Monthly Archives: November 2011

Conrad Murray Sentenced: Michael Jackson’s Doctor Gets 4 Years In Jail

Michael Jackson’s personal physician was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment in an L.A. County jail on Tuesday, capping a more than two-year legal journey investigating the King of Pop’s death.

Conrad Murray, 58, stood stone-faced as Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor declared him an unfit candidate for probation and pronounced the sentence for involuntary manslaughter in Jackson’s 2009 death, citing Murray’s involvement in what the judge called a “cycle of horrible medicine.”

“He has absolutely no sense of remorse,” the judge said. “[Murray] is and remains dangerous. … I think Dr. Murray is so reckless that I believe he is a danger to the community.”

Pastor said the court will order Dr. Murray to pay restitution to Jackson’s estate and children in an amount to be determined at a later restitution hearing when they can get more detailed information. Pastor also ordered $800 in restitution to the court, a $30 court security fee, and a $40 criminal conviction assessment.

“We know that Michael Jackson, as a direct result of the actions of Dr. Murray died on June 25, 2009, leaving his three children without their father,” Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney David Walgren said during the proceedings. “It is the people’s opinion that prison is warranted.”

“As his brothers and sisters we will never be able to hold, laugh or perform with our brother Michael,” said spokesman Brian Panish, delivering a collective statement from the Jackson family. “As his children we will grow up without a father, our best friend, our playmate and our dad. We are not here to seek revenge. There is nothing you can do today that will bring Michael back. But we will keep the love in our hearts that Michael embodied throughout his life. His passion was for unifying the world through the gift of his artistry. We respectfully request that you impose a sentence that reminds physicians that they cannot sell their services to the highest bidder and cast aside their Hippocratic Oath to do no harm. As we all know from this tragedy doing so can have devastating results.”

Defense attorney Edward Chernoff told the court Murray grew up dirt poor in the Caribbean, made his way to U.S. and put himself through college and medical school, saying, “That’s exactly what we want our neighbors and citizens to aspire to.”

“For 14 years he prepared for a life as a doctor. All he is is a doctor and now that’s gone. It’s his fault. I’m not saying it’s not but it is gone and if punishment is the point. If what you are really trying to determine is punishment as opposed to vengeance should that be taken into consideration at all? Dr. Murray, whether he is a barista for the rest of his life or a greeter at Walmart he still going to be the man that killed Michael Jackson. That’s really who he is now. He’s not a doctor. That’s who he is,” Chernoff said.

But Judge Pastor remained focused on the charges at hand and the doctor’s “medicine madness” when handing down the sentencing decision. “Some may feel this was a medical malpractice case. It wasn’t. It was and is a criminal homicide case,” he said. “Michael Jackson died not because of an isolated, one-off occurrence or incident. He died because of a totality of circumstances which are directly attributable to Dr. Murray.”

The California Department of Corrections will decide whether Murray will spend his time in a 23-hour lockdown cell or in the general jail population.

Jackson died at his home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles on June 25, 2009. The legendary entertainer was preparing for a series of 50 shows in London for a career comeback tour entitled “This Is It” when he went into cardiac arrest.

According to the Los Angeles County coroner, Jackson’s death was caused by “acute propofol intoxication” in combination with the use of two anti-anxiety benzodiazepines: lorazepam and midazolam.

During Murray’s six-week trial, the prosecution insisted that Jackson’s $150,000-a-month private doctor behaved recklessly by using a surgical anesthetic to treat Jackson’s insomnia and was therefore criminally negligent in the performer’s death.

Murray acknowledged giving the 50-year-old singer propofol as a sleep aid but denied any wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

Walgren told jurors that the pop star “literally put his life in the hands of Dr. Conrad Murray.” Walgren added, “That misplaced trust in the hands of Conrad Murray cost Michael Jackson his life.”

Murray’s defense counsel contended Jackson was so desperate for sleep that he administered the fatal doses of propofol and sedatives to himself when Murray was not watching.

“When Dr. Murray left the room, Michael Jackson self-administered a dose of propofol that, with the lorazepam, created a perfect storm in his body that killed him instantly,” Chernoff, said during the trial.

Prosecutors said it made no difference who administered the drugs since it was Murray who brought them into the bedroom and, in the defense’s scenario, left Jackson alone with them.

The jury of seven men and five women sat through 22 days of testimony from Jackson’s employees, paramedics, doctors, investigators, medical experts and a number of Murray’s girlfriends and patients. The jury deliberated for more than eight hours over two days before concluding that the evidence was sufficient beyond any reasonable doubt that Murray caused the singer’s death.

Murray declined to testify during his trial and showed no emotion when the guilty verdict was read.

Several of Jackson’s family members routinely attended the trial. Following the verdict, his mother, Katherine Jackson, exited the courthouse and declared, “Justice is served.”

Murray’s mother, Milta Rush, sent a letter to Judge Pastor prior to today’s sentencing, speaking of her son’s fine qualities and begging for mercy.

“He has never been in trouble with the law before and I am barely standing, scared and worried sick about him being incarcerated … He never drank alcohol, took drugs or smoked cigarettes in his life,” Rush wrote in the letter — a copy of which was obtained by TMZ.

Rush added, “I sympathize with Mrs. Jackson as a mother; I feel her pain for having lost her son. I sense she was very close to her son. I really wanted to approach her personally and tell her I am sorry for the loss of her son but I was unsure if she would be receptive, and I did not want to take the chance of violating the courts rules. I am sorry for her loss.”

Murray’s legal team plans to file an appeal.


Not guilty plea in Seal Beach shootings

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SANTA ANA – The disgruntled ex-husband who is charged with killing his ex-wife and seven others in a Seal Beach beauty salon on Oct. 12 in Orange County’s deadliest mass shooting pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning at his continued arraignment.

Scott Evans Dekraai, 42, stood in a mustard-colored jail uniform in a courtroom holding cell as his lawyer — Deputy Public Defender Scott Sanders — denied all charges and allegations and asked for a preliminary hearing for April 24.

Dekraai, who is being held without bail in the case which could lead to a death sentence, was emotionless throughout the one-minute hearing before Superior Court Judge Erick Larsh, speaking only when asked if he agreed to postpone his preliminary hearing for five months.

Nearly 30 friends and relatives of the slaying victims sat teary-eyed in the first four rows of Larsh’s courtroom. Several hugged each other afterward as tears streamed down their faces.

Later, several supporters talked with reporters.

Paul Wilson, the husband of victim Christy Wilson, said the attention should be focused on the families and friends of the victims who continue to suffer in the aftermath of the killing spree, and not on Dekraai.

“He is a coward whose soul has been in hell for a very, very long time,” Wilson said.

Dekraai, who has grown a full beard since his initial court appearance, is charged with the special circumstances murders of eight people during a two-minute bloodbath at the Salon Meritage on Pacific Coast Highway shortly after 1 p.m. on Oct. 12. Seal Beach police say he entered the salon armed with three guns after arguing with his ex-wife, Michelle Fournier – a stylist at the salon – over the custody of their 8-year-old son.

Fournier, 48, was the first to die, shot at close range, according to authorities, as she attended to a longtime customer and friend.

Dekraai then shot her customer – Christy Wilson, who also worked at the salon – and then Randy Fannin, the shop’s owner, according to his confession to police after his arrest. Dekraai then turned his guns on other employees and customers before he walked out of the salon and got into his pickup, according to police. He also shot and killed a man sitting in his parked Land Rover in the parking lot before driving away, police said.

He was arrested about a half-mile from the crime scene after several witnesses pointed out his pickup to Seal Beach police, who were summoned by several 911 calls. Dekraai, a former tugboat crewman, surrendered without resistance to the patrolman who pulled him over, and quickly said, “I know what I did,” according to court documents.

Before the day was over, Dekraai told Seal Beach police detectives that he had argued that morning with Fournier on the phone over their custody arrangement for their son, and then armed himself with three guns and drove to the beach to ponder killing his ex-wife.

Dekraai confessed to driving to Salon Meritage, and launching the shooting spree, according to a detective’s affidavit in support of a search warrant. He told detectives that several of the victims were “collateral damage” after he killed his wife, according to the search warrant.

He also admitted shooting Dave Caouette in his parked Land Rover because he thought Caouette was a plainclothes or undercover police office, according to the search warrant.

Several witnesses also indentified Dekraai – who is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs more than 250 pounds – as the hulking gunman who systematically shot employees and customers.

Sanders, whose office was appointed to represent Dekraai at the last court hearing, agreed with Deputy District Attorney Scott Simmons to the April 24 preliminary hearing, which will test the evidence to determine if Dekraai should stand trial. But Sanders also told Larsh that he felt it was unlikely that he would be ready to proceed on that day.

Simmons said that preliminary hearing was set five months off because of the complexities of the case, which have generated thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of interviews of potential witnesses.

The prosecutor said his office is developing information in anticipation of an insanity defense, although Sanders has not mentioned that as a possibility yet.

Several relatives and friends of Michelle Fournier told reporters in the impromptu press conference that they were angered over early media reports that appeared to criticize her parenting of Dominic, her 8-year-old son, with Dekraai.

They said they were particularly upset over reports from the search warrant where detectives quoted Dekraai as claiming the boy would be covered in bruises after being with his mom.

“That’s bull,” said Butch Fournier, one of Michelle’s brothers. “She was a terrific mom.”


Horse Meat Inspection Ban Lifted In The U.S.

TULSA, Okla. — Horses could soon be butchered in the U.S. for human consumption after Congress quietly lifted a 5-year-old ban on funding horse meat inspections, and activists say slaughterhouses could be up and running in as little as a month.

Slaughter opponents pushed a measure cutting off funding for horse meat inspections through Congress in 2006 after other efforts to pass outright bans on horse slaughter failed in previous years. Congress lifted the ban in a spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Nov. 18 to keep the government afloat until mid-December.

It did not, however, allocate any new money to pay for horse meat inspections, which opponents claim could cost taxpayers $3 million to $5 million a year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture would have to find the money in its existing budget, which is expected to see more cuts this year as Congress and the White House aim to trim federal spending.

The USDA issued a statement Tuesday saying there are no slaughterhouses in the U.S. that butcher horses for human consumption now, but if one were to open, it would conduct inspections to make sure federal laws were being followed. USDA spokesman Neil Gaffney declined to answer questions beyond what was in the statement.

The last U.S. slaughterhouse that butchered horses closed in 2007 in Illinois, and animal welfare activists warned of massive public outcry in any town where a slaughterhouse may open.

“If plants open up in Oklahoma or Nebraska, you’ll see controversy, litigation, legislative action and basically a very inhospitable environment to operate,” predicted Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States. “Local opposition will emerge and you’ll have tremendous controversy over slaughtering Trigger and Mr. Ed.”

But pro-slaughter activists say the ban had unintended consequences, including an increase in neglect and the abandonment of horses, and that they are scrambling to get a plant going – possibly in Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska or Missouri. They estimate a slaughterhouse could open in 30 to 90 days with state approval and eventually as many as 200,000 horses a year could be slaughtered for human consumption. Most of the meat would be shipped to countries in Europe and Asia, including France and Japan.

Dave Duquette, president of the nonprofit, pro-slaughter group United Horsemen, said no state or site has been picked yet but he’s lined up plenty of investors who have expressed interest in financing a processing plant. While the last three slaughterhouses in the U.S. were owned by foreign companies, he said a new plant would be American-owned.

“I have personally probably five to 10 investors that I could call right now if I had a plant ready to go,” said Duquette, who lives in Hermiston, Ore. He added, “If one plant came open in two weeks, I’d have enough money to fund it. I’ve got people who will put up $100,000.”

Sue Wallis, a Wyoming state lawmaker who’s the group’s vice president, said ranchers used to be able to sell horses that were too old or unfit for work to slaughterhouses but now they have to ship them to butchers in Canada and Mexico, where they fetch less than half the price.

The federal ban devastated “an entire sector of animal agriculture for purely sentimental and romantic notions,” she said.

Although there are reports of Americans dining on horse meat a recently as the 1940s, the practice is virtually non-existent in this country, where the animals are treated as beloved pets and iconic symbols of the West.

Lawmakers in California and Illinois have banned the slaughter of horses for human consumption, and more than a dozen states tightly regulate the sale of horse meat.

Federal lawmakers’ lifting of the ban on funding for horse meat inspections came about in part because of the recession, which struck just as slaughtering stopped. A federal report issued in June found that local animal welfare organizations reported a spike in investigations for horse neglect and abandonment since 2007. In Colorado, for example, data showed that investigations for horse neglect and abuse increased more than 60 percent – from 975 in 2005 to almost 1,600 in 2009.

The report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office also determined that about 138,000 horses were transported to Canada and Mexico for slaughter in 2010, nearly the same number that were killed in the U.S. before the ban took effect in 2007. The U.S. has an estimated 9 million horses.

Cheri White Owl, founder of the nonprofit Horse Feathers Equine Rescue in Guthrie, Okla., said she’s seen more horse neglect during the recession. Her group is caring for 33 horses now and can’t accept more.

“A lot of the situation is due to the economy,” she said, “People deciding to pay their mortgage or keep their horse.”

But White Owl worries that if slaughterhouses open, owners will dump their unwanted animals there instead of looking for alternatives, such as animal sanctuaries.

Animal rights groups also argue that slaughtering is a messy, cruel process, and some say it would be kinder for owners to have their horses put to sleep by a veterinarian.

“Euthanasia has always been an option,” Pacelle said. But “if you acquire a horse, you should be a responsible owner and provide lifetime care.”

The fight over horse slaughtering has pitted lawmakers of the same party against each other.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said the poor economy has resulted in “sad cases” of horse abandonment and neglect and lifting the ban will give Americans a shot at regaining lost jobs and making sure sick horses aren’t abandoned or mistreated.

But U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., is lobbying colleagues to permanently ban horse slaughter because he believes the process is inhumane.

“I am committed to doing everything in my power to prevent the resumption of horse slaughter and will force Congress to debate this important policy in an open, democratic manner at every opportunity,” he said in a statement.


Ginger White Stands By Herman Cain Affair

WASHINGTON — An Atlanta businesswoman said she had a “very casual affair” with Herman Cain and said she doesn’t think he should be president.

Ginger White stood by her assertion in a nationally broadcast interview, despite Cain’s denials. She called the relationship an “on and off” affair.

White told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that it’s “very disappointing that he would call me troubled.”

Elaborating on her claims of an affair, White said, “This was not a consistent love affair that went on every day for the last 14 years. So he is correct when he made that statement.”

But White also said Cain gave her gifts and money consistently, although she said he didn’t demand anything in return.

She added that the relationship wasn’t a matter of “sex for cash.”

White said that Cain flew her to Las Vegas for the boxing match between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in 1997. “I went on several trips with Herman. One particular trip was the Mike Tyson-Holyfield fight in Las Vegas,” she said, according to Politico. Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear

She also said that Cain is not fit to be president but declined to say whether he should end his campaign. “I honestly do not think that he is, in my opinion, would make a good president, as far as I’m concerned. My views are different from his views, but at the end of the day this is not political — this is absolutely not political and I’ve never tried to make it out to be that.”

“I’m not sure what’s going on in his head right now,” said White, according to The Hill. “But it’s unfortunate that any of this is going on.”

Meet Ginger White and the other women who have come forward alleging sexual harassment by Herman Cain:

On Oct. 31 Politico broke the news that two women had filed sexual harassment claims against Herman Cain when he ran the National Restaurant Association 20 years ago. At the time the story was published the women wished to remain anonymous, but one,Karen Kraushaar, came forward on Nov. 8, the day after a third woman, Sharon Bialek, held a press conference alleging she was sexually harassed by Cain.

Kraushaar, a Treasury Department spokeswoman, was an employee at the National Restaurant Association during the time Cain was head of the group. She did not discuss the details of the claim, but her attorney described the story Bialek told as familiar. “I’m not authorized to give specifics, but the conduct is similar and it’s corroborating evidence for the complaint my client filed.” Kraushaar received a settlement of about $45,000.


Notary in massive fraud case found dead

A notary public who was expected to testify in a massive “robo-signing” case against two Orange County title officers was found dead in her Las Vegas home, although authorities say they have ruled out homicide as a cause, according to news reports.

Tracy Lawrence pleaded guilty in the alleged scheme in which tens of thousands of default notices on Las Vegas homes were filed with forged signatures and after being notarized improperly, according to state prosecutors.

Gary Trafford, 49, of Irvine and Geraldine “Gerri” Sheppard, 62, of Santa Ana became the first people in the nation to face criminal charges in the “robo-signing” case after a Las Vegas grand jury working with the Nevada Attorney General’s Office handed down a 606-count indictment against the two.

MSNBC identified Lawrence as a whistle blower in the case.

According to the Las Vegas Sun, Lawrence was scheduled to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Monday for her sentencing hearing.

Jennifer Lopez, public information officer for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, told the Sun that when Lawrence failed to show up for court, the attorney general’s office sent an investigator to check on Lawrence at her home.

Investigators found the woman dead about 11:30 a.m. and notified Metro Police, Lopez said.

Several news organizations quoted police as saying there was no sign of foul play and that they are not investigating Lawrence’s death as a homicide. No cause of death has been released.


O.C. company buys

A subsidiary of General Cannabis Inc. in Newport Beach has purchased the domain name

WeedMaps Media Inc., which operates which helps visitors find marijuana dispensaries in the United Sates, plans to take over the URL in early January and create all new content, the company said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Article Tab: General Cannabis Inc. in Newport Beach has bought the domain name for an undisclosed amount.

General Cannabis President Doug Francis said, “Well established, premium top-level-domains such as are easy to remember, rank highly in Google searches and attract thousands of visitors per day in type-in traffic alone. Premium domain names add credibility and build brand awareness in niche markets.”

Until now, has been a bulletin board forum for marijuana news and information. It generates 3.5 million page views per month and gets revenue primarily from sales of banner ads and sponsorships. gets 2 million page views a month.

WeedMaps will add user-generated reviews, videos and community content and will link the registered users of both websites so that one login will be used for both. Currently WeedMaps has 250,000 registered users.

“We look to continually expand our reach within the medical cannabis community,” said Justin Hartfield, chief web officer of WeedMaps. “By integrating with, we can monetize both properties more efficiently by reaching a wider audience of industry constituents and increasing business to our clients through greater exposure.”

General Cannabis is an Internet marketing services company founded in 2010. Its stock trades over the counter on OTCQX under the ticker CANA. In addition to WeedMaps Media, General Cannabis is the parent company of Medical Management, which manages 14 medical cannabis clinics.


Killer who shot a man in the face denied parole

SANTA ANA – A 51-year-old Santa Ana man serving a term of 19 years to life in prison for murdering a man outside a bar after an argument over a woman in 1995 was rejected in his application for parole Tuesday after a hearing at the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.

Alberto Aguilera, who was convicted by two Orange County juries of second-degree murder for the shooting death of Jose Raya Perez, 26, of Tustin on July 1, 1995, will next be eligible for parole in 2016. His first conviction was reversed on appeal.

Deputy District Attorney Stephan Sauer argued to the Board of Parole Hearings that Aguilera should be denied parole in part because he poses a threat to society if released and has failed to accept responsibility for his actions.

Witnesses testified that Aguilera argued with Perez inside a Santa Ana bar over a woman and then went outside and waited for Perez to leave near closing time. When Perez walked outside, Aguilera shot him in the face.

Two police officers responding to a separate call heard the shots and turned in time to see the victim fall to the ground and Aguilera walking away.

Aguilera has changed his story multiple times, and has failed to express remorse for murdering Perez, prosecutors claim.