Calif. retrial begins in battle for giant emerald
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A dispute over an 840-pound emerald has been renewed in a Los Angeles courtroom with a judge trying to decide if a businessman is the rightful owner to the gem that has been appraised at $372 million.
City News Service says an attorney representing one of three parties staking claim to the rare Bahia emerald made his arguments Monday in a non-jury retrial. Lawyer Steven Smith says his client Anthony Thomas paid $60,000 for the emerald but he never received the jewel and thought it had been stolen.
A judge in April 2011 tentatively dismissed Thomas' claim, saying his story was simply not credible. The judge was later sworn in as a federal district judge and replaced by the current judge who wanted to hear the case himself and make an independent ruling.
Crews gain ground on Camp Pendleton wildfire
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — All evacuation orders have been lifted at Camp Pendleton in Southern California, where firefighters gained ground on a wildfire that has burned nearly 4 square miles of dry brush.
The blaze at the Marine Corps coastal base was 41 percent contained as the fire danger subsided with calmer winds Monday. A statement from the base said officials expect to contain the fire by Tuesday.
Base officials said about 230 residents were allowed to return to their housing unit near Lake O'Neil Sunday evening.
About 40 miles to the north, a fire sparked in a mulch pile at a nursery near Santiago Canyon in Orange County prompted the evacuation of 23 residents on Sunday. It was 50 percent contained on Monday. Full containment is expected by Wednesday.
CA jury recommends death penalty in widow slaying
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California jury has recommended the death penalty for a 28-year-old man convicted of raping and killing an 84-year-old widow.
The jury made its recommendation in an Orange County courtroom Monday. Anthony Darnell Wade was found guilty in September of murder, rape, torture and other charges in the death of Bessie Mae Whyman. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 12.
Prosecutors say Wade entered the widow's Anaheim home through a broken window in January 2010 and stabbed her with knives and a saw.
After killing Whyman and stealing her car, Wade was arrested hours later by San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies after he tried to buy about $400 worth of merchandise at a supermarket with one of her credit cards.
PIT BULL ATTACK
Pit bull attacks 2 kids in CA, killed by neighbor
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — Two children are recovering after they were bitten by a pit bull that was shot and killed by a neighbor after the attack.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports the incident occurred Sunday in San Bernardino. The kids suffered minor injuries and were released from a hospital.
The children were rescued by a neighbor who saw the attack, ran out and scared the dog away.
Police say the dog came back and growled and lunged at the neighbor who grabbed a shotgun and killed the animal.
No charges were expected against the neighbor, but authorities say they are investigating the animal's owner to determine how the dog got loose and whether neglect was involved.
Report: USC, Occidental underreported sex assaults
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Officials at University of Southern California and Occidental College say they have underreported the number of campus sexual assaults in recent years that is a potential violation of federal law and could lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties.
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that USC hadn't reported 13 cases to federal officials for 2010 and 2011, while Occidental acknowledged it failed to include 24 reports during the same time frame.
Colleges are required to report campus crime statistics to the U.S Department of Education under a 1990 law.
Women at USC, Occidental and other colleges have filed complaints with the federal agency, claiming administrators discouraged them from reporting sexual attacks or downplayed the severity of the incidents.
Audit finds LAPD lax in first aid, CPR retraining
LOS ANGELES (AP) — An audit says the Los Angeles Police Department has been failing to provide first aid and CPR retraining courses for thousands of its officers.
The report by the Los Angeles Police Commission's Office of Inspector General says the LAPD is very effective when it comes to making sure officers are thoroughly trained with weapons and driving.
But the study dated Oct. 1 and based on a sample of 163 officers says LAPD had a zero compliance rate when making sure officers are up-to-date on first aid techniques.
State law encourages departments to provide regular refresher courses for certain officers in first aid and CPR. At the LAPD, that would cover more than 3,700 officers.
The audit says LAPD recently set up a refresher training program for first aid and CPR to bring itself into compliance.
Calif, battery recycler reach deal on emissions
LOS ANGELES (AP) — State regulators have reached a deal with a Southern California battery recycler accused of releasing toxic air emissions that might have threatened the health of more than 100,000 people.
State and company officials Monday said Exide Technologies agreed to set aside $7.7 million to pay for new filters to lower its emissions and new piping for a storm-water system at its Vernon plant outside Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the money will also fund previously announced tests for lead and arsenic in the soil and dust in the area, as well as voluntary blood tests for people who might have been affected.
The deal means the state will drop its effort to temporarily close the plant. Also, the plan must be approved by a bankruptcy judge.
Former LA union chief sentenced in embezzling case
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The former head of a major Los Angeles union local has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from his labor organization.
Federal prosecutors say 43-year-old Tyrone Freeman was sentenced Monday to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay about $150,000 in restitution. He was convicted in January of 14 various charges, including embezzlement and fraud.
Freeman was president of the Service Employees International Union Local, which represented about 180,000 low-wage workers who provide in-home healthcare services in California's largest union local.
Authorities say Freeman secretly collected $2,500 per month by diverting reimbursement payments and used a union credit card to pay about $8,000 in personal expenses that include bills related to his wedding in Hawaii.
Freeman resigned in 2008.
Jury selection begins in Bell corruption case
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jury selection has opened in the corruption case against former city of Bell official Angela Spaccia, with prospective jurors asked to fill out lengthy questionnaires.
Spaccia was the lone defendant Monday because her boss, former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, entered a surprise plea of no contest to 69 charges last week. He may testify against her.
Spaccia faces 13 counts of misappropriation of funds and conflict of interest in a scandal that brought the small blue collar city to the brink of bankruptcy.
Questionnaires ask jurors what they know about Bell, Rizzo and Spaccia. They are asked their opinions of public officials and whether they would be concerned about public and media reactions to their verdict. A 60-day trial is expected.
POT BAN LAWSUIT
Lawsuit seeks to overturn Calif city pot shop ban
MURRIETA, Calif. (AP) — A lawsuit has been filed to overturn the city of Murrieta's decision to ban medical marijuana dispensaries as well as pot delivery services.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports the suit was filed last week on behalf of the dispensary Compassionate Care Beneficiaries. Murrieta recently approved the ban and joins roughly 200 municipalities in California that prohibit retail pot sales.
The suit seeks an order to set aside the city's decision. It claims the city violated state environmental laws by failing to evaluate the potential impacts of barring dispensaries and forcing residents to drive farther to obtain marijuana.
City officials were emboldened by a California Supreme Court decision earlier this year upholding municipal pot shop bans.