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Posted: Tuesday, April 6, 2004 10:00 pm

Murder suspect's lawyer relieved from case

The murder trial for three alleged Stockton gang members charged in the June shooting death of Lodi teen Luis Eduardo Caracosa will likely be postponed because one defendant's hired attorney was relieved from the case Monday.

Sacramento attorney Robert Holley last month filed a motion to be relieved from the case because he was not being paid by the family of Anthony Do, 18. San Joaquin County Judge Bernard J. Garber granted that request Monday and appointed a public defender, Deputy District Attorney Seth Hoyt said.

Do, along with 19-year-old Sunny Sihavong and 16-year-old Michael Fierro, are currently scheduled to stand trial May 17. The public defender originally handling the case is on vacation this week, and attorneys will return to court to discuss the case Monday, Hoyt said.

The three teens were arrested after Caracosa was shot to death June 24 outside a home in the 400 block of East Walnut Street. All three have pleaded innocent and are jailed without bail.

Monday was not the first time the case has been delayed by Do's attorney. A November preliminary hearing was postponed nearly two months after Do's family hired Holley to replace a public defender. The hearing was then postponed until January in part because Holley asked for more time, and also because of court scheduling.

The newest change in attorneys will likely move the trial back so Do's newest attorney can get caught up on the case. The preliminary hearing transcript alone is hundreds of pages long, Hoyt said.

Autopsy shows Lodi teen died of cleaning solvent

A Lodi teen who was found dead in his youth detention facility cell in January died of intoxication by a cleaning solvent, authorities said.

Robert Lombana, 19, was found the morning of Jan. 12 at the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton, and he was pronounced dead when he arrived at San Joaquin General Hospital.

The initial cause of death was an overdose of trichloroethylene, Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Nellie Stone said.

The solvent is often used as a cleaning and degreasing agent, and is also one of the chemicals involved in an unrelated contamination case in Lodi.

A final autopsy report has not yet been returned by a pathologist, Stone said, though that is expected later this week.

The California Youth Authority had not yet gotten the coroner's report Tuesday, spokeswoman Sarah Ludeman said.

The events leading up to Lombana's death are still under investigation. Ludeman said the Sheriff's Department is handling the investigation, while Stone said their department is only handling the coroner's aspect of the case.

Parking garage negotiations continued

Negotiations between the city and a commercial property manager to attract businesses to the downtown parking garage remain ongoing after a closed session of the City Council on Tuesday.

Though the city and Atlas Properties have had discussions about managing the garage's commercial storefront properties, an agreement has yet to be reached, interim City Attorney Stephen Schwabauer said. The city plans to lease the entire storefront area to one company, which would then select tenants and make necessary improvements.

The properties along North Sacramento Street in front of the garage were expected to be occupied by restaurants and retail shops, but have been vacant since the building opened in 2002.

The Lodi Fire Department uses a portion of the space for its administrative offices.

Alternative work program on hold

The Lodi Parks and Recreation Commission will continue to discuss the possibility of using the San Joaquin County Sheriff's alternative work program for the city's parks at its next meeting in May.

The commission met and discussed the item on Tuesday, but made the determination that more background information on the program and the benefits to the city need to be researched.

The commission will meet on the first Tuesday of May with the intent of making the topic an action item for June. If the commission votes for the program, it would go to City Council for a final determination if the city will use the program.

DUI, manslaughter trial postponed until May

The drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter trial of a Lockeford man charged in the death of Barry Hall has been postponed for the second time.

Richard Allen Harris, 61, was originally scheduled to stand trial March 15, but that trial was postponed until this week due to witness schedules. On Tuesday, the trial was again delayed due to more witness schedules, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Scott Fichtner said.

Harris was arrested Aug. 12, hours after he allegedly fled from the scene of a Highway 88 accident that killed 46-year-old Hall, also of Lockeford.

Nine days later, Harris pleaded guilty to the charges, on the condition that he would spend no more than six years in prison. But after Judge Robert Baysinger reviewed Harris' history, which includes three previous drunk driving convictions, he told Harris that he would instead face 11 years in prison.

Harris withdrew his guilty plea, and the case has continued since then. He will return to court May 24, and opening arguments will likely start later that week, Fichtner said.

Harris remains in the county jail in French Camp on $100,000 bail.

Meeting tonight on Galt general plan update

A community workshop on Galt's general plan update will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. today at Chabolla Community Center, 630 Chabolla Ave.

Called "community character and design," participants will be asked what they want Galt to look and feel like in 20 years.

On April 19, the City Council and Planning Commission will have a joint meeting on the general plan update. That meeting will also begin at 7 p.m. at Chabolla Community Center.

For more information, call Senior Planner Sandra Kiriu at 366-7230 or view the city's Web site, www.ci.galt.ca.us and click onto "general plan update."

Security guards to be screeners at courthouse

Security guards are expected to replace sheriff's deputies as weapons screeners at the Stockton courthouse, court officials said.

Although court officials would like to have the security guards in place by April 19, San Joaquin County Superior Court spokeswoman Leanne Kozak said that until there's a contract with a private security firm, that date is tentative.

A court administrator is looking for a private security firm, she said.

"We're eager to get them into place as soon as possible," Kozak said. "Every day we don't make the change it's costing us more money than we can afford."

The move to security guards - not only as weapons screeners, but also as guards in civil trial courts - is because of budget restraints, she said.

On March 1, the court laid off 14 temporary workers, one half-time juvenile court referee and four part-time juvenile traffic hearing officers.

Officials also closed the San Joaquin Street entrance to the court, leaving only the Hunter Square entrance open, and changed business hours to 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. because of budget shortfalls.

This year, the state court system's budget was cut by $11 million, Kozak said.

San Joaquin Superior Court must cut $130,686 in the next three months.

The switch to security guards is expected to last until June 2005.

If the state provides the money, court officials hope to have the deputies back at their court posts by July 2005, Kozak said in a prepared statement.

Top officials replaced at youth facility in Stockton

Two of the top administrators at a troubled youth correctional facility near Stockton have been replaced, California Youth Authority officials said.

Assistant Superintendent Tim Mahoney, the top administrator at Stockton's N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility, was replaced by Steve Stenoski on Monday, and Jack Karver, a program administrator, was replaced by Eric Umeda.

The administrators are not being moved as punishment, California Youth Authority director Walter Allen said.

"We're changing the management there to take a fresh look at the operation," Allen said.

A videotape caught two workers at Chaderjian beating two wards on Jan. 20, leading to increased calls for prosecuting prison employee misconduct.

The youth prison, which houses the state's most violent offenders aged 18 to 25, came under criticism when the tape was aired and an investigation showed four other workers falsified reports about the incident. The case remains under investigation, and is being reviewed by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

Other incidents have called attention to the facility. On Jan. 12, an inmate died after drinking cleaning solvent, though a preliminary autopsy did not reveal whether the death was a suicide, accident or murder.

But on Feb. 28, officers were able to stop three other wards from killing themselves in the same way.

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Should graduations return to the Grape Bowl?

Lodi Unified leaders are moving Lodi and Tokay high school graduations from the Grape Bowl to the Spanos Center at UOP in Stockton. They cite limited seating, costs and unpredictable weather at the Grape Bowl. But others say graduations at the Grape Bowl are an important Lodi tradition, and one reason many supported renovating the stadium. What do you think?

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