Thursday's Headlines & Surprises: OC Judge Slaps Guv

  • Will a murder inmate defeat the Guv? Orange County Superior Court Judge Kazuharo Makino — a quiet, often-expressionless fellow who is married to a court reporter — ruled yesterday that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was wrong to deny parole to Delbert “Dale” Chrittenden. The inmate was found guilty of second-degree murder in 1988 and sentenced to 17 years to life in prison. In Makino's view, the Guv abused his discretion by ignoring Chrittenden's post-crime deeds as hailed by the often-cynical parole board. Reg courthouse reporter Larry Welborn believes this “to be the first time that a local Superior Court judge has reversed the governor’s rejection of a finding that an inmate serving a life sentence is suitable for release.” If the Guv can spare a few minutes from his weekly vacation schedule, he needs to decide if he'll appeal Makino's ruling. Otherwise, you might hear cheers as far away as Pelican Bay.
  • Trick question: More than 40 diners at a restaurant in Illinois were given a free glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with a $24 French meal. Half the bottles carried a label from a California winery, the other half from one in North Dakota. According to Physiology & Behavior, all the bottles held cheap Charles Shaw wine. But those who thought they'd consumed California wine, rated the "two-buck Chuck" as better tasting and enjoyed their food more than those given the North Dakota label. During an identical study in another state, 85 percent of 49 MBA students at a wine-and-cheese reception rated the fake California wine as superior. Here's my question: Is there really a winery in North Dakota?
  • Wah, wah, give me more: In a taste test between the Times and Register, I'd guess 90 percent of local cops would hail the Reg as a conservative, pro-cop paper and the Times a liberal, knee-jerk rag committed to trivialities like constitutional rights. But Reg folks are leading the charge that the politically powerful deputies union finagled a possible, illegal, sweet pension deal from the all-Republican county Board of Supervisors several years back. Among the niceties, the deal lets deputies and district attorney's investigators retire at the age of 50 and continue to collect taxpayer-funded salaries of, in numerous cases, more than $90,000 annually for the rest of their lives. Supervisor John Moorlach calls the deal a looming disaster for taxpayers. The deputies say you can't renege on a done deal. Today, Dana Parsons at the Times tepidly sided with the union, but added, “Would it be too cheesy of me to ask if the deputies and county can compromise, if it can be proven that the 2001 deal is a fiscal time bomb?"
  • Father knows best: While preaching the Gospel, a father-son team of pastors stole more than $1 million from Calvary Baptist Yorba Linda Church and School since 2001, according the a criminal complaint filed Wednesday by the Orange County district attorney's office. Richard Wimberly Cunningham, 74, and son Philip Ladd Cunningham, 50, face charges of felony grand theft and felony conspiracy to defraud. If convicted, they could spend a maximum of six years in prison. Prosecutors claim the duo stole church offerings for personal use and played a shell game with eight bank accounts to hide their crimes.
  • The ref & the mob: NBA referee Tim Donaghy (pictured) pleaded guilty yesterday to a cheating scheme, and thesmokinggun.com has the entire 17-page deal online. Here's how it worked: Two shady characters (James Battista and Thomas Martino) told Donaghy, a 40-year-old gambling addict, to use his inside information to pick game winners (including games he officiated). The pair gave the ref between $2,000 and $5,000 for accurate picks. Apparently, the FBI stumbled onto the plot during wiretaps. Wouldn't you hate to be an NFL ref who is doing the same thing and wondering when you'll be exposed as a scumbag?

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