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California: This just in
LAUSD early childhood education gets funding boost

The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education passed a resolution Thursday to increase funding by millions of dollars for the district's early education budget.

The resolution, which passed in a 6-1 vote, is intended to eventually restore funding over the next few years for thousands of slots for children in early childhood education programs that have been slashed since 2007-08 as a result of the recession.

“We were hoping the state or federal government would step up, but we can’t wait any longer, so we decided to invest ourselves,” said Juan de la Cruz, the deputy chief of staff for the office of district education board member Bennett Kayser.

Los Angeles Unified's early childhood education programs will receive up to $4.9 million in 2014-15, according to De la Cruz. An additional $14 million will be added in 2015-16 and another $20 million will be added in 2016-17. Funding is expected to come from a mix of state, federal and local sources.

It’s “an investment that will help ensure more...

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Man found guilty in 2006 killing of Beverly Hills plastic surgeon

The killings were separated by time and distance, their only connection buried in shared roots to a 200-acre pistachio and alfalfa ranch in Lancaster.

The ranch is where Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Esfandiar “Steve” Kadivar was gunned down in 2006. Miles away and months later, the body of Efrain Martines would be found in the bed of his pickup truck, also shot to death, but with a different gun.

Over months of probing, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives built a case and eventually arrested four people on suspicion of murder. The latest chapter in the case closed Thursday when Antonio Martinez, 51, was convicted in both men’s killings.

According to prosecutors, Kadivar’s ranch hand, Nicolas Cordoba, 63, hired Martinez and Artur Verdin to kill Kadivar. He then brought in his friend, Martines, to lease the ranch over to him. Months later, the relationship between Martines and Cordoba soured, and Cordoba brought in a third gunman, Marco Garcia, to kill Martines,...

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Earthquake: 3.5 quake strikes near Ridgemark, Calif.

A shallow magnitude 3.5 earthquake was reported Friday afternoon eight miles from Ridgemark, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 4:32 p.m. Pacific time at a depth of 3.7 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 17 miles from Soledad, Calif. 

In the last 10 days, there have been three earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service, and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.

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Porn moratorium lifted after HIV test found to be false positive

A voluntary moratorium announced Thursday on adult film production has been lifted, a porn industry group announced Friday, after follow-up testing of an actor suspected of having HIV came back negative.

“The performer does not have HIV…production on adult film can resume safely,” the Free Speech Coalition said in a statement, saying an initial test had been a false positive. A number of other “first generation” performers -- actors and partners who had sexual contact with the actor -- were tested as a precaution, and all those results came back negative, too, the statement said.

The Free Speech Coalition had called for the industry-wide moratorium after routine screening of the unidentified actor came back positive for HIV.

According to rules established last year by the trade group, actors must undergo HIV testing every 14 days to be cleared for work.

“We understand that a moratorium is nerve-wracking for performers and difficult for producers,” the organization’s statement continued...

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Dog owner guilty of murder in 2013 mauling of woman in Antelope Valley

A dog owner was convicted Friday of second-degree murder in the mauling death last year of a woman who was attacked by four pit bills in the Antelope Valley town of Littlerock.

Prosecutors argued that Alex Jackson, 31, deserved to be found guilty of murder because he knew his dogs were dangerous before the May 2013 attack.

Four of Jackson's pit bulls mauled Pamela Devitt, 63, as she was out for a morning walk, tearing into her body, limbs and head.

Jurors were told that nearly all of Devitt's hair was gone and her skull was exposed in the attack. An autopsy determined she suffered up to 200 puncture wounds. Patches of her skin were missing and in some places wounds were so deep they exposed bone.

Coroner's officials determined Devitt died from blood loss in an ambulance on the way to the hospital.

A prosecutor argued that Jackson's dogs were involved in at least seven other altercations in the 18 months leading up to the attack on Devitt.

Taking the stand in his defense this week,...

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Producer considers lawsuit after pre-Emmy arrest in Beverly Hills

A movie producer is considering filing suit after he was held for six hours as a suspected bank robbery accomplice in Beverly Hills, his attorney said Friday.

Charles Belk, 51, was arrested Aug. 22 because police said he matched the description of an accomplice to a bank robbery that occurred moments earlier less than two blocks away.

Belk's attorney, Jaaye Person-Lynn, said Belk matched the general appearance of the suspect--described as a tall, bald black man in a green shirt--but police erred in the six hours following his arrest.

Police did not ask Belk what he was doing in the area, delayed in allowing him a phone call and speaking with an attorney and did not check the bank’s security cameras for hours – evidence that ultimately allowed him to go free.

On Thursday, police Chief David Snowden announced the department had launched an internal investigation into Belk’s arrest and pledged to streamline arrestees’ access to a phones and lawyers. He said detectives would review...

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Arrest warrant issued for 'Girls Gone Wild' founder Joe Francis

Joe Francis, the founder of the “Girls Gone Wild” franchise, has a $500,000 warrant out for his arrest.

The arrest warrant was issued Friday on seven charges stemming from an alleged altercation in May when he was at “Girls Gone Wild” headquarters, said Frank Mateljan, spokesman for the city attorney’s office. The incident involved "pushing and shoving" and Francis spent the night in jail. 

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For the record

An earlier version of this story said that Francis missed a court date. Frank Mateljan, city attorney spokesman, said he misspoke.

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Francis, 41,  was accused of multiple counts of making criminal threats, trespassing, battery and disobeying a court, Mateljan said.

In addition to the charges, Francis faces a probation violation from a January 2011 conviction of false imprisonment and assault, Mateljan said.

Francis, who founded the soft-porn video empire, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2013. 

An attempt to reach Francis' publicist for...

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Earthquake: 3.0 quake strikes near Ridgemark, Calif.

A shallow magnitude 3.0 earthquake was reported Friday afternoon eight miles from Ridgemark, Calif., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 2:44 p.m. Pacific time at a depth of 3.7 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 17 miles from Salinas, Calif. 

In the last 10 days, there have been two earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.

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D.A. asks for any evidence of wrongdoing revealed by Great Park audit

County prosecutors have requested financial documents and any evidence of criminal wrongdoing turned up in an ongoing forensic audit of the $200-million effort to turn a retired military base into an enormous municipal park in Irvine.

The Orange County district attorney’s office cited “a wide range of allegations of misuse of public funds” in its request for the information.

In a letter to audit attorney Anthony Taylor of Aleshire and Wynder, senior assistant D.A. Michael Lubinski requested “copies of interviews, depositions and any supporting documentation” from the ongoing forensic audit.

“Our intent in reaching out to you ... is in no way, shape or form intended to interfere with your process,” Lubinski wrote.

The Irvine City Council authorized the use of subpoenas by auditors to dig further into how more than $200 million was spent on a park that remains largely undeveloped.

The subpoenas weren’t issued as part of a prosecutorial effort, but to make it easier for auditors to gather...

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Pair accused of murder in O.C. bakery shooting go on trial Tuesday

Two men accused of fatally shooting a customer at a Santa Ana bakery in 2010 are set to go on trial on murder charges Tuesday, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors allege that Israel Pena Lopez, 38, and Frankie Esteban Giraldo, 32, walked into Santa Ana’s Panaderia La Chapina bakery on Oct. 13, 2010, and shot Alejandro Sanchez dead before walking away.

The bakery on West Edinger Avenue was bustling with customers that night when the two men walked in through separate doors and past other patrons to Sanchez, who was getting a cup of coffee, prosecutors said.

Authorities say Lopez shot the 32-year-old Sanchez several times in the back. Sanchez was preparing coffee at a counter and had his back turned to the alleged gunman.

“It’s quite apparent that he was the specific target,” Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told The Times in 2010.

“They went in, shot him and left without injuring anyone else or firing another shot. They just left the building.”

Authorities said Lopez returned moments...

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L.A. County health department confirms first West Nile death of 2014

Health officials have confirmed Los Angeles County's first death from West Nile virus in 2014.

On Friday, the county's Department of Public Health announced that a San Fernando Valley man had died as a result of infection with the mosquito-borne virus. The victim, who was in his 60s and suffered from preexisting health woes, was in a hospital at the time he died, according to the health department statement. 

Thus far this year, 20 people in Los Angeles County are known to have contracted West Nile virus. Last year, 165 human cases were reported -- "among the highest counts documented since 2004," the department noted.

Statewide, the California Department of Public Health said as of Wednesday, 129 human cases of West Nile have been reported in 36 counties. This week, Orange County's public health department reported two West Nile deaths.

West Nile disease is transmitted to humans when they're bitten by an infected mosquito, according to information provided by the L.A. County health...

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Man knowingly infected partner with HIV, prosecutors allege

A 29-year-old man from Imperial Beach near San Diego has been charged with knowingly infecting a partner with HIV.

Thomas Miguel Guerra pleaded not guilty this week during a brief hearing in San Diego County Superior Court. The charge is a misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

But more charges, with more alleged victims, could be added at a hearing set for Tuesday.

"There is an ongoing investigation as to whether there may be additional charges," said a spokesman for San Diego City Atty. Jan Goldsmith.

The alleged victim told investigators that he believed Guerra was HIV negative until he happened to look at messages on Guerra's cellphone and found that Guerra had "joked around ... about being HIV positive and other people not knowing," according to court documents.

The alleged victim then ended their relationship and took the case to police, according to court documents. The text messages dated back to 2007.

Another alleged former partner of Guerra's told the Los...

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