By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Please bear with us. We’re still getting used to these heels as we sashay to Urge Overkill’s version of “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon.” Hey, call us traditionalists, but that first dance is a big deal! As this paper (yes, now metaphorically crowned as a 15-year-old Latina, at least for a week) twirls into the second half of its second decade, we’d like to take a moment to thank all of the guests at this fiesta: The schemers, dreamers, scumbags, visionaries and lunatics who have made telling this county’s tale such a wild ride. There are too many of them to count, so we’ve grouped them into 15 archetypes—recurring themes of the kinds of characters who populate the other Orange County, the one you’ll only read about right here.
1 | CROOKED POLITICIANS
It’s not so much that Orange County breeds crooked politicians, although it does in certain cities—such as Huntington Beach, where our exclusive reporting set the stage for the arrests and convictions of two mayors, Pam Houchen and Dave Garofalo. The county is much better at producing sleazy, holier-than-thou elected hypocrites. From the initial days of the paper, there was Garden Grove’s Robert K. Dornan, who was narrowly defeated by Loretta Sanchez two weeks after our national-award-winning exposé, all the way to Yorba Linda’s Mike Duvall, the Christian conservative assemblyman who resigned last year immediately after we broke news about his unintended confession to sexual exploits with a power-company lobbyist. In the years between those two characters, there was also Sheriff Brad Gates, who—despite an average annual public salary of less than $80,000 during the two decades he served as the county’s top cop—somehow managed to accumulate personal assets worth millions of dollars. One politician who has avoided indictment is Irvine Democratic boss Larry Agran, even though we produced evidence the pompous councilman has fragrantly violated California campaign-finance laws to remain in power and, thus, in control of billions in public funds.
2 | INNOCENT INMATES
The one thing more rewarding than sending corrupt public officials to prison is getting innocent people out, though the consequences of doing so aren’t always what one would hope for. Take the case of DeWayne McKinney, an African-American convicted in a 1980 robbery/murder at a Burger King in Orange. After he spent two decades behind bars, the Weekly and other papers began highlighting the weak case against him, and McKinney won his freedom. With cash from his legal settlement, he moved to Hawaii, where he perished in a 2008 moped accident. A similar fate took the life of Arthur Carmona, who was convicted in 1998 of a robbery he didn’t commit and spent two years in prison before being released, in part thanks to coverage by the Los Angeles Times’ Dana Parsons and the Weekly’s Bob Emmers. Carmona died two years ago in a hit-and-run accident. More lucky was Joshua “Big J-Mo” Moore, who was sentenced to 10 years behind bars for a Fullerton robbery before Nick Schou wrote several stories highlighting his case and the DA’s office finally found evidence it had all along that proved he didn’t commit the crime and let him out of prison eight years early. Not to be outdone, R. Scott Moxley has over the years profiled bogus charges against innocent people, including Shantae Molina, who was charged with shooting her own baby in a tragic accident, but found innocent by a jury of her peers, and James Ochoa, who spent 16 months behind bars for a robbery he didn’t commit before he was set free, in the wake of a series of articles exposing the twisted tactics of Buena Park cops who essentially framed him for the crime.
3 | DIRTY COPS
Dirty cops hate the Weekly because we’ve thoroughly chronicled their misdeeds. Following dozens of our critical reports, the greedy top Orange County Sheriff’s Department command structure—Sheriff Mike Carona as well as assistant sheriffs George Jaramillo and Don Haidl—was arrested by the FBI and convicted on various corruption-related charges. Not all the dirtbags had a chance to rise to the top before they were exposed. Mark Wersching, a Huntington Beach cop, shot and killed an unarmed man, stole fireworks, crashed his car on the beach while drunk, and participated in numerous beer-soaked fights with civilians. California Highway Patrol (CHP) lieutenant Stephen Robert Deck attempted to screw a 12-year-old Laguna Beach girl who was actually an undercover police decoy—and cried like a little girl himself when arrested. We’re not sure how many speeding tickets CHP officer Joshua Blackburn doled out, but we know he stole more than $1 million worth of cocaine from an evidence locker. Irvine cop David Alex Park tailed a female motorist out of his jurisdiction one night, pulled her over and ejaculated on her rather than giving a ticket. Omar Patel of the Garden Grove P.D. called the gang unit to harass a Latino family after starting a fistfight with a man he assumed was a gangster but who was actually an off-duty prison guard. Anaheim’s Bradley Stewart Wagner liked to kidnap illegal immigrants and violently rape them in the back of his patrol car, believing they would remain silent. In response to a minor fender-bender, Westminster’s Charles Shinn III shot a Vietnamese-American in the shoulder, causing the panicked man to flee a brief distance before Shinn claims he “accidentally” crushed the man to death against a tree with his patrol car.