Monthly Archives: August 2012

TEMECULA: Car overturns, driver arrested

A 19-year-old San Diego woman was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana after she flipped her car on Interstate 15 in Temecula Tuesday, Aug. 28, authorities said.

Stephanie Daniels was driving a Chrysler north on I-15 near Winchester Road in the fast lane at about 70 mph when she allowed her vehicle to drift into the center median at 6:40 a.m., a California Highway Patrol news release said. The vehicle struck the center divider wall and overturned onto it, tearing the roof of the vehicle, CHP officials said. The car came to rest on its side.

The woman said she was not injured but she was taken to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar as a precaution, the release said.




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MURRIETA: Man decked out as cop arrested

A Corona man has been charged with a felony after police stopped him in Murrieta driving a car decked out to resemble a law enforcement vehicle.

Inside the car, police found a fake Central Intelligence Agency identification card and badge, and police gear such as a ballistic vest, Murrieta police said.

“He had everything,” said Murrieta Police Sgt. Phil Gomez, adding that the man clearly has a “fascination with law enforcement.”

Nathon Charles Gomez, 38 — no relation to the sergeant — pleaded not guilty Monday, Aug. 20, to being a felon in possession of a firearm, court records show. He was being held in jail with bail set at $15,000.

Though he appeared to be impersonating an officer, investigators said they have yet to find anyone who reported an encounter with him to police.

Murrieta police pulled Nathon Gomez over driving a black Ford Crown Victoria with no license plates late Aug. 3 near Jackson Avenue and Via Diamante. The officer noticed it was equipped with a light bar such as those found on emergency vehicles, according to a Murrieta police investigator’s written statement in support of a search warrant.

The officer asked Gomez if he was in law enforcement. Gomez said he wasn’t but that several of his family members are.

As he handed the officer a paper copy of a driver’s license, the officer noticed Gomez’s hands were trembling, search warrant documents say.

Gomez’s driver’s license was suspended and he had two warrants for his arrest, court records say.

When he searched Gomez’s car, the officer found a ballistic vest, a black tactical vest with “police” on the front and back, a Motorola radio, a holster with a 9 mm gun that shoots blank rounds and was equipped with a silencer, and 13 high-capacity handgun magazines that hold real 9 mm ammunition, court records say. Gomez also had a badge wallet with fraudulent Central Intelligence Agency identification cards bearing his name, police said.

An Aug. 14 search of the Corona home Gomez shares with his mother yielded items including high-capacity rifle magazines, a gas mask and a police baton, investigators said.

His mother told investigators that her son had always aspired to be an officer but never could.

The night of his arrest, Gomez offered various explanations for his police-type gear, investigators said. For instance, he said he had acquired the magazines and the tactical vest while serving in the military. He said he was in the Marine Corps for 16 years beginning in the 1990s, that he had eventually qualified as a sniper and that his unit was deployed to Argentina for drug interdiction, search warrant documents say.

Gomez told the officer he bought the CIA badge and ID cards online for $100 but had no intention of presenting them as real.

Gomez had been arrested in the past on suspicion of various charges and was convicted of fleeing an officer — a felony — and misdemeanor reckless driving, court records say. He was sentenced in 2009 to three years’ probation and six months in jail.

Efforts to reach Gomez’s family Friday, Aug. 24, were unsuccessful.

But Murrieta police investigating Gomez spoke with his brother, an officer with the Pasadena Police Department. Dustin Gomez told police he has had limited contact with him for the past few years, search warrant documents say. He confirmed that his brother served in the military for more than a decade. He said his brother had been a Navy corpsman attached to a U.S. Marine Corps unit.

“Dustin Gomez said his brother … has always been a ‘wannabe’ when it comes to law enforcement, but he had no idea it had gone so far and was extremely surprised by the amount of gear his brother was stopped with,” Detective Jeff Ullrich wrote in court documents.

He also told the officer that his brother had suffered major injuries, including to his head, in a serious crash in late 2011.




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Gang member sought in robbery at transgender brothel

Article Tab: Cesar Valle booking photoSANTA ANA – A $1 million warrant was issued Monday for the arrest of a gang member who failed to appear for his jury trial on charges that he participated in a home-invasion robbery of a transgender brothel after first trying to tax the prostitutes.

Cesar Valle, 22, faced a life term in prison if convicted of robbery, burglary and other charges. But with potential jurors waiting outside Superior Court Judge W. Michael Hayes’ courtroom Monday morning, Valle – free on $100,000 bail – was a no show.

Hayes issued the arrest warrant when Valle could not be located by 3 p.m.

Valle and co-defendant Christian F. Cabrera, 22, were arrested in April 2010 after Santa Ana police were dispatched to an apartment on North Ross Street on a call of a home-invasion robbery in progress. By the time police arrived, the robbers were gone.

But police did find seven men dressed as women in the small apartment with several mattresses on the floor, according to Deputy District Attorney Erik Petersen. One victim had a deep laceration on his head, and all appeared to be frightened and some were crying, according to court records.

One of the men admitted that the apartment was a front for a transgender brothel and said three gang members came by earlier in the evening and demanded a “tax” of $60 per prostitute, Petersen said. One of the gang members threatened, “If you don’t pay … we will come back and kill you,” according to a transcript of a prior hearing.

A victim reported that Valle and others returned around midnight on April 17, assaulted one of the prostitutes, demanded money, stole a laptop and a cell phone from a table and fled in a white sedan before police arrived, according to the transcript.

Valle and Cabrera were arrested three days later when they cruised by the apartment in a white sedan while police detectives were conducting a follow-up interview, Petersen said. A witness blurted “that’s the vehicle” and the two men were arrested, according to the transcript.

Cabrera pleaded guilty in 2010 to street-gang activity and second-degree robbery and is serving a five-year prison term.



If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situtation.


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Kelly Thomas case: 3 police officers to return to work

Article Tab: A security camera captured much of the altercation between Fullerton police officers and Kelly Thomas at the Fullerton bus depot. It was shown at the preliminary hearing in Santa Ana in May.    FULLERTON – Three of the six police officers at the scene after a confrontation with a mentally ill homeless man will be returning to work, said Capt. Dan Hughes, the acting police chief.

The three will be assigned to desk duty and not on patrol, the captain said.

Hughes didn’t know when, or if, the three would return to patrol duty.

Transient Kelly Thomas, 37, died five days after a fight with officers at the Fullerton Transportation Center on the evening of July 5, 2011. Two officers face criminal charges stemming from the incident and are among three no longer with the department following Thomas’ death.

The other three – officers Kenton Hampton, James Blatney and Kevin Craig – faced discipline, but not severe enough to warrant termination, according to the findings of a 53-page report from an outside investigator made public Tuesday.

“They were either not present when force was used or in a position to prevent force from being used,” Hughes said of those officers’ involvement.

Hughes, who said he is following the recommendations of investigator Michael Gennaco of the Los Angeles Office of Independent Review, wasn’t sure exactly when the three officers would return to work. They have been on paid leave for about a year.

In making his decision, Hughes said he also referred to the findings of FBI investigators looking into the case and a report from District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, which found no criminal culpability by Hampton, Craig and Blatney, who were the fourth, fifth and sixth officers respectively to arrive at the scene.

The three couldn’t have know they “were assisting in the restraint of a victim who had been subjected to excessive force by other FPD officers,” the D.A.’s report states.

But the attorney representing Kelly Thomas’ father disagrees.

“Each of them had a duty to stop violence when they saw it,” said Ron Thomas’ attorney, Garo Mardirossian.

Officers were responding to a call reporting that a man fitting Thomas’ description was trying to open car doors in the Fullerton Transportation Center.

A city-owned surveillance video shows officers questioning Thomas for about 18 minutes before the situation turned violent.

Officers are seen in the video striking Thomas with batons, wrestling him to the ground, delivering knee and elbow blows, shocking him with a Taser and then hitting him with it.

“It is a sad day in police policy when a police officer, Kenton Hampton, is part of what (Cpl. Jay) Cicinelli is doing … and watching Wolfe hitting Kelly with his baton and using his knees and punching and using his elbow and is within a few feet and could have done something to stop it,” Mardirossian said.

Hampton, and four other officers, are also accused of civil rights violations in another lawsuit filed by Mardirossian on behalf of Veth Mam who was accused of attacking an officer and later acquitted. That suit, filed in August, 2011 has yet to be settled.

Gennaco is being paid close to $70,000 for his year-long investigation which included an internal affairs review of the Kelly Thomas incident along with department polices. Gennaco also made a series of recommendations on how the department can improve.

Gennaco said he interviewed Hampton, Craig and Blatney and that all three cooperated in his investigation.

In July, Thomas filed a civil suit for unspecified damages against all six officers, along with former chief Michael Sellers, in charge of the department on the day of the incident.

In addition to the six who had direct contact with Thomas, other officers involved in the incident were also disciplined, Hughes said.

The captain wouldn’t’ give specifics, but acknowledged that one officer who arrived after Thomas was taken to the hospital was disciplined for not having his digital audio recorder turned on.

The District Attorney’s Office charged Officer Manuel Ramos with second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter and Cpl. Jay Cicinelli with involuntary manslaughter and excessive force. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The pair is due in court Friday when pretrial motions will be discussed and future hearing dates set.



If you are charged with a crime, contact an experienced Orange County Bail Bondsman to assist you in any bail situtation.


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Former high school teacher guilty in sex with student

Article Tab: Scott Peterson booking photoSANTA ANA – A former Orange High School teacher was convicted Monday of having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student, authorities said.

Scott Adrian Peterson, 50, agreed to a court offer requiring him to plead guilty to two felony counts of unlawful sexual intercourse, four felony counts of oral copulation with a minor and two felony counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object of a minor, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.

Peterson on Oct. 5 is expected to be sentenced to four years and four months in state prison. However, under new state sentencing laws, the court will likely split his sentence, requiring that he serve 16 months in jail followed by three years of mandatory supervision, prosecutors said.

Authorities believe that Peterson met the 17-year-old girl while working at Orange High School and spent time with her at Disneyland and at other off-campus social events.

Prosecutors allege that beginning in April 2010, Peterson regularly met the girl at a motel and in an Orange riverbed to carry out a sexual relationship, sent her text messages about their relationship and took sexually explicit photographs of the two of them.

The girl’s family notified police after reportedly discovering a sexual text message on her phone. Authorities informed the school district, and Peterson was not brought back to teach at the campus. He was arrested Dec. 2, 2010, after police say they saw him leaving a riverbed shortly after the girl.

At one time, Peterson was a freelance photographer used by some Orange County Register weekly newspapers. His last assignment was in summer of 2010, before the criminal allegations came to light.



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Woman arrested after child left in car at mall

Article Tab: photo-sotozono-booking-feLAGUNA HILLS – A Laguna Hills woman was arrested Monday after she left her 2-month-old son alone in a car for more than half an hour while she shopped in a mall, authorities said.

Deputies about 1:15 p.m. responded to reports of a child left in a car in the parking lot of the Laguna Hills Mall, said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The deputies saw a vehicle matching the description witnesses had provided them driving away from the parking lot and stopped the female driver, Amormino said.

The driver, who authorities identified as Fernanda Marina Gomes-Sotozono, 34, was arrested on suspicion of felony child endangerment, Amormino said. Her baby boy was checked out by paramedics at the scene before being taken into custody by protective services.

Based on surveillance video from the mall, investigators believe Gomes-Sotozono left the baby in her vehicle for at least 35 minutes while she shopped at Victoria’s Secret and a jewelry store. She left the windows of her vehicle down, Amormino said, but the temperature in the parking lot at the time was around 91 degrees.

“You never, ever leave a baby unattended in a car,” Amormino said. “Of course, you have the heat factor, but you also have the danger of kidnapping.”



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Yosemite officials say 1,700 visitors risk disease

Article Tab: Yosemite National Park's Curry Village is known for its tent cabins, seen in this file photo from March 15, 1997. Officials warn that 1,700 people who stayed in the tent cabins may have been exposed to a rodent-borne illness blamed for two recent deaths.All of the at-risk visitors had stayed in the Signature Tent Cabins in Yosemite National Park’s Curry Village.

Yosemite officials warned those who stayed there from mid-June through the end of August to beware of any symptoms of hantavirus, which can include fever, aches, dizziness and chills.

Park officials told people to seek medical help immediately for such symptoms. There is no specific treatment for the respiratory illness.

Two other people were infected and were expected to survive.

Federal epidemiologists learned over the weekend of the second fatality.

Earlier this month a man from Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area died, and a woman from Southern California was sickened after staying in infected tent cabins in Curry Village, a family friendly area with the park’s lowest-cost accommodations.

The four people known so far to have contracted the illness stayed around the same time in June. Federal health officials say symptoms can develop up to six weeks after exposure.

Of the 587 documented U.S. cases since the virus was identified in 1993, about one-third proved fatal.

Thousands of people visit the park every month, so it would be impossible to track everyone who had set foot in Curry Village, officials said.

Curry Village is at the base of the 3,000-foot promontory Glacier Point.

Park spokesman Scott Gediman said the Delaware North Co., which runs the park’s lodging facilities, is working to shore up cabins to protect park-goers.

“There are rodents and some are infected and that’s what happens,” Gediman said. “This is a wilderness setting. It has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the cabins.”

This year’s deaths mark the first such fatalities in park visitors, although two others were stricken in a more remote area in 2000 and 2010, officials said.


CDC on hantavirus:


By TRACIE CONE / The Associated Press

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