San Diego Legal News:
Man pleads guilty to beating Australian tourist
February 6, 2009
A man accused of beating an Australian tourist with a skateboard in Ocean Beach last year and throwing him into a smoldering fire pit pleaded guilty Friday to attempted murder.
Damian Maple, 22, also pleaded guilty to assault in a separate attack on a man in Dog Beach, and admitted causing great bodily injury to the victim. As part of a plea bargain, Maple agreed to a 14-year prison term.
San Diego Superior Court Judge David Danielsen accepted the pleas and scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 15.
Maple is one of two men charged in the Feb. 27 attack on Robert Schneider, a then-26-year-old surfer from Adelaide, Australia.
The other man, Francisco Montoya, 47, is scheduled to go to trial later this month on charges including aggravated mayhem and torture. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for life.
Authorities have described Maple and Montoya as transients.
According to testimony at a previous hearing, the men were part of a group on the beach, some of whom had been drinking. Sometime after 5 a.m., Schneider threw sand in Montoya's face and Montoya retaliated, throwing sand and hitting Schneider in the head with a skateboard.
Witnesses told police that Maple continued the attack, striking Schneider and dragging him into a nearby fire pit.
A witness told police Maple used the skateboard to scoop hot coals from the pit and dump them onto Schneider's abdomen. He suffered multiple injuries, including burns on 12 percent of his body, a skull fracture and a crushed eye socket.
According to the testimony, Maple got into an altercation with another man, Justin Heyes, in a parking lot near Dog Beach, fracturing his jaw.
November 21, 2008 Man gets prison term in real estate agent's death
EAST COUNTY COURTS: A Lakeside man convicted of murdering his real estate agent was sentenced yesterday to 40 years to life in prison.
In September, a jury found Michael Ray Jennison, 38, guilty of second-degree murder for shooting James Magot in the head during a dispute over a condominium deal in February 2007.
Magot, 64, wanted to buy the condominium for himself, but Jennison wanted to sell it to a neighbor.
In El Cajon Superior Court yesterday, Jennison received a sentence of 15 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder charge and 25 years to life for the personal use of a firearm.
Judge Allan J. Preckel denied motions filed by the defense for a new trial and to reduce the conviction to manslaughter.
Defense attorney Brian White argued that Jennison should be granted a new trial because jurors inadvertently saw a newspaper article about suppressed evidence in the case.
White said he plans to appeal the conviction
Woman is sentenced in beating death of man, 82
EAST COUNTY COURTS: A San Diego woman who admitted to fatally beating and stabbing an 82-year-old man with whom she had an affair was sentenced yesterday to 35 years to life in prison.
Rhonda Elaine Hill, 39, recently pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the slaying of Ralph Edward Gardner on Oct. 27, 2007. He was assaulted in his trailer on Pepper Drive just outside El Cajon.
Hill, also known as Rhonda Van Pelt, agreed to the sentence under a plea agreement approved by the court.
She had been having an affair with Gardner, but the two had a falling out during a trip to New Mexico in October 2007, when Gardner accused Hill of stealing his credit card. Gardner had been paying the rent on Hill's apartment and co-signed her lease, prosecutors said.
In 1995, Hill was convicted of attempted murder for attacking her mother at the Oceanside mobile home where her mother lived. She served eight years in prison and had completed parole shortly before she killed Gardner, said Deputy District Attorney Kurt Mechals. –A.M.
September 10, 2008. Fugitive mom pleads guilty to escape
A Carmel Valley mother who fled a Michigan prison 32 years ago and lived on the lam until her arrest this year pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of escape after a judge offered to give her probation.
Susan LeFevre, 53, cried with relief at the judge's words, said her attorney, William Swor.
“The judge indicated that if she was willing to accept responsibility and plead guilty to the charge that he would make a preliminary commitment to give her probation,” Swor said yesterday from Detroit. “He said 'Enough is enough.' ”
Sentencing is set for Sept. 24 in Wayne County, Mich.
“Removing the risk of additional prison time certainly made her feel somewhat better,” Swor said.
LeFevre still is serving a 5½-year sentence for her role in a heroin deal with an undercover state trooper in Saginaw County, Mich., according to court documents.
She was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison in 1975 after pleading guilty to selling drugs. She climbed over the prison's barbed-wire fence to freedom about a year later with the help of her grandfather.
Using her middle name, Marie, she moved to Southern California, married her husband, Alan Walsh, and raised three children.
A tipster led authorities to her front door in April, and she was booked into Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee to the disbelief of her friends and family.
The housewife has been in a Detroit-area prison since being transferred in May.
Attorneys in Michigan are fighting for a new sentence on the drug conviction, saying it was an illegal and improper sentence at the time.
“Anybody that looks at her life in California and the work that she's done, and anyone who looks at the original crime, can see that the original sentence was an injustice,“ Swor said. “Probation is warranted.”
LeFevre said she never would have pleaded guilty to the drug charges had she known the court's “secret” policy at the time was to sentence all heroin offenders the same – 10 to 20 years.
“She was getting high like everyone else back then,” said Laurie Lewis, who attended high school with LeFevre in Saginaw and now lives in San Diego. “Everyone was getting loaded. It was the '70s.”
September 5, 2008 Jail time ordered in Bird Rock Bandits trial
SAN DIEGO – Following a lengthy and emotional hearing Friday, a judge sentenced four young men to jail terms and placed them on three years' probation in the death of a professional surfer in La Jolla in May 2007.
Superior Court Judge John S. Einhorn ordered Eric House, 21, and Matthew Yanke, 22, to serve 210 days each in jail. Orlando Osuna, 23, was sentenced to 349 days in jail. The three had pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Emery Kauanui Jr., 24.
Henri “Hank” Hendricks, 22, was sentenced to 90 days in jail. He had pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact.
Einhorn said he chose probation and county jail over prison because of the defendants lack of criminal history and apparent ability to comply with the terms of probation. He also said he believed they were genuinely remorseful and noted there was no evidence that any of them threw the fatal punch.
However, the judge also noted that not one of the men stopped to help Kauanui when he lay bleeding on the ground.
The judge ordered the men to stay away from Windansea beach while on probation and to have no contact with other defendants in the case, the victim's family, or several others named by the prosecutor.
“Nobody won, guys,” Einhorn said. “Please show your community, your families, the Kauanui family, the memory of Emery Kauanui and the court that I haven't made a mistake on the sentencing.”
A fifth defendant, Seth Cravens, 22, is scheduled to go to trial in October on murder and other charges.
Defense attorneys argued Friday that probation was an appropriate punishment for their clients. The lawyers said the men understood the gravity of their actions and had accepted responsibility.
Prosecutors said the five men, all graduates of La Jolla High School, were members of a group called the Bird Rock Bandits, which had engaged in numerous fights in the neighborhood over the past several years.
Kauanui died four days after being injured in a street fight that began as a dispute at a La Jolla bar. Prosecutors contended it was a group melee, which defense lawyers disputed.
The victim's mother and two brothers also spoke, as did Kauanui's girlfriend. Through tears, they talked of his “spirit” and talent as a surfer, and the void his death left in their lives. A video played in the courtroom showed photos of Kauanui as a child and as an adult, riding the waves.
“Emery's my treasure,” said Cindy Kauanui. “He's the love of my life. I'm honored to have been his mother.”
Deputy District Attorney Sophia Roach read letters from others who had been affected by Kauanui's death, including a woman who witnessed the fight.
Roach said she spoke to Kauanui's father by phone, who said he and others on the Hawaiian island of Kauai where he lives had been “rocked” by Kauanui's death.
Roach had asked the judge to sentence House, Yanke and Osuna to prison terms ranging from three years and six months to four years and six months. She had asked for a year-long jail term and probation for Hendricks.
“Despite every advantage, they participated in fights; observed and encouraged (them) for the thrill of it,” Roach said.
July 24, 2008
Hearing date set for Federal Court House Bombing Suspect
SAN DIEGO FEDERAL COURT: A federal judge in San Diego scheduled an Oct. 7 hearing date yesterday for a woman arrested in the investigation of a bombing outside the downtown federal courthouse in May.
Rachelle Lynette Carlock, 31, of San Diego has pleaded not guilty to charges of using a stolen identity to buy gunpowder. She remains in federal custody without bail. A trial date is expected to be scheduled during the hearing in October.
Federal officials have said Carlock's arrest stemmed from the investigation into the May 4 bombing, although authorities have stopped short of directly linking her to the crime. No one was injured in the blast, which happened before dawn. Authorities said Carlock bought 2 pounds of Hodgdon Triple Se7en powder on April 7 and 2 more pounds May 1.
On May 13, she returned to the same gun store to purchase more, but apparently became spooked when an employee asked to photocopy her driver's license as part of a new store policy, according to court records.
Authorities lifted her fingerprints from the bottles of powder she touched in the store to eventually learn her true identity.
July 22 , 2008
Mother of beaten surfer sues Bird Rock 5, parents, bar
SAN DIEGO – The mother of a professional surfer who was fatally beaten in La Jolla last year filed a lawsuit Tuesday against five young men involved in the fight, their parents, and the bar where some members of the group had been drinking.
Cynthia Kauanui accuses the men of wrongful death for beating or assisting in the beating of 24-year-old Emery Kauanui on May 24, 2007.
In her suit, Kauanui contends that the young men's parents are also at fault because they had a "duty" to control, discipline and supervise their children. She claims the parents of all but one of the men knew about their sons' violent behavior as minors, which included getting drunk and starting fights, but failed to stop it.
“It was a way of life for them,” said Craig McClellan, an attorney representing Kauanui. “At some point, there's an obligation for a parent to take charge.”
Kauanui is seeking unspecified general and punitive damages.
The men named in the lawsuit are Seth Cravens, 22; Eric House, 21; Orlando Osuna, 23; Matthew Yanke, 22; and Henri “Hank” Hendricks, 22. They were all graduates of La Jolla High School and part of a group called the “Bird Rock Bandits.” They were arrested last year and charged with murder.
Last month, all but one of the defendants pleaded guilty to lesser felonies, leaving Cravens to be tried on charges of murder, assault and battery.
According to testimony presented in court, the men and Emery Kauanui were at the La Jolla Brew House on May 23, 2007. About 1 a.m. May 24, Kauanui spilled beer on House, and the two got into an argument.
Later, House and the others talked about retaliating and drove to the Draper Avenue home Kauanui shared with his mother.
After they arrived, Kauanui and House fought outside, and House lost a tooth in the scuffle. Cravens then stepped in and punched Kauanui, causing him to fall backward and strike his head on the pavement.
Kauanui died at a hospital four days later.
Also named in the lawsuit, which was filed in San Diego Superior Court, is Barkandbrew Inc., which does business as the La Jolla Brew House, and Claudette Mannixx, who is named as owner. The suit contends that employees at the bar sold alcohol to House and Yanke, both of whom were under 21 at the time and “obviously intoxicated.”
“The Brew House has a reputation for serving minors,” McClellan said. “It's somewhat of a hangout for La Jolla High School kids. They don't check IDs.”
Calls to Mannixx and the Brew House were not immediately returned Tuesday, nor were calls from parents of many of the defendants.
Karen Cravens, mother of Seth Cravens, said she knew about the lawsuit but declined to comment.
Page updated for Local San Diego Court News February 6, 2009
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