Wednesday, August 16, 2017

IN THE NEWS: Unwarranted jabs at those who pursue justice

Click here to view the following opinion piece by District Attorney Mike Ramos that was published Aug. 16, 2017 in The Sun


A recent Sun column headlined “Focusing on restitution, not incarceration, serves justice,” by Adam Summers (Aug. 10), takes two unwarranted jabs at the office of the district attorney in its attempt to address the rights of victims and their families.

While the columnist doesn’t specifically name a particular district attorney, I still feel it necessary to speak on behalf of this office and our county’s prosecutors who work tirelessly to secure justice for victims.

One of the statements in the column refers to the fact that, “Sentencing someone to prison may pad a district attorney’s ‘tough on crime’ bona fides, but it does little to compensate the victims.”

As a career prosecutor and 15-year district attorney who has sat beside multiple families of murder victims and tried over 125 cases, I have never once tried to “pad” my resume or the statistics coming out of this office with convictions, or anything for that matter. In fact, the very first thing I tell every new prosecutor who joins our office is, “Your first job, in every case, is to pursue truth and justice. This office does not count convictions, and we do not keep a scoreboard.”


The comment that we need a system that focuses on “the needs and wishes of the victims, not adding another notch on a DA’s belt before the next election” is also insulting not only to me, but to every hardworking prosecutor in our county. It suggests that prosecutors are more concerned with inflating their numbers than pursuing justice — as if we sit in some dark lair, plotting and scheming ways to stick it to some suspect who doesn’t necessarily deserve to be charged.


It’s a cliché, and to be quite honest, it sits right alongside the irresponsible stereotypes we read or hear about on a day-to-day basis. The inner workings of our justice system is far from some must-see TV drama, as well as the picture painted in this column. Are the cases mentioned in the column tragic? Yes, of course, but if the columnist is suggesting that just because an incident is “accidental” — and for the record, one of the examples appears to be far from accidental — the suspect should be given a free pass and merely sentenced to a lifetime of “torturous guilt,” then I wholeheartedly disagree. Each case should be held according to its own facts and circumstances and held up against the law, and then and only then, should a determination be made as to whether or not they are charged.


In every case that comes to our office, we are guided by the law and our best judgment to ensure that the guilty are held accountable. We represent and act on behalf of the people of San Bernardino County. Each case has its own set of facts and circumstances, and those are always taken into consideration, whether a case is deemed “accidental” or one of “extreme violence.” If charged, a judge and jury make the final decision as to whether a defendant should be held accountable.


That is the justice system our forefathers put into place, and in carrying out this mission, we make sure that the rights of our victims and the accused are never forgotten, never overlooked, and always addressed. It’s the law. This is not about notched belts and numbers. There is no dark lair or special playbook that tells us to disregard the law and the rights of the accused. If the evidence deems that a crime has been committed, then our office will take every step to hold the guilty accountable.



Michael A. Ramos is San Bernardino County’s district attorney.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

MMA Fighter convicted


Deputy DA Sheila Monjazeb and the Desert-Mountain Division support staff secured a guilty verdict in the case of MMA fighter Nathanial Newbiggin who violently slapped, strangled, punched and backhanded his wife, causing her to fall to the floor and momentarily lose her sight.
 
He faces 7 years and 8 months in prison when sentenced Sept. 1.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

IN THE NEWS: Bureau of Victim Services Chief featured in recent news article

San Bernardino school shooting hit first responders harder than other incidents

By Doug Saunders, The Sun

SAN BERNARDINO >> “Walking in the building, you could still smell the gunpowder,” said San Bernardino police Officer Robert Snyder.

He and dozens of first responders had raced to North Park Elementary School that sunny spring day where they found a horrifying scene inside Classroom B1. A teacher’s estranged husband had shot her and two children before killing himself.

Synder had seen other tragedies during his police career, but this one deeply affected him.

“For me, this was worse than the
terror attack at the (Inland Regional Center) because of the kids,” he said. “When I arrived on scene at North Park, I immediately put on body armor and was directed to the classroom.”

Snyder went directly to the side of 8-year-old
Jonathan Martinez, who had been shot in the head by Cedric Anderson, of Riverside. Anderson also fatally shot his wife, special education teacher Karen Smith.

“Jonathan was still breathing, although he had significant injuries, and I just didn’t leave his side,” Snyder said. “Once the helicopter landed, I stayed with him all the way to the hospital.”

The boy didn’t make it: He was pronounced dead at Loma Linda University Medical Center almost immediately after he arrived.

“It was hard for everyone,” Snyder said, tears welling in his eyes. “Most of us, including the hospital staff, are parents, so something like this is extremely difficult to deal with.”


Saving Lives

The crew that flew in and landed on school grounds to take victims to the hospital is part of an aviation team made up of San Bernardino County firefighters and sheriff’s deputies.

“We heard the call come out over the radio and immediately went airborne,” said Cpl. Mike Ells, the crew chief. “Once the information came out, as a crew, we just loaded up and launched.”

The rescue team isn’t required to wait to be dispatched, Ells said.

“We hear the need for help, and we just go,” he said. “We go on a lot of calls that are just plain bad.”

Experience and training keep team members steady under pressure.


Flight Paramedics Jennifer DeShon and Jason Williams were calm and steady as they worked together that day, Ells said.

“They were focused on saving lives,” he explained.

San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Victim Services Chief Flerida Alarcon and her team quickly made their way to the scene. Tagging along were Lupe and Dozer, 4-year-old black Labrador retrievers, who are the main components of the DA’s Special Victims K-9 Unit.

“We knew the children of North Park were going to be removed from the school grounds to an off-site area where they could be reunited with their parents,” Alarcon said. “They were greeted by Dozer and Lupe when they arrived.”

Students came up and petted the dogs, which are used to calm victims after incidents such as the murder-suicide at North Park school.

“Watching those students surround Lupe and Dozer and petting and loving them gives an added purpose to what we do,” Alarcon added.


Critical Incidents

San Bernardino County has had more than its share of high profile incidents in recent years from the manhunt for
rogue ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner in Big Bear to the terror attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino and, most recently, the shooting at North Park.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when we get very good at responding to critical incidents,” Sheriff John McMahon said. “The only way you get good at it is when you have a lot of experience dealing with critical incidents like that.”


DeShon, who’s worked as a paramedic with San Bernardino County Fire for more than 20 years, said such incidents keep her committed to her job.

“This unit deals with the worst of the worst incidents, and we debrief after each mission,” she said. “But helping people is why I wanted to get into this.”

Finding an outlet to relieve the stress is important to the police and firefighters.

“Going to the gym helps me deal with what we see out there every day,” Snyder said. “After the North Park incident, I still had my kid’s soccer game to get to. I still have to be able to function as a loving parent. But, honestly, that was an extremely tough day.”


Alarcon, whose team works with victims of violent crimes, including children who have been sexually assaulted and abused, said team members can seek help from mental health professionals if needed, but they also debrief daily by sitting around and talking things out.

They did that after North Park.

“Afterwards, we all sat together to talk about what happened,” Alarcon said. “Many of us were still in a state of shock, but we had to be strong for others.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017

National Night Out

National Night Out is a community-police awareness-raising event in the United States, held the first Tuesday of August. This year, members of our office participated in several events all around the county.
























Friday, July 28, 2017

Barstow man sentenced to life in prison for double murder


SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A Barstow man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole today for the double murder of his father, 56-year-old Prospare Landry, and his father’s girlfriend, 36-year-old Laurel Roberts.

In April, 24-year-old Frank Joseph Covin (pictured left) was convicted of two counts of murder following a jury trial. This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Shannon Faherty of the Major Crimes Unit.

Prior to today’s sentencing, District Attorney Victim Advocate Alma Arenas, who was assigned to the case, read a victim impact statement written by Landry’s sister.

I have a great sense of loss and sadness remembering how my brother's love of Jesus had brought him great hope for the future and for his kids. Please understand that my desire for Joseph to find forgiveness and know the love of Jesus, does not diminish my love or the pain of loss for my big brother. But I think that my brother would echo this message if he were here right now.

– Ramona Taylor (excerpted)

The details of the crime date back to June 1, 2015. On the day of the crime, Covin was seated on the couch watching television, when he became upset by the noises he heard coming from the television.

After his father walked past him and into the bedroom, Covin grabbed a handgun and shot his father in the back of the head. Roberts left the kitchen, where she had been baking a cake, to investigate. As she entered the bedroom, Covin walked in behind her and shot her in the back of the head.
 
Covin then placed the handgun and each victim’s cell phone into a backpack. He gathered up the expelled cartridges from the floor, threw them in the kitchen trash can, and then went back to watching television.

At the request of a family member, Sheriff’s deputies conducted a welfare check at the Hinkley home. Upon entering the home, they found Roberts’ body on the bedroom floor, face down in a pool of blood, with a single gunshot wound to the head. Covin had barricaded himself and refused to come out of the house.

After a lengthy stand-off, the Sheriff’s SWAT team made entry into the house and arrested Covin without incident. During a warranted search of the house, Landry was found in the same bedroom lying face-up, with a single gunshot wound to the back of his head.

Prior to today’s sentencing Victim Advocate Arenas also read a victim impact statement prepared by Laurel Roberts’ nephew Ben Abel:

We hope he sits in prison and relives that day over and over again. Joseph could have chosen a different path without killing two amazing people like Laurel and Frank. His selfishness has caused two families traumatic heartbreak. What he has done has not only proved he is selfish but also a coward. We hope he sits there for the rest of his miserable life and asks himself was this worth it.

- Ben Abel (excerpted; some family members also referred to Prospare Landry as Frank)
 
 

Program to feature 1976 cold case murder

Cynthia Hernandez
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – On August 26, 1976, Cynthia Hernandez left her home to catch a movie at the Fox Twin Theaters in Covina. Hernandez, a recent Charter Oak High School graduate, never came home.

The next morning, her family located her unoccupied vehicle in the theater parking lot. Fearing for her safety, they immediately filed a missing person’s report with the Glendora Police Department.

Nearly 40 years after her disappearance, 61-year-old Larry James Allred was charged with her murder. On Oct. 17, 2016, Allred was sentenced to life in prison.

On Sunday, July 30, the story of her shocking murder will be featured on “On the Case with Paula Zahn” at 10 p.m. PDT on Investigation Discovery, and highlight the efforts of the Glendora Police Department, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Denise Yoakum, who is assigned to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit. Following Allred’s sentencing in Oct. 2016, Yoakum described her motivation for never giving up on this case.

“For forty years we had a victim without justice, a family without answers and a killer amongst us,” Yoakum said. “Cindy’s family didn’t know whether she was alive or dead. This is exactly why the Cold Case team never gives up.”

Yoakum, who believes there are potential other victims of Allred, is hoping the show will bring forward other witnesses to help solve other cases.

To learn more about the case, you can visit the District Attorney’s website:
https://goo.gl/cJLJMr

To learn more about the upcoming show, visit www.facebook.com/PaulaZahnOfficial

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Man found guilty of posing as police officer to sexually assault three women

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – A Big Bear City man has been convicted of posing as a police officer, threatening three women with a handgun and sexually assaulting them.
 
A jury found 53-year-old William Hernandez (pictured left) guilty today of four counts of Forcible Oral Copulation, four counts of Forcible Rape, two counts of False Imprisonment by Violence, and one count of Sodomy by Use of Force. Multiple allegations were found true.
The first incident occurred in Feb. 2016, when Hernandez identified himself as a police officer to a woman who he then threatened with a handgun and sexually assaulted in a Rancho Cucamonga motel.
The second assault occurred in Victorville. Hernandez once again identified himself as a police office to another victim and then threatened her with a handgun and sexually assaulted her.
Afterwards, the second victim’s friend called her and she answered the phone. Hernandez pointed a gun at her and demanded that she tell her friend to come over. Once she arrived, Hernandez threatened her with a gun and sexually assaulted her.
Hernandez faces 188 years to life in prison when sentenced Aug. 22.
This case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Lisa Crane and the West Valley Division support staff. Rancho Cucamonga Police Department and Victorville City Police Department were the investigating agencies.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

San Bernardino man who claimed a "Government Mind Control Project" caused him to kill a store clerk convicted of murder

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.  – A San Bernardino man was convicted Thursday for the 2010 violent murder of a grocery store clerk.
A jury found 35-year-old Junior Tejeda (pictured left) guilty of one count of Murder and two counts of Robbery, and found true two firearm allegations.
On Nov. 8, 2010, a masked man wielding a shotgun—later identified as Tejeda—entered a San Bernardino market, pointed the shotgun at the clerk and asked him to open the register. Before the clerk could respond, Tejeda shot the clerk one time in the head. The defendant, who had just been released from prison 24 hours earlier, never grabbed any money and ran out of the market.
According to Deputy District Attorney Cecilia Joo, who prosecuted the case, it wasn’t until approximately a year and a half later that investigators were able to identify Tejeda as the suspect after he committed another armed robbery.
 
Tejeda entered the same market, which now had different owners, and demanded money from the store owner. At first, the owner didn’t want to cooperate, but a second victim came out from the back and gave Tejeda some money from the register.
 
Officers with the San Bernardino Police Department found Tejeda a few blocks away, hiding, with the money and gun dumped nearby. Tejeda attempted to blame a “Government Mind Control Project” as having been the reason for all the crimes.
 
Tejeda faces 54 years to life when sentenced Aug. 11 at the San Bernardino Justice Center.

Monday, July 24, 2017

IN THE NEWS: Congratulations to Deputy District Attorney Justin Crocker

These are the 30 most influential people under 30 in Eloise Reyes’ assembly district
 
 

Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes selected 30 people under age 30 for awards at Saturday’s celebration at the Garcia Center for the Arts, 536 West 11th St., San Bernardino. The event lasts from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Admission is free. Based on descriptions from her staff, this is who they are:

Justin Crocker is a Deputy District Attorney for the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office assigned to the Hardcore Gang Unit in the San Bernardino office. He has prosecuted hundreds of cases throughout the county and conducted 35 jury trials in his three and a half years with the office, including charges of murder, attempted murder, vehicular manslaughter, and other violent felonies. In addition to his work in the courtroom, he has also volunteered each year as a scoring attorney for the county’s high school mock trial competition and participates in programs such as Every 15 Minutes.

Click here to read the entire article.