How Calvary Chapel is Helping a School Board Blur the Church-State Divide

Categories: Cover Story

Cameron K. Lewis/OC Weekly

By Amy Julia Harris, Reveal

This story was originally published by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Bible verses, calls to accept Jesus and the promise of eternal life can be heard in two disparate places in a southeastern suburb of Los Angeles: the Calvary Chapel Chino Hills megachurch and the Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education.

Three of the five school board members worship at the evangelical church on Sundays; two of them continue praying and preaching during the board meetings on Thursdays.

"Our lives begin in the hospital and end in the church," then-board President James Na said during a meeting in January 2014, according to a video of the meeting. He urged onlookers to surrender themselves to God and, to "everyone who does not know Jesus Christ, go find him."

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Recent Proof of Prosecutorial Misconduct Mirrors OCDA's Bad Old Days


After a Friday night of eating pizza, drinking booze, dancing and smoking hashish with friends in Laguna Beach, 20-year-old Ginger Lorraine Fleischli disappeared. Two days later, farm workers discovered Fleischli's corpse in a sleeping bag buried in an Irvine field, just 10 miles away. Her killer used a knife to stab her five times in the head near her right ear. DNA analysis also showed she'd had intercourse shortly before her death.

The gruesome, Sept. 12, 1981, crime didn't originally garner much attention outside of Southern California, but 33 years later, the case still reverberates in courthouses and law schools throughout the nation. But its notoriety didn't originate from outstanding law-enforcement work. To win convictions against two men--including the death penalty for one defendant--an Orange County prosecutor employed tactics abhorrent to critics across the political spectrum.

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The Legend of Rosario "Zarco" Sainz, OC's Last Desperado

Photo courtesy California State Archives

It wasn't enough for Rosario "Zarco" Sainz to break out of the Orange County Jail, beat up legendary Sheriff Theo Lacy, toss a female Bible-study teacher against a wall, lock them both in a cell, steal a rifle and revolver, then make a run for the border. He also wanted a hat.

Sainz was in for first-degree murder, for shooting a man just for the hell of it. He had done four months for the killing after nearly half a year on the lam, a seemingly ignoble end to a criminal career that included smuggling Chinese immigrants into the United States, assaults, brawls, at least five murders for which he never faced punishment, and more nights in the drunk tank than law enforcement in both OC and Baja California cared to remember. A trip to the gallows seemed certain--and Sainz didn't give a damn.

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DA Tony Rackauckas Once Again Milks A Pedophile Case

Courtesy: Jack Lindsay / City of Vancouver archives
Milking it
It's not often when Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas conducts a press conference. It's exceptionally rare when Rackauckas calls the media to his office to announce he's filing an appeal. But the DA has suffered huge public relations setbacks this year involving alarming prosecutorial team incompetence and cheating in death penalty cases.

So, this morning, Rackauckas issued his third "media advisory" in two weeks to draw attention away from the messes and to a no-lose PR stunt: Attacking Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly's decision to go relatively soft on 19-year-old Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto, a pedophile who sodomized a three-year-old female relative and received a 10-year prison sentence instead of a 25 years to life term sought by prosecutors.

Or, more accurately: Renewing his re-attacks on Kelly, who--by the way--is, like the DA, an ultra-conservative Republican.

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NBFF 2015 At a Glance: 'Know New Art'

Provided by NBFF

The 16th annual Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) starts Thursday, April 23 and ends Thursday, April 30. The theme is "Know New Art."

• The opening-night picture is The Water Diviner. In Russell Crowe's directorial debut, he plays an Australian farmer who travels to Istanbul to discover the fate of his son, who was reported missing in action during the devastating 1915 World War I battle of Gallipoli in Turkey. Lido Live, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach. Thurs., April 23, 7:30 p.m.

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Newport Beach Film Festival Honors Orson Welles' Centennial

Carl Van Vechten

1. Orson Welles was born on May 6, 1915.

2. As a filmmaker, his three greatest pictures, in order, are Touch of Evil (1958), Citizen Kane (1941) and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942).

3. Ah, yes, but Citizen Kane tops many lists as the greatest film of all time (with Welles filling the top slot on many directing lists). The fictional story of a megalomaniac newspaper magnate (loosely based on William Randolph Hearst) and innocence lost is indeed a masterpiece . . . albeit a dated one. Newspaper magnates? Not in this century, bub.

4. John Houseman wrote in his 1972 memoir Run-through that the deeper he, Welles and Herman Mankiewicz took the script into the heart of Kane, the more the identity of Welles was exposed. "Between young Kane and young Welles, there is more than a surface likeness; in the dramatized person of Charles Foster Kane, 'Champagne Charley' was finally able to realize extravagances that far exceeded anything achieved in life by Richard Welles and his precocious son," Houseman wrote.

5. Kane and Welles also shared a fury, according to Houseman, whose association with the filmmaker dated back to their Mercury Theatre days. "A vague aura of violence surrounded the Hearst legend; there was the persistent rumor of the fatal shooting, in a jealous rage, of a well-known Hollywood director on a yacht off the Malibu coast. We made no reference to that episode in our script. We did not need it. The wanton, wordless, destructive fury which Kane wreaks upon the inanimate objects in his wife's room when he realizes she has left him was taken directly from our recent scene in the upper room at Chasen's. During its filming, Orson reproduced with frightening fidelity the physical gestures and the blind agony of rage with which he had hurled those flaming Sternos against the wall. The cuts he received on his hands on both occasions were, I was told, almost identical."

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Emerson Etem Is the Anaheim Ducks' Future in More Ways Than the Obvious

Nick Price

By Daniel Kohn

Any member of the Anaheim Ducks could've been easily forgiven if they had skipped the optional noontime practice at Anaheim ICE a couple of Saturdays ago. The team had just returned that morning, landing at John Wayne Airport at 2:15 a.m., following a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild that ended a three-game losing streak. But, in a telling metaphor for the Ducks' season, which has had them leading the Pacific Division and in the running for the Presidents' Trophy as the top team in the NHL, most of the players showed up to the ice rink for practice without complaint--with joy, even, following the big win.

The players breezed through drills, brimming with confidence. They were crisp and spry, the atmosphere loose. Jokes flowed freely on the sidelines; on the ice, an unspoken urgency led everyone along, given their next game would be against potential playoff opponent Nashville Predators.

Near the end of the practice, the team went through 3-on-3 drills using only a fraction of the ice, designed to test reflexes and gumption. After a quick back-and-forth battle between the orange/black and white sides, the darker colors lead with seconds remaining. But Long Beach native Emerson Etem changed that. With a timely shot, right winger and former first-round draft pick for the Ducks tied up the mock game by weaving past a defender and firing a quick shot past goalie John Gibson.

"Emmer!" shouted his teammates, patting the 22-year-old on his helmet as he confidently skated past the goalie. Though the dark team ultimately won the scrimmage in overtime--with intersquad bragging rights for the day--everyone was in good spirits.

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B-Real of Cypress Hill Wants to Bring Dr. Greenthumb to Santa Ana

Willie T/OC Weekly

"Hello, My Name is Dr. Greenthumb. Have you ever had the problem of running out of weed and just can't find some anywhere?"

--B-Real, Cypress Hill, 1998

At about 7 a.m. on March 20, a fire alarm went off inside a nondescript warehouse in the 1100 block of East 17th Street in Santa Ana, near the 5 freeway. It's unclear if someone pulled the alarm or if something else triggered the device, but there was apparently no fire inside the building.

When Orange County Fire Authority units rolled up to the location, sirens blaring, they saw no flames or smoke, just five men jumping into separate vehicles and racing away from the scene. By 10:45 a.m., police had obtained a warrant to search the building, which was locked--even the fire-escape doors had been secured with 3-inch chains. "Had there been an actual fire, nobody would have made it out," remarked police spokesman Corporal Anthony Bertagna. "Those chains were huge."

The mystery of the disappearing men was quickly explained by what police discovered inside the warehouse: more than 1,600 marijuana plants divided into various rooms for different stages of development. The sophisticated grow operation had its own intricate lighting and irrigation systems and was still under construction, although, for obvious reasons, nobody had applied for city permits to do the work. The total worth of the haul, according to a state marijuana-street-value formula cited by Bertagna, was $2.9 million.

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Randy Orbach of "Redemption Song" Cover Story Gets 4 Years for Stalking Ex-Girlfriend

Photo by John Gilhooley/OC Weekly
Randy Orbach hold told the Weekly he put his criminal life behind him. Then he got arrested again.
Thomas "Randy" Orbach's "Redemption Song" hit a sour note when he was sentenced to four more years in state prison earlier this month.

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How Tony Rackauckas Took A Slam Dunk Death Penalty Case And Turned It Into His Worst Crisis

Kevin McVeigh
DA Rackauckas: If I only had a brain . . . I'd unravel every riddle for any individ'le, in trouble or in pain

Orange County's worst mass shooting, the so-called 2011 Seal Beach hair-salon massacre, began as a traumatizing event for all, but it has devolved into one of the most polarizing legal struggles to hit our legal system. The question isn't about Scott Dekraai's guilt. Dekraai admitted to police that he was the killer within minutes of the shooting. Controversy swirls, however, around the tactics of prosecutors and sheriff's deputies trying to impose a death-penalty punishment rather than a 200-plus-year prison sentence without the possibility for parole. With one embarrassing revelation after another, the battle has grown painful, especially for the baffled families of the victims. To help understand why Superior Court Judge Thomas M. Goethals, himself an accomplished former prosecutor, this month made a historic decision to recuse Tony Rackauckas and his district attorney's office (OCDA), we are providing a chronology of events:

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