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Bay Area News Briefs

By Mike Aldax

February 7, 2008

Oakland City Council joins Cosco Busan lawsuit

The Oakland City Council on Tuesday agreed to join a lawsuit filed by the city of San Francisco against the owners and operators of the Cosco Busan container ship that spilled more than 50,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay on Nov. 7, according to Oakland city spokeswoman Karen Boyd.

San Francisco's lawsuit, filed in that city's superior court, seeks potentially millions of dollars in damages due to the leak of heavy bunker fuel into San Francisco Bay. Oakland is only requesting $26,000 in damages for that city's part in responding to and investigating the incident, according to a report from City Attorney John Russo to the City Council.

The spill occurred when the 65,131-ton, 900-foot-long container ship hit a protective fender of a tower of the Bay Bridge as it sailed out of the Port of Oakland, bound for South Korea.

San Francisco's suit names as defendants the ship's owner, Regal Stone Ltd. of Hong Kong, the company that leased it, Hanjin Shipping Co. Ltd. of South Korea, and ship operators Fleet Management Ltd. and Synergy Maritime Ltd.

Also named in the suit was pilot John Cota, 59, of Petaluma, who was piloting the ship when it hit the bridge fender.

In related litigation, fishermen and fishing boat owners have filed suits in San Francisco Superior Court and federal court for damage to their livelihood and the U.S. government has filed suit in federal court over harm to navigable waters and federal beaches and marine sanctuaries.

SF Zoo safety enhancements almost complete

Work is mostly done on safety enhancements to the San Francisco Zoo's big cat exhibit, which has been closed since the Christmas Day escape of a tiger that killed a boy and mauled his two friends before police shot it dead.

Workers raised the concrete moat wall surrounding four lion and tiger grottos about 4 feet, which meets the minimum Association of Zoos and Aquariums guideline of 16 feet and 4 inches, authorities said.

The zoo installed glazing and fencing on top of the wall to extend the barrier height to 19 feet. It also added an electric shock-emitting wire and new glass barriers to ensure the cats can't escape.

Further renovations, scheduled for completion in March, will include replacing temporary fencing with stainless steel wire mesh and the installation of an electrified wire along the finger walls of the grotto, the zoo said.

While the work continues, staff is considering when to reopen the exhibit to the public.

The process of reintroducing the big cats to the outdoor portion of their exhibit will be slow and gradual, said Manuel Mollinedo, the zoo's president and executive director.

"The lions need to adjust to the upgrades to their exhibits and the surrounding areas," he said.

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department is overseeing the renovations, C+A Architects designed them and Yerba Buena Engineering and Construction Inc. is carrying out the construction.

Children's Hospital bond measures rejected

The future of Children's Hospital Oakland is unclear after Alameda County voters overwhelmingly rejected two ballot measures that would have helped pay for a major expansion project at the facility.

The two measures needed two-thirds majorities to succeed.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Measure A, which was the more heavily-promoted measure, lost by a decisive margin of 59.4 percent "no" votes to only 40.6 percent "yes" votes.

Measure B, which was drawn up first but wasn't promoted after Measure A was drafted to address concerns expressed by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, fared even worse, losing by a margin of 69 percent to 31 percent.

The parcel taxes would have imposed a $24-per-year parcel tax on homeowners in Alameda County to raise $300 million toward the hospital's $700 million expansion plan.

Big businesses would have paid $250 annually and small businesses would have paid $100. Low-income families and senior citizens would have been exempt.

The expansion plan would have increased the hospital's capacity from 171 on-site beds to about 250 private patient rooms and enabled the hospital to meet a 2013 retrofit deadline for hospitals in California.

Children's Hospital officials couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Rumors circulated last year that the hospital might leave Oakland, but at a news conference last Sept. 5, board chairman Harold Davis said it planned to stay in the city.

San Pablo Avenue closed following shooting

A man sitting at a red light at a Richmond intersection was shot multiple times Wednesday at close range, Richmond police Lt. Mark Gagan said.

The victim was in a Cadillac at the intersection of San Pablo and Macdonald avenues at about 4 p.m. when a full-sized vehicle drove up.

One of the two males in the second vehicle got out, walked over to the victim and fired several rounds from a handgun at point blank range, striking the victim multiple times, Gagan said.

After being shot, the driver accelerated into the intersection, striking another vehicle, Gagan said.

The two vehicles crashed at the southeast corner of San Pablo Avenue, Gagan said.

The victim was in critical condition when he was airlifted to a local trauma center.

San Pablo Avenue, a major commute artery, is shut down and rush-hour traffic is mounting behind the closure, Gagan said.

Fulton pleads guilty to tax evasion

Former Benicia Unified School District Board member and former Benicia City Council member Dirk Fulton has pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes in 1999.

Fulton pleaded guilty to the tax evasion charge Friday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento. He will return to court April 11 when U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia will accept or reject the plea or defer a decision until a pre-sentence report is completed.

Under the plea agreement, Fulton faces five months in prison and five months home confinement and will pay $115,000 restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and a $28,000 fine.

Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Attorney's Office, said Fulton paid only $2,364 in federal income tax in 1999. Prosecutors said he didn't report transfers from his businesses to his personal use, including money to construct his Benicia home. Court papers indicate the IRS was underpaid between $70,000 and $120,000.

Fulton agreed to the plea deal Dec. 14 and resigned from the Benicia school board Dec. 26, stating he wanted more time with his family.

The maximum penalty on the tax evasion charge is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Man shot in Northeast San Jose

A male victim was shot and injured Wednesday in Northeast San Jose, just north from where a young man was killed by gunfire Tuesday, police said.

Gunfire was reported at about 8:40 p.m. in the area of Baton Rouge Drive and N. Capitol Avenue. A victim of unknown age was found with a non-life threatening gunshot wound and rushed to a local hospital, police said.

No other information was immediately available.

On Tuesday, about three miles south from Wednesday's shooting, another male victim, described only as a "young man," was killed by gunfire in the 2700 block of Sussex Drive. He was the city's third homicide in four days, police said.

The shooting was reported at around 7:15 p.m. The victim suffered a bullet wound to the upper torso and was rushed to an area hospital, where he died.

The city's first two homicides of 2008 occurred Saturday.

A man was fatally stabbed in a San Jose residence in the 100 block of Ayer Avenue, spokesman Enrique Garcia said. Police found him dead at about 5:15 p.m.

Then, at 11:50 p.m., 17-year-old Rogelio "Roy'' Silva was reported shot near the intersection of Capitol Expressway and Tully Road. Silva was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

No arrests have been made in these crimes. Police are investigating.

Bell second trial begins

Jurors are to scheduled to begin deliberating Wednesday at the second trial of a Fairfield man charged with second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon after his car crashed into a group of people in front of a Vacaville elementary school in 2005.

David Michael Bell's trial is before Judge Ramona Garrett in Solano County Superior Court. His first trial ended with a hung jury in February 2007.

Bell, 26, is charged with the second-degree murder and vehicular manslaughter of Paden Elementary School students Ana Cardenas, 9, and her brother Luis, 7, on Oct. 19, 2005. Ten other people were injured.

Defense attorney Daniel Russo argued during both trials his client lost control of his Ford Taurus when he suffered a seizure, a condition that had not been diagnosed before the accident. Russo claims Bell also suffers from other disabilities.

Prosecutor John Kealy has contended Bell drove fast past the school because he was angry and frustrated about traffic in the area.

Vacaville police said at the time of the accident that Bell's Ford Taurus drove at a high rate of speed on the right shoulder of Davis Street to pass slow traffic.

The Taurus struck a parked Chevrolet Camaro, pushing it 100 feet north on Davis Street, then continued on the sidewalk near the school. Bell's car and the Camaro struck the victims on the sidewalk and the Taurus stopped after it collided with a tree in a front yard, police said.

Fairfield woman pleads guilty to defrauding FEMA

A Fairfield woman has pleaded guilty to making false claims for money intended for Hurricane Katrina disaster victims.

Sharon N. Dailey, 37, succeeded in obtaining $4,358 for housing financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, United States Attorney McGregor W. Scott said. Dailey pleaded guilty Monday before United States District Court Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr.

Dailey was a permanent resident of California when she made the false claims for assistance and fraudulently used another person's credit application to purchase a vehicle, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Dailey faces a maximum 45-year prison sentence, a $250,000 fine and a three-year term of federal supervised release when she is sentenced in U.S. District Court in Sacramento April 18. The actual sentence will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of federal sentencing guidelines, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Discovery Bay men arrested in marijuana bust

Two men were arrested and more than $250,000 of marijuana seized Wednesday morning when authorities raided four Discovery Bay homes, a Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department spokesman said.

Sheriff's deputies executed search warrants at homes in the 1700 block of Cherry Hills Drive, the 1200 block of Beach Court, the 1200 block of Discovery Bay Boulevard and 2400 block of Bixler Road, sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee said.

John Parker, 40, of Discovery Bay, was arrested at the Beach Court home on charges of cultivating marijuana and tampering with electrical lines, Lee said.

Stephen Hernandez, 29, of Discovery Bay, was arrested at the Cherry Hills Drive home on charges of cultivating marijuana, operating a clandestine lab and tampering with electrical lines.

Deputies suspect the other homes had hosted marijuana operations, but it appeared as though the suspects had packed up and left, according to Lee.

A total of between $250,000 and $300,000 of marijuana was seized during the raids, Lee said.




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