Latest California news, sports, business and entertainment

CITY CORRUPTION-TAX FRAUD

Ex-city manager agrees to plead guilty in tax case

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The disgraced former city manager of the Los Angeles suburb of Bell has agreed to plead guilty to charges that he filed a false federal income-tax return to illegally reduce his tax liability.

Federal prosecutors say a plea agreement filed Thursday shows Robert Rizzo agreed to plead guilty to one count each of conspiracy and filing a false federal income-tax return. He faces up to eight years in prison.

The 59-year-old Rizzo admitted he created a corporation to fraudulently claim losses on his income-tax return. The losses to the Internal Revenue Service totaled more than $300,000.

Rizzo pleaded no contest in October to 69 counts of fraud, misappropriation of public funds and other charges for allegedly orchestrating a brazen corruption scandal that drove Bell to the brink of bankruptcy.

CROSS DISPUTE

Judge orders removal of San Diego war cross

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge in San Diego says a 43-foot war memorial cross must be removed from the top of a mountain in 90 days because it violates the principle of separation of church and state.

U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said Thursday that it's time for the long-running case to end.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that the cross atop Mount Soledad violated the Constitution. After the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the case went back to Burns to consider any alternatives.

Burns says it might have been a closer call if the federal government was on the verge of transferring the property to a private owner. He says the order to remove the cross would be put on hold if there is an appeal.

OC REGISTER-LOS ANGELES

Orange County Register owner plans daily LA paper

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The parent company of the Orange County Register is looking to further expand its regional reach by launching a new daily newspaper in Los Angeles.

Aaron Kushner, the CEO of Freedom Communications, told The Associated Press on Thursday night that the new paper will be known as the Los Angeles Register.

Kushner didn't give many specifics about plans for the paper, but he says it will be launched "quickly," produced seven days a week, and widely distributed in Los Angeles County.

Kushner says the paper will share Orange County Register content in sports and other areas with region-wide relevance, but he emphasized it will be a distinct entity with a Los Angeles office and a staff made up of existing Register employees and new hires.

7-ELEVEN KILLING-ARRESTS

4 suspects in Calif. 7-Eleven killing

(Information in the following story is from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com)

MILPITAS, Calif. (AP) — Four suspects have been arrested in the killing of a convenience store clerk in Northern California during a robbery that netted just $200.

Milpitas Police Sgt. Gene Smith says 67-year-old Mohammad Reza Sadeghzadeh was attacked inside a 7-Eleven in Milpitas at about 2 a.m. on Sept. 8, 2012.

Smith says video surveillance showed three men with handguns enter the store in hooded shirts and masks.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the suspects — Delmon Armstead, Jerry Coneal, Warner Travis, all 19, and 20-year-old Bianca Barrow — were arrested on suspicion of murder and second-degree robbery.

Coneal and Armstead were 17 at the time but are being prosecuted as adults, police said.

HIGHWAY CLOSURE

Driver arrested in fatal CA crash on I-580

(Information in the following story is from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com)

LIVERMORE, Calif. (AP) — A driver who rear-ended another driver on Interstate 580 in Livermore has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Creel says the collision happened just after 10 a.m. Thursday when 53-year-old Primitivo Garcia failed to slow his Hummer for traffic and rear-ended a Jeep, causing the Jeep to burst into flames in the westbound lanes near North Livermore Avenue.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the driver of the Jeep has died. His name has not been released.

Garcia is being held at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.

The eastbound lanes were shut down but reopened about an hour and a half later. Two westbound lanes reopened after that.

CAL POLY-MENINGITIS

Cal Poly is 3rd state school with meningitis case

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — A student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has viral meningitis, making the school the third state university to report a case in recent months.

The university said in a statement that the student, who lives off campus, was diagnosed Thursday and is receiving treatment.

School health staffers are notifying others who may have been in contact with the student, but say it appears to be an isolated case that doesn't pose a major risk to the rest of the campus.

No details about the student or the severity of the case were released.

Four students were diagnosed with meningitis last month at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where a freshman lacrosse player had both feet amputated.

And UC Riverside announced this week that a staffer has the disease.

CALIFORNIA JAILS-GRANTS

15 Calif. counties may share $500M to build jails

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Fifteen counties are in line to split $500 million in state-issued bonds to upgrade jails and build classrooms for inmate rehabilitation programs.

The Board of State and Community Corrections announced Thursday that it will vote on allocating the money next month.

A committee recommended the 15 counties from among 36 proposals.

For the first time, the counties had to detail how part of the money would be used for efforts to keep offenders from committing new crimes.

The proposed allocations are: Tuolumne, $20 million; Napa, $13.5 million; Kings, $20 million; Shasta, $20 million; Lake, $20 million; Tehama, $6.5 million; Santa Cruz, $24.6 million; Santa Barbara, $39 million; Solano, $23 million; Tulare, $40 million; San Joaquin, $33.3 million; San Mateo, $24.4 million; Fresno, $79 million; Orange, $80 million; Sacramento, $56.4 million.

DEADLY BREAKUP

Jurors reach penalty decision in OC killings

(Information in the following story is from: The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com)

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — An Orange County jury has reached a verdict on whether to recommend death or life in prison for a man who killed his ex-girlfriend's father and sister and slashed her mother's throat.

The Orange County Register says a Superior Court jury reached the verdict on Thursday but the judge postponed its reading until next Monday.

Iftekhar Murtaza of Los Angeles was convicted last month of murder and other crimes.

Authorities say Murtaza killed the relatives of Shayona Dhanak in 2007 after she blamed her decision to break up on her Hindu family's objection to Dhanak dating a Muslim.

Prosecutors said Murtaza attacked Dhanak's mother, who survived, torched the family's home in the Anaheim Hills, and killed Dhanak's father and sister, whose burned bodies were found in a park.

USED CAR-FRAUD

CA car dealer to be sentenced for $1 million fraud

SUNNYVALE, Calif. (AP) — A luxury used car dealer in Northern California faces prison time after pleading no contest to defrauding customers of more than $1 million in cash and cars.

Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Georg Behrens says 50-year-old Wisal Ameen, also known as Andy Paul, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26 for grand theft, conspiracy, passing insufficient funds checks, and money laundering.

Behrens says Ameen, who ran Sunnyvale Motorcars, would promise to pay sellers after he sold their cars for them, but instead he would pocket the money he received.

To car buyers, he would falsely promise to pay off the prior owner and facilitate title transfers, Behrens says, leaving them without the titles to the cars they had purchased.

It was not immediately clear whether Ameen had a lawyer.

He is being held in lieu of $400,000 bail.

FRAT PARTY FUROR

Central Cal frat party didn't violate policies

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — A Central California university says an off-campus fraternity party with the theme "Colonial Bros and Nava-Hos" (Brohs and Nah-vuh-HOHZ') was offensive but didn't violate any campus policies.

The Nov. 16 party was held away from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. It urged women to wear racy attire with a Native American theme and sparked complaints that it was sexist and ethnically offensive.

The San Luis Obispo Tribune this week says university President Jeff Armstrong released results of a campus review that found no policy violations.

However, Armstrong's letter to the campus community calls the party behavior "deplorable" and says the school will try to address sensitivity and diversity issues.

Similar theme parties held by fraternities from Harvard and elsewhere have drawn similar criticism.

PRECIOUS GEM HEIST

5th man sentenced in 2012 museum robbery

(Information in the following story is from: Merced Sun-Star, http://www.mercedsun-star.com)

MARIPOSA, Calif. (AP) — The fifth man convicted in the brazen robbery of $1.3 million worth of gold, gems and artifacts from a California state museum last year has been sentenced to five years and four months in prison.

Judge Wayne Parrish handed down the sentence Tuesday to 44-year-old Christopher Scott Sheffield, one of five men convicted in the Sept. 28, 2012, heist of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum. The museum houses 13,000 artifacts dating back to the 1800s, including a 14-pound gold nugget called the Fricot Nugget that the thieves unsuccessfully tried to steal.

The Merced Sun Star reports that the other men — Michael Anthony Gomes; Edward Rushing III; Matthew Campbell; and Jonathan Matis — will also serve time ranging from less than a year to 15 years.

OFFSHORE FRACKING-CALIFORNIA

Dozens of groups call for offshore fracking halt

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — More than 150 environmental groups are asking California coastal regulators to halt offshore fracking, saying the practice violates state law.

Wetsuit-clad demonstrators holding surfboards submitted the letter to the California Coastal Commission on Thursday before its meeting in San Francisco.

Fracking involves pumping huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals into deep rock formations or old wells to release oil or natural gas.

While the state oversees oil wells, there have not been specific rules governing fracking.

Recent reports by The Associated Press documented hundreds of hydraulic fracturing jobs in the Santa Barbara Channel, the site of a disastrous 1969 oil spill that spurred the modern environmental movement, and other nearshore waters.

The coastal commission has launched an investigation into the extent of fracking in federal and state waters.