During his opening statement this week, a San Francisco prosecutor told a jury that what seemed like an ordinary marijuana sale was actually a set up for robbery, that turned into murder.
Prosecutor Gerald Norman said the defendant, Max Reyes, 25, of San Francisco, had apparently bought marijuana many times before from the victim when he arrived at the victim’s house on the evening of Nov. 3, 2008, in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.
Reyes now faces charges of murder, felony robbery, attempted murder and attempted robbery in the death of 36-year-old John P. Rogers. Another victim at the house that night was wounded but survived by running through the kitchen and out the back door.
The shooter, however, was not Reyes, according to Norman. Instead a man only identified as “D.K.” fired three bullets into Rogers, one that went through his forearm, one that lodged in his hip and the fatal shot that went through his chest. Norman said authorities have not been able to make a positive identification of this individual, thus, he is not standing trial.
The same man is also believed to have shot the other victim.
Reyes is facing murder and attempted murder charges because Rogers was killed during the commission of another felonious crime. Reyes is being held in custody with bail set at $1 million.
Sitting dressed in a suit and tie, clean shaven with short, neatly cropped hair, Reyes listened intently as Norman told the jury that Reyes apparently was a regular customer who already owed Rogers money before he showed up at the house that night.
He said Rogers, Reyes and the other victim had “known each other for months,” and Reyes had been at that address on Fair Avenue many times previously. The other victim, said Norman, was Rogers’ partner in their marijuana business.
“The evidence will show that John Rogers and Mr. Reyes had a falling out,” said Norman. “Reyes took some marijuana to sell but never got around to paying for it.”
To make up for it, Reyes called Rogers at 8:16 p.m. and said D.K. and himself would purchase some more marijuana, sell it, then pay off what he owed with the profits.
Within the hour after that call, they showed up and Rogers gave them a bag of the marijuana to inspect before they made the purchase.
Instead of opening the bag and looking at the product, however, Reyes “clutched it and turned to run,” said Norman. A struggle ensued between the men and that’s when D.K. pulled out a gun and opened fire, killing Rogers and wounding his business partner in the leg when the man came into the kitchen to see what was going on.
D.K. fired another shot at the other victim but missed.
Norman said when police got there they found Rogers dead at the scene.
Apparently the bag had been ripped open during the tussle because police noticed a trail of marijuana going out the door.
Investigators checked the caller ID numbers on Rogers’ phone and later discovered that the account for one number was listed to someone named “Savage Life,” plus there were two other numbers associated with that same account. When police caught up with Reyes the next day, they found him in possession of a phone with one of those other numbers.
Further investigation uncovered someone from yet another number had called Rogers’ phone “many, many times” and that number was registered to Reyes.
Family members said Rogers left behind a wife, 13-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.
Public Defender Eric Safire waved his right to make an opening statement today, deferring it to after the prosecution has rested the state’s case.
Lance Molina, 23, and Arieal Kittles, 21, both of San Francisco, were charged with murder and other felonies this morning in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy SFPD)
By Thomas K. Pendergast
Five people allegedly involved in the slaying of a Louisiana tourist last Oct. 4 were arraigned in San Francisco over the past week. All five plead 'not guilty.'
William Jones, 21, Lance Molina, 23, Arieal Kittles, 21, and Maurice Lige, 17, all of San Francisco, were each charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and felony robbery in the death of Michael Bailey, 26, a married father of three and a senior in electrical engineering at Southern University at Baton Rouge. Bail is set at $10 million each.
A fifth defendant, Kenya Moore, 30, of San Francisco, has been charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact. Her bail is set at $100,000.
Authorities allege that in the early morning hours of Oct. 4, 2009, Bailey and two other friends were at the City Nights nightclub on Harrison Street, in San Francisco, where they met Kittles and she asked Bailey for a lift home, claiming to have lost her keys inside the club.
They gave her a ride to the Alice Griffith housing projects in the Hunters Point area of the Bayview District, just north of Candlestick Park, where she directed them down a dead-end street named Doublerock to drop her off.
After they stopped, police allege she lingered in the back seat but eventually she left the car. Then a man appeared, brandishing an assault weapon at Bailey and his companions while ordering them out of the car. All three complied and dropped down to lay prone on the ground.
Investigators allege that Jones pulled the trigger of the weapon that killed Bailey.
"The triggerman got into some kind of spat with one victim, not Bailey, and Jones hit him in the head with a gun," said Brian Buckelew, an assistant district attorney with the SF DA's office. "Bailey stood up to aid his friend and was shot."
Bailey was shot several times in the body and face. The defendants allegedly ran away on foot and Bailey later died of his wounds at San Francisco General Hospital.
If convicted, Jones, who faces additional assault, gang and gun charges, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. Molina, Kittles and Lige are also facing murder charges because they were directly involved with a felony robbery in which someone was killed.
Buckelew said at this time, investigators have no evidence that Moore was at the scene of the shooting or knew about it beforehand but they believe she met with the other suspects after the shooting, then rendered them assistance by driving them out of the area.
Buckelew said authorities are not releasing images of Jones, Moore or Lige at this time.
Outside the Thomas J. Cahill Hall of Justice, San Francisco
Story and photo by Thomas K. Pendergast
Now that the "Baby Boomer" generation is retiring, the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) once again finds itself in violation of the City Charter, while it struggles to keep pace with voter-mandated staff levels.
About a third of the SFPD is set to start collecting pensions in the next few years and if the funding, training and hiring of new recruits don't replace them soon, the City could again find itself chronically short of cops.
Prosecutors allege that a top engineer and administrator held San Francisco's central computer network hostage, while a defense attorney claims that the defendant was perhaps just a little overzealous in doing his job.
Terry Childs, 45, of Pittsburg, CA, is a former San Francisco Department of Technology administrator accused of withholding passwords to the city's main computer network in 2008. The city alleges that he commandeered the city's new FiberWAN network, which he was in charge of engineering and implementing.
This network centralizes what had been separate networks from different city departments and now includes the city's Police Department, Sheriff's Department and payroll system, among others.
"This is a network that spanned the entire city and the entire city relied on it," prosecuting attorney Conrad del Rosario told the jury during opening statements.
Above:Mexican navy forces take cover during an operation Wednesday in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Four alleged cartel members were slain during a two-hour gunbattle, and a fifth reportedly committed suicide. Left:Alleged drug cartel chief Arturo Beltran Leyva is seen in this undated image from Mexico's Attorney General's Office. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says the Beltran Leyva cartel is key in the importation and distribution of cocaine and heroin in the United States.
The Associated Press reported that yesterday two hundred Mexican navy sailors raided an upscale apartment complex and killed a reputed drug cartel chief in a two-hour gunbattle, one of the biggest victories yet in President Felipe Calderon's drug war.
Arturo Beltran Leyva, the "boss of bosses," and three members of his cartel were slain in the shootout Wednesday in Cuernavaca, just south of Mexico City, according to a navy statement. A fifth cartel member committed suicide during the shootout.
Cartel gunmen hurled grenades that injured three sailors, the navy said. An Associated Press reporter at the scene heard at least 10 explosions.
The murder trial of three San Francisco men focused on DNA and ballistic evidence last week, as the prosecution tries to connect two homicides to a street-gang war in the Visitacion Valley district.
Emon Brown, 20, and Joc Wilson, 22, both of San Francisco, are accused of killing Brandon Perkins, 29, on Aug. 3, 2007, and Byron Smith, 32, on Sept. 2, 2007, near the Sunnydale projects.
Floyd Jackson, 21, of San Francisco, also stands accused of slaying Perkins.
All three plead not guilty.
Authorities claim the defendants are members of the Down Below gang, which has been battling for turf in the Sunnydale projects with the Towerside gang. Police believe these slayings might have been sparked when Jackson was shot in the hand in July of 2007.
Through DNA evidence, prosecutor Diana Garcia connected two bicycles found near Smith’s murder scene to Brown and Wilson.
Cherisse Boland of the SFPD crime lab testified that she concluded DNA found on the bicycles' handlebar grips matched that of Brown and Wilson.
On cross-examination, Public Defender Bicka Barlow asked Boland if she found DNA samples from anyone else on the grips and Boland said she did.
“There are five DNA types,” said Boland.
“Are the results consistent with multiple individuals coming into contact with the bike grips,” said Barlow.
"Yes. … It's a mixture of at least two or three contributors and (Brown and Wilson's) DNA are included," said Boland.
"You phrased it as a minimum of two individuals, could it be DNA from more than two?" said Barlow.
"Yes, another sample was from at least three individuals," said Boland.
Barlow asked if Boland could tell when or in what sequence the DNA might have been deposited on the grips and she responded that it was not scientifically possible to do this.
Mark Proia, a ballistics expert with the SFPD crime lab, testified that bullet casings from a .45 caliber firearm found at both crime scenes were fired by the same weapon and 9mm Luger bullet casings found at both crime scenes were also fired from the same weapon.
On cross-examination, Brown's attorney, Public Defender Tony Tamburello, asked if it was true that matching the casings to the same weapons used in both crimes said "nothing about the identity of the shooters."
"That is correct," Proia responded.
"Is it possible that the same person could fire two different guns?"
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Steve Poizner disposes of $34,000, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says the $86,000 he received from 2003 to 2005 has been spent.
Evan Halper and Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times report that 'some California politicians are ridding their campaign coffers of cash from a Los Angeles venture capitalist who has pleaded guilty to bribing pension officials in New York.
Elliott Broidy, who had California government contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, showered his personal fortune on officeholders and candidates. Over the last decade, Broidy and his wife, Robin Rosenzweig, have made nearly $900,000 in campaign contributions in California, including $57,000 to candidates and ballot measures in the city of Los Angeles.
Candidates for governor, state attorney general and other offices declared Monday that they would return tens of thousands of dollars received from Broidy, who on Friday admitted in court that he paid $1 million in bribes in New York to land $250 million in pension fund business.
Broidy faces up to four years in prison. His business with pension funds in California is under investigation by state and federal authorities.
Tom Hogen-Esch, a professor of political science at Cal State Northridge, said Broidy's confession to bribery taints the donations.
"If somebody has admitted to a crime, anyone receiving money from him in large sums should consider donating it to charity or some other action, to protect the political process itself," he said. "The appearance of corruption is quite obvious."
Nov. 3: Students hold candles during a vigil to support a classmate who was the victim of a brutal rape at Richmond High School. Photography by Diana Jou/Richmond Confidential
Richard Gonzales of National Public Radio reports that the city of Richmond, Calif., continues to wrestle with the effects of a brutal attack on a teenage girl who was gang-raped at her high school. Some of the suspects in the case may enter their pleas in court today. At least 20 people saw the October incident but did not intervene.
Richmond is a working class town just across the bay from San Francisco and it's the hometown of Gonzales. He returned to see how the attack is affecting his city.
"The Richmond I knew growing up was a rough place, where everyday violence was a fact of life," said Gonzales. "But that was some 40 years ago — and back then, we had good schools, and everybody's father had a job. But things are different now. Just take a look at Richmond High School."