Man convicted in fatal Montclair drive-by shooting to represent himself

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A man convicted by a jury in February of murder and other charges for a 2004 drive-by shooting has been granted permission to represent himself in the next stage of his case.

Jose Laguna, 24, was convicted by a West Valley Superior Court jury Feb. 3 on one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder for the June 19, 2004 Montclair shooting that killed David Velez, 20, and injured two other men.

Laguna appeared in court Friday for a sentencing hearing, but the sentencing was delayed because Laguna was granted a request to act as his own legal counsel.

The Pomona man faces up to 110 years to life in prison when he is sentenced.

He is now set to be sentenced May 1, but the hearing could be delayed further if Laguna seeks a new trial, said Deputy District Attorney Mike Dowd, the prosecutor in Laguna’s case.

Dowd said that Laguna indicated Friday he intends to petition the court for a new trial.

Dowd said he believes Laguna’s decision to represent himself is a stall tactic to delay proceedings in his case.

Dowd noted that Laguna represented himself before his trial, a move that delayed the case for about a year.

Laguna’s trial attorney, James Brown, did not return calls seeking comment.

Witnesses who testified at Laguna’s three-week-long trial said that in the early morning hours of the shooting, the driver of a black Jeep Cherokee opened fire on a group of people who were socializing in the driveway of a home in the 9500 block of Helena Avenue.

Velez was shot in the chest and died from his injuries. One man was shot in the thigh, and another man was hit in the leg by a bullet but largely unharmed because the shot ricocheted off a marijuana pipe in his pocket.

Laguna was arrested following a high-speed chase two days after the shooting.

Police found a handgun in Laguna’s black Jeep Cherokee that was linked by ballistics tests to bullets recovered from the scene of the drive-by shooting.

Police also found gunshot residue inside Laguna’s Jeep, which matched witnesses’ descriptions of the SUV used by the shooter.

Prosecutors did not identify a motive for the shooting during Laguna’s trial.

Laguna did not testify at his trial. Brown, during his closing argument, said Laguna was misidentified by police and prosecutors as the shooter.


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Not-guilty pleas re-entered in Claremont home-invasion beating

Two Pomona men accused of beating a Claremont man nearly to death during a home-invasion robbery re-entered not guilty pleas in Pomona Superior Court this morning to attempted murder and other charges.

Robert LaMonte Jones, who turned 21 today, and Messigh Liketin Perry-Garner, 16, are set to next appear in court May 11 for a trial readiness hearing. They each remain jailed in lieu of bail, a clerk in Pomona’s Dept. N courtroom said.

Jones and Perry-Garner are accused of beating 61-year-old Vincent Gottuso with guns on Jan. 20 when Gottuso returned home to find the men burglarizing his home in the 700 block of West Tenth Street.

Gottuso, a Realtor with offices in Claremont and Upland, was initially hospitalized in critical condition.

Click here to read a blog post on Jones and Perry-Garner’s March 2 preliminary hearing.

Chino Hills man convicted of sexually abusing relatives

A Chino Hills man has been convicted by a jury of sexually abusing two underage female relatives over a period of several years.

David Sosa, 45, a former site security manager for an aerospace defense contractor, was convicted Feb. 26 in West Valley Superior Court on two felony counts of continuous sexual abuse of a child. He faces up to 32 years in prison.

According to prosecutors, Sosa, who worked for 25 years for Raytheon in El Segundo, regularly sexually abused two young female relatives from 1998 to 2001.

The allegations surfaced in 2005 when one of the women told a friend about the abuse, and the friend’s mother contacted sheriff’s deputies, according to a sentencing report prepared by the San Bernardino County Probation Department.

Two additional family members later surfaced with abuse allegations against Sosa, the report states.

One woman said she was abused by Sosa in the early 1980s when she was in her early teens.

The other said she was abused in the mid 1970s when she was nine years old, according to Deputy District Attorney Steve Mitchell, who prosecuted the case.

Sosa testified during his trial that he never molested his family members, Mitchell said.

“He said that it never happened … and had no idea why they were making those allegations against him,” Mitchell said.

Sosa testified that his relationships with family members had soured, and those broken relationships may have prompted what he claims are false allegations, Mitchell said.

Following his convictions, Sosa, who had been free on bail, was taken into police custody. He was fired from his $100,000-a-year job that day.

The probation department recommended that Sosa be sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Sosa was set to be sentenced Thursday in West Valley Superior Court, but the sentencing date was postponed because Sosa is in the process of hiring a new attorney to argue that he should be granted a new trial, Mitchell said.

Sosa is next due in court April 9 for a hearing to confirm his retention of a new attorney, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he expects Sosa to be sentenced at the end of June or the beginning of July.

Alleged gang member gets life prison term for 2005 killing

An alleged gang member convicted of murdering the 18-year-old son of a Monterey Park police lieutenant was sentenced by a judge to 164 years to life in prison this afternoon in West Valley Superior Court.

Paul Anguiano, 26, was convicted by a jury in May 2008 of shooting and killing Dennis Vaughn Harris, 18, and attempting to murder three other men during an Oct. 4, 2005 confrontation in Rancho Cucamonga.

Anguiano has maintained that he was misidentified as the shooter by sheriff’s deputies, and prior to his sentencing today he faced Harris’ family in court and pleaded his innocence.

“I can tell you from one man to another, I didn’t kill your son,” Anguiano said to Eugene Harris, Dennis Harris’ father.

Dennis Harris, of Corona, was shot and killed near a market on 25th Street near Hermosa Avenue.

He and three friends had been in a fight earlier in the day with Anguiano and some of his friends, prosecutors say, and they had returned to confront the men when the shooting occurred.

Prosecutors allege Anguiano shot and killed Harris, then fired at the other three men as they fled the area, wounding one of them.

Before Anguiano was sentenced this afternoon, Harris’ mother and father spoke in open court about their son and his death.

“My son will be able to rest in peace now,” said Maria Harris, Dennis Harris’ mother.

Eugene Harris, a police officer of 20 years, said that after Anguiano is sentenced, the alleged Cucamonga Kings gang member becomes irrelevant. “I’m not going to think about you at all,” he said.

It was after Eugene and Maria Harris’ comments that Anguiano pleaded his innocence to them.

“All I can tell you is I didn’t do it,” Anguiano said.

Before he was sentenced, Anguiano unsuccessfully argued that he should be granted a new trial.

Anguiano, with the assistance of his defense attorney, Maryanne Murphy, argued that Anguiano’s trial attorney failed to raise issues during the trial that would have helped his case.

Judge Raymond Haight rejected Anguiano’s motion for a new trial.

Anguiano has 60 days to file a notice of intent to appeal his case, Haight said at the end of the hearing.

Federal judge limits Calif. crime victims measure

By DON THOMPSON Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO — A federal judge on Thursday blocked a portion of a crime victims’ rights measure approved by California voters in November that restricts legal rights for parole violators.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton of Sacramento ruled that a permanent federal injunction previously agreed to by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration trumps voters’ support for Proposition 9.

The administration agreed in 2004 to provide, at taxpayers’ expense, lawyers for ex-convicts who risk being sent back to prison for violating parole conditions. It also requires the state to act quickly on parole violation allegations and to set up rehabilitation programs that can be used instead of returning the violator to a cell.

Karlton rejected the administration’s argument that voters’ approval of the ballot measure nullifies the administration’s settlement of the class-action inmate rights lawsuit. The measure was supported by 53 percent of voters.

While the Schwarzenneger administration supported the original settlement, its lawyers say the administration is legally bound to uphold voters’ will. The authors of Proposition 9 had written language into the initiative intended to overturn the lawsuit settlement.

That’s not enough to overturn the injunction, Karlton concluded:

“A change in state law standing alone is not the type of change in factual circumstance that renders continued enforcement of a consent decree inequitable,” he wrote in a 34-page opinion.

It costs the state about $30 million annually to provide alleged parole violators with lawyers, according to corrections officials. Victims groups say the agreement exceeds constitutional requirements, though attorneys representing inmates say it is cheaper than other ways of protecting ex-convicts’ legal rights.

Proposition 9 writes victims’ rights into the California Constitution and contains numerous other restrictions on criminals that are not affected by Karlton’s ruling.

Administration lawyers previously said they are required by state law to appeal Karlton’s decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“This is an unfortunate reversal of the will of California voters,” Nina Salarno Ashford, founder and board member of Crime Victims United of California, said in a statement. “What’s worse is that we should never have been at this point in the first place.”

She blamed the administration for agreeing to the 2004 settlement.

The settlement ensures that parole can’t be revoked without a proper and swift hearing, responded attorney Ernest Galvan, who represented parolees in the case.

“What Judge Karlton did protects that process,” Galvan said. “I think it’s a win for public safety in California. I think what we’re learning every day is we need to use our scarce prison beds to keep the dangerous people behind bars and to give the parole agents the tools to keep the less dangerous parolees in the community.”

Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman Seth Unger said the administration is reviewing Karlton’s decision. Corrections officials never implemented the portions of Proposition 9 overturned in Karlton’s decision because the judge had entered a temporary stay immediately after the November election.

“We are implementing the will of the people on Marsy’s Law aside from the areas which the court has ordered us not to implement,” Unger said, using the proposition nickname adopted by supporters.

That includes giving more notice to crime victims and delaying parole hearings for inmates serving life sentences. Previously, inmates serving life sentences were entitled to a hearing every one- to five years, but now they are eligible every three- to 15 years.

Chino officials release full names of officers involved in shootout

Chino spokeswoman Michelle Van Der Linden issued a press release this afternoon identifying the officers involved in last month’s shootout. The release includes the officers’ first and last names — it’s the first time the city has disclosed the officers’ first names.

The release follows:

Names of Officers Involved in Armed Robbery Released

After numerous media requests and a lengthy review of precedent setting case law regarding officer involved shootings, the Chino Police Department is electing to provide the full names of the six officers who responded to the armed robbery in progress that took place at the Papa John’s Pizza restaurant on Sunday, February 1st.

Their names are:

Corporal Claudia Lisner

Sergeant Kevin Mensen

Officer Nick Mutrux

Officer Charles Paul

Officer Rodney Tamparong

Corporal Dave Villaran

Click the link below to read today’s story on the shootout.
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Upland woman pleads not guilty to murdering husband

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An Upland woman accused of murdering her husband with a sword last year re-entered not guilty pleas in West Valley Superior Court this morning to three felony charges.

Prosecutors say Naomi Valdivia, 34, murdered her husband, 34-year-old Jose Luis Gonzalez, on April 26, 2008 following an argument between the couple at their apartment in the 800 block of West Orchid Court.

Valdivia, a mother of five, claims her husband came at her first with the sword, and she acted in self-defense during the struggle, according to Valdivia’s family members.

A judge held Valdivia to answer last month on charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and inflicting corporal injury on a spouse following preliminary hearing testimony from Upland police officers.

Valdivia pleaded not guilty to the charges this morning.

Her defense attorney, Valerie Young, also sought this morning to have Judge Michael Libutti taken off Valdivia’s case, claiming the judge is prejudiced against Valdivia, said Deputy District Attorney Theodore J. Smith, III.

Judge Aurhur A. Harrison denied the request, saying it was untimely, according to minutes from the hearing.

Valdivia remains in custody at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. Her bail is set at $1 million.

Click here to read past blog posts on Valdivia’s case.


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Court hearing continued in Chino shootout case

The two men accused of engaging police in a shootout during the botched robbery of a Chino pizzeria appeared in West Valley Superior Court this morning for a routine pre-preliminary hearing.

The hearing was continued to April 30.

Edward Ramon Cisneros and Joel Anthony Jaquez, both 27, allegedly fired at Chino police officers who responded to a robbery at the Papa John’s restaurant at 12615 Central Ave. on Feb. 1.

An innocent bystander, 23-year-old Daniel Balandran of Rubidoux, was shot and killed by a Chino police officer during the shootout between police and the two alleged robbers.

Cisneros and Jaquez have each pleaded not guilty to murder and 13 other felonies.

The last names of six of the officers involved were named in the prosecution’s complaint. They are Sgt. Mensen, Officer Mutrux, Officer Villaran, Officer Paul, Officer Tamparong and Cpl. Lisner.