By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Rackauckas has not had a good year. Nor, of course, have those he's prosecuted. As a deputy DA in the early 1980s, he sent Dwayne McKinney to jail for 20 years on a murder charge; earlier this year, an Orange County judge released McKinney after it was revealed that Rackauckas' prosecution was tainted. Two months ago, Rackauckas released 18-year-old Arthur Carmona from imprisonment on an armed-robbery conviction because, well, the kid was innocent. His first-degree murder prosecution of Shantae Molina? That went down in flames without so much as a manslaughter conviction because, well, the girl was innocent. MITIGATING FACTOR: With a name like Rackauckas, you just know junior high was hell.
Call it the Argyros Curse. As bazillionaire owner of the Seattle Mariners in the '70s and '80s, Argyros drove his team into major-league baseball's hell. Penny-pinching, shortsighted, and self-righteous, he sold the team—and left Seattle and the Mariners to flourish. Argyros continues to make nearly every list of Worst Pro-Sports-Team Owners Ever. Now a big-time OC real-estate developer, Argyros throws his conspicuous weight around smaller circles—with equally dubious results. He has already spent close to $3 million of his own dough on ballot campaigns promoting the county's feckless El Toro International Airport plan. But he wins points for irony: Argyros told The New York Times one year ago that the airport fight is "a classic case of class warfare to me. The South County is all spanking-new, and they live behind their guarded gates. It's almost the working people of the North against the haves in the South." Who would've figured such revolutionary zeal would come from a guy who lives in a $4.5 million estate (he owns others, but those are for his children and "special occasions") on the end of exclusive Harbor Island in Newport Bay? And of course, Argyros' biggest current development project is a massive Wal-Mart, built in the heart of a working-class residential neighborhood in Huntington Beach. MITIGATING FACTOR: Did not kill JFK.
3. ROBIN HINCH
Hinch is The Orange County Register's obituary writer. As OC's boatman on the River Styx, she guides our county's ordinary dead on their last extraordinary journey. Her subjects are not princes or Nobel laureates but optometrists, housewives, students and retired engineers. And a lot of Little League coaches, it seems. She finds in each biography something worth eulogizing: Harlan Smith, for example, "was a man with a gentle manner and a soft heart, who nearly wept when he realized his then-9-year-old daughter was nearsighted." Jimmie Sympson took a silver teapot camping. Lois Pilot "was kind of a distracted driver because she was talking all the time. She was a terrible dancer, disorganized as all get-out, and couldn't sing. And there you have the very worst of Lois Pilot." But Hinch can also pour salt into the wounds of the bereaved—we recall with particular horror the woman who maintained something like an altar to Journey front man Steve Perry. In candidly judging the dead, Hinch serves a kind of heavenly function—even if we have branded that terrifyingly honest approach "Hinchian." MITIGATING FACTOR: Our eulogies could hit the city desk the night Gordon Dillow (No. 15) sits in for Hinch.
Froeberg presided over both the absurd Shantae Molina murder case (see No. 1) and the 1998 David Herrick medical-marijuana case. The judge's wife is a ranking assistant DA under Rackauckas. None dare call this a conflict of interest —though during the Molina case, Froeberg consistently sided with the DA's prosecutor while repeatedly rejecting defense motions. In Herrick's case, Froeberg barred the defendant from using Proposition 215 as a defense, despite the fact that Prop. 215 is state law. Herrick ended up serving 29 months in prison for selling three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana to a guy with a doctor's note. A dead ringer for Monty Burns of The Simpsons, Froeberg hangs in his courtroom a picture of Clint Eastwood from the movie Hang 'Em High. MITIGATING FACTOR: Could have displayed picture of Clint Eastwood from Paint Your Wagon.
Guest also played a crucial role in the miscarriage of justice known as the Shantae Molina murder case (see No. 4). As Molina's baby lay dying at the hospital, Guest took the young mother to the Sheriff's Department for interrogation. He ordered her strip-searched—a tactic clearly used to intimidate his suspect —and interrogated her for nearly five hours, a session that didn't end until 15 minutes after Molina's son died. Shortly before the case went to trial, Guest declared that the baby died from what police call a "contact wound," suggesting Molina had placed the gun to her baby's head and pulled the trigger. He was flatly wrong: every ballistics study showed the gun was at least 3 feet away from the baby's head at the time of the shooting. MITIGATING FACTOR: He has the same last name as Christopher Guest, and Christopher Guest is funny.
6. ASSISTANT DA ROBIN PARK
Park prosecuted the Shantae Molina case in August (see No. 5). In court, Park said Molina had "executed" her baby in 1998. It was a provocative allegation, but one for which Park insisted she had enough solid evidence to get the young mother sent to prison for life. But during the trial, Park never offered that solid evidence or even a compelling motive. Along with Guest, Park instead played the bogus contact-wound card, hoping to convince the jury the murder was execution-style. When the judge prohibited the use of the inflammatory allegation, Park introduced it anyhow. It didn't help: the jury found Molina not guilty on all counts. MITIGATING FACTOR: Her name sounds like someplace peaceful.
The mayor of Huntington Beach has become a ghost. He's rarely seen around City Hall or at civic functions, where his grinning, jaw-jacking and glad-handing were once ubiquitous. Even at those times when he's vaguely perceptible, Garofalo is still an apparition. He may materialize in the mayor's customary center seat at some City Council meetings, but his votes on most of Huntington Beach's crucial issues are usually recorded in the minutes as "abstained." He typically vanishes long before the meeting adjourns. Every time the Ghost Mayor abstains from a vote, he underscores another of the myriad political-corruption charges leveled against him—charges ranging from repeatedly voting on issues in which he had conflicts of interest to winning the top position in the lottery for the best house in a posh tract built by developer Christopher Gibbs (see No. 11), who had major business before the city. But the scariest thing about Dave Garofalo is this: in a country in which every desperate little kid with an inferiority complex is constantly cajoled into believing he can grow up to become mayor, governor or even president, the next Dave Garofalo could be anybody. Even us! MITIGATING FACTOR: Naahh . . . we're taller than he is.
8. DARIN ERSTAD
This season, Erstad had arguably the greatest single season of any Angel ever. An aggressive—bordering on manic—leadoff hitter, he got an astounding 240 hits: not just the best in the American League but the best by a whopping 26 hits more than second-place Johnny Damon of Kansas City. Erstad hit .355, second in the league, and with 121 runs, he was third. Perhaps most amazingly, Erstad knocked in 100 runs as a leadoff hitter. The best thing about Erstad is that he figures to get better. An intense competitor, he's Pete Rose without the bad hair or the self-destructive off-field behavior. What makes Erstad scary is that he plays so hard he could flame out, albeit brilliantly. He dives, he crashes, and he runs into the stands. Can Erstad's body take the beating? MITIGATING FACTOR: People had the same concerns about Jim Edmonds. Whatever happened to him?
9. DAN YOUNG
Among the swine feeding at the Orange County trough, Young's face is one of the most familiar. He's a senior vice president at the Irvine Co., where his responsibilities include the company's Santiago Hills II development in east Orange. That project has managed to royally infuriate locals mostly because the company turned in an environmental-impact report of unusual crappiness. But pissing off residents is nothing new for the longtime political insider. As mayor of Santa Ana in the 1980s, Young made a name for himself when he ordered that city's police department to roust the homeless from city parks; the city was successfully sued as a result. After his stint in "public service," Young cashed in as one of the principals in the consulting firm Diamond Group, later put on retainer by—surprise!—the Irvine Co. In 1996, Young snagged an $80,000 no-bid contract during the bankruptcy aftermath to study "government restructuring." His conclusion: give more power to Irvine Co. stooge and county executive officer Jan Mittermeier. MITIGATING FACTOR: Doesn't drag his knuckles on the pavement when he walks.
10. DUANE PETERS
Peters is a superaggro, old-school punk rock professional skateboarder and the lead singer for the U.S. Bombs and the Hunns. He has own music label, Disaster Records, and is largely responsible for skateboarders having been Public Enemy No. 1 for the past two decades. His attitude revolutionized a sport ruled by longhairs in butt-huggers rocking out to "Hotel California." After Peters, it seemed natural to assume that if someone skated, they were punk. Last year, the Costa Mesa Police Department shut down a U.S. Bombs show at Kona Lanes based on the flier alone, assuming there were going to be a bunch of knuckleheads starting trouble—which is ridiculous, but Peters is a scary punk rocker guy, so people react that way. He sports that pirate-punk look, complete with cropped pants, striped socks and pointy black shoes. In the film Rage: 20 Years of Punk Rock West Coast Style, he calls Gwen Stefani a big pile of shit and then—while playing air horn and marching—mocks the band geeks in ska bands. Then he just stops, looks at the camera, and asks: "What the fuck?!" Ska boys, run for your lives. MITIGATING FACTOR: His pirate clothes make us feel all fuzzy inside, like when we're on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.
11. CHRISTOPHER GIBBS
There was a time when Gibbs liked talking to the media. In late 1997, he regaled OC Metro with the history of his Newport Beach-based PLC Land Co., telling the magazine how he turned a former oil property into Huntington Beach's lavish Seacliff neighborhood. But lately, as stories circulated detailing Gibbs' cozy relationship with the Huntington Beach City Council—specifically, Mayor Dave Garofalo (see No. 7)—Gibbs has clammed up. In the past six months, he hasn't returned a single phone call seeking clarification of his role in the scandal. Hence, we never got a chance to ask him why he invested $100,000 in start-up Pacific Liberty Bank, or why he gave Garofalo special treatment in buying a big Seacliff house—a house that county records show Garofalo owned for a mere 24 hours before he sold it for a hefty $60,000 profit. MITIGATING FACTOR: His influence doesn't extend beyond Huntington Beach.
On Sept. 13, the board—a majority of them members of the right-wing Education Alliance—canned a daycare program that served nearly a thousand low-income families. Their reason: the program's $2 million deficit during the past five years. Conservative board member Ken Williams said his "governing philosophy" demands that those in poverty look to the private sector for solutions to their problems. He also said a rigorous budget search failed to turn up the $400,000 needed to keep the program alive for another year. (Weekly scrutiny of county expenditures during just the past six months illuminated $12.8 million in dubious spending, including an $82,320 beaver exhibit.) Orange County doesn't rank 54th out of the state's 58 counties in terms of child care for nothing. MITIGATING FACTOR: In the world of education politics, county boards are less powerful than Dracula in the presence of a crucifix and holy water.
13. TOM SHEPARD
A well-heeled political consultant based in San Diego, for the past few years, he's been one of the chief strategists for the anti-airport crew in South County. But late last year, he emerged as lead consultant for the pro-Wal-Mart group in Huntington Beach. The Wal-Mart, of course, comes to that city's residents courtesy of George Argyros (No. 2). So at a time when Shepard was helping Argyros in Huntington Beach, he was also assisting the South County people in their fight against Argyros' pet project, the El Toro International Airport. Anyone remember Dick Morris? MITIGATING FACTOR: Spends most of his time in San Diego.
14. STEVEN SEAGAL
An alarm blares in the night. A hunched-over BAD GUY tiptoes through a darkened store, desperately searching for a way out. Screaming sirens and whirling helicopter blades grow louder as the BAD GUY finally spots the BACK DOOR. Clinging to the shelves as if he's on a sheer cliff, the BAD GUY inches toward the door. Twenty-five feet. Ten feet. Five feet. He reaches for the DOOR HANDLE when suddenly, as if from nowhere, out jumps a MOUNTAIN OF PORK PRODUCTS to block his path. It is a uniformed RESERVE DEPUTY with the Orange County Sheriff's Department. But there is something different—and terrifyingly familiar—about this copper. The snub-nosed PONYTAIL sticking out of the back of his balding head surely violates departmental standards, as does his EQUATORIAL WAISTLINE. But it's not until the RESERVE DEPUTY fumbles his dialogue—monotoning, "It's checkout time"—that his identity is revealed. Hey! It's that lump of an action-movie star. . . . What's his name? STEVEN SEAGAL! This past spring, Seagal was among more than 170 applicants who underwent a background check for an Orange County Sheriff's Department reserve-deputy badge. The Above the Law star turned to OC after a similar Los Angeles County Sheriff's reserve program for executives and celebrities was suspended. A decision on Seagal's OC application is expected in the next few weeks, according to a department spokesman. MITIGATING FACTOR: Seventy-three percent of Orange County residents can outrun him.
15. THIS GUY!
16. LYLE OVERBY
Orange County's überlobbyist and the former aide to two county supervisors—both later convicted of corruption. He's close to former county Supervisor Don Roth—also convicted—and close to onetime county Treasurer Bob Citron—jailed after the 1994 bankruptcy. His name appears repeatedly in just about every county supervisor's campaign-finance statement. He lobbied for Newport Beach City Council (until recently), the Irvine Co. and Lockheed Martin. He's now the boss of American Taxi, for whom he delivered in March an exclusive contract for taxi service at John Wayne Airport—despite the fact that (a) his company was barely six months old and the contract required at least five years' experience; and (b) his company was bleeding money through every fiscal orifice, clocking an operating loss of more than $130,000 when airport officials gave him the contract. MITIGATING FACTOR: American Taxi cabs use natural gas.
Samueli and Nicholas run Irvine-based computer company Broadcom, the company that created Bluetorch.com a year ago for surf, snowboard and skate enthusiasts. The move was weird—Broadcom is a successful high-tech hardware company —but was supposed to be the pair's first move toward becoming the top providers of surf/skate/snow info. Things looked good early on: they staffed Bluetorch with writers lured from the region's other big surf and skate publications with dot-com promises of big money. But on Sept. 11, Bluetorch retreated from the Net, cutting 64 employees and leaving the new-tech Bluetorch in the decidedly old-tech television business. The remaindered employees were told to pack their desks and leave by 2 p.m. or expect assistance from company security. A company press release said the firings created "a faster path to profitability." MITIGATING FACTOR: That bit about the "faster path to profitability"? That made us breathe a huge sigh of relief for Samueli and Nicholas, whose personal wealth Forbes magazine recently estimated at about $10 billion. Each.
In February, we revealed Watson's bizarre practice of requiring witnesses in his courtroom to say if they are HIV-positive. "Please notify the court immediately of any witness problem," Watson wrote in his "Ground Rules" for trials. "All witnesses will be excluded, unless an agreement to the contrary is approved by the court." In an interview with the Weekly, Watson—a Huntington Beach Republican who spent 20 years as a Los Angeles deputy district attorney and was first appointed to the bench by Governor George Deukmejian in 1990 —tried to downplay the controversy. "It's not like I'm ordering anyone to disclose their HIV status. I'm just asking," he said. MITIGATING FACTOR: Played no role in the Holocaust.
19. ED LAIRD
If there's a more obnoxious guy than Garofalo (No. 7), it's Ed Laird, a longtime right-wing Republican benefactor and currently a self-appointed write-in candidate for the 67th Assembly race against Huntington Beach City Councilman Tom Harman. A few months ago, Laird cracked himself up by jerking around the local media and pretending to run for the Huntington Beach City Council. Yuk, yuk. His claim to fame: a local lacquer company that, in his words, "makes paint for Barbie's lips." While sitting on the Huntington planning commission, Laird played a key role in the pro-Wal-Mart political campaign, going so far as to hold secret meetings with city officials (like Councilmen Garofalo and Ralph Bauer) at his plant. He sits next to Garofalo on the Pacific Liberty Bank board of directors. MITIGATING FACTOR: His name rhymes with "cared."
20. CHRIS COX
The esteemed 47th District Republican congressman from Newport Beach has had a big year. First, the Cold War-like espionage prosecution of Los Alamos nuclear engineer Wen Ho Lee blew up in the face of the Justice Department, with a federal judge tossing out 58 of 59 counts of espionage on a technicality called "lack of evidence." That was bad enough for the feds but much worse for Cox, whose 1999 congressional-committee report on alleged Chinese espionage set off the whole Lee fiasco in the first place, with Cox promising that his report's classified portions were so damaging to Lee that they made the Rosenbergs look like Paul Revere. Undaunted, Cox is back with a new report detailing the Clinton administration's so-called failings concerning Russia. And the mastermind of America's "disastrous" Russian relationship—according to Cox—is none other than Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore! First a spy who isn't a spy, and now an American vice president who fails to turn around the Russian economy. Shocking! MITIGATING FACTOR: His star will never shine outside Newport's old-money neighborhoods.
21. TONY THE BARTENDER
Tony the Bartender at the Little Knight in Costa Mesa isn't really scary. In fact, he's warm and funny and outgoing and makes you feel better by just talking to you. But then . . . sometimes he removes his shirt, puts on a tool belt, dons a cheap pair of fucked-up fake teeth and maybe a mask, and climbs onto the bar and sings a song while massaging his stomach and his long blond hair. That's scary. It frightens us. We don't like it. It makes us tremble. It makes us uncomfortable. It makes us cry. MITIGATING FACTOR: He has a baby, and people with babies aren't scary. Except for the people with Rosemary's baby. They're scary.
22. PHIL INGLEE
While serving as the 1999-2000 grand jury foreman, Inglee apparently botched what has become the hottest investigation in Huntington Beach. According to two grand jury members from Inglee's panel, they never saw a private citizen's letter asking the jury to investigate Huntington Beach City Council influence in local start-up Pacific Liberty Bank. This is a violation of established grand jury procedures. But we know foreman Inglee saw the letter because he responded to the letter writer twice—first to say the panel had taken up the issue, and second to say there wouldn't be an investigation. What we also know is that Inglee had a conflict of interest in the matter—not just as an investor in the bank but as a founder. But he never recused himself from the issue. And of course, Inglee used to be tight with fellow bank founder and current Huntington Beach Mayor, Dave Garofalo (see No. 7). In fact, on Aug. 21, Garofalo presented Inglee with an achievement plaque for his stint as an alternate member of the Huntington Beach Infrastructure Committee. It was a pretty good achievement for a guy who attended just one meeting. MITIGATING FACTOR: Bad publicity from the grand jury revelations forced him to cancel plans to run for the Huntington Beach City Council.
23. DAVE WAKELING
Dave Wakeling is a legend, instrumental in bringing two-tone ska to the States with his band the English Beat. Then about five years ago, he started playing venues with inflatable football helmets hanging from the ceiling; we were told he was getting his new band ready and was using the lowbrow gigs as rehearsals for the new band. How many rehearsals do you need? MITIGATING FACTOR: Ska's dead, so who cares, anyway?
In September 1999, Newport Beach police arrested the judge after an accident in which his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. It turned out that Ryan had spent five hours drinking beer, wine and vodka at the Yankee Tavern in Newport Beach before getting behind the wheel of his Jeep Cherokee and plowing into the back of a Ford Expedition. But he was neither removed nor suspended from his $100,000-plus per year job on the bench. Indeed, Ryan received a mere admonishment—the lowest grade of public discipline meted out. In addition, Ryan paid no fines or court costs and spent no time in jail. Of course, there were also the complaints of Ryan snoozing on the bench in '97 and '99, but that was a long time ago. MITIGATING FACTOR: He's buying!
25. MATER DEI HIGH SCHOOL
Anyone who has driven down Bristol Street in Santa Ana recently has noticed the white banners hanging from city poles celebrating Mater Dei High School's 50th anniversary. This isn't the only example of the city and the private Catholic high school obliterating the separation of church and state. City taxpayers are silent partners in Mater Dei's current multiyear, multimillion-dollar renovation project. A new chapel is up, a new gymnasium is coming, and a new auditorium is in the planning stages. The buildings are being paid for by the Diocese of Orange, private sponsors, parents and alumni. But the project brought about the re-routing of streets, the acquiring of property and the leveling of an entire residential neighborhood behind the parochial school. The city funded much of that work and gave land to Mater Dei. Why? Because Mater Dei officials had threatened to buy Costa Mesa High School and move the parochial school there. The relocation would allay the fears of the mostly white, mostly upper-income parents cutting tuition checks monthly to Mater Dei, around which a barrio has grown. When Santa Ana city officials caught wind of the proposed move, they begged Mater Dei to stay. After hours of backroom negotiations—and city concessions—Mater Dei announced it was staying put because to move would send the wrong message to the inner city. MITIGATING FACTOR: De La Salle will always kick Mater Dei's ass in football.
26. BRIAN GILMORE
The lead singer of perky OC ska/rock trio My Superhero came out of the closet earlier this year as a shrieky, whining, ill-informed homophobe. Big deal, you say; there are countless 'phobes among us. But what's remarkable is the career-killing method with which Gilmore chose to reveal himself—by posting such tired, breathless rantings as, "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve"; "I heard that the average gay male has at least 200 sexual partners in his life"; and, "If gays want to get married, they'll have to create their own kind of marriage vows that don't involve the Bible or God" on a My Superhero discussion board, thereby dragging band mates Chris Clawson and Huey Huynh into his scary POV. Gilmore further showed he's really into self-alienation by incredibly attacking his own fans, branding them "a sorry lot of kids" if they didn't share his opinions. MITIGATING FACTOR: See Dave Wakeling (No. 23).
27. COREY PARKS
Bass player of Nashville Pussy and sister of the Washington Wizards' Cherokee, Parks is, like, 7-foot-13. And she's not one of those tall people who slouches to lose a few inches. She stands up to her full height of maybe 8-foot-7. And she wears itty-bitty, tight, corset-like tops and enough black eye gunk to rival the famed tar pits of La Brea. In short, she wears her stage getup on- and offstage in places like Costa Mesa's Club Mesa and the Tiki Bar, not to mention a handful of other local venues and bars. Which is scary because what is she doing here? The band's from Athens, Georgia. MITIGATING FACTOR: She grew up here, and hell, how can you not like Nashville Pussy?
Here's a guy who for the past four years complained about county executive officer Jan Mittermeier every chance he got. He said she withheld official county travel records from him and accused her of trying to ram an international airport down South County's throat. So what does he do on April 11, when two other supervisors—Chuck Smith and Todd Spitzer—say they'll vote to sack her? He votes to retain her and then puts out a confused, rambling press release saying his action was motivated purely by anti-airport concerns. He neglected to mention the phone conversation he had with Irvine Co. vice president Gary Hunt the night before. In any case, three months later, Wilson flipped again, and OC rid itself forever of Mittermeier. This is supervision? MITIGATING FACTOR: Has a beautiful fetid pool of slime named after him in Aliso Viejo.
29. HOT ROD TODD
Stand in front at a Le Shok show, and you will get wet: beer if you're lucky, blood if you're not, and steamy slobber if 6-foot-6 singer Hot Rod Todd really wants to make you feel special. It's just audience participation, but the "little 15-year-old boys, they get bummed out when I give 'em the open-mouth kisses," he says. Big boys get the big guns: about to suffer at the beefy hands of bouncers at the Tiki Bar after a typically riotous show, Todd made them back off by dropping his pants and starting to jack off. "They froze in their tracks," he says. He's polite as can be off-duty, but things have a way of getting a little unpredictable—and bloody, broken, naked or on fire—once the beat kicks in and his long, long arms start plucking victims from the crowd. MITIGATING FACTOR: "People think I'm tough, but I'd much rather sit down and have a drink with them than hurt 'em."
It would take a monster of Frankensteinian proportions to overshadow slimy Laguna Beach City Councilman Paul Freeman. That monster has finally emerged as Butterfield, who, serving since 1998 as president of the Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts until her recall on Oct. 24, has revealed herself as the most bizarre, illogical, rambling dingbat in the county. It would take a Herculean effort to screw up the 68-year-old festival, but Butterfield—Mission Viejo's mayor—succeeded by leading mysterious effort to hijack the event to San Clemente. So far, Laguna residents have blocked the scheme. MITIGATING FACTOR: The pitchforks and torches required to drive Frankenstein into the wilderness are cheap.
31. LARRY AND DIANE DAY
Mr. and Mrs. Day run the Santa Ana animal shelter—a place that last year euthanized two-thirds of all animals unlucky enough to walk through its doors. The shelter is in the basement of the Days' for-profit Grand Avenue Animal Hospital in Santa Ana. Basically, it's a cut-rate execution center for stray pets. Responding to shelter critics in August, the city put the poorly funded shelter contract out to bid. But because the Days were the only bidders, they're still running the shelter. MITIGATING FACTOR: The city of Santa Ana gets what it pays for.