The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on October 31, 2003 · Page 6
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 6

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Friday, October 31, 2003
Page 6
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ME_B_3_B3_IE_1_10-31-03_fr_1_CMYK 2003:10:30:22:36:56 CALIFORNIA IE FRIDAY,OCTOBER31,2003 B3 LOSANGELESTIMES The Region Subscription Services: (800) 252-9141 Inland Empire City Desk Phone: (909) 788-6800 Fax: (909) 788-8121 E-mail: Mailing Address: Los Angeles Times 3800 Orange St. Suite 240 Riverside, CA 92501 How to Reach Us By Kimi Yoshino Times Staff Writer An Orange County jury has rejected a $17-million lawsuit by Knott’s Berry Farm that said the Windjammer coaster was dangerous and hadserious design flaws. In a lawsuit filed in 2000, Knott’s sued Japanese manufacturer Togo Japan, alleging that the steel coaster was “fraught with problems” that included misaligned tracks, defective safety restraints and wrinkles in the main frame of the trains — problems that forced the park to spend $2 million on repairs and inspections and to constantly shut the ride down. After just three years in operation, Knott’s Berry Farm officials dismantled Windjammer and replaced it last year with Xcelerator, a $13-million coaster that travels 82 mph and launches passengers 205 feet high, then into a 90-degree drop. Windjammer traveled 40 mph and reached a top height of 69 feet and cost about $6.2 million to build. “They just wanted a new roller coaster that was bigger, badder and faster,” said Togo’s Los Angeles attorney, Jim Yu- kevich. “It really was a business decision where they turned around and made a money grab to cover the cost of new equipment.” No decision has been made whether to appeal Wednesday’s verdict, but Knott’s Santa Ana attorney Boyd Jensen called it “very unfair. The trial lasted more than five weeks, and the jury deliberated for less than five hours. Jensen said jurors told him they did not review about 100 exhibits that were entered as evidence. “[Togo] provided a ride that was a catastrophe; they then wouldn’t live up to their warranties,” Jensen said. “There were maintenance problems that wouldn’t go away. It couldn’t stay open to the public, and it continued to break down.” Geraldine Wilkins Los Angeles Times COASTING: Knott’s Windjammer roller coaster operated for three years until it was replaced by the bigger, faster Xcelerator. In its lawsuit, the park said it spent $2 million on repairs to Windjammer. Jury Rejects Knott’s Lawsuit Against Coaster Designer Theme park had sought $17 million, contending the Windjammer ride had design flaws. By Chuck Philips Times Staff Writer More than 250 officers swept through Compton and nearby areas in a series of raids, arresting 15 alleged gang members accused of operating the most lucrative PCP ring in Southern California, authorities announced Thursday. Authorities served search warrants on 22 sites in 10 cities, rousting the alleged leader of the drug ring, Roderick Cardale Reed, from his bed at a residence in Rialto. Reed, 35, a member of the Fruit Town Piru Bloods whose street moniker is “Lil Rod,” is also a suspect in the killings of several associates of rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight, detectives said. He has not been charged in those cases. Reed and the others arrested Wednesday were charged with conspiracy to manufacture, possess and distribute PCP, a crystallized street drug. The raids mark the culmination of an 18-month federal probe in which authorities confiscated 50 weapons and $117,000 in cash and shut down two drug laboratories in the high desert capable of producing 140 gallons of PCP a week. Police also recently seized a cargo van allegedly connected to Reed that they said contained PCP with a street value of $2 million. The sweep was carried out by the FBI with assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the gang unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. According to a federal grand jury indictment, Reed oversaw the illegal purchase of chemicals used to manufacture PCP and set the street price. Detectives had Reed and his associates under surveillance since last November and allegedly saw them buy and transport chemicals to a deserted location in San Bernardino County. Authorities served search warrants in Compton, Downey, Paramount, Rialto, Apple Valley, Palmdale, Victorville, Fontana, Lancaster and Los Angeles. Most of the individuals arrested Wednesday were members of the Fruit Town gang, based in Compton. In addition todrugs and cash, authorities reported seizing numerous weapons, including an AK-47 assault rifle, two Tech 9 automatic handguns with silencers, and several shotguns. Reed, long associated with the Fruit Town gang, has been under investigation in the slay- ingsof several associates of Knight, whose Death Row Records launched the global gang- sta rap music phenomenon. Astring of gang shootings since 1997 has claimed the lives of three of Knight’s closest associates — including his best friend and chief bodyguard, Alton McDonald. McDonald was shot at a Compton gas station on April 3, 2002. Reed has emerged “as a potential suspect in the course of our investigation into the murder of Alton McDonald,” said sheriff’s Homicide Detective Beth Smith. Investigators are also trying to determine whether Reed was involved in the slaying of a man outside McDonald’s house on March 25, 2001, and the shooting of another Knight associate a year earlier. Reed has not been charged in any of the killings. Raids Target Drug Ring The Compton sweep is aimed at alleged gang members accused of making and distributing PCP. Authorities arrest 15 suspects. By Claire Luna Times Staff Writer The automotive industry, struggling to find qualified mechanics, sales people and managers because of the demise of high school auto shop programs, thinks it has identified the perfect job fair: car shows. At the California International Auto Show, at the Anaheim Convention Center through Sunday, a sprawling display of industry training programs is waylaying attendees who might never have expected to find a career amid the flashy sports cars and sleek sedans. Such exhibits help to erase the stigma of those trades and inform people about the potential for six-figure salaries and the strong job market in the auto industry, said Todd H. Leutheuser, executive director of the Southland Motor Car Dealers Assn. “Technicians aren’t unskilled grease monkeys, and salespeople aren’t pushy con men,” he said. “These are good jobs with good salaries.” The automotive career display includes information on auto tech programs at five Southern California community colleges, the nation’s only bachelor’s degree sequence in car dealer management and an Orange County training course for aspiring salespeople. At last year’s show, the community colleges received 3,000 inquiries about their programs, said Frank Vega, a Cerritos College automotive instructor who is staffing the technician program booth this year as well. “This year all the programs are full,” Vega said, “so evidently it worked.” Vega, who followed in his father’s footsteps and runs a repair shop in Santa Ana, earned his auto technician degree from Cerritos College. Vega went on to afour-year university and earned an advanced degree. Training programs such as Cerritos’ are essential because cars have become so technologically advanced, Vega said. The old-fashioned way of learning the trade — simply observing experienced mechanics make repairs —doesn’t work anymore, he said. “Cars don’t break down as often as they used to, but when they do there tends to be some complex, computer-based problem you couldn’t understand without professional training,” he said. “I have to buy books all the time just to keep up with what I’m teaching my students.” Information at the auto show also covers Michigan’s Northwood University, the nation’s only institution where students can earn a four-year degree in automotive marketing and management. About 400 students graduate from the program each year, said Jennifer Redman, a development director for the Northwood satellite campus in Scottsdale, Ariz. Each month, about 100 car salespeople complete the four- day automotive sales and marketing program at National University’s Costa Mesa campus. Free to qualified individuals, the training includes motivational and people skills along with sales tips. Gene Malboeuf, 21, of Downey heard about the Cerritos College program from friends and is now in his second year of training to repair DaimlerChrys- ler vehicles. He said car shows would be the best place to find potential auto industry workers who don’t know people in the field but have a passion for cars. “If someone likes cars, nice ones will draw them like magnets,” Malboeuf said while taking a break from a Thursday afternoon tuneup class. “You put those out somewhere and tell people the real story about how good it is to be a mechanic, and you’re going to fill up this industry.” Car Show to Car Job: Industry Sees It as an Automatic Transition Exhibitions like the one in Anaheim are touted as ideal places to scout prospective trainees. By Mai Tran Times Staff Writer It took Orange County jurors less than three hours last year to decide that Maurice Steskal was akiller, that he had sprayed the parking lot of a Lake Forest 7- Eleven with an assault rifle to kill an Orange County sheriff’s deputy because he hated cops. Figuring out how Steskal should pay for his crime has not been so easy. The jury that convicted Steskal of first-degree murder deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of life without parole in December 2002. On Thursday, a new panel of jurors heard testimony on whether Steskal, who defense lawyers said suffered from paranoia, should receive the death penalty or life without parole for the murder of Brad Riches, 34, a sheriff’s deputy killed in 1999 moments after he pulled into the convenience store parking lot. Orange County Superior Court Judge Frank Fasel’s 11th- floor courtroom was filled with Riches’ relatives and friends as prosecutors called several witnesses, including Orange County Sheriff’s Sgt. Adam Powell. Powell testified that a few hours after the killing early June 12, 1999, he spotted a white Plymouth that resembled one that had been seen leaving the 7-Eleven after the shooting. Powell said he waited for backup officers be- fore he pulled the Plymouth over. Steskal, wearing a white-collared shirt, sat quietly in the courtroom and displayed no emotion as Powell recalled arresting him. Powell testified that he feared for his safety because “it was a brutal killing.” Powell said that after the car stopped, the driver — Steskal’s crying wife — followed police orders, raising her hands and stepping out of the car. Steskal, Powell testified, did not. “What’s this about?” Powell recalled Steskal asking. Steskal eventually gave up peacefully. The second attempt to complete the penalty phase of the trial began Tuesday when attorneys picked a jury and three alternates. Jurors have seen a security videotape from the store and heard 15 witnesses. The trial is expected to end Dec. 4. Deputy Dist. Atty. Bryan Brown and Public Defender Mark Davisdeclined to comment. Times staff writer Scott Martelle contributed to this report. Maurice Steskal was convicted of killing Deputy Brad Riches. 2nd Trial on Penalty for Killer Underway RIVERSIDE Sex Offender Posed as aCoach, Police Say A53-year-old Glen Avon man classified as a high-risk sex offender will be arraigned in Riverside County Superior Court today after police investigators discovered he was allegedly coaching a Jurupa Valley Little League team under an assumed name. Adolph Ganion was arrested Oct. 23 after a concerned citizen searched a Megan’s Law database at a Riverside County sheriff’s station in Jurupa Valley, and pointed out Ganion as a local baseball coach who was identifying himself as “Al Humphrey.” Asheriff’s spokesman said Ganion violated his sex registration requirements and was arrested on suspicion of aggravated sexual assault of a child, sodomy and oral copulation with achild under 14. RIVERSIDE Corona Man to Stand Trial in 2 Fatal Stabbings Jose Luis Leon, the Corona man accused of killing his ex- girlfriend’s grandmother and 13- year-old brother, was ordered Thursday to stand trial. During Leon’s preliminary hearing, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Christian Thierbach viewedphotos of victims Hope Ragland, 66, and Austin Perez and a blood-stained knife allegedly used to stab them. Corona Police Officer Ron Anderson, who investigated the May 1 killings, testified that Leon confessed to the crimes. From Times Staff Reports IN BRIEF By Richard Winton Times Staff Writer Atask force of federal agents and local law enforcement officers fanned out across Southern California on Thursday in raids capping a lengthy investigation that netted 19 suspects on child pornography charges. Eleven were arrested Thursday. Three others have agreed to plead guilty, including a 29-year-old man who worked in children’s television production, authorities said. “These crimes involve the exploitation of children, the possession and receiving of child pornography and enticing minors to have sex,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Sally Meloch. “These are people from all walks of life committing these crimes.” Among those arrested was Scott Alan Ellsworth, 37, a former teacher who allegedly accessed child pornography on a computer at the Cal State Northridge library. Another suspect, Randall Steven Eichert, 51, of La Palma, is a former employee of the L.A. County Office of Education. He was charged with possessing child pornography after he was prosecuted earlier for unauthorized access of the office’s computer network. Humberto Castaneda Padilla, 38, was charged with using the Internet to entice a mi- nor — an undercover officer — to engage in sex. Those who authorities say have agreed to plead guilty are Jason Michael Handy, 29, of Sherman Oaks, a children’s television producer; Jeffrey Resnick, 39, of Mission Viejo; and Marvin Gerhard Starr, 40, of Santa Monica. Also charged with possession or distribution of child pornography were Ricardo Antonio Arana, 23, of La Puente; Thomas Raymond Casselberry III, 40, of Torrance; Robert James Fitch, 36, of Palmdale; Jesse Junior Fowlkes, 65, of Lancaster; David Michael Hotz, 47, of Hemet; Donald Ikari, 49, of Los Angeles; Clifford Loree, 64, of Corona, a registered sex offender; Paul Nyhan, 31, of Los Angeles, a registered sex offender; James O’Neill, 46, of San Jacinto; ZeevVardi, 48, of North Hollywood; Don Woodfield, 52, of Green Valley Lake; and Raymond Allan Yoder, 50, of Lancaster. Arrested earlier this month was Marcus William Fox, 35, of Aliso Viejo. 19 Face Charges in Child Pornography A prosecutor says the suspects, including two from Inland Empire, are ‘from all walks of life.’ ‘These crimes involve the exploitation of children.’ Sally Meloch, assistant U.S. attorney For Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2003 Super Lotto Plus Mega Number is Bold 14-28-35-39-43— Mega 14 Jackpot: $10 million Winners per Category: No. of Winners Amount of Prize(s) 5+Mega0— 54$27,812 4+Mega34$1,636 4911$101 3+Mega1,513$55 339,260$10 2+Mega19,380$11 1+Mega94,965$2 Mega only147,352$1 For Thursday, Oct. 30, 2003 Fantasy Five: 5-9-14-22-29 Daily Three (midday): 1-0-9 Daily Three (evening): 8-9-7 Daily Derby: (9) Winning Spirit (12) Lucky Charms (7) Eureka Race Time: 1:44.89 Results on the Internet: General information: (800) 568-8379 (Results not available at this number) Lottery Results

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