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LAW AND DISORDER


UCSB police and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating a former UCSB engineer, Neil Baker, who allegedly posted death threats on the “Rants and Raves” page of Craigslist.org. Baker, who was fired from UCSB in 2004 and now lives in Washington, reportedly mentioned the one-year anniversary of the Goleta postal shootings and noted he had “been thinking about killing my former bosses and shithead coward co-workers.” As the investigation continues, UCSB has ordered the Engineering Sciences Building locked to all but authorized personnel and stationed a police officer in the lobby.

Lenae Stahr, one of the four people arrested in connection with the allegedly forged will of Beverly Graham, was cited by sheriff’s deputies on January 18 on suspicion of stealing multiple copies of Carpinteria’s Coastal View News. Stahr confessed she burned the newspapers in her fireplace in order to prevent her neighbors from reading the article about her arrest. Sheriff’s Department spokesman Erik Rainey said the maximum punishment for stealing newspapers is $1,000 and a year in prison. Meanwhile, Stahr awaits trial for allegedly concocting a phony will for Graham, the first victim of last year’s Goleta postal shootings.

Santa Barbara prosecutors indicated the new U.S. Supreme Court ruling invalidating California’s sentencing laws will probably have minimal local impact. The high court justices ruled it should be up to juries – not judges – to determine whether the criminal aggravations needed for the judge to impose stiffer sentences have been proved. (In California, judges currently make that determination.) But since about 90 percent of Santa Barbara’s cases are settled by plea bargaining, few ever go to trial before either a judge or a jury. Most of the defendants convicted under the old system – now deemed unconstitutional – have already served their sentences.

Santa Barbara City Hall hopes to negotiate a settlement with Michael Tocher, who was arrested for disturbing the peace two years ago after he spent more than three hours reading the names of American military personnel killed in Iraq through a bullhorn in front of Borders on State Street. The American Civil Liberties Union argued City Hall violated Tocher’s free speech, and noted that the arresting officer failed to warn Tocher he was disturbing the peace before arresting him or to tell him he could recite the names without a bullhorn. In late October, both sides asked a federal judge to throw out the other’s case; two weeks ago, the judge threw out the city’s case and ordered the parties to try to reach a settlement. Negotiations will take place this Friday.

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