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The Fly

DA Doubletake

Will the RALPH SANTOS family ever find justice? First the family was blown off when it approached former Hollister Police Chief LARRY TODD's office about finding the 73-year-old preacher. Santos had wandered off, the family was told. Turns out he was brutally murdered near a mustard-seed orchard. It took Todd's office 10 days to find the body, which made it difficult for the medical examiner to determine a cause of death. Two suspects, ELISEO ROJAS and EUSEBIO RAMOS, were eventually apprehended driving Santos' Kia Optima and devising ways to use his credit cards. Police were even able to extract videotaped confessions from the two, who say they choked Santos with shoelaces and stabbed him repeatedly with a screwdriver. But instead of charging both suspects with murder one, prosecutor JOHN SARSFIELD cut a deal with Rojas' attorney, allowing the suspect to plead to an 11-year sentence, meaning Rojas could be out of jail in about five years. The reasoning? Sarsfield says a jury might not convict because there was no cause of death and, get this, because of the "lifestyle" Santos was allegedly living. It seems Sarsfield is mouthing the rumor Santos was murdered because he tried to entice Rojas and Ramos into sex, causing the much-discussed and much-dismissed homosexual-panic reaction. Never mind that the only people to accuse Santos of coming on to Rojas and Ramos are the two defendants' attorneys. A better explanation might be this: DA Sarsfield is pals with Rojas' attorney BUD LANDRETH, who wrote letters of support for Sarsfield's 2002 election and attended his private swearing-in ceremony. Worst of all: Sarsfield sealed the plea agreement, then told the Hollister newspapers he had the Santos family's support when, in fact, he didn't. Sarsfield already survived one recall effort and a sex scandal in his office, in which the married Sarsfield was outed for sleeping with his office manager. But he likely won't survive the Santos family's wrath when the woesome Sarsfield seeks re-election in '06.

The Deaniac Returneth

HOWARD DEAN couldn't help himself. The former Democratic front-runner let loose a howl similar to the infamous screech speech he gave supporters after last winter's Iowa caucus, a short, sharp growl that left him purple in the face. On Monday, Dean's doting Stanford audience laughed at the self-deprecating jab, which Dean used to make a point at how adept the American media have become at producing entertainment, not news. "If I had seen what I saw on cable television, I wouldn't have voted for me either," he told the crowd of about 1,500. Dean also compared GEORGE W's pre-election tactics to those of former Yugo dictator SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC and took swipes at Dems who want to turn the party into a version of the GOP. The charismatic Dean then took a softer turn, saying Dems must reach out to people of faith in future campaigns. He finished his hour-and-a-half speech by calling on students not just to vote but to run for elected office, especially local seats like the school board and secretaries of state, which oversee elections. We'll soon see if Dean's political life has a third act. Dean was asked twice if, as reported, he was running for the DNC chairmanship. But he sounded more like a guy already campaigning for '08.

Mystery Emailer

One of the more disturbing stories to come out of the election involved East Side Union School District trustee CRAIG MANN and an email sent to some East Side Union High School District officials Oct. 29. The first sign of trouble was whom the email was addressed to: "Wendy, Grand Dragoness of the ESTA KKKLAN." Wendy is WENDY STEGEMAN, who teaches at Andrew Hill High School and is active in the teacher's union. ESTA is the East Side Teachers Association, the union that has strong views on where the district is headed under the guidance of Superintendent ESPERANZA ZENDEJAS. The four-sentence email went on to say how the writer was "terribly embarrassed" to be linked with Stegeman and other union officials. "You are disgusting ... take a look in the mirror if you can stomach it," the email concluded. Who sent the email has been the source of speculation among some East Side teachers. The clever sender managed to insert Stegeman's address in the message's "from" window, a practice known as ghosting. Apparently someone borrowed her email address to deliver the ESTA KKLAN message. A student prank? Stegeman doesn't think so. (A police investigation was inconclusive.) That's where Mann comes in. Some teachers are pointing the finger at him. Why? For one, he's a compulsive emailer who has an acrimonious relationship with the union because of spending decisions and because of his support of Zendejas. For another, teachers say, Mann's fingerprints are all over the email—constant references to "hate" and a propensity to play the race card. Last year Mann told a Metro reporter that he was "not naive enough to forget we live in a less-than-perfect society, where ... upwardly mobile blacks are still viewed by some as uppity niggers." Whoever the sender was also left another clue: the email was copied to Mercury News editorialist JOHN FENSTERWALD, whom Mann often cc's when defending himself against hostile forces. Fensterwald tells Fly he doesn't recall receiving the email—and he would have remembered if he had. The normally loquacious Mann, meanwhile, isn't answering questions. He failed to respond to two phone calls and several emails.

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From the December 1-7, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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