Year in Review

CONFIDENTIAL TO BRIXEY You are soooo pathetic. How could you let Al Gore, the national media and the Democratic Party hierarchy—those are different entities, right?—come down on you over that gig at Hef's? You should have told those asswipes that they need you more than you need them. In an election year in which the GOP closed its eyes and pretended to love gays, blacks and Latinos, would the Demo fat cats really have kept their star Latina off the podium—and let everyone know they kept her off the podium? What kind of message would that have sent your constituents, your opponents and Latino voters everywhere? Remember: you're the only Democrat in the congressional delegation of the most Republican county in the country. The Democrats wanted the House back. For years, you were a Republican. You should have reminded Al Gore Inc. that you always have the option of switching back. Once they realized a well-financed incumbent Latina Republican could own that district (forever), they'd have let you hold your party on Larry Flynt's face.

DICK PARK A small group of county residents who have pushed for the construction of an urban park at the now-shuttered El Toro Marine Corps Air Station discovered they have an unlikely supporter on Aug. 13: Tom Fuentes. Writing in the Register, the longtime Orange County Republican Party head urged readers to "forget the airport. Let the federal government transfer El Toro from the Pentagon to the Interior Department and create a park for all Americans. How about Richard Nixon Urban National Park?" We don't care if they stuff Nixon's corpse and mount it at the park entrance. We're for a park. But Tom Fuentes? As head of the Republican party, he authorized GOP-funded poll guards in heavily Latino voting areas during the 1988 election. He's the guy who once told the Los Angeles Times that he could "tell you the registration of the people in a house by observing the neatness of the lawn and what cars are in the driveway." Wooohooo! The rightest of the right-wingers, the tribal chieftain of the Republican Cavemen himself, is now standing beside liberal Larry Agran in calling for a massive people's park at El Toro.

SHANTAE MOLINA IS INNOCENT An Orange County jury on Aug. 14 acquitted Shantae Molina, a 22-year-old Laguna Niguel mother county prosecutors alleged had "executed" her 8-month-old son in October 1998. Despite authorities' intense, sometimes questionable tactics to obtain her confession, Molina never wavered. She had accidentally shot baby Armani with her stepfather's handgun, she said, as she peered through a den window after hearing what she thought was a burglar outside. The verdict after a three-week trial was an utter rebuke of Orange County law enforcement. The sheriff's department had used the media—the Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register—to paint Molina as a cold-blooded killer, and the DA's office had boasted that they had "all the evidence . . . solid evidence" necessary to send the young woman to prison for life. The jury, however, saw it differently. "There just wasn't evidence," one juror said matter-of-factly. Molina asserted in a $25 million pre-lawsuit civil-rights claim filed immediately following the verdict that "abusive" prosecutors and "perjurious" sheriff's department detectives rushed to judgment and cobbled together a sensational, headline-grabbing murder case against an innocent woman.

THE KID IS FREE! On Aug. 22, Arthur Carmona walked out of jail a free man after serving two and a half years for a crime he didn't commit. The day before, Judge Everett Dickey told a packed courtroom that Carmona, 18, would be released from jail immediately under the terms of a last-minute agreement between his defense team and the Orange County district attorney's office. In agreeing to "vacate" Carmona's conviction, the OC district attorney's office tried to put the best spin on what amounted to a fiasco—and did so in the least defensible manner: by blaming his legal victory on the work of pesky reporters. Prosecutors asserted that Carmona was the gunman in the robberies of an Irvine juice bar and a Costa Mesa restaurant. But none of the eyewitnesses who tagged Carmona as the culprit did so until police placed on his head a Lakers cap linked to the Irvine robbery but never to Carmona. Adding insult to Carmona's injury, DA Tony Rackauckas implied that Carmona had gotten off easy. Speaking directly to Carmona, Rackauckas said, "Arthur, it's a rare event that a convicted defendant gets this kind of break. You are getting a second chance. Don't let yourself or your supporters down. When you get out, find a job, improve your skills, [and] have a good and productive life—do not commit any crimes!" Carmona was required to sign a waiver stipulating that neither police nor prosecutors had committed any wrongdoing. "I am appalled at the way the DA handled this case," said his mother, Ronnie Carmona. "This [deal] shows the system isn't concerned with justice or truth. . . . But at this point, I just want my son back. I just want this to end."

SEE NO EVIL Transportation officials in Orange and Riverside counties decided on Aug. 28 to take the first step toward building a highway through Cleveland National Forest. We offer a hearty "hear! hear!" because it would be sad if state parks, pristine canyons and wildlife corridors were the only things new OC roads were carved into. And speaking of environmental disasters, did you catch the news on Aug. 30 that the hole in the Earth's ozone layer is getting bigger? Perhaps you missed it, due to having already covered your ears two weeks earlier upon learning that for the first time in 50 million years, water has turned up at the North Pole. The culprit? Global warming. Good thing our Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) has branded global warming "junk science" and that it is not really happening, despite what 90 percent of the world's scientists say. Thanks for unbumming us out, dude!

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