Monday, November 23, 2015

Convict in 3 sex crimes freed by DNA tied to fugitive rapist

 Convict in 3 sex crimes freed by DNA tied to fugitive rapist

November 23, 2015 
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man imprisoned 16 years for rape and sex assault convictions was exonerated Monday and ordered freed after DNA evidence linked the crimes to a serial rapist on the FBI's most wanted list.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan granted a petition supported by prosecutors to release Luis Vargas, who was serving a sentence of 55 years to life in prison for three sexual assaults.

Vargas broke down, placing his hand to his forehead and covering his eyes as the judge ordered the case dismissed during the brief hearing packed with family and law school students who had worked to free him...

Lawyers and students for the innocence project at California Western School of Law took up the case after Vargas got in touch in 2012 and said he thought he was wrongly convicted of crimes that were the work of the so-called Teardrop Rapist.

The notorious predator known for a tattoo of a teardrop under his eye has been linked by DNA to 11 crimes and is suspected of 35 in total across the Los Angeles area, the innocence project said. Vargas has a similar tattoo.

Vargas had insisted on his innocence all along, telling the court at his 1999 sentencing that he was concerned the individual who "really did these crimes might really be raping someone out there, might really be killing someone out there."

In cases dating back to 1996, the Teardrop Rapist approached girls or women in the early morning walking to school or work, pulled a weapon such as a gun or knife, forced them to a secluded area and sexually assaulted them, officials have said.

Police in 2012 released several sketches of the suspect they described as a light-skinned Hispanic man between 40 and 55 years old.

His most striking characteristic is the tattoo some victims have reported seeing on his face, though there are conflicting reports about which eye it is under or whether there is more than one tear.

Vargas was convicted of kidnapping, forcibly raping and sodomizing one woman and attempting to rape two others between February and June 1998.

DNA testing methods were not as sensitive at the time of the trial and the convictions hinged on positive identifications by the three victims.

Prosecutors said the three assaults were so similar, they were "signature crimes" that could only be committed by the same person. The women all corroborated each other by pointing to Vargas, who had a previous rape conviction.

The judge noted that their initial identifications, however, were tentative and inconsistent in describing their assailant.

"This was a shaky witness identification case," said attorney Alex Simpson, of the California Innocence Project. "This happens all the time. It is the No. 1 factor in wrongful convictions across the country."
Jurors disregarded Vargas' alibi witnesses, including the manager of a bagel shop, who said he was working there the mornings of the attacks.
With improved technology, his lawyers were able in show that genetic evidence from the forcible rape was linked to the Teardrop Rapist and not Vargas.
Prosecutors conceded it was a case of mistaken identity and that new evidence pointed "unerringly to innocence," Deputy District Attorney Nicole Flood said in a letter to the judge.
Vargas' daughter, who was 10 when he was taken away, said it was hard growing up without a father and she often cried herself to sleep, but she never quit believing in him...

Friday, November 6, 2015

Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced To 28 Years For Selling Black Teens To Prison

Pa. Judge Sentenced To 28 Years In Massive Juvenile Justice Bribery Scandal
Eyder Peralta
Aug. 11, 2011

A Pennsylvania judge was sentenced to 28 years in prison in connection to a bribery scandal that roiled the state's juvenile justice system. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was convicted of taking $1 million in bribes from developers of juvenile detention centers.

The judge then presided over cases that would send juveniles to those same centers. The case came to be known as "kids-for-cash."

The AP adds:
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. His attorneys had asked for a "reasonable" sentence in court papers, saying, in effect, that he's already been punished enough.

"The media attention to this matter has exceeded coverage given to many and almost all capital murders, and despite protestation, he will forever be unjustly branded as the 'Kids for Cash' judge," their sentencing memo said.
The Times Leader, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., reports that the court house in Scranton was overflowing this morning. More than a dozen people who said they had been affected by the judge's decision stood outside, awaiting the sentencing.

Jeff Pollins was in that crowd. His stepson was convicted by Ciavarella.

"These kids are still affected by it. It's like post traumatic stress disorder," Pollins told the Times Leader. "Our life is ruined.

It's never going to be the same... I'd like to see that happen to him," he said.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

CHP officers, attorney among 9 arrested in man's death in 2006

CHP officers, attorney among 9 arrested in man's death in 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A long and largely forgotten death investigation in California's Central Valley has led to a vast and unexpected set of arrests that included three current and former Highway Patrol officers and a prominent defense attorney. 

They were among nine people arrested in the 2012 disappearance and killing of Korey Kauffman, stemming from the belief that he was stealing the attorney's antiques, law enforcement officials said at a news conference Friday in Modesto, California.
Those arrested either played a part in the killing of the 26-year-old Kauffman or helped cover it up and misled investigators, the officials said. 
Kauffman was reported missing in April 2012. His body was found by hunters in August 2013 in rural Mariposa County near Yosemite National Park.
Modesto attorney Frank Carson orchestrated the killing and enlisted the help of two brothers who own a liquor store in Turlock, investigators with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department said.
Carson believed Kauffman and others were stealing valuable antiques from storage containers on his property, and he wanted to stop the thefts by sending a message, investigators said...

Friday, August 14, 2015

Federal Judge in San Diego Slams Defense Lawyer for Discovery Breaches

Judge Slams Defense Lawyer for Discovery Breaches
The Recorder

A San Diego magistrate judge said a LeClairRyan partner gave false assurances that sought-after documents didn't exist...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Parents of Aurora shooting victim ordered to pay $200,000 in legal fees to ammo dealer

 Aug 03, 2015

Parents of Aurora shooting victim ordered to pay $200,000 in legal fees to ammo dealer

Daily Kos 
The Phillips family on NBC News.
A federal judge has ordered the Phillip's family to pay up.
The parents of Jessica Ghawi, a 24-year-old woman gunned down by James Holmes in the 2012 Aurora theater massacre, tried to sue the online ammunition retailer who sold James Holmes the ammunition used in the attack. The case was dismissed before trial:
Thomas added that the case was dismissed before a trial could take place thanks to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, a federal law passed by Congress and signed by George W. Bush in 2005. “What PLCAA does is it provides very broad, blanket immunity from civil lawsuits for both gun manufacturers and gun dealers,” she said. “This is one example of a situation where somebody has tried to address liability, to go after bad actions of a dealer or manufacturer and PLCAA kept them from being able to do so.”
Adding insult to extreme injury, a federal judge has issued an order that will likely bankrupt them:
The family of 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi, a victim in the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, is faced with more than $200,000 in legal costs after a federal judge ordered them to pay attorney’s fees for four ammunition dealers the family attempted to sue. “They have taken our daughter, and now they want to take our worldly goods,” Lonnie Phillips told MSNBC’s Tamron Hall in a televised interview earlier this week. “I think that’s a little much.”
In the ruling, the judge wrote "those who ignore a fire should be responsible for cost of suppressing it before it becomes a conflagration." See more about the case, why the family dropped an appeal (hint, they can't afford it) and why they may have had a case, despite the PLCAA. Video at
Meanwhile, jurors took a step forward in a possible death sentence for James Holmes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Newsflash!? CA State Bar doesn't protect the public from bad attorneys

A report says the California State Bar doesn't protect the public from unethical attorneys. Wow.  Someone deserves a gold star for figuring that out.

Problems with ethics in the justice system are common knowledge.  As the old joke points out, 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

But perhaps some good will come of this little brouhaha.  I do appreciate it that a disgruntled ex-employee of the State Bar has told the truth.  If it weren't for disgruntled ex-employees, we'd know practically nothing about any organization.

But there seems to be absolutely NO ONE INSIDE THE SYSTEM interested in actually changing the system.  I suspect this "whistle-blower" is just playing politics, and doesn't really want change in the system.  He just wants power.

CA State Auditor says State Bar has failed to protect the public from bad attorneys.

 On June 18th, California State Auditor Elaine Howle issued the report to the Legislature and Governor Brown entitled, “State Bar of California It Has Not Consistently Protected the Public Through Its Attorney Discipline Process and Lacks Accountability

Ms. Howle’s cover letter to Governor Brown and the Legislature states,

“This report concludes that the State Bar has not consistently fulfilled its mission to protect the public from errant attorneys and lacks accountability related to its expenditures. The State Bar has struggled historically to promptly resolve all the complaints it receives, potentially delaying the timely discipline of attorneys who engage in misconduct. A primary measurement of the effectiveness of the State Bar’s discipline system is the number of complaints it fails to resolve within six months of receipt, which it refers to as its backlog. In 2010 the backlog reached 5,174 cases, prompting the State Bar to take steps to quickly reduce it.

Although the State Bar succeeded in decreasing the backlog by 66 percent within a year, it may have compromised the severity of the discipline imposed on attorneys in favor of speedier types of resolutions….Thus, to reduce its backlog, the State Bar allowed some attorneys whom it otherwise might have disciplined more severely—or even disbarred— to continue practicing law, placing the public at risk.

Moreover, instead of focusing its resources on improving its discipline system—such as engaging in workforce planning to ensure it had sufficient staffing—it instead spent $76.6 million to purchase and renovate a building in Los Angeles in 2012.”

KEY FINDINGS of the Bureau of State Auditor (BSA) audit:

“During our audit of the State Bar’s discipline system and its finances, we noted the following:

To reduce its 2010 excessive complaint backlog of over 5,000 cases to just over 1,700 cases in 2011, the State Bar frequently settled cases and may have been too lenient and allowed some attorneys whom it otherwise might have disciplined more severely—or even disbarred—to continue practicing law.

The years the State Bar focused its efforts on decreasing its backlog, the State Bar settled over 1,500 cases—more than in any of the other four years in our audit period.

The level of discipline the State Bar recommended as part of some of these settlements was inadequate—of the 27 cases the California Supreme Court returned to it for further examination, the State Bar increased the level of discipline it recommended in 21 cases, including five disbarments.

The information the State Bar submits to the Legislature in its Annual Discipline Report is problematic—the State Bar continues to report fewer cases than the law permits despite the similar concern we raised in our 2009 audit.


The State Bar should adhere to its quality control processes to ensure that the discipline it imposes on attorneys is consistent, regardless of the size of the case‑processing backlog, and it should take steps to prevent its management or staff from circumventing those processes.

The BSA report may be read in its entirety HERE  Nowhere in the report is any directive of what the State Bar needs to do to mitigate the damage to the public from its prior unethical conduct.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The State Bar of California 'is just further descending into a banana republic,' law professor says

It would be a happy situation if the worst problem in the California State Bar were the fact that a few  parties and ink pens were paid-for with lawyers' dues. (I know that my dues as a teacher pay for plenty of parties and pens.) The real problem is that the Bar has turned the justice system into a lucrative club for cronies. The legal establishment makes justice available to those who can afford to pay for access. Most people are not protected by the laws that supposedly govern us.

I don't believe that fired bar executive Joe Dunn was particularly concerned about the backlog of complaints about lawyers--until he found himself about to be fired.

But what does the backlog matter when the complaints get handled so poorly anyway? Dishonesty in court cases is tolerated; the only thing that the Bar seems to act on is missing client funds. The Bar's priorities are twisted. Justice is priceless. If we don't have a just society, then a few bucks clawed-back from a bad lawyer aren't going to do us much good.

I'd like to see Mr. Craig Holden focus on justice for Californians rather than lawyers' dues.  Lawyers have obligations to the people of the state, but they seem to care only about how much money comes their way.

How about engaging in a bit of genuine oversight, Mr. Craig Holden?  Try to focus on the big picture.

Accusations fly as State Bar of California leader Joe Dunn fights ouster
LA Times
The agency that regulates California's lawyers is once again beset with conflict, riddled by accusations involving expense accounts and ethics.

The turmoil became public last month when the board of the State Bar of California fired its executive director, Joe Dunn, a former state senator from Orange County.

Dunn did not go quietly.

He hired high-profile Los Angeles lawyer Mark J. Geragos and filed a lawsuit charging the bar with "egregious improprieties."

Dunn's critics fired back by revealing that a confidential report commissioned by the board found Dunn had spent $5,600 for a party at a Los Angeles restaurant and that a former bar president had filed an expense account report for $1,000 at Tiffany & Co.
The acrimony threatens to further diminish the reputation of the bar, an arm of the California Supreme Court that oversees nearly 250,000 lawyers and is charged with rooting out corrupt attorneys and upholding high moral standards.
Some lawyers and lawmakers have long criticized the bar as bloated, political and lenient on errant lawyers. Upheaval in the 1990s almost led to the organization's demise, and there have been various efforts to make it less a trade organization and more a regulatory agency.
"The bar is just further descending into a banana republic," said Golden Gate University law professor Peter Keane, who tried unsuccessfully decades ago to overhaul the association. "It is totally dysfunctional and should be unraveled."
Funded largely by mandatory lawyers' dues, the bar is a public corporation that regulates, disciplines and licenses attorneys, subject to the approval of the state high court. Becoming a bar leader is considered a steppingstone to a judgeship and a way to enhance a resume or attract clients.

Dunn, a former trial lawyer hired four years ago, was earning $259,000 a year when he lost his job, overseeing 500 employees and an organization with a $138.6-milllion budget.

Shortly before Dunn was fired, he filed an anonymous "whistle-blower" complaint alleging, among other things, that a bar official was manipulating records to hide a huge backlog in untended complaints against lawyers. Dunn later identified himself as the whistle-blower and said he was fired in retaliation for the complaint.
The bar suggested in a prepared statement that Dunn knew he was going to be fired before filing the complaint, a charge Geragos called "totally untrue." The statement said Dunn was being investigated because of a complaint by a high-level executive — the same bar official Dunn had accused of misconduct.

The highly public fight is expected to cost the bar hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and could lead to efforts to restructure the organization. The Legislature must pass bills each year authorizing the bar to collect dues, and two governors have vetoed such bills, calling the bar wasteful, partisan and racked by "chronic disharmony."
"I think there are going to have to be major changes," said Arthur L. Margolis, who defends lawyers before the bar and advises other attorneys on legal ethics, "to protect whatever credibility" the bar has left.
Dunn's lawsuit alleged "ethical breaches, prosecutorial lapses and fiscal improprieties" within the bar.
He accused the bar of paying a private law firm $300,000 — with three law partners each billing $800 an hour — to investigate him even though a former judge had offered to do it for free. The purported hourly fee galled many lawyers, who must pay bar dues. Most earn far less than $800 an hour. The bar has refused to confirm the amount spent on the investigation.

The target of Dunn's wrath was Craig Holden, a partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, one of L.A.'s largest law firms, who became bar president in September in an uncontested election. Dunn, who reported to the bar's board, accused Holden of orchestrating his ouster, possibly because Holden wanted the job himself.
Holden, whose bar position is volunteer, said he laughed at that charge. The bar said Dunn's lawsuit was "baseless."
After Dunn filed his lawsuit, details of the outside law firm's confidential investigation into Dunn became public. People with access to the report shared its contents with The Times and two legal newspapers.
The investigation, ordered by the bar's trustees, found that Dunn had submitted an expense report for $5,600 for an event in July at 10e, a Los Angeles restaurant owned by Geragos. Geragos said the expense was for a going-away event for former bar President Luis Rodriguez, a Los Angeles deputy public defender whose one-year term ended in September...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Why is Darren Chaker stalking Maura Larkins--even though the conditions of his release from federal prison forbid it?

Related story: Completely false allegations made in an effort to banish woman from California school (Article about a situation similar to the story below; the accusers were the ones who ended up in jail when two parents at an Irvine, California elementary school tried to destroy the reputation of a parent volunteer)  See also The Letter that got Maura Larkins fired regarding Castle Park Elementary School in Chula Vista.

Why is Darren Chaker so interested in Maura Larkins?

by Maura Larkins
Jan. 24, 2015

In San Diego, Darren Chaker, who is currently on supervised release from federal prison for bankruptcy fraud, is stalking me (teacher/blogger Maura Larkins).  As his rap sheet makes clear, Chaker doesn't let honesty interfere with his efforts to achieve his goals.

Why is this man so interested in me?

Darren Chaker has been sending letters about me to people on my street. Some of us are a little bit nervous, since Mr. Chaker has a troubling law enforcement record.

It seems clear that Darren Chaker got interested in me because I reminded him
of Wendy Mateo, the grandmother of his child.  A few years ago Chaker sued Mateo for calling
him a "deadbeat dad".   His suit was thrown out as a "SLAPP" by San Diego
Superior Court.

In July 2011, Chaker was appealing his loss to the Court of Appeal.

At the same time, I was appealing a ruling by Judge Judith Hayes, who ordered
me never to speak or write the names of Stutz, Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm or
any of its attorneys.

My case was clearly very similar to the Mateo case.

Mr. Cahker sat down next to me at the Court of Appeal in July 2011 on the day
that attorney Shaun Martin presented winning arguments in my case.

I spoke to Chaker for a while, then I moved to the front row of the gallery.

My friend remained seated near Chaker.  She reported to me that Mr. Chaker
became very disturbed as he listened to the oral arguments and the comments
of the judges.  I suspect that Mr. Chaker was upset because it seemed likely
that the judges were going to come down on the side of free speech.

If that is what he believed, he was right.

On August 5, 2011 the California Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled that Judge
Hayes' injunction permanently forbidding me from mentioning the name of Stutz
law firm, either orally or in writing, was "exceedingly unconstitutional."

As I walked out of the Court of Appeal after oral arguments, I was approached by
Darren Chaker.

From the FBI website:
Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Bankruptcy Fraud
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Dec. 17, 2013
HOUSTON—Darren David Chaker, 41, of Beverly Hills, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of bankruptcy fraud, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson. Chaker was found guilty April 4, 2013, following a five-day bench trial before U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas.

Today, Judge Atlas sentenced Chaker to a term of 15 months in prison, to be immediately followed by a three-year-term of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay a $2,000 fine. As part of the sentencing, Judge Atlas included special conditions that he not stalk or harass anyone and obtain mental health counseling and anger management...

A sampling of Darren Chaker cases: 
Wendy Mateo
Chaker v. Crogan
Zaya v. Chaker
Mr. Chaker advised me to take down my website in exchange for the law firm's
agreement to not to make me pay attorney's fees.

I told Mr. Chaker that I would rather go to jail. He said, "I'm just advising you to do
this because they are so nasty."

Then Mr. Chaker went over to two members of the Plaintiff's law firm, and walked
out of the courtroom chatting with them! I do not believe that they had asked him
to approach me.  I believe he hatched the plan all by himself.

I reported the Court of Appeal incident with Mr. Chaker on my blog, thus apparently earning the ire of a man who is widely known for dishonest, malicious and aggressive behavior.

Mr. Chaker seems to have became even more enraged when he lost the appeal in the Mateo case.

He makes bizarre accusations about all sorts of people.  He refuses to acknowledge that Chula Vista
Elementary School District desperately tried to get me to go back to work after I
had been viciously harassed by Robin Donlan and other teachers at Castle Park Elementary.

I refused to go back to work without an investigation into the harassment I
suffered.  The district refused to produce a report on the "investigation" it claimed
to have initiated.

I was fired for "insubordination" because I refused to go back to work.  Here are
the charges against me.

Darren Chaker fails to mention that Robin Donlan and other teachers who
harassed me were transferred out of Castle Park Elementary when the district
realized that it had made a mistake by paying huge amounts of taxpayer money to
defend teachers who had behaved unlawfully.

Castle Park Elementary was out of control, with a $20,000 PTA embezzlement by Kim Simmons,
a parent who was a close associate of Robin Donlan.  The school was almost ungovernable as 11 principals in 11 years struggled to create a professional working climate.

Complaint board on Darren Chaker 

Blog posts on child molestation

Monday, January 12, 2015

Judge to Make Niro Firm Pay Millions in Sanctions Over False Declarations

Judge to Make Niro Firm Pay Millions in Sanctions Over False Declarations
Scott Graham
January 9, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — An Illinois federal judge has sanctioned Raymond Niro Sr. and his law firm in a wireless patent case, finding that Niro and three of his colleagues knew about a client's false declarations to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before filing a lawsuit on his behalf.
U.S. District Judge William Hart on Friday held Niro, Haller & Niro jointly and severally liable for what's likely to be several million dollars in attorney fees assessed against Intellect Wireless and inventor Daniel Henderon. The ruling ends a year of hotly contested wrangling over what Niro did and didn't know, delivering a black eye to one of the country's most prominent patent lawyers.

"The false presentation of Henderson's activity and knowledge justifies making Niro jointly and severally liable with IW for attorney fees and costs," Hart wrote in his order.

Niro did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Friday evening. Niro, partners Paul Vickrey and David Mahalek and former partner Paul Gibbons have filed declarations saying they knew nothing about an email Henderson sent to his patent prosecutor in 2007 raising loud alarms about false declarations filed with the PTO. Henderson had warned that false declarations filed on his behalf presented a "potentially lethal blow" to his patent portfolio, and asked that his litigation counsel at the Niro firm be consulted about it.

HTC Corp. and its attorneys at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton say it was "inconceivable" that Niro and his colleagues didn't hear about Henderson's concerns long before suing HTC in 2009.
Hart sided with HTC on Friday, concluding from the Niro firm's unwillingness to produce certain documents in discovery that the lawyers knew Henderson had lied about his invention at least by 2009, "if not before."

"Therefore, Niro is liable for all reasonable attorney fees and expenses incurred by HTC," Hart wrote.
HTC has asked for $4.7 million, plus additional fees for briefing the fee motion...

Read more: