Bay Area News Briefs
By Mike Aldax
January 24, 2008
John Burton slapped with $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit
Former President Pro Tem of the California State Senate John
Burton was slapped with a $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit
filed in San Francisco Superior Court Wednesday for alleged abuses
against the female director of his nonprofit organization, the
woman's lawyer said.
The suit accuses Burton of subjecting Kathleen Driscoll, executive
director of the John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes,
to a hostile, demeaning and sexually abusive work environment,
her attorney Kelly Armstrong said. His lawyer has denied the allegations,
calling the suit "a shakedown."
Driscoll worked since August 2006 as director of the San Francisco-based
nonprofit organization that works to help homeless children in
California, according to the foundation's Web site. The organization
was founded in 2004 and is chaired by Burton, according to the
Driscoll alleges that Burton engaged in a "pattern and practice
of inappropriate sexual advances," publicly humiliated her
with his remarks, and used vulgar language on a daily basis starting
shortly after she began working for the foundation and continuing
for more than one year.
Driscoll reported that she had told Burton his behavior was inappropriate
and had complained to the personnel department twice without action,
according to the law firm's statement. Evidence including voicemails
allegedly left by Burton and eyewitness accounts of his harassment
included in the case, Armstrong said.
Burton's lawyer, Susan Rubenstein, said she has not reviewed
the lawsuit in depth but believes it is "a shakedown."
Bonds challenges indictment
Former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds asked a federal
judge Wednesday either to dismiss the perjury and obstruction
of justice charges filed against him or to order prosecutors to
narrow them down.
Bonds' challenge to a Nov. 15 indictment was filed with U.S.
District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco by the home run
champion's six defense lawyers.
Illston is scheduled to hold a hearing on the motion on Feb.
The defense attorneys claim the five counts in what they call
a "scattershot" indictment are vague, confusing and
unclear as to which of several statements cited in each count
are allegedly false.
The attorneys wrote, "Some portions of the indictment are
so vague it is simply impossible to be certain what untruths Mr.
Bonds is alleged to have uttered."
The brief contends, "The government must elect a single,
clearly stated charge as the basis for each count or suffer dismissal."
Bonds is accused of four counts of perjury and one count of obstruction
of justice when he told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he never
knowingly received steroids or human growth hormone from his trainer,
The panel was investigating a sports steroids distribution scheme
centered on the Burlingame-based Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative,
The defense brief also contends that many of the questions prosecutors
posed to Bonds before the grand jury and Bonds' answers were "fundamentally
ambiguous" and therefore legally insufficient to support
a perjury conviction.
Federal judge appoints new Santa Clara County health chief
A federal judge in San Francisco Wednesday removed a former Santa
Clara County health chief from office as receiver for the state's
troubled prison health care system and appointed a Sacramento
law professor in his place.
U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson praised former receiver
Robert Sillen for a "bold, creative leadership style"
but said different skills are now needed to implement changes
in the system.
The judge appointed J. Clark Kelso, a law professor at the McGeorge
School of Law in Sacramento, as the new receiver.
Henderson ordered the prison health care system into receivership
in 2005, after concluding that the system "is broken beyond
repair" and required a dramatic overhaul.
He appointed Sillen, then head of the Santa Clara Valley health
and hospital system, as the receiver in 2006.
Henderson made the rulings in a lawsuit in which inmates have
claimed that abysmal prison health care violates constitutional
Burlingame burglary suspect in custody
Burlingame police have a suspect in custody in connection with
a rash of burglaries in the city over the past few weeks.
Shawn Curtis McKnight Jr., 20, of Burlingame, is alleged to have
carried out around a dozen residential burglaries on the city's
south side since late December.
An extensive police investigation led officers to McKnight's
home, where he was arrested Wednesday just before 3 p.m., according
to Burlingame police.
At his home, officers reported finding items linking McKnight
to the burglaries.
He was charged with nine counts of first-degree burglary and
another nine for receiving stolen property. He was brought to
San Mateo County Jail and is being held on $60,000 bail, police
Attorney for man accused of murdering members of Eritrean
family claims self-defense
The defense lawyer for an Oakland man accused of murdering three
members of an Eritrean family in Oakland on Thanksgiving Day in
2006 told a judge Wednesday that he believes the man acted in
At the end of the first day of a preliminary hearing for Asmeron
Gebreselassie, 43, and his brother Tewodros, 39, Asmeron's attorney
Ray Plumhoff told Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert McGuiness
that he will present "an affirmative defense," including
a lengthy statement by
Asmeron that he fired shots only because he thought he was going
to be killed.
In a brief filed in court, Plumhoff, an assistant public defender,
admitted that Asmeron Gebreselassie shot and killed Winta Mehari,
28, who was the wife of his dead brother Abraham Tewolde, as well
as her brother Yonas Mehari, 17, and their mother, 50-year-old
The shooting incident occurred at the Keller Plaza apartment
complex at 5301 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland, where the Mehari family
lived, about 3 p.m. on Nov. 23, 2006.
But Plumhoff said Asmeron opened fire only after two male members
of the Mehari family met him with an angry outburst and pulled
Plumhoff alleged that Asmeron Gebreselassie believes that the
Mehari family wanted to kill him because he threatened their plan
to cash in on a $500,000 insurance policy that Abraham Tewolde,
42, who was his brother and the husband of Winta Mehari, had taken
out before his death at his home in Berkeley on March 1, 2006.
Abraham's cause of death was undetermined.
The hearing continues Thursday and is expected to last several
Man shot while fetching lunch at taco truck
A man who was fatally shot while fetching lunch at an Oakland
taco truck Tuesday is Abel Martinez-Mejia, 41, of Richmond, the
Alameda County coroner's bureau confirmed Wednesday.
Martinez-Mejia was gunned down in an apparent robbery attempt
just before noon at 85th Street and San Leandro Avenue, police
He was transported to Highland Hospital and succumbed to his
wounds early Wednesday morning, police said.
The killing is under investigation.
Sunnyvale authorities ask public to help identify residential
Sunnyvale authorities are seeking the public's help in identifying
two suspects linked to a series of residential burglaries, the
Sunnyvale Department of Public safety announced Wednesday.
A total of 13 residential burglaries of a similar nature have
been committed in Sunnyvale since November. In each case homes
were entered by forcing open a door or window during the daytime
when residents were not at home, according to the department.
A webcam inside one of the burglarized residences photographed
three suspects inside the house. One of those suspects has been
identified as San Jose resident Rosendo Miguel Orduno, 22. Orduno
is currently in custody in Santa Clara County Jail.
Reiser trial in recess until next week
Oakland computer programmer Hans Reiser's trial on charges that
he murdered his estranged wife Nina is in recess until next week
because the judge's clerk has an appointment Wednesday afternoon
and a juror will be attending a seminar today.
The early adjournment at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday means that there
was only a day and a half of testimony this week in the slow-moving
trial, which began Nov. 6, as Monday was a court holiday.
Prosecutor Paul Hora told jurors and Alameda County Superior
Court Judge Larry Goodman that it probably will take him another
two weeks to finish presenting his case.
Hans Reiser, 44, is accused of murdering Nina even though her
body has never been found, despite extensive searches in the Oakland
hills and elsewhere.
Nina, who was 31, disappeared on Sept. 3, 2006, after she dropped
off the couple's two children at the house at 6979 Exeter Drive
in the Oakland hills where Hans Reiser lived with his mother.
The couple married in 1999 but Nina filed for divorce and separated
from Hans in 2004. They were in the midst of an acrimonious divorce
and a battle over the custody of their children when she disappeared.
Hans Reiser has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Napa City Council withdraws proposed annexation of Ghisletta
After meeting in closed session Tuesday, the Napa City Council
decided to withdraw the city's proposed annexation of the 142-acre
Ghisletta property in southwest Napa.
City Manager Mike Parness said in a prepared statement Wednesday
that discussions about the annexation and Napa County's interest
in a major housing project at the former Napa Pipe site created
apprehension in the community.
"The City Council feels we all need to step back and take
a look at out needs with a larger view. In addition to withdrawing
the application for annexation, we're calling on the County to
suspend their process involving Napa Pipe, and work cooperatively
with us to do what's best for everyone in the community,"
The Ghisletta property along Foster Road is currently zoned for
as many as 1,000 dwelling units and 3,200 townhomes have been
proposed for the 152-acre former Napa Pipe Property off Kaiser
"We are taking a broader view to develop a long-term vision.
We will have a better outcome if we collaborate on housing needs,
infrastructure, and the impact on government services, regardless
of the jurisdictional boundaries," Mayor Jill Techel said
in the statement.
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