Judge orders removal of San Diego war cross
SAN DIEGO (AP) - A federal judge in San Diego says a 43-foot war memorial cross must be removed from the top of a mountain in 90 days because it violates the principle of separation of church and state.
U.S. District Judge Larry Burns said Thursday that it's time for the long-running case to end.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that the cross atop Mount Soledad violated the Constitution. After the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the case went back to Burns to consider any alternatives.
Burns says it might have been a closer call if the federal government was on the verge of transferring the property to a private owner. He says the order to remove the cross would be put on hold if there is an appeal.
CITY CORRUPTION-TAX FRAUD
Ex-city manager agrees to plead guilty in tax case
LOS ANGELES (AP) - The disgraced former city manager of the Los Angeles suburb of Bell has agreed to plead guilty to charges that he filed a false federal income-tax return to illegally reduce his tax liability.
Federal prosecutors say a plea agreement filed Thursday shows Robert Rizzo agreed to plead guilty to one count each of conspiracy and filing a false federal income-tax return. He faces up to eight years in prison.
The 59-year-old Rizzo admitted he created a corporation to fraudulently claim losses on his income-tax return. The losses to the Internal Revenue Service totaled more than $300,000.
Rizzo pleaded no contest in October to 69 counts of fraud, misappropriation of public funds and other charges for allegedly orchestrating a brazen corruption scandal that drove Bell to the brink of bankruptcy.
DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES
Feds indict 24 for SoCal drug trafficking ring
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Law enforcement officials have unsealed three federal indictments charging 24 alleged gang members and their associates with operating a widespread narcotics network throughout the Southern California area.
The announcement and 12 arrests on Thursday capped an 18-month multi-agency drug trafficking investigation dubbed "Operation Rose Bud." The arrests are in addition to two suspects already in custody, two who were deported, three still under investigation and five remaining fugitives.
The operation targeted the Varrio Pasadena Rifa street gang, which allegedly sold and distributed crystal methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin in the San Gabriel and Antelope valleys. Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez says the drugs came from the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel.
Investigators seized meth, heroin and cocaine with a street value of $2.5 million.
Navy investigator to plead guilty in fraud case
SAN DIEGO (AP) - The lawyer for a senior Navy investigator says his client plans to plead guilty in a massive bribery scheme involving an Asian defense contractor.
Attorney Jan Ronis says John Beliveau II will plead guilty to bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery at a hearing Tuesday in federal court in San Diego.
Beliveau is a supervisory agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. He's accused of accepting luxury travel and prostitution services in exchange for tipping off defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis about a Navy probe into allegations his firm was overbilling the military.
Ronis declined to say whether his client had agreed to cooperate with investigators in the expanding probe. Several people have been arrested, including Francis and two Navy captains.
LAFD INFORMATION BLACKOUT
LA Fire Department lifts news blackout
LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles Fire Department has reversed course after abruptly beginning to withhold all but the most basic information about emergencies.
A department spokesman says the blackout went into effect early Thursday under a sweeping order by the city attorney's office involving concerns about violation of federal health privacy law.
The interpretation also blocked the Fire Department's social media messages and potential release of 911 tapes from the recent deadly shooting of a TSA officer at Los Angeles International Airport.
The order regarding emergency information had the immediate effect of throwing roadblocks in the way of news media reports on a fire that raged through an apartment building, killing two people, injuring others and displacing two-dozen people.
The order was rescinded before noon.
Jurors reach penalty decision in OC killings
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - An Orange County jury has reached a verdict on whether to recommend death or life in prison for a man who killed his ex-girlfriend's father and sister and slashed her mother's throat.
The Orange County Register says a Superior Court jury reached the verdict on Thursday but the judge postponed its reading until next Monday.
Iftekhar Murtaza of Los Angeles was convicted last month of murder and other crimes.
Authorities say Murtaza killed the relatives of Shayona Dhanak in 2007 after she blamed her decision to break up on her Hindu family's objection to Dhanak dating a Muslim.
Prosecutors said Murtaza attacked Dhanak's mother, who survived, torched the family's home in the Anaheim Hills, and killed Dhanak's father and sister, whose burned bodies were found in a park.
Boeing to shift research jobs to South, Midwest
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Boeing is shifting hundreds of jobs to Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina as it restructures its research and technology operations.
The Chicago-based aerospace company said Thursday that it will decrease its research operations in Washington state and California as part of the change.
The announcement comes as those same states, and several others, compete to assemble Boeing's 777X passenger plane.
Boeing spokesman Daryl Stephenson says the restructuring of research operations is unrelated to the new airplane and was in the works long beforehand.
The company is adding 300-400 employees each in Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina. Research jobs are declining by 800-1,200 in Washington and by 200-300 in California.
O'Neal lawyers rest case over portrait by Warhol
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Ryan O'Neal's attorneys have concluded their defense of the actor in a lawsuit aimed at making him relinquish an Andy Warhol portrait of Farrah Fawcett that he says he has owned since 1980.
The actor's case ended Thursday with brief testimony from his son, Redmond O'Neal, and a chiropractor who watched Fawcett work on sculptures.
Closing arguments are expected Friday.
The University of Texas at Austin is suing O'Neal to gain a silkscreen portrait of the actress created by Warhol for a television special.
The lawsuit claims Fawcett left all her artwork to her alma mater and that O'Neal improperly took the artwork out of her condominium days after her death in 2009.
O'Neal says he had permission from the trustee of Fawcett's estate to remove the portrait.
Warhol created two portraits of Fawcett and the university was given one after her death.
Hollywood Park relocates infield flamingos
INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) - The flamingos that dotted the infield lake at Betfair Hollywood Park have found a new home ahead of the racetrack closing.
A bird expert from the Los Angeles Zoo and a 10-member crew caught all but two of the 12 flamingos this week. The birds were transferred via a horse van to Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, Calif., where they will live.
The track says two other birds escaped, but they will be rounded up in the next couple of weeks.
The 75-year-old racetrack will run its last race on Dec. 22. The Inglewood site is scheduled to be redeveloped next year.
GIANT LOBSTER CAUGHT
Swimmer nabs monster lobster off California coast
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. (AP) - Joseph Ali says onlookers thought he was drunk when he dove into the nighttime waters around a Southern California pier. But he came away with a monster of a lobster and the catch of a lifetime.
Ali tells the Orange County Register (http://bit.ly/IQe4r3) he was closing his father's business, Zack's Pier Plaza in Huntington Beach, on Monday when he saw the ocean was calm and decided to dive for dinner.
He was down about 15 feet going after a smaller lobster when he saw the giant. He says it was too big to grab properly, but it latched onto him, and he wrestled it to shore.
The lobster weighed nearly 18 pounds - even a 5-pounder is considered trophy-sized - and was likely at least 30 years old.
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