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LAW AND DISORDER

It took a jury little more than four hours to find Carlos Varela
guilty of the stabbing murder of his former girlfriend and UCSB
graduate Holly Lake. Varela, 26, faces 26 years to life in a state
prison. The verdict came after six emotionally charged days of
testimony, including sordid details of the couples’ crystal meth
use, Varela’s bone chilling recap of Lake’s murder, and details of
his subsequent suicide attempts. Defense attorneys tried, albeit
unsuccessfully, to paint the murder as a crime of passion, which
entails a much shorter jail sentence.

Luis Sosa pleaded not guilty Monday of fatally shooting Santa
Barbara resident Frank Tacadena, 60, two months ago. Both Sosa’s
case and that of his codefendant, John Lopez, are assigned to Judge
Frank Ochoa. Police claim Sosa was the triggerman, but that he
didn’t personally know Tacadena. Witnesses reported nasty words
exchanged between Sosa and Tacadena before the shot was fired.
Lopez, who was with Sosa at the time of the shooting, has also
pleaded not guilty. According to county prosecutors, Sosa killed
Tacadena the same day he got out of County Jail. In custody for
violating the conditions of his probation, Sosa served only six
days of his 34-day sentence because of jail overcrowding.

Two criminal cases involving bicyclist deaths at the hands of
motorists are now making their way through the court system.
Ernesto Botello, the 24-year-old SUV driver who accidentally killed
Jake Boysel on his way to school two months ago, pleaded not guilty
to involuntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of
one year in county Jail. Meanwhile, no deal has been reached
between prosecutors and the attorney representing Marcos Almaguer,
the truck driver who accidentally killed UCSB student Kendra Payne
as she biked up Gibraltar Road. In response to Payne’s
death – which attracted considerable media
attention – Assembly-member Pedro Nava introduced a bill requiring
motorists to allow cyclists at least 36 inches of headway. The bill
never made it out of the first committee to which it was
assigned.

A Los Angeles County judge has allowed four Santa Barbara
molestation cases to proceed against Father Matthew Kelly, now
deceased, who taught and said mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe from
the 1940s to the 1970s. The Kelly cases are among the 80 given the
green light to proceed last week by Judge Haley Fromholz. Attorney
Tim Hale, representing the four Santa Barbara plaintiffs, described
Kelly as a “serial predator” who preyed upon poor kids from broken
families by taking them to his Santa Ynez mountain retreat, plying
them with booze, and taking sexual advantage of them. The
archdiocese has not denied the allegations against Kelly, but
maintains it knew nothing of Kelly’s mode of operation and thus
could take no protective steps. Hale claims his witnesses will say
otherwise. About 500 molestation cases were filed against the
archdiocese three years ago; they were put on hold pending
mediation efforts that have since proven unsuccessful.

There was a conspicuous dearth of Michael Jackson jokes – or any
joking at all – at District Attorney Tom Sneddon’s ceremonial
send-off Friday at the DoubleTree Resort. Sneddon was wined, dined,
and speechified by about 450 well-wishers – a who’s who of Santa
Barbara political and courthouse circles – who showed up to bid
adieu to the county’s most powerful law enforcement official for
the past 24 years. Sneddon, who is preparing for retirement, has
served as a prosecutor in Santa Barbara since 1969.

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