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[whitespace] Fifth Sense: Leslie Nichols may no longer be presiding judge, but there is still fallout from his decision to disband the grand jury.

Same as the Old Boss

Although he is no longer presiding judge of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, Leslie Nichols continues to shape the legacy of the recent civil grand jury fiasco. On Monday, newly seated Presiding Judge Jack Komar met with most of the disbanded grand jury in what was described by one as an "exit interview." But notably absent were the five dissident jurors whom Nichols tossed off the panel two weeks ago. Dissidents were in charge of two of the more controversial grand jury investigations: the Santa Clara County Water District and the Berryessa Union School District. Grand jury investigations were left hanging and files were reportedly in disarray after Nichols abruptly suspended the jury's activities in late December and then disbanded the jury itself 10 days later. "I really can't talk about anything the judge said," says non-dissident juror Jack Givens, who attended the Komar meeting. "But I can assure you it wasn't a gossip session. There were just questions that needed to be answered. It was a quasi-legal type of thing, since we are discharged and we're not an official group anymore." Last week, Komar told Metro that he had no plans to meet with the dissident jurors to find out what led to the grand jury breakup. He was unavailable to enlighten us about the recent meeting. On Monday night, dissident Jessica Lloyd-Rogers said she hadn't heard about the meeting until Eye called. "But I'm not surprised that they met without us," she says. As for Judge Nichols, he doesn't seem to want to talk about the whole mess anymore. When Eye contacted him last week to get a comment on his ruling to disband the grand jury, he tersely refused to respond and then abruptly hung up, without even saying goodbye. Court adjourned.


A Civil Action

In one of his first official acts as mayor, Ron Gonzales is asking City Attorney Joan Gallo to schedule a closed-session meeting on Jan. 19 to discuss pending litigation over the Jose Theatre. Since the meeting would be secret, Eye doesn't know exactly what he wants to talk about. At the moment, the historic theater is being protected by a temporary judicial stay of execution, but preservationists hope to get a full mayoral pardon for the Jose. ... During the campaign, Gonzo repeatedly said he opposed demolishing the theater. In a recent interview, he told Eye he hoped to persuade his colleagues to save the old vaudeville house and discuss the legalities with Gallo. Here's the tricky part: The City Council under Susan Hammer already signed an agreement with developer Jim Fox, who wants to build an apartment complex on the site. Breaking the deal could expose the city to a major lawsuit by Fox, a point that Gallo will likely argue behind closed doors. So the fate of the Jose is not an entirely political decision at this point, though politics continue to play a supporting role. A final footnote: Gonzales just might have an ally on this issue in new downtown Councilmember Cindy Chavez, who also opposed the Jose's demolition.


Chill Bill

Surfers from the valley tired of snobby Santa Cruz locals bad-vibing them may find justice in a new bill making its way to Sacramento. The proposed bill seeks to make the fine art of "localism" a punishable offense. Called the "California Open Waves Act," the legislation is currently under review by the San Diego City Council. If it's approved there, it goes to Sacramento and becomes statewide law if enacted. ... For all you ho-dads out there, a "local" is surf speak for someone who claims priority at a specific surf spot. Locals graciously refer to outsiders as "maggots" and use threats and intimidation to keep crowds down. Lighthouse Point in Santa Cruz is one of the heaviest local scenes in all of surfing, and lapses in etiquette there are frequent. ... "The goal is to reduce the amount of antagonism in the surf lineup," says San Diego lifeguard chief Chris Brewster, who wrote the bill. ... The legislation defines localism as an "attempt to intimidate or prevent another person from exercising lawful use of ocean resources." The bill reasonably calls for 60 days behind bars for a first offense (30 days if the crime occurs on land), and a year's banishment from the surf spot where the incident occurs. ... At least one surfer, a longboarder from Los Gatos who begged for anonymity, thinks the bill is a good idea. "Those Santa Cruz guys can be real dicks," he opined. "They should be held accountable."


Copy Cat

Metro cover boy Joe Firmage ("Silicon Valley CEO Meets the Aliens," Dec. 10) finally fell on his sword last week, choosing to resign from USWeb/CKS Group rather than further expose the company he created to his--shall we say "unorthodox"?--beliefs. In November, Firmage posted a book on the web at www.thewordistruth.org that alleges, among other things, that aliens have been visiting Earth and perpetrating periodic miracles for the last few millennia. Some of the many little goodies were left behind in the innards of the mythic spaceship at Roswell, chock full of the stuff of the computer age: fiber optics, microchips and the laser. In their haste to catch up to a cover story Metro published a month ago, Chron tech stenographer Jon Swartz busted out a story of his own on Jan. 9. Incredibly, it contained the same conclusions, sources and facts that appeared in our story (with nary a nod to Metro's reporting). In fact, four out of Swartz's six sources appeared in Metro, as well as many of the same facts and passages plucked out of Firmage's 600-page tome. Coincidence? Perhaps. Or maybe we were visited by the same aliens.


Tickled Pink

When the jury deliberated this week in the Pink Poodle murder trial, apparently it didn't need the assistance of a couple of famous character witnesses for Hells Angel.Steve Tausan. The acquitted strip-club bouncer, charged with beating a man to death in the back of the Burbank club, was purportedly once a bodyguard to the likes of skin-flick legends Amber Lynn and Jenna Jameson (a regular on the Howard Stern show) during their road travels. Defense attorney Dennis Roberts says that in the days before wrapping up the case he considered calling Tausan's former bosom buddies to the stand to testify on the murder suspect's behalf. But he later decided that the more sensitive jurors probably didn't need any more titillation than the media-saturated case already offered.


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From the January 14-20, 1999 issue of Metro.

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