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Bill Macfadyen: Rebel Skateboarders Yanking Our Chains in Civil War at Skater’s Point

High-profile motorcycle case is dismissed in NoozWeek's Top 5, which includes a SWAT call and a pair of shark sightings. Meanwhile, chat with Noozhawk's publisher Tuesday

What were you reading on Noozhawk this past week?

1. City Throws in Towel on Skateboard Park Closure

Over three days in early July 1863, Union and Confederate forces fought one of the fiercest and deadliest battles of the Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg holds a special place in American history, and its hallowed ground currently is the scene of a massive re-enactment on the 150th anniversary of the North’s victory, an outcome that may well have saved the Republic.

It remains to be seen how history will judge the Standoff at Skater’s Point, but — good Lord — you would have thought the stakes were the same now as then. In case you’re not interested in the Ken Burns documentary, here’s the TMZ version:

A handful of ruffians at the waterfront skateboard park hurled water balloons and insults at passers-by and City of Santa Barbara employees.

The city responded by closing the park July 2, barricading its entrances and lining the bowls with heavy chains.

Skateboarders vandalized the barriers and used bolt-cutters to remove the chains.

More than a half-dozen Santa Barbara police officers were deployed to keep an eye on things. Instead, skateboarders surrounded one squad car and took selfies of their “sit-in” with their smart phones.

With better things to do for the Fourth of July, the city raised the white flag and reopened the skate park July 3.

Did I miss anything?

Look, I’m in no way excusing the actions that caused the ruckus in the first place. The park at times is a magnet for troublemakers and even drug deals, but, let’s be honest, so is the rest of the waterfront. Vagrants aggressively badger locals and tourists alike at various points along the bike path east of Stearns Wharf. If we tolerate that there — and we do — why is anyone surprised that Skater’s Point is a zoo, too?

Taxpayers own the park, which — if memory serves — was built to provide restless youth with a recreational option that didn’t involve the destruction of walls, curbs and any other smooth piece of concrete around here. If the city wants to take it back, hire the equivalent of lifeguards to monitor it, install security cameras, station rangers there, or just dump sand in the damn thing. There’s a beach full of it not 10 feet away!

The motorcyclist who ran into this SUV during an alleged street race died of his injuries, but the vehicle’s three occupants escaped unharmed in the March 2 collision on Foothill Road in Santa Barbara. (Santa Barbara Fire Department photo)

2. Judge Tosses Manslaughter Case Against Motorcyclists

Raul Ibarra, 24, of Santa Barbara, died March 2 when he crashed his motorcycle head-on into an SUV on Foothill Road near the Santa Barbara Tennis Club. He allegedly was racing two companions, one of whom, 24-year-old Jonathan Alvarez Leon, was seriously injured when he laid down his motorcycle to avoid the collision. The other biker, 23-year-old Alex Rodriguez, sped away, but was arrested later that night.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office took the case to court, alleging that Alvarez Leon and Rodriguez were criminally liable for the death of their friend. Noozhawk readers have been hooked on the story, which has been hotly debated in the comments section.

The trial began June 19, and Deputy District Attorney Sanford Horowitz rested his case July 3. Later that day, Superior Court Judge Jean Dandona dropped a bombshell, ruling that the prosecution had not proven anything and throwing out the vehicular manslaughter charges against the defendants.

Defense attorney Ron Bamieh, who represented Rodriguez, called Dandona’s decision the right one.

“The District Attorney’s Office went ahead and prosecuted Mr. Rodriguez against the wishes of the victim’s family,” he said in a statement to Noozhawk, referring to Ibarra’s relatives. “This case has been heart-wrenching from the start.

“Alex was incarcerated at the time of Raul’s funeral, and unable to mourn his death with family and friends. This prosecution has torn the lives of three families apart for four months.”

District Attorney Joyce Dudley said she respected Dandona’s ruling but added that it would have been preferable for a jury to make that call.

“We at the District Attorney’s Office continue to be gravely concerned about drivers who speed and those who leave the scene of a crime,” she said.

Meanwhile, in the 32 hours since we posted Giana Magnoli’s report on the dismissal, just about every Noozhawk visitor had read the story. I don’t recall that happening before.

One of two suspects is taken into custody after a June 28 standoff with Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies on San Blanco Drive in Goleta. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

3. SWAT Incident Ends in Arrest at Goleta Home

A Goleta neighborhood near Dos Pueblos High School was sealed off by authorities June 28 after a report of an altercation involving a man possibly armed with a gun.

Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Lt. Kelly Moore said a woman and her adult son were arguing that morning when the man allegedly pushed her, hit her with a sports racquet and broke a telephone as she tried to call 9-1-1.

Moore said the mother and her 14-year-old daughter were able to escape from the house in the 7400 block of San Blanco Drive, and they quickly reported the attack. That prompted a full-scale response, including the arrival of the sheriff’s SWAT unit.

The suspect, Felipe Barrera, 20, eventually was located at a friend’s house on nearby San Milano Drive, where he was taken into custody without incident. Moore said Barrera was booked into County Jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, destroying a communications device to prevent someone from calling law enforcement and committing a felony while out on bail. He also had several outstanding arrest warrants working against him.

A 17-year-old also was arrested after allegedly lying to authorities about Barrera’s whereabouts.

Moore said a search of the San Blanco Drive house turned up a loaded .22-caliber rifle that had been modified for concealment.

4. DUI Attorney Darryl Genis Found in Contempt of Court

To his fans, DUI attorney Darryl Genis is colorful. To his detractors, he’s boorish and bullying. It looks like his schtick may be wearing thin in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court system after a judge found him in contempt of court for insulting comments he made to a fellow attorney.

Darryl Genis
“OMG! I got my name on Noozhawk again!” (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk file photo)

In her ruling, Judge Jean Dandona said Genis called Deputy District Attorney Hannah Lucy a “little girl,” which “was done in immediate view and presence of the court.” Genis reportedly apologized to the court but Dandona found the apology “disingenuous and insincere.”

Along with the contempt of court ruling, Genis was fined $1,000 — an amount that makes it reportable to the State Bar, according to Superior Court executive officer Gary Blair.

For his part, Genis insists that Lucy called him a name and says he’s seeking a contempt hearing against her. That seems kind of girlie coming from a guy who boasts on his own website that he stands “ready to fight your DUI case by bombarding the Santa Barbara [sic] District Attorney with extensive pre-trial motions, demonstrative evidence, photographs, witness testimony, videos, defense experts, essential cross-examination of the prosecution’s witnesses, and of course, your testimony.”

The bombardments don’t end with the DA’s Office, however. Genis sometimes seems to spend as much time arguing his cases in lengthy emails to Noozhawk reporters as he does in the courtroom. What’s that old adage? “If the law is on your side, argue the law. If the law isn’t on your side, pound your fist on the table louder than the other guy.” Gag order, anyone?

5. El Capitán, Refugio, Gaviota Beaches Reopened Early After Shark Encounter

Kayakers encountered a shark — believed to be a great white — near Tajiguas north of Refugio State Beach on June 29, leading authorities to close the beaches at three popular state parks along the Gaviota coast just days before the Fourth of July holiday.

After the sighting, the California State Parks Department barred people from entering the water at El Capitán, Gaviota and Refugio state beaches, but the ban was lifted July 1 after there were no further encounters.

The shark reportedly lifted one of the kayaks as it swam beneath them, but the vessel didn’t overturn. The two kayakers immediately returned to shore and alerted authorities.

                                                                  •        •        •

At noon Tuesday, July 9, I’m planning to host a half-hour Twitter Chat, during which I’ll be answering reader questions about our site and our stories, and pretty much anything else you want to know — as long as I can type it in 140 characters or less. We’re using a service called Twubs and you can follow along with the hashtag #nooztalk.

Our social media intern, Frankie Victoria, and I have been exploring ways for a more direct engagement with our readers, and we’re eager to see how this works. If we all find it useful, we’ll plan to make it a weekly conversation.

                                                                  •        •        •

We’ve already discussed the Battle of Gettysburg. Here’s a video from the 150th re-enactment of Pickett’s Charge.

(animedude237 video)

                                                                  •        •        •

There were 56,522 people who read Noozhawk this past week. If you value our unmatched breaking news and in-depth reporting on the issues that you care about, please support our experienced staff of professional journalists and help us continue to provide a vital forum for the community.

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— Bill Macfadyen is Noozhawk’s founder and publisher. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), follow him on Twitter: @noozhawk, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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