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POSTED March 7, 2012 8:05 p.m.

BOYFRIEND PLEADS NOT GUILTY IN CERES TORTURE CASE: MODESTO  (AP) — A man accused of torturing his pregnant girlfriend a month before she survived a Modesto triple slaying at her home has pleaded not guilty to the felony charges.

Stanislaus County prosecutors moved quickly to file five charges Monday against Richard Garcia for allegedly holding his 18-year-old girlfriend hostage for a week and threatening to kill her and her family.

The charges, stemming from a February arrest, came two days after the woman hid in a closet while two friends and her 16-year-old brother were fatally shot by intruders.

Neither prosecutors nor Modesto police will say whether the 31-year-old Garcia, also known as Richard Garibay, is a suspect in the homicides. No arrests have been made in that case.

The Modesto Bee reports that he is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Friday.

CA FISH AND GAME PRESIDENT GETS PUBLIC SUPPORT : RIVERSIDE  (AP) — The president of the California Fish and Game Commission received strong support Wednesday to remain on the board after creating a fury by killing a mountain lion out of state.

More than 60 people spoke in favor of Dan Richards during a 2½-hour public comment session at the commission's first public meeting since lawmakers and animal-rights activists called for his resignation.

The meeting, held near Richard's home in San Bernardino County, was packed with hunters and fishermen.

"The bottom line is that he did nothing illegal," said Doug Elliott, who runs the state's largest catfish farm. "They've chosen this issue to maybe rid the commission of a conservative voice. This has been blown way out of proportion."

Richards, a Republican commercial real estate developer, has maintained he will not step down from his appointed position, despite efforts to remove him by 40 members of the state Assembly, the lieutenant governor and animal rights activists.

Richards was lambasted by critics over a photo that shows him with a mountain lion he shot during a January visit to Idaho. Hunting mountain lions is legal in Idaho and other states but banned in California.

ARIZONA WOMAN ACCUSED OF TRYING TO BURN   BOY: NEEDLES  (AP) — Authorities have arrested an Arizona woman on suspicion of attempted murder for allegedly throwing a gasoline-soaked rag and lighted match onto a 3-year-old boy in Needles, Calif.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said Wednesday that 56-year-old Elizabeth Smoka of Mohave Valley is being held on $1 million bail.

Authorities say the boy was not harmed in the incident, which occurred Sunday around 9 p.m. following an argument between Smoka and the boy's mother, who are unrelated. The rag and match landed on a blanket that covered him as he sat in his stroller. The rag and blanket did not ignite.

The Sheriff's Department says Smoka fled the scene but was arrested at her home by the Fort Mohave Tribal Police Department. She was then extradited to California.

OAKLAND SUES OCCUPY PROTESTER FOR VANDALISM: OAKLAND  (AP) — The city of Oakland is suing an Occupy protester who allegedly threw a chair and smashed the windows of a police recruiting building near City Hall.

City Attorney Barbara Parker announced Wednesday that her office filed a lawsuit last month against 24-year-old Cesar Aguirre claiming that he used a metal folding chair to break the windows of the building following a daylong protest that attracted thousands of people in November.

According to the suit, Aguirre then tried to break into the building.

The city is seeking $6,654 to cover the cost of repairs, as well as punitive damages.

Aguirre, who is from the Sacramento-area community of Elk Grove, was arrested on suspicion of failing to leave the scene of a riot and vandalism after the incident, but has not been charged.

Aguirre could not be reached for comment.

GLITCH IN DUI DEVICE LIKELY WON'T DERAIL CASES: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — For the third time in less than a year, hopes of exoneration by hundreds of drunken driving suspects were raised when a district attorney announced widespread problems with hand-held devices police use during field sobriety tests.

But just like the previous two dustups in Santa Clara and Ventura counties, the San Francisco review of about 1,000 DUI cases was expected to lead to few dismissals.

That's because results from the devices were just one of several pieces of evidence collected in the overwhelming majority of drunken driving cases.

Still, officials and lawyers say there could be some dismissals because a few cases featured the so-called PAS testing as the only valuable piece of evidence.

The latest flap over the devices began Monday when San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced his office would review cases involving the Alco Sensor IV, manufactured by St. Louis-based Intoximeters Inc. The company didn't return a phone call Wednesday seeking comment.

MOJAVE DESERT PARENTS RESUBMIT SCHOOL REFORM BID: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Parents hoping to reform a low performing elementary school in the Mojave Desert have resubmitted a revamped petition with what they say are more than enough signatures to force the district to accept their demands.

Adelanto Elementary School District assistant superintendent Ross Swearingen says the Desert Trails Parent Union resubmitted the petition late Tuesday.

Under the state parent empowerment law, the district has 25 days to verify that the petition has the valid signatures of at least half of the school's parents.

The district rejected the first petition after finding a number of discrepancies in signatures.

Parent organizers at Desert Trails Elementary say they found four instances of fraud in signature rescission forms that could have tainted the first petition. They have requested a criminal investigation.

LA BUDGET CHIEF SAYS CITY CAN'T PAY RAISES: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The city of Los Angeles cannot afford promised pay raises due 20,000 workers in July.

City Administrative officer Miguel Santana has told unions in a letter that he wants to reopen contract talks because of a looming $220 million 2012-2013 budget shortfall. The letter was obtained by the Los Angeles Times .

Santana has told the Coalition of Los Angeles City Unions that raises scheduled to kick in for its members on July 1 will cost the city $105 million over the next two years.

He says up to 250 full-time general fund employees could face layoffs if the raises aren't renegotiated.

A leader of the Service Employees International Union, which belongs to the coalition, says the unions have already made concessions, including workforce reductions.

MOM SHOOTS DISABLED SON AND SELF AT SUNNYVALE HOME: SUNNYVALE  (AP) — Authorities investigating the shooting deaths of two people at a home in Sunnyvale said Wednesday that a mother fatally shot her autistic adult son before turning the gun on herself.

Police were called to the home around 7:45 p.m. Tuesday and found the mother and son inside. They were pronounced dead at the scene.

Their names have not been released, although police have said the son was 22-years-old and the mom was in her 50s.

 

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