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September 08, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, September 08, 2004

News Digest News Digest (September 08, 2004)

Palo Alto officers will stand trial

Two Palo Alto officers, accused of beating a black man last summer, will stand trial, a judge ruled last Friday.

Michael Kan and Craig Lee will face charges of assault under color of authority, and could face three years in prison. They will next appear in court on Sept. 13.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Diane Northway denied a defense request to reduce the felony assault charges to misdemeanors, Deputy District Attorney Peter Waite reported.

During a preliminary hearing in June, 60-year-old Albert Hopkins testified that Kan and Lee pulled him from his parked car, near El Camino Real, and beat him "like two sharks going at some blood in the water." They also reportedly pepper-sprayed him, and he suffered a shattered knee.

Hopkins refused to hand over his driver's license during the incident, admitted cursing to the officers and was accused of being belligerent. The incident prompted outcry from local blacks that the Palo Alto police acts discriminatorily.

After an internal investigation and a brief leave, both officers were back in the force, albeit in non-patrol jobs.

Hopkins was never charged with any crime in connection with the incident. In March, he agreed to a $250,000 settlement from the city, in exchange for not suing.
Judge clears way for big open-space annexation

Open space advocates and coast side protectionists are celebrating a Sept. 3 court decision allowing annexation of 220 square miles of San Mateo County coastal land to the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District's existing 330 square miles.

Judge Carl W. Holm of the San Mateo County Superior Court on Friday issued a three-page ruling rejecting annexation opponents' claim that they had gathered enough protest petitions to require the matter to go to a vote. He also lifted a temporary restraining order issued July 13 that halted the annexation process that was launched in April, when the county's Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) approved the annexation.

LAFCo, which governs jurisdictional boundaries in the county, was expected to file official "certificate of completion" documents Tuesday after running short of time Friday after the judge's order was issued -- causing some nervousness on the part of annexation advocates concerned about another possible legal attempt to block the annexation.

The district currently covers close to 330 square miles in northwestern Santa Clara County and southeastern San Mateo County. It has acquired nearly 50,000 acres of land, mostly in the foothills and along Skyline Ridge.

The annexation would add the sprawling region from the Skyline Ridge to the coast and from the southern boundary of Pacifica to the Santa Cruz County line officially part of the open space district. The district was originally formed in Santa Clara County in 1972 after voter approval, and southern San Mateo County was added in 1976, also following voter approval.

The annexation would not add any taxes to the new region, which is considered a target area for land acquisition. To win support, the district also has surrendered its governmental power of eminent domain for the region -- it retains a limitied power in the existing district.

In 1998, coast side voters approved the annexation in an advisory vote -- requested by the MROSD board in 1998. The law covering annexations requires only a petition from the district with approval by LAFCo last April.

Opponents contended the county elections office had thrown out too many protest petitions -- 4,071 signatures were needed to force the measure to a vote. But the elections office ultimately validated fewer than 3,450, rejecting hundreds. Officials determined that about 375 protests had been altered after they were signed; 170 were from people living outside the annexation area; and about 340 were from people not registered to vote. They also found a significant number of duplicate protests -- with some individuals submitting as many as five.

The annexation, endorsed by the San Mateo County Farm Bureau and the Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce, clears the way for the open space district to buy land from willing sellers to protect the coast side from over-development and urban sprawl while preserving agricultural uses. The district now will conduct workshops on the coast side to gather public input on how to proceed with finding a volunteer ombudsperson and redistricting the existing seven wards to provide democratic representation of coast side residents, according to district spokesman Rudy Jurgensen.

LAFCo is also requiring the district to strengthen its "good neighbor policy," which the district has already done. It is further enhancing the policy by adding public hearings to achieve a better of the region's current issues. .

-- Renee Batti and Jay Thorwaldson
Palo Alto attorney arrested

Jason Borrevik, an attorney with the Wilson Sonsini law firm in Palo Alto, was arrested on Monday and charged initially with sexual penetration and oral copulation with a minor, said Palo Alto Police Sgt. Mike Denson, who heads up the department's crimes against persons unit.

Karen Sinunu, Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney, declined to talk about the case and said that it will be next week before formal charges are brought against Borrevik, 32.

"We're in the middle of an aggressive investigation," Sinunu said.

"The arrest had nothing to do with the firm or its clients," said Courtney Dorman, a spokeswoman for Wilson Sonsini. .

-- Don Kazak

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