Michael Goodwin Conviction Upheld in Murders of Ex-Partner Mickey Thompson and His Wife

Courtesy of ThompsonLSR
Danny Thompson (left) with his late father Mickey Thompson.
A Newport Beach movie producer and Orange County private investigator were confident in October that they would convince a state appeals court to overturn the murder conviction of Michael Goodwin. But Silkwood executive producer Larry Cano and former Scottsdale police detective-turned-P.I. Paul E. Blackford were not members of the appeals panel, which on Monday upheld Goodwin's conviction in connection with the 1988 slayings of his ex-business partner Mickey Thompson and the racing legend's wife Trudy.

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Weekender Updater (on Monday): Family Murders and Near-Murders Fill OC Courtrooms

Monday edition!
I'm just back from a short vacation aimed at compounding cirrhosis of my liver, which means I was unable to get Weekender Updater up before the weekend. So in this special Monday (and family mayhem!) edition we have prison sentences for a son who murdered his dad so he could drive the old man's car to his girlfriend out of state, and a mom who lost her bid for an insanity plea in the attempted stabbing murders of her young daughters. Also, a teen admitted to the hammer attack of his father, a reserve Orange County sheriff's sergeant, and a Santa Ana mom was convicted of first-degree murder for
drowning her 2-month-old daughter in a bathtub, but the sanity phase starts Tuesday.

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Brutal Killer Daniel Wozniak Calmly Watches Lawyer Slugfest Over PreTrial Disputes

Wozniak: Temporarily playing a non-speaking role
It's difficult to imagine a more heated Orange County courtroom today than the one in which Superior Court Judge James A. Stotler presided over contentious, pretrial disputes in the case of People v. Daniel Wozniak, the local actor turned gory, decapitation murderer.

Wozniak--merely a smiling, upbeat observer at today's hearing--long ago admitted his guilt in a bizarre, May 2010 double murder, but the battle over whether he's suitable for California's death row at San Quentin State Prison is crawling like a race between two heavily sedated, senile turtles.

That's not to suggest the fight between prosecutor Matt Murphy and public defender Scott Sanders hasn't been intense and colorful as we approach a scheduled February trial date to determine punishment. It has. As a result, the mild-mannered Stotler found himself repeatedly playing boxing referee and not satisfying either lawyer, each of whom insists he has been the victim of his opponent's crass plotting, theatrics and paranoia.

For example, Murphy blasted Sanders for planning to file an upcoming 20,000-page motion by pointing out that the combined texts of War and Peace, Moby Dick, The U.S. Constitution, Gettysburg Address, The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, the IIiad, the Odyssey, Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail, Koran, New King James Bible and a Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking total 14,000 fewer words.

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Male Teacher Suspended Over Facebook Post About Male Students' Sex with Female Teachers

Courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Department
Melody Lippert (left) and Michelle Ghirelli are accused of hooking up with male students for sex.
UPDATE, JAN. 22, 12:37 P.M.: The male high school students who allegedly met two female teachers for sex on the beach in San Clemente "should have just kept your stupid mouths shut and enjoyed it," reads a Facebook post that has led to the suspension of a male teacher from the same school.

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Family Run Loan Modification Scammers Preyed on Latinos Throughout SoCal: OCDA

Photo by flickr user Louish Pixel
Money, money, money ...
Three Orange County family members and two of their business associates operated a loan modification scam that stung Latino customers throughout Southern California for nearly $400,000, prosecutors alleged Thursday.

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Robert J. MacLean of Ladera Ranch is Granted Whistle-blower Status by U.S. Supreme Court

Categories: Court

U.S. Border Patrol
Robert J. MacLean is shown taking the oath at his federal law enforcement training graduation.
A Ladera Ranch man who disclosed the government was about to remove armed air marshals from overnight flights to save money on hotels was granted whistle-blower protection from the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Robert J. MacLean told the national media about the planned cutback by the Transportation Security Administration in 2003. After members of Congress complained, the TSA reversed course and kept the air marshals intact.

Well, except for MacLean, who was fired as an air marshal three years later when TSA officials concluded he had disclosed sensitive security information to the media and fired him.

MacLean appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, but the TSA argued that the MSPB had no jurisdiction to challenge an agency order. A MSPB administrative judge dismissed the appeal without prejudice so MacLean could appeal to federal court. A U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel found that MacLean could contest his termination before the MSPB under the authority of the Whistleblower Protection Act.

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Carlos Bustamante's Alleged Sex Crimes Are Barely Criminal, Says Judge

Luke McGarry/OC Weekly

It's rare when an Orange County Superior Court judge is the most uncomfortable person in the courtroom, but John Conley couldn't hide his displeasure during a Jan. 16 hearing. A former prosecutor educated at an elite, private New England prep school and known for a distinguished presence, Conley is presiding over a case with lascivious story lines straight out of a lame, 1970s porno. The defendant, Carlos Bustamante--a fired county executive, onetime Santa Ana city councilman and, at least in his own mind, rising, family-values star in the Republican Party--spent years throwing himself at women other than his wife, according to pending criminal charges.

But during a media-packed session in which Bustamante sat slouched, stone-faced and almost entirely silent at the defense table, Conley aimed his ire at prosecutors Matt Lockhart and Aleta Bryant. The scene was remarkable because in our county it's usually defense lawyers who unnerve judges. This day, however, Conley saw the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA)--not Bustamante--as advancing the indefensible by trying to turn vulgar but non-criminal or, at worst, misdemeanor acts into supposed felonies.

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Teacher Christopher Millette Charged for Sex Acts with Girl Relative Under 10: Update

Courtesy of Fullerton Police Department
Christopher Millette teaches at Valadez Middle School.
UPDATE, JAN. 21, 1:23 P.M.: Placentia teacher Christopher Millette is due in court Thursday to face one count of oral copulation or sexual penetration of a child 10 years old or younger, two counts of lewd or lascivious acts on a child younger than 14 and a sentence-enhancing allegation of substantial sexual conduct with a child--in this case a girl under 10 he is related to.

But prosecutors also say they fear the 36-year-old may have preyed on other children. Under the current counts Millette faces up to 19 years to life in prison if convicted, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office.

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Injured Volunteer Searcher Settles Lawsuit with Hiker Who Went Missing in Trabuco Canyon

Categories: Court

Courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Department
Hikers Nicholas Cendoya and Kyndall Jack went missing on Easter Sunday 2013.
A volunteer searcher, who fell off a 110-foot cliff and broke his back while looking for two missing hikers in Trabuco Canyon, settled his lawsuit against one of them.

Nick Papageorge's--yes, trolls, that is how the last name is spelled--settled his suit with hiker Kyndall Jack for an undisclosed sum and is due back in court Feb. 27 to dismiss the case, his lawyer has confirmed.

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Rateb Said Najjar, Son Eyad Rateb Najjar Face 104 Years for Sales of Fake iPads, iPhones, Etc.

Categories: Court, Crime-iny

Craigslist iPhone Counterfeiters OC.jpg
Real or fake?
A Westminster father and son are accused of money laundering and conspiracy charges connected to the sale of counterfeit iPhones and other electronic goods valued at nearly $3 million.

Rateb Said Najjar, 60, and his son Eyad Rateb Najjar, are charged with more than 100 felonies that could send each to prison for 104 years if convicted.

Amir Ali Shaerzadeh, 36, of Irvine, faces the same counts and punishment, but he is a fugitive with an outstanding arrest warrant.

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