Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Man reports sexual assault in Berkeley park

People's Park. Photo: City of Berkeley.

People’s Park. Photo: City of Berkeley.

A 30-year-old man reported that he was sexually assaulted this week in People’s Park in Berkeley.

The man sought medical treatment at Alta Bates Hospital after waking up in the park, which UC-Berkeley owns, “and discovering indications that he was sodomized while he was unconscious,” university police said in a summary.

Hospital staff made mandatory notification to police Thursday, July 30 of the incident, which had taken place the previous night.

The victim isn’t affiliated with the university and wanted his name to be kept confidential, according to police.

Police didn’t provide a suspect description or say what the signs were that the man had been sodomized.

A city website says People’s Park, which is in southeast Berkeley, includes community gardens, a basketball court, a performance stage, and a playground. The park is also known for its homeless population.

Anyone with information about the case may contact the UC-Berkeley police Criminal Investigations Bureau at (510) 642-0472 form 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or at (510) 642-6760 at all other times.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 31, 2015 @ 10:53 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Man found dead in Castro identified

A man found dead in San Francisco’s Castro district Tuesday, July 28 has been identified as James Welch, 38.

The news site MissionLocal, which was first to report the death, has said that Welch, who was found at Noe and 18th streets, was homeless, but the medical examiner’s office couldn’t confirm that with the Bay Area Reporter. An investigator at the agency would only say that Welch was a San Francisco resident.

The medical examiner’s office isn’t likely to release the cause and manner of death for several months.

The B.A.R. reached out to several agencies and individuals about Welch’s death, but hasn’t yet received responses in most cases.

Police haven’t reported information indicating foul play was involved.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 29, 2015 @ 3:59 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bench warrant issued for SSF woman who allegedly called group ‘faggots’ and attacked man with knife

Cynthia Diaz. Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff's Department.

Cynthia Diaz. Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department.

A bench warrant has been issued for a South San Francisco woman who allegedly called a surfboarder and his friends “faggots” then attacked him with a hunting knife.

Cynthia Diaz, 34, was due to appear for her arraignment Tuesday, July 28 on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, exhibiting a deadly weapon “in a rude, threatening, or angry manner,” and battery.

But according to her attorney, Kevin Allen, she didn’t show up in court. Diaz had been in custody on $75,000 bail. Allen didn’t know when she’d been released.

He declined to comment today (Wednesday, July 29) on whether he has any idea where Diaz is and whether he’s talked to her since Tuesday.

The incident in which she’s charged occurred early on a recent night at Linda Mar Beach in Pacifica. The victim “was waxing his surfboard” while at the beach with his wife and friends when Diaz and her boyfriend allegedly approached them “and started calling them ‘faggots,'” the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office said in a summary of the June 23 attack.

“An argument ensued,” and Diaz allegedly “pulled out a large hunting knife and came at the victim’s group,” prosecutors said. Diaz, her boyfriend, and the victim “engaged in a struggle, and the victim suffered scratches and a tear to his wetsuit,” the DA’s office said.

His wife called police. When they arrived, they recovered an 8-inch knife from Diaz’s car, according to prosecutors, who added, “The police noted the defendant was drunk and claimed she acted in self-defense.”

Deputy District Attorney Holly Coulehan is prosecuting the case.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:55 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Case against man accused of groping patients moves forward

Robert Lastinger. Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

Robert Lastinger. Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

The case against a male former Stanford Hospital worker who’s facing charges that he groped four male patients is moving ahead.

Robert Lastinger, 56, of Fremont, has been charged with four felony counts of sexual battery. The date for a preliminary hearing, when a judge will determine if there’s enough evidence for a trial, was expected to be set today (Thursday, July 23).

From March 20 through April 1, several nurses allegedly saw Lastinger, an anesthesia technician and orderly, “touching the genital area” of the patients, “who were post-surgery and still unconscious from the anesthesia during surgery,” according to a summary from the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office. The patients were 16, 22, 25, and 52.

The nurses reported the alleged actions to supervisors and Lastinger, who’d worked at the Redwood City hospital since 2009, was “immediately terminated,” prosecutors said.

Hospital staff called Redwood City police, who interviewed Lastinger. He “admitted the crimes,” according to the DA’s office.

Lastinger, who’s pleaded not guilty to all charges, is out of custody on $100,000 bail bond. He couldn’t be reached for comment.

In an interview in May, Lastinger’s attorney, Dennis Lempert, said his clients actions “were consistent with his responsibilities in treating post-operative patients, and there was no improper touching.”

Lastinger is “terribly upset that these allegations arose,” Lempert said. “He has not done anything wrong.” Lempert said he didn’t have “the foggiest notion” whether Lastinger is gay.

Lastinger hasn’t faced complaints in the past, he said.

“My understanding is he’s been doing this for about 35 years and has never had an allegation made against him of any improper touching of a patient,” Lempert said.

He couldn’t provide many details on how the charges came about.

“I have yet to see a police report,” Lempert said. “I don’t know how many witnesses, if any, there are to the actual alleged improper touching, but my understanding and my experience as having been a person who has been treated at outpatient surgical facilities is that the recovery area is generally wide open, with many people there. Any type of improper touching would be readily observed by many of the staff.”

Contrary to prosecutors’ account, Lempert said, “None of the staff have reported any such improper touching, and in fact numerous nurses and fellow workers of Mr. Lastinger have contacted him to testify on his behalf.”

The Bay Area Reporter requested Lempert have Lastinger’s supporters contact the paper, but no one has done so.

Lempert said touching people was part of Lastinger’s job, and during the course of his work, “he touches patients. That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to care for post-operative patients to make sure they’re comfortable and to make sure that they are well, and touching patients is what caregivers do.”

Asked about the possibility of someone targeting his client with false accusations, Lempert said, “I think that if there was anyone who made an observation of what they thought to be misconduct,” it had to have been “an erroneous observation and a misimpression.”

Deputy District Attorney Sean P. Dabel is prosecuting the case.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 23, 2015 @ 2:59 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Gay judge confirmed to CA appellate court

Luis A. Lavin was appointed to a seat on the state Court of Appeal. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office

Luis A. Lavin was appointed to a seat on the state Court of Appeal. Photo: Courtesy Governor’s office

A state commission that approves judicial appointments voted today to confirm the first openly gay justice to serve on California’s Second District Court of Appeal, which hears cases from the counties of Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo.

Luis A. Lavin, 56, who has served on the Los Angeles County Superior Court since 2001, was appointed in June by Governor Jerry Brown to be an associate justice of the appellate court’s Division Three based in Los Angeles.

The Commission on Judicial Appointments approved Lavin by a unanimous vote at a public hearing this morning (Thursday, July 23) held in the Supreme Court Courtroom at the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in Los Angeles. He fills the vacancy created by the death of Justice H. Walter Croskey.

Lavin, a Los Angeles resident and registered Democrat, becomes the third out appellate court judge in the Golden State as greater scrutiny is being paid to the dearth of LGBT judges on both the state and federal bench. As noted in a story in today’s Bay Area Reporter, of the state’s 58 counties, 45 have no self-identified LGBT judges on the local state superior court.

And just two of the state’s six appellate courts have out justices.

Last year, Brown named Therese M. Stewart to a seat on Division Two of the First District Court of Appeal. It marked the first time an out lesbian was named to the state’s appellate bench.

At the same time Brown named James M. Humes as the presiding justice of the First District Court of Appeal’s Division One. It marked the first time an out judge had been appointed to a presiding position on an appellate court.

With Lavin’s confirmation today, there are now three out judges among the 98 serving on courts of appeal in California.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 2:41 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Salinas women sentenced to prison in child abuse case

A female Salinas couple convicted of starving and abusing their three children were recently sentenced to state prison, according to media reports.

Christian Jessica Deanda. Photo: Courtesy Monterey County Sheriff's office

Christian Jessica Deanda.
Photo: Courtesy Monterey County Sheriff’s office

Christian Jessica Deanda was ordered last week to serve a life sentence for torture, along with 13 years and four months for other charges, according to a KRON report that cited Bay City News and prosecutors in the case. Eraca Dawn Craig was ordered to serve 11 years.

Aside from the torture charge, Monterey County jurors in May also found Deanda guilty of one count of child abuse with great bodily injury, eleven counts of child abuse, and three counts of false imprisonment, according to the district attorney’s office.

Craig was convicted of child abuse with great bodily injury, three counts of false imprisonment, and two counts of child endangerment. The sentencing was July 17.

In March 2014, Monterey County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the couple’s home for a welfare check after the children – an 8-year-old girl, and two boys, ages 5 and 3 – didn’t arrive at an appointment, the sheriff’s office said.

“The children were starved and one of them had been chained to the floor to keep her from obtaining food,” the sheriff’s office reported. Sheriff’s spokesman Sergeant Keith Wingo said he’d received information that indicated the oldest child had been “especially” malnourished.

Eraca Dawn Craig. Photo: Courtesy Monterey County Sheriff's office

Eraca Dawn Craig.
Photo: Courtesy Monterey County Sheriff’s office

According to details attached to a search warrant and posted on KSBW’s website, the girl said she’d been “chained to a wall with a collar around her neck.” She weighed 40 pounds, her hair had been “shaved off” and she hadn’t been allowed to eat except for oatmeal, the records say.

‘A very nice, quiet young lady’

Attorney Susan Chapman, who represented Craig early in the proceedings, said in an interview last year that her client is “a very nice, quiet young lady who is distraught and concerned for the welfare of the children.”

William Scott Erdbacher, Craig’s most recent attorney, didn’t immediately respond to an interview request today (Wednesday, July 22.)

Deputy Public Defender Jeremy Dzubay, who represented Deanda, also didn’t respond to an interview request.

The trial took three weeks, and jurors deliberated for one day before announcing their verdict, according to the DA’s office.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 22, 2015 @ 1:56 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF LGBT Dem club snubs mayor, sheriff in re-election races

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

The Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, San Francisco’s progressive queer political group, has snubbed Mayor Ed Lee and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in their re-election bids this fall.

The club members voted Tuesday night (July 21) to withhold endorsements in both the sheriff and mayoral races, as no candidate in either contest was able to reach the 50 percent plus one threshold needed to secure Milk’s backing.

The Milk club did endorse former District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s bid to reclaim his seat this fall. He is running to oust Julie Christensen, who was appointed to fill a vacancy by Lee earlier this year.

District Attorney George Gascon, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, and Treasurer Jose Cisneros, who is gay, were all endorsed by the Milk club. All three are expected to be unopposed in their re-election bids this year; the deadline for candidates to file in the races is August 7.

Last month Milk gave an early endorsement to its former co-president, Tom Temprano, a gay Mission bar owner and deejay, who is seeking a seat on the community college board.

The decision not to support the mayor was hardly a surprise, as the Milk club has long opposed Lee’s being in Room 200 at City Hall. Four years ago when Lee was seeking his first full four-year term, having been appointed in early 2011 as mayor, the club backed District 11 Supervisor John Avalos in the race.

This year no prominent progressive opted to challenge Lee, who faces a crop of little known opponents on the November ballot.

The more surprising outcome, which has angered longtime members of the club, is Milk’s failure to endorse the embattled Mirkarimi, whose tenure as sheriff has been marked by one controversy after another. His first year in office saw Mirkarimi charged with domestic violence following a fight he had with his wife, Eliana Lopez.

He ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to undergo counseling and serve three years of probation. He was also suspended by Lee due to the charges, with Vicki Hennessy, who is now running to oust Mirkarimi, appointed interim sheriff.

Yet Mirkarimi escaped being officially removed from office when four Board of Supervisors members voted in October of 2012 not to sustain Lee’s official misconduct charges against the sheriff. He was re-instated to the post, but the scandal has continued to engulf the sheriff and his allies ever since.

Other issues Mirkarimi has had to confront as sheriff include the death of a patient in a stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital, which is guarded by sheriff deputies, allegations of a fight ring in a county jail run by sheriff deputies, and low morale among the rank and file of the safety agency.

The latest controversy, which has made international headlines, is the killing of a woman on a city pier by a man in the country illegally who had been released from custody by the sheriff’s office after a long ago drug possession charge against him was dismissed. Due to the city’s sanctuary city policy, the sheriff’s department released the individual without alerting federal immigration authorities.

That decision, which Mirkarimi has repeatedly defended, has come under withering criticism from Lee and other elected officials. And the story has been turned into a cause célèbre by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.

Through it all long-time Milk club leaders have stood by Mirkarimi, and this week, they blasted the club’s newer members for not supporting the sheriff.

“There is something deeply ironic and sad that, in their zeal to block the Milk Club from endorsing Ross Mirkarimi, newer white members of the Club will have ended up alienating far more people than they will end up getting on board with their white candidates,” wrote former club president David Waggoner on Facebook this week after Milk’s political action committee recommended no endorsement in the sheriff’s race at its meeting Saturday, July 18.

Another former club leader, Gwenn Craig, also took to Facebook to argue for an endorsement of Mirkarimi, writing, “We need sheriffs in the mold of former sheriff Mike Hennessey and current sheriff Ross Mirkarimi to hold the line and PROTECT prisoners in their custody and ensure that deputies are held to the highest standards.”

Waggoner, who served as Mirkarimi’s lawyer during the domestic violence case, suggested that the reason behind the snub of the sheriff is due to Milk club members “concerned that if the Club endorses Ross, it will make it more difficult for the other candidates, because Ron Conway and Co. have been so effective at buying public opinion in trashing Ross every chance they get,” referring to the venture capitalist who is a key ally of the mayor.

In announcing the endorsements, the club’s leaders simply wrote, “A majority of eligible voting members showed up tonight to cast ballots” and thanked “everyone who came out tonight to vote and speak on behalf of candidates and ballot measures. ”

Wednesday afternoon, Milk club co-president Peter Gallotta sent the B.A.R. a statement about the club’s decision in the sheriff’s race, noting that “a majority” of the members voted not to endorse Mirkarimi for a second term.

“There are very real concerns from our members about some of the sheriff’s positions including his views on building a new jail, which the club does not support. Many members are standing in solidarity with TAJA’s Coalition and trans women of color in San Francisco who are leading the fight against the new jail,” stated Gallotta. “It has been disappointing to hear that many of our longtime members felt unsafe speaking up about their concerns with the sheriff at last night’s meeting and are now being disparaged by straight people outside of the club who do not understand the legitimate concerns that queer progressives have on this issue.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 11:20 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

No change in SF’s LGBTQ homeless percentage

Homeless people slept in front of Most Holy Redeemer Church in the Castro district in this 2012 file photo. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Homeless people slept in front of Most Holy Redeemer Church in the Castro district in this 2012 file photo. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The percentage of San Francisco’s homeless population that identify as LGBTQ hasn’t changed since 2013, city officials announced today (Thursday, July 16).

According to the Human Services Agency, 29 percent of the city’s 6,686 homeless, or about 1,939 people, identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. The data come from the 2015 Point in Time Homeless Count, which was earlier this year.

At the time of the count, 3,505 people were living without shelter, and 3,181 were staying in shelters, transitional housing, resource centers, residential treatment facilities, or jail or hospitals.

In 2013, the last time the count was done, there were 6,436 homeless people.

For more information about the 2015 Homeless Count, go to:

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on this story in the Thursday, July 23 edition.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 16, 2015 @ 11:58 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Alleged Castro phone thief arrested after witnesses pepper spray him

Mark Patrick Barnes. Photo: SFPD.

Mark Patrick Barnes. Photo: SFPD.

A man who allegedly stole someone’s cellphone in San Francisco’s Castro district this morning (Thursday, July 16) was arrested after witnesses pepper sprayed him.

The incident occurred at 12:25 a.m. in the 400 block of Castro Street when Mark Patrick Barnes, 30, of San Francisco, allegedly pulled the victim’s phone “from his hand and tried to run away,” according to Officer Albie Esparza, a police spokesman.

The victim, 27, tried to take back the phone, but Barnes allegedly started punching him.

“Witnesses pepper sprayed [Barnes] and held him until police arrived,” Esparza said in a summary of the incident. He was taken into custody, and the phone was recovered.

Barnes was booked on suspicion of robbery and a probation violation, Esparza said.

The victim’s nose was injured, but he refused medical treatment.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 10:58 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

1 man stabbed, another hit with pipe in Castro incidents

Photo: Rick Gerharter

Photo: Rick Gerharter

A man was stabbed in San Francisco’s Castro district early Saturday morning and another was hit with a metal pipe in separate cases.

The first incident started at 5:18 a.m. July 11 in Collingwood Park when the victim, 27, and a friend got into a fist fight with the suspect, who’s described as a black male in his 40s.

The victim “later realized he was stabbed,” Officer Grace Gatpandan, a police spokeswoman, said in a summary, and he was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with a non-life threatening stab wound.

In the other incident, which occurred at 3 a.m. Saturday, a man trying to buy beer after hours at a store in the 3900 block of 18th Street threw beer cans at the store clerk, Gatpandan said.

After throwing the cans, the man threatened the clerk, left the shop, and stood outside. The clerk, 23, exited the store and hit the man with a metal pipe.

The almost-customer, 33, was taken to San Francisco General for a laceration to his cheek.

In a summary of the incident, Gatpandan said an arrest was made, but in response to an email about the suspect, she said, “The parties in this incident expressed their desire for the surveillance footage to be reviewed in order to determine what criminal charges, if any, should be made. No one was arrested at the scene. However, upon review of the footage, investigators can issue warrants for one’s arrest,” if the victim still wants a prosecution.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, July 15, 2015 @ 5:06 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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