News briefs
Published - 12/20/13 - 03:06 PM | 3729 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former PLHS, UCHS teacher, 67, gets 7-year sentence — A retired teacher at Point Loma and University City high schools was sentenced Dec. 6 to seven years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to obtaining child pornography on his home computer.

James Rick Mitchell, 67, is free on bond until he surrenders by Feb. 7 in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino.

Mitchell worked for the San Diego Unified School District for 34 years from 1969 until his retirement in 2003. He worked as a math teacher and track coach at Point Loma High School and University City High School, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

His most recent work included 24 years at University City High. He also worked at Einstein Junior High School as a physical-education teacher.

There are no allegations of molestation. The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Service and he was identified as purchasing videos and images of minors engaging in sexual activity. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Mitchell was in possession of 4,751 videos of child porn and many more images.

Sammartino told Mitchell he had cast a “pallor” on his career as an educator. She said child pornography causes “acute harm” to children depicted in the images. The U.S. Attorney Office calculated that Mitchell paid about $4,300 to purchase the images and videos.

— Neal Putnam Hearing for La Jolla shootings delayed — The preliminary hearing for Hans Antone Petersen involving the Sept. 18 shootings in two La Jolla homes in which two men were wounded was delayed Dec. 5 to Jan. 13.

Petersen, 49, of University City, is charged with attempting to kill Steven and Lisa Dowdy and Ron Fletcher all on the same night. He is also accused of shooting at an inhabited structure and burglary of Fletcher’s home.

Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund said Petersen, a biotech executive, fired multiple shots through the master bedroom window of Steven Dowdy, 53, a University of California cancer researcher. Dowdy was shot in the back, but his wife was not hurt in the 3 a.m. shootings.

Petersen was to appear Dec. 18, the original preliminary hearing date, for a status conference before San Diego Superior Court Judge Leo Valentine, Jr., and return to his courtroom for a preliminary hearing that may take one day of testimony.

Petersen remains in custody on $5 million bail and has pleaded not guilty to three counts of attempted murder, firing into an occupied dwelling and burglary. Petersen has no prior record and previously served as CEO of several firms.

Maund said Petersen was angry with Steven Dowdy over a failed business deal. Around 6:40 a.m., Petersen allegedly broke into the Cottontail Lane home of Fletcher, 50, his estranged brother-in-law, and shot him in the stomach. Fletcher was able to overpower Petersen by hitting him with his own gun.

— Neal Putnam Motorcyclist pleads guilty to felony evading — A motorcyclist described as the organizer of a group of other motorcyclists who rode at high speeds in La Jolla pleaded guilty Dec. 11 to evading police with reckless driving.

Shadrach Daniel Farmer, 31, of Lakeside, will be sentenced Jan. 13 and is expected to get 180 days in jail, according to court records. He remains in jail after a judge found he was in violation of probation terms in an unrelated domestic violence case.

There were complaints from La Jolla residents about motorcyclists who were riding at high speeds in the area late at night. Farmer pleaded guilty before San Diego Superior Court Judge Eugenia Eyherabide.

At his preliminary hearing Oct. 29, a police officer testified he used a radar device to clock Farmer going 77 mph in a 45 mph zone at 10:15 p.m. on Torrey Pines Road. The officer said he tried to pull him over, but Farmer sped up, and a police helicopter was used to locate him.

Farmer was arrested on Prospect Place and was driving on a suspended license with no insurance. Farmer had posted $50,000 bond, but was jailed Oct. 29 for failing to enroll in a 52-week domestic batterer course as part of his probation. Farmer also had not performed five days of public work service.

— Neal Putnam Man gets 34 years in Midway, Torrey Pines robberies — A prison term of 34 years and four months was handed down Dec. 16 for an armed robber of three 7-Eleven stores on Midway Drive and in Torrey Pines and 13 other stores elsewhere.

The attorney for Luis Alonso Cruz, 25, asked for the sentence he received while the prosecutor sought an 89-year prison term before San Diego Superior Court Judge Eugenia Eyherabide.

Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle said Cruz pulled a gun on 13 people in small businesses in a robbery spree in 2012 and asked for consecutive terms. Three other victims were robbed without a gun pointed at them.

Eyherabide fined Cruz more than $11,000. She specifically ordered Cruz to pay $132 to the 7-Eleven store at 13835 Mango Drive in Torrey Pines and $170 and $100 each to the 7-Eleven stores on Midway Drive that were robbed in August 2012. She ordered Cruz to pay nearly $3,000 to the other stores that were held up.

Cruz’ attorney, Monique Carter, said her client will have to serve 85 percent of the 34-year term before he can be paroled. She said Cruz will be “close to an elder” when he is paroled, and she added that he does have remorse.

Cruz, who said nothing in court, has a residential burglary conviction from 2010. His mother, sister and niece watched the sentencing. He received jail credits of 506 days.

Cruz pleaded guilty Aug. 27 to 16 counts of robbery and felon in possession of a firearm.

A co-defendant, Alex Sanchez, 24, was sentenced Sept. 10 to 25 years in prison for 13 of the same robberies. The only gunfire was by Sanchez who shot into a wall in one 7-Eleven store in Clairemont.

The other stores held up were located in North Park, Chula Vista, La Mesa, Carlsbad, Linda Vista, Mira Mesa and Mission Valley.

— Neal Putnam
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