This weekend you are updated on: the long prison sentence for man who choked out his boss; even longer sentences possible for two would-be jewelry store robbers whose two partners were shot to death by the shop owner; another controversy for teacher accused of arranging beach sex-booze-cocaine romp with male students; jail for a guy who was shot into critical condition by police officers; and community service for a former parent-teacher organization president who embezzled funds from the group.
Update: Gerald Guy Byrne was sentenced Friday to 55 years to life in state prison for choking his boss to death in the victim's Santa Ana home to keep him from telling authorities about rape allegations against him. Byrne, 54, had done odd jobs for Charles Samo, who was killed on July 19, 2009–his 69th birthday. The body of the retired fire marshal who had started a new career as an expert witness in personal injury cases was found two days later in his bed at his condo in the 2500 block of West McArthur Boulevard. Byrne had come into Samo's life through a former prostitute who had on-again, off-again relations with Byrne and who Samo had befriended, taken under his wing and hired as his assistant. Melinda Quecke Hale persuaded Samo to hire Byrne for odd jobs, but months later she told her boss that Byrne raped her, something he vehemently denied.
Update: Two men were convicted this week of “provocative act murder,” the legal theory that their participation in a botched jewelry store robbery led to the deaths of two of their accomplices, who were shot to death by the shop owner. Alan Keith Hunter, 43, of Moreno Valley, was a lookout and he and James Stephan Paschall, 44, of Gardena, drove getaway vehicles in the June 24, 2011, would-be heist with four others of Monaco Jewelers on Doheny Park Road in San Juan Capistrano. Robert Earl Avery was armed when he joined fellow 39-year-old Desmond Brown and Eddie Clark Sr., 53, of Los Angeles, in entering the store, where Avery walked out of the showroom and into the work area, pulled out the firearm and attacked the store manager, pointing the gun at the man's head and chest. The store owner then shot Avery
three times and Brown three times as he was running toward him. Both Brown and Avery died at the scene, while Clark Jr. fled the scene. Hunter was found guilty by a jury this week of one felony count of first degree murder and one felony count of attempted second degree robbery. Due to previous felony convictions for conspiracy to commit robbery and armed bank robbery in 1995, Hunter could be sentenced to 60 years to life in state prison at a May 15 hearing in Santa Ana. But Paschall, who was convicted on the same counts, could get 105 years to life the same sentencing day because of his prior felony convictions for conspiracy to commit bank robbery in 1993 and armed bank robbery in 1995. Clark Sr., who pleaded guilty to five felony counts in December, was looking at 10 years in state prison at his sentencing Friday. George Anthony Boozer, a 36-year-old Apple Valley resident who was also part of the job, pleaded guilty on May 22, 2013, to six felony counts and now faces up to 12 years and four months in state prison at his May 5 sentencing.
Two Lady Teachers Plead Not Guilty in Sex-Booze-Cocaine Beach Party with Boys
Update: A high school teacher–who is accused of arranging and participating in a sex-booze-cocaine beach party with male students in San Clemente–has also been outed by a newspaper for attending a two-day retreat at a Laguna Beach resort with 13 administrators and teachers who had their rooms, dinner and go-karting paid for with funds from a student-run account. No students at South Hills High School in West Covina attended the August getaway, according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune (hey, that's where I interned!), which cited documents it obtained in breaking the story. The paper reports that the guest list included Melody Suzanne Lippert, a South Hills High teacher who along with Covina Valley Unified School District employee Michelle Louise Ghirelli pleaded not guilty in Orange County Superior Court in March to felony sex charges related to the unauthorized overnight camping trip in San Clemente with five male students, who were allegedly plied with cocaine and alcohol. The school district's own policy prohibits the use of Associated Student Body funds for faculty meetings or employee meals, but with $4,000 in South Hills High ASB funds the teachers and administrators attended the retreat that included three seminars and a Covina Valley district hosted “happy hour,” the Trib reports. Controversies are piling up at South Hills High, which had a coach sentenced last year to three years probation after he pleaded no contest to charges that he stole thousands from school students that officials told him to deposit into the ASB's account.
Scott Jay Abraham Could Get Up to 12 Years After Being Shot by Newport Beach Cop
Update: Scott Jay Abraham, who was shot by Newport Beach Police last summer, pleaded guilty this week to assault with a semiautomatic firearm and was sentenced to 240 days in jail and five years probation. The 43-year-old copped to two felony counts of assault with a semiautomatic weapon, and three more felony counts–two for assault with a semiautomatic rifle and one of grossly negligent discharge of a firearm–were dropped. Officers responding to the sound of gunshots arrived in the 4600 block of Seashore Drive just before 9:45 p.m. last July 11 to find Abraham walking out of the residence and onto a beach-facing patio and open fire at least once in the direction of the ocean, although it was not clear if he was aiming at anything in particular. Two officers then opened fire on Abraham, who was taken to Western Medical Center in Santa Ana in critical condition. The cops were unharmed.
Gail Diane Panella-Monestere, Former Parent Teacher Group President, Accused of $22k Theft
Update: Gail Diane Monestere, who as the parent-teacher organization president embezzled more than $22,000 from the PTO at Sun View Elementary School in Huntington Beach, has been sentenced to 480 hours of community service and three years of probation. She has been in and out of jail since pleading guilty in September due to an inability to meet deadlines to pay back the money. She still owes the Sun View PTO $2,758.32, but Orange County and may also owe up to about $14,000 to a bank for racking up credit card debt on her father's account after he died, according to prosecutors.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.