Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Man accused of murdering stylist pleads not guilty

James Rickleffs

James Edward Rickleffs, 45, pleaded not guilty in the murder of Steven “Eriq” Escalon, 28, today (Thursday, September 13) in San Francisco Superior Court.

A roommate found the body of Escalon, who was gay and worked as a hairstylist, bound and gagged in his apartment in the 5000 block of Diamond Heights Boulevard at 6 p.m. June 12.

Rickleffs, who’s gay, has been charged with one count of premeditated murder and one count of first-degree residential robbery in the case.

He appeared calm Thursday as he pleaded not guilty to the charges before Judge Richard Ulmer Jr. Deputy Public Defender Niki Solis, who held her left hand on Rickleffs’ back as he stood, denied all allegations against him. The allegations weren’t specified, but court records indicate Rickleffs has previously been charged with numerous crimes, including theft and drug-related offenses. He has two strikes under California’s three strikes law.

Police have said they linked Rickleffs to Escalon’s death through DNA and other evidence. (Rickleffs has also been known as Damon Lacosta, Kenneth Lacosta, and James Radcliffs.)

Ulmer denied Assistant District Attorney Diana Garcia’s motion to increase bail from $1 million to $10 million. Garcia said her motion was based on the “strength of evidence” in the case, but Solis said it would be “excessive.” Ulmer said the amount is “a little academic,” since Rickleffs is on no bail for a probation revocation, meaning he couldn’t be released even if he had the money. The probation was for a grand theft conviction.

Solis noted that the medical examiner hasn’t determined the cause of death, and “not even an official manner of death,” which would specify whether Escalon’s death was homicide or something else. Police and prosecutors haven’t indicated anything other than homicide in Escalon’s death.

The medical examiner’s office typically takes several months to release reports on deaths, as Garcia noted. District Attorney George Gascón has said there weren’t any obvious stab or gunshot wounds.

Outside the courtroom, Solis said until the medical examiner’s and toxicology reports are available, “obviously,” the case “isn’t going to move forward very quickly.”

The medical examiner has said the toxicology report, which typically lists any drugs that are in a person’s system, is “a critical component of her findings,” and, therefore, the file is critical to the case, Solis said.

She declined to talk about Rickleffs’ background, saying, “I’m not going to discuss Mr. Rickleffs’ personal life.”

Solis also criticized Gascón for “jumping the gun” by making a statement “about what he thought happened” before either side has more information. She called Gascón’s remarks “irresponsible,” but she wouldn’t be specific about which comments she was referring to. Gascón held a news conference last week about Rickleffs’ charges and the background of the case, but police had already provided most of the information.

Steven "Eriq" Escalon

Rickleffs allegedly met Escalon at the bar 440 Castro and took a cab with him back to Escalon’s home early on the morning he died.

Gascón has asked anyone who may have seen Rickleffs and Escalon together, as well as anyone who may have been “victimized or approached” in similar incidents to contact police.

He asked people to be “very mindful of people you meet for the first time” and learn more about them before taking them home. As apparently shown in the Escalon case, “the consequences can be very dire,” he said.

Anyone who recognizes Rickleffs or has information regarding the case is asked to contact Sergeant Scott Warnke, or Inspectors Daniel Dedet, Kevin Jones, or Robert Valverde in the homicide unit at (415) 553-1145 or after hours at (415) 553-1071. People that wish to leave an anonymous tip may call the SFPD tip line at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to 847411 and type SFPD, then the message. The police incident number for Escalon’s death is 120 463 273.

An October 1 hearing for status of discovery has been set.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 13, 2012 @ 1:44 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Victim in SF robbery case praises police, DA

A gay San Francisco man who says he was robbed recently is praising the San Francisco Police Department and the district attorney’s office for their handling of the  ongoing case.

Patrik Gallineaux

Patrik Gallineaux, 42, said in an interview today (Wednesday, September 12) he was walking down Turk Street to his Tenderloin neighborhood apartment one recent night when he stepped into a hotel doorway near Leavenworth Street to check a text message on his iPhone.

He was stepping out of the doorway and was about to put the phone in his pocket when he was “blindsided,” he said.

Gallineaux said he was knocked to the ground, with a man hitting him on his side and screaming, “Where is it? Where is it?” Gallineaux’s phone and keys had fallen out of his hand, and he told the assailant repeatedly that he didn’t know where the items were.

“It looked like he was going to punch me in the face,” Gallineaux said.

“Amazingly,” he said, the man who’d been hitting him “froze,” then ran away with the other two. Gallineux said he got up and quickly saw police getting out of patrol cars and pursuing the suspects. Within 10 minutes, he said, officers had handcuffed all three.

His phone, which one of the suspects had allegedly pocketed, and keys were returned. He’d managed to hold on to his laptop because he’d fallen on top of the bag he was carrying it in.

“The whole incident, start to finish, was done within 45 minutes,” Gallineaux, who wasn’t injured in the August 19 incident, said.

Gallineaux said people from the SFPD and the victims advocacy unit of the district attorney’s office “have been in contact with me almost daily to make sure I’m informed” and to see if he needs any assistance.

“I’m just so excited and so happy to see that our police department and our leaders clearly are making an effort to put our resources in the right place and do an incredible job for our community,” Gallineaux said.

Lorne Dubin, who’s representing defendant Lawrence Phipps, 18, in the case, said the defendants involved have been charged with attempted robbery and receiving stolen property. He said that he believes Phipps wasn’t involved.

The attorney for defendant Malcolm Ireland and spokespeople for the SFPD weren’t immediately available Wednesday. The third defendant is a juvenile and his name isn’t being released.

Police frequently issue reports of people being robbed while carrying their cell phones. Many of the incidents involve guns or other weapons. Local law enforcement agencies have been encouraging people to report crimes to the police, including those that may seem minor.

Gallineaux, who among other roles produces events as the LGBT brand ambassador for Stolichnaya vodka, concurred.

“If not for yourself, always, always report a crime, no mater how trivial,” he said. “We owe it to our community,” because “no matter how small it seems, we have no idea what each criminal is capable of.” He said people can stop “bad energy” before suspects commit more serious crimes “beyond just an iPhone being stolen.”

Rebecca Prozan, the out lesbian who works as the district attorney’s director of community outreach, is one of the people who’s reached out to Gallineaux.

“I think all of us have either been victims of crime or have had a family member or a friend who’s been a victim of crime,” Prozan said. “It’s really important for people to see that the district attorney’s office works hard, the police work hard, and the courts work hard to find justice, but we need victims to stand up and Patrik has been particularly brave by sharing his story with everybody.”

A date for a preliminary hearing is expected to be set Monday, September 17.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 12, 2012 @ 7:15 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

San Jose mayor & LGBT activists to meet

Months after he canceled a sit-down with same-sex marriage activists, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is expected to meet with a small group of LGBT community leaders in the South Bay this Friday, September 14.

The meeting is set to take place at 9 a.m. at Reed’s office in City Hall. Up to 10 marriage equality activists are expected to take part.

“We are hoping for an hour but it could be very short,” said Jo Kenney, a married lesbian and labor organizer in San Jose. “Our ask of him is going to be what is your position? The last time he talked about this he said his opinion doesn’t matter because it is in the California Supreme Court.

“We are going to be saying to the mayor that your opinion does matter and that is why we feel it is important for him to come out and support” same-sex marriage, added Kinney.

For years Reed has refused to come out in support of marriage equality. In 2008 he refused to take a stance on Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment California voters passed that fall banning same-sex marriage, when asked about the anti-gay ballot measure by the Bay Area Reporter. He has remained silent as litigation against Prop 8 has worked its way through both the state courts and the federal judiciary.

After mayors from across the country launched a national campaign earlier this year to push for marriage rights for same-sex couples, Reed faced renewed pressure to sign on.

LGBT activists had hoped to plead their case with Reed at a meeting in mid May. But the mayor of the Bay Area’s largest city canceled the get-together and indicated he would have time to do so in June.

But the meeting never happened during Pride month, and local activists kept pestering the mayor all summer about the issue. Then last week the mayor’s office contacted the LGBT leaders to set it up.

Late Wednesday (September 12) one of the lead organizers of the campaign targeting Reed posted on the Marriage Equality Silicon Valley Facebook page that the meeting had finally been scheduled for the end of the week. He also urged community members to contact Reed prior to the meeting and urge him to back marriage equality.

“Over the years, Mayor Reed has said many things – that he opposes LGBT marriage, that he supports equal treatment, that it wasn’t his job as a city leader to take a position, that his position on the issue doesn’t matter, that our calls for his support were just a political ploy, that we should wait patiently until he dealt with more important issues,” wrote Rick Infantino, a gay man who accused the mayor in the spring of avoiding his LGBT constituents. “He needs to hear from you that, as the only big-city mayor but Dallas’ who hasn’t stood up for our freedom, he has an opportunity to show San Jose and the nation that leaders can evolve to stand up for all families, all children, all communities.”

Supporters of the cause can also sign a petition that the Silicon Valley group launched online.


— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 5:16 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Occupy group plans Sept. 17 Castro protest

To mark the one-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, an LGBT offshoot in the Bay Area is planning a protest in San Francisco’s gay Castro neighborhood.

According to an announcement from Occupride/Community Not Commodity the action will take place at 2 p.m. Monday, September 17 at the corner of 18th and Castro Streets. The intersection is where a Bank of America branch is located.

The group is planning a rally and direct action to protest institutions that negatively impact the LGBT community, such as evictions of seniors and people living with HIV or AIDS or policies that criminalize the homeless.

“We have united to confront the 1% in our community. We honor our radical roots in our fight for full liberation for all of us. We are diverse, we are joined together in struggle – we are the 99%!,” said a statement from the group, which held similar protests during the Pride parade in June.

A march through the LGBT neighborhood Monday afternoon will demand an end to tenant evictions and the criminalization of homelessness through the city’s Sit/Lie policy, which makes its illegal to block sidewalks.

The protest has been endorsed by Act Up San Francisco, members of QUIT (Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism), The San Francisco Tenant’s Union, Occupy SF Housing coalition, QUEEN (Queers for Economic Equality Now), the Occupy Action Council of San Francisco and the Occupy San Francisco Direct Action working group.


— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 4:46 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man arrested in Escalon killing

James Rickleffs (Photo: SFPD)

San Francisco police have arrested James Rickleffs, 45, on suspicion of killing Steven “Eriq” Escalon, 28. Escalon, who was gay, was found bound and gagged in his apartment in the 5000 block of Diamond Heights Boulevard June 12.

Police are asking others who’ve had contact with Rickleffs, of San Francisco, to come forward.

At a news conference today (Tuesday, September 4), Lieutenant Hector Sainez, head of the San Francisco Police Department’s homicide unit, said Rickleffs was arrested Sunday night, September 2 in connection with Escalon’s murder. Police have also arrested him on charges of burglary and a probation violation related to a grand theft case.

Sainez said the arrest was based on “strong” witness and forensic evidence. He declined to say how Escalon had been killed or what the specific evidence was. However, he said Rickleffs had been found with some property that had been stolen from Escalon’s home. Items missing from the apartment had included a laptop, jewelry, and financial documents.

Police previously released a “person of interest” bulletin that included a sketch. That bulletin said that Escalon had been seen getting into a cab outside the bar 440 Castro early in the morning of the day he was killed.

Tuesday, Sainez said Escalon had met Rickleffs at a bar and agreed to take a cab to Escalon’s apartment. Police believe Rickleffs is the man in the sketch, Sainez said.

Escalon had also withdrawn money from an ATM machine, Sainez said, but he didn’t believe he’d been forced to take money out. He said he didn’t know whether Rickleffs is gay.

Police also praised Greg Carey and his group Castro Community on Patrol for their assistance in the case. The volunteer patrol group distributed fliers in the weeks after Escalon’s death asking people to provide information.

Police Chief Greg Suhr encouraged anyone who may have had a “casual conversation” with Rickleffs or had a date with him to contact police.

“Please let homicide detectives decide whether it’s important or not,” he said.

Asked if police suspect Rickleffs in other incidents, Suhr said, “We won’t know until somebody tells us.”

A police source said Rickleffs made “some incriminating statements,” and DNA was found at the scene “that links the suspect to the crime.” The source declined to elaborate on what type of DNA evidence had been found.

A date for the district attorney’s office to formally charge Rickleffs hasn’t been set.

Sergeant Scott Warnke, the lead investigator in the case, is available at (415) 553-1145.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 4, 2012 @ 4:35 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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