San Diego

A federal magistrate Thursday ordered Michael Maas, 28, the Normal Heights man charged with depriving a black family of its civil rights by terrorizing them into moving out of the neighborhood, held without bail on the grounds he posed a threat to the community at large and to witnesses in the case.

Under questioning at a bail review hearing by Maas' defense attorney, Mario Conte, FBI Special Agent Anthony DeLorenzo testified that Maas' hand print had been found on a racist hate letter sent to the family last fall. DeLorenzo said FBI analysts had not determined that the handwriting in the note was Maas', however.

U.S. Magistrate Irma Gonzalez denied Maas bond, despite Conte's challenges to the credibility of government witnesses and his argument that a denial of bail would tarnish Maas' ability to get a fair hearing in the case.

Gonzalez acknowledged the decision may have little impact, because Maas has just begun to serve a three-year term in state prison for assaulting a former girlfriend.

In the federal case, he is accused of burning a cross on the black neighbors' lawn and setting their truck afire in the driveway of their home, as well as sending the racist letter. He and his father, Earl M. Maas, also are charged with threatening key government witnesses and inducing them to lie to the grand jury investigating the case.

Another magistrate denied Earl Maas bond last week.

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