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Parents continue search for missing daughter

Two search parties gathered on Sunday, one in Malibu and one in Agoura Hills, to look for Mitrice Richardson, 24, who has been missing since Sept. 17. She had dined in Malibu the previous night and then was arrested by the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station and then released in the middle of the night. She has not been found.

The parents, lawyer and family friends of Richardson also held a press conference last Thursday at the station, further pressuring officials to release information about what happened the night Richardson disappeared.

The family is continuing to criticize Sheriff’s Station officials for a number of things, including holding back the report on Richardson’s arrest and for releasing the young woman in the middle of the night without identification or a form of transportation. They also said the station officials failed to properly diagnose and evaluate her mental state before releasing her at 1 a.m. Sept. 17.

Sheriff’s Capt. Tom Martin has said that a deputy at the station in Agoura Hills tried to convince Richardson to stay at the jail until someone could pick her up, but she did not want to wait and said she was meeting friends. He said that a field sobriety test had been conducted and it was determined that she was not drunk, and that she also seemed fine mentally. Martin added that they could not withhold her against her will at the station. The last she was seen was by area neighbors who saw her sleeping in a backyard, but disappeared after they called the station.

Richardson was arrested Sept. 16 at Geoffrey’s Restaurant in Malibu after allegedly not paying her bill and for possession of marijuana in her car. While many have criticized the restaurant manager for having Richardson arrested due to nonpayment of the bill (Richardson’s grandmother offered to pay the bill by phone, but the payment could not be accepted because she could not fax a signed receipt), owner Jeff Peterson said the Sheriff’s Station was called because it was thought she could not safely drive her car.

Heal the Bay releases End of Summer Beach Report Card

Environmental group Heal the Bay last week released its 2009 End of Summer Beach Report Card, marking a third consecutive summer of excellent water quality.

Heal the Bay assigned an A to F letter grade to 458 beaches along the California coast, based on levels of bacterial pollution reported from Memorial Day through Labor Day. This summer, 92 percent of sites received A or B grades during the high-traffic beach season. The grades are slightly better than last year, when 91 percent of beaches received high marks.

Los Angeles County once again had some of the lowest summer grades in the state, with only 80 percent of its 81 beaches receiving A or B marks. This year, ten beaches in the county earned Fs during the summer, but that marks improvement from last summer, when 19 percent of sites received failing grades.

Santa Monica Bay monitoring locations fared notably better than last summer, exhibiting water quality of 91 percent As and Bs compared to last year’s 86 percent. A few Santa Monica Bay beaches still regularly exceeded newly adopted bacteria standards from April 1 to Sept. 3. Santa Monica Municipal Pier, Dockweiler State Beach at Ballona Creek, Surfrider Beach, Topanga State Beach and Redondo Municipal Pier were the worst offenders.

More information can be obtained online at www.healthebay.org.

Mel Gibson’s 2006 drunk driving conviction expunged

A judge on Tuesday agreed to expunge Mel Gibson’s conviction that followed an infamous Malibu drunk driving arrest in which the actor made anti-Semitic comments to a sheriff’s deputy.

As part of his 2006 conviction, Gibson agreed to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, perform in public service announcements and pay $1,300 in fines to resolve the drunk driving case.

As a first-time drunk-driving offender, Gibson was eligible to have the conviction removed from his record after completing the terms of his probation. The expunging request and procedure is routine and took place before Judge Lawrence J. Mira during a 90-second hearing.

A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy stopped Gibson in July 2006 on Pacific Coast Highway after he was spotted driving his Lexus sedan over 85 mph. A breathalyzer test showed Gibson’s blood-alcohol level to be .12%; the legal limit is .08%.

The police report detailed repeated threats against Sheriff’s Deputy James Mee made by Gibson, who said he “owned Malibu” and would “get even” with the deputy.

The report also detailed Gibson’s “barrage of anti-Semitic remarks,” in which he said, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” before asking the deputy, who is Jewish: “Are you a Jew?”

Malibu man with Swiss bank account pleads guilty

A Malibu businessman accused of hiding at least $1 million in a Swiss bank account to avoid paying taxes agreed on Monday to plead guilty to a federal charge of failure to notify authorities of having a financial account in a foreign country with a value of more than $10,000.

John McCarthy reportedly is the first person in California-and the fourth nationwide-to be prosecuted on a tax evasion-related charge since Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, agreed to reveal the identities of U.S. customers.

The charge against McCarthy was based on information provided by UBS in February, officials said.

According to his plea agreement, McCarthy funneled the money to a UBS account with the help of a Swiss lawyer and bank officials between 2003 and 2008.

A U.S. magistrate today set Oct. 19 for McCarthy to enter his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in downtown Los Angeles. He faces a maximum of five years in federal prison and fines totaling up to $250,000 at sentencing, prosecutors said.

The Internal Revenue Service reportedly is seeking the names of more than 52,000 U.S. residents who deposited money into secret accounts through agreements with both UBS and the Swiss government.

-Olivia Damavandi and Laura Tate