Retired cop’s sentencing for bank robbery delayed

RIVERSIDE — Retired Pomona police Sgt. Frank Holder’s was scheduled to be sentenced for bank robbery today, but the hearing was delayed to February, a federal prosecutor said.

Holder, 62, pleaded guilty in August to committing two bank robberies in October last year — one in Glendora and one in Rancho Cucamonga.

Federal sentencing guidelines call for Holder, of Phelan, to receive a prison sentence of 37 months to 46 months, according to prosecutors.

Kevin Cooper coverage roundup

The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection today of Kevin Cooper’s latest appeal has gotten a little bit of news coverage online. Sample lead from Hip Hop Online: “Kevin Copper is one step closer to the reaper after the Supreme Court rejected his attempt to get another trial and win his freedom.”

The rest:

Los Angeles Times

Associated Press

San Francisco Appeal

San Francisco Bay Area Independent Media Center

SCOTUS Blog (fourth paragraph from the bottom)

FULL STORY: U.S. Supreme Court denies Kevin Cooper’s appeal

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The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition today filed by Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper seeking intervention in his decades-old murder case.

Cooper was convicted of murder and sentenced to death nearly 25 years ago for the brutal 1983 ax killings in Chino Hills of a married couple, their daughter, and a houseguest.

Cooper, 51, claims he is innocent and has accused law enforcement of framing him.

Forensic tests were performed on evidence in his case after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay on Cooper’s execution the day it was set to be carried out in 2004.

The tests failed to exonerate him, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Cooper’s request this year for additional testing.

The lower court’s ruling was upheld today with the Supreme Court’s rejection of Cooper’s appeal.

Even though Cooper’s bid to the Supreme Court has now failed, he still has legal avenues to challenge his conviction and further delay execution, said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson in an interview last month.

Cooper and his legal team can continue to investigate his case to potentially uncover new evidence on which to base a new appeal.

And if California officials find a method of lethal injection they believe passes Constitutional muster, Cooper or other inmates can sue to challenge the legality of the execution method, Levenson said.

Executions have been on hold in the state since 2006 because of concern that the state’s lethal injection method is inhumane.

In June 1983, Douglas and Peggy Ryen, their daughter Jessica, 10, and houseguest Christopher Hughes, 11, died after they each suffered at least 20 wounds at the hands of their attacker. Joshua Ryen, then 8, survived the attack despite a slit throat and other injuries.

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On the night of the attacks, Cooper had recently escaped from the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino. He was hiding out in a home adjacent to the Ryens’ property at the time of the killings.

Cooper has been linked to the killings through DNA and other forensic evidence found in the Ryens’ house, the house where Cooper admitted he was hiding, and in a car that was stolen from the Ryens’ home.

Cooper has accused law enforcement in San Bernardino County of planting evidence to frame him for the killings.

In its opposition to Cooper’s Supreme Court petition, the state Attorney General’s office called Cooper’s innocence claims “absurd.”

“His inability to prove his innocence stems from the fact that he is so plainly guilty,” state attorneys wrote. “Further review of (Cooper’s) highly fact-bound case is unwarranted.”

This afternoon, attorney general spokesman Even Westrup said: “Our office believes that the state and federal courts acted properly, and therefore today’s denial is appropriate.”

In a news release following the Supreme Court’s announcement, Cooper’s lead attorney called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to initiate a federal investigation into Cooper’s claims of evidence tampering and prosecutorial misconduct.

The attorney, Norman Hile, urged witnesses with information on Cooper’s case to come forward.

“Time is running out,” Hile said. “Many witnesses have come forward with helpful evidence, but we now need more. Anyone with information about this case should examine their conscience and ask whether they are willing to let their silence contribute to the execution of a man for crimes he did not commit.”

Cooper’s legal team also highlighted a 103-page opinion written this year by a federal judge who dissented in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ rejection of Cooper’s request for additional testing.

Circuit Judge William A. Fletcher said the state “may be about to execute an innocent man” and blasted the review of evidence in Cooper’s case. His dissent was joined by four other judges.

Cooper’s legal team accused police and prosecutors today of destroying evidence, planting false evidence, failing to turn over evidence favorable to Cooper, falsifying lab reports, and other misconduct.

“We need a federal investigation to get to the bottom of this and stop the killing of an innocent man,” Hile said in the news release.

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Kevin Cooper’s attorneys vow to ‘continue fight’

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In a news release issued this morning, Kevin Cooper’s attorneys say they will continue to fight to keep Kevin Cooper from being executed. PDF:

cooper_press_release_1.pdf

News release:

Kevin Cooper’s Attorneys Will Continue Fight To Stop Execution Of Innocent Man

After U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Consider Appeal, Additional Witnesses With Information To Save Cooper’s Life Should Come Forward

Attorneys Urge U.S. Attorney General Holder To Investigate Civil Rights Violations

Washington, D.C. — Kevin Cooper’s attorneys said today they would continue to fight to prevent his execution, notwithstanding the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to consider Cooper’s appeal.

“Evidence that we discovered after trial shows that Kevin is innocent of the crime for which he is now sentenced to died. We urge any and all witnesses with information about Kevin’s case to come forward,” said Norman Hile, Cooper’s lead attorney and a partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. “Time is running out. Many witnesses have come forward with helpful evidence, but we now need more. Anyone with information about this case should examine their conscience and ask whether they are willing to let their silence contribute to the execution of a man for crimes he did not commit.”

Read the PDF for the full news release:

cooper_press_release_1.pdf

Supreme Court denies Kevin Cooper’s petition

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The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition filed by Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper seeking the court’s intervention his murder case. The decision was announced just minutes ago on the court’s Web site.

PDF (Cooper’s case is at the bottom of page 4):

113009zor.pdf

Cooper was convicted of murder and sentenced to death nearly 25 years ago for the brutal 1983 ax killings in Chino Hills of a married couple, their daughter, and a houseguest.

Cooper, 51, claims he is innocent and has accused law enforcement of framing him. Forensic tests performed on evidence in his case failed to exonerate him earlier this decade.

Even though Cooper’s bid to the U.S. Supreme Court has now failed, he still has legal avenues to further delay execution, said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson in an interview this month.

From a Nov. 22 story on Cooper’s case:

There is currently a moratorium in place for executions in California due to concerns about the state’s method of administering lethal injections.

Once the state finds a method of execution it deems constitutional, Cooper or other inmates can sue to challenge the legality of the method, potentially further delaying executions, Levenson said.

Cooper can also have his legal team continue to investigate his case to seek evidence supporting his innocence claims, Levenson said.

“I don’t think he’s going to quit trying just because a lot of legal avenues are now closed,” Levenson said.

For a little bit of background on Cooper’s case, check out a story published Sunday on his case.

Supreme Court sets Monday announcement on Kevin Cooper petition

Will Bigham, Staff Writer

Created: 11/28/2009 06:09:40 AM PST

Death Row inmate Kevin Cooper is expected to learn at 7 a.m. Monday whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear his decades-old murder case.

Cooper petitioned the court in September, urging justices to clarify the law in appeals based on claims of actual innocence.

The court’s nine justices held a conference Tuesday to consider whether to take on Cooper’s case, and the decision made at that conference is scheduled to be announced Monday.

Cooper, now 51, was convicted and sentenced to death nearly 25 years ago for the 1983 ax killings in Chino Hills of a married couple, their young daughter and a houseguest.

Following several unsuccessful appeals, he was scheduled to be executed in 2006. But on the day of his scheduled execution, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted Cooper a stay to allow him an opportunity to perform forensic tests on evidence in his case.

After the tests failed to exonerate him, Cooper again appealed his case, claiming that the testing process was administered unfairly.

“(Cooper’s) inability to prove his innocence stems from the fact that he is so plainly guilty,” state attorneys wrote last month in their response to Cooper’s Supreme Court petition. “Further review of (Cooper’s) highly fact-bound case is unwarranted.”

Declaration reveals details in case of Pomona man charged with killing his grandmother

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It’s been a year since a Pomona man was arrested for allegedly killing his grandmother and dumping her body in the desert near the Nevada state line.

When authorities initially released information about the killing of Luisa Aguilar Ventura, there was no mention of what may have motivated 21-year-old Arturo Hernandez to allegedly kill his grandmother.

Recently obtained court documents reveal much about the case — including allegations that Hernandez had a drug habit and was violent toward his grandmother in the past — but fail to definitively identify an alleged motive.

Hernandez denied involvement in his grandmother’s death when he was interviewed by San Bernardino County sheriff’s detectives following his arrest, according to a declaration of probable cause attached to Hernandez’s court file.

He has pleaded not guilty to murder charges, and remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga pending resolution of his case. He is next due in Barstow Superior Court on Jan. 5.

On Nov. 16, 2008 at about 5:30 p.m., Hernandez and Ventura left Las Vegas together in Ventura’s Toyota Tacoma pickup truck to return home to Pomona. They had been visiting a relative in Las Vegas, authorities said.

The following day neither had arrived in Pomona, and family members filed a missing person’s report for Ventura with the Pomona Police Department.

One of Ventura’s daughters told police that Hernandez was a drug user who was released from jail in the past month, and she feared Hernandez could have possibly “done something” to his grandmother, according to a declaration written by San Bernardino County sheriff’s Detective Robert Warrick.

On Nov. 24, one of Ventura’s grandsons told police that Ventura told him a week prior to her disappearance that Hernandez had been hitting her.

Ventura also reportedly told her grandson that Hernandez asked her for money, but she didn’t have any. Hernandez reportedly responded by choking Ventura until she felt like she was going to pass out, the grandson told police, Warrick wrote.

On Nov. 20, Ventura’s truck was found abandoned in a parking lot at shopping center in the 1700 block of E. Main Street in Barstow. There had still been no contact between family members and Hernandez or Ventura.

Five days later, the body of a woman identified as Ventura, 58, was found behind a shrub by a truck driver who had exited the 15 Freeway to stretch at Cima Road, about 25 miles southwest of the Nevada state line, Warrick wrote.

Police found tire tracks, footprints and markings consistent with a dragged body in the dirt where Ventura’s body was found, according to Warrick’s declaration.

In an initial examination, a deputy coroner said it appeared Ventura suffered a broken neck and broken nose, Warrick wrote. She also had part of a purple bed sheet wrapped around her upper body, Warrick wrote.

When sheriff’s detectives searched Ventura’s abandoned pickup truck for evidence, they found blood drops on the center console and passenger side of the car. They also found a torn purple bed sheet in the trunk, Warrick wrote.

Investigators also found two fast-food receipts in the car dated Nov. 17. One was from a Jack in the Box in Yermo, timestamped 1:42 p.m. The other receipt, from a McDonald’s in Barstow, listed a time of 5:19 p.m., Warrick wrote.

On Nov. 27, family members found Hernandez in Pomona. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies contacted him, and he agreed to wait for detectives investigating Ventura’s killing, Warrick wrote.

The shoes Hernandez was wearing when he was found had soles that were “similar in both design and size to shoe impressions found near Ventura’s body,” Warrick wrote.

When investigators arrived, Hernandez told them he was not involved in his grandmother’s death, Warrick wrote.

He told investigators that his grandmother got angry at him in Las Vegas, kicked him out of her truck and left him at a gas station. He claimed he never saw Ventura again, Warrick wrote.

Hernandez told investigators that he hitchhiked with a truck driver who dropped him off in Bakersfield, and he hitchhiked from there back to the Los Angeles area, Warrick wrote.

He admitted during the interview that he ate at a Jack in the Box and a McDonald’s during his trip back to Los Angeles, Warrick wrote. Hernandez was booked on murder charges after the interview.


View Arturo Hernandez case in a larger map

Fight with girlfriend led to Chino stabbing, reports indicate

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CHINO — Edward Arthur Roman was reportedly drunk and angry about his misplaced cell phone when he stabbed two housemates this month in a gated community here, according to police reports attached to his court file.

Roman, 25, has been charged with two counts of attempted murder for the Nov. 9 incident in the 12400 block of Northpark Avenue, and he may face a life prison sentence if convicted.

Witnesses told police that Roman passed out after a night of drinking beer and other alcoholic drinks, according to police reports.

When he woke up at about 2 a.m., Roman searched for his cell phone but failed to find it, witnesses told police.

He went to an upstairs bedroom where his girlfriend of 10 years was sleeping, and he woke her up and began attacking her, demanding to know where his phone was, witnesses told police. The couple has two children together, according to police reports.

Two of Roman’s housemates — a father and his son — heard Roman fighting with his girlfriend and tried to intervene to break up the fight.

Roman allegedly told the men, “I’m going to kill you,” before going downstairs and retrieving two six-inch kitchen knives, witnesses told police.

When the father and son followed Roman downstairs, Roman reportedly told them, “Don’t (mess) with me, I’m a crazy (expletive).” He then stabbed the father and son several times, both alleged victims told police.

The father was hospitalized with two stab wounds, each about one inch deep, and Roman was hospitalized with a single stab wound to the back, according to police reports.

Roman appeared in Chino Superior Court this morning to schedule a preliminary hearing. The court appearance was postponed to Dec. 9.

Roman remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, according to booking records.

Prior to his arrest, Roman told police from his hospital bed that he retrieved the knives to defend himself against the father and son, according to police reports.

Recent Chino shooting was drug deal gone wrong, reports show

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CHINO — A shooting this month at the Chino Spectrum shopping center reportedly started as a low-level drug transaction.

A buyer and seller sat in a parked car and reportedly haggled over the price of marijuana. Moments later, the alleged drug dealer pulled out a pistol and said, “Sorry man, you’re getting jacked,” another man in the car told police.

A struggle over the weapon followed, and the would-be buyer was shot in the leg and ankle, a witness told police.

The alleged shooter, 20-year-old Christopher Yong O of Ontario, has been charged with attempted murder and attempted robbery for the Nov. 4 incident, and could face a life prison sentence if convicted.

O was in custody during a court appearance this morning in Chino Superior Court, unable to post $1 million bail.

At his next court date on Dec. 21, a judge will consider a request from O to lower his bail or release him from custody with a promise that he will make court appearances.

“My client is obviously extremely, extremely distraught over this accusation,” O’s attorney, Daniel Guerrero, said in an interview today. “We intend to defend Mr. O and in the end the truth will be clearly established that the alleged victims in his case are far from having clean hands.”

At about 2 p.m. the day of the shooting, O sent a text message to his girlfriend saying he “had a terrible night at the casino,” was “pissed,” and planned to “jack somebody,” according to police reports.

The reputed buyer brought his cousin and his girlfriend to the Spectrum the day of the shooting, parked his car near Mimi’s Cafe, and waited at a nearby restaurant for O, according to witnesses.

When O arrived, the buyer and his cousin got into the buyer’s car. Less than a minute later O allegedly opened fire.

One bullet passed through the victim’s left thigh without striking an artery. The victim was also struck in the left ankle, suffering a fractured bone and a severed artery, according to the police report.

The men exited the car, and a struggle over the gun continued. A 9mm pistol dropped to the ground, and O fled the area, witnesses told police.

Investigators determined O’s home address — in the 3200 block of Stallion Street — through his cell phone records. Police discovered O was in the area by tracing the phone’s signal to nearby cell towers.

At about 4:30 p.m., O sent his girlfriend another text message: “Can you call me please emergency.”

Later in the evening, officers staking out O’s home saw a car driven by a young woman arrive. O got in the car and it drove off, and officers pulled the vehicle over at Riverside Drive and Archibald Avenue, according to police reports.

As O sat handcuffed near the site of the traffic stop, the alleged victim arrived and identified him as the shooter, according to police reports.

O initially denied wrongdoing in an interview with police, according to police reports.

When an officer told O he doubted his honesty, O apologized and told the officer “some drug dealers tried to jack me,” and O defended himself, according to police reports.

Later in the conversation, O again modified his statement, telling an officer that “a friend came and helped me out.” O declined to identify his friend, according to police reports.

Suspect pleads not guilty in deadly Fontana home-invasion robbery

A Perris man has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and three other felonies for his alleged participation in a deadly home-invasion robbery in Fontana last month.

Roberto Carlos Tirad Osuna, 26, was initially unable to appear in court after his arrest, because he was hospitalized with several gunshot wounds suffered during the Oct. 30 incident. He appeared in Fontana Superior Court on Thursday to enter a plea.

Prosecutors say Osuna was one of four men who allegedly went to a home in the 7400 block of Almeria Avenue in Fontana intending to break in, tie up the homeowner and his family, and take large amounts of cocaine and cash they believed was there.

But when the alleged robbers entered the home, the homeowner, Robert Ramirez, opened fire.

Ramirez shot and killed one of the robbers — Lucio Chavez Jimenez, 37, of Moreno Valley — and the robbers returned fire, shooting and killing Ramirez.

Osuna and another alleged robber — Lee Allen Johnson, 25, of the Riverside area — are both charged with two counts of attempted murder, and one count each of burglary, attempted robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon.

Both men remain jailed without the possibility of bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, according to jail records. They are next due in court Jan. 6.

Officer-invovled shooting reported in Pomona

From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune:

POMONA — Police shot and wounded a man late Friday, however little information about the incident was provided.

The shooting occurred about 7:45 p.m. in the 1400 block of Edgehill Drive, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Diane Hecht said in a written statement.

A person described only as a black man was wounded, and no officers were injured, Hecht said. The condition of the wounded man was not released.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau is assisting the Pomona Police Department in the investigation and handling the release of information to the public, as is common in officer-involved shooting investigations involving police department within Los Angeles County.

Sheriff’s officials released no further information about the shooting Saturday afternoon.