Issue:  Vol. 45 / No. 9 / 26 February 2015
 

Alleged fake cop moves to represent himself, quickly withdraws request

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Jeffrey Bugai Photo: San Francisco Police Department

In an unusual move, the San Francisco man accused of pretending to be a police officer and forcing other men to engage in sexual acts with him briefly asked to represent himself today (Friday, January 30) but quickly withdrew his motion after speaking with the judge in the case.

Jurors have been deliberating the case against Jeffrey Bugai, 36, since Thursday afternoon, shortly after the prosecution and defense attorneys finished their closing arguments.

Bugai, who’s been in custody since his July 2014 arrest, indicated to retired Superior Court Judge Jerome T. Benson that he wanted there to be more discussion about several text messages he says were between him and one of the alleged victims.

In the texts, which had been shown in court, Bugai repeatedly remarked about the victim’s “big dick,” while messages from the victim’s number asked for money.

In her closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Sharon Reardon said the responding messages had not come from the victim, referred to in court as Franklin, but from his girlfriend, who was using her boyfriend’s phone to make sure Bugai wasn’t another woman.

Referring to the messages today, Bugai, who didn’t testify during the trial, said, “Did you find that valid, or was that stupid?”

Benson didn’t pick either description, but told Bugai, “I’m asking you to consider whether you want me to rule on the motion” to represent himself “right now, or whether you want me to take a look at the information.”

After some more discussion, Bugai opted to withdraw his motion to be his own attorney. Instead, he’ll present information he thinks is compelling and give that to his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Phoenix Streets, and Benson to determine whether it warrants re-opening closing arguments.

Outside the courtroom, Streets said there are “some things [Bugai] wants highlighted that I didn’t highlight.”

That includes gaps of several months between the text messages. Reardon said those gaps help show that it was Franklin’s girlfriend, not Franklin, that responded to Bugai’s texts.

According to Streets, Bugai claims there are some messages from his phone that would have shown “there could actually have been a continuous flow” of texts, but those messages have been deleted and can’t be recovered.

Streets said, “It’s very rare for it to happen at this stage of the game” that a client would ask to represent himself, but Bugai “has a lot of anxiety right now. He’s looking at spending the rest of his life in prison if things go wrong. … My feelings are not hurt.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 30, 2015 @ 4:16 pm PST
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Meeting on ‘bad behavior’ at Jane Warner Plaza set

Chocolate-colored asphalt is one of the main elements in the renovated Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Chocolate-colored asphalt is one of the main elements in the renovated Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

A meeting to discuss “bad behavior” at Jane Warner Plaza in San Francisco’s Castro district is planned for 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, February 2, Andrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit, said today (Thursday, January 29).

In an email, Aiello said conditions at the plaza, which is at Castro and Market streets, have “really deteriorated lately.”

“We have been leaning on the police,” District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, and the Department of Public Works, and Monday’s meeting is “to discuss what should be done. There are lots of ideas and suggestions,” she said.

Since the beginning of the year, Aiello said, there’s “generally” been “really bad behavior” at the parklet, which was created several years ago after the city closed off access to part of 17th Street at Castro and Market, Aiello said.

DPW has recently made some improvements, including new asphalt, but some of those changes “have made the plaza too open to abuse,” Aiello said.

“They built a bulb out around the planter by the Chevron Station” next to the plaza, “which effectively raised the ‘floor’ around the planter, thus lowering the height of the planter,” she said. “Now it is totally being abused, people are sleeping in the planter, having their dogs and cats sleep, pee and poop in the planters. … There is really bad behavior from the people who sit there all day long, calling people faggot, fighting with each other, and they litter like crazy, drinking in public whenever they can get away with it. They do not clean up after themselves, when they leave in the evening the plaza is a filthy disaster, taking up multiple chairs with all their stuff so no one else can sit, sleeping during the day across three or more chairs.”

In an email, Wiener said, “The situation at Jane Warner has gotten totally out of control and is unacceptable. A small group of people is ruining the plaza – both physically and in terms of other people’s ability to enjoy this neighborhood open space. The plaza is for everyone, and when one group of people starts damaging it, committing violent acts, and being anti-social, it’s not OK. The people who’ve been damaging the plaza and acting in an anti-social manner need to leave. The plaza isn’t for them as long as they’re behaving that way.”

Wiener said he’s been “working closely” with Mission station police, who have “significantly stepped up their attention to the plaza.” However, he said, “significant challenges remain, and there are limits to what the police can do.”

The full launch of the Castro Cares initiative, which has brought more outreach work and police presence to the area, is coming “in the near future,” and Wiener, who’s gotten funding for the project, believes it and other efforts “will have a positive impact.”

A revamp of the plaza’s landscaping is also planned so that it’s “harder to sit on it and thus damage it,” among other changes, he said.

“This work will necessitate a temporary closure of the plaza and removal of the tables and chairs. This will be a much-needed pause for the plaza. It will give us time to calm things down, get Castro Cares fully in gear, continue to strategize with the police, increase our activation of the plaza, and consider legislation to adopt additional rules for the plaza,” Wiener said.

The new rules could include “making it illegal for people, animals, or anything else to be on top of the landscaping,” he said.

“Jane Warner Plaza is the only plaza in the Castro,” Wiener said. “It serves an important purpose, and many people rely on it. We need it to succeed, and we will make it work.”

A DPW spokeswoman wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The meeting will be at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center youth space, 100 Collingwood Street. Aiello said Wiener and Mission police station Captain Dan Perea will be among those attending. All the benefit district’s meetings are open to the public.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 29, 2015 @ 4:44 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Friends, family rally around Cookie Dough

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 5.59.25 PMFriends and family of Cookie Dough are rallying to support the popular San Francisco drag queen, who they say is in a coma after becoming ill in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

A GoFundMe page was launched today (Friday, January 23) in an effort to raise $40,000. More than $19,000 has been donated.

“We (I) have started this campaign to help our beloved Cookie Dough & her beloved husband Michael [Chu] with any and all costs associated with this,” friend Forrest Parnell said on the fundraising site. “Let’s show our love & support by giving WHATEVER you can, anything is fine!  I know that Cookie has been entertaining all of us for years.”

Cookie Dough, 51, whose given name is Eddie Bell,  has played the role of Sofia Petrillo in the all-drag Golden Girls stage show for years and is also known for raising money for numerous causes.

Golden Girls co-star Heklina (she plays Dorothy Zbornak) is offering proceeds from her “Mother” drag show, 10 p.m. Saturday, January 24 to help Cookie Dough. Tickets for the show, at Oasis, 298 11th Street, are available through the club’s website or Facebook.

“Cookie is someone who I’ve called a friend for over a decade, and I’ve done some of my best work with her,” Heklina, whose given name is Stefan Grygelko, said in an email. “She is one of the most sincere, kind human beings I have ever known, and you won’t find anyone with a bad thing to say about her.”

 [Update, Monday, January 26]: According to friends of Cookie Dough’s, she was transferred this morning to a hospital in San Francisco from Puerto Vallarta. The GoFundMe goal of $40,000 has been surpassed. [End update]

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 23, 2015 @ 6:30 pm PST
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CA judges cut ties with the Boy Scouts of America due to LGBT issues

california-supreme-court-1California judges will no longer be allowed to participate in nonprofit youth groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, that discriminate against LGBT people.

At the same time the justices lifted a ban on judges belonging to a military organization now that gays and lesbians can serve openly in the U.S. Armed Services. The change comes as transgender individuals are still barred from becoming service members, though the policy is reportedly under review.

In the case of the scouting group, although it now allows out youth to belong, it continues to ban LGBT adults from serving as troop leaders.

In an announcement issued late this afternoon (Friday, January 23), the Supreme Court of California said it had unanimously voted to eliminate an exception in Canon 2C of the California Code of Judicial Ethics that permitted judges to belong to nonprofit youth organizations that practice invidious discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s decision follows the recommendation of its Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics to eliminate the exception for nonprofit youth groups from an ethics rule that prohibits judges from holding membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

The proposed rule change was sent out for public comment last year, and the change was supported by the California Judges Association. The amended rule is now consistent with the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Judicial Conduct.

Judges will have until January 21, 2016 to comply with the new rule.

“The only remaining exception to the general rule is membership in a religious organization,” stated Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Richard D. Fybel, chair of the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics, in the press release. “One other exception – belonging to a military organization – was eliminated as well, because the U.S. armed forces no longer restrict military service based on sexual orientation.”

Under the California Constitution, the Supreme Court adopts the Code of Judicial Ethics, which establishes standards of ethical conduct for state judges on and off the bench and for candidates for judicial officer.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 5:59 pm PST
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Offers in on MCC-SF buildings; final deals expected soon

MCC-SF, a longtime spiritual home for many LGBTs, is being sold. Photo: Rick Gerharter

MCC-SF, a longtime spiritual home for many LGBTs, is being sold. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco is close to finalizing sales of its Castro sanctuary and the adjacent apartment building, according to the Realtor handling the deals.

In an email exchange today (Friday, January 23), Katharine Holland, who listed the properties earlier this month, said, “Both properties are now in contract” with no financing, inspection, or other contingencies. Offers are no longer being accepted.

The sale on the church building at 150 Eureka Street is set to close Wednesday, February 4, and the deal on the 4-unit apartment building, at 138-140 Eureka, is expected to be final Wednesday, February 11, Holland said.

She couldn’t yet disclose the bidders or the sales prices. The properties are still in escrow.

Five offers were made this past Wednesday on the church, and there were 10 offers on the occupied 4-unit apartment building. All the offers were over the asking prices, Holland said. The church listed the sanctuary at about $2 million and the apartment building at approximately $1.5 million.

“[W]e had two offers from people that wanted to buy both properties,” Holland said. “Those offers were not successful.”

In a separate email, Jan Corlett, MCC-SF’s board treasurer, said, “We are very pleased that we had offers over the asking price.  As Katherine has said, we cannot comment on the bidders until escrow closes in a few weeks.” Corlett added that it’s “a very exciting time for us as we transition to new worship space on Polk Street. We are changing our place of worship, but not our commitment to the LGBT community and the Castro.”

MCC-SF, which for decades has been the spiritual home of many of San Francisco’s LGBTs, is planning to move in with First Congregational Church on Polk Street because it would take too much money to fix the crumbling, 114-year-old building at 150 Eureka.

The Reverend Robert Shively, MCC-SF’s senior pastor, has acknowledged the possibility of the neighboring apartment tenants being evicted, but he recently said selling both the buildings gives the church “the best opportunity for the future.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 4:07 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Diaz arrested in Castro arson case

David Diaz in his 2011 booking photo. Photo: San Francisco Police Department

David Diaz in his 2011 booking photo. Photo: San Francisco Police Department

A San Francisco man who jurors convicted of involuntary manslaughter and arson this last summer has been arrested in connection with at least one of the recent arson fires in the Castro district, KQED reported this morning (Thursday, January 22).

David Diaz, 25, who’d already served more than three years for the 2011 death of Freddy Canul-Arguello, 23, had been out of custody since September. Diaz admitted to choking Canul-Arguello to death but insisted it was an accident that happened during a sexual encounter in Buena Vista Park.

Diaz is in custody in county jail. When the Bay Area Reporter tried to visit Diaz Thursday afternoon, a sheriff’s department staffer said that Diaz is “refusing to speak to the media.”

According to superior court records, Diaz is being held on felony charges of arson of an inhabited structure, possession of an incendiary device, and first-degree burglary.

Van Ly, chief of staff for Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, said that Diaz’s total bail is $650,000. Records indicate his arraignment will be Friday, January 23, but that’s not definite.

Besides involuntary manslaughter and arson, jurors in August also found Diaz guilty of mutilating human remains and destroying evidence. They acquitted him on a murder charge.

At Diaz’s sentencing in November, Deputy Public Defender Alex Lilien requested that Superior Court Donald Sullivan Judge dismiss all counts but the involuntary manslaughter.

Sullivan dismissed only the arson count, after considering that keeping it would require Diaz’s “lifetime registration as an arsonist,” which would “mar his character.” He acknowledged Diaz’s youth, that he had no prior criminal history, and indicated he agreed with Lilien that “the likelihood of [Diaz] committing such crimes in the future” is “extremely unlikely.”

According to a motion Lilien’s filed, Diaz isn’t a U.S. citizen but a legal permanent resident. His father and other family live in the country. Lilien said in court he was concerned about “potentially grave collateral consequences” for Diaz if only the arson count was dismissed. Diaz is originally from Mexico, as was Canul-Arguello.

Diaz has been the partner of Larry Metzger, an owner of the Mix bar in the Castro. A friend of Metzger’s has said that Metzger’s car was one of the cars burned in an apparent arson late last year. It’s not clear whether authorities have any information connecting Diaz to those incidents. Metzger couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on this story as it develops.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 22, 2015 @ 11:59 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Maitri hospice considers new tenants for ex-thrift store space

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The building at the corner of Duboce and Church streets was until this fall shared by Out of the Closet on the first floor and Maitri Hospice on the second floor. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Three prospective tenants have expressed an interest in the former Out of the Closet site in the Duboce Triangle neighborhood and have submitted letters to Maitri hospice, the nonprofit that owns the space at 100 Church Street.

San Francisco Health Director Barbara Garcia had said her agency was talking with the hospice, which provides residential care to people living with AIDS, about the possibility of using the space as a clinic.

But Maitri Executive Director Michael Smithwick said in an interview last week that the health department isn’t one of the agencies his organization is actively negotiating with. “It’s possible they could work out to be a subtenant,” Smithwick said.

He wouldn’t say what other groups are being considered, and he didn’t know when a decision would be made, but he said his nonprofit wants to find a new tenant “as soon as possible.”

The location has been vacant since the fall, around the time AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which operates a chain of Out of the Closet shops, settled an eviction lawsuit with Maitri about AHF’s rejection of a rent increase.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 21, 2015 @ 4:31 pm PST
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US Supreme Court to take on same-sex marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will review consolidated same-sex marriage cases this year.

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will review consolidated same-sex marriage cases this year.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today (Friday, January 16) it will review six consolidated marriage cases from a lower court, meaning the court could soon rule on whether couples should be allowed to marry in all 50 states.

The country’s top court had previously declined in October to review whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. At that time, there was no disagreement among federal appeals courts that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.

But in November, a panel of judges from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee. That 2-1 decision was appealed to the Supreme Court.

Friday, the court agreed to hear six consolidated marriage cases from the Sixth Circuit.

In a news release, the national group Freedom to Marry noted that the top court could make its ruling by June. Currently, gay couples are able to marry in 36 states.

“The Supreme Court’s decision today begins what we hope will be the last chapter in our campaign to win marriage nationwide – and it’s time,” Freedom to Marry President Evan Wolfson stated. He said his group’s “national strategy has been to build a critical mass of marriage states and critical mass of support for ending marriage discrimination, and after a long journey and much debate, America is ready for the freedom to marry. … We will keep working hard to underscore the urgency of the Supreme Court’s bringing the country to national resolution, so that by June, all Americans share in the freedom to marry and our country stands on the right side of history.”

Both sides will now file briefs to the Supreme Court and oral arguments will be scheduled for April.

The Tennessee plaintiff couples include doctors Valeria Tanco and Sophy Jesty of Knoxville. They’re represented by Shannon Minter, legal director for the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“This is an important day because it means that our family will finally have an opportunity to share our story with the court and explain how this discriminatory law hurts us each day,” Tanco, who has a young daughter with Jesty, said in a statement from NCLR. “We live in fear for ourselves and our little girl because we don’t have the same legal protections in Tennessee as other families. We are hopeful the Supreme Court will resolve this issue so we no longer need to live in fear.”

De Boer Rowse

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, of Michigan, in a recent photo with their children Nolan, left, Jacob, Rylee, and Ryanne. (Photo: National Marriage Challenge/PR Newswire)

A news release from Equality Michigan said the group is “optimistic” the justices will rule in favor of same-sex marriage, but the organization’s statement also had a serious tone.

“While it is great news that the Supreme Court will be taking up the legal matter of our freedom to marry, for many, the additional months of waiting will be excruciating, and it will sadly be too long for some facing tragic circumstances,” Equality Michigan’s message said. “This fight has been long, emotional, challenging, and it is not over yet – nor is our victory inevitable. However, we remain confident it is achievable if we can spread the message on why the freedom to marry matters in Michigan.”

In a post to Twitter, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said, “#SF is pioneer in #MarriageEquality, but more work to do. We stand ready for #MarriageMomentum to ensure all have #freedomtomarry #SCOTUS.”

In an interview, gay San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener called the court’s announcement “exciting and a little bit scary.”

“This is in some ways high stakes poker because, on the one hand, we’ve achieved such enormous success in the lower courts,” Wiener said, noting that an estimated 70 percent of the country’s population lives in states that allow same-sex marriage.

“A bad ruling by the court will undermine that severely,” he said. ” On the other hand, 30 percent of Americans live in states without marriage equality. … Without a court ruling, they’re not going to have marriage equality in the foreseeable future.”

Wiener said “it’s always dangerous to speculate” what the nine justices will do, but he said Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’s considered the swing vote on many issues “has pretty much written all the pro-LGBT Supreme Court rulings. It would really surprise me if he didn’t stand with us here. I think part of his legacy is going to be the opinions that he’s authored advancing the civil rights of the LGBT community. I’m very hopeful he’ll stand with us again.”

San Francisco resident John Lewis, who along with his husband Stuart Gaffney has been a public face for the marriage equality movement for years, said in a statement from Marriage Equality USA, “We urge the Supreme Court to affirm the near unanimous consensus of the over 55 courts who have ruled in favor of marriage equality over the last 18 months. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are part of the fabric of America. We look to the Supreme Court to recognize once and for all that we should have the same freedom to marry that all other Americans enjoy and that we should have full constitutional protections in all aspects of our lives.”

Lewis is MEUSA’s legal and policy director.

Research from the Williams Institute, based at the UCLA School of Law, suggests that there were 690,000 same-sex couples in the country in 2013, and they were raising an estimated 200,000 children.

Marriage Equality USA is organizing a community call to discuss the case and ask questions. The call starts at 6 p.m. Pacific Friday. To sign up, visit https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1_ZgjKwNHWqH1bbLQCN8GxDnihnES7Imv4Nu1ujUEnME/viewform.

 

— Seth Hemmelgarn, January 16, 2015 @ 1:44 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


No gays among SF board committee chairs

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed announced committee assignments this morning (Friday, January 16) and gay supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener did not receive chairmanships.

In an email, Breed said neither man had requested chairmanships. Both men have chaired committees since January 2013.

Supervisor David Campos. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Supervisor David Campos. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

In her announcement, Breed, who represents District 5 and was elected to the presidency January 8, said, “Amazingly, these committees largely reflect what my colleagues requested. I am fortunate to serve a board with such a diverse range of interests and experiences. It certainly made my job easier.”

Asked if he’s disappointed he didn’t get a chairmanship, Campos, who competed against Breed to be board president, said in a brief interview, “Ultimately, it’s up to the president to make those decisions. I think ultimately the assignments reflect where the president has her priorities.”

Campos, who has represented District 9 since 2009, has chaired the City Operations and Neighborhood Services and Public Safety committees since January 2013, and the Neighborhood Services and Safety Committee since February 2013. Those assignments are scheduled to end January 31.

Breed has assigned him to be vice chair of what she’s calling the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee and a member of the City and School District Select Committee.

Supervisor Scott Wiener

Supervisor Scott Wiener

Wiener has been named as vice chair of the Land Use and Transportation Committee and a temporary member of the Budget and Finance Committee. The District 8 supervisor has chaired the Land Use and Economic Development Committee since January 2013. That assignment is set to end January 31. Wiener has served on the board since 2011.

Breed, who’s been on the board since 2013, said she’s looking forward “to the very important election of our next transportation authority chair later this month.”

In an interview, Wiener said he didn’t request the lead position on any of the supervisors’ committees because he plans to seek the transportation authority chairmanship. The supervisors sit on the panel, which administers the transportation sales tax. Each county has a similar group.

“A lot of money flows through the transportation authority,” Wiener said, and it “plays a very significant role in transportation funding decisions.”

He said, “It doesn’t make sense to be chair of a board committee, as well. It’s a little bit too much for one person to do.”

Wiener said District 10 Supervisor Malia Cohen has served on the land use committee with him for three out of the past four years, and there are “an enormous number” of land use issues in her district. Breed announced that she’s assigned Cohen to lead the committee.

“Given that I’ve chaired land use for two years now, to me it made a lot of sense for Supervisor Cohen to have the opportunity” to lead the panel, he said.

“I think these are very balanced committees,” Breed said in her announcement. “I am excited to see them do the people’s work, and if something is not working, I will make changes accordingly.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 12:18 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


Man robbed at gunpoint in Duboce Triangle

A man was robbed at gunpoint in San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle neighborhood last night (Thursday, January 15), police said.

The 9:44 p.m. incident, which occurred in the 700 block of 14th Street, started when two men approached the 36-year-old victim from behind. One of the suspects pulled out a black handgun and took the man’s wallet, cellphone, and two gym bags, Officer Grace Gatpandan, a police spokeswoman, said in a summary. The suspects, described only as two black males in their 20s, fled on foot.

The robbery occurred near the Safeway at Church and Market streets. The neighborhood has seen increased concern around similar crimes.

Anyone with information related to the incidents may call the anonymous tip line at (415) 575-4444, or text a tip to 847411 and type SFPD, then the message. The incident number is 150046491.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 11:07 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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