Fire official denies puppy attack in court testimony

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A former Los Angeles County assistant fire chief took the witness stand today and denied allegations that he brutally beat his neighbor’s dog without cause.

Glynn Damon Johnson, 54, testified during a preliminary hearing that the dog, a 45-pound puppy named Karley, attacked him suddenly as he walked it to its owners’ home.

Moments later its jaws were clenched on his thumb, Johnson testified.

Fearing his thumb was being severed, Johnson said he picked up a nearby rock and attempted to strike the dog in the head three times — he said he connected twice — and stopped when the puppy released its grip on his hand.

“I was absolutely terrified,” Johnson testified in Riverside Superior Court. “I thought I was going to lose my thumb.”

Johnson said this morning that “there was no alternative” but to hit the dog with the 10-inch rock.

Prosecutors have charged Johnson with a single felony count of animal cruelty for the Nov. 3, 2008 incident on Armintrout Drive in Riverside.

The puppy, a German Shepard mix, was euthanized after the incident.

Three of Johnson’s neighbors testified Tuesday that Johnson appeared to have no reason to attack the dog viciously and without reason.

The neighbors said Johnson struck the dog with his fist and the rock as many as 30 times — far more than the three times Johnson claimed in testimony today.

Johnson said he saw the dog leave its owners’ yard and run through his yard under a fence to an adjoining property. He said he went outside to help the dog back to its yard.

As he was escorting the dog, holding its collar with his left hand, it “turned and started biting and attacking me,” Johnson testified.

The dog first latched its jaw onto Johnson’s left wrist, then released its grip and bit down on his right thumb. Johnson said he heard his thumb making a “pop” sound after the dog clenched its molars.

The incident left Johnson’s thumb nearly severed, requiring six stitches when treated, a physician’s assistant who treated Johnson after the incident testified today.

After today’s hearing, Deputy District Attorney William Robinson declined to respond directly when asked whether he believed Johnson’s testimony was truthful.

“We have a different position,” Robinson said. “That’s clear.”

Jeffrey Toole, Karley’s owner, said he believes Johnson lied on the witness stand. “I truly believe that his intent was to kill Karley,” Toole said.

Toole said he believes Johnson suffered his thumb injury by punching the dog, and catching one of the dog’s teeth with his thumb in the process.

Johnson is set to retake the witness stand Friday morning.

At a preliminary hearing, prosecutors must present evidence to demonstrate there is sufficient cause for a case to proceed to trial.

There is typically no defense testimony at preliminary hearings, but Johnson’s attorney has so far called Johnson, Johnson’s wife, and the physician to the witness stand.

Johnson supervised Los Angeles County fire stations in Pomona, Diamond Bar and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley. He retired about two months after the incident.

Neighbors detail fire chief’s alleged puppy beating in court testimony

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Neighbors of former Los Angeles County fire chief Glynn Damon Johnson detailed his allegedly vicious attack of a neighbor’s puppy during testimony today in Riverside Superior Court.

At today’s preliminary hearing, the neighbors said Johnson, 54, brutally beat the 45-pound dog, striking it repeatedly with his fists and then with a 10-inch stone.

The dog was euthanized after the Nov. 3, 2008 incident on Armintrout Drive in Riverside.

The neighbors’ account was disputed by Johnson’s wife, Bontia Antoinette Johnson, who testified this afternoon that she saw the dog’s jaw clenched on her husband’s hand, and he struck it only two or three times, stopping when it loosened its grip.

Bonita Johnson is set to retake the witness stand Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors have charged Johnson with one felony count of animal cruelty. He is currently free on bond.

At the preliminary hearing stage of a felony case, prosecutors must produce evidence to demonstrate there is sufficient cause for a defendant to stand trial on criminal charges.

Preliminary hearings typically include testimony only from prosecution witnesses.

But Johnson’s defense has already called Bonita Johnson to testify, and Johnson’s defense attorney, John E. Sweeney, said he intends to call additional witnesses Wednesday morning, including possibly Glynn Johnson.

Sweeney has said that Johnson was defending himself against the dog.

During today’s hearing, Sweeney showed poster-sized images of a thumb injury requiring stitches that Johnson allegedly suffered during the incident.

Johnson supervised Los Angeles County fire stations in Pomona, Diamond Bar and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley. He retired about two months after the incident, Sweeney said.

The first witness called by Deputy District Attorney William Robinson this morning was 25-year-old Travis Staggs, who testified that he saw Johnson strike the dog 20 to 30 times.

Staggs, Johnson’s next-door neighbor, said the puppy, a six-month-old German Shepard mix named Karley, ran into his yard the afternoon of the incident, apparently to play with Staggs’ dogs.

Staggs said he grabbed Karley’s collar intending to walk the dog back to its owners’ home next door to Johnson, on the opposite side of Staggs.

After he began walking the dog, Staggs said Johnson appeared at the fence dividing the two properties and offered to walk the dog home.

Staggs said he passed the dog under the fence to Johnson, and watched as Johnson walked with the dog away from the fence.

He said he saw Johnson strike the dog twice in the head with a closed fist. Johnson was holding the dog’s collar with one hand, and punching with the other, Staggs testified.

Staggs said he didn’t see the dog acting aggressive toward Johnson — either before or after Johnson struck the dog.

“She was trying to get away from him — trying to get out of her collar,” Staggs said.

After the first two blows, Staggs said Johnson threw the puppy onto its back, then straddled the dog and continued to hit it with a closed fist.

Staggs testified that he ran to Johnson’s yard, and yelled at him to stop hitting the dog. Johnson didn’t respond, Staggs testified.

After Johnson struck the dog 10 to 15 times with his fist, Staggs said he saw Johnson grab the top and bottom of the dog’s jaw and pull the two sides in opposite directions. Johnson was “trying to break her jaw,” Staggs testified.

Johnson then grabbed a stone from the ground and struck the dog an additional 10 to 15 times with the stone, Staggs testified.

Not once during the incident did the dog act aggressive toward Johnson or try to bite him, Staggs testified.

After the incident, the dog ran away from Johnson’s home and laid down in an open field in the neighborhood, Staggs testified.

“She was injured pretty badly. … She had blood coming out of her mouth, and her tongue was coming out of her mouth,” Staggs said.

Two of Johnson’s other neighbors testified today that they saw Johnson repeatedly strike Karley with a rock.

Stacey and Scott Brown, a married couple who live across the street from Johnson, said the dog did not appear aggressive. They said they did not see the dog attack or bite Johnson.

Scott Brown called Johnson’s strikes with the rock “brutal and violent.” He said he saw Johnson stand over the dog — which he said was motionless — raise the stone over his head, then throw it at the dog’s head.

Johnson’s wife, Bonita Johnson, testified that she was inside the family’s home when the incident started, and went to the front yard after hearing her husband call for help.

Bonita Johnson, who said she was Glynn Johnson’s wife of 30 years, found her husband
struggling on the ground with the dog. She said the tussle was like a “wrestling match.”

“I saw my husband’s right hand in the dog’s mouth,” she testified.

She said she saw her husband try to pry open the dog’s jaws with his hands. He couldn’t get his hand out, Bonita Johnson testified.

He then picked up a rock and struck the dog three times, Bonita Johnson testified. After the third hit, the dog let go of Johnson’s hand, and he stopped hitting the dog, she testified.

Glynn Johnson declined an interview request following today’s hearing. He said he feels he has been “lambasted” by the media and doesn’t want to grant interviews without his defense attorney present.

Prelminary hearing confirmed in fire chief’s dog-beating case

John Sweeney, Glynn Johnson’s defense attorney, confirmed in a phone interview today that a preliminary hearing will go forward as scheduled Tuesday morning in Johnson’s animal-abuse case. See Friday’s post on the hearing.

Johnson, a Los Angeles County fire chief who supervised stations in Pomona and other cities in the San Gabriel Valley, is accused of beating his neighbor’s puppy with a rock. The puppy was euthanized.

Suspect in R.C. home burglaries was recently acquitted of murder

One of the reputed gang members charged this month with burglarizing homes in the city was tried and recently acquitted of murder in Riverside County.

Edward Lamar Scott, 20, was among 15 people charged with murder following the February 2006 shooting deaths of two men in Banning.

A Riverside Superior Court jury acquitted Scott of murder on Jan. 16, 2009, but found him guilty of a felony street-gang charge.

Scott was jailed awaiting trial after his arrest on suspicion of murder in February 2006, and was released from custody when he was acquitted of murder. His sentencing in the case is pending.

About three months after his release, Scott and five other people were arrested in connection with a recent string of residential burglaries in Rancho Cucamonga and other affluent communities along the 210 Freeway.

Scott and 16-year-old Anthony Hicks were arrested April 14 in the area of Candlewood Street and Lockhaven Avenue after a neighbor called sheriff’s deputies to report suspicious activity.

When deputies arrived, they saw three men loading a TV into a parked car. Deputies arrested Scott and Hicks at the scene.

The third man — 20-year-old Craisean Ryan Evans — allegedly ran from the scene and was arrested April 17.

Prosecutors have accused the men of burglarizing a home earlier in the day on April 14 in the 7500 block of Center Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga.

Continue reading below.


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Scott and Evans, alleged members of the Edgemont Criminals street gang of Moreno Valley, appeared this morning in West Valley Superior Court for a hearing to confirm Wednesday’s preliminary-hearing date.

The two men declined to waive their constitutional right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of being charged — a right that defendants routinely waive to allow their defense attorneys time to sufficiently review their case.

The men are each charged with two counts of burglary, and prosecutors have added an allegation that the alleged crimes were committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang.

The gang allegation could potentially add up to five years’ prison time if the men are convicted of burglary.

Scott and Evans rejected plea offers from prosecutors today — offers of 12 years in state prison for Scott, and four to six years in state prison for Evans, said Deputy District Attorney Tom Colclough, who is prosecuting Scott and Evans in San Bernardino County.

They each remain jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Hicks, a minor, is not currently being prosecuted as an adult in the case, Colclough said.

Three other people have been arrested on suspicion of possessing stolen property. Riverside County prosecutors are reviewing that matter for possible prosecution there, Colclough said.

Prelminary hearing set in fire chief’s dog-beating case

A preliminary hearing is scheduled to be held Tuesday for Glynn Damon Johnson, a Riverside resident and Los Angeles County fire chief accused of beating his next-door neighbor’s puppy with a rock.

The hearing, which will include testimony, has been continued in the past but is expected to go forward as scheduled Tuesday in Riverside Superior Court, a court spokesman said today.

Johnson, 54, is accused of beating his neighbor’s 6-month-old puppy on Nov. 3, 2008. The dog was euthanized because of the injuries.

Johnson, who has been charged with a single felony count of animal cruelty, has said he was acting in self-defense.

Click here for past blog posts on the case.


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Wife, lover accused of murdering husband to stand trial Monday

Nearly three years after 26-year-old Angel Esteves was shot and killed in Ontario, his wife and her boyfriend are set to stand trial for his murder.

Jury selection is set to begin Monday in West Valley Superior Court in the murder trial of Ingrid Esteves, 24, and Rafael Quiroz, 21, who are accused of carrying out the murder on Aug. 1, 2006.

Prosecutors say Ingrid Esteves told her husband of four years to meet her in the area of D Street and Parkside Avenue.

When Angel Esteves arrived, Rafael Quiroz, of Temple City, ambushed his car and shot and killed him, prosecutors say.

Deputy District Attorney Mike Dowd said he expects jury selection to last the entire week, and attorneys’ opening statements will likely begin on May 4 or May 5.

Dowd said the witnesses he intends to call during the trial include neighbors who heard the gunshots the night of the incident, and police officers and others involved in investigating the killing.

Ingrid Esteves and Quiroz remained jailed Friday in lieu of $1 million bail at Wast Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

Angel and Ingrid Esteves, of San Bernardino, had one child together — a son who was about two years old at the time of his father’s death, Dowd said.

Note: I’ve included one of the initial stories on the case below this map.


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Wife had lover kill husband, authorities say

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA) – Friday, August 4, 2006

Author: Rod Leveque, Staff Writer

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – A cheating wife and her boyfriend were charged with murder on Friday in connection with the fatal shooting of her husband.

Authorities say Ingrid Esteves, 21, lured her husband of four years to an isolated area in south Ontario late Tuesday night for a confrontation with her 18-year-old lover, who was waiting with a gun.

“Evidently this is their way of getting a divorce,” Deputy District Attorney Michael Dowd said.

Police found the husband, Angel Esteves, 26, of San Bernardino, in a car suffering from a gunshot wound to the upper body early Wednesday morning. He later died at a hospital.

Ingrid Esteves, of San Bernardino, and Rafael Quiroz, of Temple City, were arrested later that day.

The comely, black-haired woman and her baby-faced boyfriend were led into West Valley Superior Court on Friday looking haggard from their two days in jail.

Both were handcuffed and wearing matching orange jail jumpsuits.

They pleaded not guilty to murder.

Judge Raymond Youngquist appointed lawyers to represent them, set their bail at $1 million each and ordered them to return to court Aug. 10.

Ontario police say the woman and Quiroz first met at an Ontario warehouse where they both worked.

They were apparently out together Tuesday night and decided to move forward on a plan to kill the husband, Detective David McBride said.

Police believe the woman called her husband and asked him to meet her near D Street and Parkside Avenue.

When he arrived, Quiroz shot him, police said.

Police went to the area after they received a report of a possible burglary and found Angel Esteves bleeding in his car.

He was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, where he died.

McBride said police have not recovered the gun used to kill the man.

The shooting appears to have been planned, and probably wasn’t the result of an argument or the heat of passion, the detective said.

He said officers are investigating all possible motives, however, including whether the husband had life insurance.

Dowd said more charges could be filed against the couple as the investigation progresses.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to call Detective Alex Rodriguez at (909) 395-2513.

Mt. Baldy man must stand trial on rape charges

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A judge ruled this afternoon that a 41-year-old Mt. Baldy man must stand trial on charges that he repeatedly raped his ex-girlfriend’s 12-year-old daughter.

The girl, from Montclair, testified today that from December 2007 to November 2008, Gabriel Jimenez Garcia visited her home each week to see the twin children he fathered with the girl’s mother.

Garcia would rape the girl when her mother left in the afternoon to pick up her children from a local elementary school, leaving Garcia and the girl alone in the house, the girl testified.

The abuse occurred two or three times a month, the girl testified during a preliminary hearing in West Valley Superior Court.

Following about two hours of testimony from the girl, Judge Martin A. Hildreth ruled that Garcia, a former cook at Mt. Baldy Lodge, must stand trial on 14 felony counts.

There’s “strong reason to believe you took advantage of this child,” Hildreth told Garcia.

Charges filed by prosecutors include 12 counts of aggravated sexual assault of a minor, one count of rape by force or fear, and one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child.

The girl, a seventh grader, testified that each Tuesday beginning in December 2007, she would return home from school at about 1:30 p.m., and Garcia would be there for his weekly visit.

Tuesday was Garcia’s day off from work, the girl testified.

The girl’s mother would leave at about 2:30 to pick up three of her children from Monte Vista Elementary School — a trip that took about 15 minutes, the girl testified.

During about half of those 15-minute trips, Garcia would rape the girl in her mother’s bedroom while he and the girl were alone in the house, the girl testified.

The girl told a cousin about the alleged abuse in late December 2008, and family members contacted police.

Robert Von Schlichting, Garcia’s defense attorney, told the judge that “it boggles the imagination” that the girl would withstand abuse for a year without telling anyone about it.

The girl has a “major fabrication problem and a credibility issue,” Von Schlichting said, noting accusations the girl made against Garcia’s brother that Von Schlichting believes are very similar.

“Why are they so identical?” Von Schlichting said during the hearing. “Why are they dead ringers for each other?”

Garcia has been jailed since his Dec. 30, 2008 arrest in lieu of $1 million bail. He was dressed in a jail-issued jumpsuit during Thursday’s hearing.

He is due back in court May 7 for an arraignment hearing.

Prosecutors have also charged Garcia’s brother, Eduardo Solano Jimenez, with two felonies for allegedly molesting the girl when she was 10 years old.

Jimenez, 32, moved to Mexico before his alleged crimes were discovered, and authorities there have not located him, said Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss.

Ex-con Orta denies Pomona murder charge

Joseph Gary Orta pleaded not guilty in Pomona Superior Court this morning to charges that he murdered his cousin’s wife.

Orta is next due in court Aug. 10 for a trial-readiness hearing. A trial date was set this morning for Aug. 12, according to a clerk in the courtroom where this morning’s hearing was held.

Read the account of his preliminary hearing below for more detail on the case.

Man ordered to stand trial in Pomona stabbing death

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA) – Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Author: Will Bigham, Staff Writer

POMONA – A judge ruled Tuesday that a 35-year-old ex-convict accused of stabbing his cousin’s wife to death last year must stand trial on murder charges.

The ruling by judge George Genesta that Joseph Gary Orta must stand trial came after 10 witnesses were called to testify by prosecutors during a four-hour preliminary hearing in Pomona Superior Court.

Over the course of 10 witnesses, Deputy District Attorney Stacy Weise presented a timeline of Orta ‘s movements in the days preceeding and following the Feb. 15, 2008 discovery of Eileen Nicole Ponce- Orta ‘s body in a parking lot beside Pomona Superior Court.

But what remains unclear following Tuesday’s hearing are the direct circumstances of Ponce- Orta ‘s death.

Prosecutors did not present evidence to indicate where the death occurred. There were no witnesses to the killing itself, and no one who saw Orta near the van where Ponce- Orta ‘s body was found wrapped in a blanket.

The murder weapon has not been found, and a search of Joseph Orta ‘s residence following his arrest yielded few clues into the killing.

According to several family members of Orta and Ponce- Orta who testified Tuesday, Eileen Nicole Ponce- Orta and her husband Nicolas Orta had been having marital problems.

Family members suspected Eileen Nicole Ponce- Orta and Joseph Orta may have had a romantic relationship.

On the morning of Feb. 12, 2008, Eileen Nicole Ponce- Orta dropped off Nicolas Orta at his job, but failed to pick him up when his shift ended, Nicolas Orta told police investigators, according to testimony Tuesday from Pomona police detective Jennifer Turpin.

Nicolas Orta told police it was the last time he saw her alive, Turpin testified.

On Feb. 13, Joseph Orta , Ponce- Orta and Ponce- Orta ‘s young daughter visited Orta ‘s mother’s home in Fontana and spent the night there, according to testimony from family members. They left the morning of Feb. 14.

At about 1:30 p.m. Feb. 14, Orta visited another relative’s home in Azusa with Ponce- Orta ‘s young daughter.

Orta told relatives he and Ponce- Orta had gotten into a fight at a nearby park. He dropped off the young girl and left, apparently to look for Ponce- Orta .

The rest of the day, he was seen at his father’s house briefly in Covina, and spent the afternoon and evening at another relative’s home in Pomona.

At 5:30 a.m. on Feb. 15, video footage shows the van containing Ponce- Orta ‘s body being dropped off at the parking lot beside Pomona Superior Court.

Her body was discovered by her family members when police called them to pick up the van later that morning. Police had briefly searched the van but failed to find the body.

Ponce- Orta died from a stab wound to the neck, Pomona police detective Danny Kono testified.

Following the testimony, Orta ‘s defense attorney, Lesley Sandra Gordon, moved to dismiss the charges based on the insuffiency of evidence. Genesta denied the motion.

R.C. couple seeks bail reduction in inheritance theft case

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26593-Yvonne Reyes-thumb-250x312.jpgAttorneys representing a married couple accused of stealing more than $750,000 in inheritance money from three children in their care are asking a West Valley Superior Court judge to lower the couple’s bail amount.

Richard and Yvonne Reyes, of Rancho Cucamonga, are currently jailed in lieu of $1.4 million bail on charges that they depleted the inheritance money over an 18-month period starting in September 2006.

The couple was granted temporary guardianship of three children whose parents died in a murder-suicide in June 2006.

This morning, Yvonne Reyes’ defense attorney urged Judge Elia V. Pirozzi to lower bail from $1.4 million to $100,000.

David Goldstein, the attorney, said Reyes, a 48-year-old mother of five, has no prior criminal record, has never failed to appear at a court hearing, does not own a passport and is not a flight risk.

Goldstein told the judge he has clients charged with murder and other violent crimes with bail set lower than $1.4 million.

Pirozzi told Goldstein he wanted more time to consider the bail-reduction request, and ordered the Reyeses to return to court May 12.

After the hearing, James V. Reiss, Richard Reyes’ attorney, said he intends to argue May 12 for his client’s bail to be lowered.

The three children allegedly victimized by the Reyeses were orphaned on June 13, 2006 when their father, Monrovia fire Capt. Fernando Rodriguez, 41, shot and killed his wife, 33-year-old Katherine Rodriguez, in a parking lot at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte.

The Rancho Cucamonga couple had separated, and they would often meet to have conversations in the hospital parking lot.

In his suicide note, Fernando Rodriguez said he wanted the Reyeses to raise his children, according to an attorney who represents Fernando Rodriguez’s parents.

The wife’s parents and the children themselves also wanted to live with the Reyeses, said the attorney, Casey Hull.

Sissy Barker, the attorney who represents the children in their guardianship case, said she doesn’t know what the Reyeses did with the money they allegedly stole.

“I can only indicate that the Reyeses have been given many, many opportunities to respond to that question in the guardianship proceeding, and they have either obfuscated the question, Ms. Reyes absented herself from some of the hearings, or they invoked their Fifth Amendment rights,” Barker said.

“But they did confirm that all but a very small amount was left,” Barker added.

Barker said the couple was ordered to provide Barker’s office the money that was left from the $750,000 inheritance, which consisted of the parents’ pension benefits, life insurance, and social security.

They delivered a cashier’s check of $30 to $40, Barker said.

Reiss said this week that he’s in the process of obtaining financial documents related to the case. He said he would have the documents reviewed by a forensic accountant.

He said he can’t disclose what the Reyeses told him about the inheritance money.

Both Richard and Yvonne Reyes were dressed in orange jail-issued jumpsuits during this morning’s hearing. In San Bernardino County jail facilities, orange indicates that an inmate is housed in a general population area.

Richard Reyes, 50, was wearing thick-framed black eyeglasses. The couple sat in the jury box and spoke to their attorneys for about 10 minutes before their case was called.

Wednesday’s court hearing was a short one, with Goldstein requesting a bail reduction, the prosecutor responding, and the judge setting the next court date.

Deputy District Attorney Glenn Yabuno, the prosecutor assigned to the case, told Pirozzi the bail should remain set at $1.4 million because the law allows bail to be set at twice the amount allegedly stolen.

Yelp reviews of local jails

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I found some reviews of local jails on Yelp.com, a Web site usually associated with restaurant reviews.

Apparently some people felt compelled to post reviews of their jail experiences. Not surprisingly, the reviews are pretty low.

West Valley Detention Center (pictured), the huge facility in Rancho Cucamonga, received a one-star rating in two reviews. One of the reviews is from a Beverly Hills woman who was locked up in Rancho for public intoxication.

The LA County women’s jail in Lynwood averages two stars in four reviews. The average rating was skewed by a person who gave five stars because they were glad that Paris Hilton was going to be serving time there.

Sadly for the new Burger Bar in Claremont, it also has an average rating of two stars on Yelp. Can it really be as bad as jail?

There are also a bunch of reviews of LA County jail on Yelp. The facility reviewed isn’t really specified in these reviews. See some here and more here. One person said he liked the milk cartons.

The Santa Monica city jail got a five-star review from a La Mirada man who was jailed there for DUI.

“I spent a relaxing night here last month for allegedly violating section 23152 (a) of the DMV code, better known as DUI,” wrote the man, identified only as A.L. “It was my first (and perhaps last) time in a place of incarceration, and I must say that I was rather pleasantly surprised with the experience given the circumstances. My memory is a bit hazy–you’ll have to excuse me as I blew a 0.17 haha, but I will try my best to recite from memory.”