OC's 31 Scariest People

Now 25 percent more terrifying!

Early on the morning of Feb. 5, Douglas Bates, a 43-year-old customs inspector for the federal Homeland Security Department, was trying to get some shuteye. He was awakened when Bassim Chmait, a 20-year-old Arab-American college student and aspiring rap artist, and his friends arrived at the Mission Viejo apartment complex where Bates lives, looking for a party. As they walked down the street, Bates, who was off-duty and wearing a bathrobe, rushed out his front door and, holding a pistol, confronted them. Witnesses say Bates was upset about noise from the party, approached the three young men with his pistol and law-enforcement badge, and shouted, "You want to fuck with a cop?" Instead of backing away, the group walked toward Bates. During the altercation that ensued, Bates allegedly pistol-whipped one of Chmait's friends. What happened then is unclear -- except that all sides agree Bates shot Chmait in the head at point-blank range. Chmait is dead, and Bates now faces trial for second-degree murder. MITIGATING FACTOR: Bates, who is African-American, alleges Chmait and his friends, who were unarmed, taunted him with racial slurs before attacking him, forcing him to shoot in self-defense.

Photo by Amy Thelig

If you live in Orange and have kids in elementary school, you'll sleep soundly at night knowing that your children's education is safeguarded by a school board that includes a man whose single-issue agenda is exposing the evil conspiracy against him by Albertsons, the supermarket chain. Rocco won his election last November thanks to conservative parents who opposed his teachers'-union-backed opponent and didn't care that they knew absolutely nothing about Rocco. Well -- not absolutely nothing, exactly. During the race, Rocco distributed fliers denouncing "The Partnership," which is what he calls the conspiracy that began with his 1980 arrest for shoplifting at an Albertsons store in Santa Ana. He had a copy with him at his Dec. 9 swearing-in ceremony. "All the information you need is in here," he said, jabbing his finger at the broadside. "This is an expose, not a manifesto. Expose is a French word, not a Russian. . . . We're living in a time of secret organizations, corruption and, most of all, dictatorship." Rocco finished his acceptance speech by saying something in Italian. Then he shrugged, as if to say he was as confused as everyone else. "I hope Mr. Rocco will be a breath of fresh air in our district," chirped conservative gadfly Katherine Moran during the public-comments portion of the meeting. "I felt you would not be another teachers' union puppet. I did vote for you because it was the lesser of two evils. I mean that as a compliment." MITIGATING FACTOR: Rocco's right: the Partnership is real.

Illustration by Bob Aul

This Bush-appointed former assistant attorney general is better known as the primary author of the PATRIOT Act. A Vietnamese-American who fled communism for Fullerton by way of Portland, Oregon, Dinh now teaches law at Georgetown University. In his spare time, he travels the country cashing in on his counterterrorism expertise by lecturing college students (unwittingly) about the idiocy of the war on terror. His talking points include such pearls of wisdom as "I am a complete intellectual fraud" and "If you are a terrorist, we will stick to you like white on rice." But when faced with tough questions from audience members, Dinh prefers not to answer but instead mercilessly stutter, raise his voice and emit a high-pitched laugh. There are exceptions. In a January speech at UC Irvine, one woman queried Dinh about why the Bush administration wasn't trying harder to understand why so many people throughout the world hate America. "I don't have anything intelligent to add to that," Dinh finally said. MITIGATING FACTOR: He really doesn't.

Newport Beach forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz is probably best known for his one-on-one interviews with Ice Man, the Tony Sopranoesque Mafia hit man on HBO. He's provided expert testimony in just about every high-profile psycho murder trial, ranging from would-be Reagan assassin John Hinckley and serial killer/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer to Unabomber Ted Kaczinski, Erik and Lyle Menendez, mass murderer O.J. Simpson and D.C. sniper John Allen Muhammed. In March 2002, Dietz took the witness chair in the final phase of the murder trial of Texas housewife Andrea Yates. Dietz, who is also a technical adviser to the TV show Law & Order, told the jury that Yates, who had drowned her five children in a bathtub, wasn't crazy. In fact, Dietz stated, Yates was simply claiming insanity after watching an episode of Law & Order in which a depressed mother drowns her kids in a bathtub but -- in a typically gripping finale -- is found not guilty by reason of insanity. A few days later, brushing aside the insanity plea, the jury convicted Yates of murder. The only problem: that particular Law & Order episode never actually aired. Which is another way of saying Yates couldn't have seen the show, nor could it have motivated her to kill her kids and get away with it by claiming to be nuts. MITIGATING FACTOR: Seen one episode of Law & Order, seen 'em all.

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