Bay Area News Briefs
By Mike Aldax
February 8, 2008
Civil rights groups sue Homeland Security
Two civil rights groups sued the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security in federal court in San Francisco Thursday in a bid for
information on government policy on questioning and searches of
travelers entering the United States.
The lawsuit was filed by the San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus
and Electronic Frontier Foundation under the U.S. Freedom of Information
The groups' lawyers said the suit was in response to growing
complaints about border agents' allegedly intrusive questioning
on travelers' religious and political beliefs and the inspection
and copying of private information on computers and cell phones.
Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Marcia Hoffmann said,
"The public has the right to know what the government's standards
are for border searches. Laptops, phones, and other gadgets include
vast amounts of personal information."
Asian Law Caucus attorney Shirin Sinnar said, "The fact
that so many people face these searches and questioning every
time they return to the United States, not knowing why and unable
to clear their names, violates basic notions of fairness and due
The lawsuit says the department and its subsidiary, Customs and
Border Protection, failed to meet a 20-day deadline for responding
to a request for information. It seeks a court order requiring
the agencies to provide records on questioning and search policies.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of
Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner said
she couldn't comment specifically on the lawsuit.
Water advisories lifted in Marin County
The latest tests done on waters surrounding the site of the Richardson
Bay sewage spill show continued compliance with state water quality
standards, and authorities are no longer advising against water
contact at most Marin County beaches.
Advisories were lifted Wednesday for Shelter Bay and Bay Front
Office Park, both near Mill Valley waters where more than 5 million
gallons of partially treated sewage spilled in late January, according
to the Marin County Emergency Operations Center.
Advisories were also lifted at Tiburon's Blackie's Pasture and
Sausalito's Dunphy Park and Schoonmaker Beach, according to the
Marin County Emergency Operations Center.
Restrictions are still in effect for the Tiburon waterfront,
where further tests Wednesday showed slightly high bacteria levels,
officials said. Tests there will resume Monday.
Both sewage spills occurred at the Sewerage Agency of Southern
Marin. The first, a spill of 2.45 million gallons, took place
Jan. 25. The second, of 2.7 million gallons, happened six days
Although the sewerage agency reported the first spill to the
San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board on Jan.
26, the report included an incorrect date and did not provide
an estimate of the volume of sewage that spilled, according to
the board. The Regional Water Board did not detect the error until
Tuesday when it announced the spill.
Bell acquitted in student deaths
A Solano County jury acquitted David Michael Bell on Thursday
afternoon of all charges in connection with the deaths of two
students and the injuries to 10 other people when his car crashed
outside the Paden Elementary School in Vacaville in 2005.
Defense attorney Daniel Russo said Bell, 26, of Fairfield, was
found innocent of two felony counts of second-degree murder, two
felony counts of involuntary manslaughter, two misdemeanor counts
of involuntary manslaughter and 10 counts of assault with a deadly
Bell's first trial a year ago ended with a hung jury. The jury
at his retrial started deliberating Wednesday and took about 11
hours to reach a verdict, Russo said.
Russo presented testimony that Bell is disabled and suffers from
epileptic seizures that had not been diagnosed before the Oct.
19, 2005 crash. He argued that Bell was having a seizure when
his Ford Taurus drove along a sidewalk and struck a parked Camaro
then hit a tree and the children in front of the school on Paden
School Road around 2:15 p.m.
Vacaville police said the Camaro was pushed forward 100 feet
and both vehicles struck victims as they traveled north. Luis
Cardenas, 7, and his 9-year-old sister Ana Laura Cardenas of Vacaville
Prosecutor John Kealy argued during both trials that Bell was
impatient about stopped traffic near the school and his road rage
caused him to drive fast and recklessly.
Russo said Bell was officially diagnosed as epileptic in October
2007 by doctors at the University of California, San Francisco
Medical Center when he suffered three seizures during three days
he was off his medication.
Nina Reiser's last two calls were made to Hans Reiser
The last two phone calls that Nina Reiser made on her cell phone
before she was last seen alive on Sept. 3, 2006, were to her estranged
husband Hans Reiser, according to testimony at his murder trial
Verizon Wireless custodian of records Jody Citizen said Nina
made a 62-second phone call to Hans Reiser's home at 6979 Exeter
Drive in the Oakland hills at 1:40 p.m. that day and a 22-second
call at 2:04 p.m.
That timeframe is consistent with previous testimony and videotapes
in Hans Reiser's lengthy trial which indicated that Nina was shopping
with her young son and daughter at the Berkeley Bowl grocery store
at 2020 Oregon St. in Berkeley and went through the checkout line
shortly after 2 p.m.
Nina then drove the children to Hans Reiser's house, where she
was last seen alive, according to previous testimony.
Citizen said that after the 2:04 p.m. call, there were no more
outgoing calls from Nina Reiser's phone and all incoming calls,
starting with one at 6:27 p.m. that day from her best friend Ellen
Doren, went straight to her voice mail.
When Nina's car was discovered in the Oakland hills on Sept.
9, 2006, police officers found her cell phone but its battery
Prosecutor Paul Hora told jurors in his opening statement in
early November that authorities couldn't track Nina's cell phone
because its battery was removed.
Hora also said that Hans Reiser's cell phone battery was detached
when he was detained by police on Sept. 28.
Nina Reiser's body has never been found, despite extensive searches
in the Oakland hills and elsewhere, but Hans Reiser was charged
with murdering her because prosecutors believe that DNA and blood
evidence proves that he killed her.
Hans and Nina Reiser married in 1999 but Nina filed for divorce
and separated from him in 2004. They were in the midst of an acrimonious
divorce and a battle over the custody of their two children when
Hans Reiser has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Superior Court Judge considers dropping conspiracy charges
against "San Francisco Eight"
A San Francisco Superior Court judge said Thursday he will consider
whether conspiracy charges should be dropped against three of
seven former members of a militant black organization accused
in connection with the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police
Attorneys for the so-called "San Francisco Eight" -
now seven, after charges last month were dropped against one of
the defendants - asked Judge Philip Moscone Thursday to eliminate
conspiracy to murder charges against Herman Bell, 60, and Jalil
Bottom, 56, who remain in custody, and Francisco Torres, 59, of
The three men, as well as Richard Brown, 67, of San Francisco,
Ray Boudreaux, 65, and Henry Jones, 72, both of Altadena, and
Harold Taylor, 59, of Panama City, Fla., all former members of
the Black Liberation Army, remain charged with the murder of Sgt.
John Young on Aug. 29, 1971.
Young, 22, was working at the San Francisco Police Department's
Ingleside station that night when two men entered the station,
and one stuck a shotgun through the hole in the protective glass
and fatally shot him.
Mountain View shootings possibly related
Two shootings in Mountain View on Thursday night that left one
person dead and another injured may be related, police said today.
Officers responded to the 700 block of Ehrhorn Avenue after hearing
reports of gunshots and multiple vehicles driving away from the
area at about 7 p.m., according to officials.
Less than three minutes later, police were alerted to a traffic
collision at the intersection of El Camino Real and Ehrhorn Avenue,
approximately half a mile from where the gunshots were reported,
A white sport utility vehicle traveling southbound on El Camino
Real had driven across all lanes and the center median of the
roadway, striking two vehicles before coming to a rest, according
The 20-year-old male driver of the SUV was suffering at least
one gunshot wound and was transported to a local hospital where
he was pronounced dead, police said.
The only passenger in the SUV, described as a man in his 20s,
was seen walking away from the area of the crash, according to
officials. Police were reportedly unable to locate him.
No injuries were reported from anybody in the two vehicles that
the SUV struck, police said.
As emergency personnel were tending to the crash scene, reports
of two dark-colored sedans driving erratically throughout streets
near Ehrhorn Avenue were dispatched to the police but officers
were unable to locate the vehicles, according to officials.
At about 7:30 p.m., a local hospital notified the Mountain View
Police Department that a second shooting victim was at the hospital.
That victim sustained non-life threatening injuries and has since
been released, police said.
Anyone with information regarding these incidents or who may
have witnessed any of the vehicles, victims or suspects is asked
to call the Mountain View Police Department at (650) 903-6344.
Federal judge issues ruling to stop Navy use of sound waves
A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that the U.S. Navy
must stop blasting powerful underwater sound waves in several
areas of the ocean, including one off the Monterey coast, because
whales and other sea creatures could be harmed.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte issued the ruling Wednesday
in a lawsuit in which environmental groups are seeking to limit
Navy's use of low-frequency sound waves in training and testing
of a program to detect enemy submarines.
The Navy uses the sound waves, which can travel hundreds of miles,
to detect submarines. Conservation groups, including the Natural
Defense Council, the Humane Society and the Ocean Futures Society,
say the intense noise threatens whales, dolphins, sea turtles
and other marine animals.
Laporte wrote, "It is clear that marine mammals, many of
whom depend on sensitive hearing for essential activities like
finding food and mates and avoiding predators, will at a minimum
be harassed by the extremely loud and far-traveling low frequency
Under Laporte's ruling, the Navy will be able to continue using
the sonar for training purposes in much of the world's oceans
and will be able to use it even in the protected areas if there
is an actual danger of a submarine.
Coastal Circuits won't contest fine
A Redwood City circuit board firm will not contest a $3,800 fine
imposed on them after an investigation related to the September
death of an 18-year-old worker, a spokesman for the company said
Coastal Circuits, a circuit board manufacturer, has worked very
closely with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration
to ensure that "nothing like this ever happens again,"
spokesman Sam Singer said. Cal/OSHA issued a total of 17 citations
to the company and all of them will be dealt with in the time
"Fernando's death was a blow to everyone, and we continue
to work and remember him fondly as both a co-worker and a family
member," Singer said. Coastal Circuits is a successful company
with 70 employees, he added.
Authorities are still unclear why Fernando Jimenez Gonzalez,
of Redwood City, drowned in a vat of sulfuric acid. The San Mateo
County coroner's office conducted an autopsy and concluded that
Gonzalez did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system on Sept.
22. Coroner Robert Foucrault said that his death has been ruled
Singer called the incident "highly unusual and very, very
A report issued by California Occupational Safety and Health
Administration indicated that there was nothing in any nearby
tanks that would have caused acid to splash into the victim's
Feinstein calls for stricter oil spill standards
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called Thursday for the
U.S. Coast Guard to implement stricter standards on oil spill
response and preparedness.
In a letter to Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, Feinstein called
on the agency to implement a revised contingency plan for the
San Francisco area, detailing existing oil spill response assets
and prioritizing areas vulnerable to spills.
Feinstein also recommended the Coast Guard update its own standards
for oil spill preparedness and response, including requiring that
all cargo ships carrying large amounts of fuel have double hulls.
The Nov. 7 Cosco Busan oil spill released approximately 54,000
gallons of heavy bunker fuel into San Francisco Bay, temporarily
closing beaches throughout the Bay Area and killing thousands
The Coast Guard had been criticized for slow reporting of the
size of the spill and lack of coordination with local agencies.
In the first of two reports the Coast Guard commissioned, released
publicly Jan. 28, the agency acknowledged some shortcomings, and
pledged greater integration of spill command centers, improved
notification protocols, and better training and coordination for
volunteers wanting to assist with cleanup.
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