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POSTED February 29, 2012 8:11 p.m.

EUREKA YURT YIELDS MORE THAN 3,880 POT PLANTS: EUREKA  (AP) — State and local drug agents say they found 3,881 marijuana plants and 110 one-pound bags of dried pot inside a Eureka yurt and seized $420,000 in cash from the structure and a nearby home.

Michelle Gregory, a spokeswoman for the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, said state agents obtained a search warrant for the two properties a week ago and served them Wednesday with help from the Humboldt County Sheriff's department.

The yurt's owners, 45-year-old John Eaton Cromwell and 42-year-old Elisabeth Nergaard Olsen, were cited for cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana and maintaining a drug house, but weren't arrested because they are the parents of four young children, according to the sheriff's department.

A third resident of the home, 34-year-old Charles Bruzza of Portland, Ore., was jailed and held on $75,000 bail.

DEATH PENALTY SOUGHT IN N. CALIF. SERIAL SLAYINGS: SAN RAFAEL  (AP) — Prosecutors said Wednesday that they plan to seek the death penalty against a man suspected of killing four prostitutes in rural Northern California.

The announcement was made in Marin County Superior Court as Joseph Naso, 78, re-entered not-guilty pleas to four counts of murder.

The former Reno photographer is accused of killing Roxene Roggasch in 1977, Carmen Colon in 1978, Pamela Parsons in 1993 and Tracy Tafoya in 1994. All four were found strangled in rural areas of Northern California.

Deputy District Attorney Dori Ahana would not elaborate on the decision to pursue the death penalty. She noted that the case involved multiple victims, a special circumstance that made Naso eligible for the punishment.

Prosecutors presented dozens of Naso's photographs — including two showing alleged victims — where the women appear unconscious or dead. Prosecutors claim Naso drugged his victims before killing them, photographing their bodies and leaving them in rural areas.

Naso also kept a safe deposit box with newspaper clippings of the slayings, and investigators found journals and calendars that noted Naso's meetings with Tafoya and Parsons around the time of their deaths in Yuba County.

Naso is acting as his own attorney. He has argued that he never used drugs on his photography subjects.

He said that he had a rapport with women that made them comfortable disrobing for the camera.

LA COUNCIL MOVES ON RESPONSIBLE BANKING ORDINANCE: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles City Council is moving forward with a "responsible banking" ordinance that would evaluate financial institutions that do business with the city on their efforts to be good corporate citizens.

The council voted unanimously Wednesday to request the city attorney draft the ordinance.

The law would require banks that have contracts with city agencies to provide information about how much money they invest in the city, their efforts to prevent foreclosures, and the amount of small business and home loans given to residents.

OC TEACHER ARRESTED FOR INAPPROPRIATE TEXTS: SANTA ANA  (AP) — A former dance instructor for the Orange County High School of the Arts has been arrested for allegedly sending sexually suggestive text messages to a 15-year-old student.

City News Service reports 53-year-old John Juul Nielson was taken into custody on a warrant Wednesday at his home in Cerritos.

He was booked for misdemeanor child annoyance, with bail set at $15,000.

A school spokeswoman says Nielson started working at the high school part-time in September 2010 and was fired Jan. 13.

Prosecutors say the married father of three sent numerous text messages to the girl between Oct. 15 and Jan. 11. Nielson is also accused of having "sexually inappropriate conversations" with the student, according to prosecutors.

RESIDENTS SUE ANAHEIM OVER HOTEL TAX INCENTIVE: ANAHEIM  (AP) — A group of Anaheim residents has filed a lawsuit against the city over a plan to give the developers of two luxury hotels near Disneyland up to $158 million in tax incentives.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court and accuses the City Council of giving away public funds and violating environmental laws.

The council voted 3-2 last month to allow the hotels to keep the bed tax for 15 years for the 866-room project.

That 15 percent bed tax, which is standard at Anaheim resort hotels, would generally go into the city's general fund.

Supporters say the project will generate thousands of jobs and create tourism revenue.

Opponents say the deal siphons money away while the city is already laying off employees and outsource maintenance work.

CALIF. MAN GETS PROBATION FOR MAILING RAT POISON: LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge has sentenced a California man to five years of probation for sending envelopes of rat poison to Los Angeles County child welfare officials in a fit of anger over the handling of his nephew's case in the 1990s.

The U.S. Attorney's office said Judge Howard Matz on Wednesday also ordered Martin Yarbrough Jr. to undergo mental health treatment and barred him from possessing dangerous weapons.

Yarbrough, 50, pleaded guilty last year to 13 counts of mailing injurious materials for sending envelopes containing rat and cockroach poison to offices of the Department of Children and Family Services and the Edelman Children's Court from 2008 to 2010.

No one was harmed, but discovery of the poison caused the buildings to be evacuated and hazardous materials teams to be dispatched.

TAPE CAN BE USED IN SHERIFF’S TRIAL: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A judge has denied a request by lawyers for the wife of San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to not allow a video as evidence during his domestic violence trial.

Judge Garrett Wong ruled Wednesday that a video of Eliana Lopez tearfully showing a bruise on her arm while describing an alleged incident at the hands of Mirkarimi can be used as evidence.

Lopez's lawyer Paula Canny argued during a hearing that the video made by Ivory Madison, Lopez's neighbor and an attorney, should be withdrawn because it was made under the assumption of attorney-client privilege.

Wong said those rights did not apply because the evidence is not being used against Lopez.

Mirkarimi has pleaded

LA COUNCIL RELAXES ONEROUS TRUANCY ORDINANCE: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles City Council has relaxed a much criticized truancy ordinance that ticketed students for being tardy to school.

The council on Wednesday approved a law that replaces $250 fines with community service for the first and second offenses, and start fines at $20 for the third offense.

The ordinance also prevents police officers from writing tickets during the first hour of school to students within a three-block radius of their campus.

Community groups and public interest lawyers lambasted the old law as unfair as it disproportionately affected black, Latino and low-income students.

Los Angeles police issued 47,000 truancy tickets from 2004 to 2009. Students complained they received tickets when they were clearly on their way to school and even had a legitimate reason for being tardy.

 

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