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Master Biter

The fight over dog-eat-dog proponent, German shepherd police canine Scooby, who attacked civilian black lab Jake on Jan. 12, continues to divide the Sheriff's Department. The administration and its rank and file disagree about whether Deputy Sheriff Julie Wilbanks should keep her dog--and though that issue is now resolved--previously disagreed on whether she should keep her job. But a supersecret Sept. 17 report from the county counsel's investigator Sgt. David Langley sounds a larger warning bell about the evolutionary state of human-canine relationships. Specifically, the investigation report implies a frightening inability of a police canine handler to pry her dog off another creature. In a taped interview, one witness described a desperate Wilbanks "crying and screaming at Scooby to get off Jake." The witness, who describes himself as "not a dog lover," couldn't remember Wilbanks ever commanding the dog to let go. Instead, he said, Wilbanks told him to kick Scooby. When another neighbor walked up with a two-by-four, the first witness said that Wilbanks also told this other neighbor to hit Scooby "as hard as he could." Jake's owner also gave a taped statement recalling a version of the incident where Wilbanks, while never hitting Scooby herself, kept telling everyone else to strike Poochy. Though she refused, witnesses also apparently asked Wilbanks to shoot the dog. After all, Jake's mom indicated, Scooby was clearly a predator who, she said, "displayed an antagonistic attitude towards Jake," and who seemed intent on "provoking a fight." ... Some bystanders invested in the dispute, like the Deputy Sheriffs Association, which sides with Scooby's handler, opined that Wilbanks should get to keep the dog since he was only acting naturally (in his own homicidal way). Others contend that Scooby, whose teeth required a golf club, a two-by-four and backup to unclench from Jake's neck, shouldn't have the opportunity to bite neighbors anymore. Eye takes the alternative position that a dog--which, incidentally, cost the Sheriff's Department $30,000 precisely because it's trained in biting and killing--probably should get to sit gurulike at the apex of the food chain. In fact, we should from here on out refer to Scooby as our leader. Eye's opinion will undoubtedly be weighed during the continued squabble over Fang, which landed before an arbiter on Dec. 1. ... The handling of Scoobygate could even play a part in determining the next sheriff if Laurie Smith does take some important job handed to her by good buddy Arnold Schwarzenegger, as speculation dictates. Deputy Sheriffs Association head Jose Salcido went to bat both for keeping the dangerous pooch in a residential neighborhood and also for himself becoming the next sheriff, even though Smith hasn't said anything about leaving yet. (In fact, he received a letter from County Counsel Ann Ravel warning him not to lobby the county supes for an appointed position as interim sheriff during work hours--although Ravel says that letter's just a little something she sends out to county employees routinely whenever anyone suggests they might not know the rules.) Chatterboxes say that the Scooby thing already nearly bit Salcido in the butt, handing him the DSA chief position by a mere razor-thin, nine-vote margin in the last election. (Salcido boosters counter that the entire DSA membership voted with Salcido to support Wilbanks.) Salcido says he hasn't done anything improper, the letter from Smith's attorney Ravel notwithstanding. "Frankly, I think there's too much politics in this town, and I'm going to stay away from that," he says. Eye won't though. Watch for Salcido opponents to mention the Scooby scrap as an example of his judgment if he becomes an official contender for the county's top law enforcement job.

Fight Club

So downtown San Jose night life finally made national news, but not in the way downtown enthusiasts wanted. At closing time last Sunday morning, 41-year-old Raul Curiel died from a reported stab wound while partying inside Zoë Nightclub. Two other people died in unrelated incidents that same weekend, driving the number of homicides in the city this year to 27. ... The shock and questions remain. How could this happen with the amount of security inside and outside Zoë Nightclub, and the constant police presence already coursing through the downtown nightclub sector at closing time? Whatever safeguards the city installs are easily tripped by whatever transpired between the assailant and the late Mr. Curiel. ... The death is an obvious tragedy for the family and friends of Curiel. A small, insignificant side effect is the resulting public relations blow to the South First area, which has already felt a drop in business, especially since the opening of Santana Row. ... For Tommy Aguilar, who promotes hip-hop and DJ shows at South First Street venues MACLA and Agenda Lounge, the homicide makes it that much harder to attract people to the area. Aguilar will know for sure this weekend, when O-Maya performs at MACLA. "For me--one who promotes shows on South First a lot--it's tough enough to get people down here and get familiar with the area," he says. "When the only big publicity, front-page news, comes when someone gets stabbed, to me that really hurts."

No Means Yes

Assemblymember John Dutra isn't the only guy who gets to play fast and loose with his opinions. During the race to replace his termed-out behind, Eye fans will recall that Dutra first gaveth then tooketh away his endorsement of former Milpitas Mayor Henry Manayan. Well, the fact that Assemblymember Multi-Face ended up giving his nod to Newark City Councilmember Alberto Torrico makes more sense after last month's developments. It seems Torrico also doesn't like to be pinned down. ... In August, he courted labor's backing on a candidate questionnaire from the SEIU California State Council. On the Democratic-side-splitting issue of spending caps, SEIU asked Torrico, "Do you support or oppose efforts to implement constitutional spending limits that are more restrictive than those currently in place?" Torrico declared, "I oppose these efforts." But in November, he had another opportunity to say how he really felt when the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce asked for his position on "placing spending caps on increases that can be spent by the state government." Torrico responded, "I support the concept of capping growth in expenditures." ... Those watching the race are scratching their heads. "It's quite clear he's basically saying one thing to one group and another thing to another group," offers Deep Throat No. 52. So, is he with business, or labor? Is he moderate like the Dutra-formed caucus that endorsed him or liberal like the unions and labor pal Cindy Chavez, who's spoken on his behalf? No one knows, says some baffled insiders. In an effort to ward off confusion, Torrico explains that "when we did the SEIU questionnaire, it was earlier in the summer when the breadth and depth of the budget [deficit was] not fully clear." But by the time Chamber questionnaire time rolled around, Torrico knew that he "would put the spending cap in that category [of] something we need to seriously consider." ... It's as uncertain as Torrico's view on spending caps whether his case of Lempert-itis (unleashed during a recent Senate-race incident) is bad enough for the SEIU to unendorse Torrico, as they did candidate Ted Lempert, who sent mixed messages while vying against Joe Simitian for Byron Sher's Sacto seat.

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From the December 4-10, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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