Arax__Mark 1/1/1997 - 31/12/2018
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1US CA: As Prices Fall, Farmers Turn to Illegal Cash CropsWed, 12 May 2004
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:05/12/2004

FRESNO -- On the edge of suburbia here, where farmland awaits the developer's plow, the magnificent gardens of Southeast Asian refugees rise and fall.

On leased ground no bigger than 5 or 10 acres -- small potatoes to the giant industrial growers -- the refugees plant their own longshot dreams: Chinese bitter melon, Chinese broccoli, Thai chili, ong choy, su choy, daikon and kohlrabi.

The best strawberries in the San Joaquin Valley are grown by a tribe of CIA-trained commandos who fled the highlands of Laos after the Vietnam War. Thai eggplant, slightly spicier than its Armenian cousin, is the specialty of the lowland Lao.

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2US CA: Slaying Victim Feared For His Life, Friends SayWed, 23 Oct 2002
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:10/23/2002

Former Investigator Is Arrested In The Stabbing Death Of Prosecutor Stephen Tauzer, Who Tried To Help His Troubled Son.

BAKERSFIELD -- In the days before his murder gripped this oil and farm town, Stephen M. Tauzer walked in fear for his life. But Tauzer, the No. 2 man in the Kern County district attorney's office, didn't request police protection or even share his concerns with colleagues.

Instead, the 58-year-old prosecutor told a friend that he had received a phone call warning him that Chris Hillis, a former Bakersfield cop and district attorney investigator, was going to kill him. Tauzer and Hillis had been arguing over Hillis' son.

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3US CA: Complaint Paints Desperate Picture Of Blaze SuspectSat, 27 Jul 2002
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:07/28/2002

Sequoia: Woman Allegedly Used Drugs, Stalked Husband before Setting Campfire That Grew Out of Control.

FRESNO -- In the hours before she lighted a campfire that, so far, has burned 62,000 acres of the Sequoia National Forest, Peri Van Brunt allegedly smoked methamphetamine and stalked her estranged husband, following him to the Roads End Resort near where the fire started last Sunday, according to a federal criminal complaint filed here Friday.

A tearful Van Brunt, 45, appeared in U.S. District Court on charges of setting the fire "willfully and without authority." The complaint painted a portrait of a desperate woman who was nursing an injured eye and trying to patch up a rocky marriage marred by years of drug abuse.

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4US CA: Prison Whistleblower Suit Is Settled For $17 MillionSat, 12 Jun 1999
Source:San Jose Mercury News (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:06/12/1999

FRESNO -- California has agreed to pay $1.7 million to whistleblower Richard Caruso, a former guard at Corcoran State Prison who broke the code of silence and exposed a pattern of deadly shootings of inmates, only to lose his career.

The settlement came together late Wednesday after months of negotiation in which top officials, including Gov. Gray Davis, had urged a resolution of Caruso's five-year ordeal.

``The nightmare is finally over,'' Caruso said. ``Now I can take care of my family.''

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5US CA: A Return To The Goal Of Reforming InmatesTue, 01 Jun 1999
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:06/06/1999

Officials Reconsider The Discredited Idea Of Rehabilitation As Two Out Of Three California Parolees Are Back In Prison Within Two Years.

CORCORAN, Calif. - The white prison van pulled up to the train stop in Corcoran, in the shadow of the big grain silos, and out walked two young inmates just released from the state penitentiary down the block.

They were headed back home to Los Angeles, but there was one piece of business left to transact with the guard setting them free. They each put down their wrinkled grocery bag of worldly accumulations and reached out to grab an envelope with two $100 bills tucked inside.

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6US CA: Guards Union Slowed Probe, Authorities SayWed, 30 Dec 1998
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:12/30/1998

FRESNO--For three weeks, the state prison guards union prevented homicide detectives from questioning guards about the fatal shooting of inmate Octavio Orozco at Pleasant Valley State Prison in May, county authorities say. Fresno County Dist. Atty. Ed Hunt said Tuesday that the investigation into possible criminal conduct was hindered because of the delay in questioning both the guard who shot Orozco and the guards who witnessed the killing at the prison in Coalinga.

"The [union] attorney showed up, said he was representing all the officers, invoked an attorney-client privilege, and we were handcuffed from talking to the officers," Hunt said. "Three weeks might be a long time, but if we find out the officers concocted their stories during that time or obstructed justice, that's a high crime in Fresno County and we'll prosecute." The case is the latest example of accusations that the powerful guards union has thwarted criminal and administrative investigations into brutality at prisons statewide. The FBI is currently investigating whether actions by the union at nearby Corcoran State Prison constituted obstruction of justice, federal authorities say.

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7US CA: Prison Officer Breaks Silence On May SlayingMon, 28 Dec 1998
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:12/28/1998

COALINGA, Calif.--In the seven months since inmate Octavio Orozco died at her feet, correctional Lt. Patricia Newton has never wavered from one belief:

The 23-year-old Orozco was killed needlessly, shot in the head by an officer at Pleasant Valley State Prison because he and a handful of other inmates were fighting in the dining hall.

"When I entered the dining hall that night, I entered into a scene that I will never forget for the rest of my life," said the 43-year-old Newton. "Blood and brain matter were all over the floor, splashed up on the walls. I don't care if he was an inmate, he was still a human being and he didn't deserve to be killed, not for fighting."

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8US CA: Prison Inquiry Calls Shootings UnjustifiedFri, 27 Nov 1998
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:11/27/1998

Probe: Commission finds 24 of 31 serious or fatal Corcoran incidents unwarranted, and says state's system of investigating use of force on inmates has broken down.

SACRAMENTO--Two dozen fatal and serious shootings of inmates at Corcoran State Prison were not justified, and the state's entire system for investigating and prosecuting prison shootings has broken down, an independent panel concluded in a report released Wednesday.

The three-member panel, commissioned by state officials last summer during legislative hearings on violence at the San Joaquin Valley prison, issued a strong denunciation of the Department of Corrections, its use of deadly force and the internal investigations and oversight boards that have routinely determined the shootings to be justified.

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9US CA: Shootings In Prisons ContinueTue, 20 Oct 1998
Source:San Jose Mercury News (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:10/20/1998

High rate of killings by state guards

Despite efforts to cut down on prison shootings, guards in California continue to kill and wound inmates engaged in fistfights and melees, a practice unheard of in every other state.

Since late 1994, when the Department of Corrections shooting policy came under criticism for its role in widespread inmate deaths, 12 prisoners have been shot dead and 32 wounded by guards firing assault rifles to stop fights.

In all other states combined, statistics and interviews show, only six inmates were fatally shot by guards in the same period -- all of them while trying to escape. In no other state do guards shoot at inmate fighters, choosing instead to break up brawls and melees with pepper spray, tactical teams or warning shots.

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10 US CA: LAT: Only California Uses Deadly Force in Inmate FightsSun, 18 Oct 1998
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:29 Added:10/18/1998

Since 1994, state prison guards breaking up brawls have killed 12 and seriously injured 32. In rest of nation, only six inmates were fatally shot, all while trying to escape. Despite efforts to cut down on prison shootings, guards in California continue to kill and wound inmates engaged in fistfights and melees, a practice unheard of in every other state.

Since late 1994, when the Department of Corrections shooting policy came under criticism for its role in widespread inmate deaths, 12 prisoners have been shot dead and 32 wounded by guards firing assault rifles to stop fights.

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11US CA: Ex-Guard Tells of Brutality, Code of Silence at CorcoranMon, 6 Jul 1998
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:07/06/1998

Prison: Former officer claims supervisors sanctioned violence, including rapes that still haunt a former inmate.

It's been two years since guard Roscoe Pondexter walked the cellblocks of Corcoran, two years since he wrapped his big basketball hands around the neck of an inmate and squeezed until the air nearly went out.

"Now don't you go passing out on me, you hear?" he would whisper as he squeezed a little more, until he heard that tiny gurgle and the inmate had the eyes of someone drowning. That's when a partner would yank on the inmate's testicles while two higher-ranking officers stood outside the cell, pretending all was fine and blocking any view inside.

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12 US CA: Was Prison Probe A Whitewash?Sun, 05 Jul 1998
Source:San Francisco Examiner (CA) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:204 Added:07/05/1998

CORCORAN, Kings County - For seven years, California turned a blind eye to the deadliest prison in America, where 50 inmates were wounded or shot dead by guards.

Gov. Wilson and the man who wants to succeed him, Attorney General Dan Lungren, finally examined Corcoran State Prison last year. The result was a whitewash - a pair of investigations that never probed a single fatal or serious shooting, the Los Angeles Times has found.

The Wilson administration blocked efforts to investigate brutality by officers and mismanagement by top officials in the Department of Corrections, according to investigators assigned to a special corrections team.

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13 US CA: 'Corcoran'-Style Carnage Continues in CaliforniaFri, 20 Mar 1998
Source:Bulletin, The (OR) Author:Arax, Mark Area:California Lines:186 Added:03/20/1998

FBI Probes Deaths at 2 More State Prisons

Inquiries: Slayings of inmates at Pelican Bay and in Susanville lead to investigations of guards. Corcoran officers plead not guilty in earlier case.

FRESNO--As part of the federal government's growing scrutiny of California prisons, the FBI is launching civil rights investigations at the Pelican Bay and Susanville penitentiaries into the role guards may have played in the beatings and killings of inmates.

FBI officials said the decision to investigate follows a number of recent assaults and deaths of inmates at the two maximum-security prisons in Northern California.

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14CA, Toddler, Infant Die Alone in Stifling FresnoTue, 12 Aug 1997
Source:Los Angeles Times (CA) Author:Arax, Mark        Lines:Excerpt Added:08/12/1997

Contact: Fax: 2132374712

Toddler, Infant Die Alone in Stifling Fresno Apartment

Tragedy: Police say mother was out looking for drugs and left daughters unattended for 4 days during heat wave.

FRESNOThe bodies, a baby face up in a crib and a toddler wedged beneath a bed, were discovered Sunday night in the 96degree apartment, the windows shut and the air conditioning clicked off.

Investigators said the two young sisters were left alone for four days inside a stifling Fresno apartment while their mother went searching for drugs. Police surmise that the girls succumbed to dehydration one day after being abandoned during a 105degree heat wave. "They died in a closedup apartment on the hottest day of the year while their mother was out looking for drugs," Fresno Police Lt. Jerry Davis, the head of homicide, said Monday. "We're still trying to trace her movements, but it appears that she was gone from the apartment from Wednesday to Sunday." The 29yearold mother, Debbie Ann Lowe, on parole for a drug conviction, was being held in Fresno County Jail on suspicion of murder in the deaths of her two children, Ebony Whitfield, 20 months, and Myisha Tolbert, 6 months. Lowe was spotted Sunday afternoon "acting crazy" in a neighborhood several miles from her apartment, according to police. She emerged from an abandoned house in a seedy part of town screaming and wielding a large rock. She then tried to break the window on a van belonging to Luis Rodriguez, who told police he had never seen the woman in the neighborhood before. "She was screaming and acting crazy," Rodriguez told the Fresno Bee. "She said she was looking for her little baby. I told her that her baby wasn't in my van." He said she left but soon returned with police officers, who could not make sense of her statements that her children had been kidnapped. Police suspect that Lowe was under the influence of drugs and may have concocted the kidnapping story as a way to explain the deaths. "At this point, we don't know if she returned to the apartment and found the children and was using the kidnapping story to explain how they died," Davis said. Lowe directed police to her home at the Dakota Woods apartment complex. Officers found the upperlevel, twobedroom apartment shut tight with the airconditioning unit turned off. They surmise that the oldest child, Ebony, may have crawled under the bed in search of a cooler place and died there. The children showed no other signs of trauma.

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