Our Top Ten Stories of the Past Decade

It's almost 2010 and so we've rounded up the Weekly's top ten most memorable and groundbreaking stories of the last decade: Crooked sheriffs, racist punk rockers, creepy billionaires… Orange County, there's just no shortage. So without further ado: Our top ten, in no particular order.

America's Sheriff Exposed

Mike Carona was the darling of Orange County after his department nabbed the killer of a four-year-old girl in 2002–we would've given him the world, and the OC GOP was preparing him to take it. But only our R. Scott Moxley remained unconvinced, and his skepticism proved correct in 2009, when years of exposes finally led to “America's Sheriff” getting indicted for multiple felonies.

Read the full story here.


The Truth Set them Free

Both Joshua Moore and James Ochoa went to prison for crimes they didn't commit, based on overzealous law enforcement–prosecutors insisted Moore, who went by “Big J-Mo” committed an armed robbery based on rap lyrics he wrote, while a Buena Park police officer claimed his sniffing dog ID'ed Ochoa as a perp. We took on their cases, did the thorough work no one else wanted, and sprung these innocent young men out of jail.

Get the original story here, with the follow-up here.

Man Whore!

In the incestuous world of Orange County Republican politics, it doesn't take many qualifications to score a spot among the country's most-powerful GOP good ol' boys or to keep it despite numerous personal indiscretions (paging Mike Carona, John Schmitz, Mickey Conroy…). That might've changed for good when, in a co-investigation with KCBS-TV Channel 2 reporter Dave Lopez, we revealed audiotape of Yorba Linda Assemblyman Mike Duvall bragging to a colleague about his dripping, adulterous ways. Duvall soon resigned, and the nation laughed at our Republicans anew.

See the original breaking blog entry here, and news of Duvall's subsequent resignation here.

From Great Park to Great Pork

In 2002, Orange County voters rejected a measure that would've placed an international airport on the old El Toro Marine base. The Weekly had led the charge in exposing what a fiasco any airport on the property would've become. In its place grew a proposed Great Park that boosters–most prominent among them longtime Irvine politician and Weekly ally Larry Agran–said would rival New York's Central and San Francisco's Goldent Gate. Nearly a decade later, all that stands is a giant orange balloon, as the Great Park became a teat from which Agran and his cronies have feasted on with little shame.

Read the full story here.


The Haidl Gang Rape

It was a case that made prosecutors and police officers nearly vomit: an unconscious teenage girl being raped with a pool cue, Snapple bottle and a lit cigarette by three teenage boys, one of whom happened to be the son of an assistant OC sheriff. The public recoiled in disbelief when the sheriff's department pulled strings to keep Greg Haidl out of prosecutor's grasps, wretched as a defense attorney described the victim as a “tease” (and that was his nicest compliment) and screamed fraud when a jury acquitted them of all charges. They wouldn't go far, though: Scott Moxley's reporting ensured the Haidl Three would not only go to prison, but also bring down two assistant sheriffs and their boss, Mike Carona.

Read the full story here.

Huntington Beach's Bad Mayors

It's hard enough to take down one bad mayor in a town that oozes corruption like its long-capped oil wells, but two? In the beginning of this decade, the culprit was Dave Garofalo, who attempted to sell ads in his own newspaper to people with business before his City Council. In 2003, following a district attorney's investigation sparked by the story, Garofalo finally quit the council˜and then pleaded guilty to one felony and 15 misdemeanor counts of political corruption. A judge barred him from ever seeking political office in California.

That same year, we discovered his successor, Pamela Houchen was even worse: she had illegally converted apartments into condos. The feds nabbed her for on wire fraud charges and gave her a two-year stint in federal prison.

Read the story here.

Heckuva Job, Brownie

As head of the second-largest Catholic diocese west of the Mississippi, you'd think Bishop Tod D. Brown would take his position seriously, would try to act as only as his seat. If only. From allowing pedophiles to roam the county's parishes to protecting them in court, from spending millions of dollars on houses for his priests while telling sex-abuse victims he didn't have any money to pay for their medical needs to lying about the molestation allegations from his past, His Excellency made a mockery of Christ And all along, the Weekly covered his regime, eventually leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and the release of thousands of documents that proved what Weekly readers always knew: Brown's regime is one only a NAMBLA member could love.

Read the full story here.

Stupid Skinhead Tricks!

No less an authority than the Anti-Defamation League has called Orange County the skinhead capital of America, and the Weekly has exposed them at every turn, whether it was the federal trial against the prison gang Aryan Brotherhood, the murder trial against a lisping PEN1 hitman, or the hilarious narrative that resulted after four white supremacists tried to kill a Mexican in a barrio only to get beat up by Mexicans. But the best story of them all was Rich Kane's 2001 expose of a mainstream club that had turned into a haunt for white-power bands. That club is now a popular Mexican club, proving that not only does God have a great sense of humor, he also likes to smash skins.

Read the full story.

Jailhouse Rocked

Petty criminals in Orange County feared one thing the most: the Theo Lacy Men's Jail, where negligent deputies would ignore jailhouse beatings at best, participate at worst. But one beating went too far: murder of John Derek Chamberlain, in for suspected possession of child pornography but outed by deputies as a child molester.

We exposed the active cover-up by higher-ups in the Orange County Sheriff's Department, and those stories led to multiple firings, resignations, a grand jury probe and an FBI civil rights investigation.

Read the full story here.

Henry Nicholas, Superhero

After a few hours, my eyes glazed over, but Henry T. Nicholas III had only begun to talk. The glaze dried into a crust that baked my eyeballs into jelly-filled cookies, which eventually fell out of my head, dropped to the floor, and disintegrated into two little piles of crumbs and goo. We left the mess for the maid.

Henry Nicholas made billions with Broadcom–and then quit at 44. In what was probably the first story that hinted at the depraved soul of Henry T. Nicholas III, writer Dave Wielenga sat down and spent some quality time with the billionaire who was later revealed to not just have committed fraud–allegedly, of course–but also sent his wife to Hawaii for their anniversary for a month while he built a sex bunker beneath their house. 

Read the full story here.

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