Trial date set for woman’s lawsuit against Zendejas in alleged rape

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POMONA — A Jan. 3 trial date was set this morning in the lawsuit filed by a woman who alleges she was raped by retired NFL kicker Tony Zendejas.

The woman accuses Zendejas, 50, of drugging her during a night of drinking at his San Dimas restaurant in January 2008, then raping her at a nearby motel.

Zendejas was acquitted by a jury last year in his criminal case. He testified during his trial that he and the woman had consensual sex.

This morning’s hearing in Pomona Superior Court was the first in the woman’s civil case, which she filed against Zendejas in January.

The woman is seeking unspecified monetary damages from Zendejas. She accuses Zendejas of negligence, battery, sexual battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Judge Peter J. Meeka ordered attorneys for both sides to meet with a mediator before their next court date — Dec. 21 — to discuss the possibility of settling the case.

The attorneys told the judge they estimate a trial in the civil case would take five or six days.

Michael Payne, the attorney for Zendejas’ accuser, told the judge that as many as five expert witnesses might testify on behalf of Zendejas’ accuser if the case goes to trial.

After the hearing, Zendejas’ attorney, Timothy Younger, said Zendejas will not settle the case, and is willing take the case to trial again.

“We expect to get the same result we got in the criminal trial,” Younger said.

In an interview after the hearing, Payne downplayed Zendejas’ refusal to consider a settlement.

“If it turns out that he’s not interested in a settlement at that time, then so be it,” Payne said. “It might be that my client’s not interested in a settlement.”

The woman alleges Zendejas served her a drink containing a date-rape drug at Zendejas Mexican Restaurant, 665 W. Arrow Highway, causing her to slip in and out of consciousness.

After she alleges she was drugged, the woman — identified in court documents as Jane Doe — claims Zendejas raped her at the nearby Red Roof Inn.

After his acquittal on criminal charges, Zendejas filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the lead investigator in his case, claiming that officials violated his civil rights.

That case is now in the “early discovery phase,” Younger said.

Zendejas, a Chino native, played for four different NFL teams from 1985 to 1995, including four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.

Murder trial beings for man accused of dumping body beside Pomona City Hall

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POMONA — Attorneys may give opening statements Tuesday in the Pomona Superior Court murder trial of parolee Joseph Gary Orta.

Orta, 36, is accused of fatally stabbing his cousin’s 22-year-old wife two years ago and leaving her body in a van that was abandoned beside Pomona City Hall.

Eileen Nicole Ponce-Orta’s family members discovered the Covina woman’s body in the van in February 2008 after police notified them that their vehicle had been abandoned.

Ponce-Orta’s mother, Tracy Ponce, said attorneys in the case have begun the jury selection phase of the trial, and are expected to finish choosing a jury on Tuesday.

Judge rejects plea bargain in pastor’s bigamy case

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RANCHO CUCAMONGA — A judge rejected a plea agreement this week for a pastor who pleaded no contest last month to felony bigamy charges.

Judge Shala S. Sabet said Thursday that a six-month jail sentence for Melvin Lynn Silas — as Silas and prosecutors had agreed to in the plea bargain — was not long enough.

Sabet said she felt a two-year prison term would be more appropriate, said Silas’ prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Theodore J. Smith III.

Silas, a 55-year-old former Upland resident, is the pastor of Church of the Great I Am in Bellflower.

He and his wife of separated in 2007, and prosecutors allege Silas married another woman the following year while still legally married to his wife.

Silas appeared in West Valley Superior Court on Thursday for sentencing.

During the hearing, his former wife spoke in court and said she believed Silas deserved a longer sentence, said Smith, who was not in court but reviewed another prosecutor’s notes.

Sabet, citing the wife’s comments as well as Silas’ extensive criminal record, rejected the plea agreement and set a new court date for June 2, Smith said.

Husband accused of fatally stabbing wife was upset over divorce, reports show

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CHINO – A man accused of fatally stabbing his estranged wife in the street in Chino Hills this week was incensed over support payments he was ordered to make in the couple’s divorce, according to court records obtained Thursday.

As Samir Wahid stabbed Iman Wahid Tuesday after chasing her down Sedona Avenue, a painter working on a nearby house heard the husband yelling about his broken marriage, reports show.

“This is what I get for being married to you,” Samir Wahid said, according to what the painter told sheriff’s investigators. “This is what you get for taking me to court and taking my money away.”

The husband pleaded not guilty to murder charges Thursday in Chino Superior Court. The 39-year-old remained jailed without bail.

Samir and Iman Wahid married in 1995, and between 1997 and 1999 had three children – two boys and a girl.

In 2000, the family moved into a home in Chino Hills at the end of the cul-de-sac where Stone Ridge and Sedona drives meet.

The couple’s relationship became increasingly strained, and Samir Wahid left the home in December and moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Upland.

In April, Iman Wahid, 33, filed for divorce. Documents filed in the case detail the couple’s numerous disagreements – over their children, over money, and over a beauty salon in Glendora that the wife operated for a year before her husband shut it down.

On Monday, a court commissioner signed off on an agreement between the couple, raising Samir Wahid’s monthly support payments from $8,000 to $13,000.

The husband co-owns a successful air-conditioning business in Montclair with his brother called West-Tech Mechanical. He is believed to be worth upwards of $8 million, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s detectives.

Before lunchtime Tuesday at West-Tech Mechanical, Samir Wahid asked to borrow an employee’s green Toyota Tercel, the employee told sheriff’s detectives.

The husband’s everyday car was a white 2009 Jaguar, according to documents filed in the couple’s divorce.

At about 1:30 p.m., several of the Wahid’s neighbors began calling 9-1-1 to describe the attack that began at the Wahid’s home in the 5000 block of Stone Ridge Drive.

According to detectives’ account of the incident, Iman Wahid returned home from grocery shopping and was inside her home carrying grocery bags when she was stabbed by her husband.

Investigators found blood on the grocery bags, in the kitchen, in the family room, and in a hallway that led outside through a garage.

Witnesses told investigators that Iman ran from the house and was screaming for help as she clutched bleeding wounds to her arm and chest.

The woman ran south from her home down Sedona Avenue. Her husband walked to the edge of the driveway holding a knife in his right hand and watching the woman run, witnesses told investigators.

Samir Wahid walked into his wife’s garage and got into her SUV, and drove down Sedona after her.

When he caught up to her, he parked and left the car, still holding the knife.

The painter told detectives that Samir threw his wife to the ground and repeatedly stabbed her with the knife. She rolled over onto her stomach and Samir thrust the knife into her back with both hands so that only the handle was showing, leaving it there, the witness told investigators.

The painter ran outside as deputies were arriving and as he approached Samir Wahid, the husband asked him for a drink of water “like nothing had happened,” the report says.

“The suspect then walked towards the back of the gray SUV and laid down until the deputy arrived and took him into custody,” the report says.

As the first sheriff’s deputy to arrive got out of his patrol car, Samir Wahid yelled, “I did it. I killed her,” according to the deputy.

Wahid laid down on the ground and was handcuffed without incident, and the deputy put him in the back seat of his patrol car.

When paramedics arrived and checked on the wife’s condition, Wahid yelled, “Don’t help the (expletive). Let her die,” according to the deputy.

After he was taken to the Chino Hills sheriff’s station to be interviewed, Samir Wahid gave a lengthy confession, according to the report.

“Obviously I did, I did murder my wife. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about that,” he reportedly said.

He continued to speak without being prompted by a detective in the interview room.

He said he would be going to jail and would be unable to participate in activities “such as walks on the beach,” the report says.

“Casper the friendly ghost didn’t kill her. I did,” he reportedly said.

In court documents in their divorce case, Iman Wahid said the couple had an extravagant lifestyle, spending $15,000 a month on things like entertainment, shopping, and dining at restaurants.

The husband denied the woman’s account of their lifestyle, and in a court declaration said the woman “is not living in reality and her statements are inconsiderate, self-centered and spoiled.”

Two years ago, the couple funded the opening of their own salon – Salon Eve in Glendora – which was managed by Iman Wahid.

The wife had complained that she was bored at home during the day and the husband agreed to help fund the salon, according to the husband’s declaration in the couple’s divorce case.

But according to the husband, his wife, rather than operate the salon responsibly, used the salon’s funds for personal shopping and entertained friends, including men.

“She would spend considerable time with these male visitors in her private office behind closed doors consuming alcoholic beverages with them,” Samir Wahid wrote. “This was done on a routine basis, according to reports by employees at the salon.”

The salon lost money during the year it was open, according to the husband, so he closed it.

The wife disputed her husband’s account of their dispute over the salon.

“The salon was very successful, however, when (Samir) would become angry at me he would close the salon,” the wife said in her declaration. “This would leave all of my employees without a place to work and require all of our customers to find another salon.

“(Samir) is an angry person and has closed my salon three times,” she continued. “Each time he did this was because he was mad at me and trying to punish me.”

On the basis of Wahid’s assets, a judge denied him bail Wednesday. The detective making the request said in a declaration that Wahid holds dual citizenship – in the U.S. and Lebanon, where the couple is originally from.

The two countries do not have an extradition agreement, making it difficult for local authorities to recapture Wahid should he flee to Lebanon, according to the detective.

Principal acquitted on three counts in sexual abuse trial; jury deadlocks on fourth felony

POMONA — A jury found a former Christian school principal not guilty of three counts of sexual abuse this morning, and deadlocked on a fourth count.

John Asher, 50, was accused of raping a 10-year-old girl and fondling a 9-year-old girl nearly a decade ago while he was principal at Life Center Christian School in Pomona.

He was found not guilty in Pomona Superior Court this morning of the three felony counts associated with the student he allegedly fondled.

The jury of seven women and five men was divided on Asher’s guilt in the alleged rape. Eight jurors favored acquittal, and four favored guilty verdicts, said Asher’s attorney, David Robert Cohn.

“My client feels fantastic,” Cohn said.

Prosecutors have the option of again bringing Asher’s case before a jury on the single count for the alleged rape.

“At this point, don’t know,” Deputy District Attorney Miji Vellakkatel said today about the prospect of again bringing Asher’s case to trial.

Vellakkatel said he will discuss the case with the alleged victims and their families, as well as his supervisors, before reaching a decision on whether to bring the case to trial.

The prosecutor said he hopes to reach a decision before June 23, when Asher returns to court for a pre-trial hearing.

The jury deliberated for about two full days before announcing their verdicts. In two weeks of trial testimony, Asher’s two alleged victims, Asher, and several other people took the witness stand.

Asher’s alleged victims — one is now 19 and the other is 18 — said the former principal sexually abused them when they were sent to his office to be disciplined during the 2000-2001 school year.

Asher denied the abuse occurred, and there were no other witnesses who reported seeing or hearing the alleged abuse at the school, which is now known as Charisma Christian Academy.

Cohn told jurors during the trial that the two victims may have collaborated in their accusations — a charge both women denied.

Asked for his reaction to the result in Asher’s trial, Vellakkatel said: “The people accept (the jury’s) decision based upon the time they put into it. We’re thankful for that.”

Cohn said he didn’t believe prosecutors should again take Asher’s case to trial. He emphasized that the jury favored acquittal in the one count where they deadlocked, rather than being evenly split or divided in favor of a guilty verdict.

“We’re both ready to fight if they refile that charge,” Cohn said.

Man pleads not guilty in wife’s stabbing death

CHINO — Samir Mustapha Wahid pleaded not guilty to murder charges in Chino Superior Court this morning in his wife’s fatal stabbing.

Wahid, 39, is accused of fatally stabbing 33-year-old Iman Wahid on Tuesday in the 15700 block of Sedona Drive in Chino Hills, where the wife lived with the couple’s three children.

The couple had recently separated and the husband had been living in Upland. Court records show Iman Wahid filed for divorce in January.

Samir Wahid has retained a private attorney, Richard Ewaniszyk, to represent him in his murder case. Ewaniszyk did not immediately respond this morning to an e-mail seeking comment.

According to authorities, Samir Wahid stabbed his wife at her home in the Higgins Ranch area of Chino Hills, and she ran from the house. He allegedly chased her in an SUV, and continued stabbing her after he caught up to her about 100 yards from the house.

Samir Wahid remains held without bail, and is next due in court June 22.

Prosecutors file murder charges in Chino Hills killing

CHINO — Prosecutors filed murder charges Wednesday against the man accused of stabbing his wife to death Tuesday in Chino Hills, court records show.

Samir Mustapha Wahid, 39, is expected to be arraigned today in Chino Superior Court, according to online records from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Here’s today’s story on the case from reporter Lori Consalvo:


Investigators probe fatal Chino Hills stabbing

Lori Consalvo, Staff Writer

Created: 05/26/2010 04:51:20 PM PDT

CHINO HILLS – Sheriff’s investigators worked through the night and into early Wednesday, trying to piece together a stabbing that left a mother of three children dead.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies were looking for information in a house in the 15700 block of Sedona Drive where Iman Wahid, 33, lived with her three children.

Her husband, Samir Wahid, 39, had moved out of the house in the Higgins Ranch neighborhood and was living in Upland, sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said.

About 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, authorities said, Samir Wahid came over and attacked his wife with a knife.

Iman Wahid got out of the house and ran down the street, but authorities said her husband got into his vehicle and chased after her.

After about 100 yards, Samir Wahid got out and started stabbing Iman Wahid again, Beavers said.

Neighbors watched in horror as Iman Wahid was killed.

“I think they were in absolute shock, seeing what occurred,” Beavers said. “(Some were) able to call the police and give some very detailed information on what was taking place in the street.”

Iman Wahid finally collapsed in the driveway of a nearby vacant home. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived, Samir Wahid was sitting on the curb, Beavers said.

“It is very unusual behavior,” she said.

Officials are speculating that Samir Wahid did not leave the scene because there were so many witnesses.

Samir Wahid, who cooperated with sheriff’s deputies during the arrest, was booked on suspicion of murder at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga. He is ineligible for bail, according to sheriff’s booking records. He is scheduled to appear in court today.

The Wahids’ three children on Tuesday were released to county Child Protective Services. Officials have notified extended family members about the stabbing, Beavers said.

Chino man charged with arson for reportedly setting his own house on fire

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CHINO — The day after a heated argument with his estranged wife, John Cordero Orosco told his children and other family members to move out of his home.

Once alone, Orosco allegedly set the house on fire and stood inside hoping he’d be killed.

Five or six minutes passed before Orosco, 60, fled the Chino home because he couldn’t handle the smoke, he reportedly told police.

Saturday’s fire in the 12500 block of Baker Court was allegedly meant by Orosco as retribution against his wife, who he’d been separated from for a year and a half.

Orosco pleaded not guilty to arson charges this morning in Chino Superior Court, and remains jailed in lieu of $30,000 bail at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga.

According to a police report detailing the incident, Orosco visited his wife’s new home in Chino on Thursday and saw her boyfriend’s car parked outside.

The woman told police that Orosco banged on the front door and demanded that the woman’s new boyfriend come outside. Orosco eventually left without any physical altercation taking place.

The next day, Orosco told the five family members who shared his home to move out, according to the report, which was attached to his court file.

At about noon Saturday, Orosco and his wife argued over the phone about what to do with the family’s home.

He told police after his arrest that he told his wife he wanted to sell it and allow their children to divide the proceeds.

According to Orosco, his wife responded by saying she would hire a lawyer to kick him out and would live there with her boyfriend.

“You’re not going to live in this house with your boyfriend,” Orosco allegedly responded, according to his wife. “I’m going to burn it down.”

At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Chino police officers were dispatched to Orosco’s home.

“I looked at the residence and saw flames coming out of almost every window and the front door,” wrote Officer Jason Bemowski. “The interior of the residence appeared to be completely engulfed in flames.”

According to Bemowski’s report, he saw Orosco in front of the home, leaning on the perimeter fence and watching firefighters battle the flames.

“I walked to John and when I got within a few feet of him he stood up from the fence,” Bemowski wrote. “He turned towards his house and took a step in the direction of the burning building and the firemen.”

After police arrested him, Orosco initially denied responsibility for setting the fire. He later confessed under questioning, according to the report.

“OK, sit down for a minute,” Orosco reportedly told Bemowski. “I need to tell you the real reason. I wanted to commit suicide.”

Orosco told the officer he used a cigarette lighter and a newspaper to set his bed and living room couch on fire, and the flames spread.

“I’ll take the blame for lighting the fire,” he told the officer, according to the report. “It didn’t work. I wanted to light myself.”

May 28, 2010: Length of separation corrected.

Motocross racer pleads guilty to bribing deputies with event tickets

CHINO — A low-level Motocross racer accused of trying to bribe sheriff’s deputies with event tickets after a drunken-driving arrest pleaded guilty this morning to criminal charges.

Jered Peter Thomas, 20, pleaded guilty to bribery, a felony, and DUI as part of a plea bargain reached with prosecutors in Chino Superior Court.

The plea agreement, if approved by a judge, carries a jail sentence of 180 days and three years of probation.

Thomas was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving Jan. 31 after a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy saw him driving erratically near Rolling Ridge Drive and Chino Hills Parkway in Chino Hills.

As Thomas, of Perris, was being booked in the Chino Hills sheriff’s station, he reportedly offered tickets to upcoming Motocross events to two deputies and their supervisor, a sergeant, if they would “let him off” or reduce his charge.

Thomas told deputies that he’d bribed a Riverside County officer with event tickets in the past, and he assured them he’d keep their arrangement secret, according to an investigative report attached to Thomas’ court file.

“In order to assure us and minimize our concerns, Thomas said that his mother’s ex-husband was a law enforcement officer,” Sgt. Chris Ilizaliturri wrote in the report.