Claremont High School football standout pleads no contest in statutory rape case

38486-TylerSingletonResized-thumb-250x307-38485.jpg

POMONA — A Claremont High School football standout pleaded no contest today to criminal charges alleging he had sex with two underage girls.

Tyler Singleton, 18, entered the pleas in Pomona Superior Court as part of plea bargain that carries a jail sentence of six months to a year.

Commissioner Wade D. Olson told Singleton he will determine the length of the jail term after he hears statements from people involved in the case at Singleton’s May 5 sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors charged Singleton, of Pomona, with a felony and a misdemeanor March 10 for allegedly having sex in January with a two underage girls, one 14 and one 15.

One of the girls who came forward in the case told police Singleton forced her to have sex in a bathroom at Cahuilla Park in Claremont.

Singleton admitted in interviews with police that he had sex with the girl, but he said the sex was consensual, said Claremont police Lt. Shelly Vander Veen.

Prosecutors did not charge Singleton with forceful rape — just statutory rape, which a spokeswoman for the Los County District Attorney’s Office called “the appropriate charges” based on the evidence prosecutors received.

Singleton, a senior, has been the high school’s starting running back since his sophomore year, and was the team’s leading rusher each of those three seasons. He was named to the All-Baseline League the past two seasons.

Besides serving a jail sentence, Singleton will be on probation for five years as a result of his conviction.

He will be prohibited from contacting the girls who accused him of rape, and he will face mandatory testing for HIV and AIDS, Olson and a prosecutor said.

If Singleton violates the terms of his probation or fails to arrive on time for sentencing, his plea bargain could be voided, potentially exposing him to a prison term of up to three and a half years.

“Do not be late,” Olson told Singleton. “Do not get in trouble. … If you mess up, don’t get back here, all bets are off.”

Singleton declined to comment after the hearing.

Before Singleton pleaded no contest, he and five supporters formed a circle, held hands and prayed in the hallway outside the courtroom.

Man gets 32 years to life in Sycamore Inn attack

38983-SycamoreInn-thumb-575x398-38982.jpg

Photo from the Sycamore Inn Web site.

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A former assistant manager at the Sycamore Inn steakhouse was sentenced to 32 years to life in prison today for stabbing his former boss in the neck in an alleged robbery attempt.

A jury deliberated for only about two hours last month before finding Travis Lee Mascarenas guilty of attempted murder and three other felonies for the Aug. 7, 2007 incident.

In a statement prior to sentencing, Mascarenas apologized and said he regretted his actions. He said the incident has “degraded” him and his family.

“I know that I have lost my place in this world,” Mascarenas said.

Mascarenas, who turned 41 today, will be first be eligible for parole when he is 68 or 69 years old, said Deputy District Attorney Kyung Kim.

Prosecutors accused Mascarenas of sneaking into the landmark Rancho Cucamonga restaurant though a back door as the business was closing for the night, with plans to break into the business’ safe.

But the alleged robbery was interrupted by manager Louis Alvarez, who supervised Mascarenas when he worked at the restaurant.

Once he realized he had been recognized by Alvarez, Mascarenas stabbed him in the neck, nearly killing him, prosecutors said.

During his trial, Mascarenas’ attorney told jurors that Mascarenas was drunk during the incident, and was too intoxicated to form an intent to kill Alvarez.

In a statement in court today, Alvarez said he still suffers nerve damage sustained in the attack, and suffers psychologically as well.

“(Mascarenas) is a danger to anyone who gets in his way,” Alvarez said. “We are lucky he hasn’t killed yet.”

Alvarez said after the hearing that he was happy with Mascarenas’ sentence. He called the defendant’s statement in court, in which he apologized to Alvarez, “manipulative.”

“I think he had a long time to think about what he had to say,” Alvarez said. “I think parts of it were sincere, parts of it were not.”

Prior to sentencing, Judge Michael A. Sachs denied a motion from Mascarenas asking the judge not to factor a prior strike conviction into his sentence.

Mascarenas was convicted of armed robbery in New Mexico when he was 19.

“You are going to be punished, and you are going to be punished severely. … We can’t as members of civilized society do what you did,” Sachs said.

The judge said he received at least 28 letters in support of Mascarenas from his family members and other people, including New Mexico state Rep. Luciano Varela and several police officers from the state.

“One of the things I note from these letters is that your family is very well respected in New Mexico,” Sachs said.

Man pleads no contest in Fontana High School hammer attack

38978-JoseQuintero02resized-thumb-350x280-38977.jpg

Photo: Jose Angel Quintero is led into Fontana Superior Court on Dec. 21, 2007.

FONTANA — A man accused of hitting a Fontana High School classmate in the head with a hammer three years ago pleaded no contest this week to attempted murder.

Jose Angel Quintero, 19, was accused of sneaking into the school’s woodshop class on Dec. 11, 2007 and hitting a classmate with a hammer in the back of the head.

Quintero and the victim, both then 17, had reportedly been arguing over a girl before the incident.

Quintero entered the plea Thursday in Fontana Superior Court as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors.

The deal carries a prison sentence of seven years to life, but it must be approved by a judge before Quintero’s agreed-upon sentence is imposed. Sentencing is scheduled for April 26.

The morning of the attack, Quintero asked the woodshop teacher what the penalties were for murder, authorities said.

After the victim was hit with the hammer, he fell and hit his head on a table, and his skull was injured in two places, authorities said.

Quintero walked home from school after the incident, but one of his parents brought him back and he confessed to the hammer attack, authorities said.

Boy, 17, denies murder charges in Pomona shooting

POMONA — A 17-year-old boy pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he shot and killed a man in December to benefit a street gang.

Ramiro Hernandez is charged with murder in connection with the death of Edgar Silva, 21, who was shot and killed Dec. 19 at Garey Avenue and Philadelphia Street in Pomona.

Police found Silva, of Pomona, slumped over in his car Dec. 19 at about 9:30 p.m. after receiving reports that shots were fired in the area. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Hernandez was arrested five days after the shooting, said Shiara Davila-Morales, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Besides murder, prosecutors have charged Hernandez with a felony for allegedly carrying a loaded firearm on Dec. 22.

Hernandez pleaded not guilty to criminal charges Thursday in Pomona Superior Court, Davila-Morales said.

Hernandez is next scheduled to appear in court April 27 for a preliminary hearing, where prosecutors present evidence for a case to proceed to trial.

He remained jailed Thursday in lieu of $2 million bail.

Chino man gets 3 years for child molestation

35224-Jeffrey Bitetti-thumb-250x312-35223.jpg

CHINO — A man convicted of child molestation was taken into custody this week after being sentenced to three years in prison.

Jeffrey Allan Bitetti, 40, pleaded guilty in December to a felony for committing lewd or lascivious acts with a child, as well as a felony narcotics charge.

The Chino resident remained free on bail following his arrest in December 2006, but was taken into custody Tuesday following sentencing in Chino Superior Court.

Three children accused Bitetti of molestation: his niece, as well as two of his former girlfriends’ children.

One of the girls told police she was four when Bitetti molested her in the 1990s.

The other victims told police they were seven at the time of the alleged abuse, which most recently occurred in late 2006, according to investigative reports.

Bitetti was originally charged with five counts of child molestation, but four of the counts were dismissed Tuesday as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors.

In an interview with police, Bitetti denied intentionally fondling the boy who accused him of molestation.

He said he may have inadvertently touched the boy’s genitals while repositioning the boy as he slept. Bitetti estimated it may have happened as many as six times, according to investigative reports.

Woman files civil lawsuit against Zendejas for alleged rape

38954-zendejascard-thumb-250x349-22102.jpg

POMONA — The woman who accused retired NFL place-kicker Tony Zendejas of raping her two years ago has filed a civil lawsuit against Zendejas and his San Dimas restaurant.

The woman is seeking unspecified monetary damages from Zendejas in her Jan. 22 complaint, which alleges negligence, battery, sexual battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Zendejas, 49, was acquitted by a jury in his trial last year for rape and other criminal charges. In testimony during the trial, Zendejas said he and the alleged victim had consensual sex.

Zendejas’ attorney said today that he expects to prevail again in civil court.

“Obviously our position has been the same as it was in the criminal trial,” said attorney James Reiss. “The lawsuit has no merit. This was a completely consensual sexual encounter.”

“We expect the same outcome as we had in the criminal trial,” Reiss added.

Zendejas was served with the complaint Wednesday at Zendejas Mexican Restaurant on Arrow Highway, said the alleged victim’s attorney, Michael D. Payne.

“She wants to set the record straight on what happened to her that morning of Jan. 26, 2008, and a civil lawsuit is her chance for justice — her last chance for justice,” Payne said.

Payne said he believes the alleged victim can win in her civil case despite Zendejas’ acquittal in his criminal case. He noted that O.J. Simpson was found liable in civil court for his ex-wife’s death after his acquittal on murder charges.

“Frankly the standard in criminal cases is extremely high, it’s beyond a reasonable doubt,” Payne said “It’s a lower standard that’s set for civil cases, which is the plaintiff has to prove the case by the preponderance of the evidence.”

Zendejas did not return a call seeking comment today.

Prosecutors accused Zendejas of serving the alleged victim alcoholic drinks laced with a date-rape drug at Zendejas Mexican Restaurant, then raping and sodomizing her at a nearby motel.

In her trial testimony, the alleged victim said she lost consciousness at the motel and doesn’t recall consenting to sex with Zendejas.

The alleged victim’s 11-page complaint filed in Pomona Superior Court alleges that she suffered injuries in the encounter with Zendejas.

She claims she lost income because the incident kept her from work, and she also incurred medical expenses.

“Antonio Zendejas exploited (the woman’s) vulnerable condition and abused his position of authority,” the complaint states.

The woman seeks unspecified damages, including punitive damages, as well as money for medical costs, lost income, attorney’s fees and the cost of her lawsuit.

A case management conference is scheduled to take place May 28 in Pomona Superior Court, Payne said. A judge at that hearing may order the case to mediation, trial, or both, Payne said.

After his acquittal, Zendejas filed a federal lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and investigators who handled his case.

The lawsuit alleges the department violated his civil rights by failing to follow investigative leads that would strengthen his claims of innocence.

Reiss said the federal case is scheduled to go to trial in November or December.

Man pleads not guilty to murder in Montclair nightclub killing

38917-ElEncantoResized-thumb-350x227-38916.jpg

RANCHO CUCAMONGA — An Ontario man accused of shooting and killing a woman at a Montclair nightclub pleaded not guilty to murder this afternoon in West Valley Superior Court.

Prosecutors accuse Armando Hernandez Ledesma of killing Rafaela Davila on Sunday at the El Encanto nightclub at 10555 Mills Ave.

In a felony complaint filed today, prosecutors allege Ledesma, 22, killed 31-year-old Davila to benefit an Ontario street gang.

Deputy District Attorney Mary Izadi said today that prosecutors have “no documentation” that indicates Davila was a gang member.

At about 2 a.m. Sunday, Davila and at least one other woman began fighting in the parking lot outside the nightclub, and a group of men surrounded them, police said.

One of the men pulled out a gun and fired the shots that killed Davila, police said.

Ledesma was arrested at 5:45 a.m. Monday in the 800 block of East Cedar Street in Ontario.

Authorities believe Ledesma was the only gunman in the incident, but others might be charged with murder or other crimes in connection with the killing, Izadi said.

The prosecutor said the shooting remains under investigation by the Montclair Police Department.

Ledesma wore orange jail scrubs during his brief court appearance.

His attorney entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf, and Judge Raymond P. Van Stockum ordered Ledesma held without bail.

Ledesma is scheduled to next appear in court Tuesday, and a preliminary hearing — in which prosecutors present evidence for a case to proceed to trial — is tentatively scheduled for April 5.

FULL STORY: Retired Pomona police sergeant gets 3 years for bank robberies

38914-FrankHolder03242010resized-thumb-300x478-38910.jpg

Photo: Frank Holder leaves U.S. District Court in downtown Riverside after being sentenced to three years in prison for bank robbery. (Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Staff Photographer)

RIVERSIDE — Retired Pomona police Sgt. Frank Holder was sentenced to three years in federal prison today for robbing several banks in 2008.

Holder, 62, must surrender by May 10 to begin serving his sentence, said U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips.

Phillips said at the start of the hearing she intended to sentence Holder to nearly five years, but she reduced the sentence after hearing statements in court from Holder, his wife, his son and attorneys in the case.

Holder, who worked for the Pomona Police Department for 30 years before retiring in 2004, apologized to his friends and family today in U.S. District Court in Riverside.

“I knew what I was doing when I did it,” Holder said. “I felt bad about it.”

Holder was arrested Oct. 29, 2008 after he robbed a Bank of America branch in Rancho Cucamonga. He later confessed to committing five bank robberies, including one in Glendora and two in Escondido.

The Phelan resident pleaded guilty in August to two counts of bank robbery.

He told authorities after his arrest that he had a large amount of credit card debt and was unable to afford minimum monthly payments despite a six-figure pension. Phillips said in court today that Holder had $80,000 in credit card debt.

Holder told Phillips that he feared he would lose his wife, two sons and grandkids because of his financial irresponsibility, so he turned to bank robbery.

Holder’s attorney asked Phillips to sentence the retired police sergeant to one year and one day in prison, and Holder’s family and friends pleaded for leniency in letters to the judge.

“He’s a loving father, grandfather, friend,” Holder’s wife, Terrlyn Holder, told the judge. “He is needed by his family.”

Psychologists who interviewed Holder after his arrest said in letters to the judge that Holder was raised in a loveless household, and was further traumatized in his late teen years by Army combat experience.

Holder claims that during his year of Vietnam War service in ’66 and ’67, he was sent on a secret mission to Cambodia where he was ordered to kill civilians and disrupt Viet Cong supply lines.

“He was asked to do things that, gratefully, most of us will never contemplate,” his attorney, Kay Otani, told Phillips.

Otani said Holder developed a “shield against the world” in his childhood and military service. “It’s the kernel that indicates some of why this happened,” Otani said.

Before she sentenced Holder, Phillips credited Holder for his willingness to take responsibility for his actions, and for his cooperation with federal authorities after his arrest.

Though many who wrote letters in support of Holder cited his police career as factor that might sway the judge toward leniency in her sentence, Phillips seemed to hold the opposite opinion.

Phillips said that because Holder worked in law enforcement for several decades, he should know that for bank tellers and customers, there’s “a high degree of trauma” during a robbery.

“It’s a very serious offense,” Phillips said.

Holder thanked his friends and family for their support during his courtroom remarks. There were about 20 people in court in support of Holder.

“I never really knew until this happened that I had so many people who cared about me,” Holder said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Priya Sopori, Holder’s prosecutor, told Phillips that though she favored a sentence of 57 months, she felt a three-year sentence “would not be unreasonable in this case.”

38915-FrankHolder032410.1resized-thumb-575x418-38912.jpg

Retired Pomona police sergeant sentenced to 3 years for bank robberies

31108-FrankHolder.jpg

RIVERSIDE — Retired Pomona police Sgt. Frank Holder was sentenced to three years in federal prison this morning for robbing banks in 2008 in Rancho Cucamonga and Glendora.

Holder, 62, must surrender by May 10 to begin serving his sentence, said U.S. District Judge Virgina A. Phillips.

Phillips said her preliminary ruling was to sentence Holder to nearly five years, but she reduced the sentence after hearing statements in court from Holder, his wife, his son and attorneys in the case.

Holder, who worked for the Pomona Police Department for 30 years before retiring in 2004, apologized to his friends and family in U.S. District Court this morning.

“I knew what I was doing when I did it,” Holder said. “I felt bad about it.”

Holder was arrested Oct. 29, 2008 after he robbed a Bank of America branch in Rancho Cucamonga. He later confessed to committing five bank robberies, including one in Glendora and two in Escondido.

Holder pleaded guilty in August to two counts of bank robbery.

He told authorities after his arrest that he had a large amount of credit card debt and was unable to make minimum payments despite a six-figure pension.

He told authorities he feared his wife would leave him because of his financial irresponsibility, so he turned to bank robbery.

Holder’s attorney asked Phillips to sentence the retired police sergeant to one year and one day in prison, and Holder’s family and friends pleaded for leniency in letters to the judge.

“He’s a loving father, grandfather, friend,” Holder’s wife, Terrlyn Holder, told the judge this morning. “He is needed by his family.”

A psychologist who interviewed Holder after his arrest said in a letter to the judge that Holder may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder from his military service in the Vietnam War, where Holder claims he was ordered to kill civilians.

Man found guilty of murder in Pomona shooting death

38813-MichaelMdKee-thumb-300x225-38812.jpg

Photo: Michael McKee and his girlfriend Julie Finneran (from MySpace).

POMONA – A jury of eight women and four men deliberated for about three hours today before finding a man guilty of first-degree murder for the Dec. 6, 2008 shooting death of Michael McKee, 30.

Louis Wilson, 34, will face at least 50 years to life for McKee’s killing when sentenced, which is scheduled for April 15 in Pomona Superior Court.

“I’m glad that we took the guy off the streets,” said McKee’s father, Greg McKee, after the verdict was read. “We have waited 15 months for this.”

Prosecutors accused Wilson of killing McKee because he believed McKee molested his best friend’s young daughter, and because McKee’s girlfriend rejected Wilson’s sexual advances the day of the killing.

McKee was shot six times, with three shots hitting his head, as he sat in his car at about 8:40 p.m. in the 2500 block of South Virginia Avenue in Pomona.

In testimony Monday, Wilson said he was present when the shooting happened, but denied he was responsible.

Wilson testified that a man he didn’t recognize was sitting in a nearby parked car when he and McKee arrived in the Virginia Avenue cul-de-sac.

According to Wilson, the man shouted that he was acting to avenge McKee’s alleged molestation, then opened fire on the Pomona man.

In her closing argument to jurors this morning, Deputy District Attorney Stacy Okun-Wiese called Wilson’s testimony a “fabulous drama” and “a show,” noting that Wilson never told police about the other alleged shooter.

“The first time anybody hears this story is in the courtroom yesterday,” Okun-Wiese said.

After McKee was shot, Wilson testified that he walked back to a friend’s home in a Mission Avenue mobile-home park, then showered and washed his clothes with bleach.

Prosecutors said Wilson’s actions indicate his guilt, but Wilson claimed he acted to avoid suspicion even though he was not responsible.

In testimony last week, a woman testified that Wilson confessed he had shot someone in the hours after the shooting, and asked her to help him craft an alibi.

Wilson acknowledged in his testimony that the woman’s statements were true, but he said he confessed to the killing to coax the woman in to bed, and tried to craft an alibi because he wanted to avoid suspicion.

Okun-Wiese ridiculed Wilson’s testimony in her closing argument, saying Wilson’s actions were not those of an innocent man.

“This defendant told you that he watched his friend get murdered,” the prosecutor said. “Then what does he do? He goes and has sex.”

Asked what he thought of Wilson’s testimony, McKee’s father said: “That’s [expletive]. Whatever he said in there was [expletive].”

When Wilson was arrested the day after McKee’s killing, he was holding a photograph of his best friend’s daughter.

He testified that he had the photograph with him because he wanted to explain to McKee’s family what motivated the other alleged shooter to kill McKee.

About six months before McKee was killed, Pomona police investigated allegations that the girl was molested and concluded the allegations were unfounded, according to testimony during Wilson’s trial.