General Crime

* Feb 6, 2009 FEDERAL GRAND JURIES CHARGE 15 WITH DRUG AND GUN CRIMES

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*Feb 6, 2009 WOMAN PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO MURDER IN WESTERN ADDITION FATAL STABBING
*Feb 6, SAN JOSE PARENTS OF CHILDREN KIDNAPPED 20 YEARS AGO PRAY TO RECONNECT SOON
*Feb 6, 2009 MARTINEZ: SUSPECT IN 2007 RICHMOND DONUT SHOP MURDER ARRAIGNED
*Feb 6, SO. SAN FRANCISCO BURGLAR ALLEGEDLY LEAVES SLEDGEHAMMER WITH HIS NAME
*Feb 6, 2009 SANTA ROSA: TWO ARRESTED AFTER BEATING A MAN’S HEAD WITH A CROWBAR
*Feb 6, 2009 DUBLIN MEHSERLE SURRENDERS HIS GUNS TO BE RELEASED ON BAIL

Feb 6 2009 FEDERAL GRAND JURIES CHARGE 15 WITH DRUG AND GUN CRIMES

Federal grand juries have charged 15 people with drug and weapons crimes after raids led by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives early Wednesday morning, U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello announced Thursday.Starting at 6 a.m., ATF, local law enforcement agencies and other federal agents arrested the suspects at homes in cities including San Francisco, Richmond, Oakland, Fremont and Redwood City.The raids were part of two connected operations, Operation North Star and Operation Smack Down, which were part of an effort to cut off drug and weapon traffic connections to Mexico, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.Authorities arrested nine people as part of Operation Smack Down, and they were all charged with conspiring to distribute and possessing with intent to distribute more than 1 kilogram of heroin and more than 50 grams of crystal methamphetamine.Rafael Franco Perez, Joel Ceja Mendoza, Vicente Franco Escalera, Eduardo Mendez Juarez, Veronica Alvarado Gutierrez, Cornelio Mata Espinoza, Anthony Johnston, and Janetta Johnson were all individually arraigned in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Wednesday.The ninth person arrested in the operation, Josefina Rodriguez, was arraigned in Bakersfield on Thursday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.In Operation North Star, authorities arrested six people on drug trafficking and weapons charges. They were also arraigned in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Wednesday. Hong Lau and Sompathana Nobuphasavanh were charged with conspiring to sell more than 50 grams of crack cocaine and more than 5 grams of methamphetamine.Lau was also charged with three counts of selling more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, three counts of selling more than 5 grams of methamphetamine, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.Nobuphasavanh was also charged with three counts of selling more than 50 grams of crack cocaine and two counts of selling more than 5 grams of methamphetamine. Both Lau and Nobuphasavanh face maximum sentences of life in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.Hunter Jameson and Christopher Hamilei were arrested and charged with being felons in possession of a firearm, and face maximum sentences of 10 years in prison.Peter Castellanos was charged in a superseding indictment with two counts of selling more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, two counts of selling more than 5 grams of crack, and three counts of selling more than 5 grams of methamphetamine.He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.William Vivas was charged with two counts of selling at least 100 grams of heroin, and charged with an additional count of selling heroin. ATF Senior Special Agent Mina Delgadillo said Thursday that
Operation North Star began three years ago, and led to the additional arrests in Operation Smack Down, which was initiated a year later.Russoniello said in a news conference in San Francisco on Wednesday that the suspects are considered to be the “major players” in drug and gun trafficking communities in Northern California.

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Feb 6, 2009 SAN  WOMAN PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO MURDER IN WESTERN ADDITION FATAL STABBING

A 27-year-old San Francisco woman accused of fatally stabbing the 18-year-old father of her child in late December pleaded not guilty to murder today in San Francisco Superior Court.DeEbony Smith’s estranged boyfriend Lazarus Pickett was found stabbed on the morning of Dec. 30 outside a home in the 600 block of Larch Way, in a public housing complex in the city’s Western Addition neighborhood. He died at the hospital that night.Prosecutors say Smith stabbed Pickett in the heart inside a parked car near her home, after the pair argued about a baby seat and a diaper bag that Smith wanted returned to her. The blade penetrated 4 to 5 inches into his chest, according to prosecutors.Smith’s attorney has argued witness accounts, including those of a neighbor and members of a large crowd that gathered at the scene, were unreliable. Her attorney also noted that the night before the stabbing, Pickett had reportedly violated a stay-away order from Smith, her family, and her three children. Pickett was the father of Smith’s youngest, a 2-month-old child.Following the stabbing, Smith spoke by phone with police asking that she turn herself in.During one conversation, Smith told an officer, “I know I’m going to prison for this, but I have to take care of my kids first,” according to the officer’s testimony. She turned herself in Jan. 2 Smith’s attorney has contended that the stabbing did not constitute murder; that Smith’s willingness to turn herself in, as well as statements she made both at the scene and in phone conversations with police indicated she was concerned about Pickett’s condition, and showed she did not believe she was guilty.A judge ruled Jan. 23 that there was probable cause to hold Smith for trial.Smith, charged with murder with the use of a deadly weapon, remains in custody on $200,000 bail. She is due back in court March 12 for a scheduling hearing. A trial date has not been set.

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Feb 6, 2009 SAN JOSE PARENTS OF CHILDREN KIDNAPPED 20 YEARS AGO PRAY FOR FAMILY TO RECONNECT SOON

The parents of two children who were kidnapped in Tennessee 20 years ago and found in San Jose on Monday pleaded with their now-adult children to contact them and the rest of their family.Mark and Debbie Baskin showed pictures of their extended family and their youngest two children in an attempt to encourage contact with their eldest son and daughter, who they have not seen in two decades.”We are all praying that you will want to talk to us,” Mark Baskin said.Christi and Bobby Baskin, who are now known by their aliases Jennifer and Jonathan Bunting, were 8 years old and 7 years old, respectively, when their maternal grandparents took them from Tennessee to live in San Jose, according to investigators.Marvin Maple and his wife Sandra in 1988 accused their daughter Debbie and son-in-law Mark of abusing the children.Mark was working on his masters in theology at the time, Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Dan Goodwin said.The Maples were awarded temporary custody of Bobby and Christie while the situation was sorted out, but the investigation did not turn up evidence of abuse, according to Goodwin.A few weeks before a court date to turn the children back over to their parents, the Maples allegedly put their house on the market and fled Tennessee with Bobby and Christi on March 1, 1989.”When they found out the legal system was going to give (the children) back, they decided to steal their own grandchildren,” Goodwin said.A warrant was issued for Maple, who took on the name John Bunting, and his wife Sandra. Christi and Bobby became Jennifer and Jonathan Bunting.Rutherford County sheriff’s investigators collected evidence and involved the FBI in the search for the children. Segments on “America’s Most Wanted” and “Unsolved Mysteries” turned up few leads, Goodwin said.Then, the July 2007 creation of a cold case investigations unit at the sheriff’s office brought new life to the case. It was reopened in the fall of 2007.The Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a call late last year that Bobby and Christi were seen with their grandfather in San Diego, Goodwin said. Sandra Maple had died in 2005, investigators said.Pitching the story to a San Diego paper in January resulted in a front-page article about the kidnapping. Bobby and his grandfather read the article online and told people they know how mad they were about the story, Goodwin said.Rutherford County investigators, who had received an anonymous tip from someone in San Jose who “put two and two together,” contacted San Jose police Monday, Goodwin said.The anonymous caller, who San Jose police Chief Rob Davis called a “hero,” told investigators the kidnapper is named John, drives a green van and frequents a cafe on the corner of Santa Teresa Boulevard and Bernal Road in South San Jose.Further investigation led San Jose police to a condominium in the 7000 block of Banff Spring Court. Maple was arrested from his home, where Christi also lives. Bobby, now married, also lives in the area.The children, now 28 and 27 years old, call Maple their father, Goodwin said.During interviews, Maple admitted his identity. He was arrested
and on Thursday waived extradition back to Tennessee. He will be leaving on his return to the state today, Davis said.When police arrived at Maple’s home Monday, Christi was home.”She is very upset,” Goodwin said. Investigators have not talked with Bobby, and neither of the children has talked to Debbie and Mark Baskin.During a news conference today at the San Jose Police Department, Debbie and Mark used the cameras and reporters crowded around them to plead with their children.”We mainly want to let our children know that we love them,” Debbie Baskin said.Mark Baskin showed a picture of his two younger sons and read messages each had written for their long-lost brother and sister to hear.Bobby and Christi’s brother Michael, who was 5 years old when the two were kidnapped, sent with his parents a Spiderman figure Bobby had given him when the two were children.”It helped me remember you,” Michael’s message read. “I hope you will be able to see me.” Goodwin said the Christi is overwhelmed and said he hopes the children will soon be able to see their biological family.”We’re hopeful that they will listen to their parents’ plea,” he said.An investigation into the kidnapping case will continue in Tennessee, and investigators were wary of giving too many details about the case in fear of tainting a possible trial.If convicted of the felony charges he faces, Maple would be sentenced according to 1989 guidelines, Goodwin said.

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Feb 6, 2009 MARTINEZ: SUSPECT IN 2007 RICHMOND DONUT SHOP MURDER ARRAIGNED

A 19-year-old Richmond resident was arraigned today on charges that he murdered a man in front of a donut shop in the city in 2007 after the two got into an argument over a small marijuana deal.Eugene Lunnie, who police have alleged is a Central Richmond gang member, is also charged with an enhancement for using a gun to kill 24-year-old Jermaine Lewis on June 14, 2007.Lunnie did not enter a plea today because he didn’t have an attorney. The judge referred him to the public defender’s office.He remained in custody today and his bail has been set at $2 million.The shooting happened shortly before 3 p.m. in front of multiple witnesses, police said at the time, but nobody wanted to talk to investigators.Police continued to work on the case and have since uncovered new information linking Lunnie to the killing,Richmond police Detective Eric Haupt said Thursday after prosecutors filed charges in the case. Just before the shooting, Lunnie and Lewis had allegedly gotten into an argument over a small marijuana transaction in front of Lee’s Donut Shop in the 1100 block of MacDonald Avenue, police said.The argument escalated into a small physical altercation and then Lunnie left, “which is when we believe he got the gun,” Haupt said. When Lunnie returned a short time later, he and Lewis allegedly got into a brief struggle over the gun. When Lewis tried to run away, Lunnie allegedly shot him several times, Haupt said. Lewis stumbled into the donut shop, where he collapsed and died, Haupt said.The main witness to the shooting was reluctant to talk to investigators and then three days after the killing he was severely beaten in Pittsburg, Haupt said.”The guy was beaten so bad we thought he was going to die,” Haupt said, but he eventually recovered.Police have not been able to connect the beating with the fact that the man had witnessed the killing. Lunnie is scheduled to return to court to be assigned and attorney and enter a plea Feb. 19.

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Feb 6, 2009 SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO CONSTRUCTION WORKER BURGLAR ALLEGEDLY LEAVES SLEDGEHAMMER BEHIND WITH HIS NAME

An officer in South San Francisco made quick work tracking down a San Bruno burglar Thursday, after he left a sledgehammer with his name on it in a vehicle he broke into, according to police.Police Sgt. Mindy Lopez responded to 670 Gateway Blvd. at about 1:30 p.m. to investigate two vehicle burglaries that occurred overnight, according to the South San Francisco Police Department.Construction worker Jerry O’Grady, 46, was identified as a suspect when Lopez located a sledgehammer in one of the burglarized vehicles with the name “Jerry O’Grady” written on it, according to police. A review of the suspect’s criminal record showed O’Grady was on active probation with San Mateo County law enforcement, allowing Lopez to conduct a probation search at his home, police reported. Stolen property from the burglarized vehicles was allegedly located throughout the residence.
O’Grady was arrested for burglary and possession of stolen property and booked at San Mateo County Jail, according to police.

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Feb 6 2009 SANTA ROSA: TWO ARRESTED AFTER BEATING A MAN’S HEAD WITH A CROWBAR

Two men were arrested for attempted murder and attempted robbery in Santa Rosa this week after they allegedly beat a man repeatedly with a crowbar, according to police.Officers responded to Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa on Jan. 28 at about 6:10 p.m. where a reported assault victim with major head injuries was admitted for treatment, according to the Santa Rosa Police Department.The 54-year-old Santa Rosa man told police that two acquaintances claiming he owed them property arrived at his house at about 5 p.m. while he was at home with his wife, according to police.The suspects, identified as Jeremy Lucas Dorough, 33, of Kenwood, and Billy Joel Cuda, 31, of Santa Rosa, allegedly threatened the man, restrained him and beat his head with a crowbar until he lost consciousness, police reported.When the victim eventually regained consciousness, he said he was kicked and struck on his head again several times with the metal instrument, sustaining skull fractures and other head injuries, according to police.During their investigation, officers were able to confirm the identities of suspects Dorough and Cuda, and police reported arresting Dorough at his home on Wednesday. Detectives on the Santa Rosa police Crimes Investigations Team were credited with taking Cuda into custody at his home the following day.Both men were charged with attempted murder and robbery, and Cuda with additional charges stemming from parole violations, according to police.The assault victim has since been released from the hospital, police reported.

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Feb 6, 2009 DUBLIN MEHSERLE SURRENDERS HIS GUNS TO BE RELEASED ON BAIL

Former Bay Area Rapid Transit police Officer Johannes Mehserle, who faces murder charges for the shooting death of Oscar Grant III early on New Year’s Day, was released from custody today on $3 million bail, according to Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. J.D. Nelson. Nelson said Mehserle, 27, was released from the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin at 3:45 p.m.Based on videos and other evidence, Mehserle is charged with murder for allegedly shooting Grant, a 22-year-old Hayward man who has a criminal record but was unarmed at the time, in the back as Grant lay face down on the platform at the Fruitvale station in Oakland shortly after 2 a.m. on Jan. 1.Mehserle and other BART police officers were responding to reports that two groups of young men were fighting on a train.Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson said at a hearing on Jan. 30 that Mehserle is eligible for bail but said he set it at $3 million because he wants to make sure that Mehserle appears at all his court hearings.Jacobson told Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains, “If he makes bail he is not to possess or control any firearms, bullets, weapons or other dangerous weapons.”Rains told Jacobson that Mehserle owns two handguns.A court document filed by Rains that was made available about 3:30 p.m. today says that on Tuesday Rains designated David Trumbull to have power of attorney to transfer Mehserle’s weapons. The power of attorney form was witnessed by a notary public.In a form signed on Thursday, Trumbull said Mehserle surrendered a .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol and a .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol. Trumbull also listed their model numbers and serial numbers.Trumbull said the firearms belonging to Mehserle were transferred to his possession on Wednesday.Mehserle had been in custody since he was arrested in the Zephyr Cove area of Lake Tahoe, Nev., on Jan. 13.Alameda County Deputy District Attorney John Creighton said in a court filing that Mehserle “quit his job and disappeared from the area without explanation” after the incident at the Fruitvale station, but Rains said at the bail hearing last week that Mehserle “moved on a daily basis so he wouldn’t be killed” because he and his family have received a number of death threats.Rains said Mehserle “was in constant contact with his attorney” at the time and his attorney in turn was in contact with law enforcement officials. In his own court filing asking for bail for Mehserle, Rains said Mehserle “simply wishes to be released from a small, windowless room he occupies on a daily basis for 23 hours in order to re-unite with his family and be able to effectively prepare for the defense of this matter.”Rains said that Mehserle became a father to his first child the day after the Fruitvale station incident.The defense attorney said, “He and the baby’s mother had planned, and still plan, to marry.” Mehserle is scheduled to return to court on Feb. 13 for a hearing on a gag order that Jacobson imposed last Friday.On March 23 Mehserle is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing aimed at determining if there’s enough evidence to order him to stand trial.

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