Michael Jackson’s Thriller album dropped almost 37 years ago, on Nov. 30, 1982. The iconic video for the song “Thriller” premiered on MTV more than a year later, on Dec. 2, 1983. That means 2019 is the 37th anniversary of the album and the 36th of the video. So why do a “Thriller”-themed OC’s 31 Scariest People issue now as opposed to during a 35th or 40th anniversary? Because MJ and horror were fresh in our minds from the office movie-night screening of Finding Neverland. Warning: There are more than 31 scary people on our list because some entries include multiple people. Just go with it like a Neverland Ranch parent, then read about our latest Bob Dornan Scary OC Hall of Fame inductee. ’Cause this is thriller, 31 Scariest People thriller night.
1) PASTOR JOHN MCFARLAND
A towering figure in the United Methodist Church for decades, Fullerton pastor John McFarland’s stature came crashing down. A conservative preacher who favored a split in the United Methodist Church over same-sex marriage, McFarland turned to the Bible to bolster his belief in homosexuality as sin. Police first cuffed the gospel gabber in December after a young girl came forward with allegations of child molestation in Escondido. Authorities believed more victims existed elsewhere, as church officials swiftly removed McFarland from his post at Orangethorpe United Methodist Church. In May, police arrested McFarland again; the pastor faced down 11 felony chester charges carrying a maximum of 179 years to life in prison. He’s entering not guilty pleas to allegations he victimized several children over the span of many years. Mitigating factor: Judge not, lest ye be judged before an Orange County Superior Court judge.
2) WILLIAM “RICK” SINGER
The poster boy of the Operation Varsity Blues scandal admitted in federal court in March that he built phony athletic profiles and hired decoys to take admissions tests for the academically challenged spawn of dozens of wealthy parents who utilized the service he operated out of his Newport Beach home. As a cooperating government witness, Singer secretly recorded calls with clients all over the country, including: Mossimo Giannulli, founder of the Mossimo clothing brand started on Balboa Island and husband of co-defendant Lori Loughlin (a.k.a. Full House’s “Aunt Becky”); Douglas Hodge, the former CEO of Newport Beach investment-management company PIMCO; I-Hin “Joey” Chen, a Newport Beach shipping-industry executive; Robert Flaxman, the Laguna Beach founder and CEO of a real-estate-development firm; and Newport Coast’s Michelle Janavs, a former executive of her family’s food business that popularized Hot Pockets and the daughter of Paul Merage, the namesake of the UC Irvine School of Business and Jewish Community Center of Orange County. Singer, Hodge, Flaxman and Janavs pleaded guilty in their cases. Giannulli, Loughlin and Chen have pleaded not guilty, and—presumably because they have not settled—the gubment slapped them with additional counts on Oct. 22. Mitigating factor: Aunt Becky in Full Big House? Have mercy!
3) CERTAIN OC JAIL DEPUTIES
The worst of the sheriff’s deputies assigned to jail duty have terrorized pretrial inmates for years, including executing unnecessary beatings and torturous activities such as stripping people, chaining them in cold rooms for more than 12 hours and denying water, bathroom breaks or needed medical attention. But one abusive situation hasn’t garnered much public attention. Inmates of the Theo Lacy Jail in 2016 claim they were forced to enter and clean up a cell following a gruesome razor-blade suicide. Records show they found a horrific, bloody mess, with spatter all over the floor and walls. Making matters worse, two of the involved inmates, who’ve filed a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD), claim they were not given adequate protective gear and were denied preventative medical means to fight potential hepatitis B exposure. They’ve also alleged they suffered from depression, anxiety and insomnia from the ordeal. Taxpayer-funded lawyers for the deputies have been arguing they should enjoy immunity for their conduct because they are cops and also that there’s no solid evidence they acted purposely indifferent to the forced cleanup crew. In June, a federal judge refused the deputies’ demand to kill the case before it can reach a jury sometime in 2020. Mitigating factor: The massive wall listing OCSD offenses against humanity is nearly full.
4) CHUYEN VAN VO
Though Chuyen Van Vo pleaded not guilty to the charge that he murdered Steven Shek Keung Chan in a Cal State Fullerton parking lot, the 51-year-old Huntington Beach resident is a terrifying suspect in the case because the men apparently knew each other. They had both worked in the university administration office for years. The 57-year-old Chan retired in 2017, but he had returned earlier this year as a consultant. Fullerton police, who have never commented on their relationship, said they found zip ties, wigs, an “incendiary device” and another knife not used in the August murder when they arrested Vo a few days after. Mitigating factor: He’s innocent until proven guilty.
5) JUDGE TIMOTHY J. STAFFORD
It’s always fun to find out that the old white guy sitting on the bench in a courtroom holds desiccated, misogynistic viewpoints about women. That’s what happened in December 2018, when the Commission on Judicial Performance smacked Orange County Judge Timothy J. Stafford for comments he made during an April 5, 2017, hearing regarding a woman’s request for a restraining order against a co-worker. First, Stafford characterized the woman’s co-worker as “pretty much the big man on campus, had the bucks in his back pocket, and the petitioner was the best looking girl in school, and he was going to get her any way he possibly could, all right? And she knew it, and she liked it because she got things.” Then Stafford brought up a text from the woman to her husband asking him to buy her a new car in exchange for performing oral sex with him daily. “If I got a letter from someone or a phone call saying, ‘I’ll give you a [sex act] every day for the rest of your life for a car,’” Stafford said, “we will be at the Mercedes dealer pretty soon, but not because I’m married, all right?” Mitigating factor: He’s now retired.
6) JOHN SARO BALIAN
Seal Beach resident and Glendale Police Department cop John Saro Balian repeatedly traveled to Brownsville, Texas, and crossed the Mexico border with a woman known in an FBI task force report as “SS.” In addition, Balian and “SS” called each other 1,534 times from December 2015 to January 2018. Hot romance? FBI agents didn’t think so. Law-enforcement intelligence determined that “SS” was the longtime girlfriend of a high-ranking member of the murderous Gulf Cartel, a multibillion-dollar organized-crime syndicate based in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico. A 2017 U.S. government report describes how that Mexican Mafia cartel committed ruthless violence to smuggle cocaine, humans, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine into this country. It also specializes in bribing American politicians, prosecutors and cops. FBI agents claim that Balian had secret ties to both the Mexican and Armenian organized-crime families, helping mobsters extort pot shops, stealing cars and finding government witnesses. Around the time of his arrest, Balian denied corruption. “I’m not fucking on anybody’s payroll,” he said. In fact, he claimed the mob treated him like a “pig.” Despite those denials, a federal judge in March sentenced him to a prison term of 21 months. Mitigating factor: Balian has a chance of becoming a character in an upcoming blockbuster Don Winslow crime novel.
7) ANDREA LAFFERTY
Over the years, the Reverend Lou Sheldon of Anaheim and daughter Andrea Lafferty have used their Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) to fret about possible sodomy on the battlefield if gay soldiers were permitted to serve in combat. They’ve also had time to insist that gays should be called only “perverts” and “sodomites” while operating a ham-fisted, right-wing, direct-mail scheme that brought them untold millions of dollars in revenue from a national audience relishing bigotry and hatred. But while they were working those lucrative angles, the father-daughter team forgot to live according to conservative, traditional family values themselves. In a highly charged pending civil lawsuit in Orange County, the reverend is suing his offspring, alleging she stole control of TVC from him; misappropriated the organization’s funds; converted his $1.9 million Washington, D.C., home into her own; committed blatant self-dealing in contracts; and robbed him of supposedly required retirement income. Sheldon called the moves not only “elder abuse,” but also “unethical and dishonest.” Lafferty has been trying to settle the case before a trial in hopes of thwarting more embarrassment. Mitigating factor: We’ve started the stopwatch on how long it takes these two rubes to blame gay people for their ugly personal squabble.
8) BILL BROUGH
Multiple Republican women have come forward this year to accuse third-term Assemblyman Bill Brough (R-Dana Point) of sexual harassment. Some allegations go back years, while others are more recent. But there are so many charges against Brough that both the OC Republican Party Central Committee and the Lincoln Club—that big-money bastion of far right-wing conservancy in Orange County—have asked Brough to end his re-election campaign. For his part, Brough has resolutely proclaimed his innocence. In fact, he insists that all the accusations against him are just an elaborate conspiracy to silence him for his opposition to Orange County’s Transportation Corridor Agencies. Mitigating factor: He has three challengers in the Republican primary.
9) BRANDON FLEURY
In the wake of the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a young Orange County man, Brandon Fleury, decided to troll the families and friends of the 34 dead and wounded. Fleury created 13 Instagram accounts with offensive names such as “bullseyetauntsyou” and “thedouglasshooter” to send at least 301 cyberstalking messages from December 2018 to January 2019. One disgusting communication to the father of a 14-year-old victim who was active in the school band cracks the window into the 22-year-old Santa Ana resident’s mind: “Little Alex Schachter will never play music again.” That message included laughing emojis. “Your grief is my joy,” he wrote to a different family. One that referenced Scott Beigel, a Parkland teacher who gave his life shielding students from bullets, read, “hehehaha! Mr. Beigel is dead.” Fleury tried to explain away the misdeeds by deriding the survivors as “activists,” code in certain alt-right quarters for worthless bums. During the October federal trial, which found him guilty, his attorney explained that his client suffers from a mental disorder: lack of empathy. Ya think? How unhinged is this nut? Showing no remorse when arrested, he said he was motivated by a desire to gain popularity. Mitigating factor: Fleury faces a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced in December.
10) THIS GUY!
Lying sack of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was born in Orange and graduated from Los Amigos High School in Fountain Valley, where he played on the basketball team before leaving Orange County for West Point, West Germany (while serving in the Army), Harvard Law, Kansas (where he and three West Point buddies acquired aircraft-parts companies) and finally Washington, D.C. (while serving in Congress, as CIA director and now as Secretary of State). Mitigating factor: He failed to get the “Los Amigos” emblem on his basketball jersey deported.
11) ACT! FOR AMERICA LAGUNA WOODS
Because white supremacy pervades so much of American political discourse, it should surprise no one that a hate group such as Act! For America, which preaches against Muslims, has a chapter in Laguna Woods. Or that in July the group packed the 814-seat Laguna Woods Performing Arts Center to see Brigitte Gabriel, Act! For America’s founder and chairwoman, as well as a virulently anti-Muslim author who told the crowd things such as “In the West, we celebrate life. In the Islamic world, they celebrate death.” Later, after Gabriel said that she wished that those who “complain about America” would get a “one-way ticket to get the hell out of here and back to whatever country you came from!” the audience erupted in applause, prompting Gabriel to shriek “Woooo! I’m talking to the right people.” Mitigating factor: Most members already have one foot in the grave.
12) JOSE ANTHONY PAEZ
On Aug. 26, the Orange County district attorney’s office (OCDA) sent out a press release that would have scared the hell out of every parent at Fullerton Union High School. “A former Fullerton Police Department school resource officer has been charged with secretly photographing and videotaping up the skirt of a 16-year-old high school student,” it stated. “The Fullerton Police Department initiated an internal investigation into accusations that Officer Jose Anthony Paez was acting inappropriately while on duty. The investigation spanned the last five years of the officer’s on-duty interaction with the public.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, the pro-cop Behind the Badge blog reported that Paez wore “Declaration of Independence pants and a shirt covered in U.S. flags” to a golf tournament in 2016. Mitigating factor: Fullerton PD transferred Paez out of Fullerton Union High in May.
13) AMY PHAN WEST
Congressional candidate Amy Phan West is what you would get if the comments section on one of our stories on fascism in Orange County somehow became a sentient being. Everything’s just off—like the time she sent reporters photos of her saluting in front of the Pentagon, even though she never served in the military and civilians don’t salute. Like President Donald Trump, West traffics in weaponized stupidity. She calls her opponent, incumbent Congressional Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), a “Socialist Democrat.” She says the Democratic Party “wants to destroy the U.S. economy.” She says schools are “sexualizing our children” and is “committed to ending California’s shocking SeXXX Ed curriculum.” And who could forget when she went to the Hamptons this summer for a mega-fundraiser for Trump and denounced “liberal global elites.” It’s all overwrought, hyperbolic nonsense that recalls the ugliness of bitter, defeated GOP Representative “B-1 Bob” Dornan. Mitigating factor: West is running in a district where Democrats hold a 13 percentage point advantage.
14) RACIST SAN CLEMENTE STUDENTS AND PARENTS
Our Sept. 16 report “San Clemente and Lincoln High Schools Probe Racist Taunts at Football Game” produced multiple comments like BJ’s: “I was at the game and decided to sit on the visitor side because the San Clemente student section was so packed. Me and my three friends never heard anything even remotely racist. Also, there were no people telling anyone that they needed to be on a leash or anyone being told to go back to their country. I’m just saying that it’s a little odd that we conveniently didn’t hear any of the overwhelming racist comments that there apparently were.” However, both schools later confirmed that multiple, predominantly African American students visiting from San Diego were subjected to racist taunts and other verbal abuse from the San Clemente stands and that Lincoln High cheerleaders using a restroom were called “dogs” who belonged on “leashes.” Mitigating factor: San Clemente’s Tritons spanked Lincoln High’s Hornets, 29-0. A win is a win, right, whiteys?
15) DISNEYLAND’S FIGHTING FAMILY
Another Main Street Electrical Parade, another splash off Splash Mountain, another rote spiel from a Jungle Cruise captain . . . ho hum. That’s the likely response any video of traditional Mouse House attractions would receive these days. But let a family’s violent, hair-pulling, girlfriend-clobbering street fight roll on YouTube, and you’ve got a guaranteed viral sensation. As fucked-up as the video posted in July was—young children of the battling men, women and grandparent watched in horror alongside other mouths-agape guests—you couldn’t take your eyes off the Toon Town tussle. Pure poetic justice unfolded when a thick-armed man defending his girlfriend turned around and smacked her when informed she knocked his mother to the ground. Not that we condone dudes hitting females or any non-sanctioned bout. What’s amazing is the family first denied having even been involved in a fight—until the proof showed up on YouTube and three pugilists were charged with multiple charges. Mitigating factor: Finally, a reason to buy an annual pass.
16) SIEG HEIL STUDENTS
When students from Newport Harbor and Costa Mesa high schools decided to play a drinking game at a party one night, a sudden “rage cage” inspiration struck. Arranging red beer cups in the shape of a swastika, teens proudly posed around it while extending Nazi salutes. The stunt made rounds on social media, causing immediate outrage. A few months later, another controversy erupted in Garden Grove when video surfaced of Pacifica High School students giving a Nazi salute and singing a German tune by Herms Niel used to rouse Hitler’s troops into battle. The incident happened in December, but the Garden Grove Unified School District only learned of it in March when they snuffed any scandal out by quietly handling the situation away from the public. It all goes to show that the kids are all Reich. Mitigating factor: In doing their best Hitler Youth impressions, these students shattered liberal illusions that OC racism is simply going to age out when the last of its coffin-dodging haters die.
17) JACOB WOHL
Originally from Orange County, Jacob Wohl is the Wile E. Coyote of alt-right internet trolling. He’s relentless, shameless and cartoonishly stupid. Banned from Wall Street three years ago at the tender age of 20 for allegedly unlawfully selling securities (he was finally indicted earlier this year, just shy of the statute of limitations), Wohl has lately remade himself (though fraud is still very much his MO). His greatest achievement this year was his astonishing accusation that Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren was big into BDSM and nearly boned a 24-year-old former Marine to death. Of course, Wohl had no evidence, and the assembled reporters laughed at him. What do you expect from a guy who told a USA Today reporter in February that he planned to create fake left-wing Twitter accounts to help Trump win election? Mitigating factor: Wohl recently held another press conference saying he knew the identity of the whistleblower whose accusations started the recent impeachment inquiry against Trump, though he ultimately declined to release the name and ended up just further humiliating himself.
18) BRADLEY MUHLENKAMP
Long Beach cop Bradley Muhlenkamp was one of two officers who arrived to investigate a January 2017 report of an obviously off-kilter woman holding a 4-inch knife, making verbal threats and pushing a shopping cart near a Veterans Administration hospital parking lot. Sinuon Pream didn’t follow commands to stop and continued to walk away with no other persons nearby, prompting Muhlenkamp and officer Elieser Domingo to close in on the 37-year-old. Claiming he feared the 5-foot-2, 100-pound Pream was going to kill him, a much larger and heavily armed Muhlenkamp fired seven bullets from a distance of about 15 feet after he asserted she lunged at him. But there was a pesky problem: According to the autopsy report, Pream had been shot in the back, making the purported lunge scenario an Olympian backflip feat of historic proportions. She’d also been shot twice in the buttocks. The medical examiner did find a single shot to the abdomen that had a left-to-right and downward trajectory—not front to back. As lawyers for the cop worked to hide photos of the wounds from prosecutors, the police union hailed the killing as righteous. In March, a jury found that Domingo, who fired one shot, and Muhlenkamp had used unreasonable force and that Muhlenkamp’s conduct “shocked the conscience.” Jurors awarded the Pream family (parents and children) $9 million from city coffers, but when government officials threatened a protracted appeal, the parties settled on $7.5 million. Mitigating factor: Given how SoCal law-enforcement organizations work, Muhlenkamp will win salary increases, promotions and eventually become police chief.
19) ALLEGED MAGGIANO’S MASHERS
Former Maggiano’s Little Italy employee Passion Shenay Coleman allegedly returned to her ex-workplace on the South Coast Plaza grounds on Oct. 5, threw a plate at a worker and fled. The 27-year-old is accused of returning that same afternoon with her friend and fellow Fullerton resident Laglennda Damona Carr. She yelled and acted disruptive as Coleman took a bat to the restaurant’s tables and a television, according to the Costa Mesa Police Department. Mugshots were released of the pair in hopes witnesses would come forward. They would have been hard to miss, as those images showed their faces had been painted, with Carr also having somehow managed to get what appears to be a flour facial. Both went on to plead not guilty to vandalizing the restaurant. Mitigating factor: No one was harmed in the making of this spectacle.
20) KEVIN PEDERSEN
Earlier this year, the OCDA rubber-stamped the deadly 2018 shooting of Eliuth Peñaloza Nava by Anaheim police officers Kevin Pedersen and Sean Staymates. Though the OCDA declined to press charges, it did wave a disapproving finger at the trigger-happy cops for firing 76 rounds during the Saturday-morning car chase through residential neighborhoods. Pedersen alone shot 64 times, including through his windshield, as body-camera footage revealed. When Nava’s truck finally came to a stop, the cops unloaded one last volley of bullets into his lifeless body. “Let’s cuff this fucker!” Pedersen said afterward. The weapon brandished by Nava during the chase turned out to be a BB gun. Anaheim PD canned Pedersen, who was on probation at the time, a few months after the deadly shooting. Mitigating factor: Pedersen is now taking a shot at being a private investigator.
21) HUNTINGTON BEACH AX-WIELDING MAN
We’re calling him that because we have no idea who he is. We know he exists because in September, he took an ax to a variety of porch lights, car windows and tires throughout Huntington Beach. The police apparently arrested the guy that night, but what happened next is a bit of a mystery. We called the OCDA to find out if he’d ever been charged or even had a name, but they never got back to us. What’s scarier than that? Mitigating factor: He apparently doesn’t have access to longswords.
22) GERRY SERRANO
Drunk with hubris while sporting a Wooly Willy magnetic mustache, Santa Ana Police Officers Association President Gerry Serrano is the Golden City’s grandest villain. Past election cycles have established his police union as the dominant force in local politics, with its money pouring into the coffers of quislings. But with muscle moves come new enemies—one of whom presumably delivered reporters scathing documents regarding Serrano’s DUI arrest in 2011. A Westminster police report detailed his outbursts against an arresting officer, ones that’d even make an anti-cop anarchist blush! The OCDA declined to prosecute the case, citing insufficient evidence, as Serrano had refused both blood and field-sobriety tests. These days, Serrano’s sycophants are obsessed with trying to recall Republican council members Ceci Iglesias and Juan Villegas, both of whom didn’t vote to give his police-union members a budget-busting, sales-tax-dipping $25.6 million in raises. Mitigating factor: Serrano strong-arming City Hall has exposed SanTana Democrats for being the cop-union-cowering chavalas they are!
23) HARRY SIDHU
Harry Sidhu celebrated his slim victory as Anaheim’s next mayor last November at the Disneyland Hotel by declaring, “We are open for business!” In less than a year, Sidhu hasn’t disappointed. He teamed up with Anaheim First, a Chamber of Commerce astroturf group, to convince residents that all business is good business. Sidhu’s also a negotiator for stadium deals with the Angels—inspiring about as much confidence as the Halos do every feckless September. Being Anaheim mayor also became Sidhu’s best debt-retirement plan, thanks to a corporate buyout of his outstanding loans this year from a failed 2016 state Assembly bid. But Sidhu hasn’t entirely lived up to his election-night promise; he sacked an Arco station in Anaheim Hills set to rival a Shell station that just happened to be owned by his political ally. Mitigating factor: Sidhu’s the first non-white, immigrant mayor in Anaheim’s history—that, and his tenure is already a master class in political corruption.
24) BEAR “BURGER GOD” DEGIDIO
“Burger God” is the BROdacious owner of Ground House Burgers, an Irvine-bred, ground-beef-patty emporium that pooped out a location in Downtown Santa Ana in January. At that time, Bear Degidio had also been hired by Brian Calle as “director of digital” at LA Weekly, and the hamburglar somehow managed to get one of his meat bombs onto the cover of Calle’s other rag, the rack-stealing Irvine Weekly. Degidio’s shtick involves pumping out highly caffeinated social-media videos promoting himself and his meaty creations. Based on a first-hand account in this alt-weekly, we also know that he stages stunts in his joint that include the manhandling of unsuspecting customers. DOOD! NOT COOL! Mitigating factor: Degidio is not currently listed in the LA Weekly staff box—though, to be honest, we’re not sure our former sister publication even exists anymore.
25) CLAUDE PARRISH
If you thought Claude Parrish was above playing vicious hardball politics just because he’s the Orange County assessor, think again. Earlier this year, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach) announced that her AB 608, which would lower taxes on some California small businesses, had been introduced after discussing the issue with Parrish, a Republican supporter of the legislation. Shortly after a July 15 press release was sent out by Petrie-Norris’ office to celebrate Governor Gavin Newsom signing the bill, Parrish repaid her generosity by endorsing Republican Kelly Ernby, who is challenging the Assembly member in the 2020 election. “Deputy District Attorney Kelly Ernby is the best choice in the race for the 74th Assembly District to take on the overtaxing and over-regulating Democrats in Sacramento,” Parrish said, as though AB 608 didn’t even exist. Mitigating factor: Democrats fall for this every time.
26) SERGEANT SLAPPY
In April, a lone Santa Ana police officer, whom we’ll call “Sergeant Slappy,” cleared homeless people from train tracks near Delhi Park before parking his patrol car alongside them. Hovering above, someone began recording what happened next. The officer’s baton dong is whipped out before a hand starts furiously beating it with the reckless abandon of a police-brutality tape. Did Sergeant Slappy self-serve, or was there someone else in the patrol car? Santa Ana PD launched a masturbation investigation after the Weekly published viral video of the sex act. Mitigating factor: It remains to be seen if Sergeant Slappy’s antics, whatever they may be, evade the schlong arm of the law.
27) MICHAEL MATSUDA
Despite not having any experience as a school site administrator, Michael Matsuda became superintendent of Anaheim Union High School District thanks to a coup in 2014. Since then, the district has become a training ground for future Democratic elected officials while offering decent programs for kiddos. It might’ve all been a welcomed departure from the days of whackjob xenophobes such as Harald Martin, but a “yes man” culture deposes and demotes anyone who dares defy Matsuda. Creeping nepotism corrodes its progressive veneer, too. Worst of all, the district will pay $7.9 million to settle a case involving several John F. Kennedy High School officials who failed to report sexual-abuse allegations against a water polo coach to proper authorities. Somehow, several key players remain district employees. Mitigating factor: Fortunately for Matsuda, few Dems seem to give a shit.
Jeffrey Baker was a Caltrans maintenance supervisor in Orange County and worked for years as the only African American in 25 of those positions. For about a decade before being fired, Baker lodged racial-discrimination complaints against bosses without winning relief. He claims he was not only singled out for a level of supervision not applied to his peers, but also that he was repeatedly called the n-word at work. In 2014, he arrived at his Stanton Caltrans yard and found a sturdy, rope noose hanging near a trash bin. When he protested the terroristic threat, an employee responded by saying, “Watch your back,” according to court records in pending litigation over the firing. Caltrans attorneys told the judge that Baker invented racial-discrimination cries as a way to thwart firing for misuse of state property, dishonesty, inexcusable negligence and engaging in other serious misconduct. For example, the agency has accused him of allowing a filthy, illegal homeless camp at an Anaheim freeway underpass and seeking sexual favors from the spot’s female occupants. A forensic examination of Baker’s state-issued cellphone found a photograph of two homeless people engaging in intercourse as well as text messages to a Santa Ana businessman who’d stored equipment at the underpass. Baker had denied knowing the man or accepting gratuities, investigators reported. Mitigating factor: Perhaps we now know why it takes Caltrans so long to fix roads.
29) SIGMA ALPHA EPSILON
Noah Domingo, who graduated in the spring of 2018 from Crescenta Valley High School in La Crescenta, where he played football and basketball, followed his 20-year-old sister Brianna to UC Irvine, where he majored in biology and dreamed of becoming involved in sports medicine for a basketball team. But his dream ended in the early morning hours of Jan. 12, when he died of alcohol intoxication after attending a Sigma Alpha Epsilon event for winter rush week. The university suspended the frat, and both issued “thoughts and prayers” statements to the Domingo family. Noah’s father, Dale, blamed “fraternity hazing.” Mitigating factor: The frat’s national organization closed the Irvine chapter.
30) MARK OWEN LAUN
After meeting a Chinese woman (we’ll call her “Jane Doe”) online in February 2015, Irvine’s Mark Owen Laun spent two weeks with her that June in China and decided to marry her in December. Doe told Laun after she’d moved to Orange County that she didn’t enjoy sexual intercourse, a stance that he advised was against the wishes of Jesus Christ. When that argument failed, he claimed U.S. immigration officials would deport her if she didn’t fulfill what he saw as her marital duties. That threat didn’t work either, so he forced himself on her, according to Doe’s grand-jury testimony. In June 2016, Irvine cops had responded to a 911 call from Doe, who was found bleeding and frightened outside the home. She claimed Laun had broken the top of a beer bottle and stabbed her after she had resisted his advances. Declaring himself duped in a marriage-fraud plot, Laun claimed Doe stabbed herself to win immigration benefits as a domestic-violence crime victim. A jury found him guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and a judge sentenced him to 180 days in jail. Laun appealed, claiming it was absurd to consider a bottle as a deadly weapon when it was used to consume beer. In October, the California Court of Appeal upheld the conviction, saying the broken beer bottle had been converted into an attack tool, not a beverage-delivery device. Mitigating factor: Mark, may we introduce you to this blowup doll?
31) ‘PLAY: THE POWER OF IDEAS’ KID
Anyone who attended the 2019 Newport Beach Film Festival (NBFF) this spring saw before each program a trailer promoting the event. Directed by Johan Stahl from a script by Garage Team Mazda creative director Melissa Webber and Daniel Bremmer, the short film commissioned by NBFF featured images of a little boy playing with a toy figure, shark, car, airplane and his food while adults in the real world suffered the horrific fates he simulated. It ends with the lad twisting around the head of a toy policeman as a real cop’s noggin spins like Regan’s in The Exorcist. A shot of waves crashing on the beach are accompanied by the words “Newport Beach. The Power of Ideas.” Mitigating factor: The kid’s good, but he’s no Bill “You’re a bad man! You’re a very bad man!” Mumy from the “It’s a Good Life” Twilight Zone episode.
Matt Coker, R. Scott Moxley, Anthony Pignataro and Gabriel San Román contributed to this report.