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Hermosa Beach News for 2007

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Top Stories on This Webpage: Starting April 13, 2007

Read the complete news stories, just below on this webpage:


Hermosa signature drive gets cutthroat - Accusations include stalking in fight over parking rule affecting the expansion of Baja Sharkeez.  The popular tavern burned down in May.  Decoys and diversions. Punching and spitting. Surveillance and spying.  It could be an action movie, a screwball comedy or a political farce.  Such were the shenanigans apparently under way in Hermosa Beach this week as one resident rallied voters to oppose a city ordinance that eases parking requirements downtown, and supporters of one Pier Plaza business hustled to keep him from succeeding.  Thursday was activist Jim Lissner's deadline to collect signatures from people opposing a new law that exempts Pier Plaza businesses from providing a certain amount of on-site parking if they pay fees to the city -- an ordinance crucial to an expansion plan for popular tavern Baja Sharkeez that burned down in May.  Lissner had 30 days to gather signatures from 10 percent of the city's voters in hopes of triggering a ballot referendum to repeal the law, but the last leg of the drive has been marked by accusations of high jinks, intimidation and violence from both sides. 

KCBS-TV -- April 10, 2007 - Attempted Rapist Terrifies Beach Community - Hermosa Beach residents are urged to lock their windows and doors after a woman was attacked and nearly raped in her apartment.  Suzie Suh reports.  Aired on KCBS on 4/10/07.

View this KCBS-TV News Story at the following weblink:

http://www.cbs2.com/video/?id=37332@kcbs.dayport.com

 

Hermosa Police Release Sketch Of Man Who Tried To Rape Woman In Home

HBPD Sketch "Composite of Attempt Rape Suspect"  

Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact

the Hermosa Beach Police Department @ (310) 318-0360.

 

Hermosa home intruder described - Police release a sketch of a man who was driven away by the woman he attacked Easter morning.  "The suspect violently punched the victim and attempted to disrobe her," Wolcott said.  The sketch shows a man, either black or mixed race, in his early 20s, with soft, rounded features and smooth skin with no facial hair.  The 28-year-old victim helped police officers and a sketch artist create the drawing in the hope someone can identify him, Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott said.  The attack occurred Sunday as the victim watched television at 2:30 a.m. inside her apartment in the 700 block of Monterey Boulevard. The woman noticed a reflection on her TV screen, turned around and found the man standing there. He apparently entered the woman's home through an unlocked door, police said.  Wolcott said Wednesday that the assailant acted in a focused, deliberate and methodical manner. 

 

Regarding Pier Plaza - Ten Years Later . . .What Are The Results?

 

The result, though, has been an abundance of bars and restaurants that leaves a heavier emphasis on nightlife in town, said Councilman J.R. Reviczky, who voted to create a specific plan years ago.

 

Councilman J.R. Reviczky, "It's a beginning," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, we tried it one way and I think we could have done better. ... The end result was certainly not my vision of what would happen."

 

HB Council seeks more control of Pier Plaza - Majority apparently would like to have greater latitude in determining future businesses in the bustling area.  Hermosa Beach city officials hoped for success when they approved plans more than a decade ago to turn lower Pier Avenue into an open-air piazza decked out with palm trees, metal benches and nautical-style lighting.  And they got what they wanted: Pier Plaza today is a hefty sales tax generator for the city and a bustling hot spot filled with families looking for food and sunshine during the day, and young party animals searching for a drink and a good time at night.  But officials now want more control of the thriving downtown's future. On Tuesday, they initiated the lengthy process of creating a specific plan that will allow the City Council to set special guidelines for development in that area.  A special district would give the city more discretion over the types of businesses permitted in the area, as well as control building and parking standards, said Councilman Michael Keegan, who pitched the plan Tuesday. 

 

 

 Compare the Crime Statistics since the 1997  HB Pier Plaza Renovation for:

 Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and El Segundo

 

Video is key in Hermosa Beach Pier arrest trial - Both police and defendants claim tape aids their case. Man accused of resisting says he feared chokehold would kill him.  One of two men on trial for charges related to a rough arrest on the Hermosa Beach Pier testified Thursday that he feared for his and his friend's safety as police arrested them July 4, 2003.  Justin Thomas, who was 22 at the time, testified that he could neither breathe nor speak while a police officer had him in a chokehold, presumably to arrest him for interfering with officers.  "I began to panic. I felt like I was going to die," said Thomas, who told an Inglewood jury that he started "seeing stars" and that he stretched out his arms and also tapped the Hermosa Beach officer, Landon Phillips, to ask him to stop choking him.  Thomas testified that the officer continued to choke him after he went limp in surrender. The choking stopped, and then started again even though he hadn't moved, he said. He said police officer Jonathan Sibbald kicked him in the head as he lay on the ground in handcuffs. 

 

Hermosa Beach police chief takes aim at troubles - After spending two months sizing things up, the lawman says he's ready to make some changes.  Greg Savelli has spent years restoring an old house in Palm Desert.  As the new chief of Hermosa Beach Police Department, he can reach the property more quickly now than when he worked in Central California.  Slowly and steadily, it will get done.  And that attitude seems to match Savelli's perspective on his new role as leader of Hermosa Beach's law enforcement, and how he will mend a department beleaguered in the past year by internal strife and external attacks.  "I'm being a sponge, taking it all in," Savelli said. "I can't turn things on their end unless I have a plan."  The 47-year-old said he is almost ready to present his plans for the department to the city manager.   Slowly and steadily, it will get done.   Savelli wants to turn around misperceptions outside the walls of the station as well. Some citizens, he said, believe the department serves Pier Plaza at the expense of residential Hermosa Beach. But the new chief insists that's not true -- and he wants to prove it. 

 



The Daily Breeze April 13, 2007

Hermosa signature drive gets cutthroat

 

Accusations include stalking in fight over parking rule affecting the expansion of Baja Sharkeez.  The popular tavern burned down in May.


Staff Writer

Decoys and diversions. Punching and spitting. Surveillance and spying.

It could be an action movie, a screwball comedy or a political farce.

Such were the shenanigans apparently under way in Hermosa Beach this week as one resident rallied voters to oppose a city ordinance that eases parking requirements downtown, and supporters of one Pier Plaza business hustled to keep him from succeeding.

Thursday was activist Jim Lissner's deadline to collect signatures from people opposing a new law that exempts Pier Plaza businesses from providing a certain amount of on-site parking if they pay fees to the city -- an ordinance crucial to an expansion plan for popular tavern Baja Sharkeez that burned down in May.

Lissner had 30 days to gather signatures from 10 percent of the city's voters in hopes of triggering a ballot referendum to repeal the law, but the last leg of the drive has been marked by accusations of high jinks, intimidation and violence from both sides.

Patrons heading into the Vons grocery store on Pier Avenue this week might have found themselves a bit tag-teamed: First, a professional signature gatherer would ask them to sign the petition and then a Sharkeez employee perched nearby would approach and plea the bar's case.

"We're letting them talk and then we're giving our side," Sharkeez owner Greg Newman said. "If we didn't do that, they'd get the signatures in three seconds."

Sharkeez has a similar method for door-to-door signature pitches. Supporters have divided the city into sections to patrol for signature gatherers, volunteer Wendy Jackson said.

Jackson doesn't work at Sharkeez -- she just loves the bar and has friends who work there -- but she and bartender John Candelaria spent Thursday afternoon at the Vons and trolling southwest Hermosa Beach for petitioners.

"We had four Sharkeez people following us around on the weekend," Lissner said. "They were on us like paint."

Lissner said Sharkeez employees twice followed him as far as Playa del Rey over the weekend, and another representative followed a professional petitioner out to Lakewood. They set a trap at a gas station, and caught the whole thing on video, he added.

"I tried to tell them to get it up on YouTube," Lissner said.

Newman called the accusations "total lies," but had some allegations of his own.

A paid signature gatherer this week hit a Sharkeez bartender and scratched his car with a clipboard, Newman said. The petitioner also threatened to beat the pair up if they kept following him, he added.

Lissner was aware of the accusations, but didn't know anything more about the incident, he said.

Newman also suspected his opponents had hired decoys to pose as signature gatherers and lure Sharkeez employees around town.

"It's so ridiculous," Newman said. "If this thing weren't getting over (Thursday), I wouldn't do it anymore. ... I haven't had a day off in two weeks."

The Hermosa Beach Police Department has received telephone calls from residents complaining about the petition antics, but no one has been cited or arrested.

"Our only role is to keep the peace," Sgt. Paul Wolcott said. "And each side obviously has the right to free speech. They have a right to gather signatures for whichever side they want to be on. They can express themselves as long as it doesn't create a criminal act."

Lissner's signature gatherers are independent contractors making $10 a signature, Lissner said.

Dana Point resident Paula Wagner sought signatures outside Vons on Thursday. The day was tame for the most part, although a grocery store patron did spit on a Sharkeez employee, she said.

Wagner took special care to explain to customers what the petition was for, she said. Some other signature gatherers have oversimplified the complicated ordinance, she said, summarizing that the petition would stop Pier Plaza bars from doubling in size.

"We're trying to do our jobs," Wagner said. "It would help if everyone told the truth."

Lissner turned in his signatures to City Hall late Thursday afternoon. He needed 1,290 signatures to qualify, and figured he had enough. City Clerk Elaine Doerfling will conduct a preliminary count and then forward the signatures to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder's Office for an official tally, she said.

The county has 30 working days to do a formal count, after which the Hermosa Beach City Council can repeal the ordinance or put the referendum on the ballot, likely in the city's November election, Doerfling said.

A longtime opponent of bars in town, Lissner argued that the city's ordinance eases the way for more taverns to build in town and should be limited to other types of businesses like offices and retail stores.

Lissner estimated he had spent about $15,000 of his own money on mailers, signs and signature gatherers, but said the expenses would be justified if he's successful.

"If we can stop the bar scene from expanding, it will instantly make my house worth 1 percent more," Lissner said. "Every house in Hermosa is worth $1 million. What's 1 percent of $1 million? $10,000. That'll happen to everybody."

Newman hadn't yet calculated his expenses, but the tavern did place large ads opposing the petition in local weekly newspapers and had 20 employees working on the effort rather than in other Sharkeez locations, he said.

An early morning blaze destroyed the popular Pier Plaza cantina in May. A squabble between the city and owners long delayed rebuilding efforts, and the investigators have yet to determine the fire's cause.

Election or not, Newman vowed to rebuild and expand the bar.

"One way or another, we're still going to build the building, even if I have to put spaces underneath or build parking 300 feet away," he said.

 


KCBS-TV -- April 10, 2007

Attempted Rapist Terrifies Beach Community

Hermosa Beach residents are urged to lock their windows and doors after a woman was attacked and nearly raped in her apartment.  Suzie Suh reports.  Aired on KCBS on 4/10/07.

 View this KCBS-TV News Story at the following weblink:

http://www.cbs2.com/video/?id=37332@kcbs.dayport.com


Hermosa Police Release Sketch Of Man Who Tried To Rape Woman In Home

HBPD "Composite of Attempt Rape Suspect"

"Composite of Attempt Rape Suspect"

An unidentified suspect attempted to sexually assault

a 28 year old female victim inside the victim's home.

Suspect Description:

Sex:          Male

Race:       Appeared Black, However the victim described him as possibly mixed race

Age:          Early 20's

Hair:         Short/Black

Eyes:        Dark

Height:     5'-10" to 6"0"

Weight:     160-180 lbs.

Additional Information: The suspect has soft rounded features and smooth skin. No facial hair. He acted in a focused, methodical manner.
       
Details: On 04-08-07 (Sunday) at about 2:30AM in the morning a 28 year old female was attacked inside her home in 700BLK of Monterey.  The victim was sitting watching television when she noticed the male suspect standing behind her.  The suspect violently punched the victim and attempted to disrobe her.  The victim was able fight off the suspect and then escape to a neighbor's house where she telephoned police.  Responding officers checked the area and made broadcasts to surrounding law enforcement agencies.  It is unknown how the suspect entered the victim's residence, but there was no evidence of forced entry.  At this time, it appears to be an isolated incident, but the investigation is ongoing.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact

the Hermosa Beach Police Department @ (310) 318-0360.


The Daily Breeze April 12, 2007

Hermosa home intruder described

 

Police release a sketch of a man who was driven away by the woman he attacked Easter morning.

"The suspect violently punched the victim and attempted to disrobe her," Wolcott said.


STAFF WRITER

Police released a sketch Wednesday of a smooth-skinned man wanted in the attempted rape of a Hermosa Beach woman in her home Easter morning.

The sketch shows a man, either black or mixed race, in his early 20s, with soft, rounded features and smooth skin with no facial hair.

The 28-year-old victim helped police officers and a sketch artist create the drawing in the hope someone can identify him, Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott said.

The attack occurred Sunday as the victim watched television at 2:30 a.m. inside her apartment in the 700 block of Monterey Boulevard. The woman noticed a reflection on her TV screen, turned around and found the man standing there. He apparently entered the woman's home through an unlocked door, police said.

Wolcott said Wednesday that the assailant acted in a focused, deliberate and methodical manner.

"The suspect violently punched the victim and attempted to disrobe her," Wolcott said.

The woman fought back, punching him and screaming. The attacker ran when he was unable to pull her pants off.

The victim went to a neighbor's house and called police. She was upset but unhurt physically.

"She's traumatized, obviously, but she's being very cooperative in the investigation," Wolcott said.

The victim told police that in addition to his soft facial features, the assailant had short black hair and dark eyes. He was 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall and weighed 160 to 180 pounds.

Wolcott said the crime appears to be an isolated incident, but the investigation is continuing.

 


KNBC-TV Burbank April 10, 2007

nbc4.tv

Police To Release Sketch Of Man Who Tried To Rape Woman In Home

Police planned to release a composite drawing Monday of a man who tried to rape a woman in her Hermosa Beach home.

The attempted rape occurred early Sunday morning in the 700 block of Monterey Boulevard, said Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott.

The man apparently entered the 28-year-old woman's residence through an unlocked door, possibly after following her home, Wolcott said. The man struggled with the woman, but she fought him off and he fled.


The Daily Breeze March 29, 2007

HB Council seeks more control of Pier Plaza

 

Majority apparently would like to have greater latitude in determining future businesses in the bustling area.


STAFF WRITER

Hermosa Beach city officials hoped for success when they approved plans more than a decade ago to turn lower Pier Avenue into an open-air piazza decked out with palm trees, metal benches and nautical-style lighting.

And they got what they wanted: Pier Plaza today is a hefty sales tax generator for the city and a bustling hot spot filled with families looking for food and sunshine during the day, and young party animals searching for a drink and a good time at night.

But officials now want more control of the thriving downtown's future. On Tuesday, they initiated the lengthy process of creating a specific plan that will allow the City Council to set special guidelines for development in that area.

A special district would give the city more discretion over the types of businesses permitted in the area, as well as control building and parking standards, said Councilman Michael Keegan, who pitched the plan Tuesday.

"Establishing our vision is crucial to successful development," he said. "Getting it in early is an important step in being successful."

For now, the affected area could be bordered roughly by Hermosa Avenue, The Strand, 14th Street and 11th Court, but the boundaries will likely be extended in the future.

Hermosa Beach has attempted a specific plan for the area before, but a council majority squelched the idea in favor of letting market forces dictate what type of development sprung up in the area.

The result, though, has been an abundance of bars and restaurants that leaves a heavier emphasis on nightlife in town, said Councilman J.R. Reviczky, who voted to create a specific plan years ago.

"It's a beginning," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, we tried it one way and I think we could have done better. ... The end result was certainly not my vision of what would happen. I would hope for more daytime usage."

Keegan said new regulations will send a clear message that there should be more to Hermosa Beach than its nightlife, but a specific plan will not be an assault on bar owners.

"They can't control every emotion down there and we don't expect them to," he said. "We don't want to encourage over-serving, rowdy behavior. ... They set the tone and we get the results."

Keegan said he hoped new rules might spur smart and attractive growth in town, and thought now was a good time to mull a specific plan because the city is experiencing an upswing in property development.

Tuesday was just the beginning of a long process that could take up to two years to implement, after lengthy meetings, workshops and public hearings.

"It's going to be more than just saying what uses are allowed and what aren't," Keegan said. "It could take some time. It could go quickly. It could go slow. It depends on response of citizenry, business owners, landowners and council themselves."

First, city staff will investigate the nitty-gritty of creating this district, decide if an outside firm should be retained and estimate costs. Then the council will decide whether to go forward.

A council majority ostensibly favors the idea.

Four councilmen at Tuesday's meeting were positive about the plan; Mayor Sam Edgerton, who passed on the proposal 10 years ago, was absent.

 


The Daily Breeze January 24, 2007

2 arrested on drug charges in Hermosa Beach raid

 

Redondo Beach police officers arrested two employees of a Hermosa Beach trinket shop and seized an unspecified amount of methamphetamine in a drug raid there last week, officials said.

Wayne Mire, 55, was arrested Thursday at The Scorpio Shoppe on suspicion of felony-grade possession of narcotics for sale, Redondo Beach police Sgt. Gene Tomatani said.

Another employee, Manhattan Beach resident Dana Holland, 23, was arrested on suspicion of possession of narcotics paraphernalia, a misdemeanor, Tomatani said.

About a month ago, Redondo Beach police received information about possible drug sales inside Scorpio in the 1000 block of Hermosa Avenue and began an investigation, Tomatani said.

He would not say if undercover officers attempted to purchase drugs from Scorpio, saying it was a part of the investigation.

When officers served a search warrant early Thursday evening, Tomatani said they discovered what they believed was methamphetamine inside the crowded store with an eclectic stock ranging from Beatles memorabilia to seashells.

Tomatani would not disclose how much of the substance police discovered until the case is filed with the District Attorney's Office. He did say investigators believed it was enough to warrant a felony possession charge for Mire.

But Mire, who has been operating the store for about a year since its owner, his father, fell ill, said this week the amount of narcotics found in the store was minuscule.

Police only found empty plastic bags with methamphetamine residue, a few pipes and some scales, he said.

Officers also confiscated his cellular telephone and $1,000 in cash, Mire added.

The Hawthorne resident admitted to drug use, but said he does not sell narcotics.

"No, no way," Mire said. "There is no dealing."

Mire, who previously served time in prison for narcotics possession, believed police were targeting him because of his past.

Scorpio, a longtime fixture on Hermosa Avenue, is set to close in the next few months because of skyrocketing rent, he said.

A new landlord has increased the rent from $3,000 to $9,500 a month, Mire said.

 


The Daily Breeze January 4, 2007

Hearing vindicates Hermosa officer

 

The policeman was fired after bringing a gun into an airport. Arbiter finds he did nothing wrong in the incident.


DAILY BREEZE

A civil service hearing officer has determined that a fired Hermosa Beach police officer, who once said he hated the department and it hated him, should be reinstated because he did not do anything wrong.

Todd Lewitt, 40, was terminated in November 2005 after seven years with the police force on the grounds that he tried to sneak a gun through airport security, then lied about it.

Lewitt, who was engaged in a public battle with department management, denies he hid the gun at John Wayne Airport in Orange County and maintains he was fired in retaliation for his prior problems with the department.

After hearing from Transportation Security Administration and Police Department employees in May and October, Los Angeles County Civil Service Hearing Officer Richard C. Wulliger found Lewitt did not engage in any misconduct and should not be disciplined.

Lewitt feels vindicated by the report, his attorney, Corey Glave, said in an interview Wednesday.

"Todd wants to return to his position that he should never have been removed from," Glave said.

Wulliger's report, issued in December but made available this week, details the Aug. 14, 2005, incident at the airport, where Lewitt went to pick up his nephews, who were minors.

Lewitt received an escort pass to go through security, and claims he told a TSA employee he was a "cop" and had a gun before being instructed to pass through a metal detector. The gun was discovered by the screener during a secondary inspection after the detector's alarm sounded.

The screener, who later resigned while facing discipline for lying about sick leave and with charges pending for assault, said Lewitt told him he had a "metal hip."

According to the witnesses, it would be against TSA policy to allow guns through the metal detector.

Wulliger said in his report that the case ultimately came down to Lewitt's word against the TSA employee's. He found Lewitt, who had commendations for his performance before his termination, to be more credible.

The screener may not have heard or understood Lewitt, especially since the area was busy and noisy, Wulliger wrote. The screener may have later said Lewitt claimed a "metal hip" to cover up his mistake, the hearing officer surmised.

Sgt. Paul Wolcott said he has not seen the report, but said the department will review it and determine how to respond.

"We engage in a process," Wolcott said. "We know that this is part of the process."

Lewitt, who was the focus of at least two internal investigations and named in several claims against the department, appealed his termination to the Civil Service Commission.

Wulliger's report, which Hermosa Beach has the option of challenging, will be submitted to the full five-member commission for a binding decision. Either side can appeal that decision in court.

Mark H. Meyerhoff, who represents Hermosa Beach, said he could not comment on any upcoming legal strategies.

Lewitt filed suit against the department, but it was dismissed, according to Glave, who said Lewitt plans to appeal.

 


The Daily Breeze December 30, 2006

Jury largely clears defendants now suing HB police

 

The two say officers used excessive force in their arrests. They were charged with misdemeanors.


DAILY BREEZE

A jury leaned heavily in favor of two men charged with misdemeanors related to a Hermosa Beach pier plaza scuffle in which they claimed police used excessive force to arrest them.

On their third day of deliberation, jurors acquitted Christopher Briley of charges of battery on a police officer and challenge to fight in public, as well as the lesser charges of simple assault, simple battery and assault on a peace officer.

However, they hung on the question of whether Briley and codefendant Justin Thomas resisted arrest or interfered with officers during the Fourth of July incident in 2003. Jurors voted 8-4 in favor of acquitting Thomas, and 9-3 in favor of acquitting Briley on that charge.

A hearing is set for Jan. 29 in Torrance to determine if and when a new trial will be held for the remaining charge, said Thomas Beck, attorney for the men.

Hermosa Beach city offices were closed Friday, and the attorney who prosecuted the case was out of the country.

The acquittals strengthen the pending civil rights lawsuit Briley and Thomas have filed against Sgt. Nancy Cook, officers Landon Phillips and Jonathan Sibbald and then-Police Chief Michael Lavin, but a conviction on the remaining charge could scuttle the case.

Beck said, for now, his clients are relieved. "Those kids were so worried, so nervous," he said of his clients, who are in their 20s.

Beck told jurors they must dismiss the charges against his clients if they found police officers used excessive force on the men.

During the weeklong trial in Inglewood Superior Court, Thomas described being choked and unable to breathe as he was arrested for allegedly interfering with officers trying to arrest his friend, Briley. He also testified that a police sergeant wrenched his finger and hit him, and another officer kicked him in the head as he was cuffed on the ground.

Briley testified that after he got into a confrontation with a stranger in the crowd, officers leapt on him and forced him to the ground without warning and that he was "choke-slammed" at the throat while standing handcuffed.

The scuffle was caught on video by students filming local George W. Bush impersonator Eric Coleman on the plaza. Coleman also testified, and was once reprimanded by Judge Lauren Weis Birnstein not to impersonate the president in court.

While the defense used the tape to show officers allegedly attacking Briley and Thomas, the prosecution played the same footage to back police officers' testimony that the two men were stirring trouble on the pier, inciting the crowd and interfering with officers trying to maintain order. They also contended the tape showed Briley struck officer Phillips.

Beck commented Friday that the jurors he spoke with who voted against acquittal on the remaining charge "couldn't get over that the fact that a police officer could tell a lie."

Cook and Sibbald have been involved in past accusations of excessive force. Cook, who has been with the department nearly 20 years, was recently cleared by jurors in a civil lawsuit that stemmed from an incident on The Strand the same day as the arrests of Briley and Thomas.

Jurors found in favor of her and four other defendants accused of using excessive force against 23-year-old Kenneth Agner, although they split on one excessive force claim against police Sgt. Raul Saldana. Beck, who represented Agner in that case, contended that Saldana pepper-sprayed Agner in the mouth to shut him up although he was already handcuffed. Beck said the case is due back in court in the spring.

The FBI is looking into at least three claims against the Hermosa Beach Police Department. Most recently, the agency confirmed two weeks ago it is reviewing allegations that officers violated a Hermosa Beach man's civil rights when they arrested him at his home and charged him with public drunkenness and illegal use of the 911 system.

 


The Daily Breeze December 22, 2006

Video is key in Hermosa Beach Pier arrest trial

 

Both police and defendants claim tape aids their case. Man accused of resisting says he feared chokehold would kill him.


Daily Breeze

One of two men on trial for charges related to a rough arrest on the Hermosa Beach Pier testified Thursday that he feared for his and his friend's safety as police arrested them July 4, 2003.

Justin Thomas, who was 22 at the time, testified that he could neither breathe nor speak while a police officer had him in a chokehold, presumably to arrest him for interfering with officers.

"I began to panic. I felt like I was going to die," said Thomas, who told an Inglewood jury that he started "seeing stars" and that he stretched out his arms and also tapped the Hermosa Beach officer, Landon Phillips, to ask him to stop choking him.

Thomas testified that the officer continued to choke him after he went limp in surrender. The choking stopped, and then started again even though he hadn't moved, he said. He said police officer Jonathan Sibbald kicked him in the head as he lay on the ground in handcuffs.

Hermosa Beach prosecutors charge that Thomas and co-defendant Christopher Briley resisted arrest and interfered with police officers trying to maintain order during the crowded holiday afternoon, and that Briley struck Phillips and challenged another man to fight in public.

Thomas and Briley, in turn, have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging Hermosa Beach police attacked them without provocation during the incident, which started when police arrested Randy Wareberg, a friend of the two men, for fighting with another man on the pier.

Both sides are using a video filmed by a bystander to back their allegations. Thomas testified he pointed and shouted "Illegal procedure!" when he saw officer Sibbald take Wareberg by the neck and force him to the ground, but officers told him to shut up and go away.

As his hand was outstretched, Sgt. Nancy Cook grabbed and twisted his finger, he said. At the time, he believed it to be fractured and, after being arrested, fashioned a splint out of a plastic spoon and thread he found in his jail cell.

Cook testified Monday she was trying to get Thomas to back up, and didn't intend to injure his finger.

Thomas said he then saw officer Phillips "leap onto (Briley's) back and take him with both arms." Briley testified Thursday he was protesting the way officers had taken down Wareberg when another man, who was not identified, pushed Briley. Then an officer leapt on his back without warning. He had no idea who it was and ducked to get out of the hold.

Phillips on Monday testified he was trying to arrest Briley for starting a fight, and that Briley was defiant, breaking free of him three times before being taken to the ground. Phillips said he used a carotid control hold that cuts off blood flow to the brain but does not affect breathing.

Briley testified he was never told he was being arrested or given instruction to put his hands behind his back, and was caught with one officer holding him by the neck and the other with his arms around him.

"I felt like they were fighting one another," said Briley, who was forced to the ground.

After Briley was handcuffed and officers went to deal with Thomas, he stood up twice and was "choke-slammed" to the ground both times, he said.

Briley, who was shirtless, was pressed to the hot pavement with Sibbald's knee in his chest, he said. Briley testified he never struck Phillips. Neither that alleged action, nor the alleged kick in the head by officer Sibbald, is clearly visible on the tape.

Both men testified they had not been drinking that day.

Attorney Damian Capozzola, who represents Hermosa Beach, questioned Thomas on inconsistencies between his testimony and statements his attorney, Thomas Beck, made in a civil lawsuit filing.

Both men said they filed the suit against Cook, Sibbald, Phillips and then-Police Chief Michael Lavin after complaints to the Police Department about their treatment was ignored.

Attorneys are expected to begin their closing arguments today.

 


The Daily Breeze December 19, 2006

Video sheds light on Hermosa Beach pier fracas

 

Fourth of July fight between police and revelers was caught by the camera of a street theater troupe.


Daily Breeze

A Hermosa Beach Pier scuffle caught on video by students in a street theater troupe has become evidence in a trial against two men accused of brewing trouble on a crowded Fourth of July afternoon.

Prosecutors contend that the tape backs up police officers' claims that Justin Thomas and Christopher Briley resisted arrest and interfered with police officers during the July 4, 2003, incident. In addition, Briley is charged with battery on a police officer and challenge to fight in public.

But an attorney for the two men counters the same footage shows officers in an "unprovoked physical assault" against the two, using choke holds, twice knocking a handcuffed Briley to the ground and fracturing Thomas' finger.

"Under California law, all the behavior by (Briley and Thomas) is excused if the police officers used excessive force," Thomas Beck, attorney for the two, told a jury in the Inglewood courtroom of Lauren Weis Birnstein.

The tape, which features a President Bush impersonator remarking sarcastically on the unfolding events, aired on cable TV soon after the incident.

Briley and Thomas filed a complaint about their treatment and were later charged with interfering with officers. In November 2005, the two filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging police attacked them without justification. That lawsuit is pending, Beck said.

The incident began when police officers arrested one of the two men's friends, who was instigating a fight and had previously been asked to leave the area, Hermosa Beach officer Landon Phillips testified under direct examination by Damian Capozzola, who represents the Hermosa Beach City Attorney's Office.

Phillips said he then saw Briley face to face with another man, "posturing" as if he was about to fight.

When he told him to leave, Briley became defiant, threw his hands up and protested he had done nothing wrong, Phillips testified.

The officer decided to arrest Briley for challenging to fight in public and tried to grab him three times, but he pulled away, he said. He and officer Jonathan Sibbald then "took him to the ground," and struggled to get handcuffs on him, Phillips said.

Altercation escalated

Phillips said he then heard a roar from the crowd that had gathered around them, and saw Sgt. Nancy Cook struggling with Thomas, whom she had by the waist.

Thinking Cook was vulnerable, Phillips went over, grabbed Thomas and put in him in a "carotid control hold," in which pressure is applied to both sides of the neck, cutting off blood flow to the brain, he said.

The crowd could be heard hooting and cheering throughout the struggle. Someone threw a firecracker into the circle.

"At this point, I felt all three of us were in great danger," Phillips said.

Sgt. Nancy Cook told jurors Monday she had yelled at Thomas to back up and grabbed his hand to push it back.

She was trying to keep Thomas from going to Briley's aid, when he grabbed her wrist, she testified. She struggled to break his grip and tried to take him to the ground, she said.

Beck asked Phillips under cross-examination why he construed Briley's outstretched arms as a gesture to incite the crowd rather than surrender, what made him think the men were resisting arrest and whether either man understood he was being arrested.

No mention in earlier report

Beck told jurors in his opening statement that the officers "glossed over" the incident in their police reports, failing to mention the use of force, including the carotid holds. Eight months after the incident, police filed battery charges against Briley when there was no mention in the police reports any battery took place, Beck said.

Phillips testified that he had no recollection of being battered by Briley but that the video shows him being struck as his back was turned.

Phillips acknowledged that there were inconsistencies between his testimony and the police report he filed but explained that it was 3 a.m. when he wrote the report, 11 hours after a minutes-long incident on a long and busy shift.

The trial is expected to last through the week.

 


The Daily Breeze December 15, 2006

FBI investigating Hermosa Beach resident's arrest

 

No charges were filed, but man says officers violated his rights in incident of alleged drunkenness and illegal 911 use at his home.


DAILY BREEZE

The FBI is looking into a Hermosa Beach resident's allegations that police officers violated his civil rights when they arrested him outside his home and charged him with public drunkenness and illegal use of the 911 system, officials said this week.

"We are aware of the allegations and are reviewing them," FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

Though the FBI routinely reviews complaints, they do not always lead to a formal inquiry. Hermosa Beach Police Chief Greg Savelli said he had not been informed of an investigation.

The review stems from a September incident in which officers arrested Enrique Coello, 41, outside his 18th Street home.

Charges were never filed against Coello after a subsequent review by department management, and an internal investigation is still ongoing, Savelli said.

Regardless, Coello still disputed the charges Thursday, arguing he wasn't intoxicated that night and never willingly stepped outside of his home.

As he tells it, Coello and a handful of friends took a dip in his pool about 1 a.m. Sept. 16 after a night out on the town.

When Coello went inside to towel off, he noticed a police officer standing in his backyard and waving a flashlight into the home, he said.

The officer had gone to the home to investigate a noise complaint, Sgt. Paul Wolcott said.

Through a glass door, Coello motioned toward the front of the house and met the officer at the front door, he said.

The officer asked for his driver's license, and Coello refused.

"He got aggravated, and asked, 'What are you -- an attorney?' " Coello said. "I know my rights. Maybe he had a problem with me knowing my rights."

Next, the officer told Coello his friends must leave, he said. Coello refused, arguing everyone was inside, there was no loud music and the group was done for the evening.

He tried to shut his front door, but the officer blocked the door jamb with his foot, Coello said. Coello said he then went to a telephone, dialed 911 and asked that the officer's supervisor come to the home.

When he returned to the foyer, Coello said, the officer said he was taking Coello to jail for making false phone calls to 911. Coello said he then retreated into the home and waited on his stairs until a supervisor came.

"I'm thinking to myself, 'This is crazy, this is not happening,' " he said.

After two more officers showed up, Coello said they came inside the home, grabbed him by the wrists and took him outside, where they handcuffed and arrested him in his bathing suit.

"The initial arrest was for improper or illegal use of the 911 system," Savelli said, adding that officers can enter a home if the officer witnesses a crime in his presence.

Officers also noticed signs of intoxication, but later it was determined that because Coello was in his own home, the incident was not a case of public drunkenness, Savelli said.

Coello said officers did not administer a sobriety test or read him his Miranda rights. He said an officer told him that he was going to teach Coello to respect police officers.

Coello was fingerprinted, photographed and booked. He was released six hours later without paying bail.

The incident was humiliating, and an arrest record could jeopardize his career, said Coello, who owns an escrow company.

Coello is still considering a lawsuit, he said. He has retained as counsel Thomas Beck, an attorney who has handled several cases involving disputes with the Hermosa Beach Police Department.

"I'm in my own home and this guy just came in," Coello said. "It's like a home invasion. ... It's definitely embarrassing having to explain everything to my friends."

Coello's allegation is the latest Hermosa Beach police incident being reviewed by the FBI. At least two other reviews are still pending, Eimiller said.

 


The Daily Breeze December 12, 2006

HB Police sergeant in dismissed case of vandalism will retire

 

Steve Endom allegedly defaced a car while off duty.

A veteran Hermosa Beach Police Department sergeant, who this fall faced misdemeanor vandalism charges for allegedly defacing a car while off duty, is retiring.

After 25 years with the department, Steve Endom, 50, will retire effective Saturday, said Michael Earl, Hermosa Beach's director of personnel and risk management.

The Torrance City Attorney's Office filed charges against Endom in September, but dropped them about a month later after Endom paid $6,500 in restitution to the court.

 


The Daily Breeze October 1, 2006

Hermosa Beach police chief takes aim at troubles

 

After spending two months sizing things up, the lawman says he's ready to make some changes.


DAILY BREEZE

Greg Savelli has spent years restoring an old house in Palm Desert.

As the new chief of Hermosa Beach Police Department, he can reach the property more quickly now than when he worked in Central California.

Slowly and steadily, it will get done.

And that attitude seems to match Savelli's perspective on his new role as leader of Hermosa Beach's law enforcement, and how he will mend a department beleaguered in the past year by internal strife and external attacks.

"I'm being a sponge, taking it all in," Savelli said. "I can't turn things on their end unless I have a plan."

The 47-year-old said he is almost ready to present his plans for the department to the city manager.

Slowly and steadily, it will get done.

Today marks Savelli's third month at the helm of a department often described as disjointed -- at least according to whispers in the department, louder accusations from a handful of disgruntled officers, juicy court documents and a couple of reports detailing the force's foibles.

He began work July 31, nearly six months after the early departure of retiring Chief Mike Lavin, who was largely blamed for a lack of leadership and organization in the department.

With 26 years of police work throughout California, including Cathedral City, San Rafael and Mill Valley, Savelli most recently served as a captain at the Modesto Police Department, where he worked closely on the Laci Peterson case.

His leadership skills helped him nail the Hermosa Beach job, officials said. But long before Savelli was hired, the city was preparing for his arrival.

Officials paid a consultant $14,000 to examine the department's policies, procedures and practices, largely for the new chief's benefit. Meanwhile, the interim police chief assessed the force's strengths and weaknesses and identified the department's pressing issues.

When they finished, a blueprint of the department's perceived problems and a checklist of suggestions awaited Savelli.

The Chapman University graduate has studied the reports. He hasn't memorized them, but he hasn't discounted them, either. Savelli wants to make his own observations and draw his own conclu- sions.

"The reports are very helpful, but they are the views of those individuals," he said. "There are items I'd look to implement, some I wouldn't. ... It's a tool to help me."

Some charges in the two reports are plain wrong, Savelli said. And a handful of recommendations -- like hiring an additional captain and lieutenant -- are nearly impossible with budget restrictions, he said.

But others are feasible and some are already in place.

The 70-page report by R.M. McCarthy & Associates called for better documentation when force is required. Last week, the Police Department hit up the City Council for more than $14,000 in digital recording devices for Taser guns.

The technology documents a suspect's behavior before the weapon is discharged, and could provide evidence when use of force is questioned.

Feeling a little crowded

Interim Chief David Barr argued the police station had "culpability in the organizational health issues facing the department," calling the small station "cramped and not efficiently laid out." The chief's isolated, downstairs office compound the department's problems, Barr wrote.

Maybe one day, land next door to City Hall could become a new police station, Savelli said. For now, he has talked to staff about moving his office to the main floor, he said.

Savelli has read the newspaper stories, too. Almost once a week, mentions of interdepartment discord, excessive force complaints and lawsuits find their way into print.

But Savelli believes Hermosa's problems are the same as any other department's.

"It's more broadcasted here," he said. "There are multiple investigations and lawsuits going anywhere at any time. Here, because it's a close-knit community and several (news) publications, there's always someone seeking news."

Fresh management style

Savelli maintains an even-keeled approach to police work, and it shows in his thoughtful blue eyes and neat mustache. He also believes in hands-on management, and has made it a priority to be an accessible chief.

And despite Barr's conclusion that some officers were "disillusioned, very bitter or even angry," causing him to wonder if their attitudes and perceptions were salvageable, Savelli said he has largely found a staff full of veteran, enthusiastic officers.

"We have passionate people dedicated to the community," he said. "The perception is people are unhappy here, but we have people here for over 20 years."

Savelli wants to turn around misperceptions outside the walls of the station as well. Some citizens, he said, believe the department serves Pier Plaza at the expense of residential Hermosa Beach. But the new chief insists that's not true -- and he wants to prove it.

After Eighth Street residents recently complained to the Public Works Commission about excessive traffic, Savelli sent officers over to document it.

Ideas for improvement

Part of Savelli's plans for the department include creating a network for Pier Plaza tavern owners that would help proprietors communicate better and monitor patrons who have had too much to drink.

"It's the obligation of the Police Department," he said. "We created downtown plaza and so far it's been successful. It's a nice place for people to come. ... We need to get people leaving safely."

 


The Daily Breeze September 28, 2006

Sergeant will face charge of vandalism

 

The Hermosa Beach officer is suspected of defacing a car in a Torrance neighborhood.


Daily Breeze

The Torrance City Attorney's Office on Wednesday filed one charge of misdemeanor vandalism against a Hermosa Beach police sergeant accused of defacing a car while off duty.

Steve Endom could face up to a year in county jail and a $10,000 fine if convicted of vandalizing the car of a Torrance resident on Sept. 6, said Deputy City Attorney David Caceres.

An arraignment date has not been set, but dates are usually scheduled about 60 days after charges are filed. The Torrance Police Department will send Endom a letter ordering him to appear in court that day, Caceres said.

The City Attorney's Office would not elaborate on the details of the alleged crime, saying only the car's damage consisted of paint removal.

A source close to the case previously told the Daily Breeze that the son of a friend of Endom had broken into his home, and Endom retaliated on the son's car.

According to the California Penal Code, vandalism cases with damages exceeding $400 can be prosecuted as felonies.

But in this case, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office opted not to file charges against Endom largely because he had already paid the victim as much as $5,000 in restitution, a spokeswoman told the Daily Breeze last week.

Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Paul Wolcott would not comment on the case or say if Endom was still on duty, citing a section of California Penal Code that prohibits the department from discussing any personnel action.

 


The Daily Breeze – July 18, 2006

Police called for 2 Moxie fights

 

Scuffles broke out over the weekend outside of the Redondo Beach pier club, which has been under scrutiny for similar disturbances in the past.


DAILY BREEZE

A fight early Saturday outside Moxie Nightclub brought more than a dozen Redondo Beach police officers to the main deck of the city pier, authorities said.

Police Chief Joe Leonardi said officers who were first to arrive watched the club's private security guards breaking up the melee, but that extra patrols were called as the crowd reportedly turned unruly.

"We responded appropriately, and no one was hurt," Leonardi said. "When (police) got into the middle of the group, all that was left was hair."

He said officers were also called early Sunday about another fight in the parking structure, but the club's private security force had quelled the disturbance by the time a sergeant arrived.

Moxie Nightclub has been under scrutiny by the city for months. In May, police played a videotape for the City Council that showed club patrons fighting and honking their car horns incessantly in the parking garage.

The councilmen approved owner Shadoe Gray's request for an entertainment permit for 90 days, but they also required that she hire more private guards and return roughly halfway through for a council review.

A little more than a week ago, Leonardi told the Daily Breeze noise and nuisance complaints had dwindled, and that police patrols had been cut back. He said there was no reason to say the club shouldn't have an entertainment permit.

Despite the weekend police calls, the chief said he didn't consider either incident serious enough to warrant a change in his position.

Gray could not be reached for comment Monday.

 


The Daily Breeze – July 14, 2006

Former Hermosa girl was 'most innocent of victims'

 

Jessie Kay Peters was 14 years old when she disappeared in 1996. Recently, her family learned she had been brutally raped and killed.


Daily Breeze

For 10 years, Jessie Kay Peters' whereabouts remained a mystery.  The blond-haired, blue-eyed girl who spent her first 12 years of life in Hermosa Beach vanished March 29, 1996. She was just 14.  "She didn't take any clothes," said her aunt, Charylene McCain. "She didn't take anything with her."

Family members circulated fliers and posted Jessie's photograph on national Web sites. Her mother, convinced that Jessie ran away, held out hope. But some family members suspected the worst.  "I thought maybe she might be alive out there somewhere," said her grandmother, Claire Arvanetes. "I always had that hope she would some day come back. (But) I just knew somebody took her against her will."

For a decade, there were no clues in Jessie's disappearance.  And then, as a gruesome murder trial unfolded in recent months for a man and a woman charged with killing another teenage girl in Riverside County, Jessie's family learned what happened to her in graphic, horrifying detail.

Prosecutors believe Jessie died the same day she vanished. Evidence revealed that the couple kidnapped Jessie, raped and killed her for sexual gratification, dismembered her body and dumped her remains off Dana Point, Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Michael Rushton said.  "The evidence is very compelling that they killed Jessie Peters," Rushton said. "This girl was simply chosen out of the blue. This little girl did nothing. She was essentially lured way from her home under a false pretense and held captive and murdered.

"She is the most innocent of victims."  Prosecutors believe Michael Forrest Thornton, 50, and Janeen Marie Snyder, 26, targeted Jessie as part of a sexual obsession with teenage girls.  She is believed to be their first victim, at least the first one prosecutors know about, Rushton said.

Convicted pair worked as a team

Thornton and Snyder were convicted in March of torturing and killing Michelle Curran, a 16-year-old girl who disappeared April 4, 2001, on her way to school in Las Vegas.  Curran's nude body was found April 22, 2001, in a horse trailer in Rubidoux in Riverside County. Ligature marks on her wrists and ankles revealed she had been strapped to harnesses and equestrian equipment before she was shot once in the head.

Thornton and Snyder, prosecutors said at trial, worked as a team, luring young girls, feeding them drugs and having sex with them. Two young women -- 14 and 15 years old at the time -- testified that the couple also tortured and sexually assaulted them.

Rushton said in an interview that the couple held Curran captive in the trailer for 14 days, then killed her as part of a sexual fantasy.  "They are heinous criminals," the prosecutor said. "They are sexual deviants."

Jessie apparently met the same fate as Curran, prosecutors now believe.  During the trial's penalty phase, a psychiatric expert who examined Snyder testified the woman told her she lured Jessie away from her Glendora home at Thornton's direction, Rushton said.  "They held her at gunpoint and took her up to Lake Arrowhead, where they handcuffed her to a bed," Rushton said. "Thornton raped her, and they drowned her (in a bathtub), dismembered her and disposed of her in the ocean."

Thornton's former wife, Pamela Bibens, testified during the trial that she overheard her husband discussing how to dispose of a young girl's body parts. Bibens said she heard Thornton say he killed the girl and cut up her body.  Bibens told the jury she and Thornton lived in a Lake Arrowhead mobile home. Her husband told her to go into her bedroom and "don't come out whatever you hear," according to trial coverage in the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Bibens said she later heard her husband and Snyder talk about how long it took for the girl to drown, and how to weigh down body parts.  The girl was Jessie, whose mother, Cheryl Peters, had worked for Thornton as a beautician in one of his hair salons. Thornton and Bibens owned a chain, The Fixx, with locations in the San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire.  Snyder, a troubled friend of Thornton's daughter, moved in with the family.

Jessie lived with aunts in the South Bay and attended Hermosa Valley School, but wanted to live with her mother in Glendora. At 12, she moved.  Two years later, she was gone.  "We were hoping and praying she would call and come home," said her aunt, Candance Garcia. "We couldn't figure out what happened to her. It was so frustrating. I prayed and asked God, 'Bring her home. We want her back.' There was no word."

Time passed.   In 2001, prosecutor Rushton and investigator Larry Lansford began looking into the Curran murder. They heard rumors of the death of another girl, one whose mother had worked for Thornton.

'What an evil thing to do'

Jessie's family learned the details about Jessie's slaying toward the end of the five-month trial.  "I was shocked. I was mortified. I felt pain in my heart because of what they did to her," said Jessie's grandmother, Arvanetes. "How horrible those people were. What an evil thing to do."  "I think if I didn't have God in my life, I don't think I would be able to handle it," said Garcia, Jessie's aunt.

McCain described her niece as a wonderful kid who loved her older brother, Robert, and going to school.  "I went to her class at Hermosa Valley. Her desk was separated from all the rest of the kids," McCain said. "She was smiling really big. I said, 'Why are you here?' She said, 'Because I was bugging all the kids.' "

Her grandmother recalls attending church, taking walks and reading the Bible together.  "I remember she loved flowers. She loved animals. She loved fireflies. She loved being with me," Arvanetes said. "She was very beautiful and very attractive."

Glendora police Sgt. Ted Groszewski said his department, which took the original missing person report, will meet soon with Riverside County investigators to discuss the evidence against Thornton and Snyder in Jessie's case. Glendora detectives will review the case with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office to determine whether murder charges will be filed.

Some of Jessie's family members will speak Oct. 24, when Thornton and Snyder are sentenced in Riverside County court. A jury recommended in May that Thornton and Snyder receive the death penalty.  Rushton said the testimony about Jessie helped persuade jurors to choose death.  "We just feel such sorrow for the family of Jessie Peters," Rushton said. "They were completely victimized. It's obvious they suffered a great deal."

Knowing they will never see Jessie again, her family members Saturday will hold a memorial service at the Covina Assembly of God Church.  Charles Biller, the church's pastor, said he will offer encouragement and comfort.  "The girl was a Christian. She had been a member of the church two years prior to the incident," Biller said. "They have that assurance and comfort knowing that she is with the Lord."

Family members later will pray and release doves from a boat off Dana Point.  "There is some closure in some way," Garcia said. "At least we know now what happened.  "For me, I have more peace about it. I know that we are all destined for not this life anyway. We are all going to die and we are all going to be in heaven if we have Jesus in our heart.

"There's no way, without the Lord in our life, I could have a peace like this knowing what happened."

 


The Daily Breeze – June 25, 2006

Sunday Letters to the Editor

HB lane changes will benefit bars

"Where but in Hermosa Beach would upper Pier Avenue, the central access to its downtown bars, be reduced to one lane each way to allow for still more alcohol dispensing businesses on widened public sidewalks, while causing bar patrons in their cars, cabs and limos to use residential side streets as the alternate access to that bar district?"

That's quoted from a letter to the Daily Breeze 10 years past when Hermosa's City Council took the first legal step toward a single-laned Pier Avenue.

The single lane is to promote more alcohol-dispensing establishments along upper Pier Avenue. Tiny Hermosa Beach is alcohol-, cab- and parking-saturated at night and needs not one more alcohol outlet of any kind to swagger or stagger past. City residents have been impacted and damaged enough by incredibly dumb council approvals regarding alcohol. Have they nor the council no limit?

Most disingenuous was the council's June 13 attempt at deception in bragging that $4 million will be spent repairing Hermosa's neglected residential streets. In fact, more than half of that is for this single lane paving and expansion of the alcohol district onto widened upper Pier Avenue fancy sidewalks, and at no cost to the commercial property owners to benefit there. Less than half will go for any residential street repair in the other 96 percent of the city, and that after virtually nothing was spent this current year.

The city's public safety costs of nil-city-revenue producing alcohol businesses are drinking the city treasury dry, so why does the Hermosa's council desire more alcohol-dispensing businesses anywhere in city?

-- HOWARD LONGACRE


The Daily Breeze – May 26, 2006

3 Hermosa Beach city council candidates boycott a forum

 

One says the Q & A format "didn't feel right." Janice Brittain was the sole contender to attend the session.


DAILY BREEZE

Three of the four Hermosa Beach City Council candidates vying for the vacant seat in the June 6 election said they would not attend a candidates forum held by a community group Thursday night because they were not comfortable with the format.

The Hermosa Beach Neighborhood Association, a community watchdog group founded by resident Al Benson, announced its first candidates forum this year.

But as it turned out, it ended up as a question-and-answer session between one candidate, Janice Brittain, and the audience.

Candidates Jeff Duclos, Patrick "Kit" Bobko and Jeff Maxwell took a pass on the event.

Brittain is the only candidate in this election who did not run in November. In the fall contest, Duclos finished fourth behind incumbent J.R. Reviczky, Bobko finished fifth and Maxwell was seventh among 10 candidates vying for three seats.

Howard Fishman, who collected the most votes in November, declined to take office after his wife was diagnosed with a serious illness. It is this seat that will be filled in the June 6 election.

Maxwell said he was overwhelmed with the amount of information Benson sent him to prepare for Thursday's debate.

"The questions were leading," he said.

It was after another local debate held by the League of Women Voters that the candidates met briefly and discussed Thursday night's forum, Maxwell said.

"I think we felt that it wasn't a debate forum, but a personal forum for Mr. Benson," he said. "It just didn't feel right."

Brittain said she had made a commitment to Benson that she would attend.

But Brittain said she shares the other candidates' feelings.

"In most debates, questions are open-ended," she said. "Here, it feels like we're writing a research paper."

Benson, himself a City Council candidate in November, said his intention was not to overwhelm candidates.

"The council packets are usually the size of two phone books," he said. "So you'd think they'd get used to seeing a lot of information."

The questions were meant to be "direct and pointed," Benson said.

"I'm worried about public safety issues," he said. "I'm worried about our Police Department, the bars, the alcohol and our quality of life."

Duclos said the candidates' decision not to attend was nothing personal against Benson.

"There were some issues in relation to the tone and direction of this debate, which was enough to influence our decision on whether to participate," he said.

Benson said all he wanted was to give candidates time to prepare their answers and asked for their responses so he could ask follow-up questions.

"I'm not disappointed they're not coming," he said. "I'm disappointed that they had this little powwow on this issue and made a collective decision behind my back."

 


The Daily Breeze – February 9, 2006

3 file suit against HB police over 2004 incident

 

Complaint alleges that two officers attacked at Pier Plaza, filed false statements and lied under oath.


Copley News Service

Three people who were acquitted last year on public intoxication and resisting arrest charges have filed a lawsuit against the Hermosa Beach Police Department, claiming officers roughed up two of them, filed false reports and lied in court about the arrests.

Michelle Myers, Robert Nolan and Joel Silva filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, claiming Hermosa Beach police Sgt. Raul Saldana and officers Michael Frilot and Todd Lewitt violated their civil rights.

The allegations stem from a May 23, 2004, incident at Pier Plaza. The lawsuit contends that Saldana approached Myers, Nolan and Silva from behind in a patrol car "maliciously blasting his air horn to frighten plaintiffs."

The suit said the three jumped away, "condemning Saldana for his juvenile behavior." Saldana then drove past them and directed the other officers to go after Nolan.

The lawsuit contends Nolan was "attacked, choked, knocked down and maliciously struck and injured by Lewitt."

Lewitt later kicked Silva and struck him in the head, according to the complaint by lawyer Thomas Beck, who has filed several lawsuits against the department stemming from incidents at Pier Plaza.

Myers, Nolan and Silva were arrested and charged. They complained about the officers' conduct to department officials, but a sergeant investigating their allegations called them "whiners," the lawsuit states.

Last year, the three were acquitted on the misdemeanor charges after a jury trial. The lawsuit contends Saldana, Frilot, Lewitt and other officers "gave knowingly perjured testimony" during the trial.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages from the city.

Hermosa Beach City Attorney Michael Jenkins said he has not seen the complaint but was familiar with the case.

"The city is very familiar with the facts and is very familiar with the circumstances," Jenkins said. "The city intends to defend the case vigorously."

 



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