Testing the Waters
Newport Beach lifeguards star in unsolved sex mystery
Never underestimate the potential for nuggets of comedy gold buried deep in court files. Take the seemingly bland case of David Wenger vs. City of Newport Beach. Last month, the Santa Ana-based state Court of Appeal declared that the city had legally fired Wenger, a longtime lifeguard, based on an obscure city-employee contract provision. Don't yawn yet! Contained in the file is a "confidential" report detailing how at least six summer 2003 Newport Beach lifeguards, ages 19 to 22, had sex with "Mandy," either an Asian male or female, depending on which lifeguard was talking.
One version goes like this: A male lifeguard met Mandy on the beach near 36th Street, discovered that he/she was an Orange Coast College student working toward a masseuse's license and looking to give free massages for, uh, training purposes. That lifeguard, whom we'll call Shaun because that's his first name, invited the Filipino man/woman (with a "great body") to a late-night July 6 party in a west Newport Beach apartment. There, lifeguards—but not Wenger, a supervisor who unsuccessfully claimed whistleblower status in the affair—took turns getting "happy ending" massages soberly identified in the report as "hand jobs" and "blow jobs."
The following morning, rumors circulated about Mandy's gender. Lifeguards who hadn't attended the party began calling attendees "fags." Anger, angst, laughter and explanations ensued. According to the report, one of the lifeguards who'd gotten a massage tried to argue that Mandy had been "so ugly she looked like a guy."
Brent Ranek, then a high-ranking lifeguard who heard about the incident, explained to the government investigator that the term "fag" was used in an "acceptable . . . joking" manner after the massage party. "I've teased them before about being fags," the report quotes Ranek. "That's just what men do. I've been teased, too. . . . Someone might say, 'Oh, nice shirt. You look like a fag.' Or, 'Your shirt's too tight. You look like a fag.'"
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Loretta Scores Hollywood Dough: Fresh from traveling with Hillary Clinton in Texas, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-Anaheim) is surely one of Washington's biggest political fund-raising magnets. It's not uncommon for her to haul in more than $2.5 million in an election cycle—money that allows her to routinely laugh past her Republican challengers.
So far, Sanchez has stockpiled $775,000 for November's election. Rosemarie Avila, the expected GOP candidate, managed to raise just $56,000 in her bid to unseat Sanchez in 2006.
Now, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wants a piece of Sanchez's impressive war chest. Earlier this month, it opened a joint fund-raising account with Sanchez. Its name? Loretta Sanchez Victory Fund 2008. The money will benefit Sanchez and other, more needy congressional campaigns.
Sanchez's Federal Election Commission (FEC) disclosure report for the last three months of 2007 shows her reaching into Hollywood's deep pockets and grabbing about $12,000 from a couple of producers, including Grammy Award winner Lou Adler, who produced Up In Smoke starring Cheech & Chong. Others who gave: Orange County BMW-dealership king Donald J. Crevier; famed defense lawyer Jennifer Keller; Newport Beach billionaire Henry Samueli; and Beverly Hills' Jackie Fox, president of Exclusive Protection Inc. But the largest single group of Sanchez contributors? Corporate lobbyists.
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Help, Help Me, Rhonda: Want to know how to directly raise U.S. Representative Dana Rohrabacher's standard of living? Just contribute to his re-election campaign. According to the longtime Huntington Beach congressman's most recent FEC disclosure report, his wife, Rhonda, continues to dip into the campaign coffers every two weeks. During the last quarter of 2007, the mother of young triplets took at least $10,844—or about 50 percent of the campaign's spending—apparently based on the strange premise that Dana, who wins each election easily, needs a campaign manager.
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Dueling DNAs: Last week, I reported that prosecutors had asked the Orange County sheriff's crime lab to do something officials there didn't believe was truthful: claim that a 2005 robbery suspect's DNA had been found at the scene of the crime. In response, Camille Hill—a veteran prosecutor and DNA expert in the district attorney's office—insisted that the incident she sparked was "in no way unusual."
(Quick summary: inept police, erroneous eyewitnesses, callous prosecutors and warped judges joined forces to incarcerate James Ochoa, a 20-year-old Buena Park man, for a crime he didn't commit.)
Anyway, Hill's defense raised eyebrows—and not just because Hill, prosecutor Debbie Lloyd and DA Tony Rackauckas have been attempting to wrest control over DNA work from the Sheriff's Department. Dean Gialamas, sheriff's crime lab director, declined to talk about the Ochoa case because of pending litigation. However, he disagrees with Hill's contention.
"Sometimes, they ask us to rewrite a few words in our report," Gialamas said. "But ask us to change conclusions? No. That's really, really unusual."
Gary R. Jackson, who spent nearly 30 years in the OC crime lab and now teaches crime-scene investigation at Santa Ana College and Fullerton College, agrees with Gialamas.
"This case is an example of what we have privately been afraid of if Tony [Rackauckas] gets his own crime lab," Jackson told the Weekly. "DNA is just the tip of the iceberg for him. Imagine how much damage he could do with his view of twisted science if they start doing firearms and fingerprint examinations. The men and women professionals in the crime lab have always been allowed to let the chips fall where they may without pressure from the police side to help their cases."
Ochoa was freed after 16 months' incarceration, when crime-scene DNA was linked to the real bandit. Not that government officials feel remorse. They continue to screw Ochoa. The state is supposed to pay wrongfully convicted people $100 per day for their prison stints. Pretrial time in county jails doesn't count, according to the rules.
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But the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board has made a preliminary decision that could block Ochoa from collecting the approximately $30,000 he's owed. Board official Kevin Kwong essentially concluded that Ochoa should have screamed louder that he was innocent when cold-hearted Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald shipped him to the lovely SoCal desert lodgings known as Centinela State Prison.
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It's your money, but the government spends it: On Jan. 7, the Santa Ana City Council voted unanimously to spend $60,000 in taxpayer money this year on employee trophies for just one city department.