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KSBR News Briefs on Friday, May 18, 2018

 

Bomb victim's ex-boyfriend held on explosives charge

Spa owner Ildiko Krajnyak was opening a package that had piled up with mail during her recent trip to her native Hungary when it exploded in her Aliso Viejo office.

News reports of the blast quickly reached her 59-year-old ex-boyfriend and a partner in the Aliso Viejo business Stephen Beal.

At the urging of his new girlfriend, Beal phoned police and then let them search his house. They found more than 100 pounds of explosive material and charged him with possessing an unregistered destructive device.

While not charged with the fatal explosion, the arrest puts Beal in custody as authorities investigate what they believe was a targeted bombing.

Beal, a model rocket hobbyist, told investigators he hadn’t made any bombs and didn’t have material for an explosion as powerful as the one he saw in news coverage.

Beal didn’t enter a plea during his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana and his case was continued to Monday. His public defender refused to comment.

The criminal complaint was accompanied by an affidavit from an FBI special agent that briefly described the relationship between Beal and Krajnyak, as well as the blast.

The two had met online in June 2016 and dated about a year and a half.

 

Californian cleared after 40 years in prison gets $2 million

Our state has awarded nearly $2 million in compensation to a former inmate wrongly imprisoned for almost 40 years.

Gov. Brown has signed a law giving 70-year-old Craig Richard Coley $140 for each day he was in prison.

Coley spent 39 years behind bars after he was wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend, 24-year-old Rhonda Wicht from Simi Valley, and her 4-year-old son in 1978.

Brown pardoned him before Thanksgiving at the urging of Simi Valley's police chief and Ventura County's district attorney, who cited faulty evidence.

Coley previously said the money can't make up for what he called the "worst nightmare" of spending 13,991 days in prison.

It's the largest payment under our state’s Erroneous Conviction Program, although there have been larger awards to crime victims through other programs.

 

California law limits talk of immigration status in court

Gov. Brown has signed legislation aimed at protecting people living in the country illegally from having their immigration status disclosed in open court.

The measure would require lawyers to get permission from a judge before discussing someone's immigration status publicly.

San Francisco Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener says the measure would ensure crime victims and witnesses aren't scared away from testifying in court.

Critics of Wiener's bill say the bill won't do anything to protect immigrants and may give them false confidence.

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye drew national attention last year when she condemned federal immigration enforcement operations in courthouses.

SB785 takes effect immediately but only remain law through 2022 unless it’s reauthorized.

 

California #MeToo leader cleared of groping allegations

Outside investigators have cleared a state assemblywoman who was once at the forefront of our state's #MeToo movement of allegations that she groped a male staff member in 2014.

However, Los Angeles Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is still facing discipline for using vulgar language in violation of the chamber's sexual harassment policy.

Garcia will have no committee assignments when she returns to work Wednesday after a voluntary three-month absence during the investigation.

Fellow Democrat Speaker Anthony Rendon says he's also requiring her to attend sensitivity training and a session about the chamber's sexual harassment policy.

The accusations against Garcia marked a surprising twist in our state’s Legislature's sexual misconduct reckoning that began last fall. Three male lawmakers resigned their seats after investigations found they likely engaged in sexual misconduct. Garcia had been vocal in calling on them to step aside.

Daniel Fierro, who made the groping complaint, said he might appeal the findings within the allowed 10-day window. He’s a former staff member for another lawmaker.

 

California bill seeks to clarify mudslide insurance

Our state Senate has approved legislation that seeks to clarify homeowners' insurance coverage following deadly mudslides near Santa Barbara.

Insurance policies generally cover damage caused by fires but not by mudslides. That creates confusion in cases like the mudslides in Montecito, which were triggered by a wildfire.

In such cases where multiple factors combine to cause damage, courts have ruled that insurers must pay if the policy covers the "efficient proximate cause" — the most important cause — of the damage.

Most insurers have agreed to cover damage in Montecito, but Democratic Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson from Santa Barbara thinks enshrining the existing legal doctrine in law would help future mudslide victims avoid prolonged fights with insurers.

Jackson says "it’s important that the insurance industry know very clearly, without equivocation, their responsibility to their policyholders that they must cover these costs."

Insurers oppose the bill. Their lobbyists say it goes further than the existing legal interpretation and might force them to cover losses they wouldn't otherwise have to cover. That could require them to raise their rates or decline to offer coverage in some areas.

 

Man gets prison for taking Ferrari on 2-week joyride

A Santa Ana man who took a stolen Ferrari on a two-week joyride in Southern California won't be going anywhere for a while.

KNBC-TV reports that Israel Rangel was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to the theft.

Authorities say Rangel stole a Ferrari 458 Spider from a service center in Costa Mesa last Oct. 18. He was arrested on Nov. 1 after Santa Ana police got a report of someone driving a Ferrari erratically.

Police also say Rangel had asked someone for gas money to fill up the car at a Mobil station.

Rangel was arrested after he was found hiding in some bushes.