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Fog City News Briefs

By Emmett Berg

June 8, 2007

Sixteen-year old charged with planting three explosive devices at San Francisco General

A 16-year-old Belmont boy has been charged with planting three explosive devices at San Francisco General Hospital and stashing a fourth in his home, authorities reported on Thursday.

The boy, who remains unidentified because of his age, faces four counts of possession of explosive devices and related charges, San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens said.

He was booked into the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center on Wednesday evening, after two explosive devices resembling pipe bombs were found near the hospital that afternoon, Gittens said.

The incident began when someone called the hospital and gave them information about a bomb on the property, according to police.

Authorities found the first device in some bushes on the Potrero Avenue side of the hospital campus, Gittens said. Investigators searching the property found a second device on nearby San Bruno Avenue where the street becomes a dead end.

The San Francisco Police Department's bomb squad rendered both devices safe. After the investigation led to the boy, police found a third pipe bomb-like device in the suspect's Belmont residence. The San Mateo County Sheriff's Office bomb squad rendered the device safe.

San Francisco police also believe the teenager is responsible for planting an explosive device found May 22 at San Francisco General Hospital.

"The devices could have exploded. They were made of explosive materials," Gittens said.

West Contra Costa Unified School District votes to not call exit exit emergency meeting

The West Contra Costa Unified School District board voted 3-2 Wednesday night not to call for an emergency meeting to discuss allowing students who have not passed the California High School Exit Exam to walk across the stage at graduation and receive certificates of achievement instead of diplomas, according to school board member Charles Ramsey.

Graduations in the district begin Saturday. Richmond High School, which has the highest number of seniors who have not passed the exit exam, will be holding its graduation ceremony on Wednesday.

Youth Together organizer Linda Salinas, who works with Richmond High School students teaching them how to advocate for themselves, said that about 50 students and parents marched from Richmond High School to the school board meeting Wednesday night.
Students and their families were asking to be allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies even though they hadn't passed the CAHSEE, Salinas said.

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. Some of those students were only two or three points away from passing the test, Salinas said, and felt that they were being punished arbitrarily.

School board members, however, had decided in January not to allow students who hadn't passed the exit exam to participate in graduation ceremonies.

California Assembly approves California Healthy Pets Act

Californians may soon be required by law to spay or neuter their pets or face a fine, after the state Assembly approved the California Healthy Pets Act in a 41-to-38 vote Wednesday night.

The bill had no Republican votes in favor.

"Everyone has a common care for dogs and cats. What makes it partisan is the manner the government deals with it," said Republican Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa-Redding, "We don't think the government should be making this law about how dog and cat owners should be managing their animals."

The bill would require local governments to fine for pet owners who do not spay their dog or cat. Owners wishing to breed their animals would be able to pay a fee in order to obtain a license.

Alex Traverso, a spokesman for bill sponsor Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, said the state spends nearly $300 million to house, care for and kill unwanted animals every year.

"Four hundred thousand homeless animals are killed every year in our state alone. This is simply unacceptable," said Lisa Carter, director of the Santa Cruz SPCA.

The bill is modeled after Santa Cruz County's mandatory spay/neuter ordinance passed in 1995, requiring owners of fertile dogs and cats to obtain special certificates.

Witnesses testify in Sonoma County lewd acts with minors case involving former firefighters

Two more witnesses testified on Thursday in Sonoma County at a former firefighter's hearing on two charges of committing lewd acts with minors under age 14 and several charges regarding filming and showing youths sex videos.

Matthew David Phillips, 32, a former captain of the Bennett Valley Fire Department and former Rohnert Park Public Safety officer, is charged with 19 felony counts involving male teens in the Bennett Valley Fire Department's Explorers program.

The alleged lewd acts involve mutual and group masturbation with the teens while watching pornographic videos. Phillips also is charged with eavesdropping and videotaping some of the teens while they had sex with their girlfriends.

Testimony during the first two days of the hearing indicated Phillips offered to videotape the teens having sex with their girlfriends and later replayed the tapes for the teens who were involved. Witnesses testified Phillips compared their friendship and their sexual behavior to a "brotherhood" among firefighters.

Witness John Doe 1 testified Wednesday he was taped having sex with his girlfriend atop a fire truck at the Bennett Valley Fire Department and at Phillips' home when he was 18. He said his girlfriend was not aware they were being taped.

San Leandro City Countil settle federal civil rights lawsuit

The San Leandro City Council voted this week to pay $395,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of a Pleasanton man who died after police used a Taser gun to subdue him in an incident two years ago.

Family members of 33-year-old Jose Maravilla Perez had sought $10 million in damages, but their attorney, John Burris, said on Thursday that he thinks the settlement for only 4 percent of that amount "is a good sign and will allow them to move forward with their lives."

Perez died after a confrontation with San Leandro police officers about 6:15 p.m. on Oct. 20, 2005, when they responded to a report that he was violating the terms of a restraining order requiring him to stay away from the apartment of his ex-girlfriend at 540 Callan Ave.

In approving the settlement, the city of San Leandro didn't admit any wrongdoing. City Attorney Jayne Williams and police spokesman Lt. Tom Overton were unavailable for comment on Thursday.

Several days after the incident, then-police spokesman Lt. Marc DeCoulode said police officials believed officers were justified in using a Taser gun to subdue Perez because he exhibited the symptoms of being under the influence of a controlled substance and displayed unusual strength while resisting arrest.

An autopsy by the Alameda County Corner said that Perez suffered a fractured neck and was shocked by a Taser gun 21 times.

Coroner's officials listed the cause of death as methamphetamine intoxication associated with physical exertion.

Fishermen rescued after being trapped by rising tide

Rescuers lowered ropes over the side of a cliff at Lands End on Thursday to reach two men whose escape from the rising tide led them to cling to a sheer slope before using a mobile phone to dial in help.

San Francisco fire Lt. Ken Smith said authorities received a call at 4:33 p.m. from the twosome, who were fishing on China Beach before tidewaters led them to seek higher ground.

"That tide comes in and it wraps you up," Smith said. "You can't get around it."

Perched on a sheer slope, the two men, whose ages and names were not immediately available, waited about 70 minutes for firefighters to lower about 50 feet of rope, rappel close by the two and configure a pulley hoist. They were uninjured, according to the lieutenant.

The National Park Service cited both individuals, Smith said. More details were not immediately available.

Young women settle alleged rape case against U.S. Marine Corps recruiters

Two young women who claimed they were raped by U.S. Marine Corps recruiters in Ukiah settled their lawsuit against the service in federal court in San Francisco on Thursday for $200,000.

The settlement signed by U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel on Thursday also includes new safeguards to prevent sexual assaults and procedures for reporting assaults if they do occur.

The two women, known as Jane Doe and Mary Roe, said in the lawsuit they were 17-year-old high school students in Mendocino County when they were allegedly raped by two recruiters in the front room of the Ukiah recruiting office on Feb. 18, 2005.

One of their lawyers, Michael Sorgen, said, "There was essentially a 'gang-bang' in the Ukiah recruiting office, facilitated by ample supplies of alcohol."

Sorgen charged that the Marine Corps' culture of loyalty creates "an institution of silence in which rank-and-file Marines are well aware of pervasive sexual abuse of recruits but do nothing to stop it."

The attorney said, "Jane and Mary settled this case in such a way that they can now feel confident that they and their younger sisters will not be violated or suffer the same indignities."

The settlement requires Marine recruiting offices in northern and central coastal California to display large signs telling potential recruits how to contact a victim's advocate if they believe they have been sexually harassed or attacked.

Juana Briones house gets stay of execution

The historic Juana Briones house was given a brief stay of execution following a decision on Thursday in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Attorneys for Jaim Nulman, current owner of the house, and Friends of the Briones House put forth arguments on Thursday as to the legality of demolition and an alleged requirement for an environmental impact report.

Susan Brandt-Hawley, representing the Friends of the Briones House, said that when the city issued a permit for demolition it failed to uphold the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires an environmental impact report prior to demolition of an historic building. An environmental impact report was never completed.

The Briones house, located at 4155 Old Adobe Rd., was built sometime around 1845 but the city of Palo Alto granted a demolition permit to Jaim Nulman so he could build a new home, according to court documents provided by local historian Tony Cisneros.

Juana Briones was one of the Californios, who were of Spanish, Mexican and Native American decent. She was known as a humanitarian, a healer and the daughter of members of the historic De Anza expedition into California in 1776, according to the Juana Briones Heritage Association.

She was born in Villa Branciforte, now Santa Cruz, lived in San Francisco's Presidio with her husband, battled smallpox in Marin and ran a successful hide business in what is now Palo Alto.

Sonoma County District Attorney will not file rape charges against transient

Sonoma County District Attorney's Office officials said on Thursday that charges won't be filed against a 47-year-old man who was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of raping a woman at Memorial Beach in Healdsburg.

Thomas Berlin Banks, a transient, was booked into the Sonoma County Jail under $100,000 bail after he was arrested by Healdsburg police.

Banks refused to appear in court on Thursday and Deputy District Attorney Craig Brooks said charges against him won't be filed. Judge Rene Chouteau then ordered Banks discharged from jail. A jail spokeswoman said he will be released on Thursday.

Police said a woman called the police department at 5:52 a.m. Tuesday reporting she had been sexually assaulted. The woman said she befriended a man in Santa Rosa on Monday and they took public transit to Healdsburg.

The woman said they wandered the Russian River beach area and began drinking alcohol during the day and into the night. The woman said when she woke up she discovered part of her clothing had been removed, police said.

Police searched the area and found a man who matched the description of the suspect. The woman identified the man as her assailant and Banks was arrested.

Whale carcas to receive burial at sea

A whale carcass that washed up on a beach at Point Richmond nearly two weeks ago will soon receive proper burial at sea, according to the owner of a diving service that is removing the approximately 20-foot mammal.

For $18,000 paid by Contra Costa County, Tim Parker and four employees of his company, Parker Diving Service, will arrive at the beach at high tide on Thursday in diving gear, wrap the up to 15-ton whale in cargo net and hook it to a tugboat.

On Friday, at sunrise, the tugboat will haul the carcass out to sea. Usually the diving team would just hook the whale's tail to a vessel and pull it out to sea, but Parker said there is too much carcass deterioration. "If you attach it to the tail you might just get the tail," he said.

The gray whale is reportedly a calf that has been dead for several weeks and has an open chest cavity.

Meke Eerkens, a spokeswoman for the Marine Mammal Center, said the whale likely died from being cut open by boat propellers. However, the center couldn't determine with absolute certainty whether propeller injury happened before or after it died, she said.

While Parker said his service has hauled about seven whales from area beaches, his company primarily razes sunken ships.

Parker called whale removal "a stinky job," adding, "this is a job we don't particularly brag about, and we don't really advertise it a lot. We don't go out and look for the work, the work just finds us as far as whales."

Tenderloin fatal stabbing victim identified

One of two people found fatally stabbed in a Tenderloin residence was identified on Thursday by the San Francisco medical examiner's office as a 60-year-old woman.

Donna Byers of San Francisco and a male companion were both found dead in their room after authorities were called to the 800 block of O'Farrell Street at 9:25 p.m. Wednesday, police said.

The male victim's identity has not been released pending notification of his family.

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, San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens said.

Ice cream parlor manager arrested on child molestation charges

The Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety on Thursday announced the arrest of a neighborhood ice cream parlor manager on child molestation charges.

Gerardo Ochoa, the manager of Gourmet Ice Cream located at 223 E. Maude Ave., was arrested May 7 following a report by an 11-year-old girl that he had touched her in a sexual manner on two occasions earlier this year after enticing her with free ice cream.

He is in custody in Santa Clara County Jail, according to DPS Lt. Dave Pitts.

Detectives and prosecutors are concerned that there may be other alleged victims of Ochoa. Anyone with information about Ochoa is asked to call Detectives Kirk Kim or Eric Fujii at (408) 730-7120.

Officials investigating train derailment

Union Pacific Railroad officials are looking into what caused 11 empty tank cars to derail early on Thursday in their rail yard in Martinez, spokesman Mark Davis said.

The cars came off the track at about 5:10 a.m. Ten of the 11 cars overturned and one remained upright, Davis said.

No injuries were reported and no hazardous materials were released, Davis said.
Heavy equipment arrived and officials began righting the cars at about 10 a.m.

Although the derailment caused minor damage to the tracks inside the yard, no commuter or other rail traffic was interrupted by the incident.

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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