News Briefs


Corral Fire defendants likely to plead guilty

Two of the four remaining defendants charged with starting the 2007 Corral Canyon Fire are scheduled to appear at Van Nuys Superior Court on March 18.

At the hearing, William Thomas Coppock and Brian Alan Anderson are likely to plead guilty to two counts of arson and be submitted to the court for sentencing, according to Beverly Taki, coordinator of Operation Recovery, an organization that offers financial and emotional aid to Corral Canyon fire victims.

Operation Recovery members are encouraging Corral Canyon residents and the public to attend the hearing.

Motions to dismiss by the two men were rejected two weeks ago. Taki in an e-mail said that if Anderson and Coppock plead guilty, they are each expected to receive a 90-day prison sentence and a psychiatric evaluation that could result in longer sentences or probation.

Court observers expect the other two defendants-Eric Matthew Ullman and Dean Allen Lavorante-to receive misdemeanor counts. The fifth defendant, Brian David Franks, entered a plea bargain in which he agreed to testify against the other defendants.

The Corral Fire started after a number of individuals built an illegal campfire in a cave on state parkland at the top of Corral Canyon on Nov. 24, 2007. Embers from the fire sparked flames on the dry hillsides, which were fueled by roaring Santa Ana winds.

Detectives found at the scene alcohol containers, food wrappers and bundled fire logs, which they were able to trace to the five men originally held accountable.

The Corral Fire burned a total of 4,900 acres and destroyed 53 homes, while damaging 37 others.

Trial continued for surfers accused in beach brawl

A March 8 jury trial has been continued to March 23 at Malibu Courthouse for two Malibu surfers accused of beating up a paparazzo on the beach as he was snapping photos of actor Matthew McConaughey during the summer of 2008.

Malibu residents Skylar Peak and Philip “John” Hildebrand are each charged with one count of misdemeanor battery for their alleged involvement in the June 2008 beating of French paparazzo Rachid Aitmbareck.

The fracas between the paparazzi and the wave riders began on June 21, 2008, when a pack of photographers staked out McConaughey as he surfed at Little Dume Beach.

Video of the incident soon surfaced on the Internet and appeared to show another pack, several young men in surf trunks, ordering Aitmbareck and other paparazzi to “go home,” and dragging the photographers into the water. The surfers say the videos have been edited out of context and do not accurately portray what occurred.

McConaughey was not involved in the altercation.

Resident arrested for suspected vandalism

A 19-year-old Malibu resident was arrested March 3 after state park rangers from the California Department of Parks and Recreation served a search warrant at a residence in the 3700 block of Serra Road in the City of Malibu.

Yeltsin Penado was arrested and booked at the Lost Hills jail and was released on his own recognizance. He is set to appear in Malibu Court on May 3 at 8:30 a.m.

The search warrant was served as part of a six month investigation into the alleged acts of felony vandalism/tagging in and around the City of Malibu. The vandalism occurred over a two-year period and included damage to the Historic Adamson House Estate, a California State Park.

Serial killer sentenced for Malibu death

An Orange County jury issued the death penalty for Rodney James Alcala, convicted Feb. 25 of murdering four Los Angeles County women and a 12-year-old girl from Huntington Beach in the late 1970s.

Georgia Wixted, 27, of Malibu was among the victims.

It was the third time Alcala, 66, has been convicted for the murder of Robin Samsoe, 12, last seen alive riding her bike to ballet class in June 1979. He had been condemned to death both times, but the convictions were overturned. He has been in custody since his 1979 arrest.

Malibu Canyon project underway

The Malibu Canyon Road Improvements and Reconstruction Project, consisting of the application of an rubber-asphalt overlay, began March 8. The project is expected to take approximately 60 calendar days for completion.

Intermittent lane closures may be expected in the construction area between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., but at least one lane will remain open at all times.

More information can be obtained by calling 310.456.2489 ext. 264

r. Phil holding free auditions

Advanced young musicians through age 25 are invited to audition for the Jr. Philharmonic Orchestra by calling 310.275.7511 for an appointment.  There are no audition fees and no membership charges.  

The Jr. Phil will celebrate its 73rd anniversary in a Concert Spectacular at Walt Disney Concert Hall on June 9, with special guests Dick Van Dyke and composer Richard Sherman.  

“This is an exceptional opportunity for talented young musicians,” conductor Gary S. Greene said in a press release.  “Those playing violin, viola, cello, string bass, oboe, bassoon and trumpet are especially encouraged to audition.” Applicants will be asked to sight-read passages from symphonic repertoire and play a short portion of a prepared piece.  More information can be obtained online at

Marine agents seize marijuana on Santa Rosa Island

A team of federal agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s San Diego Maritime Unified Command late last week arrested four Mexican citizens and seized more than a ton of marijuana after sighting vessel wreckage strung along a beach on Santa Rosa Island (part of the Channel Islands) off the coast of Ventura County. The four men are awaiting arraignment before a magistrate judge for the alleged smuggling attempt.

BY Olivia Damavandi