attorney, Curtis Briggs, in wiretap applications.
One statement alleges that on April 6, 2012, Lee met with two undercover agents posing as businessmen, a confidential informant posing as a developer, former Human Rights Commission member Nazly Mohajer and former commission compliance officer Zula Jones. Jackson attended the beginning of the meeting, according to the statement.
One agent was introduced as a person who raised $10,000 to help pay Lee’s campaign debt and the other as an entrepreneur interested in building senior assisted living facilities, according to the statement.
The statement says, “During the private meeting, which lasted 20 to 25 minutes, Mayor Lee and (the undercover contributor) talked about bringing private business interests and development into San Francisco.”
Mohajer allegedly asked the undercover agent afterwards whether he was planning “to do another $10,000 later,” which would be broken into smaller amounts, and allegedly said, “You can never talk to anybody about this.”
The excerpts do not include any allegations that anything came of that meeting.
Another FBI statement in the series alleges that a year later, in a telephone conversation between Jackson and Mohajer on April 25, 2013, “Mohajer asked if Lee came through for Jackson, and Jackson responded, ‘No, he ain’t come through for nobody.'”
Another excerpt alleges that San Francisco businessman Derf Butler “has discussed with (an informant) that he pays Supervisor (London) Breed with untraceable debit cards for clothing and trips in exchange for favors on contracts in San Francisco.”
Breed responded in a statement, “Today, the attorneys for a man who’s facing multiple felony charges tried get him off the hook by making baseless allegations against many other people, including a number of local African-American leaders.”
Briggs, Chow’s lawyer, said that the allegedly selective prosecution “appears to be pretty blatant” and said, “There’s no way you can function as a society with that kind of favoritism.”
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Abraham Simmons declined to comment, saying that prosecutors will respond in future filings.
Jury Finds Sheriff’s Deputy Guilty of Assaulting Hospital Patient
A jury found San Francisco sheriff’s deputy Michael Robert Lewelling guilty Tuesday of criminal charges stemming from video surveillance footage of an assault on a patient at San Francisco General Hospital in November 2014.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced Tuesday that Lewelling, 34, was found guilty of felony assault by a public officer and misdemeanor battery.
“Anytime an officer violates the law, it is damaging to all of law enforcement. What is even more troubling is that this occurred at a hospital,” Gascon said. “No one is above the law, most of all those who enforce it.”
Gascon said that Lewelling faces a maximum of three years in state prison, which may be served in county jail.
Mark Nicco, an attorney for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department said Tuesday that Lewelling was arrested in December and while he is now on unpaid administrative leave, he was on paid administrative leave for a number of months following his arrest.
Nicco said Lewelling was out of custody during the trial and is still an employee of the sheriff’s department.
Lewelling is subject to discipline by the department once the court judgment is imposed and after the finalization of the department’s internal affairs investigation, according to Nicco.
The internal affairs investigation was sparked by the complaint against Lewelling and once that investigation is completed, Nicco said, there will be an administrative review at which time the department will consider making any changes to their policies and procedures.
San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Alex Bastian said that the victim, Fernando Guanill, was 59 years old at the time and chronically homeless.
On the day of the incident, Guanill, who uses a cane to get around, had been waiting to be seen in San Francisco General Hospital’s emergency waiting room. He also had an appointment at the hospital with his orthopedic surgeon later that morning to schedule knee surgery.
The video footage of the Nov. 3, 2014 assault captured Guanill sleeping in a chair in the hospital’s emergency room waiting area, prosecutors said.
Bastian said a nurse asked Lewelling to remove Guanill from the waiting room because he had been verbally abusive.
Lewelling approached the victim as he started to wake up and the two engaged in a conversation, at which point the victim slowly stood up, using his cane for assistance, prosecutors said.
Guanill was leaving the waiting room when Lewelling pulled him down to the waiting room chair with excessive force. He then allegedly grabbed the victim’s throat and started to choke Guanill, before placing the victim under arrest.
Lewelling then filed a police report alleging that the victim attempted to assault him with a wooden cane, prosecutors said.
Guanill was arrested on suspicion of felony and misdemeanor charges, and the case was presented to the district attorney’s office the following day, according to prosecutors.
However, district attorney’s office officials requested the waiting room video and declined to press charges because the report did not match the actions on the video, Bastian said.
Prosecutors said the victim was released shortly after his arrest and never raised his cane in a threatening manner.
Lewelling was arrested in December on a warrant for four felonies, including perjury, filing a false police report, filing a false instrument and assault, as well as misdemeanor count of battery, prosecutors said.
Sheriff’s department officials said the department’s Criminal Investigations Unit, which was formed in May 2014, made the arrest after a six-week investigation.
Guanill testified about the trauma he suffered at Lewelling’s trial.
The jury found Lewelling not guilty Tuesday of charges relating to allegations that he filed a false report and assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury.
“This verdict shows that even our most vulnerable populations are protected by the law,” Assistant District Attorney Nancy Tung said.
Lewelling will be sentenced on Oct. 7, by the Honorable Ellen Chaitin, who presided over the case, according to the district attorney’s office.
Body Found in El Dorado County in Search For Missing SF Teacher
A man’s body was found Tuesday by searchers looking for Edward Cavanaugh, a San Francisco teacher who went missing last month while dirt bike riding in El Dorado County, according to sheriff’s officials.
The body was reported at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday by a member of a search effort led by Cavanaugh’s family who spotted it near a motorcycle matching the description of his bike, according to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.
While the body has not yet been positively identified as that of Cavanaugh, his family has been informed of the discovery.
The family, which with friends had organized an extensive search for Cavanaugh in conjunction with local officials, issued a statement through the sheriff’s office thanking the many people who have volunteered their time and donated to an online fundraiser supporting the effort.
“It truly is a testament to Ed’s extraordinary spirit and beautiful soul,” the statement read. “Ed has touched so many lives in countless ways. We hope all who love Ed find comfort in knowing that his bright spirit is with us all during this heartbreaking time.”
Cavanaugh, 46, a teacher at the San Francisco Unified School District’s Downtown High School, went missing on July 17, according to school and El Dorado County sheriff’s officials.
Cavanaugh taught math and science integrated with outdoor education at the continuation high school, according to SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.
He was preparing to return to school to teach in the fall, she said. Cavanaugh began teaching with the district in 2001 and has taught at Downtown High School for 13 years, Blythe said.
Cavanaugh was last seen riding a blue Yamaha YZ 250 on the Rock Creek trail system on his way back to a cabin he owns on Darling Ridge, according to sheriff’s officials and information that his sister, Debbie Cavanaugh Schultz, posted to her Facebook page.
A search of his cabin revealed that his truck was parked outside, the cabin was locked and the lights were still on but his dirt bike was not there, according to the page.
His camping gear was still at his cabin and according to the post, it was not typical for him to take off for a period of time without letting someone know of his whereabouts.
Although in good health, Cavanaugh was diabetic, according to family and friends.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a Fundly.com campaign had raised more than $69,000 to support the search for Cavanaugh.
Today’s Weather Forecast
Today will be mostly cloudy in the morning before becoming sunny. Highs will be in the 60s and west winds will reach 5 to 10 miles per hour.
Tonight will be partly cloudy with lows in the upper 50s. West winds will reach 10 to 20 miles per hour.
Thursday will be mostly cloudy in the morning before becoming partly cloudy. Highs will be in the mid-60s to 70s and southwest winds will reach 5 to 10 miles per hour.