Monthly Archives: October 2011

Swim coach gets prison for sex with underage girl

A swim coach was sentenced Friday to 16 months in state prison for having sex with a 15-year-old female student, authorities said.

Todd Robert Sousa, 37, of Irvine pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts of lewd acts on a child, three felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse and two misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, according to Orange County Superior Court records.

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Todd Sousa

Along with his prison sentence, Sousa will be required to register as a sex offender, according to a written release from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

Sousa co-owned and taught swim classes for Orange County-based Swim Ventures, which offered lessons in leased pools. He was also a youth coach for the Aquazot Swim Club in Irvine.

Prosecutors say Sousa groomed the 15-year-old girl and had “unlawful sexual contact with her” after they met while he was working as a swim instructor. The contact escalated to sexual intercourse on several occasions between April 1, 2010, and Feb. 18, authorities said.

On Feb. 18, prosecutors say Sousa picked up the girl and her friend from the Irvine Spectrum and drove them to the Swim Venture office, where they allege that he gave them alcohol before taking the girl to another room to have sex while her friend waited outside. The girl’s parents learned of the incident from the friend’s parents, and contacted authorities.

Several concerned parents and students came forward after Sousa was arrested, and other swim students were interviewed, but no additional charges were filed.

The girl’s mother and stepfather in a victim-impact statement given during Friday’s sentencing hearing indicated that their daughter had once been an avid swimmer but now avoids swimming and is depressed, according to the District Attorney’s Office release.


Border Patrol: $24,000 worth of marijuana found in car

SAN CLEMENTE – A 26-year-old man was caught with more than $24,000 worth of marijuana at a Border Patrol checkpoint on the 5 Freeway near San Clemente, authorities announced Friday.

Agents pulled over the driver of a silver 1997 Isuzu Rodeo on Wednesday after becoming suspicious of his “nervous demeanor,” according to a written release from the Border Patrol.

Article Tab: Duffel bag and brown bag holding marijuana were seized by agents near the San Clemente checkpoint.
Duffel bag and brown bag holding marijuana were seized by agents near the San Clemente checkpoint.

A Border Patrol dog found a black duffel bag containing marijuana during a search of the vehicle, authorities said. The bag reportedly contained six bundles of marijuana weighing a combined 48.94 pounds, which authorities say has a street value of about $24,470.

The driver, who authorities identified only as a U.S. citizen, was taken into custody. The marijuana and the vehicle were seized by Border Patrol.

The San Clemente checkpoint bust was one of several by the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector since Saturday, resulting in the seizure of about $397,648 worth of cocaine and marijuana. The other seizures occurred at the Border Patrol checkpoints near Fallbrook and the Tecate Port of Entry.


Suicide bomber kills 13 Americans

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban suicide bomber rammed a van into an armored NATO bus Saturday, killing 13 American troops and four Afghans on a busy street in Kabul in the deadliest attack on coalition forces in more than two months and a major setback for the U.S.-led coalition as it begins to draw down combat troops.

The explosion sparked a fireball and littered the street with shrapnel and twisted metal hulks. Heavy black smoke poured from burning wreckage at the site along the four-lane highway frequently used by foreign military trainers in the southwestern section of the city.

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A U.S. soldier reacts while seen at the site of a suicide car bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday. A suicide car bomber struck a NATO convoy on the outskirts of Kabul on Saturday, killing 13 American troops and causing casualties among the NATO service members and Afghan civilians, the U.S.-led coalition said. Afghan officials said three civilians and one policeman were killed.

Underscoring the difficulties ahead, the brazen assault occurred on the same day that top NATO and Afghan officials were meeting elsewhere in Kabul to discuss the second phase of shifting security responsibilities to Afghan forces in all or part of 17 of the country’s 34 provinces.

It also was a blow to efforts by the U.S. and President Hamid Karzai to forge peace with the fundamentalist Taliban movement as NATO plans to withdraw all its combat troops from the country by the end of 2014, with support for the costly war reaching new lows in the West.

Saturday’s attack broke a relative lull in the Afghan capital, an area where NATO has already shifted security responsibilities to the Afghans. While checkpoints dot the central part of the city, attacks occasionally take place, with many blamed on the Haqqani network, an al-Qaida and Taliban-linked movement that operates out of Pakistan.

The Taliban said the bomber, Abdul Rahman, was driving a Toyota Land Cruiser SUV containing 1,540 pounds (700 kilograms) of explosives and targeting foreigners providing training for Afghan police. The Taliban, who frequently exaggerate casualty claims, said that 25 people were killed by the blast.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for another suicide bombing outside a government intelligence office in the northwest province of Kunar in which only the bomber was killed. In all, there were three attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, killing at least 21 people.

Elsewhere, a man wearing an Afghan military uniform opened fire on a joint NATO-Afghan base, killing three Australian service members in Uruzgan province, an area in the restive south that is traditionally viewed as the Taliban’s stronghold, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said officials were investigating whether the shooter, who was killed in the incident, was a member of the Afghan army or a militant wearing an army uniform.

In Kabul, the armored personnel carrier, known as a Rhino, was sandwiched between of a convoy of mine-resistant military vehicles traveling on the road, a major artery leading to the landmark Darulaman Palace, the bombed-out seat of former Afghan kings. The attack occurred near the entrance of the American University.

NATO said 13 service members were killed in the Kabul blast, but a U.S. official confirmed they were all Americans. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The Afghan Ministry of Interior said three Afghan civilians and one policeman also died in the attack. Eight other Afghans, including two children and four other civilians, were wounded, said Kabir Amiri, head of Kabul hospitals.

NATO and Afghan forces sealed off the area as fire trucks and ambulances rushed in. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw two NATO helicopters landing to airlift casualties, while coalition troops using loudspeakers ordered bystanders to evacuate the area.

It was the deadliest single attack against the U.S.-led coalition since the Taliban shot down a NATO helicopter on Aug. 6 in an eastern Afghan province, killing 30 U.S. troops, most elite Navy SEALs, and eight Afghans.

One witness, Noor Ahmad, said he saw a coalition soldier choking inside the burned bus.

“The bottom half of his body was burned,” Ahmad said.

Coalition troops were seen carrying three black body bags from the burned wreckage and one charred body on a stretcher toward the waiting helicopters.

A similar attack targeted a NATO convoy on the same road in May 2010, when a suicide bomber struck a convoy, killing 18 people, including five American troops, including colonels, and a Canadian. The Taliban, at the time, said the vehicle was packed with 1,650 pounds (750 kilograms) of explosives.

The most recent attack in Kabul occurred on Sept. 20, when an insurgent with a bomb hidden in his turban assassinated former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. The insurgent was posing as a peace emissary coming to meet Rabbani, who was leading a government effort to broker peace with the Taliban. Afghan officials blame the Haqqani for that incident.

Earlier Saturday, a female suicide bomber blew herself up as she tried to attack a local government office in the capital of Kunar province, a hotbed of militancy in northeast Afghanistan along the Pakistan border.

Abdul Sabor Allayar, deputy provincial police chief, said the guards outside the government’s intelligence office in Asad Abad became suspicious of the woman and started shooting, at which point she detonated her explosives.

No other casualties were reported in that attack.

Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces conducted operations earlier this month, killing more than 100 insurgents in an effort to curb violence in rugged areas of Kunar where the coalition and Afghan government have a light footprint.


Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann and Tarek El-Tablawy in Kabul and Lolita Baldor in Washington contributed.


Poker pro who killed parents subject of ‘Dateline NBC’

A double-murder case involving a professional poker player from Brea – convicted in the bludgeoning and stabbing death of his parents – will be the subject of “Dateline NBC” at 10 p.m. Friday.

Ernest Scherer III, 33, was sentenced in May to consecutive life terms for killing Ernest Scherer Jr., 60, and Charlene Abendroth, 57, in their Pleasanton home in March 2008.The couple may have been dead a week when their bodies were found in the 4,000-square-foot home in Castlewood Country Club.
Prosecutor Michael Nieto had said Scherer III killed his parents because he faced financial pressure from gambling debts in Las Vegas and from the purchase of the $880,000 Brea home.
The poker player stood to collect a $1.5 million inheritance.
The “Dateline NBC” story, as reported by correspondent Keith Morrison, is told through Scherer III’s former mistress, Adrian Solomon, who met the high roller in Las Vegas in 2006. Scherer III was married at the time, but Solomon said she was unaware of that.
“I looked to make sure he didn’t have a wedding ring as he started to flirt with me a little bit,” Solomon tells Morrison, recalling the day they met in a casino. “He gambled enough at the tables and had high enough status that he got free rooms, free meals and show tickets.”
According to public records, Scherer III owned a home on Primrose Avenue in Brea from August 2007 to September 2008.
That home was searched on March 22, 2008, according to the Contra Costa Times. Brea police Sgt. Bill Smyser confirmed that his department offered support during the search, which was conducted by Alameda County sheriff’s investigators. Scherer was arrested in Las Vegas on Feb. 23, 2009.
The convicted killer is listed on several poker websites. Bluff magazine lists Scherer’s winnings as $293,000 in tournaments over five years.


Man gets 55 years for luring, molesting boys

WESTMINSTER – An Anaheim man was sentenced Friday to 55 years to life in prison for using cigarettes, toys and potato chips to lure and sexually assault two young boys inside his apartment.

Judge William Evans sentenced Roberto Bedolla Ambriz, 55, at the West Justice Center for his conviction in March on multiple counts of sex with a minor and lewd or lascivious acts with a minor, which included a 9-year-old boy and a mentally disabled child.

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Roberto Bedolla Ambriz

Prosecutors said Ambriz lured the disabled boy, who was 10 when the abuse began, to his Anaheim apartment by letting him smoke cigarettes and eat potato chips. Ambriz also had the boys watch pornography while he sexually assaulted them.

He enticed the 9-year-old to come to his home in 2008 by offering him a toy, Senior Deputy District Attorney Heather Brown said.

The offenses with the disabled child happened from 2005 to 2008, she said.

Ambriz admitted to assaulting him when police approached Ambriz with a ruse that DNA evidence connected him to the crime, prosecutors said.

He pleaded not guilty to all charges, but was found guilty on multiple counts at a bench trial before Judge Evans.

“I am definitely pleased with the outcome,” Brown said. “Ambriz will never see the light of day, but the reality is that there’s no sentence that can change what he did to those young boys.”

Deputy Alternate Public Defender Raul Ramirez could not immediately be reached for comment.


Bosnia: U.S. Sarajevo Embassy Scene Of Shooting (WARNING: Graphic Video)

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — A man opened fire with an automatic weapon Friday in what authorities called a terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia. A policeman and the gunman were wounded, but the embassy said none of its employees was hurt.

Sarajevo Mayor Alija Behmen said the gunman “got off a tram with a Kalashnikov and started shooting at the American Embassy.” Witnesses told Bosnian television that the man urged pedestrians to move away, saying he was targeting only the embassy.

He wore a beard and was dressed in an outfit with short pants that reveal his ankles – typical for followers of the conservative Wahhabi branch of Islam.

One police officer guarding the building was wounded before police surrounded the gunman. After a 30-minute standoff, the sound of a single shot echoed and AP video showed the shooter slump to the ground.

Police arrested the wounded man – who one of Bosnia’s three presidents said is a foreigner – and took him away in an ambulance as pedestrians cowered behind buildings and vehicles. Hospital spokeswoman Biljana Jandric told The Associated Press the gunman had a minor wound to his leg, and would spend the night at the hospital before being released into police custody.

Bosnian TV identified the shooter as Mevlid Jasarevic, from Novi Pazar, Serbia. It said he is a Wahhabi follower. Serbian Interior Minister Ivica Dacic confirmed his identity.

The Wahhabis are an extremely conservative branch which is rooted in Saudi Arabia and linked to religious militants in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Western intelligence reports have alleged that the tense, impoverished area in Serbia, along with Muslim-dominated regions in Bosnia, are rich ground for recruiting so-called “white al-Qaida” – Muslims with Western features who could easily blend into European or U.S. cities and carry out attacks.

The Islamic extremists had joined Bosnia’s war for independence. They were largely tolerated by the U.S. and the West because of their opposition to late Serbia’s strongman Slobodan Milosevic’s quest to create “Greater Serbia” out of the former Yugoslav republics.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said several bullets struck the outside wall of the embassy, but that all embassy personnel were safe. She said the wounded police officer had been assigned to protect the embassy. Ambassador Patrick Moon expressed his gratitude for the swift response by the police.

“Our thoughts and prayers at this time are with those who put their lives on the line to protect the embassy,” Nuland told reporters.

Bakir Izetbegovic, one of Bosnia’s three presidents, issued a statement condemning “the terrorist attack on the embassy of the United States.”

“The United States is a proven friend of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Its government and its people supported us in the most difficult moments in our history and nobody has the right to jeopardize our relations,” he said.

Zeljko Komsic, chairman of Bosnia’s presidency, said the attacker is a foreigner previously known to police. He told AP that authorities have not yet determined whether the attack “was the act of an individual, or something organized.”

“But whatever it was, it is not just an attack on the U.S. Embassy or the U.S., it is also an attack on Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.

Bosnian Muslims are sensitive about their relations with the U.S. because it was the driving force behind the NATO military intervention and brokered a peace agreement that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.

Serbian police said Jasarevic was briefly arrested a year ago for brandishing “a large knife” during a visit by the U.S. Ambassador to Serbia and other Western envoys to Novi Pazar, the administrative capital of Sandzak in southern Serbia.


Conrad Murray drug expert may hold key to doctor’s defense

The most important defense witness -– and probably its last -– will resume testimony Friday in the trial of Michael Jackson’s physician, Dr. Conrad Murray.

Dr. Paul White’s early testimony Thursday was spent mostly laying out his credentials as an expert in propofol, the surgical anesthetic that led to the pop star’s death. It remains unclear exactly how his testimony would advance the defense case.

Even White acknowledge that he could not explain Murray’s treatment of Jackson.

“Let’s deal with the elephant in the room here,”defense attorney J. Michael Flanagan said to White on Thursday. “Conrad Murray has been accused of infusing a dose of propofol and leaving his patient. Can you justify that?”

Witnesses: Who’s who in the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray

“Absolutely not,” White replied.

Faced with blow after blow during the prosecution’s case, the exchange was a strong indication that the defense plans to concede that Murray provided substandard care to Jackson, but argue that it does not rise to involuntary manslaughter. Murray has pleaded not guilty to the charge of involuntary manslaughter.

White must counter blistering testimony from his longtime friend and fellow anesthesiology expert Steven Shafer.

Over the course of five days, Shafer told jurors that a massive intravenous dose of propofol was allowed to continue dripping into Jackson even after the pop star stopped breathing. He also said that the drug levels were 40 times more than Murray acknowledged administering during his interview with police.