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Fog City News Briefs

By Lara Moscrip

June 7, 2007

San Francisco police investigating double homicide

San Francisco police are investigating a double homicide that occurred Wednesday night. Police were called to an apartment in the 800 block of O'Farrell Street and found a man and a woman dead, apparently from stab wounds, according to Sgt. Neville Gittens.

Although the cause of death will be officially determined by the San Francisco medical examiner, it appears that the killings were caused either by a murder-suicide, or the two people somehow ended up killing each other, Gittens said. Police were called to the building around 8 p.m.

An investigation is ongoing, Gittens said.

San Francisco General Hospital bomb threat second in recent weeks

A spokesman for San Francisco General Hospital said that Wednesday's suspected bomb threat was the second such incident in past weeks that the hospital has received.

According to Delvecchio Finley, an administrator at the hospital, today will be business as usual for the hospital and the outpatient clinic building and administrative office that was affected by Wednesday's incident.

According to San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens, an item made to look like an explosive device was found on hospital property Wednesday afternoon, prompting police to block off the area for several hours.

Gittens said that members of the bomb unit and the special investigations unit are continuing their investigation, after having cleared the area Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday afternoon, the item was found on San Francisco General Hospital property at 887 Potrero Ave. According to Finley, the device was found near buildings 80 and 90 on the north end of the hospital campus.

Police set up roadblocks and prompted the closure of Potrero Avenue between 20th and 22nd streets.

Finely said that in the past weeks there have been similar threats made against the hospital. He said that today there will be an internal meeting with staff to share information on how to deal with such situations.

Brown to examine De Anza Colege rape case

California Attorney General Jerry Brown will examine the De Anza College baseball rape case at the request of the Santa Clara County district attorney who decided to not file charges due to insufficient evidence.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores Carr is confident Brown will reach a similar conclusion, according to Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney David Tomkins.

Brown was asked by Carr to review the case in a letter sent Friday. One of the main reasons for the independent review is to back Carr's controversial decision and to show that what the public has seen so far is only a partial glimpse of what happened in the South Buena Vista Avenue house, Tomkins said.

Allegations emerged after a 17-year-old girl claimed to have been sexually assaulted at a March 4 party in unincorporated San Jose by members of the De Anza College baseball team.

Carr has defended the decision to not prosecute by saying that evidence in the media only shows part of the case.

"We had an ethical responsibility not to discuss the case," Tomkins said.

The case went between the Santa Clara County sheriff's office and the district attorney, who initially turned the case back to the sheriff for more investigation.

Eight baseball players were suspended due to team policy violations.

On May 21, Carr announced that no charges would be filed due to "insufficient evidence."

The decision outraged many in the community.

Christian group wins state appeal to use movie theater as church

A Christian group won a round in a state appeals court in San Francisco on Wednesday in its long-running quest to use a former movie theater in a shopping mall as a church.

The Court of Appeal upheld decisions by the Concord City Council and a Contra Costa County trial judge to allow the Harvest Church to use the space in the Park & Shop Center for religious services.

The nondenominational church has owned the property since 1999.

Several individuals and groups challenged the proposed use, arguing that it conflicted with city plans to emphasize retail and commercial uses for the shopping center.

But the appeals court said the city's general and redevelopment plans did not absolutely prohibit non-retail uses. A three-judge panel said locating the church in the shopping center could aid the center's development by preventing vacant space and blight.

Justice James Lambden wrote, "The record indicates the City Council thought it necessary to be somewhat flexible in considering how to encourage the development of a declining downtown shopping center under the existing circumstances."

A lawyer for the groups opposing the project was not immediately available for comment on the ruling, which could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Four years ago, the appeals court in an earlier stage of the case ruled against the Harvest Church and upheld a 1999 decision in which the City Council denied a permit for the project.

In Wednesday's ruling, the appeals court said the City Council was entitled to change its mind and grant the permit in 2004 because no other viable tenant had been found and there was testimony the shopping center had declined into some disrepair during the five years.

The court said another difference in the two appeals was that the church's current proposal no longer includes a meeting and conference space, which would have caused more traffic.

Drowning death ruled accidental

East Bay Regional Park District police said Wednesday that the drowning death of 14-year-old Rudy Rodriguez at Roberts Regional Recreational Area on May 24 appears to have been the result of an accident, not foul play.

But Park District Police Chief Police Timothy Anderson said in a statement that the investigation is continuing and, "If we establish criminal wrongdoing we will certainly take appropriate action."

However, he said that after conducting "dozens" of interviews of Park District staff as well as the staff and students of Bret Harte Middle School, which was having an end-of-school-year picnic at the park on May 24, "We have not been able to establish exactly what circumstance led to Rudy being spotted at the bottom of the swimming pool."

He said, "Based upon the totality of information available at this time, this appears to be a tragic accident."

Anderson said Park District police know that Rudy had been seen in or about the pool area both that morning and afternoon but have been unable to locate an eyewitness "to provide us with an accounting of why Rudy ended up in the deep end of the pool or why he became submerged."

Anderson said students in the pool "had been engaging in so-called horseplay and dunking" throughout the day but no firsthand witness has come forward to say if such horseplay is what led to Rudy being submerged.

The chief said investigators believe there may be one or more students in the group that day "that could provide valuable insight and may be reluctant to come forward either due to peer pressure or some other reason."

Police said they have a tip line at 510-690-6521 and ask students who were present at the 8th grade picnic that day to come forward if they believe they have information that would be helpful to detectives.

Graduating diplomas on hold for Richmond High School seniors

As many as 40 Richmond High School seniors have passed the requirements to graduate but won't be given diplomas next week and won't be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies because they haven't passed the California High School Exit Exam, according to a youth group organizer.

Students marched from Richmond High School on Wednesday afternoon to the West Contra Costa Unified School District School Board meeting at DeJean Middle School, said Linda Salinas, a Youth Together organizer.

Youth Together is an Oakland-based, non-profit organization working to teach students to advocate for themselves.

Students who have not passed the exam will be asking the school board to allow them to participate in the graduation ceremony next Wednesday and to be given a certificate of completion, Salinas said.

Students will also be asking the school board to recognize that the CAHSEE has had a disproportionate impact on the Hispanic community, Salinas said.

"The fact is that the Latino community has been devastated by this exam and they're angry," school board member Charles Ramsey said.

Ramsey, however, also said that he would not support a motion to allow students who haven't passed the CAHSEE to participate in graduation, saying that graduation "is a ceremony recognizing students for their achievements."

He also said that a certificate of completion wouldn't do anything to help students get jobs after they leave high school.

"That piece of paper is meaningless," Ramsey said. "It has no value to a child."

Salinas said that there are between 35 and 40 Richmond High School seniors who have completed all of the requirements to graduate except for the CAHSEE.

According to the May 31 CAHSEE results, 80 students out of the 284 in Richmond High School's 12th grade class have not passed the exit exam.

San Francisco federal judge reaffirms ruling refusing to dismiss lawsuit against Chevron

A federal judge in San Francisco has reaffirmed previous rulings refusing to dismiss a lawsuit against ChevronTexaco Corp. for alleged human rights abuses during oil development protests in Nigeria in 1998 and 1999.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled late Tuesday that the San Ramon-based company could be held liable for the conduct of its Nigerian subsidiary, Chevron Nigeria Ltd.

Illston reaffirmed two previous rulings issued in 2004 in which she rejected ChevronTexaco arguments that it was not responsible for the subsidiary's actions.

Nine Nigerians claim in a 1999 lawsuit that ChevronTexaco is responsible for deaths and other abuses allegedly carried out by Nigerian military and police paid by Chevron in two incidents.

Two protesters were killed on an offshore oil platform in 1998 and seven residents of two villages near an oil export facility were killed in 1999, according to the lawsuit.

Theresa Traber, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said, "Chevron has repeatedly tried to keep an American jury from scrutinizing its role in the deaths and destruction our clients suffered at the hands of its paid security forces."

The attorney said no trial date has been set and Illston has yet to rule on several other motions by ChevronTexaco that could eliminate part or all of the lawsuit before a trial.

ChevronTexaco spokesman Charlie Stewart said he could not comment specifically on the lawsuit but said, "Nigerian militants took over Chevron Nigeria's offshore barge and drilling platform and held more than 100 hostages for three days, threatening sea piracy and violence if Chevron Nigeria did not give them jobs and money."

Stewart said, "Chevron's priority is the safety of its people and it was perfectly reasonable for Chevron Nigeria to seek assistance from local authorities to help secure the safety of its innocent workers.

"We continue to believe that the Nigerians should not be in a U.S. court and have no basis in fact or in law to claim that their rights were violated when government forces rescued the hostages," the spokesman said.

Marijuana grow-operation discovered in San Francisco's Bayview District

A landlord checking a leak in an apartment in San Francisco's Bayview District on Tuesday night called police when he discovered a marijuana growing operation, according to San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens.

Police arrived at apt. No. 10 in the building at 801 Minnesota St. at around 8:16 p.m. and discovered numerous marijuana plants, Gittens said.

Police are still not sure who rented the apartment. Preliminary reports identify the renter only as a Hispanic man between the ages of 20 and 25, he said.

The San Francisco Police Department Narcotics Division is investigating this incident.

Father arrested for allegedly using his teenage children in drug deal

Santa Clara County narcotics agents on Wednesday announced the arrest of a San Jose man who allegedly brought his two teenage children along on a drug deal and hid methamphetamine in a Strawberry Shortcake doll.

Francisco Servin Ruiz, 38, was arrested on Tuesday in Los Gatos during a car stop off of Los Gatos Boulevard after agents from the Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team learned that a drug deal involving Ruiz was going to take place. Ruiz's 14-year-old son and 16-year-old stepdaughter were in the car with Ruiz at the time of his arrest.

Ruiz was found with methamphetamine on his person as well as an additional amount of the drug stuffed inside the doll found near his stepdaughter's feet. Agents later found additional methamphetamine at Ruiz's San Jose home, according to team commander Robert Mecir.

"All told we found approximately two ounces with a street value of $5,000," Mecir said.

Ruiz is currently being held without bail in Santa Clara County Jail. The children have been turned over to the county's Child protective Services office.

San Mateo Union High School District in financial tatters due to mismanagement

The San Mateo Union High School District is in financial tatters due to mismanagement by its board of trustees and needs an immediate overhaul, according to a San Mateo County civil grand jury report released Wednesday.

The district serves about 8,300 students in San Mateo, San Bruno, Burlingame, Foster City, Millbrae and Hillsborough.

Having earlier investigated the district's significant debt and fiscal management problems in two previous reports, the grand jury Wednesday concluded that proper oversight of "questionable financial practices" could have prevented 16 SMUHSD teachers and 36 staff from being laid off in fall 2006.

"The San Mateo Union High School District Board of Trustees neglected its duties, was fiscally irresponsible, and allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money to be squandered," the report stated, adding that academic programs could also now be jeopardized.

District officials were not immediately available for comment.

The grand jury made recommendations addressing four areas of concern: overtime payments and consultant agreements; inaccurate grant applications to the state that could result in fines and penalties against the district; improper transfers from the district's building fund to its general fund; and the approval of debt financing with excessive interest and fees.

The report called on district officials to "immediately make positive and significant changes in the District's financial controls and procedures."

The grand jury's 37-page report can be found online at: http://sanmateocourt.org/grandjury.

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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