Sacto 9-1-1

A Sacramento man has been sentenced to three years in prison for possession of stolen mail.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. also sentenced Kevin Duane Hickman, 34, to three years of supervised release following his prison term, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, on Feb. 18, 2010, Hickman was found to be in possession of U.S. mail that had been stolen from more than 35 victims.

A young woman tortured by her parents thanked her adoptive mother in court today and said that because of the ordeal, "I'm stronger than ever."

"I'm not scared any more," Lillian Manning, 19, said to her convicted tormentor, Lillian Manning-Horvath, at the defendant's sentencing in Sacramento Superior Court. "You thought you won the war. But no you didn't. I did. It took awhile, but I did it. Me. Lillian Kate Manning, aka Rachel Cornist."

Manning-Horvath, 72, ducked into the corner of the holding cell in front of Judge Lawrence G. Brown and behind her lawyer, Ken Rosenfeld, to avoid a newspaper photographer in the courtroom. But she couldn't hide from her sentence -- consecutive life terms with no chance of parole for her no-contest pleas to charges of torture and mayhem.

The third and final defendant convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting deaths of two men in the Seavey Circle housing project two years ago has been sentenced to prison.

Phillip Perez Gonzales Jr, 27, received 31 years to life in prison today from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White for the July 21, 2009, killings of of Everett Antonio Taylor, 28, and Deshawn Dante Holloway, 35.

Gonzales' co-defendant, Michael Lee Armstrong, 23, the actual gunman in the killings, received a 55-to-life term. The woman who arranged the killing, Priscilla Ramirez, 21, last week received a 16-to-life term.

According to testimony at trial, Ramirez lied to the two men in telling them that she had been raped by one of the victims.

A federal judge in Sacramento today sentenced a Stockton farmer to two and a half years in prison for crop insurance fraud.

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez also ordered Gregory Peter Torlai Jr., 50, to pay a $10,000 fine for filing false claims for crop insurance benefits and $211,516 in restitution.

Following and 11-day trial, a federal jury on Feb. 10 found Torlai guilty of 16 counts of submitting fraudulent statements in insurance applications for crops in San Joaquin, Contra Costa and Lassen counties, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

An Elk Grove man has been sentenced to 14 months in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to access device fraud, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Richard Nuwintore, 42, of Elk Grove, pleaded guilty last December to using stolen credit card numbers to purchase airline tickets for himself and others, according to the release. He was sentenced today by United States District Judge William B. Shubb.

The case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service.

A former civilian Navy employee was sentenced today in Sacramento for stealing more than $300,000 in worker's compensation benefits.

Michael Howell, 59, of Vacaville, a former civilian employee with the Department of the Navy, was sentenced in by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller to 18 months in prison, three years of supervised release and $302,380 in restitution for making a false statement to obtain federal worker's compensation benefits. He pleaded guilty Jan. 13.

According to court documents, between July 2001 and February 2010, Howell defrauded the Department of the Navy by falsely denying that he had outside employment and income so he could receive worker's compensation benefits. While collecting benefits, Howell performed work that was inconsistent with his claimed disabilities, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

An El Dorado County Superior Court jury has found Nicholas James Denham guilty of murder in the 2008 killing of a Placerville resident, the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office reported Tuesday.

Denham was convicted Tuesday of first-degree murder, robbery and carjacking in the killing of Gerald Cody Ludden, according to a news release from the district attorney's office.

Ludden's body was found under the Mosquito Bridge on June 10, 2008.

By Denny Walsh
dwalsh@sacbee.com

The operator of a Rio Linda tow truck company was sentenced today in Sacramento federal court to three years and one month in prison for attempting to mislead authorities pursuing him on allegations of interstate vehicle theft.

Gabriel Dean Watters, who lives in Elverta, was found guilty in November by a jury of giving the government a bogus receipt for the purchase of four vehicles. The jury could not agree, however, on whether he stole nine lost or abandoned vehicles in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and a mistrial was declared in 19 of the 21 counts in the indictment.

A man convicted of running down and killing a Loaves & Fishes volunteer will be sentenced in Sacramento Superior Court on July 15.

A jury on Wednesday convicted Jeffrey Crayton Yelverton of voluntary manslaughter and felony hit and run in the death of Loaves & Fishes volunteer worker Thomas William Deollos. Yelverton will be sentenced at 9 a.m. July 15 in Dept. 18.

A news release from the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office said Yelverton had been seen speeding past patrons in front of the homeless service center last March. Loaves & Fishes workers tried to stop him, but Yelverton drove directly toward Deollos, striking him.

Yelverton then drove from Loaves & Fishes at 1321 North C St. to the Arden Fair Mall. There, he claimed the incident was an attempted robbery and that he acted in self-defense.

Deollos died two months later from his extensive injuries.

Convicted murderer Steven Paul Colver is due to have one last reunion with his former 14-year-old lover.

El Dorado County Judge Daniel B. Proud today scheduled sentencing for Tylar Marie Witt, now 16, at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 12, the same time Colver, 21, is due to be sent to prison for the June 12, 2009, slaying of Witt's mother, Joanne M. Witt, 47.

Tylar Witt could be eligible for parole at age 29 in a plea deal for second-degree murder in exchange for testifying against her former 19-year-old boyfriend in his recent trial.

Colver was convicted last week of first-degree murder and special circumstances of lying in wait and killing a witness, factors that stand to imprison him without the possibility of parole.

Authorities say Tylar Witt summoned Colver to her house to kill her mother after Joanne Witt gave El Dorado County detectives the girl's diary as part of a statutory rape complaint against Colver. Prosecutors said Colver brutally stabbed Joanne Witt to death before the teens fled to San Francisco and unsuccessfully tried to kill themselves with cereal and cake laced with rat poison.

- Peter Hecht

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com


Sacramento Superior Court Judge Greta Curtis Fall today sentenced reputed street gang member Marcus Scott Jr. to life in prison with no chance of parole for murdering a man two years ago.

Scott, 22, was convicted last month in the Dec. 15, 2009, gang-related shooting death of Perrell Marquis Waters, 19.

The sentences on two co-defendants in the case, Marquel Lamar Dixon, 18, and Ronald Delano Grant, 21, were continued.

A Natomas man has been sentenced to 13 years in state prison for his attack on a Sikh taxi driver in West Sacramento in November.

Pedro Ramirez, 42, was sentenced Friday by Yolo County Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall. Ramirez pleaded no-contest March 7 to a felony assault charge and admitted that his attack on cab driver Harbhajan Singh was a hate crime. Ramirez also admitted that he caused great bodily injury to the victim, according to a Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release.

Johnny Morales Jr., 33, of West Sacramento, who had a lesser role in the attack, also pleaded no contest to a felony assault and was previously sentenced to felony probation.

By Max Ehrenfreund
mehrenfreund@sacbee.com

Kenneth Tice, 70, of Davis, was sentenced today in the sexual assault of a 21-year-old foreign exchange student at UC Davis.

Tice, who had been homeless at times, met the victim last fall at a homeless shelter where she was volunteering. They developed a friendship and remained in touch after the shelter closed in March.

The two met for dinner on April 5 near Tice's Davis motel. Tice invited the victim to his hotel room after dinner and assaulted her once they were inside.

Tice later sent several emails to the victim apologizing for the assault.

Yolo County Superior Court Judge Stephen L. Mock sentenced Tice to two years and eight months in prison. Tice had been convicted on May 24 of sexual battery and false imprsionment with force and violence.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A man who ran a woman's car into a freeway center divider in a traffic confrontation last year was sentenced today to nine years in state prison.

A Sacramento Superior Court jury last month convicted Jesse Kenneth Oran, 33, of gross vehicular manslaughter, Judge Gerrit W. Wood imposed the prison term on him for the May 2, 2010, traffic fatality that killed 22-year-old Tessa Canavarro.

Canavarro had been scheduled to begin her honeymoon the next day.

Authorities said Oran tailgated Canavarro's vehicle and flashed his headlights at her for several miles after an incident on westbound Interstate 80.

Oran was sober at the time of the crash. Canvarro's blood-alcohol level registered at .23 percent.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A mentally disturbed woman who drowned her 3-year-old daughter two years ago was sentenced today to a possible life-time placement in Napa State Hospital.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Marjorie Koller said that if doctors at the psychiatric facility ever find that Anul Malik Ram regains her sanity, the 34-year-old defendant will then be transferred to the state prison system to complete a 15-to-life term.

The dual sentences resulted from Ram's April 29 guilty plea to second-degree murder in the Nov. 15, 2009, drowning death of her daughter, Divya Ram, in the defendant's bathtub. Along with the guilty plea to the second-degree murder charge, Ram also claimed that she was not guilty by reason of insanity in the attempted murder of her then-7-year-old son.

At the time of the killing, Ram had been taking a variety of medications for schizophrenia, depression, anxiety and seizures.

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

The last time Nancy Garrido will ever see her husband likely came at 9:26 a.m. Thursday, as she was being escorted out of a Placerville courtroom and headed off to begin her 36-year prison sentence.

"Love you," she mouthed to Phillip Garrido, who sat shackled in the courtroom jury box waiting for the judge to hand down his sentence of 431 years to life.

She had asked for a final, private meeting with him after they were sentenced, but El Dorado Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister was having none of it.

Read the grand jury transcripts released today.

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

Jaycee Lee Dugard described in terrifying detail last fall how Phillip and Nancy Garrido snatched her off the street and whisked her away for 18 years of captivity.

Grand jury transcripts released moments ago recount her secret testimony that was the basis of the guilty pleas the Garridos accepted in April. The transcripts were released at the request of The Sacramento Bee and other media organizations.

Dugard told the El Dorado Grand Jury that the Garridos' car pulled up beside her the morning of June 10, 1991, "and I didn't think it was weird at the time, but it pulled in kind of close to me. And I thought he was going to ask for directions because he started to say something."

RP GARRIDO AND ATTORNEYS.JPG

Nancy and Phillip Garrido, with their attorneys, Stephen Tapson (front left) and Susan Gellman (back left), listen to testimony from Jaycee's mother, Terry Probyn (not pictured). Photo by Randy Pench.

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

Read the grand jury transcripts released today.


In a searing court session this morning, Phillip and Nancy Garrido were sentenced to prison for the kidnap of Jaycee Lee Dugard after her mother and others berated the couple for their crimes.

In the nearly two hours it took to recite the criminal behavior, Phillip Garrido showed absolutely no emotion and looked downward the entire time Dugard's mother, Terry Probyn, addressed him.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento Superior Court jury today convicted Juan Carlos Carranco of second-degree murder in the fatal Oct. 31, 2009, shooting of Carlos Cervantes Jr. at a party in the south area.

Judge Cheryl Chun Meegan scheduled the sentencing on the 18-year-old Carranco, a reputed street gang member, for June 24.

Cervantes, 23, died nearly four weeks after the shooting on Clover Manor Way.

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

Phillip and Nancy Garrido are scheduled to finally be sentenced Thursday, nearly 20 years after they couple kidnapped 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard off the street near South Lake Tahoe and held her captive as a sex slave for 18 years.

The 70-seat courtroom inside El Dorado Superior Court is expected to be full as Judge Douglas Phimister sentences the Garridos to terms expected to keep both in prison for the rest of their lives.

An autopsy has revealed that a toddler found dead in February inside her Roseville home suffered from rare heart condition.

The 16-month-old girl, Isabella Michelle Heredia, died Feb. 11 inside her Hearthside Way home. Police and fire crews went to the child's home, responding to reports that she was not breathing. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

No obvious signs of trauma were reported. Investigators could not immediately determine how or why she died.

A former loan officer from Nevada City has been sentenced to prison for defrauding a local bank.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton sentenced Melvin Rohs, 65, to 33 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. Rohs also was ordered to pay $533,976 in restitution.

On Dec. 14, Rohs pleaded guilty to three counts of theft, embezzlement or misapplication of a bank officer or employee, and two counts of making a false statement in connection with a loan application or renewal.

Concluding a case launched by law enforcement officials in Germany, a Roseville man was sentenced today to more than 10 years in prison for receipt of child pornography.

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez sentenced Thomas Lee Neal, 42, to 10 years and three months in prison, to be followed by 10 years of supervised release for receipt and possession of child pornography, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. Neal pleased guilty to the charges March 1.

According to court documents, in May 2009, German law enforcement officials identified Neal as an individual who had uploaded to a file-sharing website in Roseville a video of child pornography. When U.S. agents executed a search warrant on Neal's house, they seized computers that contained images of child pornography.

David Scott Denson was sentenced today to 153 years to life in prison for the first-degree murder of a 29-year-old woman in April 2009.

A Sacramento Superior Court jury last month convicted Denson of the shooting death of Dusty Rose Vasquez at a Del Paso Road residence.

He also was found guilty of two counts of attempted premeditated murder, using a firearm in the attempted murders and for being a felon in possession of a gun.

A 30-year-old Roseville man has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the kidnap and rape of a 24-year-old woman.

Justin Lee Mitchell was sentenced May 13 in Auburn by Placer County Superior Court Judge Marc S. Curry.

Mitchell pleaded guilty March 30 to kidnapping and rape with a foreign object, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

A man who pleaded guilty last month to the 1981 first-degree murder of a blind, deaf 88-year-old Sacramento woman has been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Leroy Veal, 60, pleaded guilty to the murder of Pauline Colombatto and was sentenced by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Savage. Veal also admitted to three special circumstance allegations that the crime occurred during the commission of burglary, attempted robbery and rape.

In exchange for a plea to these offenses and a waiver of appellate rights, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office agreed not to pursue the death penalty, but instead have Veal sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, according to a news release.

A West Sacramento man has been sentenced to 830 years to life in state prison for engaging in sex with a young girl over the course of nine years.

Bennie Dale Moses, 44, was convicted March 10 by a Yolo County jury of 62 counts of sex and oral copulation with a child. He was sentenced by Yolo County Superior Court Judge Stephen L. Mock.

Officials said Moses had forced the girl to have sex with him beginning in 2000, when she was 12 years old. The sexual abuse continued until July 11, 2009, when she confided in a friend that Moses had been having sex with her for nine years, according to a Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release. The friend called 911.

A Solano County man was sentenced today in federal court in Sacramento for his participation in a gun-running scheme.

Travis Price, 36, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. to five years and three months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for unlawfully selling firearms and for being a convicted felon in possession of firearms, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, from June to December 2008, Price conspired with straw purchasers to buy firearms from four different federal firearms dealers in Colorado and shipped the firearms via the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx to an unwitting associate in Fairfield.

A former part-owner of the Sacramento Capitals tennis team has been has been sentenced to seven years in prison for grand theft involving real estate-related transactions.

Lonnie Nielson, 47, of Wilton, pleaded guilty in Sacramento Superior Court to six felony charges of grand theft.

Nielson admitted that he embezzled more than $800,000 from 11 clients between May 2009 and July 2010, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release issued today.

A former licensed contractor whose state license was taken away last year has been sentenced to four years felony probation and ordered to pay a $2,500 fine.

Brian Gross, 55, of Valley Springs in Calaveras County was arrested Oct. 1 by investigators from the Contractors State License Board Statewide Investigation Fraud Team and the Amador County District Attorney's Office, according to license board news release. They found Gross and three employees roofing a home in Jackson.

The contractors license board was tipped by building officials in Jackson that Gross had attempted to secure a local business license using his revoked contractor license.

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

Phillip and Nancy Garrido will be sentenced June 2 for the kidnap and rape of Jaycee Lee Dugard, but that won't be the end of the case that day.

El Dorado Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister has scheduled a hearing after the sentencing to decide whether to unseal the transcripts of Dugard's appearance before a grand jury last September.

Phimister agreed to hold the hearing in response to a request from The Bee made April 29. In a letter to the judge made on behalf of media organizations statewide, The Bee asked the judge to grant "access to the documents immediately upon the closure of this case."

A Redding man was sentenced today in federal court in Sacramento for the armed robbery of a Woodland bank.

Tracy Bittner, 58, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. to three years and 10 months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release. Bittner pleaded guilty Feb. 3 to the armed robbery of Bank of the West in Woodland, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, Bittner robbed the Bank of the West on Sept. 22, 2010, using an air pellet gun. He fled with approximately $5,880, but police apprehended him less than 30 minutes later.

An Oak Park man has been sentenced in Sacramento to more than 24 years in federal prison for drug trafficking.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia today sentenced Edward Mallory, 45, to 24 years and four months in prison for his conviction on two counts of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and two counts of possessing crack cocaine for distribution, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. Mallory pleaded guilty on Feb. 11.

Between Jan. 1, 2004 and Jan. 18, 2005, Mallory supplied large quantities of crack cocaine to a drug trafficker in and around Sacramento, according to court documents. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration made controlled purchases of crack cocaine from the drug trafficker on six occasions.

A man who kidnapped a couple in a Del Paso Boulevard parking lot has been sentenced to 18 years to life in prison.

The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office announced today that Jeffrey Elder, 27, was sentenced by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Allen H. Summer.

In March, Elder was convicted by a jury of kidnap for robbery, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and inflicting great bodily injury.

On Dec. 18, 2009, Elder waited in a parking lot on Del Paso Boulevard as the two victims, who were husband and wife, got out of their van and entered a check cashing business. Elder then climbed into their unlocked van and hid.

A man who shot a Contra Costa County probation officer as she was driving home from work has been sentenced to 32 years to life in prison.

Alfonso Valeriano-Delacruz, 44, was convicted by a Sacramento Superior Court jury of seven felony counts, including discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, assault with a deadly weapon or firearm, causing great bodily injury to a peace officer and evading a police office by driving in a reckless manner, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release. He was sentenced by Judge Allen H. Sumner.

In September 2009, Valeriano-Delacruz had been drinking and stocked his car with alcohol, a loaded 22-caliber rifle and additional magazines. He then went driving in search of a random victim on whom to take out his aggressions, officials said.

One of two Monk Mobb gang members today received four 25-to-life prison terms, plus an additional 45 years, for the Halloween Night 2008 shooting death of party host Patrick Razaghzadeh.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Greta Curtis Fall imposed the sentence on 21-year-old Elijah Rasean Fields, who crashed the party with other gang members.

A jury last month convicted Fields of murder and three counts of attempted murder for the killing of Razaghzadeh, 24, and injuring three of his friends at the Halloween party on Rogue River Drive in the Larchmont-La Riviera area.

fishman.JPGA Los Gatos man has been sentenced in Placer County Superior Court to five years in prison for a plot to seek revenge for a perceived wrongdoing by a contractor who built a retaining wall for him.

Udi Fishman, left, 60, a mechanical engineer and rental property owner, was convicted by a trial jury on Feb. 1 of first-degree residential burglary with a finding by the jury that people were present in the home during the commission of the crime. He also was convicted of attempted false imprisonment, possession of a deadly weapon - a billy club - and two counts of illegal use of tear gas. The jury acquitted him of attempted murder and attempted kidnapping.

Fishman disguised himself as a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. worker, drove to the Auburn-area home of the contractor and used bear spray on the man's wife and her brother-in-law, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release. He then physically fought with the brother-in-law before being stabbed with a knife by the female victim.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento Superior Court jury today convicted Joseph Raymond Buttelo of voluntary manslaughter in the Oct. 31, 2008, shooting death of Gustavo Lopez on Lerwick Road.

Before returning the voluntary manslaughter verdict, jurors first acquitted Buttelo, 21, of murder in the killing of his 18-year-old victim in the shooting near Morse and Whitney avenues. The panel also convicted him of attempted voluntary manslaughter on another victim after acquitting him on a count of attempted murder.

The jury acquitted Buttelo of all charges in a separate shooting incident on two additional alleged victims that had taken place two weeks earlier.

Two men were sentenced today in connection with a 2008 gang-related shooting.

Lue Thao, 22, was sentenced by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Raul Thorbourne to 27 years to life in prison after being found guilty by a jury of premeditated attempted murder, shooting into an inhabited motor vehicle and assault with a firearm.

Co-defendant Alex Lee, 20, was sentenced to seven years in prison after being found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon and firing into an inhabited vehicle.

A man convicted of evading a Sacramento police officer by driving recklessly in July has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison under California's "three strikes" law, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office reported.

In July, a Sacramento police officer was attempting to make a traffic stop of Vontre Knight for running a red light when Knight sped away, according to a District Attorney's Office news release. During the pursuit on Highway 99, Knight entered a highway on-ramp driving the wrong way.

He later fled from the car and was found hiding in the bathtub of a stranger's home, the release states.

A 67-year-old man convicted of sexually abusing a relative has been sentenced in Sacramento County Superior Court to 140 years to life in prison, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office release.

Clive McGaw was convicted by a jury in March of three counts of sexual abuse with a dependent adult and one count of failing to register as a sex offender, according to the release.

In 2008, McGaw was observed by staff at the UC Davis Medical Center kissing and being groped by a woman with Down syndrome, the release states. Staff later learned the woman was a 25-year-old relative of McGaw.

RP GARRIDO PHILLIP.JPGRP GARRIDO NANCY UPSET.JPG


By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

In a surprise move today, Phillip Garrido entered a not guilty plea to charges that he kidnapped Jaycee Lee Dugard.

His wife Nancy entered the same not guilty plea after the judge indicated there were irregularities in the grand jury process that indicted the couple in September.

Stephen Tapson, Nancy Garrido's attorney, said the plan earlier this week was for Phillip Garrido to plead guilty but that a last minute hitch over the manner in which the grand jury selection was handled prompted the decision to plead not guilty.

A 66-year-old graduate of Del Oro High School in Loomis has been sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to take anger management classes for one year for making criminal threats against the school's head football coach.

Dennis Blaine McLin was angry because players at the school had continued to wear a jersey number that was supposed to have been retired in 1961, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

He was sentenced Friday after pleading no contest to a felony count of stalking and a misdemeanor charge of making criminal threats.

By Bee Staff

A U.S. District Court judge sentenced a former Rocklin drywall installer today to 28 months prison for failing to pay more than $1 million in taxes.

Benjamin B. Wagner, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, said that William Roseberry, 59, previously of Rocklin, had earlier pleaded guilty to tax fraud.

Senior U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton also ordered Roseberry to pay the Internal Revenue Service $1,040,500.36.

By Bee Staff

A U.S. District Court judge in Sacramento today sentenced a tomato hauler to 15 months in prison and fined him $100,000 for bankruptcy fraud.

James. D. Burke, 59, of Vacaville, was convicted by a federal jury on May 27, according to a news release from the Benjamin B. Wagner, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern U.S. District of California.

Burke was formerly the president of Truck-A-Way, a Vacaville trucking company he took over from his father that hauled millions of dollars worth of tomatoes and other agricultural products throughout the Central Valley.

By Matthew Kawahara
mkawahara@sacbee.com

A Sacramento County man convicted of trying to run down a Roseville policeman with his car in 2009 was sentenced Friday to five years and four months in state prison.

Walter Carrillo, 19, was sentenced by Placer County Superior Court Judge Mark S. Curry after being convicted Jan. 26 of felony assault on a peace officer and other charges, including hit-and-run driving causing injury, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

In addition to the prison sentence, Carrillo's driving privileges were revoked for life, according to the release.

By Matt Kawahara
mkawahara@sacbee.com

A 34-year-old man has been sentenced in Sacramento Superior Court to six years plus 40 years to life for the sexual assaults of two women in Sacramento in 2009.

Domingo Garcia Vargas was sentenced Friday by Judge Delbert Oros after being convicted Feb. 24 of rape, false imprisonment and infliction of great bodily injury in the two assaults, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.

The first assault occurred Jan. 25, 2009, in the area of 19th and K streets, when Vargas grabbed a woman, threw her to the ground, punched her in the face multiple times, raped her and fled, according to the release. The victim later submitted to a sexual assault examination, in which Vargas' DNA profile was found.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A woman who pleaded no contest to a charge of assault on a child that resulted in the death of her stepson has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Dayshawna Lawrence, 23, entered the no contest plea last month in the March 2010 death of 3-year-old Jeremiah McRath. She was sentenced Friday by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette.

Jeremiah's father, Adrian McRath, pleaded no contest in December to child endangerment and was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.

Lawrence and McRath were angry with Jeremiah because he had been having toilet training accidents and was urinating on the floor in the apartment. After McRath left the apartment, Lawrence inflicted excessive physical punishment on the youngster, causing numerous bruises over his face, head and body, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release. The child died of blunt force injuries to his head.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A man convicted of the shooting deaths of his ex-girlfriend and her new companion in 2007 has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Miguel Carranza, 42, was convicted by a Sacramento County jury in February of two counts of first-degree murder and use of a firearm, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release Friday.

In November 2007, Carranza shot and killed Yesenia Lopez, 29, and Jezer Lopez, 32, as they walked to their car after Yesenia Lopez got off work at a beauty salon on Northgate Boulevard in Sacramento.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A man who kidnapped and assaulted four women, in some cases telling them he was a police officer, has been sentenced to 315 years to life in prison.

Albert Povadora, 35, was convicted in January of 17 counts including rape, sodomy, kidnapping and firearms offenses. He was sentenced Friday by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Trena Burger-Plavan to 315 years to life plus 17 years, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.

Officials say Povadora approached a woman on May 31, 2008, on Martin Luther King Boulevard. He approached her from behind with a firearm and forced her into a nearby alley, where he sexually assaulted her. Her rape trauma examination in the hospital produced a DNA sample from her attacker.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A 36-year-old man has been sentenced to 50 years to life in prison after a DNA sample linked him to the 2004 murder of Juanita Johnson.

Christopher Rogers was convicted by a Sacramento County jury in October of first-degree murder and the use of a firearm. He was sentenced Friday by Superior Court Judge Eugene Balonon.

Johnson's body was found on the doorstep of a home early Thanksgiving Day 2004 on 40th Street near 44th Avenue in south Sacramento . A trail of blood led down the street to where she had been shot one time in the head, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release. Evidence, including a condom, indicated that a sexual act had taken place, officials said.

Lemas.jpg Moman.jpgBy Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A 32-year-old man has been sentenced to two years in prison in connection with an incident in July in which several shots were fired into the air from a moving vehicle in front of a Cal Fire station in Foresthill.

Joshua Trinidad Lemas (left), of Foresthill was sentenced last week by Placer County Superior Court Judge Larry D. Gaddis after pleading no contest on Feb. 9 to a felony count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and to a misdemeanor count of brandishing a firearm.

The incident occurred about 2:40 p.m. July 27 on Foresthill Road when a Dodge Challenger was driven past the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection station and shots rang out.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A man convicted of murdering his drug dealer was sentenced today to 15 years to life in prison.

Jeffrey Bruce Campbell, 48, received the term from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Kevin J. McCormick.

Jurors convicted Campbell last month of second-degree murder in the May 19, 2009, stabbing death of 19-year-old Frederick Howard.

Prosecutors charged that Howard was trying to collect a $100 drug debt from Campbell when the defendant stabbed him to death and dumped his body in an industrial area in Rancho Cordova.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A judge yesterday sentenced a pimp who was convicted of murdering a rival to 50 years to life in prison.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge handed down the term to Charles Antonio Williams, 26, for the shooting death last May 8 of Marcel Hatch, 29.

According to a prosecutor's trial brief, the two men worked as pimps out of a motel on Auburn Boulevard.

dennis robert mains[1].jpgBy Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

Convicted murderer Dennis Mains (left) rambled for nearly 10 minutes about how he was "sick" and "delusional" when he killed his wife.

Then the judge silenced him from the bench and sentenced him to a prison term of 50 years to life.

"What you did was cold, it was callous, and it was cruel," Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny told Mains, who shot 61-year-old Pamela Wales twice in the head while she slept. "And there is one more word for it - it was cowardly."

clip_image002.jpgBy Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

A Roseville gang member has been sentenced to 36 years to life in state prison by a Placer County judge who noted the defendant had spent nearly 80 percent of his adult life in custody.

Jose Vincent Rubal Jr. (left), 39, received the sentence Tuesday after Superior Court Judge Jeff Penney denied his motion to dismiss prior serious offenses in hopes of getting a lighter prison term. Rubal is a "three-strikes" offender. (California's three-strikes law allows harsher sentences for repeat felons.)

At least two of his prior crimes involved assaults with a knife. The judge figured that Rubal has spent 6,350 days of his adult life in custody, according to a press release from the Placer County District Attorney's office.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man has been sentenced to 13 years in state prison for the 2008 robbery of a Woodland store.

Anthony David Urbano, 33, was sentenced Feb. 25 by Yolo County Superior Court Judge David Rosenberg.

On Dec. 19, 2008, Urbano went into Jo-Ann's Fabrics in Woodland, asked for directions and had a short conversation with two store employees, according Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release. He then left but returned a short time later, saying he wanted to buy some wrapping paper. During the sale, Ubrano told employees that this was a hold-up, demanded all the money in the register and showed a revolver.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for trafficking in underage girls.

Deandre Lornell Brown, 27, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr., after being convicted at trial in September of sex trafficking of children. The prison term is to be followed by 10 years of supervised release, and Brown was ordered to pay $5,200 in restitution, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to testimony presented at trial, Brown met and recruited two underage girls to work for him as prostitutes in and around the Sacramento area. He recruited the first minor in 2005, and she continued to work for him until his arrest in September 2009.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

An Arden Arcade woman has been sentenced to two years in state prison and her husband to six months in county jail for felony insurance fraud.

In August, a Sacramento Superior Court jury convicted Joanne and Steven Fawcett of making false statements regarding an insurance claim.

Joanne Fawcett was also found guilty on two counts of falsifying insurance claim documents, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release. The Fawcetts were sentenced by Superior Court Judge Jack Sapunor.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for his role in an unemployment insurance fraud case.

Timothy J. Oller, 50, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller for conspiring to commit mail fraud. His prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release.

Oller pleaded guilty Nov. 8, admitting that between 2008 and 2010 he was part of a conspiracy to defraud the California Employment Development Department.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

Convicted murderer James Ray Alden was sentenced today to life in prison with no chance of parole for the April 9, 2009, stabbing death of Richard Seeger in Carmichael Park.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen H. Sumner imposed the term after a jury last month found the 37-year-old Alden guilty of murdering Seeger, 57, during the course of a robbery.

Alden testified earlier this year that he was passed out on his friend's porch - drunk and stoned - when Seeger was stabbed to death.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sabee.com

A Rancho Cordova man was sentenced today to 14 months in prison for bank fraud and theft of U.S. mail.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller also sentenced Ron Molano Taitano, 25, to three years of supervised release following his prison term, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Officials said Taitano was involved in multiple schemes to steal U.S. mail from postal vehicles, apartment complexes and neighborhood collection box units.

By Cynthia Hubert
chubert@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man with a long criminal history will spend eight years and four months in state prison for savagely beating an acquaintance's pet dog in a dispute over medical marijuana.

The Chihuahua, named Harley, suffered a broken spine and other severe injuries and was put to death at the city animal shelter, animal care services manager Penny Cistaro said.

Johnae Rajshan Hoyt pleaded guilty to animal abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and other charges on Tuesday, in the midst of trial, said Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Hilary Bagley-Franzoia.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man has been sentenced to life in prison for a home invasion robbery in which the victims were tortured.

Minh Throng Huynh, 38, is the last of seven gang members to be sentenced in the robbery spree, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb today sentenced Huynh to life in prison plus a consecutive 65-year term for using a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. The sentencing came after years of delays initiated by the defense, federal officials said.

According to evidence presented at the three-month trial in 2007, over the course of two months, December 1995 and January 1996, co-defendant John That Luong, 39, the leader and organizer of a criminal organization, planned and executed four violent armed robberies, and attempted a fifth, of computer chip companies and a Stockton jewelry store. Minh Huynh was a robbery crew chief.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A man convicted of torturing his girlfriend in repeated assaults that left her paralyzed has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Joe McCoy, 51, was convicted by a jury of torture and corporal injury to a cohabitant causing great bodily injury, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release. He was sentenced today by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly.

On the evening of Sept. 15, 2009, McCoy repeatedly assaulted his live-in girlfriend. At one point, he pinned the woman to the ground and flipped her legs over her head, breaking her neck, then sexually assaulted her. The woman was left quadriplegic.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

kumar[1].JPGBy Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A man who killed a woman and her 3-year-old son with a meat cleaver was sentenced to life in prison today with no chance of parole.

Lalesh Kumar (photo left), 37, had been facing a possible death sentence if he would have gone to trial for the killings of Virginia Pulido, 33, and her son Ramiro.

But he pleaded no contest last month to murder charges in the June 11, 2005, slayings at the Pulido apartment on South Meadows Place, near Florin Road and 29th Street as well as to the assaults on two police officers who took him into custody the same day, in exchange for the life term in prison.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Lincoln man has been sentenced to 60 days of monitored home detention and five years of supervised release for altering his military record to receive funds from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows also ordered Bruce Leon Duncan, 59, to pay $20,548 in restitution.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A former Grass Valley couple has been sentenced to two years in prison for tax evasion and bankruptcy fraud following their extradition from Costa Rica.

U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that Lin Bartee, 66, and Christine Bartee, 52, were each sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. for conspiring to evade income tax and fraudulently concealing property in connection with a bankruptcy case. In addition to the prison sentence, they were ordered to pay $239,472 in restitution.

According to their plea agreements, the Bartees admitted to receiving at least $260,000 in taxable income in 2002. However, neither defendant filed an income tax return and Lin Bartee instead sent the IRS a document indicating that he was not required to pay taxes.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A man accused of ripping the door from its frame at his girlfriend's apartment and attacking her and another man has been sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Cliffton Ray Currie, 32, was convicted by a Sacramento County jury on five counts of inflicting corporal injury on a former cohabitant, first-degree robbery, first- degree burglary and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury. He was also found to have a prior conviction, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.

Currie was sentenced by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene Balonon.
On Aug. 6, 2010, Currie kicked in the front door of his girlfriend's apartment when he discovered that she was inside with another man. Officials say Currie ripped the door from its frame and struck the man in the head, causing injury. He also punched his girlfriend in the face, causing swelling and redness to her left eye. Currie then stole her wallet and car keys, and fled as the other man called 911.

On Aug. 20, Currie again assaulted the girlfriend, causing a cut lip and bleeding gums. Although he threatened the woman with further violence if she reported the assault, officials said, she reported the crime to sheriff's deputies.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

DelpMarlene.jpgBy Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A registered nurse who was in charge of health care at an assisted living facility has been sentenced to 10 months in Placer County Jail and placed on three years probation for stealing prescribed medication from her elderly patients.

Placer County Superior Court Judge Frances Kearney on Wednesday also gave Marlene Delp (left), 64, a three-year suspended prison sentence and banned her from providing health care to anyone during the three years on probation.

Several grown children of the elderly victims spoke to the court about the negative impact that Delp's crime had on their mothers, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A man convicted of sexually assaulting and threatening to kill his developmentally disabled girlfriend has been sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Charles Eaton, 42, was sentenced by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Russell Hom.

Eaton assaulted the woman numerous times over a three-day period after learning that she had engaged in several relationships while he was incarcerated, according to news release from Sacramento County District Attorney's Office. He also made numerous threats to kill her.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento woman has been sentenced to prison for wire fraud and mail theft.

Traci Marie Linzmeier, 37, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. to 15 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for multiple counts of wire fraud and theft of U.S. mail. She also was ordered to pay restitution and a special assessment of $400, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.


By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Roseville man has been sentenced to 15 months in prison for selling counterfeit software.

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. today sentenced Derick Breski, 45, to the prison term, followed by three years of supervised release for criminal copyright infringement. Breski pleaded guilty Aug. 13.

Between November 2009 and March of this year, Breski sold copyrighted software such as Adobe, Autocad, Rosetta Stone and software from Microsoft, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

Officials said he obtained copies of the software illegally by downloading it from file-sharing services on the Internet. He then created copies of the illegally downloaded software and sold those copies to customers.

The case resulted from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Taylor prosecuted the case.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Folsom residential care provider who pleaded guilty to elder abuse in the death of an 82-year-old woman was sentenced today to a year in county jail.

Adriana Catuna, 49, will be allowed to request that she serve the time on home detention under the sentence handed down by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Gary E. Ransom.

The judge also placed Catuna on five years probation and scheduled a restitution hearing for Jan. 26.

Catuna entered her plea in connection with the Oct. 13, 2007, death of Georgia Fitsos.

One of Fistos' sons claimed he discovered his mother alone and having difficulty breathing in the Broadstone Residential Facility in August 2007.

He had his mother rushed to a hospital where emergency room physicians treated her for sepsis from the open bed sore.

She died in a skilled nursing facility two months later.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

Bennett.JPGBy Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

An Auburn man described by a Placer County judge as a "danger to women" has been sentenced to seven years in state prison for domestic violence.

Thomas K. Bennett, 61, was sentenced Friday by Placer County Superior Court Judge Mark S. Curry. The judge noted that Bennett's record showed a history of criminal convictions for domestic violence, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

Bennett's latest conviction came in October when a jury found him guilty of inflicting corporal injury upon a cohabitant and of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, both of which are felonies.

Evidence during the trial showed that Bennett beat and choked a cohabitant during an argument at an Auburn apartment March 24 and that he put his hand over the woman's mouth as if to suffocate her.

Judge Curry noted that Bennett had admitted to special allegations that he previously had been convicted and served prison terms for domestic violence, meaning the judge could add extra years in prison for Bennett's latest conviction.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento woman has been sentenced to two years in prison for her role in a federal student loan fraud ring.

Jewel Minor, 24, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb. Her prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release. The judge also ordered Minor to pay $118,843.72 in restitution.

Also charged in the case are Sacramento residents Nakesha Sharrieff, aka Takiyah Raheem and Aysia Hanifah, 23; Hoa Tasha Kelly, aka Tasha Kelly, 24; and Teaona Williams, 24.

Jarmal Duplessis, 22, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit student loan fraud and was sentenced on Nov. 8 to nine months in prison, three years or supervised release and ordered to pay $23,293.70 in restitution. Thomas Keys, 23, pleaded guilty Oct. 4 to one count of conspiracy to commit student loan fraud and is to be sentenced Jan. 10.

Minor admitted in her plea agreement that in June 2008, Teaona Williams recruited her to be a "straw student" to obtain student loan funds without going to school, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. Williams introduced Minor to Sharrieff, who signed Minor up for student loan funds.

Minor met Sharrieff at a bank, and Sharrieff gave Minor a check in an envelope that had Minor's cut of the proceeds written on it. Minor cashed the checks, then split the money with Sharrieff, officials said.

Minor recruited additional students for Sharrieff in exchange for a portion of the money obtained. Minor also let Sharrieff use her address to receive checks for other straw students, in exchange for additional payment.

After Minor became involved in the conspiracy, the scheme netted approximately $118,000 in federally provided or insured student loan funds, officials said.

The case resulted from an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General and the Los Rios Community College District Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jean M. Hobler is prosecuting the case.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

Sacramento Superior Court judges today sentenced three recently convicted murderers to life terms in prison.

Nadine Danielle Klein and George Ellis Wallace were sent off with no chance of parole while Ruben Adrian Rivera Jr. received a 50-to-life term.

Klein, 21, was sentenced by Judge Steve White for the June 3, 2009, robbery and stabbing death of James Douglas Arthur, 23, in his Boulevard Park home. Klein was convicted of setting up the robbery that resulted in Arthur's death. Two other defendants had previously been sentenced to life without parole for the killing.

Wallace, 38, was sentenced by Judge Patrick Marlette for the Dec. 15 shotgun killings of Clifford Eugene Brown, 54, and James Edward Turner, 60. Wallace was convicted of shooting the men to death because they had witnessed a shooting carried out by his girlfriend.

Rivera, 31, was sentenced by Judge Geoffrey A. Goodman for the Jan. 20, 2007, shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, Erika Barrios, 26.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

Sacramento Superior Court judges today sentenced three recently-convicted murderers to life terms in prison.

Nadine Danielle Klein and George Ellis Wallace were both sent off with no chance of parole while Ruben Adrian Rivera Jr. received a 50-to-life term.

Klein, 21, was sentenced by Judge Steve White for the June 3, 2009, robbery and stabbing death of James Douglas Arthur, 23, in his Boulevard Park home. Klein was convicted of setting up the robbery that resulted in Arthur's death. Two other defendants had previously been sentenced to life without parole for the killing.

Wallace, 38, was sentenced by Judge Patrick Marlette for the Dec. 15 shotgun killings of Clifford Eugene Brown, 54, and James Edward Turner, 60. Wallace was convicted of shooting the men to death because they had witnessed a shooting carried out by his girlfriend.

Rivera, 31, was sentenced by Judge Geoffrey A. Goodman for the Jan. 20, 2007, shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, Erika Barrios, 26.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento judge sentenced a man today to life in prison with no chance of parole for the rape and murder of an 80-year-old woman in her north side home more than 20 years ago.

Donald Carter, 57, was arrested last year on a DNA cold hit after he was processed into the downtown jail on a dope charge and authorities obtained a swab of his genetic material.

Jurors in September convicted Carter of the May 23, 1989, beating death of Sophia McAlllister, a neighbor who lived a block and a half away from him, in her Eleanor Avenue home.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene L. Balanon imposed the term on Carter.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

The gunmen who carried out the contract murder of a pregnant woman and her fetus five years ago were sentenced Wednesday to life terms in prison.

Khae Saephan, 24, will have no chance of parole while co-defendant Xeng Saetern was sentenced to 100 years to life by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Roland L. Candee.

The two were convicted in the Dec. 29, 2005, killing of Si Saeturn, 28, and her 5-month-old fetus.

Si Saeturn's husband, Nai Saechao - who contracted for her murder - and two other accomplices have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Saechao had previously been identified by authorities as Si Saeturn's husband.

A sixth defendant, Chang Vern Saephan, received a four-year term last month after having pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter earlier this year.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

virgophoto.jpgA 46-year-old Applegate man has been sentenced to 121 years and eight months to life in prison for a 2006 gunbattle with a Placer County Sheriff's SWAT team in which an estimated 50 to 70 rounds were fired.

A jury on Sept. 1 convicted David Allan Virgo (left) on 22 felony counts, including 10 charges of attempted murder. He was sentenced Wednesday by Placer County Superior Court Judge Colleen Nichols, who announced her intention to lock up Virgo for the rest of his life, the Placer County District Attorney's Office reported.

There is no possibility that Virgo will be able to complete his sentence, Nichols said in handing out five consecutive terms of 15 years to life in prison as well as 46 more years for various special allegations related to assault and weapons violations.

The judge noted that Virgo exhibited "extremely dangerous behavior" during the Oct. 18, 2006, confrontation with officers, who had surrounded the Newcastle home where Virgo was partying with friends.

Despite the many rounds exchanged between Virgo and the officers, no one was injured.

Ten members of the sheriff's Special Enforcement Team, similar to a SWAT team, had surrounded the home on Happy Hollow Lane and had a warrant for Virgo's arrest, according to the release. But before the officers could peacefully contact Virgo, a partygoer outside the home spotted them, and soon afterward shots were heard coming from inside the house.

Officers responded by shooting out a floodlight that illuminated the outside of the yard.

During the subsequent gunfire, five unarmed people came out of the home and crawled to safety with the aid of officers, officials said. Virgo stayed in the home alone exchanging shots with officers.

During Virgo's trial, officers testified that Virgo could be heard yelling that he had explosives and would "blow up the place up," saying, "I'll kill everyone."

The standoff ended when Virgo surrendered.

Following a monthlong trial, a jury found Virgo guilty on 10 charges of attempted murder and 10 more charges of assault with a firearm on a peace officer. The jury also found Virgo guilty of two felony counts of being a felon in possession of firearms.

In addition, jurors determined that multiple special allegations that Virgo used firearms and acted with premeditation were true.

During the sentencing proceedings, Judge Nichols denied a motion by Virgo's defense lawyer for a new trial.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Bee Staff

A federal judge in Sacramento sentenced a 38-year-old man earlier this week to 26 months in prison and fined him $25,000 in a counterfeit-goods and money laundering case, according to the U.S. attorney.

Qi Jin Chen, also known as Jimmy Chen, also was ordered to pay $2,975 in restitution and three years of supervision after his prison term, said Benjamin B. Wagner in a news release.

On Feb. 22, Chen, formerly of Stockton, pleaded guilty to trafficking in counterfeit goods and structuring cash transactions to evade reporting requirements.

In sentencing the defendant, Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. said that Chen was a "sharp dealer," who "made a substantial amount of money" dealing in counterfeit goods and who understood the banking laws and manipulated them to avoid attention to his illegal activities, the release states.

Chen admitted in his plea agreement that he was a wholesaler and a retailer of counterfeit goods in major quantities.

In a search conducted in October 2008, law enforcement agents seized truckloads of counterfeit items that, had they been genuine, would be valued at over $7 million.

Items seized from Chen ranged from inferior and dangerous power strips marked with the UL quality symbol to counterfeit purses (some covered in lead-based paint) purporting to be from manufacturers like Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, and Fendi, to jewelry purporting to be from manufacturers like Tiffany and Juicy Couture.

Chen also admitted that he structured his cash deposits (kept them below $10,000) in order to avoid generating a currency transaction report from the bank to the government.

The case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service; Placer County Sheriff's Office; the Galt Police Department; and an Internal Revenue Service financial crimes task force, which includes agents from IRS-Criminal Investigation, the Sacramento Police Department, and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

Assistant United States Attorneys Robin Taylor and Jean Hobler prosecuted the case.

By Bobby Caina Calvan
bcalvan@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts of grand theft in connection with a ponzi scheme that bilked $6.3 million from investors, most elderly clients of the man's insurance business, state authorities announced Wednesday.

William A. Sassman, 42, faces 18 years in prison and $4.3 million in restitution. Formal sentencing is set for Jan. 7 in Sacramento Superior Court, according to a joint statement by the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Insurance.

Sassman has been in the Sacramento Main Jail since his arrest on Nov. 16, 2009 on 100 various counts, including charges of felony grand theft, burglary and scheming to defraud.

Call The Bee's Bobby Caina Calvan, (916) 321-1067.

By Bee Staff

A man who was extradited from Mexico has been sentenced to 50 years to life in prison for a 2007 slaying in Citrus Heights.

A jury convicted Edgar Martinez, 22, of first-degree murder and personally discharging a firearm causing death, Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully said in a news release.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 8, 2007, Martinez became involved in an argument with Jose Segura, 23, at a house on Van Maren Lane in Citrus Heights, Scully said.

During the argument, Martinez shot Segura four times, killing him. Martinez then fled to Mexico, she said.

Citrus Heights Police Department detectives were able to find Martinez and secure his extradition, she said.

By Kim Minugh
kminugh@sacbee.com

The man convicted of harboring Chu Vue's fugitive brothers - who are accused of going on to kill a correctional officer - walked out of Sacramento's courthouse a free man today after a brief sentencing hearing.

RP LANG VUE IN COURT[2].JPGSacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White sentenced Lang Vue (right), who a jury found guilty of felony accessory, to three years in prison. However, Vue received enough credit for time already served in custody to escape further incarceration.

Vue will be on parole for three years, according to White, and will not be allowed to possess firearms.

Vue was found guilty of harboring Gary and Chong Vue - the brothers of former Sacramento County Sheriff's Deputy Chu Vue and the alleged killers of correctional officer Steve Lo - while they were fugitives from authorities in Minnesota, where they were wanted for murder.

Lang and Chu Vue, who are distant cousins and members of the same Hmong clan, were tried together in Sacramento County Superior Court on charges of murder.

A jury found Chu Vue guilty of first-degree murder for arranging Lo's killing, but failed to find enough evidence that Lang Vue knew of Gary and Chong Vue's alleged intentions to convict him of murder. They found him guilty of being an accessory.

As he left the courtroom this morning, Lang Vue declined to comment, other than to say it was "cool" to finally be free. His attorney, Matthew Scoble, also declined to comment, citing an ongoing gag order in the case.

Prosecutor Eric Kindall argued that Chu Vue masterminded the plot because Lo was having an affair with Chu Vue's wife, Chia.

Chu Vue, who faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

His brothers, Gary and Chong, are expected to be tried on murder charges next year.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A North Sacramento man has been sentenced to prison for a 2009 gang-related beating that left the victim with permanent injuries.

Yolo County Superior Court Judge Stephen Mock today sentenced 20-year-old Michael Rene Romero to 28 years and eight months to life in state prison. A jury convicted Romero of attempted murder with premeditation, gang enhancements and other felony charges for a 2009 street beating that occurred in West Sacramento, according to a Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release.

A concerned citizen interrupted the attack as he was driving down West Capitol Avenue about 3 a.m. The beating victim was lying in the street in a coma. Minutes after the attack, a witness saw Romero remove one of the victim's teeth from his hand.

West Sacramento Police arrested Romero and his accomplice, Antonio Delgado. A jury convicted Delgado of attempted murder and other charges earlier this year.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man convicted of voluntary manslaughter in a fatal, gang-related shooting in the north area three years ago was sentenced today to eight years in prison.

Jurors last month returned the voluntary manslaughter verdict on David Moses Ballesteros, 23, in the death of Stephen Matthew "Bo" Clay, 25.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Greta Curtis Fall rescheduled to Nov. 19 the sentencings on three men convicted of first-degree murder in the Aug. 19, 2007, shooting in the 700 block of Eleanor Avenue.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

Glenn Wade Jennings was sentenced to death today for the June 2, 2004, robbery murder of liquor store owner Kulwant Sufi, a 61-year-old immigrant from India who was stabbed 11 times by by the parolee who had just gotten out of prison two months earlier.

"Mrs. Sufi, at 5-foot-3, never had a chance against the bigger, stronger, laser-focused defendant," Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard said from the bench before imposing the death term on Jennings.

Jennings had previously served two prison terms for robbery, including his most recent 16-count case for which he had been behind bars for 23 years.

Sufi's son and husband testified at the sentencing hearing that their lives have been devastated by her death and absence.

"You can't even talk about it, it's so unbelievable," said her son, Gurminderajit Sufi, a Sacramento dentist.

The burly, 6-foot, 240-pound Jennings, 57, submitted a six-page, single-spaced statement for the sentencing in which he said he was innocent. He described himself in the statement as "the lamb led to the slaughter."

Deputy District Attorney Rick Miller countered that "I disagree with I would say about 99 percent of the statements" in Jennings' letter to the court.

Jennings was captured on videotape assaulting and stabbing the victim, then stealing the cash register from behind the counter of DK Discount Liquor on Florin Road. The register was later recovered from a vacant lot near Jennings' Oak Park home. A steak knife recovered from the store matched a set found in his house and fiber evidence recovered from his car matched items found at the crime scene.

When Jennings is transferred to San Quentin Prison, he will be the 714th condemned California inmate to take up residence on death row.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

Manuel Alvarado-Guerre was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison today for the Oct. 8, 2008, stabbing murder of Rodolfo Nunez in a North Highlands strip-mall parking lot.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny imposed the term after a jury convicted the defendant last month.

Authorities said the dispute between Alvarado-Guerre and Nunez resulted from an argument over a cell phone. Both the victim and the defendant had been drinking before the stabbing.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A man convicted of voluntary manslaughter in a fatal shooting in a Sacramento homeless camp off 47th Avenue two years ago has been sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Oscar Martinez, 33, who had been charged with murder in the death of Vincent Segura Hernandez, 39, was convicted on the lesser offense Sept. 7 by a Sacramento Superior Court jury.

Judge Gary S. Mullen imposed the term Friday.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man convicted of murdering his mother and grandmother has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Superior Court Judge Robert M. Twiss imposed the term Friday on Jack Aaron Squires, 48.

Squires was convicted last month in the April 2008 shooting deaths of his mother, Kathleen Roloff, 65, and grandmother, Elma Alberta Matranga, 94, in their Woodlake home.

Evidence at the trial showed that Squires was angry because he felt he was going to get cut out of a $400,000 loan his mother took out against their residence.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A woman who said she fired gunshots into the air when a fight broke out at a North Sacramento apartment complex last year has been sentenced to three years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.

Fifty-year-old Susan Ogburn, who has also gone by the name Susan Woods, pleaded no contest in August in the shooting death of Fernando Munoz, 25.

Munoz was fatally wounded March 21, 2009 at an apartment complex at Altos and Eleanor avenues.

Ogburn told police at the time of her arrest that she was trying to help Munoz, a friend, and others on his side of the melee and instead hit him in the upper body.

During an emotional sentencing hearing Friday in Sacramento Superior Court, public defender Jennifer Cerri said that Ogburn, at the urging of her family, wished to withdraw her plea and retain another attorney to represent her.

Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall opposed the request, and it was subsequently denied by Judge Michael A. Savage.

A video showing Munoz, the father of five young children, with family and friends was shown during the hearing. His mother, Sandy Carrell, said a three-year prison term was not adequate for taking a life.

Munoz's family sobbed as they viewed the scenes of his life, and Ogburn, standing in the courtroom cell, appeared to be trying to hold back tears as she nodded toward her family in the courtroom

"This is where my son is now," Carrell said, displaying a gold-colored metal box that she said contained her son's cremated remains.

Carrell said her son never carried a gun and it was not right that his life was taken by someone who did.

Judge Savage said he understood that Munoz's family was not satisfied with the sentence, which was less than the six-year prison term recommended in the probation report. But Savage said he respected the District Attorney's Office's recommendation for the lower sentence.

Kindall said after the hearing that the lesser sentence was sought because "there were issues with proof."

As part of the plea agreement, the voluntary manslaughter will count as a "strike" offense, Kindall said.

After serving her prison sentence, Ogburn will be on parole up to three years. She also was ordered to pay $200 in restitution as well as restitution of $7,548 to the Victims of Violent Crimes Program. The latter amount, however, will be the subject of a restitution hearing Nov. 19.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Yuba City parolee has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for being a felon is possession of a firearm.

Sue Vue, 28, was convicted by a federal jury in Sacramento in July following a four-day trial and was sentenced today by Senior U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia.

According to testimony presented during the trial, a Sutter County sheriff's deputy was patrolling the area of the Sutter Cemetery on March 14, 2009, when he saw a traffic accident and stopped one of the vehicles involved to investigate. Vue was in the vehicle and refused to show the deputy his hands before running from the vehicle.

The deputy gave chase through the cemetery, caught Vue and tried to take him into custody.

Vue resisted arrest and removed a loaded Ruger semiautomatic handgun from his waistband. The deputy knocked the gun from Vue's hand, and the struggle continued until other emergency personnel came to the deputy's aid.

Vue also was found to possess a knife, hatchet and an additional loaded magazine matching the handgun, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. Officials said the handgun had been reported stolen years before and had been involved in shootings.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Placerville attorney has become the 15th person sentenced in a major federal drug enforcement case.

Lawrence Edward Weitzman, 66, will serve 27 months in federal prison for his role in laundering $2.96 million in drug proceeds for four-time convicted drug trafficker Gregory Sperow, 58, of Los Angeles, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Idaho.

Weitzman, a practicing attorney in Placerville, was sentenced Aug. 31 by Chief District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The court also imposed a $25,000 fine in addition to asset forfeitures totaling $175,000.

"Weitzman's sentencing marks the end of one of the most significant drug investigations and prosecutions in the history of Idaho's U.S. Attorney's Office," Idaho U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson, said in a written statement.

Officials said Weitzman was the 15th defendant sentenced in a multiyear prosecution of the Kent Jones organization, which had been identified as a regional priority target by the Federal Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force in Idaho. The investigation resulted in a series of indictments against defendants who operated throughout the United States importing drugs from Mexico to Southern California. The drugs then were typically transported to the Portland, Ore., area before being shipped to Idaho, Washington and other areas including Colorado, Ohio, North Dakota, Nebraska, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey and New York. In addition to importing and transporting marijuana, the group was heavily involved in growing marijuana in Oregon in the 1990s, both indoors and on public lands, according to the news release.

The original indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Boise, Idaho, in June 2006. Weitzman was added as a defendant in a superseding indictment filed in January 2007. On Sept. 22, 2008, Weitzman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and structure transactions, with an agreement to forfeit $175,000.

The investigation was handled by the District of Idaho because it stemmed from the case of a major drug trafficker, Leland Lang of Stites, Idaho, who was successfully prosecuted in Idaho in 2002. The Jones organization supplied Lang with large quantities of drugs that were distributed in Idaho and various Midwest and Eastern states. More than $1 million in currency was seized from Lang's mountaintop residence in Stites in 2002, officials reported.

Following the indictment of Lang and other co-conspirators in Kentucky, the investigation led to the Jones organization, which originated with a group of high school friends from Days Creek, Ore. The group's activities initially involved growing and selling marijuana, officials said, but later expanded to include smuggling large quantities of drugs from Mexico and Colombia.

Weitzman's association with the group was largely through co-defendants Sperow and Dale Barker of Evergreen, Colo., officials said. Since the 1970s, Sperow has served stints in federal prison for smuggling marijuana into the United States from Mexico and South America, as well as involvement in a large-scale methamphetamine manufacturing operation in Southern California.

From January 1996 to May 2004 Sperow was a fugitive living under several assumed names while he continued drug trafficking, according to the Department of Justice. Through Weitzman's help, officials said, Sperow continued to launder millions of dollars in drug proceeds.

Sperow was apprehended in the Bay Area community of Orinda in May 2004.

Weitzman's sentencing followed five days of testimony. In its ruling, the District Court found that "the evidence was overwhelming" that Weitzman either knew, or became willfully blind regarding the illegal source of Sperow's funds by 1996, that Weitzman continued to launder Sperow's drug funds for the eight years that Sperow was a fugitive, and that Weitzman laundered Sperow's proceeds even after Sperow was sent to federal prison for the fourth time in 2005.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Bill Lindelof and Kim Minugh
blindelof@sacbee.com

3M21SALGADO.standalone.prod_affiliate.4.JPGFormer California Highway Patrol Officer Ruben Salgado today was sentenced to state prison after he pleaded no contest to a charge that he tried to arrange a killing for hire.

Salgado (photo right) also pleaded no contest to two other charges, said Art Campos, a spokesman for the Placer County District Attorney's Office: felony drug possession while carrying a firearm and misdemeanor driving under the influence of methamphetamine.

Salgado was sentenced to three years in state prison by Placer County Superior Court Judge Larry Gaddis after the judge ruled him ineligible for probation.

Salgado will not get credit for the time he has served in county jail.

"This law enforcement officer betrayed the public trust," prosecutor Doug Van Breeman said in a statement. "It is appropriate that he go to prison, even though he had no prior criminal record."

Salgado had pleaded not guilty in July to a charge that he offered $10,000 to have someone murder a witness against him in a drug and weapons case.

Salgado, a 12-year CHP veteran, was arrested by the California Highway Patrol on May 11 in Rocklin after he allegedly paid a confidential informant $100 for 1/8 ounce of methamphetamine, according to a court brief filed by the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

At the time of his arrest, he had a semiautomatic pistol in his pants pocket and another on the front floorboard of his car, and was under the influence of methamphetamine, according to the court document.

Salgado pleaded not guilty to the drug and weapons charges and was free on $70,000 bail when he was arrested in the early morning hours of July 15 after allegedly offering another confidential informant $10,000 to murder the first informant, who is a witness in the case.

According to the court brief, the witness told a CHP investigator July 6 that she had heard through contacts that Salgado was "looking to take her out of the game."

An informant, who allegedly was solicited to arrange the murder, said Salgado stated that if the witness wasn't around, there would be no case against him.

According to the court brief, the informant told Salgado that the informant's brother had just been released from prison and could do the job.

When all three met in the Governors Inn parking lot on Richards Boulevard in Sacramento on July 14, Salgado allegedly gave details of how the murder was to occur, and discussed destruction of evidence and what to do with the witness's body.

The brief says Salgado told the individual who was to carry out the murder that he could provide a photo of the intended victim as early as July 19.

Salgado was arrested shortly after that conversation, according to the court document, and a search of his hotel room turned up a baggie of methamphetamine and a methamphetamine pipe.

The CHP reported that Salgado's employment with the agency ended June 30. He had been assigned to patrol duties in the Auburn area since January 2009.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A 42-year-old transient who shot and killed a man in a Placerville homeless camp has been sentenced to 70 years to life in prison, the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office said in a press release.

Kenneth Sharonoff had been convicted of second-degree murder in the Jan. 23 killing of Clark "Otto" McCabe, 69, on Missouri Flat Road. An El Dorado County Superior Court jury convicted Sharonoff of the murder, as well as being an ex-con with firearms, and also of elder abuse.

The press release on Thursday's sentencing by Judge Suzanne Kingsbury said that a friend of the victim described McCabe as "a kind and generous person" who "was respected and well-liked, and now very much missed."

According to the friend, McCabe once took up a collection to buy clothing for nine homeless women and their children "who were even less fortunate than himself," the press release said.

Sharonoff's record showed he had prior convictions for shooting a man in 1986 and for smashing an elderly man in his 80s with a rock in 1994 in a job argument, according to the press release.

Prosecutors said Sharonoff shot and killed McCabe with a .44 caliber cap-and-ball pistol "during a minor dispute."

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Redding man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for using the Internet to try to entice a Placer County teenager to engage in unlawful sexual conduct.

William Cody Ambord, 26, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia. Ambord pleaded guilty July 9.

In 2009, the parents of a 14-year-old Placer County girl reported that they discovered that Ambord had been conducting an Internet relationship with their daughter and had persuaded the girl to meet him near her home for sex, according to court documents. The parents intervened and assumed the girl's online identity.

In late February 2009, Ambord traveled to the Sacramento area to meet with the girl and one of her girlfriends, another 14-year-old. After arriving in Sacramento, however, he was unable to contact the first girl and turned instead to her girlfriend, contacting her via instant messaging, not aware that the girl's mother had assumed her identity.

Ambord asked the "girlfriend" to sneak out and meet him at a motel in midtown Sacramento. The mother contacted police, and on March 1, 2009, Ambord was arrested at the motel.

He admitted to police that he had engaged in many online communications with one 14-year-old girl for a long period of time and that during the online conversations, the two had discussed sex, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. Ambord told police that he bought a bus ticket to travel to Roseville to meet the girl. But when he arrived in Sacramento and was unable to contact the 14-year-old, he instead contacted her girlfriend.

The case resulted from an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Homeland Security Investigations.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A judge sentenced Oscar Humberto Ceballos to 21 years in prison today as a result of his voluntary manslaughter conviction in the April 27, 2009, shooting death of Pablo Martin.

ceballos[2].jpgCeballos (left), 23, received 11 years for his no-contest plea to the manslaughter charge and another 10 years for his discharge of a firearm that resulted in the death of the 34-year-old Martin.

Jurors in May acquitted Ceballos of first-degree murder but he entered his plea just as attorneys were set to re-argue the case amid the jury's difficulty in reaching a verdict on a second-degree murder count.

Ceballos and Martin had been fighting as a result of a dispute the victim had with his wife, who was Ceballos' sister.

The dispute prompted Ceballos to come to his sister's defense, according to trial testimony.

Ceballos and Martin first got into a fistfight. Ceballos left. But he came back with a gun and shot and killed Martin when the two combatants went at it again, police and prosecutors said.

Ceballos' attorney argued that the shooting took place in self-defense. He said Ceballos thought he saw a flash of chrome in the victim's pocket that the defendant mistook for a gun.

The prosecution said the victim was not armed.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man has been sentenced to eight years and four months in prison for receipt and distribution of child pornography.

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. also fined Tony Xiong, 26, $10,000 and sentenced him to 10 years of supervised release.

According to court documents, agents with the Sacramento Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force received a lead in July 2008 from Montgomery, Penn., agents that Xiong was trading visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct through an online chat program.

On Sept. 18, 2008, Sacramento agents executed a search warrant at Xiong's home. During a forensic examination of a computer found at the residence, they discovered online chats beginning in 2006 in which child pornography had been traded. More than 14,000 files appeared to have been traded, and a majority of them were visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

In one chat session, officials said, Xiong received 1,727 images. He told one person that most of his collection of images consisted of children from infants to age 10.

The Sacramento Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is a federally funded task force managed by the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department and made up of agents from federal, state and local agencies.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Miranda Simon
msimon@sacbee.com

The former owner of a Roseville spa was sentenced to 210 days in jail, after investigations showed that 40 of her customers in 2008 were either billed double on their credit cards for spa services, or were charged for services and products they didn't order, according to a press release from the Placer County District Attorney.

Heather Lynn Collins, 35, who owned Radiance Medi-Spa, was also ordered to pay back $10,500 to the customers. The Placer County Sheriff's Office investigated complaints about the spa and arrested Collins on Feb. 6, 2009.

Collins, of Lincoln, appeared for sentencing at Placer County Superior Court on Sept. 2, when she was placed on formal probation for three years. She pleaded no contest to two felony counts of identity theft.

Call The Bee's Miranda Simon, (916) 321-1119.

By Miranda Simon
msimon@sacbee.com

Chico film producer James Thomas Flocker, 70, has been sentenced to seven years in prison for trading child pornography, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento said.

Flocker was found guilty of transporting, distributing and possessing child pornography by a jury on Feb. 26, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner.

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez said that the defendant's involvement in child pornography was "serious as it represent(ed) an ongoing harm to the minor children who were used in (the images possessed and traded by the defendant.)"

Posing as a 19-year-old from Southern California, Flocker was trading pictures of prepubescent boys engaged in sexual acts with an 18-year-old man in South Carolina, Wagner said.

The evidence presented in court - including testimonies from FBI agents and a Yahoo records custodian - showed Flocker sent pictures of minor boys, including one of a 4-year-old toddler in Texas. The boy's picture had been taken by his uncle, who was later convicted of molesting him.

Flocker also uploaded four pictures of nude teenage boys to a Yahoo group, where its members were allowed download them into their private pornography collections and to redistribute them, Wagner said.

Nearly two-dozen images of child pornography were found on Flocker's computer following a search of his DVD production business on Oct. 27, 2004.

The images included a picture of a young man from Kentucky who was molested by a foster-care provider between the ages of 12 and 14, Wagner said.

This case came out of an investigation by the FBI's Chico Safe Streets Task Force, which included Special Agents from the FBI and members of the California State University, Chico Police Department.

Flocker produced, wrote and directed adventure movies for television. The most recent one was "The Ghost Ship," was released in 1992, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Call The Bee's Miranda Simon, (916) 321-1119.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A man convicted of identity theft in a case that involved obtaining credit and goods in the name of a Virginia state legislator has been sentenced in Sacramento Superior Court to four years in state prison.

Bernell Bryan Washington, 24, was sentenced today by Judge Gary E. Ransom for identity theft and possession of a firearm, according to a news release from the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office.

Washington's girlfriend and co-defendant, Sky Manriquez, was previously convicted of identity theft.

Adjudication is pending for two juvenile accused of involvement in the fraudulent credit card charges.

Washington, Manriquez and the two juveniles were living in Sacramento when Washington obtained the personal identifying information of Richard Saslaw, Virginia State Senate majority leader, the release states.

Saslaw's identity previously had been stolen out of Virginia, and Washington used the information to obtain credit and goods in Saslaw's name.

Fraudulent purchases were made at Best Buy and McDonalds, and marijuana was purchased at the Fruitridge Health and Wellness Collective.

A joint investigation by the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force, the California Highway Patrol, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Virginia State Police revealed that Washington began fraudulently using Saslaw's information in March.

Washington had changed the victim's mailing address from Virginia to Sacramento to divert purchases to himself and to make fraudulent purchases totaling thousands of dollars.

A search of Washington's apartment revealed marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia purchased under the Saslaw's name.

Law enforcement officers also found stolen property, including a 9mm handgun, and several cell phones and credit carts obtained using the victim's name.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

An Elk Grove woman who admitted to murdering her 3-year-old adopted daughter from China was sentenced today to 15 years to life in prison.

Sabrina Alberta Banks, 42, was arrested last year in the May 2, 2008, death of her daughter Lavender.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Ernest W. Sawtelle imposed the term today after Banks pleaded no contest to the second-degree murder charge on July 27.

According to a probation report filed in the case, Banks called paramedics to say that her daughter was unresponsive. She said she thought the girl had choked on a piece of pizza.

An autopsy later showed the girl died of multiple blunt force injuries and "probable asphyxia," according to the report.

Banks had several child abuse allegations filed against her from 1998 to 2003, according to the probation report.

One of them included the death of a 4-month-old who died in Banks' care after being placed in her foster home under emergency circumstances, the probation report said.

No charges were filed in that case.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

felipeortega.jpgA man who carjacked one vehicle and tried to stop another by firing a gunshot has been given more than 40 years in prison.

Felipe Ortega (photo right), 28, of Sacramento, received a sentence of 43 years after pleading no contest to carjacking and three counts of assault with a semiautomatic weapon in Placer County Superior Court.

His sentence was increased by admissions of using a firearm and having a previous felony strike, according to a Placer County District Attorney's office press release.

Ortega, considered the leader of a trio who were all recently sentenced, twice drove a black Lincoln Navigator to follow customers from the Tropicana Club on Arden Way in Sacramento late at night.

On Nov. 22, 2008, Ortega followed a pickup from the nightclub to North Highlands. The Navigator made the truck stop and the driver was forced into the SUV. A masked Ortega then drove off in the truck.

The victim was later released unharmed.

Eight day later, the Navigator followed another vehicle from the nightclub, this time to Rocklin. During an apparent attempt to carjack the vehicle, Ortega fired a shot at the motorist, striking the vehicle.

Rocklin police stopped the Navigator. Ortega and two others were arrested.

A Sacramento County Sheriff's detective who was aware of the North Highlands carjacking, read in The Bee about the Rocklin incident and connected the two crimes.

At Ortega's Friday sentencing, the woman in the Rocklin case testified that it was difficult to be in court with a person who wanted to take her life.

In Spanish, she said: "May God pardon you because I cannot." Ortega, facing the judge, showed no emotion.

Also sentenced Friday for her part in the escapade was Mirna Corral, 36, to four years probation and one year in county jail for felony robbery, assault and receiving stolen property.

And on Monday, Omar Lozano Villicana, 20, was sentenced after pleading no contest to conspiracy and assault. He was given one year in jail and placed on four years probation.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A judge today sentenced a man to life in prison without possibility of parole for the stomping and BB-gun torture murder of a disabled former Marine two years ago near a Rancho Cordova convenience store.

Frank Abella, 20, had asked for a 26-to-life term, but Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard sided with the prosecutor who said the June 7, 2008, killing of William Deer, 50, was particularly egregious.

"Rarely does one encounter a case containing as much depravity and horror as this case involving the painful stomping death and BB gun torture of an innocent, disabled man," Deputy District Attorney Sheri Greco said in her sentencing brief.

Deer had bought a cup of coffee and was sitting on a curb drinking it when he was approached and attacked by Abella and a second killer, James Davis Washington, who also is now 20. Washington received a life without parole term last month.

Abella's lawyer argued that his client grew up in harsh circumstances, with a mother who was a methamphetamine addict and a father he barely knew who was in and out of prison.

"LWOP means denial of hope," defense attorney Michael D. Long wrote in his court memorandum.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Dixon man has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison for bank fraud and identity theft.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. sentenced Jonah Hanneke Nelson, 31, to four years and 10 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Nelson pleaded guilty to the charges in November.

Nelson was arrested in April 2009 after passing counterfeit checks drawn on victims' bank accounts, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. Nelson was found with extensive lists of victims' names and bank account numbers as well as falsified identification documents.

He was taken into federal custody after being indicted on multiple counts of bank fraud, access device fraud, counterfeiting and aggravated identity theft.

In court papers filed by the government, victims described sleepless nights, destroyed credit, missed mortgage payments and nervous breakdowns as a result of Nelson's conduct.

In imposing the sentence, Judge England noted that this was a sophisticated offense that victimized 97 individuals and five banks throughout Northern California, and resulted in a loss of $87,957 over a four-month period.

The case resulted from a joint investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Solano County Sheriff's Department.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Rancho Cordova couple who left an infant in a car while they gambled at the Thunder Valley Casino near Lincoln have been placed on four years probation and sentenced to 60 days in jail for felony child abuse.

However, Placer County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Penney said that Thuan Huy Nguyen (photo bottom left) and Panfila Phu Phan (photo bottom right), both 27, can apply for alternative sentencing, such as a work project, to fulfill the 60-day jail term.

In addition, if they successfully follow their probation, including a mandatory one-year parenting class, they could have the felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor after 18 months, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

Nguyen and Phan were arrested April 13 after they left their 7-week-old daughter unattended in their vehicle in the casino parking garage for about 2-1/2 hours. A security guard discovered the infant in the vehicle.

The two pleaded no contest to the felony charge on June 30 and issued an apology that was read in court by their attorney, Anthony Palik, who said both were remorseful and knew they had made a bad decision.

The baby, now 6 months old, is in the custody of her grandmother. The parents have visitation rights.

The parents could become eligible to regain custody if they continue to comply with conditions of their probation and Child Protection Services in Sacramento County, according to prosecutor Joe McInerney of the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

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By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

The man who broke into and served alcohol at a Penryn bar he didn't own after it went out of business has been sentenced.

KEVIE.jpgTravis Lloyd Kevie (left), 29, was sentenced last week in Placer Superior Court after pleading no contest to selling liquor without a license, a misdemeanor.

He was sentenced last Aug. 18 to 15 days in jail, fined $160 and ordered to stay away from the Valencia Club unless lawfully employed there.

The judge ordered him to report to jail Oct. 19.

The Valencia Club, in Penryn, closed in June for financial reasons. Kevie, from Newcastle, surreptitiously reopened in July and proceeded to serve alcohol to unsuspecting customers -- about 30 of them a day.

Kevie subsequently was in an Auburn Journal newspaper article as the watering hole's new owner and was quoted as saying his takeover of the establishment was a "dream come true."

But Placer County sheriff's Detective Jim Hudson recognized Kevie from the article as a transient well known to authorities. He subsequently was arrested on suspicion of burglary and selling alcohol without a license.

A large amount of alcohol and cash were confiscated from the bar on Taylor Road, deputies said.

Kevie knew of the bar and its plight because he was hired as part of a clean-up crew after it was closed.

Deputies said Kevie admitted to breaking into the building and placing an "Open" sign in the window. Soon, he was pouring for thirsty customers, deputies said.

Playing the savvy business owner, Kevie reinvested profits from drink sales back into the business: He started with a six-pack of beer purchased from a convenience store across the street and used the proceeds from customers to buy more alcohol, deputies said.

"He built up to 10 to 12 bottles of hard liquor and a couple of cases of beer," Hudson said at the time of Kevie's arrest.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

Previous coverage:

Man lives dream of running bar in Sierra foothill town, but gets arrested - July 22, 2010

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A 63-year-old man, whom officials describe as a transient, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for sending anthrax-hoax letters threatening President Barack Obama and for failing to register as a sex offender.

Timothy Cloud pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb.

According to Cloud's plea agreement, he admitted sending hoax mailings addressed to Social Security Administration offices in Baltimore, Kansas City and New York City. Each contained a white powdery substance to simulate anthrax and an index card with the words "you stole my money" and "die." As a result of the mailing to the New York office, all employees were evacuated and four were quarantined.

Cloud also admitted to sending a letter to President Obama that contained a white powder and an index card with the words, "You are just another lying politision (sic)," with cross hairs between "not this time" and "maybe next time," as well as a newspaper photo of President Obama with cross hairs drawn over his face.

Cloud also admitted that, because of a conviction in Texas, he was required to register as a sex offender in California and that he did not do so, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

In addition to the 20-year prison sentence, Cloud was ordered to serve a 10-year period of supervised parole following his release from prison.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man convicted on two counts of rape and 16 other felony counts for a 2007 crime spree in North Natomas has been sentenced to 159 years to life in prison.

Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet imposed the term Friday on Sammie Lee Nichols, 20.

Nichols, who was 17 when he launched into a series of home-invasion burglaries and robberies, two of which resulted in sexual assaults, was convicted in June.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Roseville man who purposely crashed his car into an oncoming vehicle, injuring the driver, has been sentenced to five years in prison.

Rickey Scott Molina, 22, who had vowed to kill himself by driving into oncoming traffic, was sentenced Aug. 12 by Placer County Superior Court Judge Robert P. McElhany. Molina agreed to a plea arrangement for the assault by vehicle and other offenses, a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release states.

Molina's attorney, Jess Bedore, requested probation for his client. He said Molina had realized while in jail that he has mental health issues. Bedore argued that anger management classes and continuing therapy, rather than prison, would allow Molina to be rehabilitated.

Judge McElhany, however, said he was not satisfied that such measures would protect public safety.

In addition to the Dec. 6, 2008, incident in which he was arrested for driving into oncoming traffic, Molina was arrested in separate cases that involved unlawful sex with a 17-year-old girl and vandalism.

In the driving incident, Molina, who was reportedly angry over a breakup with his girlfriend, told another person that he was going to kill himself. He then got into his car, drove onto Lead Hill Boulevard and veered into oncoming traffic. He clipped one car, then smashed into a second vehicle, injuring a woman driver.

Molina eventually pleaded guilty to three assault charges for the driving incident and to the unlawful sex and vandalism counts.

The parents of Molina's ex-girlfriend told the judge at the sentencing that they feared for their daughter and entire family if Molina were allowed to be free on probation, the news release states. The woman's father said his daughter received phone calls from Molina even though the defendant was in jail and a restraining order prohibited him from contacting the woman.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento teenager convicted of voluntary manslaughter in a gang-related shooting death two years ago was sentenced today to 26 years in prison.

Marvel Barksdale, 17, received the term from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley for the Aug. 22, 2008, killing of 16-year-old Robert Haynes at a house party in Meadowview.

Barksdale got only six years for the manslaughter, but Frawley sentenced him to 10 years for carrying out the shooting in furtherance of street gang activity and 10 more years for use of the firearm.

Three other teenagers were injured in the shooting on Detroit Avenue, at the party attended by more than 50 youths.

The night of the shooting, Haynes, a projected starter on the Sacramento High School football team, told his mother he was going to the State Fair.

Witnesses said that Barksdale, then a sophomore at Foothill High School, showed up at the party with friends from the Guttah Boys gang.

They gathered in the backyard at the party and then stormed inside after the Fourth Avenue Bloods gang contingent arrived.

One witness testified he saw a gunshot-like flash come from Barksdale's side as the Guttah Boys ran into the house through a sliding glass door. A .32-caliber bullet, meanwhile, struck Haynes in the back of the head and killed him.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

The last of six defendants involved in a narcotics distribution ring has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Travis Davis, 40, of Sacramento was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton for cocaine distribution. His prison term will be followed by five years of supervised release.

Davis pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, distribution of more then 50 grams of crack cocaine and possession with intent to distribute the narcotic.

Davis is the last of six defendants sentenced in connection with conspiracies to distribute crack cocaine in Marysville and Sacramento during 2006 and 2007, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. Previously sentenced were Darence Lamont Jordan, 28, of Richmond, 14 years in prison; Ronnie James Williams Jr., aka "Big," 25, of Sacramento, 12 years in prison; Charles Demario Johnson, 31, of Marysville, more than nine years in prison; and Charles Gooden, aka "Charlie Hustle", 26, of Marysville, nine years in prison.

Aimee Lee Cox, 39, of Marysville was sentenced earlier to 18 months is prison and a three-year term of supervised release for a lesser charge of maintaining a drug-involved premises.

The cases resulted from a joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Yuba-Sutter Narcotic Enforcement Team.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A prison inmate who took a correctional officer hostage has been sentenced to a total of 50 years to life, plus 23 years, consecutive to the term he currently is serving for prior felony convictions for robbery, false imprisonment and sexual battery.

On May 6, 2006, Michael Watson, 45, was an inmate at California State Prison-Sacramento, due to parole in 2012. That morning, he took Correctional Officer Sheila Mitchell hostage by grabbing her around the neck and holding an inmate-manufactured weapon to her throat, according to a news release from the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office.

As officers responded, Watson repeatedly threatened to kill Officer Mitchell. He barricaded himself with the officer in a small office in a prison dining area. The Sacramento Sheriff's SWAT team and Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation's crisis response team were called, and after 10 hours of negotiations, Watson agreed to surrender.

On July 8, a Sacramento County jury convicted Watson of holding a hostage in prison and being an inmate in possession of a sharp instrument. Today, Superior Court Judge Gary S. Mullen determined that Watson had committed eight prior felonies. Watson was sentenced under the three strikes law to two separate and consecutive 25-year-to-life terms, plus a total of 23 additional years for personal use of a weapon, prior strikes and prior felony convictions.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Bee Staff

State Sen. Leland Yee today called Sacramento District Attorney Jan Scully's criticism of a bill he is sponsoring to soften sentencing for juveniles sentenced to life without parole "misguided" and "fear-mongering."

This afternoon, Scully objected to Yee's characterization of her comments and said she stands by her interpretation of the consequences if Yee's bill becomes law.

The bill, SB 399, would allow courts to review cases of juveniles sentenced to life without parole after 10 years, potentially allowing some individuals to receive a new sentence of 25 years to life, Yee said in a news release.

No other country in the world outside of the United States sentences juveniles to life without parole, Yee said.

Scully cited the cases of two young killers that she said would have benefited if Yee's bill were law - Jimmy Siackasorn, who was 16 when he fatally shot a Sacramento County sheriff's detective, and Frank Abella, who, with another suspect, robbed, tortured and fatally shot a disabled man when Abella was 17.

"Ms. Scully is misinformed on this issue and her remarks are misguided," said Yee. "The individuals she references will never be released under this bill, and she should know that. The public and the families of victims deserve better than fear-mongering from their elected district attorney.

"She fails to recognize that children have a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults and that some kids deserve a second chance," Yee said.

The bill has received bipartisan support and awaits a vote on the Assembly floor, Yee said.

Scully objected to Yee's claim that her comments were "misguided" and "fearmongering."

"I invite Senator Yee to step outside the protected ivory walls of the Capitol Dome and into the communities where cops, prosecutors and victims work in the trenches to make our communities safe and get accountability and justice," Scully said.

"Your juvenile killer took someone's innocent life and left the family of that murder victim to do a 'life without the possibility of parole' from grief and pain," Scully said. "In appropriate cases, we should demand nothing less from the murderer."

She said she didn't understand how Yee could say that Siackasorn Abella] would never be released under this bill.

"What I do know is SB 399 would give these killers the avenue to try for parole." Scully said.

By Kim Minugh
kminugh@sacbee.com

Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully announced her opposition today to a bill pending in the legislature that would allow sentencing modifications for convicted murderers between the ages of 16 and 18.

The bill, SB 399, applies specifically to those who were sentenced to first-degree murder with special circumstances and received sentenced of life without parole. The bill would allow those offenders to petition to have their sentences modified to allow parole.

In a letter to Assembly Speaker John Perez, Scully wrote that the bill would weaken accountability for "those, sixteen years and older, who commit the worst crimes."

She also argued that in such cases, prosecutors have discretion in deciding whether to seek life without parole, and that sentencing judges have similar discretion.

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"Current law provides adequate safeguards against the abuse of the life without parole penalty," she wrote in the letter, dated Monday and sent to every member of the Assembly.

To underscore her point, Scully cited two recent cases in which juvenile offenders were tried as adults and convicted of first-degree murder: Jimmy Siackasorn (photo left), who was 16 when he fatally shot Sacramento County sheriff's Detective Vu Nguyen; and Frank Abella, who, with another suspect, robbed, tortured and fatally shot disabled William Deer just shy of Abella's 18th birthday.

Siackasorn was sentenced to life without parole. Abella is scheduled for sentencing Aug. 27, and also faces a sentence of life without parole.

Scully wrote that the bill would "re-victimize" families of those victims and future victims by subjecting them to further court and parole hearings.

"On behalf of Detective Vu Nguyen, disabled William Greer, their families, and those crime victims still to come, I urge you to vote no on SB 399," Scully wrote in the letter.

The bill, authored by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, passed in the Senate and is now being considered in the Assembly.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038.

By Chelsea Phua
cphua@sacbee.com
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A 32-year-old validated gang member was sentenced to 14 years in prison after pleading no contest to felony charges that stemmed from a June 12 traffic stop where he fled from police and a loaded handgun fell out of his pocket, Placer County authorities said.

Prosecutors from the District Attorney's office said David Michael Perez of Rio Linda was a passenger inside a car that police stopped on the Sierra Street Bridge in Roseville. They said Perez got out of the car and ran away. When he jumped on the hood of a parked car and dented it, a loaded gun fell out of his pocket.

As a validated, active gang member with felony convictions, Perez was not allowed to have a gun, prosecutor Stephanie Macumber said.

On July 21, Perez pleaded no contest to four felony charges that included carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a firearm by a felon, street terrorism and vandalism, authorities said. He also pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of resisting or obstructing peace officers and one misdemeanor count of carrying a loaded firearm. He also did not contest special allegations of having prior felony offenses.

Photo provided by the Placer County Sheriff's Department

Call The Bee's Chelsea Phua, (916) 321-1132.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento judge has sentenced a man who murdered his uncle to 18 years and four months to life in prison.

Superior Court Judge James L. Long imposed the term Tuesday on Jason Dewayne Shepherd, 27.

Shepherd and his younger brother Shawn Christophe Shepherd, 25, were convicted of second-degree murder June 29 in the bludgeon slaying of their uncle, David Bryan Bishop, 47.

Shawn Shepherd's sentencing was delayed until Aug. 3.

The jury found that Jason Shepherd beat his uncle to death with a baseball bat because he suspected Bishop of stealing his girlfriend's underwear.

Shawn Shepherd then helped his brother tie up Bishop and dump his body in a creek outside of Jackpot, Nev., according to the evidence at trial.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento Superior Court jury convicted Glenn Wade Jennings today of first-degree murder in the robbery slaying of a liquor store clerk on Florin Road six years ago, qualifying him for a possible death penalty.

Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard scheduled the penalty phase of Jennings' trial for Aug. 9. The judge said she expects the testimony in the penalty phase to take most of that week.

Jennings, 57, stabbed Kulwant Sufi, 61, 11 times in the June 2, 2004, attack inside the DK Discount Liquor store in the 8400 block of Florin Road.

"I'm very happy he jury has found him guilty for the things he has done," said Chanan Sufi, the victim's husband.

It took the jury a little less than two days of deliberations to reach a verdict in the case after hearing seven days of testimony over the past three weeks.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man was sentenced today to 7 1/2 years in prison for sex trafficking of minors.

Reginald Wilson, 23, also was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. to 15 years of supervised probation, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, in December 2007 and January 2008, Wilson recruited two girls, ages 15 and 16, and caused them to engage in prostitution. Wilson pleaded guilty Sept. 8, 2009.

The case was the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Innocence Lost Task Force.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Rocklin resident was sentenced today to six months in jail and placed on three years probation for committing a sex act on a man who was asleep in a guest room the morning after a New Year's Eve party.

Placer County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens also ordered Ladd Douglas Wiidanen, 42, to obtain psychological counseling and treatment for alcohol abuse. He must also register as a sex offender.

A jury on March 18 convicted Wiidanen of committing a sex act on an unconscious person, which is a felony. The jury took less than 90 minutes to reach a guilty verdict, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

Wiidanen and the victim were among guests at a house party in Rocklin on the night of Dec. 31, 2007.

The victim and his girlfriend retired to a guest room during the early morning hours of Jan. 1.

About 7 a.m., the victim was awakened by the defendant committing an act of oral sex on him, according to the news release.

Rocklin police were called to the home and took DNA samples, which were forwarded to the California Department of Justice for analysis. Because of the heavy backlog of cases, however, the department didn't match the DNA samples to Wiidanen until 22 months after the incident.

Earlier this month, as Wiidanen awaited sentencing, he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol in Rocklin and is scheduled for arraignment Aug. 12. Judge Couzens cited the arrest in ordering counseling and treatment for alcohol abuse.

Wiidanen apologized repeatedly in a brief statement to the court and acknowledged the drinking problem, saying that he is attending Alcoholics Anonymous classes, according to the news release.

Couzens said Wiidanen must serve at least 45 days of his county jail sentence before he is eligible to apply for alternative sentencing, which could include work release programs with electronic monitoring.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A 20-year-old man who participated in the torture murder of a disabled former Marine two years ago was sentenced today to spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole.

The life term was imposed on James Davis Washington by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Kevin J. McCormick for the June 7, 2008, murder of William "Billy" Deer, 50.

Deer had bought a cup of coffee and was drinking it on a curb next door to a 7-Eleven in the 10200 block of Mills Station Road in Rancho Cordova when he was attacked by Washington and another man named Frank Abella, who also is now 20.

Abella, who also was convicted of first-degree murder with special circumstances in a separate trial, is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 27.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

A Minden, Nev., man has been sent to state prison for trying to prevent a witness from testifying at his trial.

Clint Wayne Wardlow, 35, was sentenced in Placer County Superior Court on Thursday to 16 years after pleading guilty to trying to dissuade a witness and two drug-related counts.

Also contributing to his sentence was Wardlow's admission of having a prior conviction for possessing methamphetamine for sale.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Suzanne Gazzaniga said Wardlow's most recent conviction stems from a 2008 case in which he was arrested on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine for sale.

Wardlow made a telephone call in October 2009 as his case was going through the justice system to one of the witnesses who was served a subpoena to testify against him. Wardlow threatened to kill the witness and burn down her home, Gazzaniga said.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution for his participation in a credit card fraud scheme.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia Jr. ordered Corey Ebanks, 27, to pay restitution of $22,383 for making false statements on a credit card application. Ebanks pleaded guilty April 30.

According to court documents, Ebanks met Jerry Van Le, who had access to Social Security numbers and could establish fictitious lines of credit with these numbers. Van Le provided Ebanks with a fraudulent Social Security number and set up a fictitious credit history in Ebanks' name connected to this number, which Ebanks used to establish fraudulent lines of credit.

On May 30, 2008, Ebanks submitted a fraudulent credit card application to Capital One, a federally insured bank. In the application, he provided the false Social Security number to obtain a credit card. After receiving the card, he immediately maxed out his credit, then failed to make payments, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

Ebanks also received credit cards from Bank of America, Citibank, Discover and Target, amounting to a total of $9,127 in credit to which he was not entitled.

On Sept. 24, 2008, Ebanks went to Lexus of Sacramento to purchase a vehicle. The vehicle was financed through Toyota Financial Services, the in-house finance agency for Lexus dealerships. In the credit application, Ebanks provided his false Social Security number and falsely stated that his gross monthly income was $14,500. As a result, he was able to purchase a new vehicle for $34,780.34, the news release said.

Five other people -- Jerry Van Le, Chung Jeng Tang, Nathan Bitner, Keilan Johnson and Tehan Ferguson -- also pleaded guilty in connection with the credit card fraud scheme. In January, Tang was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and Bitner to six months in prison. Van Le, Johnson and Ferguson are scheduled for sentencing Aug. 27.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Denny Walsh
dwalsh@sacbee.com

Matthew Michael Fraticelli was sentenced Friday in Sacramento to four years and nine months in prison for placing a homemade, unlit bomb next to the downtown federal courthouse in May of last year.

Assistant Federal Defender Dennis Waks asked that his client be given credit for the 14 months he has spent in jail since his arrest and that he be placed in a mental health treatment program.

Calling the case "bizarre," Assistant U. S. Attorney Richard Bender sought a five-year prison term for Fraticelli, 31, of south Sacramento.

Contrary to both requests, U. S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia followed a probation officer's recommendation in a pre-sentence report. The judge also imposed three years of supervised release following Fraticelli's discharge from custody.

Call The Bee's Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

Seven members of a crime ring that stole checks out of rural mailboxes in Placer County and used account and routing numbers to create counterfeit checks have been sentenced to jail and prison terms.

Banks and individuals lost thousands of dollars as a result of the fraudulent activities that occurred between February and October of 2009, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

"We are aware of more than a dozen victims whose account information was used and of probably another dozen stores and banks that were victimized when fraudulent checks were passed," prosecutor Dan Quick said in a written statement.

Five defendants were sentenced Monday in Placer County Superior Court. Two others, including Jayson Paul Krack, whom officials identified as the central figure in the group, were sentenced earlier this year.

Krack, 30, a Citrus Heights resident, received the longest sentence, seven years in state prison, after pleading no contest May 10 to felony charges or conspiracy, forgery, identity theft and burglary.

Thomas Alan Woodhouse, 24, of Auburn received six years in the California Rehabilitation Center, a prison facility for substance abusers. He pleaded no contest in April to conspiracy and identity theft, as well as unrelated charges of burglary and illegally taking a vehicle, according to the news release.

On Monday, James Michael Marich, 46, of Auburn was sentenced to one year and four months in state prison after pleading no contest to charges of conspiracy, identity theft and burglary.

The other defendants, all Auburn residents who played lesser roles in the operation, were sent to Placer County jail after plea agreements. They included Rachael Duran, 30, six months for conspiracy, forgery and burglary; Andrew Clifford, 24, three months for conspiracy and identity theft; Jason Lacy, 22, two months for conspiracy and burglary; and Bonnie Tremlin, 29, 45 days for identity theft.

Quick said one other defendant awaits sentencing while two other suspected members of the ring are sought by authorities.

The counterfeiters came to law enforcement officers' attention when one of the defendants was caught after trying to pass a phony check at a business. Phony checks found in the suspect's vehicle led to the arrests of others involved in the operation.

Quick advised residents of rural areas to use caution when putting up the red flag on their mailboxes. In addition to alerting postal carriers to outgoing mail, they may be alerting thieves that they are sending out a check. He recommended people drop their letters in a mailbox at a post office.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

An Olivehurst man has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison for possession of child pornography.

Douglas William Howay, 31, pleaded guilty March 19. Friday, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia sentenced him to eight years and two months in prison followed by a 10-year term of supervised probation, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, in 2008, undercover detectives in Chesterfield County, Va., posed as a 13-year-old girl and communicated online with Howay through a Yahoo chat room. At the time, Howay was an airman stationed at Beale Air Force Base in Yuba County. He was arrested Sept. 12, 2008 while he was online with the Virginia detectives.

A forensic search of Howay's computer and other computer equipment found 399 visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, the news release says. The forensic search also discovered that Howay had communicated in explicit sexual terms with people who identified themselves as minors.

Howay separated from the military following his arrest and is no longer a member of the armed forces, according to the news release.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A judge today sentenced former prostitute Carolyn Marie Simmons to 15 years to life in prison for bludgeoning a man to death after a sex transaction in 1991.

Simmons, 54, was convicted of second-degree murder on April 5 in the death of Richard Jackson, 66. Prosecutors said she killed Jackson on June 16, 1991, because he didn't pay her quickly enough.

In sentencing Simmons, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard noted that the defendant had 17 criminal convictions that dated to the 1970s -- mostly for drugs, theft and prostitution -- and continued for 14 years after she killed Jackson.

"She's engaged in what I'd refer to as a one-woman crime spree," Gilliard said.

Simmons was arrested in January 2009 when her son went to the police and told them he had information that his mother killed a man.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

Previous coverage:

Sacramento County jury gets '91 murder case - March 30, 2010

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento judge today ordered that Aaron Norman Dunn be executed by lethal injection for his 2006 shotgun killing spree in which he murdered two men who had just finished dining with their families in Elk Grove.

MOREDUNN.JPG"It is the judgment and sentence of this court that you, Aaron Norman Dunn, should be put to death within the walls of San Quentin in the manner proscribed by law upon the date to be fixed by this court in the warrant of execution," Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet told the 32-year-old defendant.

Dunn (left) was convicted of murder April 13 in the March 25, 2006, slayings of Michael John Daly, 45, and Jon Johnson, 46. The two men were leaving popular Laguna Boulevard restaurants when they were killed by Dunn, who was distraught over the break-up of his marriage and had been ingesting methamphetamine.

The same jury that convicted Dunn voted on May 12 to recommend he face the death penalty. Dunn also was convicted of trying to kill four other people in the spree, two of whom were Elk Grove police officers.

Wearing a yellow jail T-shirt and flanked by three defense lawyers, Dunn remained silent but fiddled with a pencil at times during the sentencing hearing. At one point, he turned to look at Karen Johnson, the wife of victim Jon Johnson, who told the court, "Satan worked through that man that night."

Still, Johnson told the killer, "Aaron Dunn, I have forgiven you."

In a letter read to the court by Deputy District Attorney Scott Triplett, Daly's older sister, Dianne McGarry, refuted the defense contention that drugs, depression and a lousy upbringing combined to lead Dunn to murder.

McGarry said in her letter to Dunn that he had a choice in the events that have sent him to California's death row.

"Aaron Dunn, you have brought these consequences upon yourself with the actions you chose in March 25, 2006," McGarry wrote. She told Dunn in the letter, "You are truly a cold, ruthless killer."

Earlier in the hearing, Sweet rejected a defense motion to exercise "independent mercy" and refrain from sentencing Dunn to death.

The judge said the aggravating circumstances of the killings were "so horrendous" that they outweighed the defendant's problematic upbringing of a drug-abusing father and an indifferent, uncaring mother.

Sweet then delayed the sentencing hearing for a half hour while he read the probation report on Dunn that had been filed under seal.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

KCRA: Widow: I've forgiven Aaron Dunn:

Previous coverage:

Jurors tell why they decided spree killer must die - May 13, 2010

Jurors still weighing fate of killer in Elk Grove spree - May 5, 2010

Jury weighs fate of Elk Grove killer of 2 men - April 30, 2010

Family describes killer's grim life - April 27, 2010

Victims' relatives tell of pain, loss at killer's sentencing hearing - April 23, 2010

Jury convicts man of gunning down 2 in Elk Grove - April 14, 2010

Jury deliberating fate of double-murder defendant Aaron Norman Dunn - April 13, 2010

Prosecutor, doctor spar over Elk Grove murder defendant's actions - April 8, 2010

Prosecutor eager to attack psychiatrist in Elk Grove shooting spree trial - April 7, 2010

Meth psychosis cited in killings; defendant's words cast doubt - April 6, 2010

Elk Grove cop testifies how she and partner stopped deadly rampage - March 17, 2010

Witnesses tell of lives shattered in deadly Elk Grove shooting spree - March 12, 2010

Prosecutor, defense attorneys agree suspect killed two people in Elk Grove - March 10, 2010

Elk Grove residents eligible for murder case jury - Dec. 11, 2009

Prosecutor's bid for Placer DA could stall trial for double killing - Dec. 2, 2009

Homicide suspect's lawyers don't want any Elk Grove jurors - Aug. 11, 2009

By Kim Minugh
kminugh@sacbee.com

An Antelope man who pleaded guilty to hitting and killing a pedestrian with his car in Roseville is scheduled to be sentenced in August, the Placer County District Attorney's Office says.

Jeremy Sarguis is expected in court Aug. 10, the DA's office says. He pleaded guilty in May to one count of leaving the scene of an accident in which a death occurred and two counts of conspiracy.

In the early-morning hours of Feb. 4, Sarguis struck 47-year-old Vickie Janell Scott of Grass Valley on Interstate 80 at Atlantic Street.

He fled and then conspired with two passengers to clean the car and repair damage, the DA's office said.

Sarguis faces a state prison sentence of five years and four months, the DA's office said.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

Two men convicted in the Boulevard Park robbery and murder of an experimental artist who was stabbed 140 times "because he was gay" were sentenced today to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Johnathan Baker and Jeremy Dale Ackerman received the terms from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White, the former district attorney who said the meth-related murder of Jim Arthur on June 3, 2009, was one of the most horrific he has seen in his 36-year legal career.

"In the course of my own career incarnations I have dealt with more murders and murderers and evidence of murders in murder cases than I can completely remember," White said. "Some cases are certainly more memorable than others. This is one I certainly will never forget."

According to evidence at trial, Arthur, 23, met Ackerman, now 21, and his girlfriend, Nadine Klein, also 21, early last year through a mutual friend in the drug world. Arthur befriended the two who were basically living out of their car and sleeping on friends' couches and allowed them to spend time in his mother's 22nd Street house while she was out of the country.

Ackerman and Klein then stole video games from Arthur and brought in Baker, 22, for another planned ripoff, police and prosecutors said. During the course of that robbery, Baker and Ackerman tied up Arthur. Ackerman told police that Baker flew into a stabbing frenzy on Arthur "because he was gay." Ackerman told investigators he also participated in the stabbing.

The two defendants were convicted by separate juries, but a third panel could not reach a verdict on Klein, who also was charged in the case. Her retrial has been scheduled for Sept. 16.

At today's sentencing, Jim Arthur's mother, Anne, described him as a beloved son and brother. His father, Jeff Arthur, was a high-ranking legislative staffer who died in November 2004. During the sentencing hearing, Deputy District Attorney Eric Kindall played a photo CD put together by the family that showed Jim Arthur growing up through the years and concluded with a depiction of his gripping art work.

"Throughout his life, Jim committed himself to art," his mother told the court. "He was a prodigious artist and loved to experiment with lines, light, color. Jim was committed to being a good friend, a good roommate, a loving brother and a loving son. Being hospitable was a tendency that Jim inherited, one that perversely led to his abuse and death."

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

Previous coverage:

Testimony points to meth obsession in grisly Sacramento stabbing death - May 9, 2010

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man has been sentenced in to 4 1/2 years in prison after he was found to be in possession of CDs and an iPod that contained 380 files of child pornography, according to a U.S. Justice Department news release.

Joseph Mulligan, 37, pleaded guilty May 8, 2009, and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia, the release states. The prison term will be followed by eight years of supervised release.

According to court documents, Mulligan admitted to law enforcement officers that the CDs and iPod were his and that he had downloaded the images from the Internet.

At the sentencing, Judge Garcia heard and considered statements from some of the victims, including a girl who was raped by her biological father when she was 10 years old.

The act was videotaped and posted by her father to the Internet. The victim said knowing that others were searching the Internet and downloading the videos made her feel like she was being abused again, the release states.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A former Marysville resident has been sentenced to prison and ordered to pay restitution for his involvement in a conspiracy to commit mail fraud and identity theft.

Manuel Mejia Ordonez, 31, who previously lived in Marysville but is a Mexican citizen, was sentenced today in Sacramento by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia to eight years and one month in prison, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

He also was ordered to pay $3 million restitution to the California Employment Development Department, the release states.

According to court documents, Mejia Ordonez conspired with others to defraud the EDD by submitting claims for unemployment insurance using stolen employee and employer information with the employees' addresses changed to mail drops controlled by the conspirators.

When the checks from EDD were sent to the mail drops, Mejia Ordonez and co-conspirators took them to a market in Marysville as well as two markets near Fresno to cash them and to wire-transfer the funds to co-conspirators and family members in California and Mexico.

Through the scheme, the conspirators unlawfully acquired more than $3 million.

The case resulted from a joint investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation and the EDD Investigative Division.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man already serving time for murder has been sentenced to an additional 10 years and one month in prison for interstate transportation of a minor for sex, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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Dominick West (photo left), 29, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia. He will serve his federal sentence concurrently with the 51-year sentence he is serving as a result of his conviction in Sacramento Superior Court for the 2007 murder of a young woman leaving a nightclub with her friends, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. The murder was unrelated to the federal case.

According to court documents filed in the current case, Sacramento police on Jan. 11, 2008, received a report of a 15-year-old runaway from Montana. Police learned that the girl was being offered as a prostitute on Craigslist.

An undercover police officer made a "date" to meet her. The officer met her in a Sacramento motel room, confirmed that she was the 15-year-old runaway and took her into custody.

The girl told police that she had run away from her home in Montana at West's urging when she began talking to him online. West paid for a bus ticket for her to come to Sacramento from Montana, and she arrived on Dec. 25, 2007.

West met her at the bus station and took her to a female friend's apartment, where he had the woman post an ad offering the girl as a prostitute, the release states. The girl served as a prostitute for West out of a Sacramento motel for two days, according to the release.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

Previous coverage:

Sacramento jury convicts man in 2007 shooting death of ARC student - Feb. 4, 2010

Defendant tells murder trial he didn't do it and ex-girlfriends lied - Jan. 28, 2010

Ex-girlfriend testifies defendant talked about killing woman - Jan. 22, 2010

Victim's friend recalls gunshot - Jan. 12, 2010

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Woodland man with a prison record has been sentenced to 31 years to life behind bars for punching a man who tried to break up a fight during Davis' 2009 Picnic Day.

Steven Hector Martinez, 35, was convicted by a Yolo County jury on March 12 of one count of battery with serious bodily injury and was sentenced today by Yolo Superior Court Judge Kathleen White.

On April 18, 2009, the victim reported that he was at the Bistro 33 restaurant in downtown Davis when he saw people he thought he knew getting into a fight in the street area. When the victim went over to stop the fight, Martinez, a stranger to the victim, "sucker punched" the man in the face with his fist, according to a Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release.

Martinez and the group with him then fled. But a concerned University of California, Davis, student witnessed the attack and followed the group. The student used his cell phone to call 911, relayed the group's movements and descriptions, and confirmed when a Davis police had stopped the right person.

The student and the victim identified Martinez as the attacker.

A known Sureno gang associate, Martinez had been released from prison only 100 days before the incident, officials said.

The victim went to the hospital by ambulance but left before being treated because, he said, there were two elderly men who appeared to be in worse condition than he was, according to the news release. Three days later, however, the victim went to the hospital where a CT scan revealed that his eye socket was shattered in two places.

Judge White's sentence was based on the application of California's "Three Strikes Law." Martinez previously had been convicted of four felonies, including a 1996 shooting in Woodland where he fired several shots from a semiautomatic gun into a crowd of rival gang members, the news release said. One bullet hit a 19-year-old man in the throat, and another bullet struck a 16-year-old youth in the leg.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Sacramento woman has been sentenced to two years and six months in federal prison for credit card fraud.

Stephanie Fahlgren, 33, pleaded guilty on Jan. 28 and was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr., according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

According to court documents, from June through November 2008, Fahlgren used her computer to obtain personal and financial information relating to more than 114 victims. She obtained the information by accessing a computer database of a national life insurance company without authorization.

The database contained the medical and personal data of prospective life insurance purchases. Using this information, Fahlgren complied profiles of the victims and opened lines of credit and credit cards in their names. She then made purchases without the consent of the victims, often ordering merchandise to be shipped to an address in Sacramento or picked it up at retail locations.

Fahlgren is to appear in court July 29, when the court will determine the amount of restitution owed to the fraud victims.

The case resulted from an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Davis Police Department.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Bee Staff

A magazine salesman who thought he could save his job by writing a fraudulent check to make himself look good in the eyes of his employer has been sent to state prison for two years and four months by a Placer County judge, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

clip_image002.jpgmagsalesman.jpgThe salesman, Joseph Won Lee Jones (photo left), 33, stole a blank check from a 71-year-old Auburn resident on Feb. 2 after she invited him into the house and placed a magazine subscription order for $44, the release states.

Jones then asked for a glass of water. When the victim left the room to get it for him, Jones went to the woman's checkbook and took a blank check, which he later used to write another magazine order for $396 in an effort to impress his bosses, the DA's office said.

Prosecutor Jim Deslaurier of the Placer County District Attorney's Office said the defendant told authorities he was having trouble meeting sales numbers.

"He didn't want to lose his job," Deslaurier said.

When the victim received her bank statement later that month, she noticed the $396 transaction and went to the Auburn Police Department to report the incident. Jones was tracked down to San Bernardino County and was arrested on March 10, Deslaurier said.

He later entered a plea of no contest to a felony charge of petty theft with a prior offense and of committing a financial crime against an elderly person, Deslaurier said.

Superior Court Judge Jeff Penney sentenced Jones to prison on Wednesday and ordered him to make restitution of $396 to the victim's bank.

Deslaurier said the District Attorney's Office "takes very seriously any crime in which a perpetrator enters a home, particularly when the victim is an elderly person. We have no tolerance for that."

Deslaurier urged all citizens not to let strangers who are knocking on doors into their homes to conduct business.

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

A Roseville man has been sent to state prison for stealing a vehicle and running from officers.

Keith G. Logan, 40, after pleading no contest May 28, was sentenced in June to four years and four months in Placer County Superior Court.

A member of the Sacramento County Auto Theft Suppression Task Force on May 21 spotted a stolen Chevrolet Tahoe sports utility vehicle on Park Drive in Roseville. A man later identified as Logan got into the SUV.

Eventually, a high-speed chase began by marked units of the task force and California Highway Patrol officers. The chase ended at an apartment complex where the driver jumped out of the moving SUV.

The SUV hit a chain-link fence and Logan bolted but was taken into custody within minutes.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Lodi man has been sentenced to 30 months imprisonment for producing and attempting to pass counterfeit money.

U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb Jr. today also sentenced Clinton Earl Irons, 33, to a 36-month term of supervised release, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. Irons pleaded guilty Feb. 8 to attempted passing and uttering a counterfeit United States obligation and possession of a counterfeit United States obligation.

According to court documents, between January 2006 and July 2008, Irons, along with co-defendants Tami Kishi Deanda, Holly Armada Haworth, Shelie Radotic and others made and passed counterfeit $100 bills throughout the Central Valley.

To manufacture the bills, Irons and others used a degreaser along with other tools to "wash" the ink off crisp $5 bills. Irons then used a laser printer to print images of $100 bills onto the washed $5 bills. The counterfeit bills looked authentic except for various security features that remained on the washed bills, including the $5 embedded strip and the watermark of Abraham Lincoln, the news release said.

Irons possessed computer hardware and software that allowed him to manipulate digital images of United States currency to produce realistic looking counterfeit $100 bills. Irons sold and gave these digital images to others so that they could counterfeit their own currency.

Between January 2006 and July 2008, Irons counterfeited a series of bills with serial numbers that were passed throughout the Central Valley. Since the first counterfeit bills in this case appeared, more the $277,000 in counterfeit currency has been recovered, the news release says. Some was in Mexico and Iraq.

The bills recovered in Iraq were passed by Joseph Deanda, who acquired them from Tami Kishi Deanda.

Joseph Deanda pleaded guilty on April 27, 2009, to passing counterfeit currency and was later sentenced to 18 months imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Tami Kishi Deanda pleaded guilty Nov. 9, 2009, also to possessing counterfeit currency, and is to be sentenced on June 28.

Co-defendant Holly Haworth pleaded guilty on June 1, 2009, to passing counterfeit currency and was later sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A West Sacramento man has been sentenced to three years in prison for possessing child pornography.

Yolo Superior Court Judge Timothy L. Fall sentenced Phil Douglas Reese, 45, to the maximum prison term allowed at the state level for the offense, according to a Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release. Reese was convicted by a Yolo County jury on May 18 for possessing child pornography and failing to register as a sex offender.

Reese was arrested Aug. 29, 2008, in the area of West Capitol Avenue by the West Sacramento Police Department's community Response Team. When he was arrested, Reese had a laptop computer with him in his truck. The computer was on and officers observed numerous movies involving child pornography on the computer.

Lt. Peter Martin, an investigator with the District Attorney's Child Sexual Predator Unit, forensically examined the laptop computer and discovered more than 20 such movies on the hard drive, the news release said.

As part of the investigation, West Sacramento police also determined that Reese was living in Riverside County without notifying the West Sacramento Police Department of his change of residence, which was in violation of his requirement to register as a sex offender.

Since 2003, Reese has been required to register as a sex offender for an Internet crime conviction involving a minor from Stanislaus County. In that case, Reese was arrested by the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department for communicating through the Internet with what he believed was 13-year-old girl for the purpose of meeting with her to have sexual intercourse. The "girl" was actually an undercover officer.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

An Oroville man has been sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison for drug trafficking crimes, including an incident in which he dressed up as a law-enforcement officer.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton on Tuesday sentenced Eric Keith Sills to 10 years and 10 months in prison for drug trafficking and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, according to a federal Department of Justice news release. Sills pleaded guilty on Feb. 2.

According to court documents, Sills and three other men dressed up as law enforcement officers to rob a marijuana growing operation in Butte County. The men, armed with shotguns and semiautomatic pistols, detained a man guarding the site at gunpoint.

Law enforcement officers later searched Sills' house and found more than 120 pounds of processed marijuana, a MAC-10 machine pistol, a .357 revolver, a loaded .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun, a Panther stun gun, police badges, gun cases, shirts with Sheriff's or police insignia, night vision goggles, two sets of handcuffs, body armor and a radio on a tactical police sling.

The cases resulted from a joint investigation by the Butte County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Union City man is the latest of several people to be sentenced for their involvement in a large-scale conspiracy to distribute cocaine from Mexico to the Sacramento area.

Jose Maria Meza-Portillo, 44, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton to 19 years and seven months in prison for conspiring to distribute cocaine, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. He pleaded guilty Nov. 4, 2009.

During the investigation, federal agents learned that Meza-Portillo was directing the payment of money from the sales of cocaine back to the suppliers in Mexico. On Mary 3, 2006, officers stopped a vehicle they believed was carrying money bound for Mexico and discovered nearly $1 million in cash hidden inside, the news release said.

Co-conspirators previously sentenced in the case include:

• Luis Manuel Sanchez-Aceves, 29, of Richmond, sentenced on May 25 to 13 years in prison

• Cristobal Navarro, 46, of Richmond, sentenced June 2 to 12 years and seven months in prison

• Daniel Rosales, 26, or San Francisco, sentenced Sept. 29, 2009 to eight years in prison

• Darius Louis, 38, of Richmond, sentenced May 25 to four years in prison.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento street gang member convicted of first-degree murder for killing a rival during a shootout two years ago has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, online court records show.

Billy Saechao was sent to the Department of Corrections on Friday by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Laurie M. Earl for the killing of Koua Lee, 20.

An estimated 40 shots were fired in the battle between two street gangs March 21, 2008, on Millroy Way in south Sacramento.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Carlos Alcalá
calcala@sacbee.com

A Placer County judge has sentenced David Harrison Buzzetta, 22, for killing his stepfather with an aluminum baseball bat in 2007, according to a release from the Placer County District Attorney's office.

Judge Mark S. Curry sentenced Buzzetta Friday to a term of 26 years to life in prison, the maximum possible under a plea agreement.

Paul Bonomo, the victim, had allowed his stepson, then 19, to stay in the house upon his return from Colorado. Buzzetta was said to have resented his stepfather's discipline, "tough love" in the words of the release.

Although a jury had found that Buzzetta was lying in wait -- a circumstance that could have led to a sentence of life without possibility of parole -- the allegation was withdrawn after the plea deal.

Under the deal, Buzzetta withdrew an insanity plea, the release said.

Call The Bee's Carlos Alcalá, (916) 321-1987.

Previous coverage:

Placer County judge rejects defendant's claim juror was drinking - May 12, 2010

Man withdraws insanity plea, will serve prison term for murder - Jan. 12, 2010

Jury convicts Roseville man of first-degree murder - Jan. 7, 2010


Roseville man to stand trial in stepfather's beating death case
- Aug. 11, 2009

By Bee Staff

A 54-year-old Roseville man has been sentenced to 16 years in state prison for the sexual molestation of three girls, whose ages ranged from 9 to 13, according to a new release from the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

clip_image002.jpgchartier.jpgEdwin Lionel Chartier (photo left) must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and will be on three years parole after he gets out of prison, Placer County Superior Court Judge Robert P. McElhany ordered during the defendant's sentencing Wednesday, the release states.

Prosecutor Jeff Wood of the Placer County District Attorney's Office said Chartier will be required to serve at least 85 percent of his prison sentence.

"In addition, two of the felony charges against him are strikes," Wood said. "Should he pick up a third strike, he is looking at even more substantial prison time."

Wood said the crimes against the girls, whose ages were 9, 12 and 13, began in 2006 and continued through 2009.

On April 21, one of the girls revealed the molestation to a parent, triggering a police investigation. The following day, Chartier walked into the Roseville Police Department and confessed the crimes, Wood said.

aubrel.jpgBy Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A 40-year-old Grass Valley man has been placed on five years probation, given a three-year suspended prison sentence and ordered to register as a sex offender after posing as a teenage boy to solicit photos of teenage girls in their underwear.

Steven Lawrence Elliott (left photo) was sentenced Wednesday by Placer Superior Court Judge Robert P. McElhany. Although Elliott was credited for serving 495 days in Placer County Jail, he may not be released immediately because there is a custody hold on him from Nevada County, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

Elliott was arrested in July 2009 following a Rocklin Police Department investigation into allegations by the mother of a 15-year-old girl that her daughter had received inappropriate text messages.

Police determined that Elliott had posed as a 16-year-old boy and sent text messages or made Internet contact with a number of teenage girls, asking for photos of their underwear or of the girls wearing the underwear, according to the news release.

Elliott originally pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including stalking, contacting minors with the intent to commit a sexual offense, annoying children and one count of unauthorized use of another person's identity.

On May 5, he agreed to plead no contest to the felony charge of unauthorized use of another's identity and to one misdemeanor count of annoying a child younger than 18.

Prosecutor Todd Kuhnen said the probation conditions imposed on Elliott include restrictions on use of the Internet and cell phones. If Elliott violates probation, he could be ordered to fulfill the remainder of his three-years suspended sentence in state prison.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Woodland man, identified as a member of the Norteno Criminal Street Gang, has been sentenced to 38 years and 8 months to life in state prison after being convicted of robbery, assault with a firearm and attempting to dissuade a witness.

Anthony Vasquez, 22, was sentenced by Yolo County Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall on Friday.

On May 5, 2008, Vasquez arranged to buy marijuana from the victim, according to an Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release.

When the victim arrived to make the sale, Vasquez got into the back of the victim's car. When the victim began to show him the marijuana, Vasquez grabbed the marijuana and shot the victim in the chest from the back seat.

Vasquez then returned to a party he had been attending earlier. The victim underwent hours of surgery to repair damage from the bullet that pierced his lung, the news release says.

Authorities located Vasquez six months later hiding in a local hotel room.

On July 4, 2009, days before a scheduled preliminary hearing in the case, a correctional officer at the jail found a letter written by Vasquez. The letter was smuggled out of jail by an inmate who was being released from custody.

In the letter Vasquez admitted shooting the victim and asked that some of his "homies" let witnesses know that they should not attend his trial and that they should say he was not present at the time of the shooting, the news release says.

The jury found Vasquez guilty of robbery with intentional use and discharge of a firearm causing great bodily injury, assault with a firearm causing great bodily injury and attempting to dissuade a witness. The jury also found that the crimes we committed for benefit of a criminal street gang.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

An Olivehurst man will spend nine months in jail as part of a four-year probation sentence for sending a sexually explicit photo to a 15-year-old Auburn girl.

clip_image002.jpgnielsen.jpgMichael Anthony Nielsen (photo left), 36, was sentenced Wednesday by Placer County Judge Robert P. McElhany, who also ordered him to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, prohibited him from living within a quarter of a mile of elementary schools and being within 100 yards of places where children congregate.

Nielsen contacted the girl last summer through text messages and sent a lewd photo, according to a news release from the Placer County District Attorney's Office. When the girl's father learned of it, he contacted the Placer County Sheriff's Department.

Posing as the girl, sheriff's detectives continued text messaging Nielsen, who suggested meeting for sex at Marysville motel. Officers arrested Nielsen when he arrived at a store parking lot next to the motel.

Nielsen is to report to the Placer County Jail on June 22 to begin serving his term. The judge credited him with having already served 57 of the 270 days.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Denny Walsh
dwalsh@sacbee.com

William Murray, the Sacramento certified public accountant who stole at least $13.5 million from 52 clients, was sentenced today in federal court to 19 years and 7 months in prison, and ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution.

While every asset of Murray's that the IRS could locate was ordered to be seized, U. S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia noted that "will not begin to make the victims whole."

A number of the victims addressed Garcia before he passed sentence and urged him to give Murray the most possible time behind bars.

The judge obliged by imposing the maximum term available under federal guidelines.

Call The Bee's Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.

Previous coverage:

Alleged victims of disgraced CPA remain angry - Feb. 16, 2010

Accountant's license suspended in case - Jan. 14, 2010

One of Sacramento accountant's alleged victims speaks out - Dec. 20, 2009

Affidavit: Sacramento accountant admits to stealing millions - Dec. 17, 2009

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Glenn County man has been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for drug trafficking.

Jesus Rodriguez, 42, of Butte City was sentenced today by United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. to 19 years and 7 months in prison, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. After a six-day trial in March, a federal grand jury found Rodriguez guilty of two counts of possession of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to distribute the drug.

Evidence introduced during the trial showed that Rodriguez delivered a half pound of crystal methamphetamine on two occasions in 2004 to an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration informant. The second transaction took place inside Rodriguez's place of business, the Afton General Store, in Glenn County.

When officers attempted to arrest Rodriguez, he led them on a high-speed chase. During the chase, he threw three-quarters of a pound of crystal methamphetamine out of the car window.

Rodriguez also called his sister during the chase. She was apprehended as she fled the rear of the store carrying a box containing four handguns and used drug packaging material, the news release says. In searching the store, agents found a digital scale and approximately $30,000 in U.S. currency, much of it in heat-sealed plastic. Agents also discovered DEA prerecorded "buy funds" among the sealed currency.

The jury rejected Rodriguez's claim during the trial that he had been entrapped.

In sentencing Rodriguez, Judge England noted the large amounts of highly pure crystal methamphetamine involved, calling Rodriguez "high level" drug trafficker. The judge said this was one of the largest methamphetamine trafficking cases in Northern California.

A total of 30 defendants were convicted of drug charges arising out of the investigations, the news release says.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A former Rocklin gas station employee has been sentenced to prison for stealing more than 2,000 credit card numbers.

United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. sentenced Pavel Abramyan, 27, of Rancho Cordova to 3 1/2 years in federal prison for possessing stolen credit card numbers, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release. Abramyan pleaded guilty Oct. 15, 2009.

According to the plea agreement, Abramyan admitted that he had been employed at a Rocklin gas station from May 10 through July 7, 2007. Customers of the gas station indicated that during that time the pump-side card reader frequently wasn't functioning and they had to leave their credit cards with an attendant while they pumped gas.

On Nov. 13, 2007, Abramyan bought more than $2,000 worth of merchandise from a Babies-R-Us store in Roseville using three credit cards purported to be his own. The accounts, however, belonged to customers of the Rocklin gas station.

During a search of Abramyan's home, officers found a magnetic stripe card reader with instructions and a software operation guide, a computer, a floppy disk reader and floppy disks. Abramyan also possessed eight credit cards in his own name but with account information programmed into the magnetic strip that did not belong to him, according to the news release.

The floppy disks contained account information from more than 2,000 credit card accounts, none of which belonged to Abramyan.

As part of his plea agreement, Abramyan forfeited all of the seized computer equipment to the government.

The case resulted from an investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

An Elk Grove man who traumatized a young clerk when he held up a sandwich shop has been sentenced.

bool_oleg.jpgOleg Bool (left), 22, who pointed a pellet gun at the Subway sandwich shop employee during the hold-up, has been sent to state prison for two years. He pleaded guilty in Placer County Superior Court to second-degree robbery.

Bool was convicted of entering the restaurant on Foothills Boulevard in Roseville on Feb. 13, pointing the weapon in the face of a 20-year-old female clerk and escaping with cash. He was later caught jogging away from the shop with $362 and deposit slips from the Subway.

The gun, mask, gloves and clothes were found in bushes behind the shopping center where the Subway is located.

The clerk did not attend the sentencing, the Placer County District Attorney's Office said, but she said in a letter read in court that her life had changed significantly.

"In about 35 seconds, I went from a content and normal college student to a terrified mess," she wrote.

She was too upset to leave her home for days, fell behind in schoolwork and dropped classes as she lost her focus. She also quit the sandwich shop job.

"I hope one day I can move on and the thoughts won't haunt me any longer," the young woman wrote.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A couple of convicted killers sobbed in stereo when a judge sentenced them to life in prison with no chance of parole for the robbery murder of a prostitution trick they lured into an alley.

Rebecca Dawn Brousseau, 32, heaved tears and needed a second tissue box to mop them up on Friday when Sacramento Superior Court Judge Russell L. Hom refused to grant her even a sliver of parole hope.

Cristo Luis Lopez, 23, looked into the audience through reddened eyes and over a teardrop tattoo that he told a probation officer "represents the sadness I feel because I killed somebody."

Lopez apologized to nearly 20 friends and relatives of the 32-year-old victim, Khet Saelee, including his 3-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son.

Saelee said he was going to a friend's house the night of Nov. 22, 2008, investigators said.

Sacramento sheriff's deputies found his body the next day in his vehicle in an alley between Baker Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue, just west of a heavily-trafficked Stockton Boulevard prostitution stroll.

His pants were unbuttoned and his zipper was down, according to a probation report on the case.

Investigators broke the case about four months later when they got word that Lopez, a Norteno gang member with the nickname "L'il Listo," had been bragging about the killing.

Detectives also tracked down a witness who said she heard Brousseau and Lopez discuss the prospect of a trick robbery the night before Saelee was killed.

Lopez admitted his involvement in an interview with detectives, according to his probation report. The 10th-grade Hiram Johnson High School dropout with a record of convictions for spousal abuse, assault with a knife, car theft and burglary said he was a daily methamphetamine user at the time of the killing, the report said.

Brousseau also did crank every day, according to her probation report. She is an 11th-grade dropout from Bella Vista High School.

She said she'd been working as a prostitute for six years, "and that's what I was doing that evening," she said in the probation report.

She denied robbing anybody.

In sentencing the pair, Hom said it was an unprovoked murder. The judge told Lopez he shot a man who was "no threat to you."

Hom told Brousseau that it was "unfortunate you're in this situation." He noted six letters written on her behalf and described her parents as victims of "the drugs and the life you participated in."

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Roseville man has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for trafficking in child pornography.

Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Garcia today sentenced Manuel Vasquez, 34, for possessing, receiving and transporting visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The prison term will be followed by a life term of supervised release.

Vasquez also was ordered to pay a $400 special assessment and $5,000 in restitution to one of the victims depicted in the images he possessed and made available to others.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice news release, Vasquez admitted in his guilty plea in August 2009 that on two separate occasions he transported child pornography. He also admitted to receiving and possessing child pornography.

Vasquez came to the attention of law enforcement officials when his e-mail address was identified as one that had paid to access a child pornography website in March 2008, the news release said, citing court documents. When federal agents executed a search warrant at his Roseville home, they seized computers and hard drives that were later found to contain pornographic images and videos of children.

The analysis of his computer and hard drives revealed that Vasquez had more than 34,000 images and 900 videos of child pornography. Many depicted known and previously identified minors who were victims of sexual abuse, as documented by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the news release says.

The case was the product of an investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Sacramento-based Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel D. White prosecuted the case.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

An Elk Grove woman has been sentenced to prison and ordered to make restitution for making fraudulent claims for of hundreds of thousands of dollars in healthcare benefits.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Savage sentenced Rosalee Marie Barfield, 28, to seven years in state prison and also ordered her to make restitution to four Sacramento-area medical facilities, according to the Sacramento District Attorney's office.

On Aug. 27, 2009, the Sacramento Police Department responded to Kaiser Permanente South Medical Center on Bruceville Road regarding a report of medical fraud. The hospital contacted police when Barfield gave a false name and false date of birth. Staff members recognized her and realized they had treated her before, but under different names, according to a District Attorney's Office news release.

An ongoing investigation by Detective Joyce Thorgrimson revealed that Barfield went to several Sacramento-area hospitals to receive treatment for various health problems, including sickle cell anemia. At each visit, she gave a different name, different date of birth, different medical history and a story of acute pain requiring intravenous narcotics.

During the investigation, Barfield's history of seeking drugs from local hospitals revealed at least 244 incidents since 1999 in which she received medical treatment, including prescribed narcotic medications, under false names. According to Barfield's health records, she does not suffer from sickle cell anemia or the sickle cell trait, the news release said.

Barfield acknowledged at her sentencing that she has a drug problem.

Deputy District Attorney Lani Biafore said Barfield has been ordered to pay $373,436 in restitution to the Kaiser Permanente healthcare system and $194,639 to Mercy Healthcare. She said the UC Davis and Sutter healthcare systems also are entitled to restitution and have 45 days to submit their requests to the District Attorney's Office.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A West Sacramento man who used ill-gotten gains to purchase expensive cars and a vacation time share has been sentenced to prison for defrauding the state of California of more than $680,000 while serving as a manager with the California Power Authority.

U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. today sentenced Benjamin Bustamante, 32, to two and a half years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release for wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud the former California Power Authority Demand Reserves Partnership Program.

Bustamante was also ordered to pay $684,216.53 in restitution to the state of California, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

The California Power Authority was established in 2000 in part to assure reliable power at reasonable rates and encourage energy conservation.

It established the Demand Reserves Partnership Program in which commercial and industrial customers, known as "end users", contracted to conserve energy during periods of peak energy use in exchange for payment.

"Aggregators" contracted with the Demand Reserves Partnership to coordinate the conservation contracts with end users, according to the news release.

The aggregators entered into subcontracts with end users, received payment from the Demand Reserves Partnership Program administrator for the end users and remitted payment to the end users.

According to Bustamante's plea agreement, he became the aggregator billing and settlements coordinator for the Demand Reserves Partnership in 2004.

He admitted that in 2006 he created a fictional company, Advanced Energy Response, listing himself as the sole owner. He obtained an IRS Employment Identification Number and opened a bank account for the company.

He then created a fictional state of California contract for the California Power Authority and Advanced Energy Response to serve as an aggregator with the Demand Reserves Partnership.

The news release says Bustamante admitted that he then submitted four fictional invoices, between August and December 2006, to the California Power Authority, requesting a total of $684,216.53 as payment for "energy capacity" supposedly reserved for conservation or actually conserved by end users. Bustamante, however, had not contracted with any end users to provide such capacity, and no end user had provided the capacity.

Bustamante received payment from the state for the fictional service and used approximately $173,000 to purchase two 2006 Porches, a Harley Davidson motorcycle and a Hilton Grand Vacations time share, according to the news release.

The case against Bustamante resulted from an investigation by Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation agents. Assistant U.S. Attorney S. Robert Tice-Raskin prosecuted the case.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Kim Minugh
kminugh@sacbee.com

A former youth pastor at a Rocklin church is headed to prison for three years after he pleaded no contest to a charge that he had a sexual relationship with a teenage girl he met through his work at the church, according to authorities.

rocklin youth pastor.jpgPlacer County Superior Court Judge Robert P. McElhany handed down the sentence for 33-year-old Jeffery Allen Waisner (photo left) of Lincoln during a Wednesday hearing, according to a news release from the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

McElhany also ordered that Waisner be placed on parole for three years after he is released from prison, the release states. He also will have to register as a sex offender after he is released from prison.

In February, Waisner, who is married and has three children, pleaded no contest to a charge of engaging in lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, according to the release.

Waisner met his victim, who is now 15, in one of the youth programs he ran as youth pastor at the Crossroads Community Church, the DA's release states. They began a sexual relationship in the summer of 2009, which involved thousands of text messages - some sexually explicit in nature - between the two, according to the release.

The girl also once accompanied Waisner to San Francisco after midnight without her parents' knowledge, the release states.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

The penalty phase of Aaron Norman Dunn's murder trial resumed today with defense attorneys telling the life story of a man abandoned by his father then by his wife and whose life then unraveled before he took off on a murder spree four years ago in Elk Grove.

Defense attorney Hayes Gable III said Dunn, 33, turned to drugs and drinking after his father left the family when the defendant was about 12 years old.

Dunn, convicted last week in the murder of two men in the March 25, 2006, spree killings in Elk Grove, lived a relatively normal life when he reached adulthood, but it fell apart when his wife left him for Internet romance, Gable said in his opening statement to the jury for the penalty phase.

Dunn's lawyers said he was in the midst of a methamphetamine-induced psychosis when he shot and killed Jon Johnson, 46, and Michael John Daly, 45, while the two men were each having nights out with their families.

Gable called two witnesses before the jury broke for lunch. One of them, a childhood friend named Christoph Hangartner, testified that Dunn was left with a "pretty lenient" mother when the defendant's father told the family he was gay and left their Marysville residence.

"We could get away with a lot of stuff there," at Dunn's house, once his father left, Hangartner testified. "Drinking, smoking weed, things of that nature."

Hangartner testified that he, Dunn and the defendant's younger brother had all begun using methamphetamine by the time they were in their early teens.

The defense case is expected to take up the afternoon session in front of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet and probably will run into tomorrow.

At the outset of today's session. Deputy District Attorney Scott Triplett told Sweet outside the presence of the jury that Dunn got in a fight in the downtown jail last week with a man who is facing murder charges. Triplett said he intends to present evidence of the fight as rebuttal evidence once the defense is finished with its case.

Jurors will then be asked to decide whether Dunn should be punished by the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of parole.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

Previous coverage:

Victims' relatives tell of pain, loss at killer's sentencing hearing - April 23, 2010

Jury convicts man of gunning down 2 in Elk Grove - April 14, 2010

Jury deliberating fate of double-murder defendant Aaron Norman Dunn - April 13, 2010

Prosecutor, doctor spar over Elk Grove murder defendant's actions - April 8, 2010

Prosecutor eager to attack psychiatrist in Elk Grove shooting spree trial - April 7, 2010

Meth psychosis cited in killings; defendant's words cast doubt - April 6, 2010

Elk Grove cop testifies how she and partner stopped deadly rampage - March 17, 2010

Witnesses tell of lives shattered in deadly Elk Grove shooting spree - March 12, 2010

Prosecutor, defense attorneys agree suspect killed two people in Elk Grove - March 10, 2010

Elk Grove residents eligible for murder case jury - Dec. 11, 2009

Prosecutor's bid for Placer DA could stall trial for double killing - Dec. 2, 2009

Homicide suspect's lawyers don't want any Elk Grove jurors - Aug. 11, 2009

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

An Auburn man has been sentenced in U.S. District Court in Sacramento for stealing federal worker's compensation benefits.

Mark Anthony Correnti, 50, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. to 21 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for compensation benefits fraud. Correnti was also ordered to pay the Department of Labor $237,676.20 in restitution, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Correnti pleaded guilty on Nov. 13, 2009 to seven counts of making false statements to obtain federal employees' compensation benefits.

The news release cites court documents stating that Correnti received disability payments under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act from 1989 for a back injury that he suffered as a civilian employee for the Navy.

The payments were approximately $2,000 every month in 2000 and increased to $2,214.72 in September 2008.

To remain eligible for benefits, disabled employees must provide medical and factual evidence to establish the essential elements of the disability claim.

After being accepted for disability, employees must file an annual report of earnings with the Office of Worker's Compensation Programs. The report is made on a Department of Labor form under penalty of perjury and is key to determining a participant's eligibility for benefits, according to the news release.

On seven occasions between Dec. 18, 2002 and June 4, 2008, Correnti falsely certified on the federal forms that he was not involved in or earning any income from any business, officials said.

Since at least 2000, Correnti has been the owner of Safe N Sound Storage, a boat and recreational vehicle storage business in Auburn, the release states.

This made him ineligible for some or all of the disability payments that he received, the release states.

Between Jan. 1, 2000 and Sept. 16, 2008, officials said, Correnti received more than $250,000 in disability payments to which he knew he was not entitled, the release states.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

Three people have been sentenced in U.S. District Court for their part in a conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton sentenced Wayne J. Majors, 56, of Phoenix to six months in a halfway house, and six months of home confinement as part of his five years of probation, according to a federal Department of Justice news release.

Also sentenced were Majors' two co-defendants. Leah Anderson, 37, of Phoenix, was sentenced to five years probation with 30 days intermittent confinement in jail and five months of home confinement. Sandra Villegas, 58, also of Phoenix, was sentenced to 30 days in jail followed by five months of home confinement.

The defendants pleaded guilty Aug. 28, 2009.

According to plea agreements, from 1999 through 2002, Majors and his wife, Leah Anderson, and his sister, Sandra Villegas, set up and managed a Sacramento law firm, the American Law Center, specializing in bankruptcy. The three operated the business side and hired lawyers for the legal work.

Majors hired Michael O'Neal to head the firm and paid him a set salary with an occasional bonus, according to the news release. O'Neal, who pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns in 2006, was listed as the owner and 100 percent stockholder of the firm on all required business filings.

Majors, however, was in actual control of the firm, including determining the attorneys' compensation and allocating the firm's profits, the news release says.

According to court documents, the American Law Center was profitable in 1999, 2000 and 2001. But Majors drained the profits out of the firm by making payments to shell companies that were owned and controlled by his wife and sister, American Law Inc., AMCI and Anderson Management Co. Much of the funds transferred into these companies between 1999 and 2001 went into Anderson's and Villegas' personal bank accounts and were used to pay the three defendants' personal expenses.

To maximize American Law Center's after-tax profits and to avoid paying individual income taxes on monies they received from the firm, Majors and Anderson falsified American Law Center's 1999 and 2000 corporate tax returns, resulting in no corporate income tax owing for either year, the news release said. The three defendants then avoided paying individual federal taxes by either filing no tax returns or filing false returns.

In 2001, the gross income of the American Law Center was accurately reported, but the defendants continued to list the substantial amounts paid to the shell companies as American Law Center's business expenses.

In imposing the sentence, the court took into consideration Majors' medical issues, concluding that a longer period of incarceration would be potentially dangerous to him and expensive to the U.S Bureau of Prisons, the news release said.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A distracted driver who struck and killed a bicyclist in Roseville in 2008 will serve 480 hours of community service at a hospital or health-care facility.

Placer Superior Court Judge John L. Cosgrove took the suggestion of the deceased man's best friend in imposing the sentence of community service instead of a jail term.

Juan Carlos Gomez, 23, of Yuba City struck and killed 48-year-old bicyclist Cory Peck in the early morning hours of Oct. 2, 2008, after becoming distracted while driving his pickup on Blue Oaks Boulevard.

Peck's friend Jeff Bayer urged the judge to order the community service work, arguing that a jail term would serve no purpose, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office news release.

Bayer suggested requiring Gomez to perform community service in a veterans' hospital or convalescent hospital, where he might be able to assist accident victims.

Prosecutor Kate Scarborough of District Attorney's Office said the accident occurred between 4 and 4:30 a.m. She said Gomez became distracted as he drove, looked down for a moment and drifted off the road, striking Peck. Gomez immediately stopped the truck and called 911.

On Feb. 26, Gomez pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in county jail.

Judge Cosgrove, who had been prepared to impose a 60-day jail sentence recommended by the county Probation Department, said he liked Bayer's suggestion and ordered the community service instead.

Following the sentencing, the news release says, a tearful Gomez and Peck's friends exchanged hugs and wished each other well.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A man who helped steal, torture and kill in a violent Foothill Farms incident two years ago has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Daniel James Norman, 44, was sent away by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White for the April 20, 2008, killing of Wilbur Reynolds, 76, in the victim's Foothill Farms home.

A jury convicted Norman on March 13.

The man Norman helped, David Kenneth Hamilton, 39, was shot and killed while running from police the day Reynolds was killed. Police and prosecutors say Hamilton beat Reynolds for six hours and then set his home on fire while the victim was tied to a chair.

Authorities said Hamilton was mad because Reynolds reported him to police for abusing a woman.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A 20-year-old Granite Bay man has been sentenced to nearly 40 years to life in state prison for a 2008 drive-by shooting in which a 16-year-old boy was wounded.

Justin Mathew Wittkop maintained that he did not fire the shots. But Placer Superior Court Judge Mark S. Curry agreed with a trial jury's Feb. 10 finding that Wittkop was guilty of attempted murder and other felony charges as well as enhancements involving the use of a handgun, according to a news release from the Placer County District Attorney's office.

In pronouncing the sentence, Curry noted that one teenager was wounded by two shots and another was forced to dive out of the way to avoid being hit by bullets.

Prosecutor Garen Horst of the District Attorney's Office said that Wittkop placed numerous people in danger Nov. 5, 2008, when he fired shots at the 16-year-old boy following a verbal confrontation between the boy and Wittkop's girlfriend earlier in the afternoon. In court, Horst said that although the victim recovered from wounds to the back and upper leg, he was traumatized by the shooting and was taken out of school by his family, as was the boy who dove out of the way.

Wittkop and his attorney, John Lyman of the Placer County Public Defender's office, told the court that the jury came to the wrong decision as to who fired the shots, implying that Kelsey Mariah Brace, Wittkop's girlfriend at the time, was the shooter, the news release says.

Brace, 18, who was in the car with Wittkop, was a co-defendant in the case. She pleaded no contest to two charges of assault with a firearm and was sentenced in October to three years in prison. She testified in Wittkop's trial.

Wittkop said he knew he risked a longer sentence by going to trial and not pleading to charges that might have resulted in a lesser sentence.

According to testimony during the trial, the boy was among a group of youths who walked in front of Brace's car as she was driving in a parking lot on Sierra College Boulevard near Douglas Boulevard. Brace got out of her car and argued with the boy before leaving.

After the youths dined at a fast-food restaurant, they were walking on a sidewalk along Sierra College Boulevard when a car drove up alongside and three shots were fired. The victim identified Brace as a passenger but said a male driver fired the shots.

Two shots struck the 16-year-old boy and a third went through an occupied dwelling, but did not strike anyone.

Judge Curry imposed a consecutive sentence of life in prison with possibility of parole for the attempted murder conviction, 25 years to life for an enhancement of discharging a firearm to cause great bodily injury and seven years for assault with a deadly weapon on the boy who dove out of the way.

Horst said Wittkop must serve at lease 37 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 773-6866.

By Kim Minugh
kminugh@sacbee.com

A Sacramento Superior Court judge sentenced a 32-year-old man to 50-years-to-life imprisonment today for killing his girlfriend's unborn baby by stabbing her in the stomach.

That's after Danny Ray Poplin Jr. serves 12 years for corporal injury and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with his Dec. 31, 2006 attack, Judge Greta Curtis Fall ruled.

In November, a jury found Poplin guilty of first-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend's baby, which he suspected to have been that of another man. It wasn't until DNA tests returned before trial that he knew it was, in fact, his own. His girlfriend was about six months pregnant.

His girlfriend, 28-year-old Vanessa Roberts, survived the stabbing and was in court today to watch the sentencing.

The first-degree murder charge carried a sentence of 25 years to life, a term then doubled because of a prior "strike" conviction: In 1996, Poplin was pleaded guilty to a felony count of first-degree burglary.

At the request of Poplin's defense attorney - and with no objection from the prosecution - Fall also agreed to recommend that Poplin, who is deaf, be housed at a special needs facility run by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Call The Bee's Kim Minugh, (916) 321-1038.

Ramos, Jaime3.jpgBy Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

One of El Dorado County's major criminal cases has come to a close.

El Dorado Superior Court Judge James R. Wagoner sentenced Jaime Ramos, left, to 25 years to life in prison last month for his role in the 2008 murder of Garden Valley resident Ron Presba.

Ramos, 22, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in July 2009, but sentencing was delayed pending his testimony in the trial of his co-defendant, Presba's wife.

However, Patricia Ann Presba, 49, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in January.

She was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison earlier in March for the murder of her husband and the attempted murder of Ramos. She also received a 10-year enhancement for use of a firearm.

Carol Sanders, clerk for Judge Wagoner, said that under a plea agreement, Ramos was to receive a prison sentence of between 15 and 25 years in exchange for his testimony had Presba gone to trial.

The judge decided on the 25-year sentence based on a review of briefs and evidence in the case, Sanders said.

According to prosecutors, Presba and Ramos were lovers.

Firefighters battling a wildland fire along Highway 193 near Kelsey found Ron Presba's body June 25, 2008, inside a charred sport-utility vehicle in a ravine.

A month later, Patricia Presba vanished from the couple's Garden Valley home. A friend found the front door of the home open and covered in blood. More blood later was discovered inside the house, authorities said.

A day after Patricia Presba was reported missing, a Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement officer was looking for stolen vehicles at a Salt Lake City motel and found a vehicle sought in connection with Patricia Presba's disappearance.

Investigators found her and Ramos inside the motel.

When the two were arrested, Ramos had three gunshot wounds and Patricia Presba had stab wounds to her arms.

Both were later extradited to El Dorado County.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 773-6866.

Previous coverage:

Man pleads guilty in killing, will testify against victim's wife - Aug. 1, 2009

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Canadian truck driver has been sentenced to 97 months in prison for possessing Ecstasy with the intention to distribute the drug and for smuggling cash.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton also ordered Robert James Fox, 38, of British Columbia to forfeit approximately $435,000. The prison term will be followed by three years of supervised release.

Fox pleaded guilty Jan, 26 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento.

The case resulted from an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration, Customs and Enforcement and the California Highway Patrol, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

A CHP officer stopped Fox on May 16, 2009 for a traffic violation as he was traveling through Woodland on Interstate 5, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Thomas, who prosecuted the case.

The officer observed several discrepancies under the bed of the truck that indicated a hidden compartment.

The officer ran his police dog around the truck and the dog alerted him to the presence of controlled substances. The officer then searched the truck and found a hidden compartment with more than 225 pounds of Ecstasy and $435,000 in U.S. currency.

"This sentence serves as a stern warning about the consequences awaiting those who smuggle dangerous drugs," Daniel Lane, assistant special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Sacramento, said in the news release. "Ecstasy trafficking is hugely lucrative and young people are typically the biggest market for this drug."

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 776-6866.

1Dominick West.jpg

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A 28-year-old Sacramento man convicted of the murder of an American River College fashion student three years ago has been sentenced to 51 years to life in prison.

Dominick Theado West, left, received the term Friday in Sacramento Superior Court from Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard for the June 2, 2007, shooting death of Mary Ourk, 21.

According to prosecutors, West shot and killed Ourk at 12th and W streets in midtown Sacramento at 1:30 a.m. as she drove home from a night out with friends.

Witnesses testified that West had flashed a gun at a man earlier in the evening and that he then chased down Ourk's car and shot her in the mistaken belief she was involved in his earlier confrontation.

In his statements to the probation officer who prepared West's pre-sentencing report, the defendant maintained his innocence, saying, "I am such a good person. If I had done it, I would have turned myself in."

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

Previous coverage:

Sacramento jury convicts man in 2007 shooting death of ARC student - Feb. 4, 2010

Defendant tells murder trial he didn't do it and ex-girlfriends lied - Jan. 28, 2010

Ex-girlfriend testifies defendant talked about killing woman - Jan. 22, 2010

Victim's friend recalls gunshot - Jan. 12, 2010

By Chelsea Phua
cphua@sacbee.com

A federal court judge in Sacramento on Monday sentenced a 48-year-old man to 6 1/2 years in prison for the possession of child pornography.

Authorities said Daniel James O'Neil Jr. of Sacramento pleaded guilty to the charge Aug. 24.

Assistant United States Attorney Phil Ferrari, who prosecuted the case, said O'Neil admitted in his plea to purchasing access to a child pornography Web site, downloading images and movies over the Limewire file-sharing program and collecting child pornography over a five-year period.

In 2007, authorities found multiple computers and hard drives in O'Neil's home that contained images and movies depicting child pornography.

United States District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. said that the collection of child pornography was "not aberrant, but sustained and serious." He also emphasized the harm inflicted upon the children, saying they are being emotionally, if not physically, scarred and "hurt beyond relief."

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice, and investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Call The Bee's Chelsea Phua, (916) 321-1132.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A Carmichael woman has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for a Carmichael bank robbery.

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced Friday that U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia sentenced Roberta Elaine Lee, 51, to 30 months in prison and three years supervised release. She also was ordered to pay full restitution for the bank robbery.

Lee robbed the U.S. Bank inside a grocery store at 4040 Manzanita Ave. in Carmichael Oct. 28, 2009, according to assistant U.S. attorney Michelle Rodriguez, who prosecuted the case. Lee used a note stating that she had a gun and threatened to use it. She fled from the bank with $3,820, a Justice Department news release said.

On Nov. 13, Lee surrendered to FBI special agents after law enforcement officers received an anonymous tip identifying her. She pleaded guilty Dec. 16.

Lee was remanded to custody at sentencing.

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 773-6866.

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

A teenager convicted of attempted murder was sentenced to state prison for 55 years to life in Yolo County Superior Court.

Ramiro Leon Jr., 18, of Woodland, was sentenced Monday by Judge Stephen L. Mock. A jury in February convicted Leon of attempted murder in a gang-related drive-by shooting, the district attorney's office states.

Prosecutors said Leon was involved in a shooting September 2008 in Woodland's Campbell Park. The shooting stemmed from friction between gang members earlier in the day on a school bus,

Leon shot several times from a passenger seat of a car as it drove by the park. One young man was hit and seriously wounded.

Gunfire also struck a parked car, narrowly missing a young woman inside.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

The second person charged in the 2008 murder of an El Dorado County man is to be sentenced Monday.

Jaime Ramos (photo bottom left), 22, pleaded guilty in July 2009 to first-degree murder of Garden Valley resident Ron Presba, but sentencing was delayed pending his testimony in the trial of his co-defendant, Presba's wife.

Patricia Ann Presba (photo bottom right), 49, pleaded guilty to first degree murder in January. Last week, El Dorado Superior Court Judge James R. Wagoner sentenced her to 25 years to life in prison for the murder of her husband and life with possibility of parole for the attempted murder of Ramos. She also received a 10-year enhancement for use of a firearm.

According to prosecutors, Presba and Ramos were lovers.

Firefighters battling a wildland fire along Highway 193 near Kelsey found Ron Presba's body June 25, 2008, inside a charred sport-utility vehicle in a ravine.

A month later, Patricia Presba vanished from the couple's Garden Valley home.

A friend found the front door of the home open and covered in blood. More blood later was discovered inside the house, authorities said.

A day after Patricia Presba was reported missing, a Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement officer was looking for stolen vehicles at a Salt Lake City motel and found a vehicle sought in connection with Patricia Presba's disappearance.

Investigators found her and Ramos inside the motel. When the two were arrested, Ramos had three gunshot wounds and Patricia Presba had stab wounds to her arms. Both were later extradited to El Dorado County.

Ramos is scheduled for sentencing at 10 a.m. Monday in El Dorado Superior Court in Placerville.

Ramos, Jaime[1].jpg Presba, Patricia[1].jpg1.jpg

Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 773-6866.

Previous coverage:

Man pleads guilty in killing, will testify against victim's wife - Aug. 1, 2009.

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

Two men have been convicted and sentenced for a September car theft in Davis.

Braulio "Thumper" Gonzalez was convicted of three counts of car theft while belonging to a street gang. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Akasha "Clowny" Malik was convicted of possessing a stolen car while a street gang member. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

Yolo Superior Court Judge Timothy Fall pronounced sentenced immediately after the convictions Friday.

A third man, Damien Castaneda, failed to appear in court and remains at large, the Yolo County District Attorney's office says.

A district attorney news release said that on Sept. 1 Davis police responded to a report of a car being broken into by three men in west Davis. The suspects fled in a Mini Cooper and were spotted later in a Honda.

A car chase went from Davis to Vallejo at speeds exceeding 100 mph. It ended when the Honda crashed in Vallejo. Gonzalez, Malik and Castaneda were arrested after a short foot chase.

Officers were able to recover stolen items from at least three car burglaries. Further investigation revealed that the Honda, Mini Cooper and a third car were stolen.

Gonzalez's sentence was longer because he had previously been convicted of auto theft.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A judge today sentenced a Sacramento man to the four months in jail that the man had already served for the shooting to death of a parolee who confronted him in the front yard of his Oak Park home last year amid a heated neighborhood dispute.

James Sanchez Castillo, 31, faced up to a year in county jail as a result of his no-contest plea to a manslaughter charge in the April 24, 2009, killing of Leopoldo Velasco III, 23, in the 3900 block of 17th Avenue.

Castillo had initially been charged with murder in the case.

Prosecutors, however, allowed him to enter the no-contest plea to manslaughter based on evidence provided by the defendant's lawyer that Velasco ran up on Castillo "and started a loud and angry argument, pushed him several times and threatened to kill him," according to defense attorney Karol Martin Repkow's court papers.

A window washer with three kids he was raising on a monthly income of $1,200 a month, Castillo was carrying a handgun to protect his house after a week of confrontations that had pitted his wife against Velasco's girlfriend, who lived next door. Castillo shot Velasco three times.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard agreed from the bench today that the case included a major slice of self defense.

"In America, you still have the right to defend yourself on your own property," Gilliard said.

She sentenced Castillo to five years probation, six months in county jail (of which he had served four months, and the remainder of which will be applied in good-time credits) and restitution that included $7,500 to cover the victim's funeral.

The judge said Castillo has been "respectful" and "remorseful" during the course of the case. She said it was a killing "that never should have happened" and blamed Castillo's wife and Velasco's girlfriend for the dispute that led to the fatal shooting.

During the sentencing hearing, Castillo turned around from the defense table and said to Velasco's mother, Susie Ames: "I'd just like to say sorry to the family. I'm sorry this happened."

Ames said she accepted the apology but that "forgiveness is from God."

In a letter to the court last month, Ames said that Castillo "brutally murdered my son."

"Now we are told they are giving him a plea bargain!" Ames wrote. "I don't understand how a life of a human being is not worth more than a matter of months in county jail. Where is the justice?"

Velasco's record showed that he had done prison time for car theft and felony evasion of police officers. His record also shows misdemeanor convictions for battery, possession of methamphetamine, resisting arrest, car theft, drunk driving and carrying a concealed weapon.

His sister, Rosalina, who witnessed her brother's shooting death, said in a letter to the court that the shooting was "no self defense" but instead was "murder."

In her motion filed earlier in the trial to have her client released on bail, defense attorney Repkow said that Velasco shouted at Castillo: "I'll kill you!"

Repkow's motion said that Velasco's friends pulled him away from Castillo, but that he broke free and ran towards him again. She said Velasco reached into his pocket and that Castillo drew his pistol and fired first because he thought he was about to be killed.

The violence between Castillo's family and Velasco's girlfriend began a week earlier. According to Repkow's court papers, Velasco's girlfriend, Geneva Ram, hit Castillo's wife, Rosie, in the face with a wrench. The dispute erupted over Geneva Ram's driving in the street and Rosie Castillo telling her to slow down.

Tension built over the next seven days until the two women got into another argument the night of the fatal shooting and Geneva Ram pulled a knife on Rosie Castillo, Repkow's paper show.

Castillo's wife then left their house with their three children, with Castillo staying behind to protect the residence from the neighbors, according to Repkow's papers.

Castillo's record shows previous drunk driving and resisting arrest convictions.

His lawyer gave the court 17 letters of reference on his behalf, from former employers as well as relatives, friends and people who knew him as a youth football coach.

David Reppas, a former employer of Castillo's in a window-cleaning business, called him "an exemplary employee who was trustworthy, dependable and exemplified a strong work ethic."

"Time after time, James received positive comments from customers he serviced, and even now, customers he serviced last year are requesting him again this year," Reppas wrote.

Dierdre Walsh, the president of the Sacramento Jr. Falcons youth football club, said that Castillo "is a quiet, genuine, well-respected family man."

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

An Oak Park man was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole today for the ambush murder of a 20-year-old woman who lived across the street from him.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Sharon A. Lueras also gave Ronald Duran Mitchell an additional sentence of 64 years to life in prison for the shooting of murder victim Laprea Tyson's mother, Blanche Brisco.

Mitchell, 58, was convicted last month in the July 16, 2008, killing that took place on the front porch of his home in the 3600 block of 43rd Avenue. Prosecutors said Mitchell used to have a relationship with Brisco and became angry and repeatedly assaulted her after she broke up with him.

Officials said Mitchell lured Tyson and Brisco to his house the day of the attack by stealing a skateboard that belonged to the murder victim's younger brother and then waiting to unload on them when they came over to retrieve it.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

By Bill Lindelof
blindelof@sacbee.com

A Woodland man has been sentenced for burglarizing a church and using a cutting torch on an ATM.

Jose Luis Rangel, 62, was sentenced Wednesday in Yolo Superior Court to eight years and eight months in prison.

Rangel was sentenced for using an acetylene torch in his attempt to open a safe in Woodland's Holy Rosary Church in November 2007. He was also sentenced for using a cutting torch in October 2008 to break into a Woodland cash machine.

Rangel was also ordered to pay restitution to his victims, estimated to be more than $42,000.

His wife, Eleanor Irene Rangel, 57, was sentenced to three years probation for possession of stolen property from a Woodland business.

Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

By Hudson Sangree
hsangree@sacbee.com

A Yolo County judge today sentenced a man who put cheese down his pants to 7 years, 8 months in prison.

Judge Thomas Warriner accepted a probation department recommendation to forgo a life sentence for Robert Ferguson, of Woodland, under the state's "three-strikes" law and to give the man a state prison sentence based on two felony counts of petty theft with prior convictions.

Late last year, Jurors convicted Ferguson on charges that he stole a woman's wallet from a convenience store counter and put a package of shredded cheese worth $3.99 down his pants at Woodland's Nugget Market.

Prosecutors, who charged the petty theft counts as felonies, had initially sought a life sentence under the three-strikes law. They backed off last month, saying a recent psychological evaluation of Ferguson shed new light on the case.

At his sentencing hearing today, defense lawyer Monica Brushia described Ferguson as bipolar, and said his decision to steal the package of Tilllamook cheese was an uncontrollable impulse during a manic episode. He'd paid for other groceries the same day, she said.

Deputy District Attorney Clinton Parish urged the judge to consider at least one of Ferguson's half-dozen prior convictions for first-degree burglary as a strike and to sentence him accordingly.

The man's lengthy criminal history, and the fact that he had reoffended after spending 22 years in prison, qualified him as a "career criminal," Parish told the judge.

Warriner rejected the prosecutor's recommended course of action, as well as defense argument that Ferguson should receive a lesser sentence because of the petty nature of his most recent offenses.

Previous coverage:

Yolo DA drops life sentence bid for cheese thief - Feb. 12, 2010

Cheese in pants may draw life term for Yolo man - Feb. 10, 2010

By Bee Staff

A U.S. District judge in Sacramento has sentenced a pot grower/processer to three years and five months in prison, the U.S. Attorney said.

David Dean Davidson, 59, also was sentenced by Judge Morrison C. England Jr. to three years of supervised release, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said.

Davidson pleaded guilty on Dec. 10 to growing more than 100 marijuana plants. He was arrested by U.S. marshals in June 2007.

He had been a fugitive since he failed to appear in court in September 2005, Wagner said.

The case was the product of an investigation by the Tehama County District Attorney's Bureau of Investigations, the Tehama County Sheriff's Department, the Alameda County Narcotics Task Force, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office Investigative Division, and the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, Wagner said.

According to Assistant United States Attorney Matthew Stegman, who prosecuted the case, in July 2003 Tehama County law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant for Davidson's residence in Red Bluff, where he was living with girlfriend and co-defendant Cynthia Barcelo Blake.

Officers found marijuana plants in three greenhouses in the backyard, as well as an indoor grow in the attached garage, Stegman said. There were 34 mature marijuana plants growing in the greenhouses and 1,100 cuttings in the garage, which had florescent lighting and an air purifier.

The discovery of the drug led officers to obtain another search warrant for a house owned by Davidson in Oakland.

There, officers found 35 mature marijuana plants growing in the backyard, and 634 cuttings planted in the basement with grow lights, carbon dioxide tanks, oscillating fans, air vents and a hood that vented to the outside, Stegman said.

Officers also found 54 packages of processed marijuana totaling six kilograms, Stegman said.

Blake pleaded guilty in January 2006 to maintaining drug involved premises and was sentenced to a year in prison and six months of home detention, Wagner said.

By Ed Fletcher
efletcher@sacbee.com

A Sacramento man with a long criminal record must serve 25 years to life in prison after his 2009 meth-laced run in with the Roseville Police Department.

Anthony Joseph DiBernardo, 50, of Sacramento, was convicted in Placer Superior Court this week for driving under the influence and resisting an officer.

In May, DiBernardo was pulled over for driving with expired registration. During the stop, the responding officer suspected DiBernardo was under the influence of a substance. The Placer County District Attorney's Office said DiBernardo attempted to swallow a plastic bag of methamphetamine and wrestled with the officer.

The DUI and resisting counts triggered a mandatory 25-to-life sentence.

His record includes an 1988 crime spree that included a three-home burglary binge and an attempted rape of a 14-year-old girl, offenses committed before the state's three-strikes mandatory sentencing law took effect.

During this week's sentencing, DiBernardo sought to have his old convictions disregarded -- an argument Judge Joseph O'Flaherty rejected.

Prosecutor Benjamin Eggert argued that DiBernardo continued to break the law in the 1990s. His more recent crimes included a misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon and twice failing to register as a sex offender.

"This guy had his chances," Eggert said. "He's exactly the kind of person the three-strikes law was written for."

Call The Bee's Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269.

From Bill Lindelof:

A Citrus Heights man has been sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for forcing a girl into prostitution.

Stephen McKesson, 24, was sentenced Friday by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. to 235 months -- about 19 1/2 years -- in prison and ordered to make $20,000 restitution for sex trafficking of children.

McKesson had pleaded guilty May 19 to transporting a 16-year-old girl from Sacramento to Redwood City for prostitution.

Prosecutors said in a news release that McKesson met the girl when she was 13 and he was about 16. He soon convinced the girl that if she loved him she would work as a prostitute.

She sporadically worked as a prostitute for McKesson for the next five years, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said McKesson used increasing violence to make the girl work as a prostitute, eventually beating and kicking her in the head. By 2008, McKesson was sexually assaulting the victim, prosecutors said.

The victim said she continued to work for him because he threatened to take away her two children if she did not comply.

clip_image002.jpgerends.jpgBy Ed Fletcher
efletcher@sacbee.com

A Roseville woman will spend the rest of her life behind bars after being sentenced Wednesday in the 2008 first-degree murder of a longtime friend.

A Placer County Superior Court jury found in December that Stephanie Nicole Erends (photo left), 26, was "lying in wait" before slashing the throat of her longtime friend Alicia Ernst, of Citrus Heights.

Because the jury found that the lying in wait special circumstances applied, Erends will spend the rest of her life in prison, according to a Placer County District Attorney's Office press release.

The DA's office described Wednesday's hearing as highly emotional and filled with outbursts and admonishments.

In the days after the attack, Erends confessed to slashing Ernst's throat from behind with a razor-sharp cutting tool while her friend sat in the front seat of a parked car.

After the attack Erends tried to cut off the victim's fingers to prevent fingerprint identification, poured ammonia on the body and covered the body with garbage.

But Erends told a different story during the trial, denying that she planned the attack.

By Chelsea Phua
cphua@sacbee.com

A Placer County Superior Court Judge sentenced a 52-year-old Sacramento man to four years in state prison after he admitted to robbing a bank in Roseville late last year.

According to a news release by the Placer County District Attorney's office, Steven Kenneth Holmes pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery on Jan. 26. He was also ordered to pay $1,000 in fines and restitution.

Prosecutor Rick Opich said Holmes entered First Bank on Douglas Boulevard on Dec. 2 and handed the teller a note demanding cash. He then fled in a taxi cab that he had leased.

Roseville police and Sacramento County sheriff's deputies later tracked Holmes to a motel on Auburn Boulevard, where he barricaded himself inside a room for about three hours. He surrendered after a SWAT unit fired tear gas into the room. He did not have a weapon with him.

By Cathy Locke
clocke@sacbee.com

A 28-year-old Davis man has been sentenced to prison after a jury found him guilty of two felony counts of resisting an officer. The officer was severely injured and it is uncertain whether she will fully recover.

Yolo Superior Court Judge Kathleen White sentenced Tracy Justin Cooke to two years and eight months in prison, according to the Yolo County District Attorney's office announced Friday.

On April 13, 2009, Davis police were called to a residence on Olive Drive where Cooke was kicking in his neighbor's door, according to a District Attorney's Office news release. Officers arrived to find the neighbor's door broken and Cooke still banging on it.

Cooke, who was intoxicated, became aggressive with officers and violently resisted when they attempted to arrest him for drunk and disorderly conduct. During the struggle, Cooke severely injured one of the officers, and it is not known whether she will ever fully recover from her injuries, according to the news release.

monty23.jpgBy Chelsea Phua
cphua@sacbee.com

A 91-year-old Roseville man was sentenced Wednesday to six months for assaulting his wife, Placer County authorities said.

However, Claude Montgomery (left photo) only has 22 days left to serve on his sentence because he has been in jail on a $100,000 bail since his arrest in late October and earned another 56 days of credit for good behavior, prosecutors said.

Placer County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Penney also placed Montgomery on four years of probation, ordered him to attend classes for batterers and granted a restraining order that forbids him have any contact with the victim.

Authorities said Montgomery was arrested Oct. 25 after his wife made a 911 call, having suffered minor injuries in a scuffle with her husband. Authorities said Montgomery threatened her with a knife as she tried to make the emergency phone call.

He was arrested on charges of attempted murder, but the District Attorney's Office later dismissed those charges as part of a deal where Montgomery pleaded guilty on Dec. 18 to assaulting his wife with a deadly weapon, inflicting corporal injury to a spouse and making criminal threats.

Authorities said Montgomery is expected to move to the Bay Area with his children after his release.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A Sacramento Superior Court jury today found Dominick Theado West guilty of second-degree murder in the midtown Sacramento shooting death of Mary Ourk nearly three years ago while she was driving home from a club after spending the night out with friends.

West, 28, faces a term of at least 45 years to life in prison when he is sentenced by Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard. The judge scheduled his sentencing date for March 26.

"We were relieved to find out he was guilty," Jennifer Phonn, a cousin of Ourk's, told reporters after the verdict.

Trial testimony revealed West had been flashing a handgun while at two other night clubs in the downtown and midtown areas before he followed Ourk's car just after 1:30 a.m. on June 2, 2007.

Thinking it was somebody she might know, Ourk, a 21-year-old American River College student who hoped to become a fashion designer, pulled her car toward the curb as she approached the intersection at 12th and W streets.

West then pulled up alongside Ourk's car and shot her in the neck. He told his girlfriend at the time in a telephone conversation afterward that he thought he saw hands coming out of the driver's side window just before he fired his gun, her trial testimony showed.

The 10-man, two-woman jury came back with its verdict after about a day of deliberations.

Juror Mike Mostafanejad said the panel arrived at its decision after piecing together events that led to Ourk's shooting, starting with West brandishing a gun at a nightclub patron at another spot a couple hours before the homicide.

He said jurors were not impressed with West's testimony in his own defense.

"Not credible at all, evasive, and that was unanimous, almost," Mostafanejad said in interview. "We thought he was out to prove he was somebody, that he was a 'player,' and that was one reason we thought he fired the gun, to prove a point, but not necessarily to actually kill somebody."

The finding of West's lack of willful deliberation before the shooting of Ourk resulted in the finding of guilt for second-degree murder rather than first-degree, Mostafanejad said.

Deputy District Attorney Jeff Ritschard said he thought "the jury worked very hard and came up with a fair resolution."

Defense attorney Michael Long said he believes West is innocent and that his client was convicted based on faulty eyewitness testimony from the victim of the earlier incident at the other nightclub. In addition, Long said he felt that West's two former girlfriends who testified that the defendant told them about the shooting both lied.

Laura Gilmore, a friend of West's family, said, "I think you've got an innocent man that you're sending to prison."

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

Previous coverage:

Defendant tells murder trial he didn't do it and ex-girlfriends lied - Jan. 28, 2010

Ex-girlfriend testifies defendant talked about killing woman - Jan. 22, 2010

Victim's friend recalls gunshot - Jan. 12, 2010

Downie10.jpgBy Hudson Sangree
hsangree@sacbee.com

A judge sentenced a Rocklin man to four years in prison Friday for aiming a laser beam at a Placer County sheriff's helicopter.

According to a news release by the Placer County District Attorney's office:

Jamie Allen Downie (left photo), 35, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of discharging a laser at an aircraft.

Downie pointed the laser twice at the helicopter as it flew over his neighborhood July 16.

Two weeks earlier, a laser had been pointed at the copter as it flew over the same neighorhood. The pilot broadcast a warning over the helicopter's public address system.

On July 16, the FBI was summoned and Downie admitted the act and handed over his laser device.

Pointing a laser at an aircraft is a federal offense, but federal authorities gave the Placer County District Attorney's Office permission to prosecute the case,
according to the news release.

The statement said that pointing lasers at aircraft is a growing trend with the potential for blinding pilots and causing crashes.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A convicted murderer who shot and killed a woman during a drug robbery two years ago was sentenced today to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge James L. Long imposed the term on Albert Arthur Dennis, 29, for the April 12, 2008, shooting death of 27-year-old Amber Manoa.

The judge gave Dennis a second term of 25 to life for the use of the firearm in the shooting at an apartment complex on Southwest Avenue and Nina Way in the Fruitridge-Stockton Boulevard area.

Call The Bee's Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141.

Previous coverage:

Jury delivers guilty verdict in meth robbery turned killing - Dec. 24, 2009

sher.jpgBy Chelsea Phua
cphua@sacbee.com

A 44-year-old Penryn man was sentenced Friday to two consecutive life terms in prison without parole for ordering the torture and murder of his cousin, according to the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

schoe2.jpgProsecutors say Donald Hugh Sherman (left photo) and his accomplice, Peter Schoemig (right photo), 32, of Reno, killed Guy Farmer, 37, during the Labor Day weekend of 2006. Sherman apparently suspected Farmer of stealing bottles of chemicals Sherman used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Schoemig received a 25-years-to-life prison sentence for injecting Farmer with a fatal dose of crushed prescription pills.

Prosecutors David Tellman and Doug Van Breeman told jurors that Farmer was tortured in Sherman's garage. Sherman hired three "enforcers" from Stockton to tie up Farmer, beat and kick him. They also used a hammer to strike him on the knees and legs and an acetylene torch to burn one of his boot-covered feet.

At one point, Farmer made an unsuccessful attempt to escape from the garage by trying to start a vehicle inside the garage to drive through the doors. He was also yelling that he would go to the police and "tell on all of you."

Concerned that Farmer would turn them over to the police, Sherman decided to poison Farmer with a solution of crushed prescription pills.

Farmer's body was dumped in a mine shaft outside of Reno and found a month later by two men driving around the mines in a Jeep.

Sherman's attorney, Kyle Knapp, argued during the trial that his client was under duress and unable to control the "enforcers" and other men on the property, who were the ones who orchestrated the crimes, not Sherman.

Schoemig's attorney, Richard Corbin, said his client was made a scapegoat and followed orders to prevent he and his family from being harmed.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A judge today sentenced Brandy Sherrie Foreman to 25 years to life in prison for the 2006 neglect-related murder of the defendant's 12-year-old daughter, Daelynn.

"This is a particularly egregious case given the vulnerability of the victim and the help that was available to the defendant," Sacramento Superior Court Judge Marjorie Koller said from the bench, just before she imposed the term on the 36-year-old Foreman of Orangevale.

During the 15-minute sentencing hearing today, Foreman pulled a T-shirt over her mouth and shielded her face from news cameras by holding up her hand.

Authorities responded to the defendant's 911 call on July 31, 2006, and found the defendant's withered daughter who had suffered since birth from cerebral palsy dead in her bed. Foreman was arrested seven months later. She pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Nov. 16 right before her case was scheduled to go to trial.

The coroner found that Daelynn Foreman she died of bronchopneumonia complicated by malnutrition and neglect. A sheriff's report said the girl was "morbidly thin" with her skeletal features "clearly outlined under her skin." She also had bed sores in which bones showed "through several open holes in the skin."

According to police reports, Foreman had not taken her daughter to the doctor for more than a year before she died, and she also stopped sending Daelynn to a school for the severely physically disabled some 11 months earlier.

In her comments from the bench today, Judge Koller said that Brandy Foreman had been receiving SSI disability checks and also was being paid through the In-Home Support Services program and that she had been taking advantage of assorted programs for years.

Foreman also had access to free food, medical services, therapy and medical equipment, according Deputy District Attorney Rick Miller's trial brief.

Given the services available to Foreman, Judge Koller said, "The degree of neglect and indifference to her child is hard to understand." The judge also noted that Foreman even refused to answer the door when Child Protective Services employees tried to visit her house.

Miller's court papers, however, suggested that Foreman was heavily involved in methamphetamine. They also said that Foreman also was the trustee of a $175,000 trust account in which her daughter was the beneficiary. The funds came from a toxic-mold case they had won against a previous landlord.

In her trial brief, Assistant Public Defender Sue Karlton said that Foreman had been "a dedicated and concerned parent. For all intents and purposes, she did nothing but care for the child."

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

Sentencing for Brandy Sherrie Foreman, who allowed her paralyzed 12-year-old daughter to slowly starve to death in July 2006, has been postponed for a second time.

Foreman, 35, pleaded guilty to murder in November just as she was about to begin trial in the death of Daelynn Foreman, an Orangevale girl with cerebral palsy who slowly withered away. When authorities discovered Daelynn's body, she weighed only 23 pounds and had sores that went down to the bone.

Foreman was scheduled to face sentencing this morning but it was postponed until next Friday because her attorney was out sick today.

Daelynn's death came despite six reports of suspected abuse over a four-year period that were made to Sacramento County's child protective services agency, and the case was one of the first warning signs of how troubled CPS had become.

Since then, a series of deaths of children known to the agency spawned several investigations, including a harshly critical grand jury report and a shakeup in CPS management.

earw.jpgBy Chelsea Phua
cphua@sacbee.com

A 23-year-old Lincoln woman was sentenced Thursday to one year in jail and five years probation for pulling off the ear of another woman during an attack in a bar early last year, according to the Placer County District Attorney's office.

Gabrielle Cordova (left photo) was also given a suspended four-year state prison term, authorities said.

Prosecutors said on Jan. 18, 2009, Cordova lured the 24-year-old victim, whom authorities are not identifying, to the restroom of a Lincoln bar. Cordova told the victim that she wanted to tell the victim that a man at the bar had expressed interest in her. Cordova then attacked the victim, ripping off her ear.

Prosecutors have maintained that the attack was unprovoked, but it could have been over Cordova's belief that the victim was showing interest in a man Cordova was with at the bar.

Surgeons were unable to reattach the ear. At the sentencing hearing, the victim said that she is reminded of the painful incident every day when she puts on her prosthetic ear. At one point, her daughter was afraid of her because of the bandages on her head, the victim said.

Prosecutor Stephanie Macumber said Cordova had previously attacked a cab driver and a police officer and constitutes a danger to society.

"It appears that no one can control her," Macumber said.

Placer County Superior Court Judge Larry D. Gaddis banned Cordova from any contact with the victim and ordered her to refrain from drugs and alcohol and to stay out of bars. He also ordered her to attend anger management classes, perform 20 hours of community services and submit to search and seizure by law enforcement.

By Ed Fletcher
efletcher@sacbee.com

The extortion of $1,100 from two Roseville businesses earned a 51-year-old man his third strike and a 54-years-to-life sentence in state prison the Placer County District Attorney's office announced today.

Raymond Richard Whitall's attorney argued that the sentence was unreasonable given the monetary amount of the crime. But citing his long criminal record, which includes a murder conviction, Superior Court Judge Charles Wachob said the state's "three-strike" law was appropriate.

In February 2006 while wearing a badge and presenting himself as a state health and safety officer, Whitall duped two Roseville businesses into giving him cash to not report health violations he found.

Authorities say Whitall, used this scam up and down the state - targeting people whose first language is not English.

The first business, a Mexican-food restaurant, paid him $1,000. The second, a Vernon street café, paid him $100.

Whitall was previously sentenced to 25 years to life for a Fresno County extortion scheme. If the recent crimes are enough to trigger a violation of his probation, which is likely, Whitall is facing 97 years to life, the DA's office said.

After his sentencing Wednesday, Whitall was returned to his cell at Folsom State Prison.

By Kim Minugh
kminugh@sacbee.com

A 17-year-old boy faces 15 years to life in prison for the rape and kidnap of a 14-year-old girl he knew from junior high school, according to authorities.

Yolo County Superior Court Judge Thomas L. Warriner handed down the sentence to Alejandro Alfonso Sanchez of Woodland last week, according to a news release from the District Attorney's Office. The Bee is naming Sanchez, a juvenile, because he was prosecuted as an adult.

One year ago, Sanchez kidnapped the 14-year-old girl and told her he was going to rape her, according to the news release. The girl resisted, so he choked her until she lost consciousness, the release states.

The girl woke up later in the backseat of Sanchez's car as he was driving, according to the release. She jumped out of the moving car. A passing motorist picked her up and took her home to her parents, who then took her to the hospital, the release states.

The victim suffered severe injuries, according to the release, as well as a broken ankle and abrasions to her neck and body.

Sanchez will be eligible for parole in 12 years and nine months, the release states.

By Bee Staff

A 63-year-old West Sacramento man has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl, the Yolo County district attorney said today.

Louis Charles Romano received the sentence Thursday for the April 12, 2008, assault on the girl, DA Jess Reisig said in a news release. Romano also must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Reisig said.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on a charge that Romano also assaulted the 10-year-old sister of the 15-year-old girl and acquitted him of possessing child pornography, Reisig said.

"The family, whose trust Romano violated, should find some satisfaction knowing that Romano will be in prison for a long time," said Deputy District Attorney Tiffany Susz, who prosecuted the case.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

A judge today sentenced Jimmy Navarro to life in prison with no chance of parole for the gang-related shooting death of a man in Max Baer Park nearly three years ago.

Navarro, 27, also received two additional 25-to-life terms for the May 7, 2007, shooting death of Adrian Hutchins, 21, at his sentencing hearing today in front of Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny.

According to evidence at his trial, Navarro, who was the passenger in a car, shot and killed Hutchins after the two exchanged insults at 1:15 in the morning.

By Andy Furillo
afurillo@sacbee.com

Anthony James Winters was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison today for the Sept. 13, 2007, robbery murder of Alfredo Enrique Perez near Stockton Boulevard and Jansen Drive.

Investigators said that Winters, 22, shot the 20-year-old Perez in the back after the victim had gone to a Wells Fargo ATM. Winters' probation report said the robbery appeared to have taken place during the course of a marijuana transaction.

"It certainly was a cowardly act to shoot someone in the back, someone who was unarmed at night," Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard told Winters, just before she imposed the term.

A jury on Dec. 3 convicted Winters of second-degree murder after a four-day trial.

Friends and relatives of the victim filled every available seat at today's sentencing hearing.

"Don't let them go out at night," Marylou Perez, the victim's mother, said in her impact statement in a message to parents. "Don't let them go out alone. Don't let them die."

Buzzetta.jpgBy Chelsea Phua
cphua@sacbee.com

A Placer County jury on Thursday convicted a 22-year-old Roseville man of first-degree murder in the 2007 death of his stepfather, authorities said.

Placer County District Attorney officials said in a news release that the jury determined David Harrison Buzzetta (left photo) used an aluminum bat to kill his stepfather, Paul Bonomo, and was lying in wait to hurt the victim. Buzzetta could face a life sentence in state prison without the possibility of parole because of the allegation of lying in wait.

Prosecutor Tracy Lunardi said Buzzetta had resented his stepfather for kicking him out of the house for drug use and suspicion of stealing jewelry from the house.

On the night of March 18, 2007, Bonomo allowed his stepson, then 19, to stay at his home following a relative's birthday party. Bonomo had separated from Buzzetta's mother.

Buzzetta was arrested shortly after Bonomo's body was discovered inside the home the next day at about 5:30 p.m.

The defense attorney argued that his client was innocent because no blood spattering was found Buzzetta's clothing or shoes.

The jury will return Monday to decide whether Buzzetta was sane when he committed the crime.

From Bill Lindelof:

A woman with a history of leaving her Down syndrome child behind in stores and letting him wander was given credit for serving 61 days in jail and placed on four years probation Tuesday by a Placer County judge.

Mary Ellen Stamps, 58, of Reno was found guilty Oct. 13 of one count of felony child endangerment. Stamps was jailed in December by Superior Court Judge Larry D. Gaddis for failing to keep a court-ordered appointment with the county probation department.

Stamps was charged for a March 25, 2009, incident in which she took her boy, then 7 and unable to speak, to the Village at Northstar in Lake Tahoe and allowed him to run off unsupervised.

Without finding the child, Stamps left Northstar for several hours to run an errand. She did not notify Northstar security that the boy was lost or missing, prosecutors said.

When Stamps returned to Northstar, she found her son in the care of security officials, who had discovered him running unsupervised and without identification in an underground parking garage.

Gaddis denied a request from Stamps' lawyer to have the felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor, saying he didn't think Stamps would follow terms being imposed by the court, a district attorney's office news release states.

Prosecutor Estelle Tansey said Stamps faces local jail time or up to a maximum of six years in state prison if she violates terms of her probation.

As part of probation, Stamps must attend a 52-week program dealing with parental duties and perform 60 hours of community service.

Bee Staff

A Sacramento Superior Court judge today sentenced a gang member to 17 years in prison after he pleaded no contest to the attempted murder of a police officer, according to a news release from District Attorney Jan Scully.

Jose Angel Gallardo's sentence included a robbery charge that he was convicted on earlier, Scully said.

Scully gave this account of events:

On May 22, 2006, Gallardo was a passenger in a car with three others. The driver, Eugene Gallegos, stopped his car at a bus stop near Truxel and San Juan roads Gallardo and another passenger, Saul Rabago, robbed the a 16-year-old boy using a fake gun.

Gallegos drove to the Natomas Marketplace where Sacramento Police Officer Kevin Howland approached the car on foot. At the urging of Gallardo, Gallegos attempted to run over Howland.

Howland ended up on the hood of the car as it sped through the busy parking lot. Howland fired several shots through the windshield ultimately stopping the car and killing Gallegos.

Gallardo, Rabago and Gallegos were all validated members of the Varrio Gardenland gang.

Rabago was previously sentenced to 12 years and 8 months in state prison for his role in the robbery and attempted murder.

"Thanks to the heroic efforts of Officer Kevin Howland, the lives of many bystanders were kept safe that day," said Deputy District Attorney Curtis Fiorini.

From Andy Furillo:

The career criminal who ran into his car into "Big Mike" Winnett's motorcycle and left him to die on Madison Avenue last year was sentenced today to 12 years and eight months in state prison.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown told defendant William Roger Lyons that his behavior after the Aug. 24, 2008, collision in the Fair Oaks area "shows an appalling lack of humanity" and "reflects to me callousness and a lack of emotion that are quite extraordinary."

Two of Winnett's sisters, a niece and a friend he took under his wing at Narcotics Anonymous told the court that the death of the king-sized blues harmonica player, Army veteran and salesman by trade left a hollowness to their lives that they said they'll never be able to replace.

"He was a living example for me on how to stay clean," said his niece, Jennifer Sousa, of her 6-foot-6, 350-pound uncle.

Lyons, 56, was under the influence of methadone and was out on bail after having been arrested in Placer County on a heroin charge when, according to the California Highway Patrol, he ran a stop sign onto Madison Avenue and pulled in front of Winnett's motorcycle.

The defendant declined to say anything in court today. His probation report quotes him as suggesting that he felt the collision was Winnett's fault.

"They keep saying in the paper that I made a California stop and I didn't," the report quoted Lyons as saying in a Dec. 4 interview. "I was stopped and I waited for cars to pass and when I pulled out this guy hit me."

A CHP officer testified at Lyons' preliminary hearing in July about Lyons running the stop sign. The officer also testified that Lyons walked away from the wreck even though he heard Winnett "moaning and groaning" in the street. Lyons later told his sister who owned the car to report it stolen to the police, according to his probation report.

Judge Brown sentenced Lyons to three years in prison for felony hit and run and two years for misdemeanor manslaughter. He gave Lyons an additional year each for seven previous prior convictions that landed him in prison. Lyons received the additional eight months for a probation violation.

Lyons has a criminal record that goes back more than 30 years. Most of his convictions are drug-related.

Winnett, 46, was killed almost immediately after coming out of an NA meeting.

Sousa said she was at the same meeting that night with her uncle.

"His last words to me were, 'Stay clean,' " she said today.

From Ed Fletcher:

A 64-year-old Roseville man who choked and threatening his wife with a hatchet is free on informal probation after being credited for serving 216 days in jail while his case was being decided, the Placer County District Attorney's office repots.

Ronald James Gonzales was arrested March 24 after Roseville Police responded to a 911 call. His wife had red marks on her neck from being choked, according to authorities.

In addition to time served, Gonzales will remain on probation for three years, is barred from owning firearms, must perform 20 hours of community service and pay $500 to domestic abuse programs.

From Andy Furillo

A Sacramento gang member convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy near McClatchy High School six years ago was sentenced today to 26 years to life in prison.

Superior Court Judge Lloyd G. Connelly handed down the term to Bobby Chiu, 22, for the Sept. 30, 2003, killing of Robert Treadway.

A jury convicted Chiu in October in the retrial of the case.

He had previously been convicted in the case, but the verdict was overturned by a state appellate court on grounds that the previous trial judge, Trena H. Burger-Plavan, had improperly instructed the jury.

Gary VUE[1].JPG11.JPGFrom Andy Furillo

The younger brother of a Sacramento sheriff's deputy accused in the shooting death of a California correctional officer has been convicted of another murder in Minnesota.

A Hennepin County jury returned the verdict Thursday against Gary Vue (photo left), 28. He and his brother, Chong Vue, were accused in the July 10, 2001, slaying of a man they mistakenly believed belonged to a rival street gang in Minneapolis.

Hennepin County Judge Mel I. Dickstein sentenced Gary Vue today to life in prison with a chance of parole after 31 years, according to a court clerk who asked that her name not be used.

Chong Vue is scheduled to go to trial in February, the clerk said.

Gary and Chong Vue are accused along with their older brother, Chu Vue, in the Oct. 15, 2008, shooting death of correctional officer Steve Lo in the garage of the victim's home in south Sacramento.

Police and prosecutors believe that Gary and Chong Vue carried out the killing, although officials have not identified which of the brothers actually pulled the trigger.

Chu Vue is accused of arranging the killing because Lo was having an affair with the former deputy's wife, who worked as a medical technical assistant at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, the same prison where Lo also was employed.

From Andy Furillo:

A once-promising former quarterback for Grant High School's renowned football team and another man were each sentenced to 21 years to life in prison today for the 2005 gang-related shooting death of an innocent victim on Sacramento's north side.

Tommy Keith Hall, 23, who was the starting signal-caller for the Pacers as a sophomore on the 2001 team, and co-defendant Dontae Sultan Stirgus, were convicted of second-degree murder by a Sacramento Superior Court jury last month in the Dec. 23, 2005, killing of Donikos Kentrell Jones, 23.

"It's a tragedy," Grant High football coach Mike Alberghini said today about Hall. "He had everything going for him. He made a bad choice about how he wanted to run his life, and it's unfortunate."

Jones, a plumber who had helped support his wife in her pursuit of her undergraduate degree at UC Davis, also played football at Grant, a couple years ahead of Hall, Alberghini said.

"He never got a chance to life," Alberghini said. "It's very tragic."

Neither Hall nor Stirgus were believed to be the gunman in the shooting death on Longshore Court.

Police and prosecutors say the shooting took place after Stirgus got in a confrontation with some residents of the street when he had visited there to buy some of the psychedelic drug Ecstasy. Authorities said Stirgus left the street, but returned in a car with Hall and at least one other person. Somebody inside their car then shot and killed Jones, who friends said had gone outside a house on the street to play basketball just before he was gunned down.

In imposing the term today, Judge Cheryl Chun Meegan said that Hall and Stirgus "an utter disregard for the rights of others" in what she characterized as a "shocking, senseless crime."

From Andy Furillo:

A Sacramento gang member has been sentenced to prison for 39 years to the rest of his life for shooting and killing a 17-year-old youth who was walking along the street near the Wildhawk Golf Club almost three years ago.

Anh-Tuan Dao Pham, 19, received the term Thursday from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy W. Frawley for the Feb. 22, 2007, shooting murder of Dominique Hickman, 17.

Pham's term also includes time on an additional attempted murder conviction for shooting and wounding two people in the unincorporated south area less than an hour after he killed Hickman.

RP VARDAN ABRAMYAN[1].JPGFrom Kim Minugh:

In the final chapter of the emotional drama that was Norik Abramyan's killing, a Sacramento Superior Court judge today sentenced the man's son to life in prison for arranging and paying for the murder in 2006.

The sentence, handed down by Judge James L. Long, allows 22-year-old Vardan Abramyan (photo right taken at a 2006 court appearance) no possibility for parole.

Other than denying motions for a new trial by the defense, Long offered no comments about the case in the brief sentencing. No victim impact statements were read, and Abramyan made no statement. His sisters wept quietly in the audience.

In August, a jury convicted Abramyan of first-degree murder with special circumstances that he planned his father's murder for financial gain and that he lay in wait. A life sentence without possibility for parole was expected because of the special circumstances.

Abramyan testified that he felt he had to have his father killed or his father might kill him, his mother or his sisters. He described his father as abusive - physically, financially and psychology - and said his family had been terrorized by his father for many years.

He paid $4,000 to Isaiah Dupree Barron to arrange the murder, and Barron in turn paid $500 each to Arthur James Battle and Jason Dillingham to carry it out. The men shot the 45-year-old man on July 30, 2006 in the parking lot of the Hollywood Video on Watt Avenue.

The younger Abramyan brought his father to the video store under the guise of renting a movie. While in the bathroom, he called the hired guns and told them of his father's whereabouts. He testified later that he could not bear to watch the shooting.

Baron, Battle and Dillingham all have been sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in the murder plot.

From Ed Fletcher:

A Roseville man was sentenced to two years in state prison after he broke into an occupied Roseville home on Coloma Way during the early morning hours of Sept. 5 and began cooking breakfast, authorities report.

The homeowner noticed the intrusion about 1:45 a.m. as Mejia began exploring the home.

The fact that Mejia didn't make off with anything is irrelevant said, Art Campos, a spokesman for the Placer County District Attorney's office.

"When you break into someone's house, its burglary," Campos said. "We don't know if he was there to steal anything."

Mejia's bizarre behavior didn't end there.

Twenty minutes later, another homeowner awoke to find Mejia in her Audrey Way sunroom.

The homeowner immediately called the police, Campos said. When they arrived they found a chair on fire.

Mejia was arrested and plead no contest to two counts of residential burglary.

From Andy Furillo

Two convicted Sacramento murderers have been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Curtis Level Chapman, 21, and Richard Antonio Hundley, 20, received the terms from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette on Monday for the Nov. 26, 2006, robbery and shooting death of David Joshua Barreda Jr., 33.

Marlette sentenced Chapman to an additional 25-to-life term for use of a firearm.

According to prosecutors, Barreda, a Vallejo resident, was robbed and killed at a house in unincorporated south Sacramento where the defendants had been staying. Barreda went to the house to visit a woman he had met on the Internet, his father said.

A third defendant in the case, Tammy Renee Turney, 49, is scheduled for trial on Jan. 21.

Keate.jpgFrom Kim Minugh

A 24-year-old woman who worked as a dental office manager in Roseville will serve a year in jail for embezzling more than $47,000 from the business and its patients, according to the Placer County District Attorney's office.

Holly Ann Keate (photo left) of Rocklin also must serve five years of probation and pay back the embezzled money, a judge ordered last week, according to a news release from the DA's office.

In September, Keate pleaded no contest to a charge of grand theft by embezzlement, the release states.

Keate embezzled the money between Aug. 15, 2008 and Jan. 22, 2009. Her former employer, Dr. Thomas Schlehofer, wrote in a letter to the judge that Keate deceived people "with her power of authority over patients," according to the news release, and "abused her managerial position with malicious neglect of patients, their personal files, their credit cards and their cash."

She also preyed on senior citizens without insurance, Schlehofer wrote to the judge, according to the release.

Keate used the money for vacations, laser treatment and elective plastic surgery, the release states. She was arrested at Sacramento International Airport just before boarding a plane headed for Hawaii.

From Andy Furillo

A judge today sentenced Tyrone Adam Palmer to 22 years and four months to life in prison for running a car with three teenaged girls off the road two years ago, killing one, leaving a second in a persistent vegetative state and severely injuring the third.

Palmer (photo bottom right), who was convicted of second-degree murder last month by a Sacramento Superior Court jury, tearfully apologized to the mother of Kailey McGagin (teen at far right in photo at bottom), the 17-year-old girl who died in the Oct. 13, 2007, hit-and-run on Winding Way in Carmichael, but then told Judge David De Alba that he never knew the girls' car crashed.

The apology came when Kailey's sobbing mother, Erin McGagin, told the court that "I just want him to remember" what he did," to which Palmer turned around and sobbingly replied, "I'll never forget. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about it. I'm so sorry."

The defendant's apology at first prompted Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi to tell the court that "I give Mr. Palmer and lot of credit" and that "I respect" the defendant for what appeared to be a heart-felt remark.

"It's something a lot of victims never get to see or hear," Grippi said.

Then, when the judge asked Palmer if there was anything he wanted to say directly to the court, the defendant sought to profess his innocence to the murder conviction, saying "I never saw them crash" and that he wasn't aware that anybody died until he heard it on the TV news the next day.

"It happened behind me," Palmer said.

As soon as Palmer finished, the prosecutor told De Alba, "I spoke too soon about my respect for Mr. Palmer. He came back to the same resounding theme that it's not his fault," Grippi said.

The prosecutor said that a friend of Palmer's rebutted the claim that he didn't know anything about the crash that he told the friend about it that night before it was ever on the news.

Grippi said Palmer's friend told investigators that the defendant commented that the girls "were screwing with him and they got into a wreck or something."

"For him to make this statement now is hard to take," Grippi said.

Palmer, 40, gave chase to the girls' car after one of them threw an egg at him while he was in the process of stealing a license plate off a utility trailer. The girls had just dropped off a friend at her Carmichael residence in the pre-dawn hours after a night of partying and drinking.

Seychelle Curry (middle teen in photo), the driver of the car, was left in a comatose state as a result of the crash. The other passenger in the car, Valerie Schmidt (teen at left in photo), now 19, sustained two broken legs and severe facial cuts.

ACW KAILEY MCGAGIN[1].JPG

ACW TYRONE ADAM PALMER[1].JPG

From Kim Minugh:

A 21-year-old San Francisco man faces almost six years in prison after he broke a UC Davis bookstore employee's jaw during a botched burglary, according to authorities.

On Friday, Yolo County Superior Court Judge Paul K. Richardson sentenced Fernando De Vizcarra to five years and eight months for the December 2008 incident, according to a news release from the office of District Attorney Jeff Reisig. He refuted the defense's claims that De Vizcarra acted in self defense, instead describing the defendant's action as a "sucker punch," the release states.

The day of the burglary, De Vizcarra and an accomplice pocketed some items at the UC Davis bookstore and were trying to leave when they were interrupted by bookstore employees. At one point, De Vizcarra attacked one employee from behind and, when the employee looked away, punched him in the jaw, according to the release. The employee's jaw was broken in two, the release states.

Nonetheless, the employee continued to struggle with De Vizcarra and held him until bystanders could help him, according to the release.

A jury convicted De Vizcarra of three felonies in August.

Bee Staff

A Sacramento Superior Court judge on Friday sentenced two men to life in prison without the chance of parole after they were earlier convicted of beating to death a 90-year-old woman.

Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard gave the sentences to Daniel Alan Russell, 19, and Calvin Eugene Pearson, 20, who were convicted by separate juries on Sept. 22 of the first-degree murder of Marie Oliver.

The pair broke into the churchwoman's three-bedroom home in North Sacramento on April 15, 2006.

The two of them beat and kicked her and broke her nose, cheekbones, eye socket and two of her ribs, before rifling through her home for money, jewelry and other valuables, court testimony established.

They spent the cash on beer and hamburgers and clothing, and Russell intended to use some of his loot to buy his girlfriend a tattoo, he told investigators.

Russell's Sacramento Superior Court jury deliberated for a little more than two hours before finding him guilty. It took Calvin Eugene Pearson's panel a little closer to three hours before returning an identical verdict against him.

The two also were convicted of burglary and robbery.

Videotaped interviews of the two defendants helped establish their guilt. Forensic evidence also placed their DNA inside the woman's ransacked house, while her blood was found on assorted articles of their clothing and footwear.

clip_image002.jpg22256.jpgBee Staff

A feud with neighbors has landed a Placer County man in jail for almost a year.

A 53-year-old Olympic Valley man has been sentenced to 360 days in the Placer County Jail and given a suspended state prison term of four years after being found guilty by a jury of stalking and of continually violating restraining orders in a simmering feud with a neighboring family, according to the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

Jonathan Nelce Lancaster, see photo, was also placed on five years probation Monday by Placer County Superior Court Judge Larry D. Gaddis and ordered to move away from his home so that he would have no further contact with the neighbors, according to a news release. In addition, he was ordered to pay $8,805 in restitution, fines and court fees, the release states.

Placer Deputy District Attorney Christopher Cattran said the jury found Lancaster guilty on Sept. 28 of two felonies - stalking and perjury - and of seven misdemeanor counts of disobeying the restraining orders.

The jury was deadlocked on other charges in which the defendant was alleged to have made annoying or harassing phone calls to a Carson City woman with whom he was obsessed, Cattran said. Those charges have been dismissed, he said.

However, Cattran felt the jury returned an appropriate verdict on the charges involving the feud with his neighbors.

"It's been our position that Mr. Lancaster believes the law does not apply to him," Cattran said. "This is evidenced by the jury convicting him of seven violations of court orders and the perjury charge."

Lancaster was given credit for serving 339 days in the county jail, meaning he will be released this month when he reaches 360 days.

Cattran said Lancaster will be allowed four days to move his belongings from his home and that he must notify the Placer County Sheriff's Department a week prior to coming back to the home to make the move.

appleblatt[1].JPGFrom Andy Furillo

A judge today sentenced long-time Sacramento divorce lawyer Gary Appelblatt, see photo, to state prison for 18 months for fondling four of his clients.

The term came as a result of a plea bargain worked out for Appelblatt by his attorney, Tom Johnson, with Deputy District Attorney Keith Hill.

Johnson and Appelblatt today asked Superior Court Judge Gary E. Ransom to instead sentence the disgraced attorney to probation. The judge denied the request. Ransom also rejected an appeal by Appelblatt to delay his remand into custody so he could get his affairs in order.

"No, sir," Ransom said. "This is not a pop quiz. You've been here before."

Three of Appelblatt's victims told the court about their encounters with Appelblatt and how he touched them inappropriately under the guise of giving them a medical exam when they were confiding with him about their problem marriages.

One of the victims said she was suffering from bipolar disorder and that Appelblatt took advantage of her "when I was most weak and most vulnerable."

"You robbed me of my dignity and my self-worth," the woman told Appelblatt.

Another told Appelblatt that "I trusted you" and that he "took full advantage" of her." She said she felt "shamed, disrespected and humiliated" by him.

Appelblatt read a statement in court in which he apologized to the victims. He said he had taken on military clients and had done "significant pro bono work" in family law. He said he's donated his time and money to assorted community causes.

"I've lost my livelihood which I have loved for the last 20 years and (am) facing loss of my freedom," Appelblatt said to Ransom.

"This is a tremendous impact on a (58)-year-old man. I pled nolo contendre, as no victim should have to be put through the trauma that a trial would only bring. I am only requesting mercy from this court. I have done wrong, I admitted it."

Johnson, his attorney, characterized Appelblatt as "humiliated as a person and as an attorney." He asked the judge to "reach out and say we'll give you one more shot."

"He stands before you a broken man," Johnson said to the judge.

Prosecutor Hill asked Ransom to stick with the terms of the plea agreement and hit the defendant who was "in a position of trust and confidence" with the prison term.

"It was a complete legal and moral breakdown on his part," Hill said. "This is something he did for years. Something he did over and over and over, to victim after victim after victim."

Appelblatt had been charged on a 13-count complaint, but pleaded no contest Aug. 17 to four felony counts of sexual battery and one count of attempting to touch one of his clients improperly.

At his sentencing today, Judge Ransom also ordered Appelblatt to pay $4,500 in restitution to two of his clients."

He also told Appelblatt he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life once he gets out of prison.

gbwoman.jpgFrom Hudson Sangree:

An 18-year-old Granite Bay woman was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for her role in a drive-by shooting that wounded a teenage boy in Roseville last November.

Kelsey Mariah Brace (left photo) pleaded no contest to two felony charges of assault with a firearm, both strikes under the state's three-strikes law, according to a Placer County District Attorney's office news release. She was 17 at the time of the shooting but prosecuted as an adult.

She also agreed to testify against a co-defendant and expressed remorse in a letter, the release said.

Brace has already served 357 days in the Placer County Jail, and Judge Colleen Nichols gave her 178 days of for good behavior.

Brace started an argument in a restaurant parking lot that led to the Nov. 5 drive-by shooting of a 16-year-old boy on Sierra College Boulevard, near Douglas Boulevard, the release said. The boy has since recovered, authorities said.

A second victim, a 17-year-old boy, dived out of the way of the shooting, officials report.

Brace's co-defendant, Justin Mathew Wittkop, 19, of Granite Bay, has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, according to the prosecutor's office. His trial is set for Jan. 11, 2010.

ShirfrazAli.jpgFrom Hudson Sangree:

A Sacramento man was sentenced to nearly eight years in prison Wednesday for raping a female acquaintance who gave him a lift to Auburn.

Shirfraz Ali (left photo), 24, received a ride with the victim in May, saying he had business in Auburn. But on a rural road he raped and choked her, according to a news release issued by the Placer County District Attorney's office.

The woman jumped out of the car and hailed a passing motorist. Ali drove away in the woman's car.

He pleaded no contest earlier this month to charges of rape, assault and unlawfully taking another person's vehicle.

Placer County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens sentenced Ali and imposed fines and restitution payments of more than $4,000, the prosecutor's office said.

From Ed Fletcher:

A Sacramento-area bank robber was sentenced Thursday to nearly four years in federal prison after admitting guilt in five robberies from January through March.

Jerome Michael Endsley II, 28, of West Sacramento, will have to pay $14,678 in restitution in addition to his prison stretch of three years, 10 months, a U.S. Department of Justice news release states.

In each of the five robberies, Endsley reportedly handed the teller a white grocery bag and told that person to fill the bag with money. According to the complaint, Endsley insinuated he had a gun but never revealed a weapon.

The sentence reflects Endsley's robbery of two Sacramento banks: the April 15 robbery of the Chase Bank at 4701 Freeport Blvd. and the March 27 robbery of the Wells Fargo at 3518 Marconi Ave.

Endsley also admitted robbing the United Commercial Bank, 4790 Freeport on Jan. 2; the Bank of America at 5600 Folsom Blvd on Jan. 27; and the Bank of America at 4740 Freeport on Feb. 2. He was not sentenced for those crimes as a result of his plea agreement, said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department.

His robbery takes range from the $741 he stole from the Wells Fargo to the heist of $9,703 from the Bank of America on Freeport.

A Sacramento Police Department officer arrested Endsley about a mile from the Chase bank as Endsley attempted his getaway. He was unarmed at the time of his arrest.

From Kim Minugh

A 19-year-old man was sentenced today to life in prison without possibility of parole for killing a man in a 2008 gang-motivated drive-by shooting in Del Paso Heights.

Doshmen Jamaal Johnson, who continues to maintain his innocence, first will serve 10 years for carrying out the shooting that killed 27-year-old Perry Steele on behalf of the North Highlands-based "TNA" gang.

He then will serve a life sentence without possibility of parole for the first-degree murder, plus 25 years for using a gun.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White handed down the sentence this afternoon, calling Johnson's actions "cold blooded."

Other than the glorification of his gang, White said, "there appears to be no other purpose to the killing."

Steele, a member of the rival Del Paso Heights Bloods, died in May 2008, one month after being shot in his car while at a stoplight at the intersection of Del Paso and Marysville boulevards.

His sister, Bakita Adame, said her baby brother suffered a "slow and extremely painful death," losing all his limbs before finally succumbing to his injuries.

"It was a senseless act - cruel, ugly and ungodly," she told Judge White before he sentenced Johnson.

Velecea Diggs, Johnson's mother, said after the hearing that she will continue her fight to prove her son's innocence.

"They think it's over, but it's not," she said. "I'm going to make sure."

Ragan.jpg112.jpgBee Staff

A 38-year-old Roseville man who was convicted of a third felony strike by a jury was sentenced today by a Placer County judge to 181 years to life in state prison, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Daniel Phillip Ragan was unable to persuade Superior Court Judge Charles Wachob to dismiss previous strikes and to grant him probation or a lesser prison sentence, according to a news release from the DA's office.

A jury found Ragan guilty on August 11 of 13 charges that included a variety of drug counts and the illegal possession of weapons.

In denying Ragan's request for leniency, Wachob, who also imposed fines and restitution of more than $10,000, noted the defendant's lengthy criminal history and his ongoing recidivism, the release sates.

"The sentence for this defendant is a just one," said Placer County Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Macumber. "Mr. Ragan is definitely the kind of recidivist offender for whom the three-strike law was created. Society needs to be protected against him for as long as possible."

The jury convicted Ragan on eight felony counts, each of which carried a potential maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison, the release states.

The jury also found that two special allegations that Ragan committed a felony while out on bail were true, and the defendant admitted that he had two prior strikes and had served two prior prison terms, the release states.

His previous prison sentences were for voluntary manslaughter with use of a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon, being a felon in possession of a firearm and attempted car burglary, the release states.

Ragan's more recent troubles began on Aug. 1, 2007, when he was arrested for possession of drugs.

Later that month while out on bail, Ragan was rearrested after law enforcement officers obtained a search warrant and found drugs and weapons in his home.

After meeting bail again, Ragan was arrested during a traffic stop on Sept. 14, 2007. Officers said he was driving under the influence of drugs and that drugs were found in the vehicle. On his belt, Ragan was wearing brass knuckles, which are an illegal weapon, Macumber said.

The jury deliberated three days in a two-week trial before returning the guilty verdicts on charges that included possession and transportation of drugs, being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, possession of metal knuckles and maintaining a place where drugs were being used, the release states.

clip_image0023333.JPGBee Staff

A 19-year-old Sacramento man was sentenced today to 16 months in prison for binding and then killing a cat with an explosive device on July 28, according to a news release from the Sacramento District Attorney's office.

Hui-Biao Yang (see photo) was sentenced by the Judge Judy Herscher after pleading guilty to the felony charge of torturing and killing an animal in South Sacramento, the release states.

Yang bound the legs of the cat, placed it under a traffic cone and inserted an ignited explosive device into the cone in the 6200 block of 63rd Street. Yang was then seen laughing as he observed the mangled remains of the cat, the release states.

Witnesses who saw this brutal crime were initially fearful to talk to authorities, but Sacramento Police Department officers and reporters from Fox40 News were later able to locate and obtain statements from witnesses, the release states.

Hyatt.jpg2ndshot.jpgBee Staff

A 61-year-old man who molested two girls while living at the home of a Roseville couple was sent to state prison Wednesday for 13 years and four months by a Placer County judge, according to a news release.

Raymond Earl Hyatt (see photo), who pleaded guilty last month to three counts of child molestation and one charge of possessing child pornography, was given the sentence by Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens, who also imposed fines and restitution of $1,300, according to the release from the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

Hyatt showed no emotion as the mother of the two girls, who were 7 and 8 when they were molested, tearfully read a statement to the court to say how much emotional damage the defendant had caused her family, the release states.

The woman said her children have been so upset that they have trouble doing their schoolwork and that her husband has been unable to find work because of his depression, the release states.

"Everyone is having nightmares in our family," she told the court.

While calling Hyatt's crimes "evil and ugly," the woman told the defendant that she hopes he can pursue a life for God while in prison, the release states.

Deputy District Attorney Jeff Wood said the molestation of the girls occurred from March 2008 until April 2009 when Hyatt was living with the family.

From Andy Furillo

The former medical director of the Sacramento County jail system is unlikely to do any time behind bars as a result of his no-contest plea last week to writing unauthorized OxyContin prescriptions, according to a prosecutor's memo.

Dr. Peter Dietrich's plea Friday in Sacramento County Superior Court included a guarantee that he would not serve any state prison time, and the memo by Deputy District Attorney Dean Archibald strongly indicated that the physician will not have to serve the 365 days in county jail that is facing as a result of his negotiated agreement.

"If the court was so inclined as to sentence the defendant to community service, as opposed to incarceration, the People - in view of Dr. Dietrich's service to society in the past, his on-going efforts to rehabilitate himself, his current participation in the development of programs that will benefit the community at large as well as other medical providers, along with his recognized potential for future good works - would submit on the issue," said Archibald's Aug. 6 memo contained in Dietrich's court file.

Dietrich, who enrolled in a drug treatment program less than two weeks after his Jan. 14 arrest, is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 6 by Judge Gary E. Ransom.

State Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement agents arrested the 52-year-old Dietrich after finding that he had been writing an unusually high number of prescriptions for OxyContin, a powerful, highly-addictive pain killer. BNE agents suspected that Dietrich had been writing the illegal prescriptions for himself.

At the time, Dietrich had been in charge of medical operations at the downtown jail and the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center for a year and a half. Before that, he had been the medical director in charge of university health services at UC Berkeley for 14 years.

Under the plea deal, Dietrich will likely be placed on probation for four years. Archibald's memo also said he would be required to complete a Proposition 36 drug treatment program.

Although Dietrich's license has been suspended by the California Medical Board, Archibald's memo said that the DA's office has discussed with the state Department of Justice the effect of the plea on his ability to regain his ability to practice medicine again.

Archibald said in the memo that "it is our understanding that the felony convictions on the charges that comprise the offer will not, of themselves, preclude Dr. Dietrich from regaining his privilege to practice medicine." The memo also said that if Dietrich complies with all Department of Justice and Medical Board requirements and receives the proper recommendations for reinstatement, the DA's office would not object.

Neither Archibald nor Dietrich's attorney, Clyde Blackmon, were available for comment earlier today.

alger wayne.jpgFrom Ed Fletcher:

A former California Highway Patrol sergeant was sentenced to 300 days in Placer County Jail after pleading guilty to three misdemeanors, two counts of child molestation and one for possession of child pornography.

In August, Wayne Robert Alger (left photo), 37, of Roseville, confessed to molesting a 16-year-old girl in a home in July 2008 and committing a lewd act upon a 12-year-old Rocklin girl inside a vehicle in 2007.

Alger, who used to work in the Capitol Protection Section before his 2008 arrest by Rocklin police, will be required to register as a sex offender for life and will be placed on five years probation.

In the felony complaint filed against Alger in February, Alger was charged with seven sex offenses. In August, he entered a guilty plea on three counts.

Placer County officials said they were pleased with the result given the evidence. During the sentencing phase, the District Attorney's office asked for the maximum 365-day sentence. Alger's lawyer argued in court that 90 days were appropriate.

"We didn't think the incidents were of felony-level conduct," said Jeff Wood, the Placer County prosecutor handling the case. "The things we felt we could prove did not amount to felony conduct."

Before Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens sentenced Alger, who was a 10-year CHP veteran at the time of the arrest, heard from the victims' families.

"You are a disgrace as a man and as a CHP officer," the mother of the older girl shouted at him, according the a District Attorney's office report of the sentencing. "I hope you burn in hell."

The younger girl's mother described Alger as a "textbook predator" who befriended the family to gain access to her daughter.

The girl's father was one of Alger's best friends and was a fellow CHP officer.

"Instead of protecting the public from evil, he committed evil himself," the father said, calling Alger an embarrassment to law enforcement.

Alger did not make a statement in court.

From Andy Furillo:

A judge sentenced a convicted first-degree murderer to 50 years to life in prison Tuesday for the March 2007 shooting death of Michael Lamar Barron in a south Sacramento strip mall.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Russell L. Hom imposed the term on Jim Cage, 29.

Prosecutors said Cage shot and killed Barron in the belief that the victim had previously shot him. There was no evidence in the case to establish that Barron had shot Cage.

moreno brandon m.jpgFrom Ed Fletcher:

A 20-year-old Roseville man was sentenced today to 21 months in jail as result of a 2008 DUI accident that claimed the life of his friend Brandon Keith, 20.

The accident occurred Dec. 20, 2008, when Brandon Mark Moreno (left photo), carrying four passengers, crashed his vehicle into a tree along Foothills Boulevard.

Another passenger, Joseph Castillon, suffered a spine fracture and lacerated liver. The fourth passenger was uninjured.

In June, Moreno entered a guilty plea to gross vehicular manslaughter while being intoxicated and two related felonies.

Moreno had been arrested on a DUI charge in Sacramento three weeks before the fatal accident, according to a Placer County District Attorney's office news release. The Sacramento DUI charge is still pending, the release said.

After being given credit for time served since the arrest, Moreno must spend another 240 days in jail. He was also given a suspended seven-year sentence. Violation of his parole conditions upon his release would trigger the seven-year prison sentence.

From Chelsea Phua:

A 45-year-old Folsom man who defrauded investors in a $13 million Ponzi scheme was sentenced Tuesday to nearly 20 years in prison, authorities said.

U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown said in a news release that Stefan A. Wilson, who is also known as Stephen K. Wilson, wiped out retirees' life savings and depleted money meant for college funds and inheritances by bilking about 80 victims and their families between February 2006 and February 2008.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence K. Karlton also sentenced Wilson to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay more than $12 million in restitution.

Prosecutors said Wilson tricked investors by promising an 18 to 24 percent return for investing in the "Christians in Crisis" Investment Fund and required investors to produce a minimum of $100,000.

Of the $13 million he collected, Wilson placed about $6.5 million into a brokerage account to buy and sell stock, but lost nearly all the money, leaving only $30,000 in the account. However, prosecutors said Wilson continued to tell investors the fund was doing well and sent monthly statements and checks to show them that they were receiving the promised return.

Wilson used slightly more than $2 million to pay some investors, assuring them that the money was earnings on their investments. He used the rest to pay for a lavish lifestyle that included a $400,000 down payment on his Folsom home, a $118,000 down payment on a Lamborghini and a $90,000 down payment on a boat. Authorities said he failed to report this income on his 2006 tax return.

Wilson also changed his name from Stephen K. Wilson to Stefan A. Wilson before embarking on this scheme to conceal from investors that he had a 2002 fraud conviction and a 2005 bankruptcy, authorities said.

On March 17, Wilson pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false income tax return.

At his sentencing, victims spoke about the financial devastation that Wilson's crime caused. One family said they lost a farm that had been in the family for 60 years and was paid off until Wilson convinced them to refinance it and another victim said Wilson took money from his son, a disabled war veteran.

They also said Wilson, a former youth minister, lied to them about donating 10 percent of his profits to Christian charities and they trusted him because of his affiliation with the church.

"The defendant's conduct was beyond reprehensible," Brown said. "He manipulated innocent investors and destroyed lives."

Feliciano[1].JPGFrom Kim Minugh

A state employee and a former leader with the SEIU Local 1000 union was sentenced today to 25 years in state prison after he pleaded no contest to child molestation, possession of child pornography and manufacturing child pornography, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney's office.

The case against 50-year-old Jaime Enrique Feliciano, who works for the Department of Insurance, began with a tip in September 2008, the DA's office announced in a news release. Authorities searched Feliciano's Sacramento residence and found thousands of child pornography images on DVDs and in Internet downloads, which Feliciano viewed on his personal computer and a laptop owned by the Department of Insurance, the release states. Also on the computers, authorities found home-made child pornography showing Feliciano molesting a young female, the release states.

Feliciano had dissuaded the girl and her mother from talking to authorities, but the girl revealed the abuse after Sacramento County sheriff's detectives identified her, according to the release.

Feliciano had been convicted of child molestation in 1993 and was a registered sex offender, the release states. In 2006, he was convicted for failing to register.

Feliciano is a former president of one of SEIU's 50 district labor councils, which are located across the state. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Feliciano's position with the union.)

Judge Laurie Earl handed down the 25-year sentence in the latest case.

Bee Staff

A U.S. District Court judge has sentenced a Folsom merchant to four months in prison and 36 months of supervised release for trying to sell designer knock-offs instead of genuine articles.

Ka Kit Lam, 39, now living in San Jose, earlier this year pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking counterfeit goods and services, a news release from acting U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown's office states.

According to Assistant U. S. Attorney Kyle Reardon, who prosecuted the case, an officer with the Customs and Border Patrol in 2006 found that 56 boxes of merchandise containing counterfeit trademark-protected products.

The merchandise included purses, wallets, shoes, earrings, chains, and charms bearing the marks of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Christian Dior, Juicy Couture, Tiffany, Disney, and Hello Kitty, the release states.

The shipment was intended for Lam's home in Folsom, the release states. The value of the counterfeit items was estimated to be $58,335. The retail value of those items, had they been real, was estimated to be $1.2 million, the release states.

In 2007, a search of Lam's home turned up 14 boxes of counterfeit goods and a "stamper," which is used to affix counterfeit name tags to counterfeit items, the release states.

Lam admitted to importing counterfeit merchandise into the United States and selling and attempting to sell that counterfeit merchandise, the release states. He said that he traveled to China in May 2006 and bought 400 non-counterfeit purses, which he sold at a market in San Francisco, the release states. While selling these purses, customers asked him if he could get them counterfeit purses, the release states.

In September 2006, the defendant returned to China and purchased approximately $8,000 in counterfeit merchandise. These items were shipped by the defendant in October 2006 and seized by U.S. agents upon their arrival into the United States in December 2006, the release states.

In November 2006, the defendant received a shipment of nametags and authentication cards from China. By using a stamper, the defendant affixed counterfeit labels onto non-counterfeit, non-branded items to make them appear genuine, the release states.

Bogus authentication cards were intended to be put into the newly counterfeited items in order to deceive customers into believing that the items were genuine, the release states. The defendant affixed these tags in order to sell the items at local markets.

Judge William B. Shubb, in sentencing the defendant, said that the victims in this case were the manufacturers of the products that the defendant counterfeited, as well as the people who might buy those products thinking that they were authentic designer products, the release states.

From Andy Furillo

A Sacramento judge granted the wish of a murdered woman's 10-year-old son today and sentenced her killer, Issiah Willie Jackson, to 110 years to life in prison.

"I just want the court to know that Issiah Jackson should stay in jail for the rest of his life because he took my mom from me," Isaah Keene-Crocker said to Superior Court Judge Russell L. Hom just before the sentence was imposed on the 33-year-old defendant.

Jackson was convicted two months ago in the Jan. 5, 2007, shooting death of his former girlfriend, January Keene, who was 30 years old when police found her shot and fatally wounded in the front seat of the defendant's car.

The judge sentenced the unemotional defendant in a packed courtroom that featured victim impact statements from Keene's mother and father as well as her son.

"My wish for (Jackson) is that he hear in his head, over and over again, as I do, my daughter, saying, 'Mom, I'm cold,'" Patricia Keene told the court. "And for him to see her son, standing over her grave, crying his heart out."

The victim's father, Patrick Keene, said that Jackson "has sentenced all of us to a life of misery," including the defendant's own family. "He needs to pay for what he has done."

From Andy Furillo

A 79-year-old retired law enforcement officer has been sentenced to 90 days in county jail after pleading no contest to two felony charges after he pulled his gun and flashed his badge at another motorist earlier this year in a case of road rage.

Buddy Trumbo, a former Placer County sheriff's deputy as well as a one-time Plymouth police chief and Department of Defense police officer at McClellan Air Force Base, was sentenced Tuesday in Sacramento Superior Court on his convictions for assault with a firearm and brandishing a gun on a public street.

According to court records, Trumbo must turn himself in Oct. 20 at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center. The records indicated that the 30-year law enforcement veteran has signed up for the sheriff's work furlough project and that he also will be placed on three years probation.

As a result of his conviction, Trumbo, a Citrus Heights resident who had a concealed weapons permit from the Placer County Sheriff's Department, will be banned from ever owning a weapon again for the rest of his life, according to the court records.

Neither Trumbo nor his lawyer could be reached for comment earlier today.

A statement from the victim in the case, James Torrez, 46, in the court file said that Trumbo "forced his truck in front of my vehicle, got out of his truck waiving his badge and telling me to get out of my vehicle." Torrez told the probation officer that Trumbo "later pulled his weapon on me and literally pointed it directly at me on several occasions."

"He was really acting like a lunatic, yelling, screaming and waiving his gun around," Torrez said in the statement.

Trumbo's probation report said the ex-cop tried to pull over Torrez because he thought the victim "was acting aggressively and appeared suspicious." The two were both driving in the Auburn Boulevard and Van Maren Lane area when Torrez pulled into traffic. The report quoted Trumbo as saying that Torrez' vehicle almost hit the defendant's car.

"Several times, I thought my life was over," Torrez told the probation officer. "I remember thinking, what will happen with my kids?"

Seven retired law enforcement officers wrote letters on behalf of Trumbo. Former Sacramento County Chief Deputy Sheriff Robert Denham said he has known Trumbo for 10 years and that "I have always observed him to be a man of honesty and integrity and calm and rational behavior ... Chief Trumbo has always exhibited a superior grasp of knowledge of the laws of this state and duties of a peace officer."

valladares_baltazar_ortega.JPGFrom Chelsea Phua:

A 30-year-old Roseville man was sentenced Tuesday to three years and one month in prison for interfering with the safe operation of aircraft by shining a powerful laser on a commercial jetliner and a Sacramento Sheriff's Department helicopter, federal authorities said.

Balltazar Valladares (left photo) pleaded guilty June 8. U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb also placed Valladares under three years of supervision following his release.

"These years in federal prison should give anyone pause when contemplating as reckless an act as potentially blinding a pilot who is operating an aircraft," U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown said.

Prosecutors said about 8 p.m. March 16, Valladares shined a bright green light on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 with 137 passengers as it was flying over Roseville, preparing for its descent to Sacramento International Airport.

Police initially could not find the source of the light.

About two hours later, the Sheriff's Department Air Unit STAR 5 flew over the Roseville and was hit by the laser. Authorities identified the laser as coming from Valladares' residence.

Valladares admitted to police that he had been shining the laser into the sky during the night.

Authorities said the laser possessed by Valladares was seven times more powerful than the standards published by the Food and Drug Administration and have the potential to blind those who look at it.

The laser can interfere with pilots several kilometers away and can cause problems during critical phases of an aircraft's operation, including takeoffs and landings.

Bee Staff

A jail sentence for a San Jose State University football player who was convicted of battery was increased from 45 days to 60 days this week by a Placer County judge, according to a news release from the District Attorney's Office.

However, the player, Ryne Gonzalez of Loomis, will be allowed to attend school this fall and play football before he must report to the Placer County Jail for incarceration on Dec. 17, the release states.

Gonzalez, now 22, was found guilty by a jury last year of misdemeanor battery for a 2005 incident in Penryn in which he struck another man with his fist, breaking the victim's tooth, the release states.

Gonzalez, who plays linebacker for San Jose State, was ordered on July 7, 2008, by Placer County Superior Court Judge Joseph O'Flaherty to serve 45 days in jail - 30 in custody and 15 through alternative sentencing, which can include house arrest or monitoring.

The San Jose State student was given permission to do his jail time in the court's sentenced prisoner program, in which a person can serve in the Roseville Police Department's jail on a schedule that can work favorably around the person's job, family duties or schooling, the release states.

Prosecutor Jeffery Moore noted that Gonzales served only three days at the Roseville jail in January and just one day in April after the Police Department sent him a reminder that he needed to resume his jail time.

"But after serving the one day in April, he didn't return," Moore said.

Police notified the court about the situation and Judge O'Flaherty ordered Gonzalez to report to the Placer County Jail on Sept. 2 to serve all 45 days of his original sentence, the release states.

On Tuesday, Gonzalez' attorney, Robert Young of Auburn, filed a motion asking for a modified sentence so that his client would not lose his football scholarship. The Placer County District Attorney's Office opposed modifications, the release states.

In a hearing Wednesday, O'Flaherty allowed Gonzalez to return to school for the fall semester, but he imposed the increased jail sentence of 60 days to begin Dec. 17, and he placed other conditions on him, the release states.

If Gonzalez fails to show up for jail on the turn-in date or if he has any contact with the victim that he punched in 2005, he will be given an additional 90 days in jail, making it a 150-day sentence, the judge ruled.

Also, Gonzalez is no longer eligible for alternative sentencing, nor can he apply for the sentenced prisoner program in the Roseville jail. He will be given no credit for the four days he served in the Roseville jail earlier this year, the release states.

Prosecutor Moore said Gonzalez, whose football season began Saturday with a game against the University of Southern California, has been shirking his responsibilities.

"It seems as if he hasn't wanted to accept any responsibility," he said. "I want every defendant treated the same. I don't want there to be any appearance of favoritism for an athlete. I believe the victim in this case deserved justice right after the July 2008 sentencing - not at the defendant's convenience."

Bee Staff

Elaborate planning by four suspects to torch a vehicle only ended up earning them time in jail, restitution payments and the requirement to register as arson offenders for life, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office.

All to collect $26,000 from two insurance companies - which now has to be paid back, according to a new release.

The final sentences were issued last week. Some of the defendants had been sentenced earlier. Sentenced arson and insurance fraud in the case were Anthony Woodcock Jr., 20; Frank Avery, 23; Kyle Cooper, 20; and Jarred Flory, 21, all of Rancho Cordova.

Avery, Cooper and Flory each received 180 days in county jail, and Woodcock received 240 days in county jail, according to the DA's office. Each of the defendants is also required to register as arson offenders for life and ordered to pay a total of $26,308.81 in restitution to two insurance companies, the release states.

The release gave this chain of events:

In 2007, Anthony Woodcock promised to pay Avery, Cooper and Flory $1,000 each to help demolish his 2006 Dodge Magnum.

Woodcock and Avery left the Dodge near the intersection of Grant Line and Douglas Roads in rural Sacramento County after driving a nail into a tire, causing it to go flat. They walked to a nearby residential area, where they had earlier parked Woodcock's truck.

During their walk, they called Cooper and Flory, who were waiting nearby, and told them where to find the car so they could burn it. Cooper and Flory set the Dodge on fire using gasoline and nitro methane. However, when the car exploded, Cooper and Flory suffered non-life threatening burns.

During their walk, they called Cooper and Flory, who were waiting nearby, and told them where to find the car so they could burn it. Cooper and Flory set the Dodge on fire using gasoline and nitro methane. However, when the car exploded, Cooper and Flory suffered non-life threatening burns.

During this time, Woodcock and Avery drove to a nearby convenience store, parked down the street, and pretended to make a call from a pay phone so they would be captured on the store video as an alibi.

They then drove back to the Magnum while firemen were extinguishing the blaze and told police at the scene that they had just returned to fix the flat tire. Woodcock later filed insurance claim for the loss of the vehicle.

Castaneda.jpg1.jpgBee Staff

A 20-year-old Elk Grove man learned that it doesn't pay to lie to a judge, according to a news release from the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

Because of the deceit, Lorenzo Joel Castaneda, photo left, on Wednesday was ordered to do a full nine-month jail sentence by Placer County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens, who had originally planned to allow the defendant to do half his term on the outside by granting him alternative sentencing, the release states.

The case stems from Castaneda's guilty plea to charges of having an unlawful sexual relationship with a minor and sending the 14-year-old girl harmful or obscene photos over a cell phone, the release states. The two had met last year in Roseville.

On July 22, Couzens began to sentence Castaneda to 135 days in jail and grant him eligibility for alternative sentencing on the other 135 days, the release states.

But before Couzens could complete the sentencing, the release states, Castaneda made an unusual request: Could he serve the alternative sentence first before doing the second half in jail?

Castaneda said he was enrolled in 20 units at Cosumnes River College and he wanted to complete the fall semester before having to do the jail time, the release states.

Traditionally, judges order defendants to serve the in-custody portion of their jail time before commencing with alternative sentencing, the release states.

Couzens then continued the sentencing hearing, giving Castaneda several weeks to come back with proof that he was enrolled in 20 units of classes.

In two subsequent appearances before the judge in August, Castaneda furnished a printout sheet of classes and a letter from a counselor, the release states. However, the documents indicated he was enrolled in six units and was on a waiting list for eight other units - far short of the 20 units he had earlier claimed, the release states.

When Castaneda appeared before Couzens on Wednesday, he presented new documents in an attempt to persuade the court that he had 18 units, including classes for which he was on a waiting list, the release states.

Prosecutor Todd Kuhnen of the Placer County District Attorney's Office told the judge it appeared Castaneda had presented manufactured documents to the court, the release states.

"I have a lot of suspicion about this paper trail from your client," the judge told Castaneda's attorney, according to the release. "I do not accept the validity of (Castaneda's) representation."

He then ruled Castaneda ineligible for alternative sentencing, ordered him to serve the full 270 days in the Placer County Jail and placed him on three years probation, the release states.

From Andy Furillo

Convicted murderer Bennett Louis Kovac has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the shooting death of Gary R. Brooks three years ago in a south Sacramento electronics shop.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Gary S. Mullen imposed the term on Kovac last Friday.

Kovac, 45, was convicted in July in a retrial. A co-defendant who was convicted in the first trial, Wayne Albert Caskey, also received a 25-to-life term.

From Andy Furillo

Tamekca Walker told the court today she was sorry for the death of a 17-month-old girl in her foster care home two years ago, but she still received a 25-to-life prison term for child abuse that resulted in death.

Jurors last month also convicted Walker of second-degree murder in the Oct. 22, 2007, death of Tamaihya Moore, a girl who was born with cocaine in her system and placed in the foster care system a month before her death, after her father was arrested.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Greta Curtis Fall gave the defendant a 15-to-life term for the murder conviction, but stayed that term because the offense took place in the course of the same act that resulted in the child abuse count.

In a brief and tearful address to the court, Walker said that "not a day goes by that I don't think about" Moore, who was placed in her care by Sacramento County Child Protective Services.

Walker had been in the foster care business about two years before CPS placed Moore in her Meadowview home, according to the defendant's probation report.

The report said Walker told police the little girl had been "restless" and that she "would put her hand over (the toddler's) face to keep her quiet, which she had done before. She held her hand on the victim's face but did not know for how long. The victim stopped crying and then the defendant wrapped her in a blanket. She stated she tried to give the victim CPR and then put her 'in the corner.'"

Sacramento police investigators later developed information that Walker "expressed frustration" over caring for Tamaihya Moore "due to the amount of attention she required, which was affecting her ability to care for the other children," the probation report said.

A coroner's autopsy never conclusively established the girl's cause of death, although it suggested that the fatality resulted from "asphyxiation, probably by smothering."

The girl's relatives have since filed a lawsuit against Sacramento County over the CPS placement of the girl in Walker's home and the agency's failure to remove the child despite pleas from her relatives.

The civil case had been suspended until the conclusion of the criminal matter. Bruce G. Fagel, the Beverly Hills attorney who is representing the Moore family, said the civil case will resume in Sacramento Superior Court on Sept. 24.

From Ed Fletcher:

A 27-year-old Roseville man was sentenced to 30 years and eight months in state prison Thursday after pleading no contest to molesting his former partner's adolescent daughter.

He also received a tongue lashing from the victim's mother.

"Other than murder, I believe this is the most horrific news to a mother," the victim's mother told Guillermo A. Quintanilla Jr. during sentencing.

"For many years, I took (the victim) from specialist to specialist, doctor to doctor, trying to figure out where the pain was coming from. And all along, there was a predator in my home," the mother said, a press release from the Placer County District Attorney's office shows.

The crimes began in 2005 when the victim was 8 years old. The girl, now 12, was among spectators at Quintanilla's sentencing.

From Andy Furillo

Two Rio Linda men convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting a man to death at a Natomas party two years ago were sentenced to prison today in Sacramento Superior Court.

Anthony Franklin "Bubbles" Pruitt, 22, received a three-year term from Judge Michael W. Sweet as a result of the negotiated plea while co-defendant Gerald Villalobos, also 22, was sentenced to 10 years.

The two pleaded no contest last month to the 1:38 a.m., Jan. 27, 2007, killing of Alejandro Villalobos, 23, who was no relation to the defendant with the same last name.

Relatives of the victims decried the plea in their statements to the court today, saying they believed the two gunmen should have received stiffer prison terms.

Deputy District Attorney Shauna Franklin said a murder case would have been "extremely difficult to prove." She said that one of the victims' two brothers who was with him at the party had pulled out a handgun prior to the shooting and had threatened to kill Pruitt.

Just before he was killed, Alejandro Villalobos had intervened in the dispute between his brothers and Pruitt and had "tried to calm things down," Gilbert Villalobos' lawyer, Al Combatalade, told the court.

Judge Sweet said that "people arming themselves at parties" was "inexplicable" to him that the result in this case was that an innocent person was killed.

mccauley douglas w.jpgFrom Chelsea Phua

A Placer County Superior Court judge has banned a 45-year-old Lincoln man from entering any Fry's Electronics store.

Douglas Wayne McCauley (photo) was convicted by a jury for stealing electronics equipment from the Fry's store in Roseville and admitted to four prior theft convictions that included two at Fry's in Sacramento.

"He is not to go to any Fry's - worldwide," Placer County Superior Court Judge James D. Garbolino said.

McCauley was placed on five years felony probation and ordered to serve 60 days in jail. The judge also suspended another 120 days of incarceration.

Garbolino called McCauley's shoplifting crimes a "psychological problem" and said McCauley can be helped through counseling.

"The conduct in this case is pretty much inexplicable," the judge said, also noting that everything else in the defendant's life seemed to be "mainstream or above."

The latest theft occurred July 7, 2008, at the Fry's store in Roseville. McCauley took keyboard components, authorities said.

The jury convicted McCauley on felony charges of commercial burglary and petty theft with a prior.

Prosecutor Carl Mayhew of the Placer County District Attorney's Office said a lifetime ban from an entire chain of stores is "very unusual."

"But this case certainly cried out for it," he said.

From Andy Furillo:

A Sacramento man was sentenced to seven years in prison today for stabbing a former Merchant Marine to death two years ago.

Armand Marcello Powers, 25, received the term from Sacramento Superior Court Judge James L. Long for the Aug. 16, 2007, stabbing of Julian Maisonet, 61, who died eight days later.

A jury last month convicted Powers of voluntary manslaughter in connection with the stabbing death in south Sacramento that city police investigators initially thought may have been a case of self-defense.

From Bill Lindelof:

A twice-convicted burglar's decision to flee from authorities and lead them on a dangerous chase along streets in south Sacramento and Elk Grove has put him in prison for 25 years to life.

James Lee Blake, 30, was sentenced by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny on Friday for felony violations of evading police, driving in a reckless manner and driving on the wrong side of the road. He also was sentenced for misdemeanor resisting a peace officer.

A three-time convicted felon, Blake was prosecuted and sentenced under the state's "three-strike" guidelines, which accounts for the long prison stretch.

Two years ago, officers stopped Blake on suspicion of driving a stolen car. A press release from the Sacramento County District Attorney's office stated that Blake momentarily pulled to the side of road as officers exited their patrol cars.

Blake then accelerated and drove away, leading officers on a 52-mile pursuit that lasted more than a half hour and reached speeds higher than 100 mph in south Sacramento and Elk Grove. At one point Blake drove on the wrong side of the road, forcing citizens to swerve to avoid collision.

Blake eventually lost control of his car and ended up in a ditch.

"This is a just sentence for a repeat convicted felon who once again showed complete disregard for the safety and well-being of the people in our community," said Deputy District Attorney Kristi Tungesvik.

From Ed Fletcher

The March robbery of the prescription painkiller OxyContin from Roseville Walgreens and an assault led to a three-year sentence after a 21-year-old man pleaded no contest to the charges.

Pierre Jovan Williams, pleaded no contest to the theft of $5,000 worth of the painkiller and battery of a correctional officer, according to the release from the Placer County District Attorney's office.

Williams received a three-year sentence for the robbery and a two-year sentence for the battery, which will run concurrently.

During the robbery, Williams wore a hooded sweatshirt and while holding something in his pocket twice whispered to the pharmacist "I have a gun," according to the release.

From Andy Furillo:

A 23-year-old man was sentenced today to 52 years to life in prison for the 2006 murder of a teenager at a Mack Road shopping center.

Ceron Hill, who shot 18-year-old Jack Maurice Lawrence to death, received 25 years to life on the first-degree murder conviction, 25 more years for shooting someone and inflicting great bodily injury or death, and two years for being an ex-con with a gun.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Marjorie Koller handed down the sentences.

Hill was convicted April 1 after a 14-day trial.

From Andy Furillo:

An accessory to a 2006 robbery murder in the Rosemont area today was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison.

Freddie Rimpson III, 22, received the term from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Russell L. Hom after pleading guilty June 26 to charges of attempted second-degree robbery and being an accessory to the murder of Kevin Wilson.

Rimpson initially had been charged with murder in the case.

The gunman in Wilson's shooting death, Jayshawn Visa Pierce, has since been convicted and sentenced to prison for life with no possibility of parole.

Wilson, 41, a municipal water district employee, was shot and killed outside his apartment on Tuolomne Drive after a carload of robbers that included Rimpson tailed him from a Fruitridge Avenue bar on May 22, 2006.

According to court testimony, Pierce arranged the robbery to raise bail money for a friend.

From Chelsea Phua

A Woodland man convicted of oral copulation with a minor has been sentenced to eight years of probation, with one year in county jail, according to the Yolo County District Attorney's office.

Brett Pedroia pleaded guilty in April to one felony count of oral copulation with a boy.

Jail time is a condition of Pedroia's probation sentence, which also includes a suspended six-year prison term. If he violates his probation during the eight-year sentence, he will have to serve six years in prison.

Yolo County Deputy District Attorney Tiffany Susz said prosecutors argued for a sentence of eight years in prison.

Three other felony counts relating to Pedroia's activities with the boy were previously dropped.

Brett Pedroia is the brother of Boston Red Sox star second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

From Ed Fletcher:

Calling him a "threat to society," on Friday a Placer County judge sentenced a twice-convicted child molester to 75 year to life in state prison.

The sentenced handed out by Superior Court Judge Mark Curry stems from a May 15 conviction on four felony counts of lewd acts upon a child. The victim was 6-years-old.

Donald Bruce Vechik, 59, befriended the girl's mother when he and the woman were living in a Cisco Grove area motel in 2008, prosecutors said. Vechik offered to watch the girl and take her to school, officials said.

School officials who checked up on Vechik discovered he was a registered sex offender. Subsequent interviews of the girl revealed the girl had been molested, officials said.

Vechik previously served a six-year prison term for molesting his daughter in Kern County, according to the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

Because of Vechik's criminal record he will be required to serve 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole, said deputy district attorney Jennifer Miszkewycz.

Bee Staff

A 21-year-old Roseville man was sentenced today to 11 years and four months in state prison for sexually assaulting his live-in girlfriend and preventing her from leaving the home by using violence, according to a news release.

Bret James Larson received the sentence from Placer County Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens, who also ordered the defendant to pay $1,000 in restitution fines, according to the release from the Placer County District Attorney's Office.

Larson was convicted June 24 when he pleaded guilty to charges of rape, assault, inflicting corporal injury on a co-habitant and false imprisonment by violence, the release states.

Todd Kuhnen, deputy district attorney for Placer County, said the defendant also admitted to having a prior strike in his criminal history, an enhancement that increased his prison sentence.

Seven other charges against Larson were dismissed in a plea deal, including making terrorist threats and several sex-related counts, Kuhnen said.

The incidents against the victim occurred on April 1 and again on April 7 when she returned to the residence to try to get her belongings, Kuhnen said.

From Andy Furillo:

Convicted murderer Andre Germaine Pulido maintained his innocence at his sentencing hearing today, but Sacramento Superior Court Judge Stacy Boulware Eurie said the case against him was "proven."

Then the judge sentenced Pulido to prison for the rest of his life with no chance of parole.

Jurors last month convicted the defendant in the mistaken identity retaliation shooting death of UC Berkeley scholarship student Rodrigo Rodriguez Jr., 21, outside a barber shop in Martlin Luther King Boulevard in Oak Park.

Still grieving friends relatives of Rodriguez recalled at today's hearing the life of the young man who posthumously received his degree in the spring, almost two years after he was gunned down on Sept. 16, 2007.

"There are no words that can describe my pain and suffering for my loss," said Gina Garcia, Rodriguez' mother.

The victim's father, Rodrigo Rodriguez Sr., talked about a photograph of his son gathered with friends at the UC Berkeley campus.

"He stood so tall...on a campus so big," Rodriguez Sr. said, looking at another poster-size photo of his smiling son framed by Cal's blue and gold colors.

Rodriguez Jr.'s girlfriend, Yvonne Natad, said that her boyfriend wrote her a birthday card 11 days before his murder that said "he was having the best year of his life."

One of his friends, Rod Page, an applied math graduate who now works in the physics lab as a researcher at Cal, said, "There will never be another Rod. It kills me inside to know that."

In his statement to the court, Pulido, 26, told Rodriguez' family and friends that "I'd like to say I'm sorry." But Pulido again proclaimed his innocence.

"An innocent life was taken on Sept. 16, 2007, and today, another one," Pulido told the court.

After the sentencing, Rodriguez Sr. called Pulido's statement "unacceptable."

"We're all human beings," Rodriguez said. "We all choose our paths. He chose his."

The victim's family members said they were sorry that Pulido has not told investigators who drove the getaway car the day of the killing. Police said the case is still under investigation.

From Barbara Barte Osborn

A man charged with cutting old-growth trees on U.S. Forest Service land near Truckee was sentenced earlier this week to 27 months in prison and $70,430 in restitution.

John W. Clifton, 21, of Truckee and Sierraville, was sentenced Tuesday in Sacramento by U.S. District Judge John A Mendez.

The federal sentence will run concurrently with Clifton's remaining time on an unrelated state sentence for assault with a deadly weapon at Boca Reservoir near Truckee.

Either before or after the federal sentence, Clifton will also serve 30 days in jail for misdemeanor battery on an agricultural inspection worker at the Truckee checkpoint.

"This case was the product of an extensive investigation by the U.S. Forest Service," acting U.S. attorney Lawrence G. Brown said in a news release.

Clifton illegally felled at least three and possibly up to 33 mature pine trees on the shoreline of Davies Creek and Stampede Reservoir, about 15 miles north of Truckee. (Photo below was supplied by U.S. Forest Service.)

The trees' average height was 100 feet and average age, 100 to 125 years old, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ellen V. Endrizzi, who prosecuted the case, said in the release.

"This was senseless destruction of the forest and we will prosecute these types of cases to the fullest extent possible," Gary Barnett, patrol captain for the Tahoe National Forest, said in the release.

Tree Murder Pictures.pdf - Adobe Reader.JPG234.JPG

From Andy Furillo:

Two men convicted of second-degree murder in the knifing death of a popular homeless man in Sacramento's since-disbanded tent city north of downtown have been sentenced to state prison for 15-years-to-life terms.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Marjorie Koller on Friday sentenced J. Douglas Halford, 67, and Mark Hernandez, 44. The two were convicted June 8 in the stabbing death of Michael Lawrence Wentworth, 47, better known on the streets by his nickname of "Gremlin."

From Bill Lindelof:

His parents asked for leniency, but a Placer County judge didn't agree and sentenced a Citrus Heights man to a long state prison sentence for burglary and other crimes.

Superior Court Judge Larry D. Gaddis on Wednesday sentenced Daniel Joseph Homan, 21, to 17 years in prison after listening to pleas from the defendant and his family. Homan and his parents asked for counseling or drug and alcohol rehabilitation instead of prison time, citing what they said was the young man's lack of violence against others.

But Gaddis noted that Homan had once been involved in a robbery with an armed accomplice and that there is no indication Homan was under the influence when he committed burglaries and stole cars in May and June 2008.

Homan pleaded guilty on May 19 to two counts of burglarizing a home, one count of possession of a stolen vehicle and one count of fleeing from a police officer while driving recklessly.

In addition to committing the burglaries while the homeowners slept, Homan, while running from police, pushed a vehicle stopped at a red light into the intersection to continue his flight. Also, while fleeing from police, Homan, who had four passengers in his car, came to a dead-end street, smashed through a barrier, drove down an embankment and plunged into a creek bed where the vehicle caught fire.

He was caught when he tried to run away, a news release from the Placer County District Attorney's office states.

Deputy District Attorney Rick Opich said Homan has violated jail rules.

"He's demonstrated an inability to obey any rules -- either on the street or (in) the jail," Opich said.

From Andy Furillo:

Rashard Delrico Mack was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole, plus 25 more years, for his shotgun murder of Jesse Reiter during a robbery two years ago in Sacramento's Valley Hi neighborhood.

"Your senseless act of murder shattered all of us and left a gaping hole in our lives forever," Reiter's mother, Mary Carol Reiter, said during the Sacramento Superior Court sentencing in front of Judge Lloyd G. Connelly.

A second defendant in the case is awaiting a retrial. A separate jury in April could not reach a verdict in the case against Mack's co-defendant, Ulysses Peter Walker, 21, and Judge Connelly declared a mistrial. Jurors had voted 11-1 to convict Walker. His retrial is set for Aug. 21.

Reiter, 36, was shot and killed around 5 a.m. on March 24, 2007. Reiter and a friend had started drinking in bars in Woodland, then went to a Richards Boulevard strip club in Sacramento and then ventured into the South Sacramento area in pursuit of strippers.

According to testimony at trial, Reiter met Walker outside the club and then followed him to Valley Hi into what prosecutors described as a robbery setup.

From Bill Lindelof:

A repeat offender will be sentenced to 21 years in state prison for stealing someone's identification and using it to create a credit line at a casino, Yolo County prosecutors announced.

David Nishioka, 42, has been convicted of identity theft and other crimes, the Yolo County District Attorney's office said Monday. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 10 but the prosecutor and Nishioka's attorney have agreed to a term of 21 years and four months in prison for the ex-felon.

"While this term is quite lengthy, Mr. Nishioka faced a possible 29 years to life because of his prior record, so we believe justice is served by this agreement," said Deputy District Attorney Clinton Parish.

Nishioka was convicted in 1989 of involuntary manslaughter. He also had felony convictions in 1993, 1997 and 1999.

The most recent conviction stemmed from a Sacramento home burglary in which military identification, a driver's license and a checkbook were stolen. Shortly after that, prosecutors said, Nishioka was at Cache Creek Casino in Yolo County and used the identification to secure $13,000 in credit in the name of the burglary victim.

Casino security discovered the fraud and stopped Nishioka.

From Bill Lindelof:

A Roseville man was sentenced to 10 years and four months in state prison for impersonating a SureWest Communications employee, driving a company car and using a company credit card.

Preston Douglas Vandeburgh, 27, was sentenced Tuesday in Placer Superior Court after pleading guilty last month to five felony charges, including burglary, identity theft, taking a vehicle and computer fraud. He also admitted to enhancements to his sentence related to having a previous strike for burglary and of having served a prior prison sentence.

"Since he pled to a strike, Mr. Vandeburgh will have to serve 80 percent of his 10-year term, meaning he will serve a little over eight years in prison," said Deputy District Attorney Rick Opich.

Vandeburgh broke into SureWest offices in June 2008, the district attorney's office said. He then took equipment and employees' confidential code information.

At times, he came onto SureWest property, posing as an employee. His criminal activity ended in December when SureWest officials detected someone using one of their computers off-site.

The computer had been stolen. When police went to the home, they found SureWest items taken in a burglary from company offices and arrested Vandeburgh.

From Andy Furillo:

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Kevin J. McCormick today sentenced Denishio Demmetrius Collins to prison for 58 years to life for the "friendly fire" shooting death of a fellow gang member four years ago.

A jury in February convicted Collins, 27, of first-degree murder in the June 27, 2005, killing of David A. Perkins, 22.

Collins and Perkins were two several members from the Oak Park Bloods' "Ridezilla" subset that had launched an attack on some suspected rival Crips. One of the bullets meant for the rivals, however, killed Perkins.

Jurors found that the fatal bullet came from a TEC 9 assault weapon fired by Collins.

From Kim Minugh:

A 27-year-old woman was sentenced today to three years and four months in prison for her part in an identity theft ring, according to a Sacramento County District Attorney's Office news release.

Stealing mail and going "dumpster diving" between March 28 and April 16, Jennifer Chavez found the name of one victim and the bank routing number of another and used them to forge and cash 13 counterfeit checks, according to the release.

Authorities who searched her home found stolen mail, counterfeit checks, computers and printing equipment. Detectives linked Chavez to the crimes by tracing fraudulent transactions and viewing surveillance footage, the release states.

Three other people were linked to the identity theft ring, and two of them have been arrested, according to the release. The third remains at large.

At the time she committed the crimes, Chavez was on probation for similar offenses, the release states.

Bee Staff

A Sacramento Superior Court judge has sentenced a convicted embezzler to six years in prison and to more than $500,000 in restitution and taxes, according to a news release from the Sacramento County district attorney.

Mary Ann Machado pleaded no contest to grand theft embezzlement and tax fraud charges in separate cases, District Attorney Jan Scully said in the release. She received three-year prison terms in each case.

Machado also was ordered to pay $435,919.41 in restitution to her former employer, who was not identified, and $66,994.98 to the State Franchise Tax Board for taxes owed on the embezzled monies, Scully said.

Machado embezzled the money in her position as the sole bookkeeper for a large company in Sacramento County, Scully said.

Machado credited her own bank accounts and credit cards with the extra funds she charged to the company and used the stolen monies to supplement her income and lifestyle, including the purchase of expensive purses, Scully said.

From 2002 until 2008, Machado manipulated the books in order to conceal the ongoing thefts, Scully said. In 2008, employees discovered problems with the company's books and contacted the Sacramento Police Department.

"Anyone contemplating embezzling from their employer should be aware that penalties include a state prison sentence and full restitution of all embezzled monies," Deputy District Attorney Lani Biafore

From Bill Lindelof:

A Yolo County judge has thrown the book at a convicted child molester.

Superior Court Judge Arvid W. Johnson Tuesday sentenced Victor Anthony Chappale, 46, of Vallejo to 116 years plus two consecutive 30-years-to-life terms in state prison for convictions for eight felony sex crimes. Chappale was convicted by a jury April 23 of rape and other sex crimes involving two children under the age of 14 while living in Davis and Woodland.

The judge denied Chappale's request for a new trial, a Yolo County District Attorney's Office news release states. Chappale was serving a state prison sentence for killing a man, and was scheduled to be released on parole in 2010, when he was charged by the Yolo district attorney with the sex crimes.

"The jury and the judge finally provided justice to the victims, who hopefully can begin to heal now that their abuser will spend the rest of his life behind bars," said prosecutor Tiffany Susz.

Bee Staff

A woman who threw gasoline on her boyfriend and lit it has lost her bid to withdraw a guilty plea. Instead, she has been sentenced to four years in prison by a Placer Superior Court judge, according to a news release.

Judge Jeff Penney also ordered Traci Nicole Gilson, 21, of Foresthill, to make restitution of $27,630 to help pay the victim's medical bills, the release states.

The sentence was imposed Monday after Gilson had tried for the past month to withdraw her guilty plea, which she had made on March 11. She had also admitted to a special allegation of causing great bodily injury, the release states.

Gilson's family hired a new attorney who tried to convince Judge Penney that her client made an uninformed decision when her previous lawyer worked out a plea deal with Placer County Deputy District Attorney Joe McInerney, the release states.

However, McInerney told the court that the defendant discussed the plea deal with the previous attorney and signed and initialed the documents that spelled out the agreement, the release states.

Gilson's previous attorney testified in a hearing last week that his client faced a potential sentence of 15 years or more in prison if found guilty in a trial. She was charged with assault likely to cause great bodily injury, arson causing great bodily injury, vandalism, petty theft and battery on a shopkeeper.

The plea deal called for four years in prison for the assault and the special allegation. The other charges were to be dropped, the previous attorney said.

After taking the arguments from the attorneys under submission, Penney returned to the court Monday and ruled that Gilson failed to provide evidence that the guilty plea was made by mistake or inadvertence, the release states.

Gilson and her new attorney, Linda Parisi, then agreed to proceed with an immediate sentencing, the release states.

The incident involving Gilson and her then boyfriend occurred in November as the two were arguing in a car. After tossing gasoline from a can on him, she used an incendiary device to spark the fire, the release states.

The victim suffered severe burns to his hands and to the right side of his face, the release states.

His car also sustained major damage.

From Bill Lindelof:

A judge today sentenced Wayne Albert Caskey to 50 years to life in prison for the shooting death of a man in a south Sacramento electronics shop three years ago.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael P. Kenny imposed the term after last year's conviction of Caskey, 46, in the June 11, 2006, slaying of Gary P. Brooks.

A separate jury that heard the case against a second defendant in the case, Bennett Louis Kovac, failed to reach a verdict and Kenny declared a mistrial. Kovac, 45, is awaiting a retrial.

From Sarah Frier:

A jury decided Tuesday to send a Woodland man to prison for life without parole after it found he committed two murders in 2001, according to a Yolo County District Attorney news release.

Faustino Romero, 30, was convicted in April of two counts of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping for robbery, robbery, burglary, assault with a firearm, false imprisonment and spousal abuse, the news release states.

The jury found that on March 11, 2001, Romero and another man shot at four men who were outside a home on Sixth Street in Woodland, killing Javier Aguilar, the news release states. It was a shooting inspired by a gang fight the night before.

The next month, Romero was hired to kill Charles Smythe of Gridley, the news release states. The jury found that Romero drove Smythe to County Road 17 in Yolo County, then shot him and slit his throat, the news release states.

Romero will be sentenced July 15.

From Bill Lindelof:

A state appellate court has upheld a long sentence for a Lincoln man convicted of driving under the influence.

Jeffrey Charles Wren, 38, of Lincoln, had appealed a 27-year sentence for DUI after his conviction in 2008 by a Placer County jury.

A Placer County prosecutor, however, says that though the sentence is severe, it is proper. Wren has a long record of criminal offenses and DUI convictions. He was given the long prison stretch under the state's "three-strikes" felony sentencing guidelines.

"Based on his repeated criminal conduct, he posed a great danger to society with his drinking and driving," said Todd Kuhnen, Placer County deputy district attorney.

Wren argued that one of two previous strikes on his criminal record should not be counted and that the long prison sentence was unconstitutional because it represented cruel and unusual punishment for drunken driving.

But the Third District Court of Appeal stated in its opinion that Wren had three prior convictions for DUI, that he was out on bail when his last offense occurred and that he was convicted in 1991 on two felony counts of child molestation.

A news release from the Placer County District Attorney's Office recounted Wren's lengthy record, starting with a 1992 incident where he was found drunk in the restroom of a Folsom restaurant, a loaded gun in his pocket.

While that case was pending, he violated probation by fleeing the state. Wren then was apprehended in 1995 in Montana for DUI and received an eight-year prison sentence.

In 2000 he failed to register as a sex offender and in the next two years violated parole for alcohol-related reasons. He also was convicted of DUI in 2003, 2004 and 2006.

In 2006 he was arrested on a felony charge of possessing methamphetamine. He was free on bail when he was arrested by the California Highway Patrol near Lincoln for driving under the influence.

With three prior DUI convictions within 10 years, the new charge was a felony. Also, his prior strikes made him subject to the three-strikes law and a candidate for a 25-years-to-life prison sentence.

Appellate court judges noted that the trial court judge stated Wren had a lifestyle of "repeatedly engaging in behavior that only by the sheerest happenstance did not result in death or personal injury."

From Sarah Frier:

A Novato man was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for making more than $200,000 in bribes to at least six Sacramento, Sonoma and San Francisco public officials, according to an Attorney General's office press release.

Sheldon Morris, 77, pleaded guilty last year to paying bribes to city employees between 1999 and 2007 through recycling scrap metal from used water meters, the news release states.

About five employees of Sacramento's Water Distribution Branch would provide him with the used water meters, which he sold for profit, the news release states.

"The use of bribes and kickbacks to influence the actions of city employees in Sacramento, Sonoma and San Francisco deprived the citizens of those communities from decisions made solely in their best interests," acting U.S. Attorney Brown said.

From Bill Lindelof:

Three people have pleaded guilty in Yolo Superior Court to assaulting a teenager.

Joshua Osborne, 18, is expected to be sentenced to eight years in prison when he returns to court July 7. The other defendants, Richard Dazo, 23, and Hilario Estrella, 19, were immediately sentenced to eight years in prison.

A news release from the Yolo County District Attorney's Office says that Osborne threatened a 14-year-old girl in a text message on Jan. 6. The girl's parents alerted West Sacramento police who then made contact with Osborne.

The next day, Osborne was driving in his car with Dazo and Estrella when they saw the girl walking home from school. Osborne let Dazo and Estrella out of the car, and they assaulted the girl.

During the assault, prosecutors said that the girl was told she received the beating for contacting police.

Prosecutors say Osborne, Dazo and Estrella are members of the Broderick Boys street gang. The three entered pleas of guilty to assault to cause harm and admitted an enhancement to the charge that the assault was for the benefit of a street gang, prosecutors said.

The three entered their guilty pleas during the second day of jury selection on Thursday.

From Sarah Frier:

The former bookkeeper of a small Sacramento company was sentenced Friday to three years in prison after she pleaded no contest to embezzlement, a District Attorney's office news release states.

Anne Asperger was ordered to pay $333,103.30 to her former employer in reimbursement and $33,926 to the State Franchise Tax Board for the taxes owed on the embezzled money, the news release states.

Starting in 2001, Asperger issued herself 68 checks by forging the company president's signature, and then manipulated the bookkeeping system to hide the loss, the news release states. Employees noticed the discrepancy in fall of 2006.

"This sentence should serve as a strong deterrent for those who consider the criminal act of embezzlement," Deputy District Attorney Lani Biafore said.

From Sarah Frier

Officials have sentenced one conspirator in an international wildlife smuggling, but have been slower to catch up to the one called "Turtle Man," according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

An extensive investigation by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service found that Garrett Smith, 40, of Chico, and Turtle Man were part of a scheme to smuggle into the U.S. wild tortoises that are protected by an international treaty, a news release states.

Turtle Man, who might live in Singapore, would find tortoises in Asia then sell them to Smith, Assistant United States Attorney S. Robert Tice-Raskin said.

Smith would then sell and distribute the tortoises - a total of 30 Indian Star Tortoises and five Burmese Star Tortoises - without licenses or documentation, the news release states.

Money was wired from the United States to Turtle Man, the news release states.

Smith was sentenced to three years of probation, six months of home detention, 144 hours of community service and a $2,000 fine, the news release states.

Turtle Man remains at large.

A man convicted in the first-degree murder of his wheelchair-bound roommate who gave the defendant a place to live in his Citrus Heights duplex was sentenced today to 27 years to life in prison.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Russell L. Hom imposed the term on Carl Wade Cossairt, 48, whom jurors found guilty last month in the December 2007 strangulation and bludgeon slaying of 61-year-old Chet Corser Jr.

Corser's relatives said in an interview outside court that Cossairt was only the latest of the "dozens" of down-and-out people the victim had brought into his home over the past 20 years to help get back on their feet.

"His friends would say they knew somebody who needed a helping hand, and (Corser would) help them out with clothes, feed them, give them a place to live," said John Corser, 38, one of the victim's sons. "The majority would move on, and now they have families and jobs -- they live stable lives."

Relatives said Corser worked in the air conditioning and heating business until he injured his back several years ago. They said he had been confined to the wheelchair for about three years before he died.

They said Corser invited Cossairt into his Terra Way duplex about two years before the killing. Corser had been trying to get Cossairt out of the residence in the months leading up to the killing, relatives said. They said they believed that Cossairt had been stealing from Corser.

In sentencing Cossairt, Hom told the defendant, "You repaid Mr. Corser's generosity with brutality."

The judge said the way Cossairt murdered his victim "reached a point where the violence appeared at least to this court to be gratuitous."

Deputy District Attorney Anthony Ortiz said Corser suffered at least 10 separate blows to the head before he was choked to death.

Sacramento sheriff's deputies found Corser's body in the duplex on Dec. 7, 2007, the defendant's probation report revealed. They reported that the body appeared to be partially decomposed. The report stated a neighbor had previously heard Cossairt threaten to kill Corser if he ever said anything "again" to an unidentified woman.

Deputies found in Cossairt's duplex bedroom a letter dated Dec. 3, 2007, in which he wrote to his girlfriend that he "took care of the problem." Deputies also found an ATM receipt slip from Corser's bank account dated Dec. 4, 2007.

The report said that Cossairt, a 1979 Foothill High School graduate, identified himself as an apartment maintenance worker and a painter. It said he was in the Army from 1978 until 1984 and then joined the Marines for three years beginning in 1988, the report stated.

From Stan Oklobdzija:

A Lincoln truck driver was given a one-year suspended sentence and three years of probation after being convicted of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence in the death of a Lincoln bicyclist in 2007, the Placer County District Attorney's Office said.

Gaspar Reyes, 44, was found guilty of the misdemeanor charge Thursday after a Placer County jury reviewed video photos from an ATM machine that showed Reyes' big-rig failing to stop at Joiner Parkway and Stanmark Lane, according to a news release.

Kathy Marie Gienger, 45, owner of Lincoln Day Spa, was killed after being hit with Reyes' 78,000-pound dirt-hauling truck, the release said.

Reyes told police twice that he stopped at the stop sign, the release said.

In addition, Reyes was given a $300 fine and 100 hours of community service, where he has to high school students "about the responsibility of being a safe driver," the release said.

From Andy Furillo:

A weeping Kier Anderson proclaimed his innocence today before a judge sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison for the murder of his wife three years ago.

"I reassert that I did not murder my wife," Anderson, 42, told the court, saying that the evidence that convinced a jury he strangled his wife, Jennifer, on Feb. 28, 2006, and strung her up in the garage of their Tahoe Park home to make it look like a suicide was "tainted, altered or destroyed" and that "facts have been distorted or presented out of context."

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Greta Curtis Fall disagreed.

"The defendant received a fair and just trial and jurors returned a fair and just verdict," Fall said, before imposing the life term on Anderson.

Prosecutors charged that Anderson killed his 28-year-old wife because he had lost control of her and that she had planned to separate from him.

The break-up came after the bisexual Anderson invited a male friend into their home and his wife and the new partner established an intimate relationship of their own.

"All of his anger toward Jennifer resulted in him squeezing the life out of her ... until he ultimately killed her," Deputy District Attorney Ruanne Dozier told the court.

In his statement in court, Anderson also blasted his in-laws for keeping his two daughters away from him after winning custody of them in court.

"They've been forcibly separated from their home, their pets, and the love and attention of their father, and their parental grandparents by people intent on causing further pain and suffering," Anderson said.

He said that Jennifer Anderson's parents - former Assistant Public Defender Lawrence Knobloch and his wife, Sheila - "have perpetuated a completely false scenario not supported by the facts and the evidence."

Lawrence Knobloch said outside court the convicted murderer's statement "just shows his denial and his lack of concern for anybody other than himself. There was nothing in there that was not self serving."

Knobloch said he and his wife have since adopted the two girls and that visitation rights were denied to Anderson's parents because "they were blaming us for everything" and violating court orders that they not talk about the case with the daughters when they had them.

Anderson's parents declined to comment when they left the courthouse today.

Sheila Knobloch, in a statement to the court, said one of the couple's daughters appears to be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder "due to the fact that she heard and possibly saw the struggle between Jen and Kier."

Anderson denied that she was in their house at the time authorities said Jennifer Anderson was killed.

From Niesha Lofing:

A Sacramento woman has been ordered to serve more than three years in prison and pay more than $250,000 in restitution for embezzling money from a local charity.

goodenough.1.jpgDonna Joe Goodenough (left), 46, was a bookkeeper for Options in Supported Living, a charity that provided 24-hour assistance to people with developmental disabilities, a news release from Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully's office states.

From January 2007 to May 2008, Goodenough issued checks from the business to herself, cashing them at three different check-cashing stores. She also altered the company's paperwork to hide the transactions, the release states.

Goodenough also used the company's credit card for personal expenses.

Authorities learned of the embezzlement after an employee of a company where Goodenough used the credit card called the charity to confirm Goodenough's authority to use the card.

Goodenough, who pleaded no contest to charges of grand theft and tax evasion, was sentenced to three years, four months in state prison and was ordered to pay $225,000 in restitution to Options in Supported Living and $25,900 to the state Franchise Tax Board.

Goodenough had failed to report the $177,000 she stole in 2007 on her state income tax return, tax board officials told The Bee in previous reports.

goodenough.jpgFrom Stan Oklobdzija:

A Sacramento woman was sentenced Wednesday to three years and four months in state prison after she pleaded no contest to embezzling about $225,000 from a company that provided assistance to those with development disabilities, the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office announced.

Donna Joe Goodenough (left photo), 46, was also ordered to pay back the money she stole from Options in Supported Living, where she worked as a bookkeeper between January 2007 and May 2008, the district attorney's office said, in addition to $25,900 to the Franchise Tax Board.

Goodenough would issue checks to herself and cash them at several check-cashing businesses, the district attorney's office said. In addition, she used the company credit card for personal expenses.

From Niesha Lofing:

A Sacramento man will serve 19 years in prison for carjacking another man at gunpoint in West Sacramento.

Judge Arvid Johnson on Thursday in Yolo County Superior Court handed down the maximum sentence for Miguel Angel Castillo. In March Castillo was convicted of carjacking with the use of a firearm, a news release from Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig's office stated.

On July 30, 2007, Castillo went to the Merritt Landing boat ramp in West Sacramento, stuck a sawed-off shotgun in the face of a man who was sitting in a truck and told him to get out of the truck if he didn't want to die, the release states.

A few days later, Castillo fled from the truck after being spotted by Sacramento police officers, who arrested him.

Reisig praised Sacramento police in the release for their "excellent follow up investigation."

From Chelsea Phua:

A former Placer County sheriff sergeant was sentenced today to 27-year-to-life in prison for the murder of his wife, who disappeared nearly 27 years ago from their Auburn home. The sentence includes the possibility of parole.

Jurors convicted Paul Kovacich Jr., 59, in January of first-degree murder, finding him guilty of killing Janet Kovacich with a firearm.

Before he was sentenced, Kovacich said, "I don't know what or who to believe. All I know is that I love my wife and would never harm her."

"I look at my daughter and I see my wife. I look at my son and see her tenderness."

Judge Mark S. Curry called the killing "calculated and selfish." The judge said that this was time for justice to be served because the defendant had the "good fortune" to have lived free for nearly 27 years.

Kovacich was sentenced under the law in force in 1982. His wife disappeared in September of that year and a judge ruled years later that she died the day of her disappearance.

Paul Kovacich has always maintained he did not know what happened to his wife. The couple had argued about getting a divorce the morning she disappeared, he said.

Janet Kovacich had made a 11:10 a.m. appointment at a school where she wanted to transfer her children, but she never showed up at the school, or call to cancel the appointment.

Paul Kovacich said he was home that morning and had offered her a ride, but she had refused. She had breasts augmentation surgery the week before and was in too much pain to drive herself. He said when he left the house, she was getting ready to go out.

Prosecutors said Paul Kovacich, at that time a supervisor assigned to the Placer County jail, was the last person to see her alive.

In addition, his calm demeanor following her disappearance was curious behavior and it raised some suspicions, they said. He waited until three days later, on Sept. 11, 1982, to file a formal missing persons report.

The defense argued that a witness saw a disheveled Paul Kovacich soon after his wife disappeared. When asked about his appearance, Paul Kovacich said he had stayed up all night looking for his wife. Search teams combed the wooded areas near the Kovacichs' home on Forest Court and canvassed her usual haunt, but to no avail.

In October 1995, two hikers walking on the dry lake bottom of Rollins Lake near Colfax noticed a weathered, partial human skull partially buried in the silt. A hole in its right side was later determined to be the wound of a bullet.

In early 2007, sophisticated DNA extraction methods produced results showing that the skull had "a near statistical certainty" that it belonged to Janet Kovacich.

Click here for an earlier story on the case.

From Andy Furillo:

A judge today sentenced Rolando Gallego to 16 years to life in prison for his second-degree murder conviction earlier this year in the 1991 Elk Grove stabbing death of his aunt.

Gallego, 40, had maintained his innocence in the slaying of Leticia Estores, 52, who sufffered more than 70 knife wounds when she was killed while cooking a meal in her Laguna West Way home, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet said from the bench today.

Prosecutors charged that Gallego murdered his aunt for money to pay his gambling debts.

Gallego wasn't arrested in the case until July 2006, after investigators matched his DNA - taken from a cigarette butt the defendant had discarded on a street while under surveillance in San Francisco - to evidence lifted the previous year from a bloody towel found in the victim's house.

Jurors convicted Gallego on the second-degree murder count on Feb. 25.

At his sentencing today, Gallego said "I'm sorry" to the victim's family. He said he loved his slain aunt "like a mother."

His attorney, Sue Karlton, of the public defender's office, said that Gallego's apology was not an admission of guilt. She said she planned to file an appeal on the case today.

From Andy Furillo:

Another Sacramento jury convicted Daniel James Harper today of attempted murder, sexual assault, mayhem and other charges for his hate-inspired kidnap and attack on a Latina nearly five years ago.

Harper, 33, had been convicted in March 2006 for the Oct. 30, 2004, abduction of a woman from the parking lot of the San Juan Medical Center and his near fatal assault on her in a rural area in southern Sacramento County.

Besides convicting Harper on 12 counts, the jury today also found the allegations to be true that they were hate crimes. According to evidence at trial, Harper claimed he had once been beaten up by a group of "Mexicans." The prosecution claimed that he singled out his victim in the 2004 attack because of her race.

Superior Court Judge Gary S. Mullen is scheduled to sentence Harper on May 15.

The state's Third District Court of Appeals overturned harper's previous conviction in January 2008.

Previously authorities told The Bee that after kidnapping the victim, Harper forced her to withdraw money from an ATM. Harper then drove the woman around the county for four hours, investigators said.

After forcing the woman to perform a sexual act, Harper beat her unconscious, slit her throat and lit her on fire, authorities said. Left for dead, the woman regained consciousness and waved down help on New Hope Road in southern Sacramento County.

From Andy Furillo:

A Sacramento judge today sentenced a career criminal with a street gang history to life in prison with no chance of parole, plus 50 years, for last year's murder of a man in Meadowview.

George Clifford Mims, 41, received the term from Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley for the Sept. 1 shooting death of Floyd Deshawn Wormley, 33, outside a home on 69th Avenue where a group of people had gathered at 4 o'clock in the morning.

According to Mims' probation report, the defendant was sitting in his car when he made a remark to a woman that offended Wormley.

The report said that Wormley then told Mims, "Don't disrespect my wife like that." Mims responded by shooting Wormley to death, according to the report.

Mims, a one-time reputed member of the 29th Street Crips street gang, has previous convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, being an ex-convict with a gun, driving under the influence and felony evasion.

From Andy Furillo:

A teenaged girl convicted of setting up a robbery that led to a murder in a south area park nearly four years ago was sentenced today to 27 years to life in prison.

Sarah Weeden, now 18 but who was 14 at the time of the shooting death of Navnil Chand, received the term from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard. Before sentencing Weeden, Gilliard rejected a defense motion for a new trial and also denied a plea that the defendant be placed on probation.

"It's very clear that Ms. Weeden caused the victim to come into harm's way," the judge said, in imposing a term that brought sobs and curses from two rows in the courtroom that were occupied by the young woman's friends and family.

Gilliard said that Weeden "was accurately described as being at the forefront of this. But for Ms. Weeden, Mr. Chand would not have been killed." The judge said Weeden "participated in a fairly sophisticated crime."

Defense attorney Charles M. Bonneau argued that Weeden was "a child" at the time of the Aug. 5, 2005, slaying of Chand. Bonneau also suggested that she was "in a position of being victimized and harassed" by Chand, who had met her about a week before his death and had called her several times afterward to see her again.

Bonneau suggested that Chand and a friend of his who was with him and also was shot and wounded the night of the killing were attempting to engage in unlawful sexual intercourse with an underage girl.

The judge said she found it "offensive" that the defense sought to characterize Chand as a potential sexual predator.

"He was a happy, full-of-life, 17-year-old," Gilliard said, adding that the victim met Weeden by chance when she was walking to the store with some friends.

The convicted shooter in the case, Sertice Melonson, 24, was sentenced in February to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Ryan Moore, who accompanied Melonson in the Caymus Park shooting of Chand and his friend, was convicted last year and sentenced to 15 years to life.

Another girl who helped set up the robbery, Janee Hill, pleaded no contest to attempted second-degree robbery after she testified for the prosecution. She has since been sentenced to time already served in custody.

From Chelsea Phua:

A 60-year-old man was sentenced Wednesday to 16 years in prison for committing lewd acts on an 8-year-old Rocklin girl, authorities said.

According to a news release by the Placer County District Attorney's officer, Steven Eugene Hesson, a registered sex offender with a history of child molestation, had volunteered to babysit the girl when her father left the house because of an emergency. Hesson was renting a room at the home of the girl's father. Rocklin police arrested Hesson on Sept. 24, and Hesson pleaded guilty to two counts of child molestation on March 18.

At Wednesday's sentencing, a 29-year-old woman who said she was molested by Hesson when she was 4 spoke in court.

"Words cannot explain the emotional pain in my mind and body have gone through," she said. Hesson, she said, had robbed her of her childhood innocence. She said she suffered from stress, depression anger, nightmares and drug problems.

"I wanted to pretend like it never happened to me and tried to repress it and put it in a dark corner in my mind," she said.

Her case was dismissed at the time because the judge then deemed she was too young to provide competent testimony. Placer County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Wood said the woman has waited 25 years to tell her story.

"Hopefully, this will being some closure for her," Wood said.

Hesson also served a 6-year prison sentence in 1984 for child molestation, according to the prosecutor.

From Chelsea Phua:

A 26-year-old Oregon woman who illegally disposed of fetal remains in Roseville in 2007 was sentenced Friday by a Placer County judge to two months in jail, according to a news release by the District Attorney's office.

Hannah Jo Webb, who pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor count in November, was also placed on three years probation and ordered to complete nine months of counseling.

Webb, a former sixth-grade teacher in Oregon, told authorities that she did not know she was pregnant and that the baby was stillborn when delivered on July 23, 2007. She was visiting friends in Roseville at the time and was alone in their apartment when the child was born.

She placed the body in a trash bag and then in a trash bin. A worker storing through trash for recycling items at the Materials Recovery Facility, a waste facility north of Roseville, discovered the body.

Investigators were unable to determine whether the baby died before or after birth or the cause of death.

Superior Court Judge Mark S. Curry said that if there had been any evidence that Webb had a role in causing the baby's death, the woman might be facing a murder charge.

Webb's attorney, Peter Tiemann, said in court that Webb had been a positive role model in her hometown of Pendleton, Ore.

"She's already received a great degree of punishment," Tiemann said. "She's been devastated."

From Sandy Louey:

A 54-year-old Colorado man convicted of shooting at bail-recovery agents who were trying to apprehend him for jumping bail has been sentenced to three life terms in prison.

Roberto Barron Jr. was sentenced Friday to 109 years to life, according to a news release from the Yolo County District Attorney's Office.

A court had found that Barron had two prior strikes and therefore was sentenced under California's "three strikes" law.

Barron was convicted Dec. 17 on two counts of attempted murder, two counts of assault with a firearm and a count of possession of a firearm by a felon, the DA's office said.

On Feb. 15, 2006, three bail-recovery agents had tracked Barron to the Golden Motel in West Sacramento. He had jumped bail in Colorado on charges of attempted murder and advocating or creating a facility disruption, authorities said.

The agents had tried to enter Barron's room and were fired upon. No one was injured, officials said.

berset324.JPGFrom Chelsea Phua:

A 52-year-old Folsom woman was sentenced on Tuesday to three years in prison for killing a 15-year-old Granite Bay girl in a 2007 hit-and-run.

A Placer County jury found Anna Elvira Berset (left photo) guilty on Jan. 27 on the charges of hit-and-run driving causing death, and vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence when she hit Courtney Parker, a Granite Bay High School student and former cheerleader on June 13, 2007.

Berset was sentenced to one year in county jail for the vehicular manslaughter charge, which will be served concurrently with her prison term.

Tishika Parker, Courtney's older sister, said, "We are just happy that the judge considered our side."

Parker was with a group of girls who had left a Taco Bell on the night of the accident. She had turned around to get a cell phone she'd forgotten when she was struck by a vehicle as she walked on the side of Auburn-Folsom Road near Douglas Boulevard in Granite Bay.

One of her friends found her on the side of the road.

A California Highway Patrol officer had testified during the preliminary hearing that Berset called June 14 to report she had hit something on Auburn-Folsom Road the previous night, but that it might have been a trash can or deer or perhaps a rock had been thrown at her. Officers who went to her home found damage to the hood, headlight and windshield of her 2002 Toyota RAV4.

Berset's son, Joshua Sanguinetti, spent four years in prison for a fatal hit-and-run in 1999 on Auburn-Folsom Road.

From Chelsea Phua:

In the end, a Placer County Superior Court judge showed leniency toward a 24-year-old Auburn man who was convicted of second-degree murder in a drunken driving accident.

Instead of sentencing William James P. "Billy" Moon to 15 years to life, Judge Larry Gaddis on Thursday placed Moon on a 12-year probation and ordered him to serve 4 years in county jail as a term of his probation.

A jury convicted Moon of the murder charge and of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in October. Jurors determined that Moon was driving drunk and speeding along a winding rural stretch of Bell Road the night of June 3, 2006. The car careened off the road, slammed into several trees and killed his passenger, friend and golfing buddy, 20-year-old Stewart Shapton.

Addressing a standing room only courtroom packed with family members and friends of Moon and Shapton, Gaddis said he was moved by letters from both sides and had to change his mind several times about how to proceed.

He noted the full courtroom and the impact the fatal crash had on numerous lives.

"Clearly this is one of the tragedies of life," Gaddis said. "We have more people here than we have room for."

A sobbing Moon spoke for the first time publicly. He apologized to the Shapton's family, even though he said he has no recollection of the events of that night.

"I feel responsible for what happened that night," Moon said. "I miss Stewart, and I'm so sorry for his family and loved ones."

Patricia Shapton's, Stewart's mother, also spoke publicly for the first time.

She said she was taken aback by the apology because it is the first time she has heard an apology from the Moons.

"I do accept your apology," Shapton said to Moon, who turned his head around to look at her.

From Sandy Louey:

A 47-year-old Sacramento lawn care business owner has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for Social Security fraud.

Kevin Eugene Rhea was sentenced Tuesday for theft of government property and making a false statement for use in determining Social Security benefits, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton also ordered Rhea to three years of supervised release and restitution of $177,477.90. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 15, 2008, the attorney's office said.

Prosecutors said Rhea applied for and received Title II disability benefits for a back injury suffered in 1994 starting in 1996.

In 2007, the Social Security Administration mailed him a form used to determine continued eligibility for benefits. On Feb. 8, 2007, he returned the form replying "no" or "n/a" to every question asked about work or income earned from work, authorities said.

When asked to provide tax returns from 1996 to 2007, he wrote that he had none. But, all of that was false because he had owned a lawn care business called K&S Gardening Service since 1997. The business charged customers an average of $40 to $60 per month. He also had several employees, the attorney's office said.

Rhea received about $177,000 in disability insurance benefits from Sept. 1, 1997 to Jan. 31, 2008 that he wasn't entitled to, authorities said.

The case resulted from an investigation by the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General.

From Sandy Louey:

A federal court judge sentenced a 35-year-old man Thursday to 3 1/2 years in prison over using re-encoded Starbucks gift cards to make cash withdrawals at a casino in Lincoln.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England also sentenced Claudiu Hotea of Riverside to five years of supervised release and $17,000 in restitution, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento.

Hotea was arrested on Jan. 25, 2006, for using Starbuck gift cards to make withdrawals from ATMs at Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln. The cards apparently had been altered to function like ATM cards.

A jury found him guilty of bank fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft on April 4, 2008, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Hotea, who was on supervised release from a federal court sentence in Riverside at the time of the crime, may face up to two additional years in prison on top of the Sacramento sentencing, authorities said.

From Sandy Louey:

A 34-year-old Sacramento man was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison Tuesday for producing and possessing child pornography.

U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez sentenced Daniel Aram Zablocki, who pleaded guilty on Sept. 9, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office. Mendez also imposed 10 years of supervised release after Zablocki leaves prison, the release said.

Zablocki had gathered a collection of child pornography that included 1,175 videos and 2,003 still images, the release said. He also engaged in unlawful sexual conduct with the victim in the case for two years, starting when she was 15 years old. He photographed her engaged in sexually explicit conduct with him, the release said.

The case against Zablocki is a result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Sacramento office.

From Andy Furillo:

A judge sentenced Paso Deshawn Harrison to 36 years to life in prison today for the July 8, 2007, stabbing death of Laura Yvonne "Vonnie" Steward outside Methodist Hospital in south Sacramento.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael T. Garcia found Harrison guilty of second-degree murder in a court trial last month. He doubled the 15-to-life term as a result of Harrison's previous rape conviction, added another year for use of a knife and five more as an enhancement for his conviction on a serious felony.

Garcia called Harrison's knifing death of the 31-year-old Steward "horrific," an "extremely violent act" that caused his victim "pain and suffering" and one that "devastated" her family.

About 30 relatives of the victim appeared in court today, many of whom took the witness stand to tell Harrison, 32, the impact of the slaying on their family.

The victim's brother, Toreign Waters, told Harrison that his crimes against women figure to bring him trouble among his fellow prisoners when he goes to the penitentiary.

"You'll know when they come," Waters said.

Udit_Narayan.jpgFrom the Stockton Record:

San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bernard Garber sentenced Udit Narayan, 43, of Elk Grove to 150 years to life in state prison Monday - over the strong objections of his attorney - for impersonating a police officer in Stockton to lure young women into his vehicle for the purpose of taking them to a secluded area and sexually assaulting them.

Narayan (left photo) was declared guilty Dec. 11 in San Joaquin County Superior Court on 10 counts including rape, kidnapping, forcible oral copulation and digital penetration of three victims, including an 18-year-old woman and two girls ages 14 and 15.

Authorities suspected Narayan of sexually assaulting four additional victims over a three-county area, but only the Stockton victims stepped forward to testify, Deputy District Attorney Michael Rasmussen said outside the courtroom. Most of the crimes occurred in 2006.

Click here for the full Record story.

From Andy Furillo:

The Sacramento man who shot and killed a teenager during a robbery in a south side park four years ago has been sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Sirtice A. Melonson, now 23, received the term Friday from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard, for the death of Navnil Chand, 17.

Melsonson's co-defendant in the case, Sarah Weeden, 17, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 3.

According to prosecutors, Weeden had set up Chand to be robbed at the time of the Caymus Park shooting on Aug. 5, 2005.

An earlier headline mistakenly said Melonson was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

From Sandy Louey:

A 44-year-old Carmichael man was sentenced Thursday to four years and three months in prison for bank fraud and identity theft charges.

U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England also sentenced Jack Wynne Morrison Jr. to five years of supervised release and full restitution, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

From March through September 2007, Morrison used stolen identity information and negotiated checks stolen from the mail, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Prosecutors said he washed, altered and forged checks to suit the identity he was employing to perpetuate each fraudulent transaction. He then cashed and attempted to cash the checks at banks.

Morrison assumed the identities of at least four people, even posing as reverend to steal money meant for the Oak Hills Church in Folsom, authorities said.

He was arrested after an investigation where bank and post office surveillance images were analyzed. On June 12, 2008, he pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud, a count of aggravated identity theft and a count of possession of stolen U.S. mail. He was on parole during the time of his felony fraud offenses, authorities said.

The case was a joint investigation of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Roseville Police Department and the Sacramento Police Department

From Chelsea Phua:

A Granite Bay mother who was accused of drowning her 8-day-old daughter in a bathroom sink has been sentenced to six years and four months, including a minimum of six months spent at a psychiatric facility, prosecutors said.

Kristina Lynn Fuelling pleaded guilty to a murder count earlier, but a judge ruled later that she was not guilty by reason of insanity, Placer County Acting Assistant District Attorney Scott Owens said.

She was sentenced to five years for attempted murder and one year and four months for child endangerment, charges stemming from several incidents that occurred a few days before authorities said she killed her baby on Jan. 20, 2008.

Tom Johnson, Fuelling's attorney, said a judge will formally send his client to Patton State Hospital on Jan. 27. If she is determined to be sane after six months, she will serve the rest of her sentence in a state prison, and could be out in four years and 2 months, Johnson said.

Doctors have determined that Fuelling was suffering from severe symptoms of Postpartum psychosis when she killed her child, Faith Fuelling.

The symptoms include hallucinations, delusional thinking and delirium.

Owens said Fuelling acted out of character. Family members have described her as loving, calm and good-natured and said she had looked forward to motherhood.

"We were happy that the court recognized the depth of her illness," Johnson said. "Postpartum depression is a real illness and Ms. Fuelling was overwhelmed by it. The family is still in mourning over the death of Faith Fuelling."

From Niesha Lofing:

A Vallejo man will spend more than 11 years in federal prison after he offered to sell crystal meth to an informant and authorities found drugs and a pistol hidden his vehicle's airbag compartment.

David Michael Capenhurst, 26, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento to 11 years and three months in prison and five years of federal supervised release for his crimes, according to a news release by the office of U.S. Attorney Lawrence G. Brown.

Capenhurst pled guilty to distributing methamphetamine in October.

According to prosecutors, Capenhurst admitted that he offered to sell a highly pure form of crystal methamphetamine to a confidential informant. Shortly after the drug deal was arranged, Vallejo police detectives stopped the man's car for a series of vehicle code violations and searched the vehicle.

They found a small amount of marijuana and $1,050 in the center compartment of the car, prosecutors said.

A police dog trained to find drugs alerted officers to additional narcotics. When detectives pried open an area designed to house an airbag on the passenger's side of the car, they found a hidden compartment containing 9 1/2 ounces of crystal meth in four separate plastic knotted bags, a digital scale and a loaded 9mm semi-automatic pistol that had been reported stolen, the release states.

The street value of the crystal meth was about $13,500, prosecutors said.

At the sentencing hearing Tuesday, Judge John A. Mendez said the sophistication of the drug trafficking and Capenhurst's validated street gang membership factored into the severe sentence, the release states.

Carlos Johnson 09-26-1968.JPGFrom Andy Furillo:

The mastermind of the two-month Interstate 80 takeover robbery spree that shook three local counties three years ago won't be doing much of that any more unless he lives into the next millennium.

Convicted on 43 felony counts, Carlos Moreno Johnson (left photo) was ordered today to serve 1,285 years to life in prison by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Troy Nunley.

"More than 40 victims in three counties suffered great physical and emotional damage in this case," Deputy District Attorney Amy Holliday said in a press release. "The extensive criminal history combined with the serious and violent nature of these offenses rightfully earned this career criminal multiple life sentences under the three-strikes law."

Johnson, 40, organized a robbery squad that hit movie theaters, banks, parking garages, motels and other retail outlets from Oct. 28, 2005, through Dec. 14, 2005, in Solano, Yolo and Sacramento Counties.

The spree came to an end when a California Highway Patrol officer, Darrell Whitebear, pulled Johnson over on a taillight violation and found guns, masks, gloves and stolen goods in the trunk of the defendant's car.

From Andy Furillo:

A Sacramento courtroom exploded into epithets and threatened recriminations today after a convicted murder who was about to get sentenced to two life terms told the victim's family, "All I can say is, I'm here and he's not."

The unprintable responses by the family and friends of the murder victim, Hector Manuel "Bam" Barrera prompted bailiffs to clear the courtroom of about 20 people. None of them were arrested.

Linda Birlew Boettcher, the mother of Barrera's girlfriend, said the comments of the convicted murderer, Edwin Arthur Stevenson, 19, who also smirked and smiled while the victims' relatives read their impact statements to the court, showed "he had no remorse."

"Bam will always be in our hearts," Boettcher said. "He (Stevenson) doesn't have anybody in his heart. He don't even got a heart."

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Kevin J. McCormick sentenced Stevenson to two 25-to-life terms, plus an additional 10 years in prison, for the gang-related March 6, 2006, shooting death of Barrera, 25, at a party the victim was throwing at his house in Southside Park.

Another defendant in the case, Panfilo Torres, 23, was sentenced to 14 years today for his conviction on assault with a deadly weapon.

Prosecutors still have not decided whether to retry a third defendant in the case, Kenneth Anderson, 32, who was acquitted of the murder but still faces a gun-related charge as a result of a jury's failure to come to a decision on that count.

Deputy District Attorney Tan Thinh said his office is expected to make a decision by next week on whether to retry Anderson.

From Denny Walsh:

Zachary Jenson, one of three people convicted in an eco-terror plot that targeted a federal genetics tree lab in Placerville and the Nimbus Dam and nearby fish hatchery in Rancho Cordova, was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail that he has already served and three years on supervised release.

In imposing the sentence, U. S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. noted the contrast with the 19 years and seven months in prison he doled out to the scheme's nominal leader, Eric McDavid, but said the disparity was justified because Jenson was far less culpable and had made great strides in turning his life around.

McDavid, 31, was found guilty by a jury in September 2007 of conspiring to burn or blow up a federal facility.

Jenson and a third conspirator, Lauren Weiner, both 23, were allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges that carry a five-year prison cap and, in a bid for leniency, they were government witnesses at McDavid's trial.

Weiner is due to be sentenced Dec. 11.

Jenson spent six months in jail following the trio's arrest in January 2006, and that satisfied the confinement component of Thursday's sentence.

From Hudson Sangree:

A volunteer firefighter convicted of setting a dozen wildfires in 2006 in the Capay Valley was sentenced today to 40 years in prison.

Yolo Superior Court Judge Stephen L. Mock sentenced Robert Eric Eason to the prison term.

A jury in October found Eason, 39, guilty of setting the fires, including one wind-driven blaze that burned 1,000 acres and killed more than 200 sheep.

Investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said there have been no suspicious roadside fires in the Capay Valley since Eason was arrested in October 2006.

The sentencing closes a three-year investigation that used satellite tracking and hidden cameras to catch a man whom investigators suspected of setting the valley ablaze for years.

"This is one of the most complex cases that Cal Fire has ever undertaken," department spokeswoman Janet Upton said last month.

Jurors found Eason guilty of 12 felony counts of arson, with enhancements for using time-delay incendiary devices, and two counts of possessing the devices. Those charges stemmed from fires in 2006, when officials were closely monitoring Eason's movements.

For years, investigators suspected an arsonist was at work in the rugged Rumsey Canyon at the top of the valley. They focused on Eason starting in July 2006, when surveillance videos showed his blue Ford Tempo making brief trips into the canyon shortly before fires started.

In 2006, they attached a Global Positioning System device to his car and recorded his movements as he drove past sites in the valley that caught fire up to 90 minutes later. A search of Eason's car and home in October 2006 revealed pieces of mosquito coils and other materials.

From Niesha Lofing:

A Redding man was sentenced this week to nearly 20 years in prison for playing an essential role in a Yuba City drug deal.

Jesus Valencia Ontiveros, 24, was convicted in federal court of conspiracy and possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. Ontiveros, one of seven people indicted in the case, had pled guilty earlier this year before some of his co-defendants came to trial, according to a news release by U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott's office.

The situation began to unfold in December 2006, when the Drug Enforcement Agency used an informant to negotiate a methamphetamine deal with a person in Colusa.

Ontiveros emerged as a central figure in the plan to deliver a large amount of meth to the informant, federal prosecutors said.

On Feb. 24, 2007, Ontiveros and five other people traveled from Corning to Yuba City to deliver four pounds of meth. The six people traveled in three cars and arrived in a Wal-Mart parking lot just before midnight, prosecutors said.

A co-defendant driving with Ontiveros had a loaded .357 caliber handgun and three other co-defendants, who were on security-detail during the drug deal, arrived in a truck carrying an SKS military rifle and ammunition, prosecutors said.

Law enforcement arrested the six people after the drugs were shown to the informant.

The case was investigated by the DEA and Net-5, a drug task force comprised of Yuba and Sutter county law enforcement.

Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. presided over the sentencing and described Ontiveros as an "enthusiastic participant" whose "role was essential" to completing the deal, the release states.

Four other co-defendants have been sentenced as follows: Jose Luis Villanueva Diaz, more than 11 years, Sabas Miramontes, more than 12 years, Margarito Ramirez Caballero, more than 24 years, Ricardo Diaz, more than 24 years.

From Andy Furillo:

Thanksgiving will slow things down this week at the Sacramento County courthouse, but a few suspects of note are scheduled to duck in for brief hearings this week.

Williams Lyons, accused in the hit-and-run death of bicyclist Michael Winnett over the summer, checks in for a hearing today.

On Tuesday, Fotini Huntley, accused in the attempted drowning of her daughter, and murderer defendants Denisho Collins and Manuel Alvarado-Guerrero have court dates.

David Allen Falls, meanwhile, is back in court on Friday. He's the defendant in an upcoming murder trial resulting from the death of Kebret Tekle, the Sacramento State student who police say was shot in a gang crossfire at a nightclub near campus last year.

From Sandy Louey:

A serial bank robber was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento to 15 years and eight months in federal prison for robbing and trying to rob banks in Sacramento and Tulare.

Miguel Kercherval, 44, who is from the state of Washington, was also sentenced to five years of supervised release. He pleaded guilty on June 13, according to a release from the U.S. attorney's office.

All the bank robberies occurred in 2006. On Sept. 20, Kercherval attempted to rob the California Bank and Trust at 1800 Arden Way in Sacramento. He ended up robbing the Citibank location at 1116 Alhambra Blvd. in Sacramento later that day, the release said.

On Oct. 2, he attempted to rob a Washington Mutual Bank in Tulare. During this robbery, he punched a teller in the face. On Oct. 5, he robbed a U.S. Bank at 2851 Del Paso Blvd. in Sacramento, authorities said.

Kercherval admitted to committing two other robberies in Reno after the robberies in Sacramento and Tulare, the release said.

The case was an investigation of the Sacramento Violent Crimes Task Force, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. The Reno and Tulare police departments also helped with the case.

From Andrew McIntosh:

A former Consumer Affairs employee was sentenced to a year in the Sacramento County Jail and put on five years probation today for illegally downloading a personnel file with the names and Social Security numbers of 5,500 state employees and sending it to her private email account.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Steve White gave Rachael Dumbrique, 33, the maximum sentence and ordered her to pay full restitution of up to $122,000 to the state of California. The judge ignored a plea from defense attorney Jeremiah Van Etten to give her a sentence of between six and nine months because she had no prior criminal record and was the mother of three children.

"This is a serious matter with a number of significant consequences," White told Dumbrique as he sentenced her.

"Your crime compromised the ID and security of 5,500 state employees."

Rather than the mistake that Dumbrique claimed it was, White said that the evidence suggested that the crime was planned and that Dumbrique had also misappropriated other confidential state documents in the past, including what he described as "highly confidential" records from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

In his pre-sentence remarks, Van Etten said that Dumbrique "may have been a pawn and preyed upon by another individual" and that some documents found in her garage during a raid "may have been placed there by another person."

He did not name the person in either of those two cases, but The Bee has reported that Dumbrique a year ago married a member of the Mexican mafia member convicted in a street gang killing and serving a life sentence at Corcoran State prison. She and her convicted felon husband filed for divorce earlier this month.

Dumbrique appeared at the hearing in a wheelchair, sporting a temporary brace on her lower right leg. Medical reports cited by the judge said Dumbrique twisted her ankle last week but no broken bones were discovered when X-rays were taken.

White agreed to Dumbrique's request to delay beginning her jail term until Dec. 9 so she can get additional medical care and possible surgery to avoid long-term damage.

From Andy Furillo:

A judge today sentenced a Sacramento gang member to life in prison without parole for the June 2006 shooting death of Serge Zubenko.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Helena R. Gweon characterized Jeffrey Deane Ward's murder of the 24-year-old Zubenko as a "cold-blooded, cowardly act" and "so brazen, so senseless."

Ward and some friends had been in a fight with some people at a park in Antelope before they encountered Zubenko, whom the judge described as a "good man" and an innocent victim.

Ward, now 22, killed Zubenko with a blast from a shotgun.

From Andy Furillo:

A 29-year-old Sacramento murderer learned today that he'll probably be spending the rest of his life in prison.

Tousaun Devone Stewart received a 75-to-life term, plus 19 more years, for the Aug. 25, 2007, shooting death of 20-year-old Sione Lomano.

The killing took place outside a gated apartment complex across Meadowview Road from the Panell-Meadowview Community Center.

From Sandy Louey:

A joint effort between federal and local authorities have led to prison sentences for two Sacramento men.

The cases against Marshall Lynn McCarter, 30, and Marques DeWayne Watkins, 22, were the product of an effort between the FBI's Safe Streets Task Force and the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

McCarter was sentenced Wednesday to nine years and two months for being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to a release from the office of U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott.

He was arrested in south Sacramento in September 2007 after being found with a loaded revolver. During his arrest, he fought with deputies and tried to gain control of his handgun and a deputy's service weapon, the release said.

Before the arrest, he had two convictions each for assault with a deadly weapon and driving while under the influence of alcohol. McCarter also was convicted for possession of crack cocaine, selling crack cocaine and car theft, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Watkins was sentenced Nov. 5 to eight years and four months for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute.

He was arrested in south Sacramento in September 2007 after he was found with 48 grams of crack cocaine and a loaded .357 caliber handgun. He had prior convictions for methamphetamine sales, marijuana possession and domestic violence, the release said.

From the Associated Press:

A Clearlake man will be serving time behind bars and will have to give up two rifles after being sentenced for poaching.

Lake County prosecutors say Jose Manuel Hernandez-Medina was sentenced to 45 days in jail after pleading guilty to taking deer out of season and other related charges.

Hernandez-Medina was arrested after a witness saw him and several other men standing around three dead dear in the Clearlake Oaks area in July.

The 53-year-old Hernandez-Medina also was fined $2,205 and ordered not to hunt or possess firearms in an area inhabited by game animals for three years.

From Andy Furillo:

More murder sentencings and a date with "The Compound" are among the high-profile cases this week in Sacramento Superior Court.

The rundown:

Tuesday -- Jayshawn Pierce is scheduled to be sentenced for the robbery-murder of Kevin Wilson, 4 p.m., Department 29.

Tuesday -- Three reputed street gang members (Quentin Carthen, Deon Hampton and Mack Williams) are up for a preliminary hearing in a gun case, to be assigned out of Department 4 at 8:30 a.m.

Friday -- Tousaun Devone Stewart will be sentenced for the Aug. 25, 2007, murder of Sione Lomano, 9 a.m., Department 17.

Friday -- Jeffrey Ward will be up for his much-delayed murder sentencing in the 2006 shotgun killing of Serge Zubenko, 10 a.m., Department 15.

Friday -- Bail hearing on murder suspect Victor Anthony Ortega, 1:35 p.m., Department 63.

Friday -- Ruling due on City of Sacramento's effort to shut down "The Compound" apartment complex in North Sacramento, Department 53.

Continuing: Murder trial of Sertice Melonson and Sara Weeden in Aug. 5, 2005, shooting death of Navnil Chand, Department 12. (Murder trial of Wayne Albert Caskey and Bennett Louis Kovac in June 11, 2006, shooting death of Gary R. Brooks, will resume next week in Department 31.

From Andy Furillo:

A Sacramento gang member received a 40-to-life sentence today in the shooting death two years ago of an Elk Grove man who was about to go into the Navy.

Manuel Jose Cervin stared straight ahead when Sacramento Superior Court Judge Michael W. Sweet imposed the term for what he characterized as the defendant's "act of cowardice" in the Dec. 22, 2006, murder of 21-year-old Marc Grimes in the driveway of his home.

Cervin, 25, was the driver in a car filled with Norteno gang members that got in a confrontation with Grimes at 11:45 p.m. the night of the shooting. Grimes had just gotten home after a night out with his girlfriend when a minor traffic dispute with Cervin escalated into the killing.

During the confrontation, Cervin rolled down his driver's side window while a passenger shot from inside the car and killed Grimes. The shooter has not been arrested.

Three friends and relatives of Grimes read written, tearful statements to Cervin during the sentencing, expressing their pain and sense of loss in the death of a friend, brother and son.

Grimes' mother, Jody Lawson, told Cervin he could have continued to drive away from the scene of the confrontation but instead backed his vehicle toward the victim to continue the argument in the seconds before the shooting.

"You could have let it go," the tearful Lawson told Cervin.

Police and prosecutors said Cervin's gang affiliation would not allow it.

"You should come up for parole," Lawson continued, "when Marc returns to his family on this earth."

From Andy Furillo:

Here are some of the highlights this week on the Sacramento Superior Court docket:

Tuesday, 2 p.m., Department 53: Hearing on city of Sacramento effort to shut down "The Compound," a North Sacramento apartment notorious, police say, for drug dealing and gang activity.

Wednesday: Murder trial scheduled to begin on Denisho Collins, accused in June 27, 2005, shooting death of David Perkins.

Friday: Scheduled sentencings on convicted murderers Manuel Cervin (Dept. 20), Jamil Stevens (Dept. 16), and Robert Paul Snyder (Dept. 20).

Continuing: Murder trials of Sertice Melonson and Sara Weeden in Aug. 5, 2005, shooting death of Navnil Chand, Dept. 12; and Wayne Albert Caskey and Bennett Louis Kovac in June 11, 2006, shooting death of Gary R. Brooks, Dept. 31.

Thursday, 9 a.m.: Scheduled sentencing on Hector A. Whitley, on convictions related to fixing of drunken driving cases, Department 27.

From Andy Furillo:

A 21-year-old Sacramento man was sentenced today to life in prison without possibility of parole for a robbery-murder he committed during a shootout behind a north side strip mall two years ago.

The defendant, James Willis, also received an added 25-to-life term from Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd G. Connelly.

Jurors convicted Willis last month for the Dec. 27, 2006, murder of Rajneel Kamal Sharma, 19, behind the shopping center on Norwood Avenue.

Prosecutors said Willis shot and killed Sharma, a suspected marijuana dealer, in the course of robbing him. Police said Willis also was shot in the exchange.

From Andy Furillo

A convicted double murderer got a double life sentence today, and he still must face additional charges that he murdered his cellmate last month at Sacramento's downtown jail.

Jose Guadalupe Barrera-Rodrigu, 22, was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Kevin J. McCormick to life in prison with no possibility of parole and to an additional 15-to-life term for the January 2007 bludgeon killings of his one-time girlfriend, Kelly Ann Johnson, 19, and her mother, Sharon Ann Johnson, 49.

While awaiting sentencing on those convictions, Barrera-Rodrigu killed Demario Lavell Patterson, 22, on Sept. 12 in the jail cell they shared, according to a criminal complaint that has since been filed against him.

Patterson had been convicted of methamphetamine possession, misdemeanor battery and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was awaiting placement into a Proposition 36 drug treatment program at the time of his death.

From Denny Walsh:

A serial hijacker of retail gift cards was sentenced Tuesday in Sacramento federal court to a maximum 10 years in prison.

Timothy Truong, 43, pleaded guilty in November to access device fraud in connection with his use of cloned gift cards to hijack Wal-Mart accounts.

Truong shoplifted non-activated cards off racks in stores, got the card and personal identification numbers by scratching strips off the backs, captured the electronic data on a skimmer and downloaded that onto a computer to manufacture duplicate cards. After cloning the cards, he replaced them at the retailers where he shoplifted them.

With the numbers, Truong could access account balances once the cards were activated and then spend them down with his clones ahead of the legitimate customers.

From 1992 to the present, Truong racked up convictions for gift card hijackings in Nevada, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Utah, according to Assistant U. S. Attorney Matthew Segal.

At the time of his arrest in the Sacramento case, he was facing charges related to gift card fraud in New Jersey, Segal said.

In sentencing Truong to the statutory maximum, an angry U. S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. called him a "liar and a thief" and "a menace to society." The judge said Truong had thus far avoided serious consequences, but "the buck stops here."

Truong was well known to retail security personnel, and police were called when he was spotted two years ago in a Yuba City Wal-Mart. When officers arrived, they saw Truong enter his 2002 Cadillac Escalade. A brief chase ensued and he crashed the SUV into two other vehicles, totaling a pickup truck and sending its driver to the hospital with a concussion.

Truong ran bleeding through the parking lot and into a store. He punched a shopper, who then tackled Truong and restrained him.

He has since been behind bars, first in Sutter County's custody, then the U. S. Marshal's.

In the SUV, officers found more than 3,800 gift cards for stores such as Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Borders and Safeway, two laptop computers and an electronic card reader, a card printer, acetone, maps marked with locations of Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Borders stores, 4,000 gift card numbers, and recently purchased merchandise.

He was carrying more than $7,000 in cash when arrested by Yuba City police.

From Niesha Lofing:

Two Woodland gang members who tried to kill a man over drug money last year were sentenced to life in prison Thursday.

Lorenzo Alberto Godoy, 22, and Rudy Sanchez Gonzales, 48, were convicted of trying to murder Raul Ramos at his Woodland apartment on Jan. 5, 2007, according to a news release by the office of Yolo County District Attorney Jeff W. Reisig.

Godoy and Ramos had been doing business together and owed drug money to someone in Anaheim, according to the release. Godoy and Gonzales went to Ramos' home that night to try and collect Ramos' portion of the debt. They were armed with a .25 caliber pistol and a knife, respectively.

Ramos, another man and the man's girlfriend were at the apartment during the confrontation. The man was smoking a cigarette on the back patio when Godoy and Gonzales forced him back into the apartment at gunpoint, the release states.

Once inside, Godoy demanded Ramos give him the money for the drug debt, while Gonzales wielded a knife to keep everyone at bay. When Ramos refused to give Godoy the money, Gonzales signaled Godoy, who shot Ramos six times, nearly killing him, the release states.

Witnesses told police they saw five to six men outside the apartment acting as lookouts just before the shooting. They also said they were threatened by the men to not talk to police, the release states.

Two days later, authorities served search warrants at Godoy and Gonzales' apartments and found ammunition and the gun that was used to shoot Ramos. Large amounts of gang paraphernalia and gang graffiti also were found in both homes, according to the release.

Godoy and Gonzales were arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, robbery, burglary and false imprisonment.

The charges also carried gang enhancements. Godoy is a validated Sureno and Gonzales is a former member of the Mexican Mafia prison gang, the release states.

While they were in jail, Gonzales and Godoy, as well as other inmates, exchanged jail house letters outlining a plan to hurt and kill witnesses who were going to testify against the two men. The confiscated letters also outlined a fabricated defense that the two men worked on in order to deceive a jury if the case got to trial, the release states.

A jury convicted both men of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment.

Godoy was sentenced to 59 years and four months to life in prison. Gonzales, who had two "strikes" prior to the shooting, was sentenced to 146 years to life under the state's Three Strikes law, the release states.

"Gang cases are difficult to prosecute because of the fear and intimidation that gang members instill in the community and among witnesses of a crime," Deputy District Attorney Deanna Hays stated in a news release.

From Denny Walsh:

Julie Lee, the San Francisco political activist convicted of fraud and attempted witness tampering, was sentenced Tuesday in Sacramento federal court to a year and a day in prison.

In imposing the reduced penalty, U. S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton described the crime as "serious" and the sentencing as "difficult."

"Justice must be served, but it also must be tempered," he said.

Invited by the judge to address him before he passed sentence, Lee's gasping sobs made her words unintelligible.

The courtroom was packed with her supporters.

First Assistant U. S. Attorney Lawrence Brown sought a prison term of three years and 10 months, while defense attorneys Alan Ellis and Lidia Stiglich asked for probation.

Lee, 62, was ordered to surrender Nov. 4 to begin serving her sentence. Assuming she earns the maximum 54 days good time, she will be released around Sept. 10, 2009.

Karlton also ordered a $5,000 fine and three years of supervision by federal probation authorities after her release.

The judge held off ordering restitution until the state Department of Parks and Recreation, the victim of Lee's fraud, submitted a figure that the agency is able to support.

In July, a jury in Karlton's court found Lee guilty of supplying false information and trying to tamper with witnesses after learning she was the target of inquiries by state and federal investigators as to how she spent money from a Parks and Recreation grant.

Lee's nonprofit, the San Francisco Neighbors Resource Center, had received the $500,000 grant for planning and development of a community services center in the city's heavily Chinese American west side.

Prosecutors showed at trial that she laundered $125,000 of the funds through six intermediaries into Kevin Shelley's successful 2002 campaign for secretary of state. There is no evidence Shelley knew of the scheme.

"The political world needs to understand that, if the line is crossed, the offender will get caught and will receive an appropriate sentence," Brown told Karlton.

The judge said he is convinced Lee was striving for political influence.

Ellis, on the other hand, insisted her motive was getting the community center built, and she was counting on help from Shelley, then an assemblyman from the city's west side.

"I'm not sure we haven't said the same thing," Karlton remarked to Ellis.

RP VELLANOWETH TEAR.JPG

Roberto P. Vellanoweth today in Sacramento Superior Court listens to personal testimony from family members of those killed in the March 2007 crash. Judge Patrick Marlette today sentenced Vellanoweth to 17 years and 8 months in prison for last year's drunken driving crash that killed four people.

Randy Pench
/rpench@sacbee.com

From Andy Furillo:

Roberto P. Vellanoweth said he was sorry for the "terrible mishap" on "that fateful day," and he quoted the late Pope John Paul II about justice, love and mercy.

Then it was Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette's turn. If justice, love and mercy were to be meted out Tuesday in his courtroom, Marlette made it very clear they would go to the friends and family of the four people Vellanoweth killed last year in a drunken driving rampage on South Land Park Drive.

"I think it's important," the judge began, "that everybody understand how offensive it is to the community and the court to call this a 'fateful' day, and to call this a 'mishap,' to treat this as if this was something that came down out of the sky and fell down on that family and devastated that family, to pretend that this is something some power had in store for this family."

With that, Marlette ripped into Vellanoweth in sentencing remarks that lasted 50 minutes. When the judge finished, Vellanoweth, 64, a once-prominent state executive and gubernatorial appointee, walked out of the courtroom in his jail-suit orange, chained wrists to waist, headlong into a maximum state prison term of 17 years and eight months.

Here is Furillo's full story.

From Niesha Lofing:

A neo-Nazi skinhead was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his part in a 2005 attack on a Davis man.

Michael Rose, 28, received the sentence Friday from Yolo Superior Court Judge Kathleen M. White, who also presided over the convict's trial.

Rose and Christopher Vochatzer, both associated with a skinhead gang, attacked a man in a gang-motivated assault on April 4, 2005, a news release from Yolo County District Attorney Jeff W. Reisig's office states.

The two skinheads entered the Davis resident's apartment and Rose used a metal pipe to prevent two of the man's friends from stopping Vochatzer, who beat the victim with a baseball bat. The man was badly injured in the attack, the release states.

Rose and Vochatzer were retaliating against the man for wearing an anti-Nazi T-shirt.

Rose eluded law enforcement for nearly two years before being arrested in Montana in February 2007, the release states. A jury in March convicted him of assault with a deadly weapon, burglary, two counts of false imprisonment and two counts of exhibiting a deadly weapon.

The conviction included enhancements for gang association, prosecutors said earlier this year.

Vochatzer was convicted in 2006 and sentenced to 28 years in state prison for assault with a deadly weapon and other felonies.

From Niesha Lofing:

San Francisco man who ran a Sacramento adult day health care facility was sentenced to federal probation and fined this week for submitting false Medi-Cal claims.

Miron Balyasny, 57, worked for nearly four years as the administrator and manager of Altamedix Inc., which operates an adult day health care provider in Sacramento, according to a news release by U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott's office.

Balyasny's wife was listed as a one-third owner of Altamedix at the time, prosecutors said.

During that time, Balyasny, on behalf of Altamedix, altered patient records submitted to Medi-Cal so the company could qualify for Medi-Cal reimbursement. Under Medi-Cal regulations, adult day health center providers are only entitled to Medi-Cal reimbursement for services provided to patients who would be institutionalized if adult day health care were not available.

Balyasny changed patient records so it appeared that patients were sick, could not walk or could not feed or dress themselves, the release states.

In one instance in 2004, Balyasny, working on behalf of Altamedix, submitted false documents saying that a patient had chronic headaches, chest pains, shortness of breath, senile dementia and needed supervision with walking. The investigation revealed that not only did the patient not suffer from the alleged conditions, but was a World War II medic who frequently took nature walks on his own for recreation, the release states.

A parallel civil case also ensued. The Altamedix facility and its owners denied any wrongdoing or liability, but agreed to pay the government $450,000 to settle the case, the release states.

On Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Edmund F. Brennan sentenced Balyasny - who pled guilty to making false demands against the U.S. in March - to five years probation, including six months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, and fined him $4,000, the release states.

From Bill Lindelof:

A Yolo County judge has sentenced a man to state prison for 25 years to life after he was convicted by a jury of leaving a fake bomb at the Yolo County Communications Center two years ago.

Barry Turnage, 62, was sentenced by Yolo County Superior Court Judge Thomas Warriner under California's "three strikes" law.

Prior to the felony conviction in July of leaving a false bomb at the communications center in Woodland on Sept. 3, 2006, his two strikes were violent crimes. In 1978, he used a rifle to shoot a firetruck in Berkeley, narrowly missing a firefighter. In 1986, he used a shotgun to rob a young couple near Dunnigan, Yolo County.

A Yolo County District Attorney's office press release stated that Turnage pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the false bomb case but the jury rejected the defense and found that he was sane.

From Denny Walsh:

Charges in Sacramento federal court against a man accused of making a series of menacing telephone calls were dismissed Monday because he was declared incompetent. The man has a long history of making threats against prominent people.

Scott R. Hudson, who has a long history of mental illness and threats of violence, was charged with warning he would use fire or explosives and directing threatening calls to a Minnesota university, a synagogue in Orange County, a rabbi in suburban New York, a Jewish museum in Philadelphia and two New York City hotels.

The 54-year-old Hudson was arrested by FBI agents in December 2006 at a Chico motel where he was living, and he has since been held without bail.

On a motion Monday by the prosecutor, U. S. District Judge William B. Shubb ordered the charges dismissed and Hudson released.

"It appears there is little likelihood that he will attain the capacity to proceed in the foreseeable future," Assistant U. S. Attorney Philip Ferrari said in a status report filed Friday. "The government simply cannot prosecute Mr. Hudson on the pending charges at this point in time."

In May, U. S. Bureau of Prisons psychiatrists found Hudson incompetent and recommended forced medication. However, given his medical history and the amount of time he had already spent in custody, Ferrari decided involuntary medication was not justified and Shubb said he would not order it.

Based at least in part on a more recent report from a local psychiatrist, Shubb found last week that Hudson's release "would not create a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person or serious damage to the property of another."

In a 2001 prosecution in Sacramento federal court, Hudson pleaded guilty to making a series of telephone calls to various businesses in Arizona threatening harm to Randy Johnson, then a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team.

Specifically, Hudson stated he would shoot Johnson in the head and would cut off his testicles.

He was first sentenced to 16 months in prison, but a violation of his supervised release drew a second sentence of 18 months.

During the course of that earlier prosecution, Hudson was twice referred by Shubb to a federal medical facility in Rochester, Minn., for evaluation and treatment of his mental illness.

Court records show Hudson was first investigated by the FBI in 1996 in connection with threats made against U. S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. During that investigation, it was discovered that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also was investigating him in connection with threatening calls received in Canada.

As early as the mid-1970s, Hudson was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Southern California for allegedly "being dangerous with a gun in his possession," according to court records.

He later lived with his mother, who is now deceased, in the Butte County town of Paradise.

Fernando_Catlin.JPGFrom Kim Minugh:

A former Sacramento County court clerk was sentenced today to five years in state prison for his role in altering court records associated with driving under the influence cases for financial payoff, authorities said.

Investigators connected seven false DUI case dismissals to court orders and computer entries handled by Fernando Catlin, left, who was responsible for data entry for active DUI cases while a Superior Court clerk, according to the Sacramento County District Attorney's office.

Investigators also identified Hector Whitley as the person who offered the DUI defendants an opportunity to get their cases dismissed with the help of someone Whitley knew at the court house in exchange for money, a news release stated. Evidence linked those pay-offs to Catlin.

A trial date for Whitley is expected to be set at his next court hearing,Friday.

From Art Campos:

A former Placer County sheriff's deputy was sentenced Wednesday to two years in a county jail and placed on five years probation for having sexual relations with two underage girls during his years as a law enforcement officer.

Michael Stuart Johnson was given the term by retired Placer Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens, who expressed concern over the ex-deputy's safety if he were to be housed in a state prison.

Johnson, 26, who worked two years for the Sheriff's Department, was arrested Oct. 5 after detectives looked into reports that he was having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl in Colfax, where he was a patrol officer.

Further investigation revealed allegations of a prior sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl from 2003 to 2004 when Johnson was a police officer in Auburn. The probe also uncovered the alleged distribution of lewd material to a 15-year-old girl in 2007 and the illegal use of a law enforcement computer system.

Johnson resigned as a deputy in December and pleaded guilty in May to five criminal charges.

Under terms of his sentencing, Johnson must serve two full years in jail without possibility of alternative sentencing or of earning a shorter jail stay based on good-conduct credits. He faced a state prison term of four years and eight months.

"Two years in custody is not a slap on the wrist," said prosecutor Garen Horst. "If he'd gone to prison, he'd be eligible for half-time credits, meaning he would have served two years and four months. So I agree that this was a pretty harsh punishment."

Lt. Jeffrey Ausnow said Johnson will not be housed in the county jail in Auburn. He will serve the two-year sentence at a jail facility in an undisclosed county, he said.



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