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April 08, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, April 08, 2005

News Digest News Digest (April 08, 2005)

Officer who investigated brutality case says he's been singled out

Palo Alto Sgt. Con Maloney, who supervised officers Michael Kan and Craig Lee's last July, testified on Thursday morning that he feels other officers within the department are singling him out, after the investigation he launched led the two officers to face felony assault charges.

The sergeant also told the jury he didn't feel Kan and Lee had "specific, articuable (sic) facts" linking 59-year-old Albert Hopkins to a potential crime before they beat him with batons and used pepper-spray on the evening of July 13, 2003.

The high-profile trial against Kan, 25, and Lee, 40, is expected to wrap up Monday after closing arguments.

Hopkins was sitting in his parked car on the corner of Oxford Avenue and El Camino Real when the officers approached him that night. He was immediately belligerent and cursed at them.

The officers' attorney say they had reason to detain Hopkins because he refused to provide identification, scared a passerby, exited his car violently, and situated in a high-crime area. The officers' attorneys say they later beat Hopkins when his actions threatened their safety and he failed to listen to their commands.

But Maloney argued that if the officers had truly felt threatened by Hopkins opening his car door, they should have arrested rather than detained him.

"Generally, we take it very seriously if people assault us or attempt to assault us," he testified.

None of the other reasons, even taken together, linked Hopkins to a crime, Maloney argued.

Deputy District Attorney Peter Waite argues the officers gave various reasons for beating Hopkins at various times. Waite also argues the officers made up the more legally justifiable reasons after the incident.

The defense attorneys, meanwhile, argue the criminal investigation was flawed since it failed to find witnesses to the event and only briefly interrogated the two officers on the night of the incident.

Craig Brown, Lee's attorney, asked Maloney if he resented the fact that other Palo Alto officers feel he didn't do his job.

"It's a tough job, sir," he said.

A separate internal probe, which found the new witnesses, cleared Kan and Lee. When Maloney was asked if the two Palo Alto officers that conducted that investigation -- Sgt. Lacey Burt and Lt. Dennis Burns -- were untrustworthy, he refused to comment. But Judge Andrea Bryan forced him to reply.

"I have some concerns about things I've heard," Maloney said reluctantly.

The defense attorneys for the two Palo Alto police officers rested on Wednesday without calling their clients to the stand. Earlier, the officers had read the jury a transcript of their testimony during the case's preliminary hearing.

"They had nothing more to say," Brown said, of why he didn't call Lee to the stand.

-- Bill D'Agostino

Civic leader's grandson found dead

A man found dead with a gunshot wound late Tuesday has been identified as 20-year-old Jason Dawson, the grandson of longtime East Palo Alto civic leader Gertrude Wilks.

Dawson was identified Thursday morning by the San Mateo County coroner's office. Dawson's body was found Tuesday night in East Palo Alto near the Menlo Park border, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office reported.

Responding to a report of a gunshot, East Palo Alto police officers arrived at a home in the 1900 block of Saratoga Avenue about 10:56 p.m. Officers found Dawson dead inside the house.

The sheriff's office is investigating Dawson's death as a homicide, although his cause of death has not been determined. An autopsy was scheduled as the Weekly went to press.

Wilks is well-known in the community for founding Mothers for Equal Education in East Palo Alto, a position that led her to become director of the private Nairobi Day and High School. She also sat on the East Palo Alto Municipal Council in and served as the community's mayor in the late 1970s.

In 1983, she was elected to the first city council of the newly incorporated city.

-- Bay City News Service

Council members seek urgent study of auto sites

Alarmed by the possibility of losing auto dealerships to nearby cities, Palo Alto officials are calling for an immediate investigation into all possible locations within city borders onto which dealerships could relocate.

Mayor Jim Burch, Vice Mayor Judy Kleinberg and Council member Bern Beecham, who heads the city's ad hoc retail committee, will be asking the rest of the City Council Monday night to authorize city staff to conduct the study of options, which would need to be completed by July.

Auto sales generate 12 percent of the city's total sales tax revenues. In recent years, the city has lost dealerships -- and their valuable revenues -- due to lack of space to store their inventory and because of a lack of visibility. The study calls for an examination of: sites adjacent to Highway 101 that are currently underdeveloped or vacant; existing city-owned land and facilities that could be moved; financial policies to assist dealerships in relocating; and freeway signs that would point shoppers to existing dealerships.

"Palo Alto stands to lose this significant segment of its traditional sales tax base if action is not taken immediately," the council members' memo stated.

Though the city is known for developing task forces that strive to inclusive of community members, the memo calls for a more streamlined task force to deal with the auto dealership crisis.

"Due to the urgent conditions and the real possibility Palo Alto may lose this vital segment of our sales tax base, the task force should largely consist of internal city staff," with consultation from community members as needed, the officials wrote.

-- Jocelyn Dong


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