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Bay Area briefs
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CPUC LAWYER RECUSED FROM SAN BRUNO EXPLOSION CASE: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The lead attorney for California's utility regulator has recused himself from the agency's investigation into how much Pacific Gas & Electric Co. should be fined for the deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

The California Public Utilities Commission announced Wednesday that Frank Lindh, a former PG&E attorney, had recused himself as chief advisory attorney.

The announcement comes after Lindh reassigned commission attorneys who were the main experts on case.

The attorneys had disagreed with the CPUC's safety division chief, Jack Hagan, over the fine amount. Hagan argued the money PG&E had already paid for repairs and system upgrades was enough.

Lindh will be replaced by Arocles Aguilar, a retired commission attorney. The attorneys removed from the case previously will be put back on it.

TREE TRIMMER ELECTROCUTED IN SAN JOSE: SAN JOSE  (AP) — San Jose police say a tree trimmer was electrocuted when a rope or cable he was connected to hit a live wire.

The man was in a treetop in the backyard of a home when the incident occurred a little before noon on Wednesday.

Officers found him still attached to his harness about 40 feet off the ground when they arrived.

Police spokesman Sgt. Jason Dwyer says he had tossed some type of rope that made contact with a power line.

CHARGES DROPPED IN SLAYING OF CALIF. MILLIONAIRE: MONTE SERENO  (AP) — Santa Clara County prosecutors have dropped charges against a second defendant in the slaying of a wealthy Silicon Valley venture capitalist at his Monte Sereno mansion.

Deputy District Attorney Kevin Smith says authorities determined Raven Dixon had nothing to do with the November attack on 66-year-old Raveesh Kumra and dropped an accessory to murder charge on Wednesday. Dixon has pleaded no contest to prostitution with a gang enhancement and a marijuana charge.

Kumra died of asphyxiation after his assailants left him gagged as they beat his wife.

Prosecutors earlier dropped charges against another defendant, Lukis Anderson. Smith said Anderson's DNA ended up on Kumra's fingernails because the two were attended to just hours apart by the same paramedics. Anderson was treated for intoxication.

Three other defendants continue to face charges.

FREMONT MAN SENTENCED FOR KILLING FOOTBALL PLAYER: FREMONT  (AP) — A Fremont man has been sentenced to 70 years to life in prison for fatally stabbing a popular high school football player in December 2010.

The Oakland Tribune reports that 31-year-old Daniel Howard was sentenced Thursday following his conviction for first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Justice Afoa of Newark.

Three other people are awaiting trial for the gang-related killing of Afoa. He was stabbed multiple times near Newark Memorial High School, where he was a star defensive lineman.

Prosecutors say Afoa's slaying was in retaliation for a fight at a house party in October 2010.

Alameda County prosecutors say Howard was also convicted of attempted murder earlier this year for trying to hang his pregnant girlfriend from a tree in Fremont in November 2012.

5 ARRESTS, WEAPONS SEIZED IN CONTRA COSTA CO. RAID: MARTINEZ  (AP) — Contra Costa County authorities say a police raid led to one of the county's biggest weapons seizures in years.

Officials said Thursday that officers seized 56 guns, 30,000 rounds of ammunition and an unspecified amount of methamphetamine for sale at a Bay Point home in May.

Authorities say five people were arrested in the case because of their criminal history and gang ties. Their names were not released.

Officials from the multi-agency task force displayed the weapons and ammunition during a joint news conference in Martinez on Thursday.

CA MAN SENTENCED IN MISTAKEN IDENTITY KILLING: RICHMOND  (AP) — A 22-year-old Richmond man has been sentenced to 77 years to life in prison for killing a young man he mistook for a rival gang member.

Nickie Donald was sentenced in Contra Costa County Superior Court on Thursday for the first-degree murder of 20-year-old Asama Ayyad.

Authorities say Donald fired at Ayyad's car on June 25, 2010, believing Ayyad and his cousin were rivals in a Richmond gang war.

Ayyad and his cousin had been volunteering at a mosque and were running an errand when Ayyad was shot, causing his car to crash.

Donald's defense attorney had asked for a short sentence, saying his client is capable of rehabilitation.

In a letter read by his attorney, Donald apologized for hurting Ayyad's family.

A COURT REJECTS LAWSUIT TO BLOCK HUGE SOLAR FARM: SAN JOSE  (AP) — A state appeals court has rejected a lawsuit by environmentalists seeking to block construction of a massive solar project in San Benito County.

The San Jose Mercury News reports Tuesday's decision clears a major hurdle for the $1.8 billion, 399-megawatt solar farm in the Panoche Valley, about 50 miles southeast of Hollister.

The environmental groups claimed the 4 million solar panels would harm endangered species and disrupt the area's rural character.

The San Jose-based Sixth District Court of Appeal upheld a 2011 lower-court ruling rejecting the lawsuit.

If built, solar panels would cover an area the size of about 3,000 football fields and provide enough electricity for more than 100,000 homes.

The developers hope to break ground by late 2014, but the environmentalists plan to keep fighting the project.