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Suspect named in kidnap, sex assault of Northridge girl

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 31 Maret 2013 | 12.56

Los Angeles police on Saturday identified a suspect in the kidnapping and sexual assault of a young Northridge girl last week as a 30-year-old transient with an extensive criminal history.

Tobias Dustin Summers, who was released from jail in January after serving six days for a probation violation, is the primary focus of the police investigation, LAPD Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said at an afternoon news conference at police headquarters downtown.

Summers has a criminal history dating back to 2002 that includes charges of kidnapping, robbery, explosives possession and petty theft, Albanese said. Summers is not a registered sex offender, but authorities said he was arrested on suspicion of battery in 2009 in a case that involved child annoyance.

He was released from custody in July 2012 because of a new law that transfers authority over some felons from state prisons to county jails and, on their release, from state parole to county probation departments. The law, also known as public safety realignment, was intended to reduce overcrowding in state prisons.

Authorities described Summers as a transient who frequents North Hollywood and other areas of the San Fernando Valley.

It was unknown why the 10-year-old victim was targeted. "We have no information that the family knew this individual or that this individual knew any members of the family," Albanese said.

The girl told investigators that two men were involved in the incident and that she was taken to multiple locations in different vehicles, according to law enforcement sources. But police said Summers was the primary focus of their investigation.

"We're trying to go through this slowly and methodically because we don't want to overwhelm her. She's a 10-year-old girl," LAPD Capt. William P. Hayes said after Saturday's news conference.

On Wednesday, the girl's mother told authorities she last saw her daughter in her room about 1 a.m. About 3:40 a.m., police said, the mother heard a noise. When she went to check on her daughter, the girl was gone.

Police conducted a house-by-house search of the neighborhood, and the FBI joined the investigation. Shortly before 3 p.m., a man spotted the girl in a parking lot about six miles from her home and pointed her in the direction of nearby police.

She was found with cuts and bruises, some to her face, near a Starbucks. In news helicopter footage, she appeared to be barefoot and wearing clothing different from what she had on when she was last seen.

LAPD officials said they believe the girl was dropped off at a Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills. She then walked toward the Starbucks.

The girl was initially identified by The Times, citing authorities, after she went missing. However, it is the policy of The Times not to identify victims in cases of alleged sexual crimes.

Albanese said Summers had been taken into custody Jan. 13 for a probation violation and was released Jan. 16. He did not elaborate on the violation.

Law enforcement sources have said detectives were trying to determine whether there was any connection between this case and a high-profile international child abduction in 2008. Public records and court documents indicated that one of the children kidnapped in the 2008 case was a relative of the Northridge girl.

But police said Saturday that so far there is no clear connection.

More than 40 detectives and the FBI are working on the Northridge case, authorities said, and anyone who sees Summers should call 911 or the anonymous tip line (800) 222-8477.


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Town hopes for jobs tapping California's huge oil formation

TAFT, Calif. — This two-stoplight town was built on petroleum, and residents here never miss a chance to pay tribute.

A 38-foot monument to wildcatters stands downtown; locals brag it's the tallest bronze sculpture west of the Mississippi. Every five years, the city throws an "Oildorado" festival. There's even a beauty pageant in which young women dubbed "the maids of petroleum" vie to be crowned queen.

It's all an homage to the bustling days when Taft boasted two giant oil fields and Standard Oil Co. of California was headquartered there. The oil giant left in 1968, jobs dried up, and today the Kern County town is saddled with high unemployment and memories of past glory days.

That could be about to change.

Residents are betting on a second boom from oil trapped miles underground in dense rock formations. It's part of what's called the Monterey Shale, where oil deposits span 1,750 square miles through Southern and Central California.

"Everyone and their dog would be working if they find that oil," said Joe Gonzalez, 53, who began toiling in the oil fields around Taft three decades ago as a roustabout. "It's a huge deal for Taft."

But a key question is: Could these modern-day wildcatters actually squeeze oil out of the rock?

Some believe technology that can reach previously inaccessible oil means it's just a matter of time; others are convinced it's an over-hyped promise.

Oil companies have begun exploring the Monterey Shale underneath towns like Taft that have survived on oil for a century.

More than 15 billion barrels of oil, or two-thirds of the continental United States' total deep-rock deposits, is estimated to be locked in the Monterey, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Extracting it could mean enormous wealth if oil prices stay around $97 a barrel, and could pump billions of dollars into the local economy.

The much smaller Bakken shale formation in North Dakota has fueled a boom that has driven unemployment in the state down to 3.3%, the nation's lowest. Taft's unemployment rate is 13.3%.

But the process is slow going.

"It's not like the old days where you put a straw into the ground, you get a gusher and you dance around," said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Assn., an industry lobbying group. "It's a very complicated process."

Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum and Venoco Inc. of Denver, two of the largest stakeholders in the Monterey, have already drilled exploratory wells.

Federal land leases on the shale are going for $500 per acre at auction, up from $2 to $5 per acre just a few years ago, said Gabriel Garcia of the Bureau of Land Management's Bakersfield office.

Economists say tapping the shale would be a big boost for the Central Valley, which depends heavily on agriculture and petroleum. By 2015, California could see half a million new jobs and $4.5 billion in oil-related tax revenue, according to a USC study.

"It's not the muckety-mucks, the higher-ups, who live here," said Kathy Orrin, executive director of the Taft Chamber of Commerce. "It's the people in cowboy boots and cowboy hats and Wranglers — and they can make a good living in the oil industry."

Around noon in Taft, oil workers in dusty coveralls park trucks outside the few lunch spots in town: the OT Cookhouse & Saloon, where black-and-white photos of California's first gushers line the walls; Jo's Restaurant, where diners sit below painted oil derricks and fields; and a Tex-Mex place.

Rick McCostlin, 45, thinks jobs could come back and revive Taft. Another oil boom might even attract some of the locals who fled to better-paying gigs in North Dakota's oil fields.

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O.C. judge is target of sexual misconduct investigation

An Orange County Superior Court judge is being investigated by the Sheriff's Department on suspicion of improper sexual conduct — allegedly in his courtroom chambers — authorities said.

Deputies are completing a monthlong investigation into Scott Steiner, a former high-ranking prosecutor and the son of former Orange County Supervisor William Steiner, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman with the Sheriff's Department.

Amormino said that Steiner's chambers were searched and potential evidence was taken for DNA testing.

The investigation is expected to be completed this week, and deputies will send a report to the state attorney general, Amormino said.

"We're looking into all the allegations to see if they're criminal or not," Amormino said.

Steiner, a prosecutor in the county for more than a decade, was elected to a six-year term on the bench in 2010.

The district attorney's office was informed last month that Chapman University, where Steiner teaches, was pursuing an inquiry into Steiner's conduct, said Susan Kang Schroeder, the district attorney's chief of staff.

The district attorney's office asked the state attorney general to handle any further investigation because of Steiner's relationship with the prosecutor's office.

Before taking the bench in January 2011, Steiner was a deputy district attorney, starting out as a law clerk and working his way up to special prosecutions and the gang unit, Schroeder said.

When he was elected in 2010, he garnered the endorsement of Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

On March 11, Steiner was transferred from the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana to the North Justice Center in Fullerton, said Gwen Vieau, a spokeswoman with the superior court. She said several judges were moved at that time.

Steiner has also been an adjunct faculty member at Chapman University's Law School. Officials at the university could not provide details on Steiner's employment Friday.

"We look forward to working with the inquiry to resolve any questions," said Paul S. Meyer, Steiner's attorney. "We believe that the truth will clear this matter."

In 2011, while working as a prosecutor, Steiner was accused of using an office computer for work related to his unsuccessful campaign for the Orange City Council.

State prosecutors investigated the complaints to avoid a conflict of interest. No charges were filed.


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For Mammoth Lakes weatherman, always a climate of learning

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — Howard Sheckter was a painfully shy 10-year-old when he found his calling in a Glendora hailstorm.

As lightning and thunder crackled all around him, he looked up and felt chunks of ice bounce off his cheeks.

The experience ignited an obsession.

An earlier version of this article misspelled Sheckter's name as Schecter.

"My mother's telephone bills were huge because I was calling the weather service 10 times a day," said Sheckter, now 62. "One day, my mother called the operator and asked, 'What number is this?' The operator said, 'It's the weather service. You must have a weatherman in the family.'"

She did, and her son's fascination only grew. Sheckter taught himself meteorology, and through it the withdrawn, nerdy boy found a way to relate to the world — and for the world to relate to him.

For the last three decades, the lanky real estate agent has doubled as the weather sage of the eastern Sierra, with forecasts presented daily on his Mammoth Weather website and on KMMT, KIBS and KRHV radio. His predictions trigger flurries of excitement or anxiety in the Mammoth Mountain ski resort, which draws about 1.3 million skiers a year.

Sheckter is still quite shy. But when he's talking about the weather, as they say around here, you can't shut Howard up. His forecasts can be spellbinding and numbingly complex.

"When there's a storm coming in, Howard gets real excited and tends to go on about oscillations, flows and millibars," Stacy Powell, news director at KMMT in Mammoth Lakes, said with a laugh. "So, I break in and ask the question keeping our listening audience at the edges of their seats: Howard, is it going to snow or not?"

On a recent weekday, Sheckter sat in a small home office, his desk covered with computer screens filled with isobars — those squiggly concentric circles that encircle high- and low-pressure areas.

With animated expressions and rapid-fire explanations, he spoke of meteorological challenges ahead. It's springtime in the eastern Sierra, he explained, and the warmer temperatures, rain and melting snow mean that the ski season is coming to an end in a town where skiing and related operations employ nearly half of the area's 7,500 residents.

Business owners were praying for a few more forecasts of snow in March and April.

"I can feel the pressure," he said, poring over satellite photos, data from weather stations and three decades' worth of personal records. "The business community up here thrives on snow."

Sheckter tries to lighten the technical load in his forecasts with corny jokes, some of them borrowed from Bill Keene, the late Los Angeles traffic and weather reporter who peppered his bulletins with cheesy puns such as: "The temperature is going lower than a snake's vest button."

But trying to suss out the bottom line from his forecasts — is it going to snow or not? — requires patience and concentration.

"The fact is, nobody knows what the hell Howard is talking about most of the time — and I find that totally charming," mused George Shirk, managing editor of Mammoth Times/Mammoth Sierra magazine. "It's endearing to listen to him ramble on about how an isometric low system bulging over Iceland and breaking down over the Azores signals a certain weather pattern just over the horizon."

Sheckter has been studying local weather patterns since he moved to Mammoth Lakes in 1978 and landed a job as a boot fitter in a sporting goods store. The owner of that store nicknamed him "Dr. Howard" because Sheckter spent his lunch hours drawing isobars on a chalkboard.

He's been known as "Dr. Howard" ever since. Today, his forecasts help snowplow companies determine how many days they can expect to remain working, and how much the town should allocate for road maintenance. They are also used to predict when the region's 26 black bears will be coming out of winter hibernation.

"Howard has his finger on the pulse," said Steve Searles, a wildlife specialist who has gained a national reputation as a bear whisperer, someone who can deal with problem bears without killing them. "Around here, if the subject is weather, sure as heck someone will pipe up, 'What does Howard have to say?'"

That was not an easy question to answer on March 20, the first day of spring.

"A high-pressure block near Greenland has been correlated with a drier winter for California," Sheckter mumbled to himself, scanning data streaming over multiple computer screens. "However, this pattern is forecasted to break down over the next week to 10 days, allowing the possibility of storminess to return.

"If the upper wind flow at 10,000 feet has a lot of moisture and moves from the southwest," he added with a smile, "I predict that the storms that arrive around the end of March and early April will produce more precipitation. In fact, I'm banking on it."


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Deaths tied to painkillers rising in the U.S.

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 30 Maret 2013 | 12.56

Despite efforts by law enforcement and public health officials to curb prescription drug abuse, drug-related deaths in the United States have continued to rise, the latest data show.

Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that drug fatalities increased 3% in 2010, the most recent year for which complete data are available. Preliminary data for 2011 indicate the trend has continued.

The figures reflect all drug deaths, but the increase was propelled largely by prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, according to just-released analyses by CDC researchers.

The numbers were a disappointment for public health officials, who had expressed hope that educational and enforcement programs would stem the rise in fatal overdoses.

"While most things are getting better in the health world, this isn't," CDC director Tom Frieden said in an interview. "It's a big problem, and it's getting worse."

Drugs overtook traffic accidents as a cause of death in the country in 2009, and the gap has continued to widen.

Overdose deaths involving prescription painkillers rose to 16,651 in 2010, the CDC researchers found. That was 43% of all fatal overdoses.

The numbers come amid mounting pressure to reduce the use of prescription painkillers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering a proposal to limit daily doses of painkillers and restrict their use to 90 days or less for non-cancer patients. The proposal also would make such drugs available to non-cancer patients only if they suffer from severe pain.

"The data supporting long-term use of opiates for pain, other than cancer pain, is scant to nonexistent," Frieden said. "These are dangerous drugs. They're not proven to have long-term benefit for non-cancer pain, and they're being used to the detriment to hundreds of thousands of people in this country."

Among the most promising tools to combat the problem, Frieden said, are computerized drug monitoring programs that track prescriptions for painkillers and other commonly abused narcotics from doctor to pharmacy to patient. Frieden said such programs should be used to monitor doctors' prescribing as well as patients' use.

"You've got to look at the data to see where the problems are," he said. "You don't want to be flying blind."

In California, officials do not use the state's prescription drug monitoring program, known as CURES, to proactively seek out problem patients or physicians. The state's medical board initiates investigations of doctors only after receiving a complaint. Legislation awaiting action in Sacramento would increase funding for CURES and provide more investigators to police excessive prescribing, among other measures.

Frieden, a physician trained at Columbia and Yale universities, said patient safety should be placed above the concerns among some doctors about scrutiny of their prescribing patterns.

"We all take an oath to, above all, do no harm," he said. "And these medications do harm. You're free to practice medicine however you want. But you're not free to do things that hurt people."

President Obama's drug czar, R. Gil Kerlikowske, echoed Frieden's call for aggressive monitoring by state medical boards.

"You can't just sit back, have a big database and then say, 'Well, we'll wait till there's a complaint that comes in,'" he said in an interview. "You have to use it proactively."

Lynn Webster, president-elect of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, said the new figures underscored the need for further action, such as educating physicians to recognize patients who are at risk for abusing painkillers.

"This is not the trend anyone wants to see," Webster said.

CDC mortality data, culled from death certificates, do not detail how the decedents obtained the drugs that killed them.

A Los Angeles Times analysis of coroners records published last year found that prescriptions from physicians played a substantial role in the death toll. Of 3,733 prescription drug-related fatalities in Southern California examined by The Times, nearly half involved at least one drug that had been prescribed to the decedent by a physician.

Seventy-one doctors prescribed drugs to three or more patients who later fatally overdosed, the analysis showed. And several of the doctors lost a dozen or more patients to overdoses.

The latest CDC figures predate a broad attack on prescription drug abuse and misuse launched by the White House in April 2011. The preliminary figure for 2011 is down slightly but is expected to grow by at least 5% — exceeding the 2010 level — when all death certificates are in and counted, experts said. That's what has happened in previous years.

Kerlikowske, who heads the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said efforts to hone the response to measures that show results were frustrated by the lagging mortality data. But, he said, anecdotal evidence and surveys of younger Americans suggest "there's a lot going on that's moving in the right direction."

He declined to predict when there would be downturn in deaths.

"It won't be overnight, certainly," he said. "But we didn't get here, with these kinds of numbers of deaths and overdoses, overnight."



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An email out of the past tests time and memories

The email was an invitation to step back in time, from someone I hadn't seen or talked to since 1965.

Joe Migliore had noticed my byline on a column in our hometown paper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It was about the shift in racial labels — from Negro to black to African American — during our lifetime.

"It was very interesting and brought back some memories of time gone by," he wrote. "I was just wondering if you are the same Sandy Banks that I went to school with at Miles Road Elementary School" nearly 50 years ago. Joe remembered "a girl named Sandra Banks in French class taught by Mrs. Cassanova. At that time, we would have been in the 'enrichment' program at the school. Does that sound familiar?"

I remember the school, the teacher and the class. I could picture Joe in my mind's eye. But I wasn't sure about the girl he recalled.

I'd like to say she was friendly. Smart. Well-liked. But I hesitated before calling him back. I'm old enough to know that memories sometimes lie. And I wasn't sure that I wanted his recollections to be the test of mine.


We were in school together during an era when Cleveland was bitterly, racially divided. The year after we graduated from sixth grade, riots racked the city.

My classmates were the children and grandchildren of immigrants from the city's ethnic enclaves: Migliore, Slivka, Trankito, Kowalski, Milojevic, McFarland and Manzo. I was among a handful of black children assigned to Miles because there were no "gifted" classes on our neighborhood campuses.

I remember good teachers, good grades, good friends — and a few searing, awkward moments. Like the time Mrs. Cassanova singled me out in class as one of Cleveland's "good colored people," and meant it as a compliment.

But race back then, seen through young eyes, was not the subtext of our lives.

"We were just normal kids; same parents, same values, same work ethic." That's how Joe Migliore remembers it, and how Sandra Banks would like to.

His parents were Italian immigrants. Mine were refugees from Alabama and Georgia. He didn't speak English until he started kindergarten. And if I felt out of place because of my skin color, he "felt like a wimpy little kid, just off the boat" because of his history.

Joe and I spent almost an hour on the phone this week, sharing memories of mornings spent on safety patrol and afternoons in the school garden, where we grew exotic vegetables like kohlrabi and Swiss chard. Joe played violin in the orchestra. I made ceramic jewelry in art class.

But not every memory could be burnished by nostalgia.

He remembered a French class routine that I had forgotten. The young monsieur would introduce himself to mademoiselle, bow and kiss her hand. Every time we were partners, he confessed, he kissed his own finger instead.

I hadn't known, and felt a twinge of hurt. "I guess I bought into my family's expectations," Joe tried to explain.

His parents would have been horrified at the thought of him kissing a black girl. His mom had made it clear that his future girlfriends had better be Italian.

I understand that now in a way I couldn't have back then. We are all a product of our families, our era and our culture.


I lost touch with my elementary school friends after graduation. The junior high we were supposed to attend was virtually all black. The first day of seventh grade was enough to scare off most white kids.

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Faith in a kosher butcher is shaken in wake of video

For five decades, Doheny Glatt Kosher meat market has been one of California's preeminent suppliers of food that meets the requirements of Jewish law, offering staples such as brisket and chicken as well as bison, prime steak and grass-fed beef.

But on Friday, the esteemed butcher was at the center of an angry debate that had spread across L.A.'s Jewish community. The owner of Doheny faces accusations of selling meat that was not properly certified under kosher rules. Longtime customers doing their shopping before Shabbat were forced to decide how much they trusted their butcher.

Earlier this week, a council of rabbis pulled Doheny's kosher certification and, in a statement Friday, raised the possibility of "legal action," a recourse to secular courts that would be rare. Other prominent rabbis have stood by the meat shop.

Charges of fraud on the one side have been met with accusations of favoritism on the other, with some of Doheny's defenders suggesting that the shop has been under attack by disgruntled competitors.

In a letter emailed to congregants Friday, the chief rabbi of one of the city's largest synagogues, Rabbi Adam Kligfeld of Temple Beth Am, urged continued patronage of Doheny "because by doing so we can make a statement that kashrut" — Jewish dietary law — "should be about kashrut ... and not monopolies or power plays or raising suspicions."

At stake is not just the integrity of people's kitchens but also millions of dollars in sales to retail customers as well as to caterers, hotels and institutions that serve meat to Jews who follow the religious laws that govern what meat can be eaten.

On Pico Boulevard, opinion remained sharply divided.

"If [the butcher] did it in Israel, New York or Chicago, he'd be dead by now," said Shein Epstein, who lives a few blocks from Doheny in the heavily Orthodox Jewish Pico-Robertson district.

"How are they still open?" shouted another woman outside the store.

"It's just an allegation," longtime customer Rick Scott shot back. Scott had driven down from Bel-Air to buy a chicken and, after talking to some of the workers at Doheny, decided to stick with the butcher.

The controversy started Sunday when a video taken by a private investigator surfaced, purporting to show Doheny workers bringing in boxes of meat late at night without the required supervision of the independent inspector, known as a mashgiach, tasked with overseeing the store. The video later aired on KTLA-TV Channel 5.

After viewing the videotape, the Rabbinical Council of California pulled Doheny's kosher certification.

A group of rabbis also met with Michael Engelman, Doheny's owner. According to the council, Engelman initially denied any wrongdoing but later "admitted to bringing unauthorized products to the store on two to three occasions."

The rabbinical council said in Friday's statement the organization had previously investigated complaints from Doheny's competitors but had found "no evidence of wrongdoing." The council has suspended the mashgiach who was on duty at the time the videotape was made and said it's also investigating allegations that Doheny used false labels on some products.

Engelman could not be reached for comment. On Friday, a new kosher supervisor, Rabbi Menachem Weiss, tried to reassure customers that the problems had been solved.

"We're 100% sure that all the meat being sold out of this place is glatt kosher," he said outside the store. "Mike is running the business. He's under a lot of pressure.... We just took over the kosher certification."

Weiss cited a series of improvements made at the shop this week, including a new security system with eight cameras that is being supervised off-site by Weiss' father. They also hired a new supervisor who will remain on the premises and threw away any meat that had come to the store before their arrival.

Some supporters of Engelman have suggested that he might have been set up because of his success and questioned why the private investigator targeted him with the video sting.

"I've known Michael for 30 years. He wouldn't do this. He just wouldn't," said Heather Broidy, who has been shopping at the market for 30 years. "This is a huge deal because this is the political side of kosher supervision and the rabbis who supervise. You can't run a kosher business without that certification, so you have to bow to the political pressure. They make money on it."

Kosher meat is considerably more expensive than meat found in a regular supermarket because of the extra supervision and inspections required.

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O.C. woman who gave money to fund terrorism gets five-year term

An Orange County pharmacist who admitted to wiring $2,050 to Pakistan to be used to fund terrorist activities was sentenced Friday to five years in federal prison.

Oytun Ayse Mihalik, 40, a Turkish national and a permanent U.S. resident, pleaded guilty in August to one count of providing material support to terrorists for three money orders she sent over a month's time in late 2010 and early 2011. Mihalik used a false name, "Cindy Palmer," to send the funds, according to authorities.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a 12-year sentence for Mihalik, alleging that she provided the money to a man she met through a website, believing it was going to be used to harm U.S. troops. She was motivated by a "desire to participate in jihad" and knew the sum was "more than enough to finance an entire operation against the United States military forces," they wrote, citing her email communications with the man.

They also noted that she had created a "favorite" tab for "The Al Qaeda Manual" on her laptop and in "privacy" mode had searched the terms "true jihad" and "Jihad in Afghanistan" on her Web browser.

Defense attorneys argued she was not motivated by radical ideology but acted during a time of vulnerability in her marriage, after she and her husband had difficulty getting pregnant and then experienced a miscarriage. She accessed the website out of worry for her brother, who was going on a pilgrimage to Pakistan, they contended in court filings.

"A reading of the emails themselves reveals that Ms. Mihalik was being solicited, and even manipulated," they wrote, asking that Mihalik receive a 24-month sentence.

The woman came to authorities' attention when her husband, Errol, called Immigration and Customs Enforcement in late 2010 after she moved out of their home for a trial separation, alleging she had married him under "false pretenses" for a green card. He described a new religious fervor in his wife after she took a monthlong trip to Turkey two years into their marriage.

"I go, 'Listen, did you marry … me for my citizenship and do you want to harm someone here.' And she looked at me blank and she said, 'If I have to kill people for Allah, I will,'" Errol said in his initial report, according to a transcript filed with court papers.

Authorities said Friday that despite the small sum, Mihalik's conduct was a serious crime.

"Money is the mother's milk of terrorism, and we will move aggressively against those who provide financial support to groups and individuals bent on harming the U.S. and its allies," Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE's Los Angeles office, said in a news release.

Mihalik, who was arrested in August 2011 as she was about to board a flight to Turkey on a one-way ticket, is expected to be deported after she finishes her sentence.

U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton Tucker handed down the sentence after considering a plea from Mihalik's husband, who in a letter to the judge called the crime "completely out of character." He wrote that his wife is "extremely dedicated to her family, work, love for America, and is entirely peace-loving."

"I have never met such a remarkable individual and [am] completely in love with her," Errol wrote.


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Girl who vanished from Valley home is found six miles away

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 29 Maret 2013 | 12.56

Authorities late Wednesday were trying to unravel how a 10-year-old girl vanished from her Northridge bedroom in the middle of the night, then mysteriously reappeared with cuts and bruises half a day later and miles away.

Police said they were looking for two men they believe were involved and have recovered a black pickup. The LAPD has nothing to connect the men to the girl in terms of previous contact, police sources said.

"I've got a young lady that was abducted. I don't know the reason," said Los Angeles Police Department Capt. William P. Hayes.

At a news conference earlier in the day, LAPD officials said they believe the girl was dropped off at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills, six miles from her home. She was seen wandering in a nearby parking lot and recognized by a bystander, who pointed her out to police on patrol.

It is unclear who dropped the girl off and how she may have left or been lured from her Northridge home. She reportedly disappeared from her bedroom sometime between 1 a.m. and 3:30 a.m.

"We don't know what happened inside of the house," said Los Angeles police Cmdr. Andy Smith. "But it certainly would appear that she didn't make it from her house over here a distance of some six miles all by herself."

The girl's mother told authorities that she saw her daughter in her bedroom about 1 a.m. She checked on her about two hours later because she noticed the bedroom door was ajar. She looked in and saw that the girl was gone. She searched the entire house, then called police.

Police said they took the missing child report extremely seriously because the girl had no behavioral issues or problems with her parents. She had never run away before, police said.

"She wasn't that kind of kid," Smith said.

About 2:50 p.m., the girl was found near Oxnard Street and Canoga Avenue. She had cuts and bruises, some to her face. In news helicopter footage, she appeared to be barefoot and wearing clothing different from what she had on when she was last seen.

"She basically is in shock right now," Capt. Kris Pitcher said.

A manager of a nearby animation studio, who saw the girl when he went to a gas station near a Starbucks and Goodwill store where she was found, said the preteen looked drained.

"Her face was white. She looked very tired and worried," said Nicolas Jackson, manager of Moonscoop. "You could see she had some worries for the past few hours."

Authorities are reviewing security camera footage from every business in the area. A house-to-house search in a two-mile-wide grid around the girl's home was launched after she disappeared but turned up nothing.

Late in the day, however, Hayes said authorities had secured several locations where they believe the girl had been taken and said multiple cars had been used.

Pitcher said police are "turning over every stone so we can catch up with" the people responsible for the girl's abduction.

Still, Smith cautioned, there is no evidence someone is roaming neighborhoods looking to kidnap children.

"We're going to search every facet of this case, to find out what happened, and to get to the bottom of it," he said. "It's every parent's nightmare: In the middle of the night you go check on your child … your child is gone."




Times staff writer Ari Bloomekatz contributed to this report.

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L.A. wants Convention Center alternatives to AEG stadium plan

Los Angeles officials agreed Wednesday to pursue a parallel track for redeveloping the city's Convention Center in the event that Anschutz Entertainment Group and the National Football League fail to reach agreement on the Farmers Field stadium downtown.

Jan Perry, chair of a special City Council committee overseeing the AEG deal, said she remains hopeful that the city can continue to work with the entertainment giant in both drawing an NFL franchise and building the stadium in the L.A. Live area.

But with a recent management shake-up at AEG, the city must begin looking at other ways of expanding and redesigning the Convention Center — a primary goal of its AEG agreement, she said.

That hasn't changed, Perry said Wednesday, and it's important "to look at other ways to achieve this goal."

Committee members asked the city's chief legislative analyst, Gerry Miller, and its chief administrative officer, Miguel Santana, to come back within 30 days with other options for renovating the Convention Center's aging West Hall and other properties.

Miller and Santana will work with the Urban Land Institute to evaluate various options, getting assistance from a technical advisory panel with expertise in design, finance and land use.

Alternatives include operating a new hotel to bring in revenue, as has been done in Chicago, or floating bonds and implementing new taxes to help pay for a renovation, Santana said. Updates are needed, officials said, because the Convention Center is too small and outdated to draw the kind of large conventions that would bring more tourists to the downtown area.

Initial euphoria at the prospect of attracting an NFL team has soured in recent weeks with steady reports that AEG and the league owners are at loggerheads in striking a deal.

In September, the City Council approved agreements for the construction of a stadium to accommodate an NFL team on the West Hall site of the Convention Center. That agreement is contingent on AEG identifying and bringing a team to Los Angeles by October 2014.

Shortly before the issue came before the council, AEG's owner, Phil Anschutz, announced that he was putting his entertainment conglomerate, which includes L.A. Live and Staples Center, on the market.

Then two weeks ago Anschutz stunned the City Hall establishment by announcing that he was taking AEG back off the block and that he had parted ways with Tim Leiweke, AEG's longtime public face in the city and the key deal maker on the stadium project.

Anschutz and the NFL have each said they are continuing to work together to bring an NFL franchise to the city. But frustrated City Hall officials say they have no choice but to begin making other plans.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl, a committee member, said he was "still outraged" that Anschutz had cut ties with Leiweke, a respected figure in Los Angeles business, political and labor circles. "I'm very disappointed to hear that AEG is playing some games with us," he said.


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Jan Perry to endorse Eric Garcetti in mayoral race

Jan Perry, the strong favorite of African Americans in the March 5 primary for Los Angeles mayor, plans to announce Thursday that she is backing her ex-rival Eric Garcetti in the May runoff, her spokeswoman said.

Perry's endorsement is one of the most prized in the May 21 contest between Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel. Perry has been a colleague of Garcetti's on the City Council for almost 12 years

Neither Garcetti nor Greuel emerged from the primary with significant backing among black voters, one of the biggest blocs up for grabs in the runoff. For weeks, the two have been competing fiercely to line up support from high-profile African Americans.

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Greuel, who often reminisces about working as an aide to the city's first black mayor, Tom Bradley, scored endorsements this week from Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and former President Bill Clinton, a popular figure among African Americans.

Those announcements deflected attention from turmoil in Greuel's campaign. She hired a new campaign manager, Janelle Erickson, to take charge of day-to-day operations last week, removing those duties from another top advisor, Rose Kapolczynski.

In addition, Greuel's field director and three others quit the campaign. All four had worked in the get-out-the-vote operation of President Obama's reelection campaign. The shake-up came after Greuel finished second in the primary, in which she and her allies far outspent Garcetti.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor 

The final tally for the primary, released by the city clerk's office Tuesday, confirmed that Garcetti led with 33%, followed by Greuel at 29%. Talk radio personality Kevin James came in third with 16%. Perry finished fourth, also with 16%. Emanuel Pleitez, a former aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, won 4%.

With all the ballots counted, turnout was 21% of the city's 1.8 million registered voters, up from a preliminary turnout rate of 16% based on ballots counted on election night.

The results confirmed that Perry swept the most heavily African American neighborhoods of South Los Angeles and the Pacoima area of the San Fernando Valley, underscoring the value of her support in the Greuel-Garcetti runoff.

Spokeswoman Helen Sanchez said Perry "examined both of their records very carefully and felt that Garcetti had a very solid record and was the best candidate to move the city forward."

There was a personal dimension to Perry's decision. In her campaign's closing days, Perry was deeply offended by Greuel attacking her for a 1994 personal bankruptcy tied to the failure of her ex-husband's law practice. Greuel, who lives in Studio City, served on the council with Perry for seven years.

But Perry's endorsement of Garcetti was no sure thing.

She felt betrayed by Garcetti last year when he voted for new council district boundaries that took away nearly all of Perry's cherished downtown turf, leaving her mainly with impoverished neighborhoods along the Harbor Freeway. Perry's role in downtown's economic comeback was a key focus of her campaign. She lives on Bunker Hill, outside her new district.

Greuel stayed on the attack Wednesday. Speaking from a lectern outside City Hall, she blamed Garcetti for the city's surge in unemployment during his watch as council president.

"Eric Garcetti has also left Los Angeles with huge budget deficits," Greuel said.

Like Garcetti, Greuel voted on the council in 2007 for raises of up to 25% over five years for thousands of city workers, despite the budget shortfall that the city was facing as the economy was turning downward. Speaking privately to union audiences during the mayoral campaign, Greuel has criticized Garcetti for backing layoffs and furloughs of city workers to balance the budget.

Unions representing the bulk of the city workforce have lined up behind Greuel and spent heavily to get her elected. Also backing her is the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Garcetti sought to highlight his own labor support Wednesday at a rally of more than 100 workers at a union hall south of downtown.

"He is ready to fight for us," said Mike Perez, president of SEIU's United Service Workers West, which represents more than 40,000 janitors, airport workers, security officers and others. Perez was interrupted by chants of "Si se puede!" and "Garcetti!"

After the rally, Garcetti dismissed Greuel's contention that he was to blame for the city's high unemployment. "There was a countrywide recession happening," he said. "That's what I read in the newspapers."



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Fire ring opponents are blowing smoke

We Southern Californians love our beach bonfires. The marshmallow roasts and fireside family singalongs are a rite of summer that exemplifies our do-your-own-thing, hang-loose lifestyle.

The fires have been under attack for decades, most recently by the city of Newport Beach, which is trying to yank dozens of fire rings off the sand on the Balboa Strand and Corona del Mar State Beach. Newport Beach, which has long complained of late-night partying and the messes left behind, cited health risks from the smoke, and safety issues for people who might fall in a fire ring with hot ashes.

Last time I checked in, the Coastal Commission was fighting back, saying the fire pits offer needed low-cost recreation to the public.

In the latest chapter in this beach blanket bingo, the South Coast Air Quality Management District has stepped in with a proposed year-round ban on open burns at all beaches in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The district staff cites the health of coastal residents and visitors exposed to fine-particulate pollutants. But those pollutants can come from many sources. What's really going on, it seems to me and others, is that a small contingent of wealthy residents don't want other people running around what they think of as their front yards.

Residents who like the fire rings wrote in to the Coastal Commission saying some of their neighbors don't like the riffraff, as they see the rest of us, that gets dragged in. Southern California communities have a long history of trying to boot outsiders off their beaches. Before fire ring opponents brought up the particulates, it was kids hurting themselves on hot coals.

A Newport Beach city councilman once said he was against expanding grassy areas at Corona del Mar State Beach because "with grass, we usually get Mexicans coming in there early in the morning, and they claim it as theirs, and it becomes their personal, private grounds all day."

That was 10 years ago, and the councilman's remark is wildly out of touch with the diverse Orange County of today. Thousands of people, among them Newport and Corona del Mar old-timers, petitioned the Coastal Commission to save the fire rings, which have been there longer — up to 60 years — than most of the complainers.

"I grew up in the area, and some of my best summertime memories involve afternoons and evenings at the fire pits roasting marshmallows with friends and family," Catherine Anderson of Newport Beach wrote.

"I was brought to these fire pits as a child, and now as a new dad, want the opportunity to carry on that tradition when my son is old enough," Timothy Kennedy of Santa Ana wrote.

The problem is the naysayers have the ear of the Newport Beach City Council. When the Coastal Commission didn't give Newport Beach what it wanted, fire-ring opponents poked around for someone who would. The state has hundreds of boards and authorities, and given the chance, people will go forum-shopping.

The air quality district had been floating a proposal to increase no-burn days for residential fireplaces. But beach fires were not part of the package.

Air quality board chairman William A. Burke, who also sits on the Coastal Commission, met in late February with John Hamilton, one of the leading fire-ring opponents, at the Luxe Hotel in Brentwood. Burke agreed to "look into the [air quality] district's position on the [particulate] matter and our regulation of the same," according to a disclosure form he filed with the agency's office in San Francisco.

Later, Burke spoke forcefully at a Coastal Commission meeting against the fire pits, linking them to brain cancer and fetal damage. "I'm very passionate about this issue. I've spent half my life studying this issue," he said. "...Don't come to me and tell me you've got to have fire rings because you need a good time."

Hamilton, a Corona del Mar resident, testified before the Coastal Commission that he opposed the fire rings because he had recently been diagnosed with emphysema. "I love nostalgia. I collect nostalgia. I'm crazy for nostalgia," Hamilton said. "For me my health is more important."

But Newport Beach has been unable to show the fire rings are the main or even a significant source of pollutants for neighbors. There's no doubt particulates are harmful. But backyard fire pits, wood-fired ovens, hamburger grills and diesel-powered yachts also spew particulates, in some cases, in far greater amounts than the beach fires.

But the air quality district is going after only the fire rings.

"There is no data," said air board member Shawn Nelson, who also heads the Orange County Board of Supervisors. "If you're standing next to a fire, sure there's soot. But I don't believe in the sincerity of Newport Beach's health concerns."

The district says it has to go after every possible pollution source to meet state and federal air quality standards. But the ban would be silly at Dockweiler State Beach, the last major outpost of beach fires in L.A. County.

Flanked by a refinery and a sewage plant, Dockweiler doesn't have residential neighbors. Hundreds of homes were removed from the bluff overlooking the beach because of the racket from jets taking off from LAX nearby. Those of us who go there to sit around a fire don't need a government board to protect us from the soot. We'll take our chances.

Reached by phone, Burke says he is in meetings to convert the fire rings to clean-burning fuel sources, possibly natural gas or propane. A district spokesman said it's "premature" to say how the plan would be carried out, or who would pay for it. But the idea received nearly unanimous support from fire ring backers who spoke at a public meeting Thursday, the spokesman added.

Newport Beach proposes to replace the fire rings with volleyball courts. What family or church group is going to play in the dark?

"A volleyball court is not going to do anything for a family from Stanton, who can't afford coastal property but just want to enjoy being by the water," Nelson said. "Clearly they want to run people out by sunset."

"We're not trying to take anyone's fun away," said Sam Atwood, the air quality board spokesman. Well, then don't.


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Garcetti, Greuel step gingerly around city labor issues

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 28 Maret 2013 | 12.56

Los Angeles union leaders had hoped the presence of two liberal Democrats in the race for mayor would produce a robust defense of the value of government, government employees and the positive effects public sector pay and benefits have on the broader economy.

The realities of campaigning have largely precluded that, particularly in a city contending with persistent budget shortfalls and private-sector workers facing stagnant incomes, tax and fee increases, and a slow erosion of good-wage jobs.

On the campaign trail, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel have struggled to be sympathetic, but not too embracing, of the defenses that unions have mounted of their members' wages and benefits.

But in one-on-one interviews with The Times, Garcetti and Greuel expressed an affinity for the idea that gains made by public employee unions yield wider economic benefits for the city.

"I think we should look at what it takes to have good family-wage jobs. That often gets lost when people want to pit one against another," Greuel said. She added a favorite organized labor argument: "I think it's the right kind of conversation to have — for all boats to rise."

Garcetti said the first priority of government has to be providing services. But he cautioned against wholesale slashing of pay and benefits for city workers. "In tough times, people look around and see other people who they perceive to be better off," Garcetti said, "but we shouldn't make the mistake in those moments of racing to the bottom."

Despite those sentiments, both Garcetti and Greuel have stepped carefully around public commitments to preserve wages and benefits. Both have signaled that they would be willing to ratchet benefits downward, if necessary.

Labor leaders had hopes, now mostly fleeting, that the mayor's race would become a forum for a more expansive, supportive view of the public sector — and the dangers of pushing government austerity too far.

"That just pulls the rug out from under us as a society and an economy," said Madeline Janis, national policy director at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which has fought for private enterprise to pay a "living" wage.

"The place we have the remnants of a decent economy is in the public sector," she said. "And we should be seeing that as the basis for a really healthy economy. Bringing us all up is not just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do."

But scrutiny of public employees reached a new pitch during the Great Recession, as workers in the private sector lost jobs, work hours and health coverage, often while seeing pension benefits cut or eliminated.

By 2011, only 18% of employees outside government had pension plans that guaranteed them a set benefit on retirement. That compared to 78% of local and state government workers nationally who still stood to receive defined-benefit payments after leaving their jobs.

Resentment over such discrepancies, what some have dubbed "pension envy," partly helps explain the movement in several states to rein in the bargaining rights of public worker unions and to bring benefits down.

Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., said union stalwarts are "living in a fantasy land" to think that the city can continue to afford pensions and benefits higher than paid in the private sector.

"In order to execute a plan like theirs you have to have real money and we are running out of taxpayers to make those payments because they are fleeing the state," Vosburgh said. "And the taxpayers are resentful because they are doing so poorly."

Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan last year briefly pushed a ballot measure that would have replaced guaranteed pensions with 401k-style personal savings accounts. He abandoned the proposal last November, saying that he had gotten too late a start to gather the requisite signatures.

Union leaders longed for a different response to threats against their pay and pensions — workers rallying to sustain each others' livelihoods against corporate and civic managers whose pay and benefits seldom seem to get the ax.

"It's like there are two lifeboats in the ocean and there is a hole in one of them, the private sector," said Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU Local 721, which represents 10,000 mostly blue-collar city employees. "Instead of pulling alongside and getting in the one good [government] boat you pull alongside and put a hole in the good boat too. Now we are going to sink both boats. And are we happy?"

The broader debate is complicated by a disagreement over how public and private sector compensation and benefits compare.

A May 2010 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found a mixed bag. Less skilled employees, such as parking lot attendants and security guards, tend to be paid more when they work for government, the study said. More skilled workers, like computer analysts and top-level managers, make more in the private sector.

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Lancaster City Council prayers again ruled constitutional

Since the Lancaster City Council began opening its meetings with a prayer from local religious leaders, people have become more tolerant of unfamiliar beliefs, according to Mayor Rex Parris.

The invocations have come from Muslims, Sikhs and Wiccans as well as from Christians. Parris says the exposure has had a "unifying effect," with people in the High Desert city no longer flinching at mentions of Allah.

But to Shelley Rubin and Maureen Feller, a prayer at an April 2010 council meeting crossed the line, amounting to a government endorsement of Christianity.

"Bring our minds to know you and in the precious, holy and righteous and matchless name of Jesus I pray this prayer," said Henry Hearns, senior pastor at Living Stone Cathedral of Worship and a former mayor of the city, according to court documents.

The two women sued, enlisting Roger Jon Diamond, known for representing strip clubs in 1st Amendment cases, as their attorney.

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision, ruling that the prayers were constitutional because the city had invited people of all faiths to lead them.

Sectarian prayers are not prohibited at government meetings, the court said, and the city has not endorsed one religion over another, even though a majority of the prayers are Christian. Eliminating the word "Jesus" would not work as a practical matter, since the city would have to edit every prayer for similar references, the court said.

"Jesus is not a dirty word," said Parris, a Baptist. "Really what this lawsuit was about was making it one."

The case law for prayer at government meetings is somewhat unsettled and is considered separate from school prayer cases, where students are a more vulnerable and captive audience than adults in city council chambers.

Diamond plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court after seeking a rehearing with the 9th Circuit.

The decision does not square with those from other circuit courts, which could prompt the Supreme Court to jump in, said Peter Eliasberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Aaron Caplan, who teaches constitutional law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, agreed that the justices might take the case, or a similar case, if they want to make a uniform national rule.

"That said, they might not be in the mood for controversy. They might be controversied out for the next few years," Caplan said, referring to this week's gay marriage cases and other closely watched issues on the docket this term.

Rubin is the widow of longtime Jewish Defense League Chairman Irv Rubin, whom Diamond represented in a similar lawsuit against Burbank. She lives in Arcadia and came to the 2010 council meeting after Lancaster voters approved a ballot measure endorsing the prayers. Feller is a Christian who lives in Lancaster.

"It's offensive, and it makes you feel like an outsider," Diamond said. "If it's that important to do this prayer, there's nothing that prevents them from having a private session before the meeting."


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Toxic waste site near Kettleman City to pay $311,000 in fines

A toxic waste dump near the San Joaquin Valley farming community of Kettleman City has agreed to pay $311,000 in fines for failing to report 72 hazardous materials spills over the last four years, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control announced Wednesday.

Brian Johnson, the department's deputy director of enforcement, described the fines as "a substantial and aggressive penalty."

The penalties were part of a settlement that capped an investigation into the Chemical Waste Management facility, the only one in California licensed to accept polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a carcinogen.

A review of company documents and monitoring records revealed "no sign of health risks to the local community" from the spills of lead contaminated soil, herbicides and other chemicals, Johnson said. Most of the spills were about a pint in volume, he said. The landfill's operating permit requires the company to notify the state so that spill cleanup is documented.

The violations will be taken into account when the department rules later this year on the proposed expansion of the facility, which is running out of room. The company also wants to renew its 10-year operating permit, which ends in June.

"When that permit expires, the facility will continue to operate under the old permit conditions until a final decision is made," Johnson said.

In an interview, Chemical Waste Management spokeswoman Jennifer Andrews said the spills were "not reported to the state because they were small spills, which were immediately cleaned up. In addition, we believed we were operating within our permit conditions."

The action came four years after activists petitioned state and federal health agencies to investigate whether the 31-year-old landfill might be linked to severe birth defects in residents of Kettleman City, about three miles away.

A survey by state health investigators ruled out the dump as the reason 11 babies were born with cleft palates and other physical deformities in Kettleman City between September 2007 and March 2010. Three of the babies died.

The activist groups People for Clean Air and Water and Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice criticized the fines as weak and renewed their call on state regulators to deny the facility's permit applications.

"It's absurd for the state to claim with a straight face that 72 spills of hazardous substances do not pose a health threat," Greenaction spokesman Bradley Angel said. "It didn't even know the spills had gone on for four years until it stumbled upon the problem in a company log."

The landfill has a long history of violations.

In 1985, the Environmental Protection Agency fined the company $2.1 million for violations that included operating additional landfills and waste ponds without authorization.

In 2005, the company was fined $10,000 for violating federal PCB monitoring requirements. It was cited again in 2007 for failing to properly analyze incoming wastes, storm water runoff and leachate for PCBs.

In 2010, the EPA levied a $302,100 fine for failing to manage PCBs properly. A year later, the facility agreed to pay $400,000 in fines and spend $600,000 on laboratory upgrades needed to manage hazardous materials.


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Feuer accused of improperly obtaining taxpayer matching funds

A longtime Westside activist Wednesday filed a lawsuit accusing Los Angeles city attorney candidate Mike Feuer and his political consultant of improperly obtaining taxpayer matching funds by hiding the true cost of his campaign.

Working with the nonprofit group Fix the City, former City Council candidate Laura Lake alleged that Feuer and his consultant, John Shallman, failed to comply with laws governing campaign contribution limits and disclosure of election spending.

The lawsuit mirrors complaints filed with the Ethics Commission earlier this year. Both the lawsuit and the complaint target a consulting agreement that allowed Shallman to run Feuer's campaign for $1 and receive a "win bonus" if he won outright.

Lake — a supporter of Feuer's opponent, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich — said the consulting agreement masked the true cost of Feuer's campaign, which included work by Shallman on campaign communications and strategy. By avoiding payment to Shallman, Feuer kept his expenses below $1.26 million and fraudulently qualified for $300,000 in taxpayer matching funds from the city, the suit said.

"We want these laws taken seriously," she said, adding: "We're putting all candidates and politicians on notice."

Feuer said he consulted the Ethics Commission about the agreement and was told that it complies with all applicable rules. And he indicated Wednesday that he reworked his contract with Shallman one week after the March 5 primary to make regular payments to him throughout the remainder of the campaign.

Feuer said he rearranged the agreement with Shallman because of the quality of his work, not because of the ethics complaint. "I decided that I wanted to ensure that he was compensated no matter the outcome of the race," he said.

The lawsuit seeks to force Feuer to give back the $300,000 and prevent him from receiving additional taxpayer money during the runoff campaign unless he makes regular payments to Shallman. Lake also suggested that she and her allies are looking at other candidates to see if they are obeying the city's rules regarding contribution limits, taxpayer matching funds and disclosure of campaign spending.

Feuer's campaign said other experts on city and state ethics rules consider the agreement legal. He also released a statement from Stephen Kaufman, an election law attorney, calling the "win bonus" proper under campaign finance laws.

"Whether a consultant chooses to get paid up front or defer his payment to the end is a business decision the consultant is entitled to make," Kaufman said.

Ethics Commission officials will not comment on whether they have received citizen complaints or whether advice was sought.

Fix the City is a group that has focused on Fire Department response times and other city issues and is led by two neighborhood activists — Mike Eveloff and James O'Sullivan. Both are supporters of Trutanich.

In her lawsuit, Lake also asked that a judge from another county handle the case because Feuer's wife, Gail Ruderman Feuer, is an LA. County Superior Court judge.



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L.A. City Council candidate retreats from racially charged remark

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 27 Maret 2013 | 12.56

A state lawmaker campaigning to represent a major chunk of ethnically diverse South Los Angeles on the City Council is retreating from his controversial accusation that an opponent has tried to divide voters "along racial lines."

State Sen. Curren Price (D-Los Angeles) is seeking to reframe remarks he made last week to a group made up largely of African American ministers about his rival, former council aide Ana Cubas. The shift in message came after council President Herb Wesson, a top Price supporter, called for the senator to meet personally with Cubas.

On March 18, during a speech to the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California, Price decried voter identification laws passed in other parts of the country and warned that the U.S. Supreme Court could strike down the Voting Rights Act. Then Price, who is African American, made a reference to Cubas, a Latina.

"Even in this campaign, we have an opponent who is committed to dividing the 9th [District] along racial lines," he said. Price did not elaborate.

The speech touched a nerve in a district that is nearly 80% Latino, but where African Americans make up more than 40% of registered voters. Former City Councilwoman Rita Walters, an African American who once represented the district and now supports Cubas, issued a public letter accusing Price of trying to demonize a "bridge builder."

"I am disturbed that a candidate … in a district where Latinos and African Americans have lived side by side for decades would utter remarks so clearly aimed at inciting friction between both groups of voters," Walters said.

Wesson, the council's first black president, also reacted, calling for a Monday meeting between the candidates at a restaurant at downtown's L.A. Live entertainment complex. Also attending the meeting was Eastside Councilman Jose Huizar, who is Latino and backing Cubas.

Afterward, Price told The Times he had spoken with Walters and reassured her the campaign would be focused on issues, not race. He also said he intended to send a different message in his speech to the clergy.

"The point I was trying to make is there is no room for racial animosity in the campaign," he said. "It shouldn't be exploited. That's really the point I was trying to make."

Last week, Price's campaign sent reporters a copy of his initial attack on Cubas, and a representative said he expected to back up Price's claim with examples. The campaign never did so.

Cubas said she was taken aback by Price's accusation. "I am very concerned about, as leaders, what kind of tone we set," she said. "And my tone and my themes have always been around unity" between different races.

If Cubas wins, it will be the first time in 50 years that the district won't have a black council member. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who replaced Walters in 2001, will step down June 30 because of term limits.

Price's March 18 remarks were recorded and posted on the Baptist Ministers Conference website. That's the same site that eight months ago posted video of Wesson discussing efforts to ensure that the district continues to be represented by an African American. Wesson told the ministers' group that if they came together "as a people," they could replace Perry with "someone who looks like you, who looks like me."

Wesson said Tuesday that he suspected Price had made his original comments about Cubas based on "unvetted" information. He predicted that the candidates would be "sensitive" about their comments in coming weeks before the May 21 election. "Curren's going to need Latino votes, and Ana will need African American votes," he said.

Walters, the former councilwoman, said she was satisfied with Price's effort to make amends.

"He made a commitment that it would never happen again," she said.


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Accused killer tried to sell stained rug, witness says

A man charged with the cold-case murder of his San Marino landlady's adult son in the mid-1980s tried to sell an Oriental rug that appeared to have a bloodstain on it around the time the victim and his wife disappeared, witnesses testified Tuesday.

Bettie Brown told the court that Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, whom she knew as Christopher Chichester, tried to sell the rug sometime in 1985 and that she told him there was a rust-colored spot that looked like blood.

"He just rolled it up, rolled up the rug and left," Brown testified.

Her husband, Robert, also testified that Gerhartsreiter did not deny the stain was blood.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian has argued that the lack of denial was a tacit admission by Gerhartsreiter that the stain was blood. But a defense attorney noted that Gerhartsreiter never verbally identified the stain as blood.

"You don't know that that was blood, do you?" attorney Brad Bailey asked Bettie Brown.

"Not absolutely," she replied.

The prosecution contends that Gerhartsreiter killed John Sohus, whose decomposed body was dug up in a San Marino backyard in 1994, nearly a decade after he and his wife, Linda, vanished.

Soon after the remains were discovered, forensic experts identified blood on the concrete floor of a guest house on the property owned by John Sohus' mother, with whom the couple lived. The prosecutor told jurors last week that the stains would have been caused by a significant amount of blood — or cleaning solution on blood — soaking through the carpet padding. One expert testified that she could not tell how long the blood had been there, to whom it belonged or whether it was human blood.

Gerhartsreiter had been living in the guest house until he disappeared shortly after the Sohuses did in 1985. He resurfaced soon afterward on the East Coast under a series of new names, including Clark Rockefeller. Linda has never been found, and Gerhartsreiter's legal team has argued that she could have killed her husband.

Linda was working at Dangerous Visions, a fantasy science fiction bookstore in Sherman Oaks, and had agreed to help her boss by opening the store for a few days when she disappeared, the store's owner, Lydia Marano, testified.

Adding to the mystery was that sometime after Linda's disappearance, Marano received a phone call from someone saying Linda had listed her as a job reference and another call from someone who said she was listed by Linda as a credit check reference.

Marano also received a postcard from France that said: "Hi Lydia — Not quite New York, but not bad — See you later — Linda & John." Marano said the postcard's message made little sense because Linda had never mentioned going to New York and did not have the money to travel to Europe.

The postcard was one of three mailed to Linda's family and friends in the spring of 1985. Balian told jurors last week that Linda probably wrote the cards but said it was unclear under what circumstances. He accused Gerhartsreiter of using someone to mail the postcards from France to throw off police investigating the couple's disappearance, while defense attorneys say Linda could have sent them from abroad.

A neighbor of the Sohuses on Lorain Road also testified that she noticed a foul-smelling dark smoke coming from the chimney of the guest house next door. Mary Cologne told the court that she phoned Gerhartsreiter to ask what was going on.

"I'm burning carpet," she said he told her. "I said, 'You don't burn carpet. You throw it away. Please stop! You're reeking up the neighborhood.' "

Cologne could not recall exactly when she saw the smoke and estimated it was in the fall of 1984 or early spring of 1985. Friends and relatives of the Sohuses last saw the couple in February 1985.



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Disabled man stuck on Disneyland 'Small World' ride awarded $8,000

By Ari Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times

March 26, 2013, 9:22 p.m.

A disabled man who was stuck inside Disneyland's "It's a Small World" ride after it broke down — though the music played on — has sued the amusement park and been awarded $8,000, the man's attorney said Tuesday.

Santa Monica-based attorney David Geffen said his paraplegic client, L.A. County resident Jose Martinez, 52, went to Disneyland with his wife for the first time since he was a child on Nov. 27, 2009.

They were having a great time, Geffen said, but the "It's a Small World" ride "stopped working as he was just exiting the goodbye tunnel. The music was still blaring."

"They started evacuating other guests and weren't evacuating him," Geffen said. "They said they couldn't move him out of the cave.... They didn't summon the Fire Department right way."

Martinez was stuck on the ride for about 30 minutes, and then required medical assistance.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. Geffen said the court awarded $4,000 for pain and suffering and $4,000 related to other access violations.

"Disneyland Resort believes it provided all appropriate assistance ... and is disappointed that the court did not fully agree," said Suzi Brown, spokeswoman for Disneyland Resort.

Geffen said Martinez's disabilities took a back seat as the couple enjoyed the park, but then "hit him hard and right in the face as soon as the ride broke down."


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LAPD can have Manson-related tapes, judge rules

A federal judge has ruled that the Los Angeles Police Department can have 40-year-old taped conversations between one of Charles Manson's most fervent followers and his late attorney to see if they can help solve more murders.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Schell ruled Sunday that Charles "Tex" Watson waived his right to attorney-client privilege when he allowed the lawyer to sell the tapes to an author who wrote a book about Watson, who was convicted of several murders.

LAPD robbery-homicide detectives are seeking the tapes because they believe that during the several hours of conversations, Watson "may have discussed additional unsolved murders committed by followers of Charles Manson."

Investigators believe the so-called Manson family may have been responsible for more than the nine murders they were convicted of four decades ago. Over the years, everyone from Manson himself to his prosecutors have said his followers were connected to more killings.

The judge's ruling affirms a bankruptcy judge's decision last year that the LAPD can have the tapes of Watson and attorney Bill Boyd, who died in 2009. The tapes were found when Boyd's old law firm filed for bankruptcy. Watson, however, appealed that ruling, claiming they were privileged.

Schell, however, said Watson's decision to sell the tapes to Chaplain Ray, Watson's coauthor of the 1978 book "Will You Die for Me? The Man Who Killed for Charles Manson Tells His Own Story" waived his attorney-client privilege. The judge also noted that Watson was by his own motion willing to allow police to hear the tapes but not take them.

LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said the LAPD will send detectives to Texas to pick up the tapes once Watson's 30 days to appeal the decision expire.

"We are looking forward to getting these tapes and thoroughly analyzing their content," he said. "We owe it to the victims and their families to ensure every facet of the case is thoroughly and completely investigated."

Watson has denied the tapes will reveal any additional killings. He is serving a life sentence for killing actress Sharon Tate and four others.

Manson prosecutor Stephen Kay said Manson bragged about additional murders. Over the years, questions have persisted about a man's apparent suicide in England, the drowning of an attorney in Ventura County and whether bodies are buried at the California ranches the cult called home.

The murders for which the Manson family were convicted all occurred in the summer of 1969. In late July, Gary Hinman, 34, a musician, was stabbed to death. About a week later in early August, four Manson followers — Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian — made their way to the Benedict Canyon estate rented by Tate and her husband, director Roman Polanski. There they killed Tate, 26; Steven Parent, 18; Jay Sebring, 35; Voytek Frykowski, 32; and coffee heiress Abigail Folger, 25.

Later, Manson himself entered the Los Feliz home of Leno LaBianca, 44, owner of a small supermarket chain, and his 38-year-old wife, Rosemary, and tied them up. He left them to die at the hands of Watson, Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, who wielded knives and forks from the LaBianca kitchen. Spahn Ranch hand Donald "Shorty" Shea was killed later and his body concealed on the ranch for years.

Schell's ruling came as a follower of Manson, Craig Carlisle Hammond, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of trying to smuggle a cellphone into Corcoran State Prison for the 78-year-old Manson, who has been caught twice before with a cellphone. Hammond was arrested on three charges and faces a court date next month.


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Farmworkers' new home is near Duroville, yet a world away

Written By kolimtiga on Selasa, 26 Maret 2013 | 12.56

Los Angeles Times

THERMAL, Calif. — Maria Mendez watched from the front stoop as her 2-year-old daughter toddled back from the ice cream truck down the street, clutching a brightly wrapped treat in her tiny fist.

It was a simple, joyful moment for a young mother who rarely let her little girl out of the house just a few months ago.

That's when they lived in Duroville, a ramshackle mobile home park choking with dust, the stench of busted sewer lines and noxious smoke billowing from the neighboring dump. Her daughter, also named Maria, was plagued by a hacking cough soothed only by a mist of medicine from an asthma machine.

That machine has been stowed away in the closet since November, when the family left Duroville and moved into Mountain View Estates, a neighborhood of 181 new, government-subsidized homes carved out of a field of date palms. It was built as a refuge solely for the hundreds of families living in Duroville, which a federal judge three years ago ordered shut down.

The new community is just a 10-minute drive from Duroville, but the true distance can't be measured in mere miles. The air-conditioned, three-bedroom modular homes still smell of fresh paint and clean carpets. They have laundry rooms, modern kitchens and plumbing that works. The neighborhood includes a freshly mowed soccer field, shaded playground and a community center with a gym and computer lab — accommodations unfamiliar to many of the immigrant farmworkers moving in.

"I am so relieved to be here," said Mendez, 25, who, like her husband, picks table grapes, lemons and other crops grown on the abundant farmland of the Coachella Valley. "They have streets here, not just dirt roads. It's quiet. It's nice.''

She had lived in Duroville since she was 15, when her parents moved to the U.S. from Mexico. Like many of the other 4,000 people wedged into the desert slum, Mendez and her family were hoveled in a broken-down trailer without heat or air conditioning. Toilets backed up often, the tap water was suspect, and feral dogs roamed freely. To give her daughter a hot bath, she plopped a pot of water on a propane burner outside and then hauled it in.

More than 70 families already have moved from Duroville to Mountain View Estates, and 38 more are approved and just waiting until their new, modular homes are finished. Once a family moves, a demolition crew working for Riverside County comes in and flattens its old home in Duroville. The decrepit trailers often crumble with just a nudge from a bulldozer.

"John F. Kennedy was in the White House when many of these trailers were built," said Tom Flynn, the court-appointed receiver for Duroville. "Every time one of them disappears, it's a victory.''

Duroville sprang up in the late 1990s after the county began closing hundreds of illegal trailer parks throughout the eastern Coachella Valley. Latino farmworkers along with thousands of Purepechas, a people indigenous to the Mexican state of Michoacan, hauled their trailers onto Indian land, which was exempt from county code enforcement.

Duroville, also known as Desert Mobile Home Park, was the most notorious — with raw sewage in the streets, a tangled web of electrical wires and a huge toxic-waste dump next door. The land belonged to Harvey Duro Sr., allotted to him by the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indian tribe, of which Duro is a member. Duro could not be reached for comment.

U.S. District Judge Stephen G. Larson in 2009 ordered Duroville shut down, but only after residents were given the time and opportunity to find adequate alternative housing. Evicting the 4,000 residents immediately, he said, would lead to a "major humanitarian crisis" and the greatest migration in this state's history since the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

As court executor, Flynn has been charged with keeping the park safe and secure for the last three years, calling in crews to replace the entire electrical system, repair constant sewer and water pipe breaks and alleviate foot-high flooding during the rainy season. Riverside County animal control officers rounded up dozens of strays, some left behind and others dumped there.

"The first six months I was here, six homes burned to the ground. They're gone in minutes," Flynn said.

More than $28 million in county, federal and private funds were invested in Mountain View Estates to provide Duroville residents with a refuge. The project was delayed more than half a year when the state and county wrestled over $9.9 million in redevelopment funds to buy the homes, a dispute resolved in late 2012.

Families moving in pay $425 a month, plus water and utilities. Many were paying $450 a month in Duroville — up to $600 in the summer, if their trailers had air conditioning.

"These are hard-working people. They work in the fields all day, and their kids go to school,'' said Bobby Melkesian, the private developer who cleared some of his date palm groves to build Mountain View. "They are really rising to the opportunity they've been given.... They don't have much, but they take care of what they do have.''

The fate of some still living in Duroville remains unresolved. All of the trailers are expected to be gone by summer, but 32 families remain behind — even though county officials have offered to help them find new places to live. Others left Duroville for other mobile home parks and communities.

Why anyone would still want to live in Duroville is a mystery to Francisco Zamora Vicente, 48, who left there for Mountain View Estates two weeks ago. Vicente, who works in the fields, lives in his new home with this wife, two sons and grandchildren. He overslept his first morning there because the neighborhood was so quiet, he said.

After migrating from Mexico and living in Duroville for almost a decade, Vicente finally feels like he's arrived.

"We finally made it to the USA," he said.


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Couple's relationship a focus in trial of Rockefeller impostor

John and Linda Sohus told friends they wanted to move out.

They had been married a little over a year and talked about leaving the house they shared with John's mother in San Marino.

When Linda's close friend Susan Coffman visited the home in the mid-1980s, she asked why the Sohuses did not live in the property's guesthouse in the backyard.

"There's a renter who lives there, and we don't talk to him because he's kind of creepy," Linda told her, Coffman testified Monday.

Prosecutors contend that the renter, Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, murdered John Sohus, whose decomposed body was dug up in 1994, nearly a decade after John and Linda Sohus vanished. Gerhartsreiter — then known as Christopher Chichester —disappeared shortly after the Sohuses in 1985, surfacing on the East Coast under a series of new names, including Clark Rockefeller.

The relationship between John and Linda Sohus has become a crucial theme of the trial, which entered its second week Monday. Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian has portrayed them as a young couple in love, while Gerhartsreiter's attorneys argue that Linda may have killed her husband, noting that she has never been found.

Coffman described the Sohuses as "two contented puppies" who were "happy to be in each other's presence." Coffman was the maid of honor in the Sohuses' Halloween 1983 wedding, which was at her house, she said.

Defense attorneys questioned how much Coffman — who said she saw the couple only a few times in the year before their disappearance — knew about their relationship.

In early 1985, Linda made plans to attend a science fiction convention in Phoenix in March with Coffman. Shortly afterward, Coffman said, Linda phoned to say she and John were taking a two-week trip to New York because he'd gotten a job with the government that she couldn't say much about. Linda promised they would be back in time for the convention.

Coffman never saw them again.

Coffman received an unexpected postcard from Linda and John around April 1985 with a photo of the Eiffel Tower. Its message was short: "Hi Sue — Kinda missed New York (oops) — but this can be lived with — John & Linda."

The postcard was one of three that appears to have been written by Linda and mailed to family and friends from France. Balian has accused Gerhartsreiter of using someone to mail the postcards from France to throw off police investigating the couple's disappearance, while defense attorneys say Linda could have sent them from abroad.

A Los Angeles County sheriff's criminalist testified that DNA tests showed that an unknown man had licked the stamps on two of the postcards. The tests show that neither Gerhartsreiter nor Linda Sohus licked the stamps, she said.

Patrick Rayermann, a close childhood friend of John Sohus, also testified that he never saw the couple fight. "They seemed very much in love with each other," Rayermann said.

Rayermann acknowledged, however, that Linda felt frustrated about living with John's mother, whom Rayermann described as surly and difficult to get along with. Linda, he said, was more eager to move out, while John also worried about his mother's welfare and how she would react.

The prosecutor told jurors that Linda told another witness around late January or early February 1985 that she and her husband were going to New York because they had "top-secret jobs" and that John would be working with satellites. Linda said her husband had already departed and that she would follow him.



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In S.F., an uphill battle for a 'freeway for bikes'

SAN FRANCISCO — Russian Hill's Velvet Da Vinci gallery, which offers an array of edgy jewelry and metalwork, has been doing brisk business lately in "Save Polk St." T-shirts.

Neighboring shops have signs in their display windows warning that a "radical agenda" threatens the shopping district, where residents can get shoes fixed at Frank's, fill pantries at Real Food Co., sip a Soju cocktail at Amelie or buy a silicone sex toy at Good Vibrations.

Just what is jeopardizing the vital north-south corridor — which provides a flat route, by San Francisco standards — from the Civic Center to the bay?

An ambitious street redesign that many residents and business owners say could strip the majority of curbside parking spots from a 20-block commercial stretch, replacing them with bike lanes and miniature parks.

To urban planners and bicycle enthusiasts, Polk Street is a key to San Francisco's 4-decade-old "transit-first" policy, designed to reduce the reliance on private cars in the second-most-densely populated city in the U.S.

But to the more than 300 vocal denizens of Polk Gulch, who packed a standing-room-only neighborhood meeting last week, the proposal is a commerce killer, one that would create "a freeway for bikes," with little benefit to shops along the route.

"The agenda is that they really want to get rid of cars," Velvet Da Vinci co-owner Mike Holmes said. "There's no better way of doing that than making sure there [is] no place to park.… This is social engineering on a really crazy scale."

Officials seemed taken aback by the anger at the Middle Polk Neighborhood Assn. gathering. Every seat in the Old First Presbyterian Church's community room was filled. The crowd stood several deep along the walls and spilled out into the corridor.

Audience members jeered when Edward D. Reiskin, the city's transportation director, couldn't say how many of the 320 curbside parking spots along Polk could be taken out under the plan.

"I don't have that data," he said to loud boos, before going with "something like 170" maximum. The response from the crowd was more of the same.

Only a few of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's 12,000 members seemed to be in attendance, and they remained largely silent — "intimidated" was how several attendees described it. The bike proponents who did speak were met with disdain.

Adrienne Schroeder, a 36-year-old neighborhood resident, argued that a cycling thoroughfare was a kind of Darwinian opportunity for the century-old commercial district. To the merchants who might be forced to close their doors, she said, "We'll fill your spot if you don't survive. This is an opportunity to create more businesses."

Transportation politics have never been smooth in San Francisco, a graceful, hilly city where activism is a contact sport. A populist "freeway revolt" more than half a century ago kept the broad thoroughfares to a minimum here.

So although bicyclists decry what they say are unsafe, poorly maintained streets, many motorists say they too feel under attack. They cite the city's efforts to roll out new parking meters and the axing of free curbside parking Sundays. And they complain bitterly about what they view as bad cycling behavior.

Chris Bucchere has become Exhibit A in the argument. On Thursday, the 36-year-old cyclist and software engineer pleaded not guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter for striking and killing an elderly pedestrian in a crosswalk last year.

But amid all the disagreement, the transit-first policy is clear: "Within San Francisco, travel by public transit, by bicycle and on foot must be an attractive alternative to travel by private automobile."

To that end, 25 miles of bike paths have been created in the last three years. And officials have passed ambitious transit goals. Fifty percent of all travel within the city's 49 square miles should be by something other than private vehicles by 2018, and 20% should be via bike by 2020.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the bike coalition, noted that certain neighborhoods are well on the way. In the Mission District, she said, 15% of all commutes are by bicycle.

"Even with relatively meager investments in bicycle infrastructure, we're seeing significant increases in the number of people biking," she said. "The city has already laid out its big-picture goals. [Polk Street] is a piece of the greater goal."

During last week's meeting, Reiskin told the restive audience that improved safety for cyclists and pedestrians was key to the redesign.

The street has one of the higher rates of collisions in the city, he said. "Once a month, a pedestrian or cyclist is getting hit by a car.… That's not good for anyone."

Polk needs repaving, and a 2011 bond measure has provided money to resurface the street and redesign it at the same time. Under consideration are separated bike paths, boarding islands for buses and expanded parklets to calm traffic, among other measures.

The Metropolitan Transportation Agency has estimated that under the plan, only a small fraction of the 2,100 on-street spots within a block of Polk would be lost.

Even so, hand-made signs in local shops warn that the city wants to "remove 20 blocks of street parking.… If you want the restaurants, shops and services on Polk Street to survive, make your voice heard. Save Polk Street from this misguided experiment!"

During the raucous gathering, at least one self-described "hard-core" cyclist agreed.

"What good are bike lanes if there are no businesses to get to," asked Blair, who would only give his first name. "Polk Street is not a dangerous street to ride on unless you're an irresponsible cyclist."

But Madeleine Savit, a 61-year-old resident, countered that "many other places where these kind of initiatives have been put in — and let me say, cities all over the world can't get them in fast enough — their businesses are booming."

The audience booed.


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San Bernardino airport developer indicted on corruption charges

The former lead developer of the oft-plagued San Bernardino International Airport was indicted for allegedly hatching a conspiracy to siphon $1.75 million from the public airport authority, prosecutors said Monday.

Developer Scot Spencer and one of his alleged investors, Felice G. Luciano, falsified the lease of an aircraft to the Democratic National Committee in the plot to collect the money, according to an indictment.

Spencer, 48, was arrested in Boca Raton, Fla., on Friday, and the San Bernardino County district attorney's office is seeking his extradition to California. Luciano remains at large.

Dist. Atty. Michael Ramos said his investigation into allegations of fraud at the airport — the former Norton Air Force Base — remains active.

Ramos said it appeared that Spencer and Luciano duped members of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, a panel of elected officials from the county and surrounding cities working to transform the base into civilian use.

"They took the passion of those people who wanted to turn it around and used that passion as their own piggy bank to live this lavish lifestyle of travel, of expensive items, over $1.2 million that they stole from these people that really wanted to do the job at San Bernardino International Airport," Ramos said at a news conference. "It's an unconscionable crime."

Along with conspiracy to commit grand theft, Spencer was charged with perjury and filing false documents. If convicted of all charges, Spencer and Luciano face up to five years in state prison, Ramos said.

The indictments are the latest blow to the ill-fated attempts to transform the base, which was shuttered in 1994.

In September 2011, the FBI raided the airport authority and the Inland Valley Development Agency in San Bernardino — agencies accused of rampant mismanagement and questionable financial oversight in a county grand jury investigation. Both agencies oversee the development of the airport.

Among the findings in the civil grand jury report was that Spencer received millions of dollars in questionable contracts from the airport authority. When brought in to develop the airport, Spencer already was a convicted felon who had served time in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud and was banned from the aviation industry by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales, an airport authority member, on Monday said redevelopment of the base has been critical to revitalizing the region's ailing economy. The effort succeeded in bringing millions of square feet of warehousing and logistics facilities to the base, but attempts to establish a successful civilian airport were undercut by Spencer, she said.

"Unfortunately, the unscrupulous business practices of Scot Spencer have tainted much of the good work done at the airport," Gonzales said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

When the airport authority learned of the investigation of Spencer, it did "everything legally possible to distance itself" from him, including terminating all contracts with Spencer's companies, hiring a new executive director and filing legal action against Spencer to recover funds he still owed the agency, she said.

According to the indictment, Spencer, through an attorney, in July 2008 filed a false claim with the airport authority for $1.75 million. Spencer alleged that two of his affiliated companies based at the airport were forced to cancel an aircraft lease agreement with the Democratic National Committee because of the airport's inability to provide a hangar, which his firms had a legal right to use.

In March 2010, Spencer met Luciano at the Blue Water Grill in New York City and had Luciano sign a false, backdated contract stating that one of Spencer's companies was leasing an aircraft to a company called Unique Aviation Properties, with in turn was leasing the plane to the DNC, the indictment stated. That falsified contract was then turned over to authorities investigating the airport's finances.

A.J. Wilson, the airport authority's interim executive director, said that after Spencer submitted his claim, the authority agreed to a settlement that amounted to more than $1 million. The authority has since taken legal action to recover the public funds, and provided evidence to the FBI, he said.

"We worked very hard over the last year to eliminate Mr. Spencer's presence from our airport," Wilson said.

DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said the political committee never leased any aircraft from Spencer or any companies named in the indictment.

The investigation of the airport was conducted by a special joint task force, including the U.S. attorney's office and FBI, set up in 2010 to deal with corruption allegations in San Bernardino County.


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