News Articles

Alleged Misuse of Jailhouse Informants Has Orange County Defense Bar Scrambling

SANTA ANA - Recent revelations that the Orange County district attorney's office, the county sheriff's department and the Santa Ana Police Department might have used jailhouse informants improperly and violated suspects' rights is shaking up a number of other state and federal cases.

Defense lawyers say they believe at least a dozen and probably many more current and long-finished criminal cases need to be reviewed after concerns over how informants were used first surfaced in the ongoing prosecution of Seal Beach mass killer Scott Eugene Dekraai. *People v. Dekraai*, 12ZF0128 (Orange Super. Ct., filed Oct. 14, 2011).

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Jail Informants Under Fire in Orange County

SANTA ANA, Calif. (nytimes.com) — Attorney Scott Sanders was defending two high-profile death penalty cases in California when he realized evidence in both cases was coming from the same jailhouse snitch. He wondered if it could be more than a coincidence.

After poring over thousands of pages of documents and listening to hundreds of hours of recordings, the assistant public defender in Orange County concluded that prosecutors had tried to cover up a jail informant program that violates inmates' constitutional rights.

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Man who killed rehab roommate gets probation

SANTA ANA, Calif. — SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - An 83-year-old man was sentenced to lifetime probation on Friday for beating to death his 94-year-old rehabilitation center roommate and telling authorities he was upset because the man was singing loudly.

William McDougall was given a suspended sentence of 16 years in prison for the 2010 murder of Manh Van Nguyen when the two were recovering from hip injuries at Palm Terrace Healthcare Center in Laguna Woods, prosecutors said.

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Man, 83, Sentenced To Probation For Life For Murdering 94-Year-Old Roommate

SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — An 83-year-old man was sentenced to probation for the rest of his life for murdering his 94-year-old roommate at a Laguna Woods short-term care facility.

William Leo McDougall pleaded guilty on Aug. 17 to second degree murder in the Oct. 1, 2010, death of Manh Van Nguyen.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals suspended McDougall’s prison term, even though he was technically sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

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83-year-old sentenced for killing roommate, 94

SANTA ANA – An Orange County judge Friday sentenced to lifetime probation an 83-year-old man who pleaded guilty to killing a 94-year-old rehabilitation-center roommate.

Remarking that justice in this case is imperfect, Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals suspended the sentence of 16 years in state prison for William Leo McDougall, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in August in a negotiated settlement with prosecutors.

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Victory, in criminal defense, does not always come in the form of a not guilty verdict. Sometimes, as in this case, the very best that can be done comes from a sentence that is less harsh than it otherwise could be. Such is the case of Jessica Shekell, a 21 year old who was driving with more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in her blood. She drove the wrong way on the 91 freeway and slammed head on into another car, killing two sisters in the front seat and seriously injuring their two nieces in the back seat. Not guilty was not and never would be an option for her.

The prosecutor argued strenuously for 13 years in state prison as an appropriate sentence and the victims' family tried to persuade the judge to put Jessica in prison for the maximum allowable time. However, Mr. Loewenstein and the defense team argued that probation was the appropriate sentence. They cited her young age, lack of prior criminal record and unique ability to be of service by speaking to the community as reasons that Jessica was an appropriate candidate for probation. The defense arranged for Ms. Shekell to speak to 130 high school seniors about the risks of drinking and driving. By videotaping this, the judge and probation department were able to see the enormous impact she was able to have on these students, who identified with the defendant and realized that she could be any one of them. After hearing all arguments, the judge sentenced Ms. Shekell to 6 years. This was an enormous victory in the eyes of her defense team.

Click here to watch an interview with Mr. Loewenstein by KTLA-TV or here to see the Orange County Register account of the story .


Defense Attorney Saves Man From Life In Prison

Salvador Jimenez, owner of the Salon Guadalajara Dance Hall in Santa Ana was looking at life in prison for attempted murder and mayhem stemming from a shooting that occurred in June 2009. Rudy Loewenstein, his defense attorney, went to trial on the charges in December of 2010. After three weeks of trial, it took the jury one day of deliberations before returning a verdict of not guilty on the felony charges.

On June 27, 2009, Mr. Jimenez, in his capacity as a certified security guard, went into the parking lot of his salon in response to a group of teenagers who were drinking and inhaling nitrous oxide. He asked the group of 10-15 teenagers to leave at which time several in the crowd started throwing beer bottles at him. Mr. Jimenez tried to activate his pepper spray but it didn’t work. The crowd was pushing and shoving and surrounding him. He next tried to use his baton but it was knocked out of his hands.

Fearing that the crowd would take his gun, Mr. Jimenez took it out to protect it and himself. A struggle ensued with Rogelio Nolasco, who was grabbing for the gun. The gun went off and Nolasco was shot in the back of the head.

The police and prosecutors charged Mr. Jimenez with attempted murder and mayhem, which carried a possible sentence of life in prison. Mr. Loewenstein was able to convince jurors that Mr. Jimenez feared for his life and used justifiable self defense to protect himself. In a dramatic courtroom re enactment, Mr. Loewenstein and the defendant were able to demonstrate exactly how the fight took place and how the gun went off shooting Mr. Nolasco in the back of the head.

After 17 months in jail because he couldn’t come up with the million dollar bail amount, Mr. Jimenez wept with joy at the not guilty verdicts. Finally he was able to walk out a free man. “Being able to save someone’s life like this is about the most satisfying accomplishment I can imagine,” said Rudy Loewenstein.

You can read more about this story by going to the Orange County Register .


Not Guilty Verdict for Man Accused of Assault on Police Officers

February 2, 2010, Orange County Register investigative reporter Tony Saavedra, reported on one of Mr. Loewenstein’s cases. Marco Escobar Nava was a passenger in a car involved in a DUI. Mr. Nava was asleep in the front seat when the driver was arrested. Two Anaheim city police officers tried to drag Mr. Nava from the car. Mr. Nava, thinking he was the victim of a carjacking, tried to defend himself against this excessive use of force. The police not only broke his left arm in the fight to remove him from the car, but charged him with assault on the two police officers.

In defending Mr. Nava against these charges, Mr. Loewenstein was able to achieve the almost impossible feat of accessing the personnel files of the two police officers involved and persuade Judge Ronald Klar to release important information regarding the officers’ credibility. It turned out that in the past at least one of the officer’S made false statements to his superiors. In addition complaints had been lodged against them for writing false police reports in a case where two nurses were involved in Adomestic violence situation.

At trial, Mr. Loewenstein was victorious in persuading a jury to find Mr. Nava not guilty on all charges of assaulting the police officers. In a separate civil suit against the city the City of Anaheim Mr. Nava was awarded $310,000 for injuries sustained as a result of the excessive use of force by the police. Without the not guilty verdict, Mr. Nava would not have been able to win his civil suit against the City of Anaheim.

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