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Fog City News Briefs

By Lara Moscrip

June 6, 2007

Delgado's defense restricted in Tongan royal family vehicular death case

Alleged evidence that the type of car that flipped over in July on U.S. Highway 101, killing members of the Tongan royal family who were inside, may be prone to rollovers cannot be used to defend the teen accused of causing the crash, her defense attorney said on Tuesday.

Edith Delgado, 19, of Redwood City, is currently standing trial for the July 5 fatal crash on northbound U.S. Highway 101 in Menlo Park.

Prosecutors allege Delgado was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic in her white Ford Mustang at about 9 p.m. when she struck a red Ford Explorer, causing it to lose control and roll over several times before landing on its roof.

Tonga's Prince Tu'ipelehake, 54; Princess Kaimana Tu'ipelehake, 45; and their driver, Vinisia Hefa, 36, were in the Explorer and were pronounced dead at the site of the crash, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A lawsuit filed on Monday in Santa Clara County Superior Court against the Ford Motor Co., on behalf of members of the Tongan royal family, alleges the Ford Explorer's design and manufacture was the main cause of the deaths, said Richard Alexander, a San Jose attorney who filed the suit.

According to the lawsuit, Ford officials knew the 1998 Ford Explorer, like the one driven by Hefa, "was inherently unstable" and "had a dangerous tendency to trip, rollover or flip...especially in emergency freeway turning maneuvers."

Outside a San Mateo County Superior courtroom Tuesday afternoon, defense attorney Randy Moore acknowledged the lawsuit but said that product liability cannot be introduced as a defense in a criminal case such as his, because he has already conceded that Delgado "started the chain of events by making an unsafe lane change" that led to the fatal crash.

Three days of testimony have already been completed in the trial, which is estimated to last two weeks.

Moore said Tuesday he and Delgado have not yet decided whether she will testify in her own defense.

The trial is scheduled to continue Wednesday at 9 a.m., with witness testimony expected to resume in the afternoon.

Delgado remains in custody in lieu of $1 million bail. If convicted of all the charges she is facing, she could face a maximum of eight years in prison, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

BART rules out mechanical problem following smoke evacuation

Bay Area Rapid Transit authorities have ruled out that a mechanical problem on a train caused the Embarcadero station in San Francisco to be evacuated Tuesday morning after smoke filled the station, a BART spokesman said.

"We will have to wait until the train service ends tonight to be able to inspect the track way," BART spokesman Linton Johnson said Tuesday afternoon.

BART halted trains between San Francisco and the East Bay and San Francisco Municipal Railway halted underground trains during the incident.

BART started moving again at 9:45 a.m., but passengers faced delays system wide, BART spokesman Jim Allison.

A track inspection revealed no damage, Allison said.

"There is no word yet on what caused the smoke," he said.

Firefighters from the San Francisco Fire Department walked the tracks at the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations but didn't find the cause of the smoke, said San Francisco fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge.

"Chances are it was just a little spark," Talmadge said. "There is paper and all kinds of stuff on the track."

While fire officials did a cursory check to see if there were any signs of a fire, BART officials who know the track inside and out will be doing a more thorough inspection overnight, Linton said.

There was a report at 9 a.m. of smoke in the tunnel between the Embarcadero and Montgomery stations. The Embarcadero was then shut down, Johnson said.

BART officials told everyone to get out and prevented people from getting in, Johnson said.

Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch said the incident affected them as well, with all subway service being halted. Surface shuttles were secured for transportation along Market Street, she said.

Contra Costa County supervisors move to ban water-skiing in Discovery Bay

Despite passionate opposition from the Discovery Bay community, Contra Costa County Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to pass an ordinance banning water-skiing and other tow sports in a three-mile stretch of the Delta in Discovery Bay.

The ordinance, which was amended Tuesday to only ban towing on weekends and holidays from the beginning of April to the end of September in a three-mile section of Indian Slough and Warner Cut, will go before the board June 12 for final adoption. If it passes, it will go into effect 30 days later.

Supervisor Mary Piepho, who introduced the ordinance at the request of the Discovery Bay Community Services District board, said that since 1995 there have been 59 accidents and four deaths in that area of the Delta, although she admitted that none of the fatalities were water-skiing related.

"The reality is that current statistics don't really point the finger, in my view, at the skiers," Contra Costa County Sheriff Warren Rupf pointed out, a comment that drew loud applause from the packed audience.

Rupf, a water-skier himself, said that there have only been three fatalities in that area of the Delta in the past eight years-the fourth fatality was not water-related-and none of them were related to water-skiers or any other tow sport.

All of the 11 water-skiers who have been injured in the Delta in the past 12 years were injured because they fell over and got hurt, not because they were skiing in a dangerous area, said 20-year Discovery Bay resident Scott Rister.

"It's already illegal to ski when it's dangerous," said Discovery Bay resident Keith Erickson.

"I don't understand how water-skiing became the target when speed is the cause," said San Ramon resident Michael Jolley.

San Mateo County gets go-ahead to consolidate mental health facilities

The San Mateo County Health Department was given the go-ahead Tuesday to consolidate its mid-county mental health clinics into one new facility located in a residential San Mateo neighborhood.

Some residents in the area of the proposed 81,000-square-foot facility at 2000 Alameda de las Pulgas expressed concern to county supervisors on Tuesday morning that patients with mental illnesses would be visiting a clinic directly across the street from an elementary school and near two high schools.

Health Department officials, as well as other residents and members of area mental health organizations tried to allay those concerns by citing low incidences of crime in the areas where the clinics are currently located, and asked that mental health patients not be stigmatized as dangerous.

The facility will provide residents of San Mateo and surrounding central county cities with child as well as aging and adult mental health services. The facility would consolidate current mental health clinics located in San Mateo on La Selva Street, West 20th Avenue, Pioneer Court and 37th Avenue.

Responding to safety and other concerns related to the potential of traffic in the area, litter and decreased property values, Health Department Charlene Silva said, "We hope to be a good neighbor and a responsible neighbor."

County supervisors agreed, unanimously approving a 10-year lease for the facility at an initial monthly rent of approximately $210,000.

Supervisors also agreed to hold regular meetings with community members to further discuss their concerns and possible improvements to the facility and surrounding area.

Vacaville girl found safe

Vacaville police confirmed that a 15-year-old Vacaville high school student missing since Friday was found safe and healthy Tuesday afternoon in Aberdeen, Washington, according to Vacaville police Sgt. Jeff Van Gorden.

According to Van Gorden, JonCarlos Adley was found along with his family car hanging out with friends at a local high school in the area.

Family and friends of Adley had contacted police to help find him after he was seen leaving his Vacaville home around 10 a.m. Friday, according to Vacaville police. His sister told police that JonCarlos cut his last three classes that day.

Adley was found with the 2003 9.5 Saab Aero belonging to his stepfather that was also reported missing.

Kansen Chu leads Hon Thi Lien in San Jose District 4 runoff election

According to preliminary results from the Web site of the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters posted Tuesday night, it appears that Kansen Chu leads Hon Thi Lien in the race to serve the remainder of San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed's former San Jose City Council term in the City Council District 4 runoff election.

With 62 of 62 completed precincts, Chu has 6,651 out of 10,333 votes, or 64.37 percent of the vote, and Lien has 3,682 votes of 10,333 votes, or 35.63 percent of the vote.

According to the Web site, the absentee reporting turnout is 20.96 percent with 7,250 votes out of 10,415 votes cast and precinct reporting turnout is 9.15 percent with 3,165 votes of the 10,154 votes cast that way. Voter turn out was 30.11 percent, according to preliminary results.

The total registration is 34,595.

To view the Web site, go to http://www.sccgov.org/elections/results/june2007/

Residents in Lafayette, Orinda and Clayton pass Measure C

Preliminary election results were made available Tuesday night regarding how residents in Lafayette, Orinda and Clayton cast their votes on bond measures and a parcel tax for repairing roadways, storm drains and, in Clayton, for landscaping of the city's public spaces.

According to preliminary results available on the Contra Costa County Elections Division Homepage Web site, Lafayette residents cast 3,337 votes, or 62.90 percent, in favor of Measure C. There were 1,968 no votes, or 37.10 percent of votes cast out of a total of 5,305 votes. This information takes into account nine of nine precincts reporting.

Measure C, an annual $150 parcel tax would be levied for the next 30 years. The money would be used to repair the city's streets and drains.

Lafayette residents also voted on Advisory Measure D, which, if Measure C passes, would authorize the city to continue to contribute at least $1 million annually from the city's general fund to pay for street and drain maintenance.

According to preliminary election results, voters cast 3,652 votes, or 70.78 percent, in favor of Measure D. Voters cast 1,508 no votes, or 29.22 percent against Measure D. There were 5,160 votes cast. This information takes into account nine of nine precincts reporting.

Orinda residents voted on a 30-year bond measure, Measure E, which would authorize the city to issue a $58.6 million municipal bond to pay for improvements to the city's roads, drains and water supply infrastructure.

If the measure passes, residents will pay for the bond principal and interest through increased property taxes. The measure also calls for a citizens oversight committee to ensure that the money is being spent as it was intended.

According to preliminary results, voters cast 4,031 yes votes, or 63.44 percent in favor. There were 2,323 no votes, or 36.56 percent of the vote against Measure E. There were 6,354 ballots cast. This information takes into account five of five precincts reporting.

Clayton residents voted on whether or not to approve an annual parcel tax that would fund the city's new Community Facilities District's efforts to maintain public roadway landscaping, trails, open space areas and weed, vermin and wild pig abatement.

The proposed annual $196.77 tax per parcel would replace an existing parcel tax that is set to expire on June 30. The special tax requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

According to preliminary results, voters cast 2,300 yes votes, or 82.56 percent in favor of Measure B. There were 486 no votes, or 17.44 percent, against it. There were 2,786 votes cast. This information takes into account four of four precincts reporting.

For more information and election results, go to http://www.cocovote.us/

Jaime Sanchez found guilty of second-degree murder

After deliberating for close to two days, jurors on Tuesday found 23-year-old Jaime Sanchez guilty of second-degree murder for drowning his wife in the bathtub of their Concord apartment on July 21.

Jaime Sanchez will be sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for killing 36-year-old Latda Sanchez. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 3 in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.

"I think a life sentence is appropriate in this case for someone who took the life of a person who was loved by friends and family," prosecutor Phyllis Redman said outside the courtroom.

Close to 25 of Latda Sanchez's family members and friends showed up to hear the verdict and many of them attended every day of the two-week long trial.

During opening statements, Jaime Sanchez's attorney Joseph Tully told jurors that Jaime Sanchez did not mean to kill his wife, but only to scare her.

Redman said that Jaime Sanchez, who testified in his own defense, admitted to second-degree murder on the witness stand when he told jurors that he had gotten into the bathtub with his wife while the two were fighting over his infidelity. Latda Sanchez turned away from him and he held her under the water until she stopped moving, Redman said.

Two arrested, one remains at large following Alameda County takeover-style robbery

Alameda County Sheriff's officials say that two men were arrested but a third man remains at large following a takeover-style robbery Tuesday morning at a Castro Valley bank.

Sgt. J.D. Nelson said two men dressed in ski masks and hooded jackets and armed with silver handguns entered the Bank of the West at 3396 Castro Valley Blvd. about 10:30 a.m., ordered everyone to lie on the ground and demanded money from tellers.

The men then rushed from the bank in a car driven by a third suspect, according to Nelson.

However, some of the money taken by the suspects was marked and the tellers were able to push an alarm, Nelson said.

A Sheriff's deputy who was nearby spotted the suspects' Cadillac in the parking lot of a Safeway grocery store near the bank and arrested one of the suspects Nelson said.

Authorities found the so-called "bait money" and ski masks behind the Safeway, according to Nelson.

A Sheriff's detective arrested another suspect after spotting the man running toward the Castro Valley BART station, according to Nelson.

Authorities searched the area with dogs and a helicopter but were unable to find the third suspect, Nelson said.

One of the suspects was positively identified by the bank teller, according to Nelson.

Authorities were able to recover "a significant amount of money" from the two men who were arrested, Nelson said.

Nelson said one of the suspects is 24 and the other is 18 but he declined to give their names.

Nelson said no one was injured in the robbery but said the employees and customers who were ordered to the floor "were pretty terrified."

Food donated in honor of Hunger Awareness Day

In honor of Hunger Awareness Day, Tyson Foods and Kraft Foods donated truckloads of goods to the Alameda County Community Food Bank on Tuesday.

Tyson Foods is donating 35,910 pounds of frozen poultry and Kraft Foods is donating 30,000 pounds of groceries and products.

The Alameda County Community Food Bank is one of 10 food banks nationwide being recognized for outstanding work as part of the Kraft Community Nutrition Program 10th anniversary.

Food banks received 40 percent less food in 2006 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture than in 2002 -- dropping from nearly 100 million pounds to less than 60 million pounds, according to Kim McCoy Wade, executive director California Association of Food Banks.

The loss translates into nearly 40 million fewer meals provided statewide in 2006 than in 2002.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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