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Rapper Brandon “Tiny Doo” Duncan and Aaron Harvey are being compensated at the expense of the city of San Diego. According to the L.A. Times, the two men will be paid close to $1.5 million for the emotional damages they suffered during their seven-month jail sentence. This payout comes six years after the two were released from jail and in response to a civil-rights lawsuit they filed. 

Three years ago, the two men took their case to federal court saying their incarceration was improper. Penal Code 182.5 is a gang law that states gang members who know about any crimes that their gang committed will be prosecuted if they benefited from the crime, furthered it, or promoted or assisted it. The law was approved in 2000 and was responsible for sentencing many dozens of alleged gang members in the San Diego region to jail.

Duncan and Harvey claim that their sentencing was due to PC 182.5 and the police had violated their First Amendment free-speech rights. They won their case and on December 10, 2019, it was approved that each man would receive $737,500 as a result.

Supporters of the law believe that it is necessary to tackle the gang problem in the city. Opponents believe it unfairly punishes mostly young men of color whose only crime is being guilty by association.

Duncan and Harvey were implicated along with 15 other alleged gang members for nine shootings between 2013 and 2014. Material evidence was not produced proving that either of the men committed the crimes. Rap lyrics and social media were used to argue that the men were harming the community with gang violence. Both men deny being a part of a gang and have only admitted to being friendly with some gang members. 

When the men were arrested in 2014, Harvey’s bond was $1.1 million while Duncan’s was $500,000. It took seven months for a judge to lower both men’s bonds and during the time leading up to these changes, the men sat in jail.

Mistakes can Happen in Criminal Justice

Imprisonment under false charges or misuse of the law does happen. There are victims who have been wrongly punished for crimes they did not commit. There are also instances in which arrests have been made incorrectly. This is why it is so critically important that when you are arrested for a crime you immediately get in contact with a California criminal defense attorney. David M. Boertje has extensive knowledge of criminal law in California and knows when an injustice has been done. Individuals who are accused of crimes have rights that deserve to be protected. Continue reading

A decades-old murder mystery in San Diego’s Middletown neighborhood may have finally been solved. A man was arrested in New York on Wednesday, January 29 in connection with the murder. Alvaro Espeleta, 28, was found brutally murdered on December 31, 1975. He was found in his home, located on Reynard Way, badly beaten and strangled.

Espeleta was a dental technician with the U.S. Navy and he was working at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. When Espeleta was a no-show at work, two co-workers went to his residence to check on him, and they found his dead body. Investigators scrutinized all leads and never had any luck. The case grew old, but investigators kept it active. After 44 years, modern forensic science and technology along with multiple agencies working together found a suspect and put him in custody.

When Espeleta died, he had a palm print on his body, but it was highly difficult for authorities to determine to whom it belonged. 

Dennis Lepage, 62, was placed under arrest in New York when he had his fingerprints taken for a minor charge. His fingerprints were put through a law enforcement database. A match was found between the palm print on Espeleta’s body and the print from Lepage. The match was made, and Lepage was arrested in Troy, New York in connection with the murder of Alvaro Espeleta. Dennis Lepage would have been only 18 years old when he murdered Espeleta. 

According to NCIS, Lepage was also an active duty Navy Sailor who was living in San Diego. A fellow tenant who lived in the apartment building where the murder of Espeleta occurred said that there were red flags when thinking back to Lepage’s apartment. Lepage’s apartment had carpeting when all other tenants had hardwood flooring. The appearance looked as if there was something that the man was trying to cover up.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office did not provide comment. The San Diego Police Department gave many thanks to the agencies that helped in the case including NCIS, FBI, DA’s Office, San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, New York State Police, and Albany County Sheriff’s Department to name a few.

Where to Find a Murder and Homicide Attorney in San Diego

Technology is becoming more and more effective. Crimes that occurred many years ago which went cold are now having new evidence introduced causing present-day arrests. If you are facing a murder or homicide charge, from years ago or presently, you need the assistance of an experienced San Diego murder and homicide defense lawyer.   Continue reading

Police have begun a homicide investigation after the body of a deceased male was found in a downtown San Diego high-rise apartment on Monday, January 20. According to the San Diego Police, officers were called out to the scene at Vantage Pointe apartments in the 1200 block of Ninth Avenue by a security guard who worked at the apartment building along with another individual who found the deceased man’s body in one of the apartment units.

The deceased man was identified by the police as a white man in his late 40s. The man had visible trauma to his body. Police believe that the incident appeared suspicious and then determined that it was in fact a homicide. The authorities are looking for information from the public and are urging anyone who has any details to call Crimestoppers.

Homicide Data in San Diego

According to UCR Crimes by GeoArea, from January to August of 2019 there were 31 murders in San Diego. In 1950, there were 10 recorded murders. By 2018, there were 35 murders. That is a steep jump, but the murders recorded in 2018 were not nearly as high as they were in 1991. In 1991 there were 167 murders.

Between January and June of 2019, there were 5,545 violent crimes in San Diego County. This comes out to approximately 31 violent crimes committed each day during that six-month span. Violent crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In the first half of 2018, there were 604 homicides in the city. The good news is that compared with the data from 2009, 2019 had a 19% lower violent crime rate.

In California, capital murder is the most serious charge a person can face. Punishment can include:

  • The death penalty by way of the gas chamber or lethal injection 
  • Life in prison without the possibility of parole

First-degree murder in the state falls under California Penal Code 187, and someone charged could be facing the following:

  • 25 years to life in state prison 
  • Hate crime first-degree murder comes with life in state prison without the possibility of parole 

Capital murder and first-degree murder are charges not to be taken lightly. If you are arrested for either, you are looking at many years in prison, if not the death penalty. There is no room for error when you are facing murder charges in California. The qualified and experienced legal representation from David M. Boertje, a San Diego criminal defense lawyer, will ensure that you have the best defense team on your side protecting your legal rights. Continue reading

On Sunday, January 19, a man struck and killed a pedestrian in Sherman Heights. According to the authorities at the San Diego Police Department, the man fled the scene after he hit the pedestrian, and hit another car before stopping for food. 

Apparently the man stopped at Humberto’s Taco Shop located close to Broadway and 25th Street to grab a meal after he hit the pedestrian. There were photos that showed the suspect eating at Humberto’s. After he finished his meal at the restaurant, he was entering his SUV when two women confronted him. He just sped away.

The pedestrian that lost his life was identified by authorities as Jason Gordon, 41, of San Diego. Gordon’s widow, Katie Gordon, was interviewed on Monday, January 20 on CBS8. A devastated Gordon explained that her husband had a love for life, his daughters, his wife, his friends, and his extended family. The Gordon family was in the process of finding a bigger home near San Diego State University to relocate. An operations manager at Tiffany’s, Jason Gordon was leaving a friend’s party when he was hit and killed.

There has been a GoFundMe page set up for the family. According to reports, Gordon was tragically hit by the SUV and dragged 100 feet on the 1800 block of Market Street. The San Diego Police Department has released a picture of the suspect’s vehicle in an attempt to see if the public can help find the man.

Prevalence of Hit-And-Run Accidents

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, when one person who is a part of a vehicular accident flees the scene, the accident becomes a hit-and-run. Across the United States, anyone who is involved in a crash must stay at the scene. It is unlawful to leave without offering information or aid to other parties in the accident; failing to report the crash is not acceptable. 

Unfortunately, the rates of these accidents that result in death are on the rise. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2015 there were 737,100 hit-and-run accidents, which means that one takes place somewhere in the country every 43 seconds. 2016 had the highest number of fatalities from these accidents at 2,049. 

In California, if you are charged with a hit-and-run you could be facing either a misdemeanor or a felony. The seasoned California hit-and-run defense attorneys at the Law Offices of David M. Boertje know how to fight on behalf of defendants and win. Facing a hit-and-run charge in San Diego or the North County area means that you could have your life significantly altered for the worse. You need effective legal representation to preserve your legal rights. Continue reading

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Public Defender Chesa Boudin announced that no more cash bail would be used in criminal cases in San Francisco. This will mean that defendants will no longer have to pay to obtain pretrial release. A “risk-based” system will be used instead to define the need for a defendant to be placed in jail prior to trial.

Is this really a newsworthy story in California, the state that has already passed a law ending cash bail? It is. While California did pass the legislation, Senate Bill 10, for the ending of cash bail, it has not taken effect yet. The legislation was signed in August of 2018 by Governor Jerry Brown. The legislation was written to replace the old cash-based system with a new system putting the responsibility for determining jail time for defendants awaiting trial on the judge. For former Gov. Brown, signing this legislation was a personal victory as he was a vocal critic of cash bail saying it was a “tax on poor people” in 1979. 

Senate Bill 10 and similar legislation being brought up by Boudin, are yet another way that California is leading the nation in criminal justice reform efforts. Advocates of these reforms say that requiring money for bail perpetuates already difficult racial and economic strains that exist within the criminal justice system. That a monetary bail system only works for the wealthy who can afford it.

Could Senate Bill 10 Have a Negative Impact on California’s Economy?

Los Angeles is the largest jail system in the United States. California makes up a significant portion of the bail market, meaning that those who work in the bail industry could be out of work. This has led to a national coalition of bail agency groups coming out to fight against the bill and try to have it overturned. They were successful in that they acquired enough signatures to be on the November 2020 ballot.

Eliminating the cash bail system means that for now, it stays in limbo until the residents of California vote its fate. The outcome of the bill is unknown. There are polls that suggest there is quite a division amongst voters on whether or not to put an end to the cash bail system. 

Not only does the bill have opposition from the bail industry, but the ACLU of California has their doubts about the alternative. They fear that when a judge gains so much power, there will be an increase in defendants put behind bars. For those in San Francisco though, changes to the bail system will happen independently of how the vote in the state turns out in November. It is up to the D.A. to decide which policies they approve and will enforce for pretrial jail time. Continue reading

The Times of San Diego is reporting that there is video documentation in addition to a photo of an individual committing arson on January 12. A male set fire to a clothing alteration business in the Talmadge area around 12:30 a.m. that Sunday. The damages to the store cost approximately $1 million. The man was seen riding his bicycle up to the front of the doors of AA Fashion located at 4644 El Cajon Boulevard and setting it on fire. According to the San Diego Police, after he ignited the flames, he rode away.

The business was completely destroyed by the damages from the fire. The police are asking the public for information related to the suspect and his whereabouts. Anyone with tips will be kept anonymous and may be eligible to be rewarded up to $1,000.

Fire Statistics

In the United States, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) indicates that cooking is the number one cause of residential fires. Cooking is responsible for 51.6% of all residential fires. Heating issues come in second causing 9.1% of all residential fires in the country. There are 15 causes stated by USFA in order of most common for residential fires. Intentional fires to a residential structure come in at number six and are responsible for 4.2% of all these fires.

In 2017, there were an estimated 1,900 fatalities from fires and 13.1% of them were intentionally caused. Also that year, there were 7,000 injuries from fires. 

When it comes to non-residential establishments, cooking still tops the list of the most common causes. In non-residential buildings cooking is the cause of 30.4% of the fires. Interestingly, the third-highest factor behind non-residential fires is from intentional causes. Roughly 9.8% of all non-residential fires were set intentionally.

Fire deaths occur most commonly in residential fires. While residential fires account for approximately 28.9% of all fires, they result in 77.6% of all fire deaths. Non-residential fires occur in 8.7% of all fires. Vehicle fires are more common than one may think, as these make up 14.3% of all fires.

What are the Arson Laws in California?

Penal Code 451 describes the state of California’s arson laws. In our state aggravated arson comes with up to five years in state prison when:

  • The person committing the arson has a felony on their record already for reckless arson under Penal Code 451 or 452. 
  • Great bodily injury or substantial physical harm is done to a first responder like a firefighter, police officer, or any other emergency personnel
  • If there is more than one person who has great bodily injuries 

Continue reading

For the last seven years, the police in the city of San Diego made use of facial recognition technology through a network of 1,300 mobile cameras. The information compiled was successful in developing a database of 65,500 face scans. As of December 31, 2019, though, the California legislature put a stop to the use of the technology. A three-year ban was enacted against the use of mobile facial recognition technology by law enforcement. The ban came at the frustration of the police, but privacy advocates saw it as a win. 

Unfortunately, determining the effectiveness of the technology is not simple or easy. San Diego law enforcement agencies did not keep track of the results associated with the facial recognition initiative. According to the city’s police spokesperson, it is not known that there were arrests or prosecutions as a result of using the technology.

What is the Tactical Identification System (TACIDS)?

In 2012 the TACIDS was put into place without a public hearing or public notice. The software behind the system worked by focusing on unique identifiers via patterns and textures on the face to compare with a database of over 1.8 million mugshots. In less than two seconds the software can compare the traits to find matches with the images collected by the San Diego County Sheriff’s office.

FaceFirst supplied the software to law enforcement agencies. There were 30 agencies as well as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement who used TACIDS. Out of all the agencies that had access to the software, law enforcement in San Diego made the most use of it. The large police department used it frequently. The newly developed Neighborhood Policing Division which began in 2018 was easily behind the department’s high rate of use. This division was a response to the rising homeless population in the city. The technology was given to officers so that they could identify homeless individuals who often do not carry identification.

How Did the Ban on TACIDS Come About?

Privacy advocates had major concerns with the facial recognition technology, and increased pressure on lawmakers motivated them to put the ban in place. The American Civil Liberties Union tested the software and found that it had flaws. They found a 20% failure rate for matching individuals and the majority of those that were mistaken were with individuals of color. Community leaders argued that the technology violated people’s civil liberties. Lawmakers listening to these concerns agreed that there are problems with the way surveillance capabilities are utilized. Continue reading

On December 28 Ernie Buchanan, a 44-year-old father of six, lost his life after he was shot near the Alpha Project homeless shelter located on 17th Street and Imperial Avenue in San Diego. Homicide detectives found and arrested Floyd Garrett, 47, and Johnny Lee Hill, 40, for the murder of the security guard. Garrett was found and arrested in Phoenix while Hill was arrested in San Diego, according to San Diego police’s acting homicide Captain Martha Sainz.

Sainz reported that Buchanan was employed as a security guard at the Alpha Project, but it is not believed that his murder was connected with his job at the nonprofit located in the downtown’s East Village neighborhood. The president and CEO of the Alpha Project Bob McElroy explained that Buchanan was on break prior to the attack. Friends of Buchannan describe him as friendly and a mentor for children. McElroy indicated that Buchanan was a good person and employee.

Both Hill and Garrett were identified using footage from smart street lights that are positioned around the city and record both video and other data. With the help of the Phoenix Police Department, Garrett was found and taken into custody. In San Diego the police credit the street light technology as critical in assisting them with solving crimes. However, privacy advocates have voiced their concerns over the technology and the police department’s use of it.

The streetlights cost the city $30 million and were praised for their ability to reduce energy expenditures. The sensors on these lights collect data on a variety of activities in the city such as parking, vehicle count, pedestrian count, temperature, humidity, and air pressure. One year after they were implemented the police added them to their arsenal of tools to help fight crime. According to authorities, these lights helped with over 160 investigations from August 2018 through September 2019. The police use of the light’s technology was not a topic discussed during the planning stages and public meetings and the city did not approve the police’s use of the technology.

Have You Been Charged With Murder in San Diego and Need Legal Representation?

You will need the assistance of a San Diego murder and homicide defense lawyer when you are facing serious murder and homicide charges. David M. Boertje is an effective and aggressive California criminal defense attorney who will examine your case and provide you options for a compelling defense that will protect your best interests. Depending on the details of your case, it could be possible to negotiate a favorable plea bargain on your behalf. Continue reading

A fatal hit-and-run occurred last month when Gloria Williams, 62, was riding in her motorized wheelchair along the street of Euclid Avenue. She was hit from behind by a dark-colored SUV at approximately 3:45 p.m., the San Diego Police Department reports. A video of the SUV that hit Williams was obtained from street light cameras near the scene of the accident. The SUV was also recorded at a nearby gas station. The video evidence showed that the driver of the SUV was a black male with very short hair. He was using a cane to walk and was wearing baggy plaid pants with a “#here we go! Steelers” sweatshirt. The San Diego Police are asking the public to call the county Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8411 or go to their website at sdcrimestoppers.org with information. Anyone who has a tip will remain anonymous and be able to obtain a reward for any information that leads to an arrest.

Hit-and-Run Laws in California

In the state of California, anyone who is involved in an accident must stop and provide aid to those injured as well as exchange information. Under Vehicle Code Section 20002 failure to do so when property damage is involved will result in a misdemeanor charge. Under Vehicle Code Section 20001, a hit-and-run accident becomes a felony when there are physical injuries to a victim. If fatal injuries are sustained in one of these accidents, it is required that the California Highway Patrol or the local authorities are notified.

Legal Representation for California Residents Facing Hit-and-Run Charges

If you are facing criminal charges for leaving the scene of an accident, it is highly advisable that you do not speak with anyone about your case because you could jeopardize it. You have rights that deserve to be protected, and if you are under investigation, make sure that you have a qualified San Diego hit-and-run defense lawyer by your side during any questioning. You are not required to answer questions without legal representation looking out for your best interests.

The success of your case and your ability to stay out of jail are determined by your defense. The effective and aggressive California criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of David M. Boertje have a proven track record of success defending those who are facing serious charges like hit-and-run. There are a number of strategies that can be used in your defense to lessen or eliminate your charges. The results of a hit-and-run conviction include steep fines, time in jail, and a permanent criminal record. You cannot take any chances that the rest of your life will be negatively impacted because of one mistake. Continue reading

According to reports, Adrian Vergara, 26, pleaded guilty to assaulting a 16-year-old Syrian refugee while using charged racial slurs during the attack. The incident took place on October 15th on board a San Diego trolley at approximately 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon. The Syrian refugee was said to be on his way home from school and while he was talking on his phone in Arabic. Vergara pulled an earbud out of the victim’s ear and said, “What trash are you speaking?” The victim told him that he was speaking in the Arabic language and then Vergara verbally attacked him with Islamophobic slurs. He then physically assaulted the 16-year-old, violently striking him up to six times. After the attack, Vergara exited the trolley on 62nd Street in Encanto.

The police confirmed that the victim endured minor facial injuries as a result of the attack. San Diego Police Department Lt. Shawn Takeuchi indicated that through using video footage detectives were able to obtain visual information on Vergara’s appearance. About a week later, the Port of San Diego harbor police arrested Vergara for a misdemeanor narcotics violation. When the authorities had Vergara in custody, he was recognized as the individual who was connected to the San Diego Police Department’s investigation into the hate crime on the young Syrian refugee.

Vergara was charged with and pleaded guilty to assault and a hate crime for which he was sentenced to five years in state prison. Nine days before the assault took place on the trolley in San Diego, there was another hate crime arrest in Little Italy. A man, identified as Kyle Allen, 50, was shoving Muslim women who were wearing hijabs. He was also yelling at them to “go back to (their) country.” Allen is currently facing charges of battery as well as hate crimes. 

What is Assault and Battery in California?

Assault and battery charges are commonly referred to as in conjunction with each other but they are not treated the same under the law in California. They are actually two different classifications under the state’s law. California assault law, Penal Code 240 PC, defines assault and battery.

  • Assault is when there is an attempted act of using violence or force against another
  • Battery is defined as the actual action where force or violence is used against another 

Under California law, when a person attacks another and it is classified as a simple battery, it is considered a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2 thousand alone or in combination with a maximum of six months in county jail.

However, the penalties are much higher when a battery inflicts significant injuries and it then becomes known as “aggravated battery.” A person convicted of an aggravated battery may either be facing a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances. Misdemeanors come with a maximum sentence in the county jail of up to one year while felonies can come with a four-year prison sentence. Continue reading

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