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Posted: Monday, May 21, 2007 10:00 pm

The Downtown Lodi Business Partnership director has pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of hit-and-run and driving under the influence.

Jaime Watts, 30, was sentenced May 14 to 12 days of a Sacramento County Sheriff's work program and placed on three years of informal probation, according to court records made available Monday. Information on a fine, which is standard in DUI convictions and is often close to $2,000, was not immediately available and a court spokeswoman did not return a message left Monday afternoon.

Watts was arrested at 4 a.m. Feb. 8 in Galt after hitting a parked car, driving down the street and colliding with a pole and fence before coming to a stop in a field, according to Galt police. She was booked at the police station, then released on her promise to appear in court.

Her blood-alcohol content level was 0.21 percent, nearly three times the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent, according to court records.

Watts has publicly apologized for the incident. She has served since December 2005 as executive director of the downtown partnership, which promotes events Downtown, including summer farmers markets.

Light agenda ahead for planning commission

The Lodi Planning Commission will meet Wednesday night to review a very light agenda.

Commissioners will consider a request to divide a 19,602-square-foot parcel on W. Lockeford St. into three residential lots.

The property is at 605 W. Lockeford St. near the intersection of California Street. It is owned by Gregory Young, of Lodi.

Staff members at the city's planning department have recommended commissioners approve Young's request.

As with all commission meetings, time has been allotted for comments from the public, city staff and commissioners.

The meeting will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Carnegie Forum, 305 West Pine Street.

Bernel pleads not guilty to killing girlfriend

A man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend outside a Flag City gas station pleaded not guilty Monday to a murder charge.

David Brian Bernel II, who eluded authorities for more than a month after the Feb. 20 slaying of Jennifer Alyson Bushnell, 29, remains in the San Joaquin County Jail. A preliminary hearing, where a judge hears evidence and rules whether it's enough to send the case to trial, is scheduled for Sept. 10, said Deputy District Attorney Sherri Adams.

Bernel, who turned 28 earlier this month, was arrested March 28 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and deported back to California, where he is charged with murder, domestic violence and being a felon in possession of a handgun.

Because a previous robbery conviction counted as his first strike under California's three-strikes law, a first-degree murder conviction would carry a possible sentence of 50 years to life in prison, double the normal maximum penalty. An additional gun enhancement would add 25 to life.

Bernel, of Selma near Fresno, and Bushnell, of Redway in Humbolt County, were driving back to her home just days after a daylong SWAT standoff in Kings County, where Bernel's mother had told authorities he made threats with a gun. Bushnell later turned up and said she was unharmed, but authorities were never able to interview Bernel.

The couple stopped for gas in Lodi off Interstate 5 at Highway 12, and Sheriff's investigators say Bernel went into the gas station, then shot Bushnell when she got out of the car.

Sacramento sheriff endorses David Sander

Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness announced on Monday that he has endorsed Rancho Cordova Mayor David Sander for the 10th Assembly District seat held by Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi. Nakanishi will leave the Assembly next year due to term limits.

Sander has also been endorsed by Sacramento County Supervisors Roberta MacGlashan and Susan Peters, along with former Sheriff Lou Blanas.

Stockton soldier killed in Iraq

STOCKTON - A 23-year-old soldier from Stockton was among three soldiers killed in Iraq last week when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle.

Pfc. Victor M. Fontanilla died last Thursday from wounds suffered in the explosion in Iskandariya, Iraq, the U.S. Department of Defense said Monday.

The other two soldiers who died in the attack were Sgt. 1st Class Jesse B. Albrecht, 31, of Hager City, Wis., and Spc. Coty J. Phelps, 20, of Kingman, Ariz.

All three men were assigned to the 725th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

Judge rules state can resume inmate transfers

SACRAMENTO - California will resume sending an estimated 8,000 prisoners to other states next month after an appeals court ruled that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can do so while he challenges a prior ruling that halted the transfers.

Schwarzenegger praised the decision by the Third District Appellate Court, which was filed late last week and announced Monday, saying it would let the state take a critical step toward reducing prison overcrowding. Critics, however, warned that shipping inmates against their will could be dangerous for guards, prisoners and the public.

For the governor, the decision couldn't have come soon enough. Three judges have scheduled separate hearings next month to consider appointing a panel that could cap the state's inmate population - which could potentially order the release of thousands of prisoners. The state now has 172,000 prisoners living in space designed for fewer than 100,000.

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