Best Defender Bytes:

November 9, 2015


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 4:43 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A daughter is scheduled to face trial Monday for shooting and murdering her 96-year-old mother. Christine Marie Reynolds, 72, Rossmoor, is charged with one felony count of murder with a sentencing enhancement for the personal discharge of a firearm causing death. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 50 years to life in state prison. Opening statements are scheduled to begin Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, at 9:15 a.m. in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.

At approximately 4:15 p.m. on Aug. 28, 2014, Reynolds is accused of using a firearm to murder her mother Gretchen DeStefano by shooting her in the head in their Rossmoor home.

Shortly after the shooting, another resident in the home contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD), who investigated this case, and arrested the defendant.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Keith Burke of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.

Orange County District Attorney / Case # 14WF3283 / November 06, 2015

November 7, 2015

California Man Pleads Guilty to Producing Child Pornography

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

A Yuba City, California, man pleaded guilty today to producing child pornography, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner of the Eastern District of California, Special Agent in Charge Ryan Spradlin of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) San Francisco Field Division and Chief of Police Robert D. Landon of the Yuba City, California, Police Department.

Nathan Penner, 25, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley of the Eastern District of California to one count of production of child pornography.  The sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 21, 2016.

In connection with his plea, Penner admitted that he produced sexually explicit photos and videos of a five-year-old girl in September and October of 2012.  Penner further acknowledged that he had downloaded child pornography.  Subsequent forensic analysis of Penner’s computer and digital media revealed both the child pornography that he produced and hundreds of other child pornography files.

This case is being investigated by HSI and the Yuba City Police Department.  This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Reginald E. Jones of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh F. Sigal of the Eastern District of California.  CEOS’ High Technology Investigative Unit assisted with computer forensic analysis for the case.


U.S. Trustee Program Reaches $81.6 Million Settlement with Wells Fargo Bank N.A. to Protect Homeowners in Bankruptcy

Filed under: Uncategorized — fayarfa @ 12:03 am

The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program has entered into a national settlement agreement with Wells Fargo Bank N.A. (Wells Fargo) requiring Wells Fargo to pay $81.6 million in remediation for its repeated failure to provide homeowners with legally required notices, thereby denying homeowners the opportunity to challenge the accuracy of mortgage payment increases. These failures violated federal bankruptcy rules that took effect in December 2011 and imposed more detailed disclosure requirements to ensure proper accounting of fees and charges on homeowners in bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy Rule 3002.1 requires mortgage creditors to file and serve a notice 21 days before adjusting a Chapter 13 debtor’s monthly mortgage payment.  Wells Fargo acknowledges that it failed to timely file more than 100,000 payment change notices (PCNs) and failed to timely perform more than 18,000 escrow analyses in cases involving nearly 68,000 accounts of homeowners in bankruptcy between Dec. 1, 2011, and March 31, 2015.  Under the settlement, Wells Fargo also will change internal operations and submit to oversight by an independent compliance reviewer.  The proposed settlement has been filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland, where it is subject to court approval.

“I am pleased that Wells Fargo has acted responsibly by accepting accountability for its deficient bankruptcy practices, agreed to compensate affected homeowners for those deficiencies and committed to making necessary improvements in its bankruptcy operations,” said Director Cliff White of the U.S. Trustee Program.  “When creditors fail to comply with the bankruptcy laws and rules, they compromise the integrity of the bankruptcy system and must be held accountable.  Transparency in the process is of paramount importance.  Homeowners in bankruptcy have the right to proper and timely notices, particularly when they are being asked to pay more.  The U.S. Trustee Program remains diligent in its effort to hold financial institutions that disregard the law accountable for their actions.”

Settlement Terms

Wells Fargo agrees to pay a total of $81.6 million to homeowners who were in bankruptcy between Dec. 1, 2011, and March 31, 2015, and who were affected by Wells Fargo’s failure to timely file PCNs and escrow statements, including:


November 6, 2015


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 10:50 am

Forensic Evidence Showed Accuser Self-inflicted Her Wounds

Los Angeles. After ten years, two trials and two reversals on appeal, the prosecution and the defense reached an agreement releasing Daniel Clarke from state prison. Prominent defense attorney Fay Arfa, fought for Clarke’s freedom and never gave up hope. Daniel Clarke had been serving a sentence of twenty six years to life in prison for six felonies including the rape of pregnant T.G., the mother of his son. Forensic evidence proved Clarke’s accuser lied and self-inflicted her wounds to keep Clarke from gaining custody of their son.

The saga began when Clarke filed for custody of the couple’s son because T.G., now pregnant with the couple’s unborn child, refused to let him see his son. On April 14, 2005, Clarke filed a petition seeking legal and physical custody of their son. Two days before the custody hearing, T.G. invited Clarke to her house where they engaged in sex. After Clarke fell asleep, T.G. called the police. When the police arrived, T.G. grabbed her pajama shirt and ran out of the house naked and claimed Clarke broke into her house, held a knife to her throat, cut her chest, thighs and genitalia with a knife and forced her to have sex. The police arrested Clarke. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Clarke hired Attorney Arfa who uncovered forensic evidence that T.G. self-inflicted her wounds. The California Court of Appeal granted Clarke a new trial. The second trial started and the prosecution hired their own expert to evaluate T.G.’s wounds. The prosecution’s expert agreed that T.G. had self-inflicted her wounds, but the prosecution kept their expert’s exculpatory report from the defense. Once again, the jury convicted Clarke and he was again sentenced to life in prison. Undeterred, Attorney Arfa contacted the prosecution’s wound expert. The prosecution’s expert gave Attorney Arfa the extensive report proving T.G.’s wounds had been self-inflicted. The Court of Appeal found the prosecutor unconstitutionally failed to give the defense the exculpatory report proving T.G. self-inflicted her wounds. The Court of Appeal again granted a new trial.

Before the third trial started, the prosecution offered to release Mr. Clarke if he agreed to plead guilty to a lesser a non-strike, non-registerable felony. Mr. Clarke accepted the offer and the trial court ordered him released from custody.

“We always believed in his innocence; it’s a shame he spent ten years of his life in prison; but we are thrilled with his release and we wish him all the best in the world,” said Attorney Arfa.

CONTACT: Attorney Fay Arfa, (310) 841-6805 or


Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 7:14 am

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A drunken driver is scheduled to be arraigned today for hit-and-run crash that killed a pedestrian sitting on a sidewalk. Ramon Horta, 55, Santa Ana, is charged with one felony count of murder, one felony count of driving under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, hit and run with permanent injury or death, one misdemeanor count of driving on a suspended license due to a prior DUI, and sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in state prison. He is being held on $1 million bail and is expected to be arraigned today in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana. The time is to be determined.

At approximately 1:10 p.m. on Nov. 3, 2015, Horta is accused of driving a van, while under the influence of alcohol, traveling approximately 30 mph eastbound approaching the intersection of McFadden Avenue and Cedar Street in Santa Ana. He is accused of slowly veering the van to his right and driving over a curb and onto the sidewalk. He is accused of hitting and running over 24-year-old Marcello Bisarello, who was sitting on the sidewalk.

Horta is accused of tapping his brakes and looking over his right shoulder and rear window before continuing to drive eastbound on McFadden Avenue at the same speed. A good Samaritan called 911 and followed the defendant’s vehicle and caused the defendant to pull over approximately half a mile from the scene of the crash.

The victim died at the scene from injuries he sustained in the crash. The Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) arrived to the scene and arrested Horta. SAPD investigated this case.


Former NFL Player Found Guilty of Three Murders

Filed under: Uncategorized — fayarfa @ 7:02 am

A former defensive lineman was found guilty today of a 1999 double homicide and a 2001 murder, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

A jury deliberated for about eight days before finding Anthony Wayne Smith, 48, guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and found true special circumstance allegations of torture, kidnapping, and multiple murders.

Smith, who played for the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders, will face three life terms in state prison without the possibility of parole at a sentencing hearing scheduled for Dec. 21 in Department A17 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Antelope Valley Branch.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict on a fourth murder charge for the 2008 death of Maurilio Ponce. A mistrial was declared and a decision on whether to retry that charge will be made at a later date.
Deputy District Attorneys Jonathan Chung and Tom Trainor of the Hardcore Gang Division prosecuted case MA056689.

On Nov. 10, 1999, brother’s Ricky and Kevin Nettles were kidnapped from their car wash business in Los Angeles by Smith posing as a police officer, prosecutors said. The two victims were tortured and killed and found the next day, according to court testimony.


November 5, 2015

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Files Brief in U.S. Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case, Fisher v. University of Texas

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:09 am

LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a high-profile affirmative action case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Fisher v. University of Texas, urging the Court to reaffirm its 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger and allow public universities to consider race as one factor among many in admissions decisions.

In the brief, Attorney General Harris argues that public colleges and universities should be able to consider race not only to increase the numbers of underrepresented students of color admitted, but to also ensure that students at these colleges and universities are reflective of a broad range of backgrounds and experiences.  As the Supreme Court ruled in 2003, there is a compelling interest in providing the educational benefits of a diverse student body at public colleges and universities that can justify considering an applicant’s race as part of a holistic admissions plan.  Additionally, the brief argues that diversity on college and university campuses produces benefits that extend into our society and democratic process.

“To prepare our future leaders to thrive in the global workforce, we must embrace the educational benefits of diversity,” said Attorney General Harris.  “I strongly urge the U.S. Supreme Court to reaffirm its decision that public colleges and universities may consider race as one factor in admissions decisions.”

The brief acknowledges the limitations imposed by Proposition 209 on California’s efforts to increase the diversity of its academic institutions.  Proposition 209, among other things, prohibits California from considering race during admissions decisions to its public colleges and universities.  As the brief emphasizes, however, California has a strong interest in retaining the flexibility to change course in the future, and each state should have the broadest discretion permissible to decide how to fashion suitable admission standards.


Driver Charged With Killing Bicyclist Near USC

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:06 am

A motorist has been charged with murdering a bicyclist near the University of Southern California last week, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Andrew Williams (dob 9/5/83) was charged in case BA440824 with one count each of murder and hitand-run resulting in death or serious injury. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Department 30 of the Foltz Criminal Justice Center.

On Oct. 15, prosecutors said Williams was driving his SUV in the 3900 block of South Vermont Avenue when he came across Ruben Wharton Vanegas who was on a bicycle.

The two men had been arguing when Williams is accused of running over the victim, dragging his body for about 100 feet, prosecutors added. Vanegas died at the scene.

Prosecutors are recommending bail be set at $1 million. If convicted as charged, Williams faces up to 25 years to life in state prison.


Lancaster Man Found Guilty of Sex Acts with Teen

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 12:03 am

A Lancaster man has been found guilty of directing a teenage boy to perform sexual acts with a teenage family member and then joining in, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours before convicting Richard Michael Kelso, 35, yesterday of three counts of contact with a minor for sexual offense, two counts of lewd act upon a child and one count of inducing a child to engage in a lewd act.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 13 in Department A21 of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Antelope Valley Branch. Kelso faces a possible maximum sentence of 12 years in state prison.

Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami prosecuted the case.

Kelso, who owns a private investigator business in Lancaster, was a volunteer and ran several youth groups at a local Catholic church, the prosecutor said. In mid-2013, Kelso chose one boy, who was 15 at the time, from one of his confirmation groups and arranged for him to perform sexual acts with a teenage girl. He also participated in the sex acts, the prosecutor added.


November 4, 2015

SoCal Company Pays $4 Million and Enters into Agreement to Resolve Allegations it Overcharged U.S. Military for Fruit, Vegetables

Filed under: California Defense Attorney — fayarfa @ 6:54 am

LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles company has paid $4 million to resolve civil allegations that it fraudulently overcharged the U.S. military for fresh fruits and vegetables that it supplied to military dining facilities and Navy ships in Southern California. As part of a second agreement with criminal prosecutors, Coast Produce Company will implement various measures to ensure the company complies with its legal obligations.

Coast Produce Company’s settlement agreements with the government resolve a civil lawsuit and criminal investigation into allegations that the company violated the federal False Claims Act and obstructed an investigation related to two contracts the company had with the Department of Defense (DoD) to supply fresh produce to the military in the Los Angeles and San Diego regions.

The allegations against Coast Produce first surfaced in a “whistleblower” lawsuit filed in 2008 by an industry consultant. To resolve the allegations in the lawsuit, Coast paid a $4 million settlement on September 2, and United States District Judge David O. Carter unsealed and dismissed the civil lawsuit on September 17.

Under its contract with the DoD, Coast Produce allegedly was required to charge only the current prices charged to Coast by its own suppliers for the fruits and vegetables (the “delivered price”), plus an additional fixed $1.50-per-unit distribution fee that included Coast’s profit. The lawsuit alleged that Coast Produce knowingly overcharged the military on the delivered prices in three ways: 1) by instructing two suppliers to provide inflated quotes for produce, which the company then submitted to the DoD as pricing support, while simultaneously instructing the two suppliers to actually bill at their regular lower prices; 2) by charging the DoD more than it paid for bananas and pineapples under long-term fixed-price supply contracts; and 3) submitting artificially high quotes to the DoD – typically from vendors Coast Produce had no intention of buying from – in order to set a payment rate, but then actually purchasing the produce it supplied at lower prices, and keeping the difference.


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