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Category: Central California

Sex offender's words to therapist cannot be used as evidence

A sex offender’s private communications with his psychotherapist generally may not be used as evidence to commit him to a mental institution as a sexually violent predator, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday.

In a decision written by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the state high court said a trial judge erred by ordering a therapist to disclose statements made by a parolee during state-required therapy.

The therapist testified at a trial to determine whether Ramiro Gonzales, a Santa Clara County sex offender, was a violent predator who should be indefinitely confined to a state mental hospital. The therapist disclosed that Gonzales had admitted to molesting 16 children and that alcohol made it difficult for him to control his urges.

Although the therapist’s testimony should not have been admitted, the court found that it was not pivotal to a jury’s decision that Gonzales was a predator and that he should remain confined while pressing other appeals.

ALSO:

Grand jury investigates missing San Marino couple

Rockefeller impostor deceived and murdered, prosecutors claim

L.A. prosecutors could be forced to act if Clark Rockefeller is freed in kidnapping

-- Maura Dolan in San Francisco

$4 million in pot found on Santa Barbara County beach is probed

Photo: Santa Barbara County sheriff's officials released images of the seized boat and marijuana as part of their news release about the seizure.

This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.

Santa Barbara County officials were trying to determine Monday how $4 million in marijuana ended up on a local beach.

An estimated 2,000 pounds of marijuana wrapped in plastic bags was found Sunday at Arroyo Quemada Beach. Santa Barbara County sheriff's officials "located an apparently abandoned 30-foot Panga-style boat with two outboard engines and more than 20 fuel containers on board," the sheriff's department said in a statement.

"Sheriff’s detectives located a significant amount of evidence that was consistent with marijuana smuggling activities, including trash and debris that was strewn about the beach and nearby coastal access trails," officials said in the statement.

It was the second big pot discovery this month in Santa Barbara County. Earlier this month, marijuana with an estimated value of at least $1 million was discovered Thursday near a boat that had crashed on a beach near Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The marijuana was found near an overturned boat north of Wall Beach and was removed by Homeland Security investigators.

[For the record, March 18, 8:28 a.m.: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the site where the marijuana was found as Arroyo Camada Beach; it was at Arroyo Quemada Beach.]

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USC student killed in suspected DUI accident in South L.A.

Bill could extend last call for alcohol to 4 a.m. in some cities

Lindsay Lohan finds herself back on trial, this time for lying

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Santa Barbara County sheriff's officials released images of the seized boat and marijuana as part of their news release about the seizure. Credit: Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office

Fresno State students to face charges in hazing death

Charges filed in Fresno State hazing death

Three Fresno State students could face up to a year in jail if they are convicted in connection with a fraternity hazing that caused the death of an 18-year-old freshman, according to authorities.

Philip Dhanens died of alcohol poisoning the night of Aug. 31 after he and 14 other fraternity pledges were locked in a room and told they could not leave until they had consumed bottles of tequila, rum and vodka, Fresno police said.

During the investigation, Theta Chi fraternity members evaded detectives' questions. Police said they feared the fraternity might hide or destroy evidence, and searched the house.

On Tuesday, the Fresno County district attorney said at a news conference that Aaron Joseph Raymond, 24, Leonard Louis Serrato, 28, and Daniel Woodard Baker, 22, will each face hazing charges and also misdemeanor charges for providing alcohol to minors.
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High-profile cases converge on L.A. courthouse's 9th floor

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter

The 9th floor of Los Angeles’ downtown criminal courthouse always sees a lot of activity, but right now four high-profile cases are going on there at the same time, which is almost unprecedented.

Jurors in Judge Kathleen Kennedy’s Department 109 courtroom began their 12th day of deliberations Monday in the corruption trial of six Bell council members accused of illegally boosting their salaries to more than $100,000 a year.

In nearby Department 105, prosecutors and defense lawyers are just beginning to pick a jury for two accused gang members charged with fatally shooting 5-year-old Aaron Shannon Jr. in South Los Angeles, where he was playing in a backyard dressed in his Spider-Man costume on Halloween.

Leonard Hall Jr. and Marcus Denson, accused members of the Kitchen Crips gang, each face a murder charge and two counts of willful attempted murder of the boy's uncle and grandfather. More than 100 jurors are expected to be vetted in the coming week.

But that is not the most high-profile murder case that began Monday.

In Department 107, prosecutors are hoping the jurors selected will bring closure to a three-decade-old murder mystery they say is the work of a man born in a German village who took on many names before becoming the self-proclaimed Boston socialite "Clark Rockefeller."

Jury selection got underway Monday in the case of Christian Gerthartsreiter for the 1985 slaying of John Sohus. The attorneys Monday began reviewing potential jurors for the four- to five-week trial but did not expect to begin actual selection until Friday.

Sohus went missing in 1985 along with his wife, Linda. At the time of the disappearance, a man authorities say is Gerhartsreiter lived in the San Marino guest house owned by Sohus' mother under the alias Christopher Chichester.

Chichester claimed to be a British aristocrat with a love of film, worked on a local cable TV show and hung out at USC's film school. He disappeared shortly after Sohus and his wife vanished in 1985, and Sohus' mother would tell friends they had gone a secret mission. Postcards arrived from Paris supposedly from Linda Sohus.

But nine years later, as a new owner of the Sohus property on Lorain Road dug a swimming pool dug in the backyard, a bag of bones was uncovered. San Marino police and coroner's identified them as those of John Sohus. Gerhartsreiter, 52, remains a suspect in Linda Sohus' disappearance but has never been charged with the crime.

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Lion attack: Visitors return to cat sanctuary where intern died

Visitors are returning to a wild cat sanctuary in Fresno County, where an intern was killed when a lion attacked her in the park.

About two dozen people joined stricken staff members of Project Survival’s Cat Haven in a moment of silence Sunday for Diana Hanson, whose life passion was working with big cats.

Hanson, 26, was killed at the Dunlap park Wednesday, when a 4-year-old male lion named Cous Cous attacked her. Another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, but by the time authorities reached Hanson, she was dead. The cat was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies.

During Sunday’s gathering, the haven's founder Dale Anderson reiterated remarks he made earlier at a news conference that the staff who raised the lion Cous Cous since he was a cub had found no fault with deputies' shooting the animal to get to Hanson.

"People want to put Cous Cous in the same category as her and it’s not the same," he said. "But I'm going to miss my boy."

Members of Hanson’s family have said they believe her death was an accident. A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and “some suffocation,” said Fresno County Coroner David Hadden.

The neck injury appeared to have come from a swipe of the lion’s paw. The body had “numerous claw marks and bite damage” elsewhere, probably inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.

Project Survival's Cat Haven houses lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars in enclosures on a boulder-strewn hillside about half a mile off the main road to Kings Canyon National Park. The nonprofit sanctuary, which raises money for conservation causes, gets about 10,000 visitors a year.

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Two men lose legs in downtown strip club fight

San Diego man mourned after sailboat-race death

Truck crashes into downtown building, killing 1, injuring others

-- Diana Marcum in Dunlap

Lion attack: Fresno County cat sanctuary reopens to public

Tiger

A Fresno County wild cat sanctuary reopened to the public Sunday for the first time since intern Diana Hanson was killed when a lion attacked her at the park last week.

At noon, about two dozen visitors joined stricken staff members of Project Survival’s Cat Haven in a moment of silence for the young woman whose life passion was working with big cats.

Hanson, 26, was killed at the Dunlap park Wednesday, when a 4-year-old male lion named Cous Cous attacked her. Another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, but by the time authorities reached Hanson, she was dead. The cat was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies.

During Sunday’s gathering, the haven's founder Dale Anderson reiterated remarks he made earlier at a news conference that the staff who raised the lion Cous Cous since he was a cub had found no fault with deputies' shooting the animal to get to Hanson.

"People want to put Cous Cous in the same category as her and it’s not the same," he said. "But I'm going to miss my boy."

Members of Hanson’s family have said they believe her death was an accident.

A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and “some suffocation,” said Fresno County Coroner David Hadden. The neck injury appeared to have come from a swipe of the lion’s paw.

The body had “numerous claw marks and bite damage” elsewhere, probably inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.

Project Survival's Cat Haven houses lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars in enclosures on a boulder-strewn hillside about half a mile off the main road to Kings Canyon National Park. The nonprofit sanctuary, which raises money for conservation causes, gets about 10,000 visitors a year.

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S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

Scattered showers, thunderstorms expected across Southland

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

-- Diana Marcum in Dunlap

Photo: Morgan Cabral, 8, watches leopards while holding a toy tiger he bought at Project Survival's Cat Haven in Dunlap on Sunday. The park reopened for the first time after an intern was killed by a lion last week. Credit: Diana Marcum / Los Angeles Times

Lion attack: Fresno County cat sanctuary set to reopen Sunday

The Fresno County cat sanctuary where an intern was killed by a lion last week was scheduled to reopen to the public Sunday, officials said.

Dianna Hanson, 26, was killed at Project Survival’s Cat Haven in Dunlap on Wednesday, when a 4-year-old male lion named Cous Cous attacked her. Another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, but by the time authorities reached Hanson, she was dead. The cat was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies.

The park was scheduled to reopen to visitors at 10 a.m. At noon, Hanson will be honored with a moment of silence at the facility. All sanctuary volunteers will be wearing T-shirts honoring Hanson and Cous Cous.

Members of Hanson’s family have said they believe her death was an accident.

A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and “some suffocation,” said Fresno County Coroner David Hadden. The neck injury appeared to have come from a swipe of the lion’s paw.

The body had “numerous claw marks and bite damage” elsewhere, probably inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.

Project Survival's Cat Haven houses lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars in enclosures on a boulder-strewn hillside about half a mile off the main road to Kings Canyon National Park. The nonprofit sanctuary, which raises money for conservation causes, gets about 10,000 visitors a year.

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

Scattered showers, thunderstorms expected across Southland

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

-- Diana Marcum in Dunlap

Lion killed woman by accident, family believes

The lion that killed a 24-year-old intern at a Fresno County wild cat park probably killed the woman by accident, her family said.

Diana Hanson's family said that to their knowledge all safety rules were followed.

"It sounds like it was an accident, maybe the latch had not been completely closed. ... You know, house cats are smart, they can open doors," her brother Paul Hanson told the Associated Press. "It wasn't a vicious attack ... because you would expect severe lacerations and biting on the neck and that was not the case."


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/03/08/4109200/family-death-of-woman-in-lion.html#storylink=cpy
 Fresno County Coroner David Hadden said Hanson's body was found in a larger enclosure that the intern had been cleaning. The lion --  a 4-year-old male named Cous Cous -- had just been fed in a smaller enclosure and somehow "escaped," Hadden said.

Dale Anderson, the founder of Project Survival's Cat Haven, declined to answer questions about how the attack happened when he toured the Dunlap facility with reporters Thursday. But a close look at the enclosure showed that the den where the lion was being fed was separated from the larger enclosure by a heavy gate that could only be lifted up.

During the attack, officials said, another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, to no avail. Sheriff's deputies arrived and fatally shot the animal. By the time rescuers reached Hanson, she was mortally wounded.

A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and "some suffocation," Hadden said. The neck injury appeared to come from a swipe from the lion's paw. The body had "numerous claw marks and bite damage" elsewhere, probably  inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.

An investigation into the incident by the Fresno County Sheriff's Department and other agencies is ongoing.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is looking into whether there might have been any violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, although a spokesman said the last 10 federal inspections of the park found no violations and no penalties or enforcement actions issued.

Cal/OSHA investigators were at the park Wednesday and requested more information about employee procedures and training, said Peter Melton, an agency spokesman.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife plans to examine samples taken from the lion, looking for any underlying conditions or health issues that might have contributed to the attack, said Janice Mackey, a department spokeswoman. Results were expected in the coming weeks.

Project Survival's Cat Haven houses lions, tigers, cheetahs and jaguars in enclosures on a boulder-strewn hillside about half a mile off the main road to Kings Canyon National Park. The nonprofit sanctuary, which raises money for conservation causes, gets about 10,000 visitors a year. According to the organization's website, Cat Haven raises big cats and "promotes the conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitat by educating visitors."

For Hanson, getting an internship at the 100-acre park was the culmination of a lifelong love of big cats, friends and family members said.

As a young girl, she drew pictures of tigers and told people she wanted to be a "pet store lady" or zookeeper. After graduating from college, she moved to Kenya to work at a wildlife conservancy. Then on Jan. 1, the 24-year-old and her father drove from Washington to Dunlap,  where Hanson began a six-month internship at Cat Haven.

"She was living her dream," said her older brother, Paul Hanson. "She was living her destiny as far as being able to work with those animals. That was what she wanted in life."

The park will be closed for the length of the investigation, authorities said. Officials there were shaken by the events.

"She was doing what she loved, and she did it with joy every day that she worked here," park President Wendy Dabbas said Thursday night, breaking into sobs. "I'm so sorry that this happened."

ALSO:

S.F. bicyclist to be tried for gross vehicular manslaughter

Scattered showers, thunderstorms expected across Southland

Marijuana worth $1 million found on beach near Vandenberg AFB

-- Kate Mather in Los Angeles and Diana Marcum in Dunlap

Magistrate recommends release of inmate in triple murder arson case

Aleka Pantazis
A federal magistrate has recommended the release of a prison inmate serving life without parole for a triple murder arson, ruling the man received a “fundamentally unfair” trial because of his lawyer’s “unprofessional” conduct and failure to mount an adequate defense.

The magistrate’s 93-page decision followed a ruling last year that the inmate, George Souliotes, 72, had proved “actual innocence” and that no reasonable juror would have convicted him given the state of the evidence today.

The scientific testimony used to convict Souliotes in the deadly 1997 house fire has since been discredited, and prosecutors have conceded they cannot prove whether the blaze was deliberate or accidental.

Souliotes, a Greek immigrant who walks with a cane and suffers from poor health, has been behind bars for 16 years for killing Michelle Jones, 31, and her children, Daniel Jones Jr., 8, and Amanda, 3, in a fire at a Modesto house Souliotes rented to them.

In ruling for Souliotes, U.S. Magistrate Michael J. Seng said the performance of Souliotes’ lawyer severely undermined the court’s confidence in the verdict. Prosecutors sought the death penalty for Souliotes during two trials.

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Lion attack: Cat 'escaped' into larger cage where intern killed

The lion that killed a 24-year-old intern at a Fresno County wild cat park appears to have "escaped" a smaller enclosure prior to the fatal attack, the county coroner said.

Details into the death of Dianna Hanson on Wednesday are sparse, but Fresno County Coroner David Hadden said the woman's body was found in a larger enclosure that the intern had been cleaning. The lion --  a 4-year-old male named Cous Cous -- had just been fed in a smaller enclosure and somehow "escaped," Hadden said.

Dale Anderson, the founder of Project Survival's Cat Haven, declined to answer questions about how the attack happened when he toured the Dunlap facility with reporters Thursday. But a close look at the enclosure showed that the den where the lion was being fed was separated from the larger enclosure by a heavy gate that could only be lifted up.

During the attack, officials said, another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, to no avail. Sheriff's deputies arrived and fatally shot the animal. By the time rescuers reached Hanson, she was mortally wounded.

A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and "some suffocation," Hadden said. The neck injury appeared to come from a swipe from the lion's paw. The body had "numerous claw marks and bite damage" elsewhere, likely inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.

An investigation into the incident by the Fresno County Sheriff's Department and other agencies is ongoing.

Continue reading »
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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