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[whitespace] Al DeGuzman Judging Al: Jailed weapons pack rat gets a break.


Public Eye

Jaw Dropper

Eye's gaze this week falls upon convicted would-be terrorist AL DeGUZMAN, who has a dramatically changed mood and outlook as he awaits final sentencing next Tuesday, not to mention strict orders to keep his mouth shut. Eye watchers may recall the story of the 23-year-old former De Anza College student, who was originally charged with 108 weapons counts and more than a lifetime behind bars because of his seemingly elaborate plans to blow up the Cupertino college campus ("DeGuzman's Demons," Jan. 31, 2002). Well, the young headline-splasher hit presentencing pay dirt on July 31 and--it turns out--by accident. While conducting research on an unrelated case, Superior Court Judge ROBERT P. AHERN discovered an ambiguity in the law that may require dropping 106 of the 108 guilty counts against DeGuzman. CRAIG WORMLEY, one of DeGuzman's attorneys, said that while speaking to opposing legal teams in chambers, Ahern indicated that the law would limit DeGuzman's sentence to seven years, and it would be up to the prosecution to prove otherwise. Ahern pushed the July sentencing date back two months in order to give both sides time to prepare. So, Tuesday, Oct. 1, is the big day for Pen Pal Al, known and beloved by newspapers for his jailhouse letters, which have included apologies for frightening students and assurances that "ass peril" isn't a problem at the local jail. The turn of events, which Wormley said is based on two separate multiple-weapons possession cases, stunned just about everyone, including DeGuzman's defense team. "I walked out of the courtroom with my jaw down to my knees," DeGuzman's other attorney, BARRY REKOON, said. Ahern also reportedly told the two sides that the district attorney may have misfiled the case. Since the police didn't find 50 or 60 destructive devices all over the city, but a cache of weapons in one location, the aggregate of that should be considered one count. However, prosecutor TOM FARRIS says no way: "I was aware of the cases the judge referred to before the DeGuzman case was ever filed. I did not think they applied then, and I still do not," he told Eye. ... In January 2001, DeGuzman was arrested for possessing a large number of guns, homemade bombs and detailed plans for an attack at De Anza College, which were discovered after a photo clerk from Longs Drugs tipped off police about the cache captured on film. Although DeGuzman never used the weapons, the district attorney argued that he would have, if not for his arrest. The defense argued that DeGuzman lived in a fantasy, had no real intention of hurting anyone and tried to get caught by taking his film to Longs. ... After the judge's most recent interpretation of the law, DeGuzman was moved out of the mental-health unit where he had been on suicide watch since the guilty verdict. DeGuzman's friend, SCOTT BERBICK, maintains a website that includes writings and drawings from DeGuzman (www.geocities.com/deguzman_al). Aside from this one creative outlet, the young man once dubbed "the De Anza Bomber" by post-terrorized America has been told by his attorneys to keep quiet. Berbick said Ahern's announcement lent DeGuzman confidence. "He sounded excited, like everything was going to work out pretty well." Wormley, who sports a tattoo on the back of his neck that reads "Criminal Justice" in Mandarin Chinese, is also anticipating a favorable outcome.

Dublin Timing

Mayor RON GONZALES headed to San Jose sister city Dublin, Ireland, and to England in the first two weeks of July on a relationship-building trip of various kinds. But apparently that trip backfired slightly when a San Jose local abroad at the time caught Gonzo necking with his girlfriend and former aide/marital-glitch-symptom GUISSELLE NUNEZ. "Didn't it bother you that your public displays of affection with someone who looks like your daughter might offend the sensibilities of people who live in a nation where divorce is a religious and moral no-no?" the anonymous moralist wrote to Metro in a letter confronting Mayor Casanova. "Next time, if you want to French kiss your young paramour while you are an official representative of the Capital of Silicon Valley, go to Paris." ... Gonzales' loyal spokesguy DAVID VOSSBRINK confirmed that the mayor indeed spent time this summer in Dublin on an economic-development mission aimed at "beginning new relationships" and "strengthening existing relationships." And yes, the girlfriend was there. Vossbrink noted that the city's office-holder's account footed the bill for Gonzo's trip to Dublin--but not gal pal Nunez's--and England paid for the mayor's visit there. The relationships he was supposed to be working on were with city governments. And according to Vossbrink, the officials did compare notes on city issues like affordable housing, and they discussed the potential for direct flights overseas from San Jose Airport. Perhaps Eye's spy needs to accept the fact that the mayor's just got a lot of love to spread around. But we agree, San Jose-Paris is much more appealing flight path than San Jose-Dublin.

Reverse Nepotism

Politically attentive Mountain View groups are a little jumpy about whom to endorse for the approaching Nov. 5 election--particularly in the wake of the council's ejection earlier this year of MARIO AMBRA. Ambra was convicted in April of being a bully and (unlike most politicians) using his power for personal gain. In the case of the Chamber of Commerce Mountain View, which voted on its endorsement Wednesday, Sept. 18, choice-making seems to be, well, impossible. In the race for the two-year seat that Ambra left behind, the council had only to choose between NICK GALIOTTO, a former Mountain View police captain, and BRUCE KARNEY, a 21-year Hewlett-Packard employee. Presumably making the decision easier, Galiotto didn't ask for a Chamber endorsement, Chamber committee member MIKE COUCH confirmed. But for some reason, the Chamber couldn't make up its mind anyway. "It wasn't easy," Couch said of the choice of whom to endorse in this race. "I think Mountain View's really got some exceptional people running for council." This is an interesting reason for not picking either of the two. More interesting: Karney's wife, TWANA KARNEY, works for the Chamber as director for the community-education program Leadership Mountain View. "From the outside, it may seem like there's a connection there," Karney told Eye. But there really is no connection, he explained, because "she's completely nonpolitical." Couch invited his friend Karney to lunch this week to talk about why the Chamber dissed him like that.

Know Your Rites

Eye noted with dismay this week the death of Palo Altan NELSON GALBRAITH, who died at the age of 83 after fighting pneumonia and related infections for nearly five months. Galbraith (the subject of a Metro cover story, "Death Botch," Dec. 9, 1999) had been at the center of a legal firestorm after being arrested, tried and acquitted of homicide in his wife's death (an apparent suicide) based on the 1995 autopsy and findings of former Santa Clara County Chief Medical Examiner- Coroner Dr. ANGELO OZOA. Galbraith sued Ozoa and the county to the tune of $10 million for malicious prosecution and fraud; the case is now pending before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. After a painstaking investigation, the state Medical Board, in July, blasted Ozoa, accusing him of gross negligence, incompetence, unprofessional conduct and acts of dishonesty and corruption--charges he is likely to fight in a hearing next year. (The case is now in the hands of the state attorney general's office.) The cases will go forward despite Galbraith's passing, says his son Dick Galbraith. "We never have been and never will be in it for the money," he says. "We're trying to change the system so people like our father--who are vulnerable to wealthy bureaucracies, which have the money and the juice--can't have their civil rights taken away indiscriminately."


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From the September 26-October 2, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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