Jurors began deliberations Monday afternoon in the case against Qayed Murtaza Shareef and reached verdicts at the end of the day. Shareef was convicted of 30 counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor younger than 14 and single counts each of using an underage person for obscene matter and sending pornography to a minor, all felonies.
Jurors at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana also found true sentencing enhancements for substantial sexual conduct and committing lewd acts with multiple children.
Shareef, 43, of Aliso Viejo, faces at least 15 years to life in prison, according to Deputy District Attorney Heidi Garrel.
Shareef met the two victims through the Tango Me application, according to a trial brief from prosecutors.
Shareef posed as Jeremy Stevens and persuaded two young boys to make sexually explicit videos, which their mother discovered in December 2013, prompting her to alert authorities in Virginia where the victims resided, according to prosecutors. The FBI became involved in the investigation and traced the IP address back to the defendant in Aliso Viejo, according to prosecutors.
As authorities conducted a search of his residence he told them during a nearly two-hour interview in his garage that he himself had been the victim of sexual abuse as a child, prosecutors said.
Shareef engaged in sexually explicit conversations with a 10-year-old boy and a 9-year-old boy through the Tango Me app between Dec. 25-29, 2013, prosecutors said.
Like a movie director, Shareef instructed the boys on what sex acts he wanted them to perform with each other while photographing and videotaping them with a tablet they were using, prosecutors said. The boys would then send the pornographic images of themselves to Shareef, prosecutors said.
Meanwhile, Shareef performed sex acts on himself and recorded them to send to the boys to guide them on what he wanted them to do, prosecutors said. Shareef also sent the boys adult pornography, prosecutors said.
Shareef’s initial attorney, Ricardo Nicol, issued a statement when his client was arrested in January 2015 saying he was born in Afghanistan and as a child he and his family “experienced first hand the horrors and trauma of war following the Soviet invasion.”
Shareef was a child refugee in India and arrived in the United States when he was 11 with his mother and brother while his father remained in Afghanistan as a “freedom fighter,” Nicol said.
Shareef’s current attorney, Kim Santini, asked Orange County Superior Court Judge Craig Robison to allow her client to remain free on $1 million bail while she pursues an appeal.
“My client has been out of custody for five years now with no new arrests,” Santini said. “He has a family and a career he has to get in order.”
Garrel told Robison that Shareef represents a “danger to the community” and should be locked up right away.
Robison denied the request and had the founder and former CEO of Adaptive Media taken into custody.
Shareef told the judge, “My prayer time is almost up” as he requested a moment to pray. He was told he could pray while awaiting a transfer to jail Monday night.
David Whiting competes during the 10th anniversary celebration of the Over the Hump Mountain Bike race series at Lakeview Park in Orange on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. (File photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Allen S. Whiting and son David Whiting tour the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. Allen Whiting was formerly the head of the Far East division in the State Department’s Intelligence and Research branch. (File photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The gallery will resume inseconds
The Rev. Mark Whitlock, left, makes a beeline to Orange County Register columnist David Whiting to give condolences on his dad’s passing. With his wife, Lindsay, by his side, Whiting was recognized for his work with the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major Award at Irvine’s Christ Our Redeemer AME church Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. (File photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register/SCNG)
The Whitings, from left: Alice Whiting (mom), Jennifer Holcomb (sister), David Whiting, and Allen (father) in 2006 during the Boston Marathon. (File photo courtesy of David Whiting)
Lindsay Whiting, left, and columnist David Whiting take a break after completing a journey of more than 160 miles with more than 20,000 feet of elevation gain. (File photo courtesy David Whiting)
Orange County Register columnist David Whiting discusses teen suicide on the TBN program “Taking Care of Business.” (File photo courtesy of James Langteaux)
Columnist David Whiting partners with Santa Ana Police detective Duane Greaver to test out the department’s new virtual training system in Santa Ana on Monday, August 20, 2018. (File photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Orange County Register columnist David Whiting at the summit of Mt. McKinley in Alaska in 2006. (Photo by Max Bitner)
David Whiting, Orange County Register columnist, combs through the Big Bear cabin standoff spot where Christopher Dorner died in a fire after law enforcement chased him down. The columnist found a couple of melted items in the dirt Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018. (File photo by Cindy Yamanaka, Orange County Register/SCNG)
David Whiting surveys the scene near where Monica Quan and her fianceŽ, Keith Lawrence, were found shot dead in Lawrence’s car outside their Irvine apartment complex five years ago, on February 2, 2013. Quan, a women’s basketball assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton, was the daughter of Randal Quan, a former Los Angeles Police Department captain and lawyer who formerly represented Christopher Dorner during Dorner’s dismissal hearing from the LAPD. Lawrence was a campus public safety officer. Photographed Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. (File photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)
On Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 columnist David Whiting, left, visited with his father, Allen S. Whiting, 91, who was just diagnosed with the flu virus and discovered area hospitals were in the midst of a flu spike. His column was the first to alert the Southland about the issue. His father died days later. (File photo courtesy of David Whiting)
Lucas Oil’s Mike Wiskus flies his Pitts Special stunt plane with Orange County Register columnist David Whiting over Orange County, CA, on Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018. (File photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)
With this being my final column, it’s only proper to thank the people who made my 45 years of journalism possible and, sorry beloved colleagues, that would be you, our readers.
For the last three decades, I have had the honor to serve Orange County and more recently — thanks to the Southern California News Group — much of the Southland, and that has been both a joy and love.
But more than anything, it has been an opportunity to get to know an incredible range of people, often during one of the most incredible times in their lives. It also has allowed me to discover some amazing places.
I’ll share a few epic go-and-dos in a minute. But for now, allow me to share about my industry’s increasingly misunderstood mission.
As journalists, our job is to dig deep, do our research and ask anything that is on point. At the same time, the people we talk to can decide if they want to answer.
Along with reporting news, we serve as conduits for people’s hopes and dreams as well as their struggles. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we are tasked with the sacred privilege of communicating the information without fear or favor.
As a boyhood hero of mine once sang, “It’s how you ride the trail that counts.”
Rather than being the enemy of the people, in truth we are the opposite. Our mission, when done right, is to provide information that allows people to make their own decisions. In turn, shared information helps connect community.
The only side for any honest reporter, photographer, graphic artist and editor is the reader’s side.
I’m sure that I sometimes failed you (John Wayne Airport anyone?). But as a columnist, I am paid to have a point of view. My friends on the hard news side do not have that luxury.
Unfortunately in these contentious times, some try to blur the line between fact and opinion. But they shouldn’t waste their time. Readers are too smart for that silliness.
Consider what reader “Richard Savy” shared online a few days ago: “David, I haven’t always agreed with your columns or point of view and at times I thought you were terribly misguided. However, you always wrote with passion and a firmness of conviction.
“Thanks for the years of dedicated hard work and best of luck in retirement, and it’s my guess that you’ll be back every so often.”
Thank you, Mr., um, Savy. And I will add that if someone agreed with all of the more than 1,000 columns I’ve written, they should be declared insane. Even Mom told me I sometimes blew it.
Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the rumors that journalism is dying. Untrue. But it is changing and in many respects, it’s better than ever.
When I first got into the news biz, we published only on paper. Today, we report real news in real time and that matters.
As fires raged across the Golden State these last few weeks, people read the latest news online, examined ever-moving fire line maps and watched videos that helped save countless homes and lives.
As an editor once said, “We have more tools in our toolbox.”
OK, enough preaching. Let’s check out some of my favorite things to do.
If you’ve read my columns for the last few decades, you know that I like to do what I call “stupid stuff.” So far, stupid has meant running six consecutive near-marathons across the Rocky Mountains, mountain biking with wild animals in Africa, climbing the close-to-vertical East Buttress on Mount Whitney and summiting in freezing temperatures and well after dark (seriously stupid).
Stupid means competing in Ironman triathlons, sailing Newport-Ensenada in a storm as waves sloshed into the cockpit, swimming with seals off Laguna Beach and forgetting the cute critters are shark food, crawling through narrow and watery slot canyons in Utah, climbing the highest mountains in Africa and North and South America, racing horses in the backcountry.
But there are cheaper and closer to home adventures that are as good or better.
Run for the Wall
This one is so amazingly awesome, I’ve been giving presentations to various groups ever since I made the run.
If you are a veteran and have a motorcycle, you are ready. If you don’t have a big boy bike, get one. And if you’re not a veteran, come along for the ride and support our veterans.
For nearly two weeks, you ride for freedom across this great nation with thousands of veterans on a mission to honor those who can’t ride.
But it’s not only about welcoming home veterans. The farther I traveled, the more I realized the ride unveils a country too many of us have forgotten yet is right here before us.
In scores of small towns, hundreds of people turned out, lining streets, saluting and waving the Stars and Stripes. Although often strapped for funds, they dug deep, paying for gasoline and cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In the end, Run for the Wall is about patriotism and rediscovering what it means to be an American.
Four mountain ranges — the San Bernardinos, San Gabriels, Santa Monicas and Santa Anas — grace Southern California and that means that no matter where you live, you can venture into the wild and be home by dinner.
If you’re already a hiker, go farther, try a new trail, hike a little higher. Better yet, invite someone who’s not a hiker to go with you. You will see new things with their fresh eyes and they will have a memory that will last a lifetime.
There are many online suggestions. For an easy-to-use site: SoCalHiker.net
Walk the block
I’ll admit I’m not much of a hiker. Heck, I’m not even much of a walker. But my wife and I have started walking the neighborhood and — guess what — walking isn’t just healthy. It’s fun and interesting. Who knew?
Driving, you miss the trees for the forest, the landscape and critters such as birds, squirrels and, hey now, coyotes.
Tip: Carry a bottle of water even if you don’t need it. You will.
Better tip: Hold hands.
By the time you read this, it’s likely my Southern California News Group email is canceled. If you feel like getting in touch, email@example.com.
In parting, I’ll leave you with something that same boyhood hero of mine left me with: “Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”
SANTA ANA — A man was hospitalized this morning with non-life threatening injuries suffered in a shooting at a Halloween party in Santa Ana.
Officers responded to a shots-fired call at a home in the 2200 block of South Orange Avenue, near East Anahurst Place, about 11 p.m. Thursday and found a man down in the street with two gunshot wounds to the upper body, according to Cmdr. Joe Marty of the Santa Ana Police Department.
The victim was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Marty said.
A Halloween party was taking place in the backyard of home when the shooting occurred, Marty said.
A detailed description of the suspect was not immediately available. A motive for the shooting was not disclosed.
Investigators believe an offensive line coach for a San Juan Capistrano high school football team propositioned multiple students to participate in child pornography, and sought the public’s help in identifying additional possible victims after he was arrested Wednesday, Oct. 30.
Cole Austin Cazel, 22, of San Juan Capistrano, was arrested at about 12:30 p.m. on suspicion of contacting minors for the purpose of soliciting child pornography, Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials said in a news release. He was held at the Orange County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Cazel had worked as an offensive line coach for the San Juan Hills High School football team and had regular contact with minors the past four years, the OCSD said.
Deputies launched an investigation after receiving an anonymous tip suggesting he had victimized multiple students.
Authorities believe there may be other victims who have not yet been identified. Deputies asked anyone with information regarding their investigation to call 714-647-7419.
Anonymous tips can also be left with OC Crime Stoppers by dialing 855-847-6227 or visiting occrimestoppers.org.
Two people died in a collision on the 405 Freeway in Irvine on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
Paramedics responded at 9:52 p.m. to the crash reported in northbound lanes near Irvine Center Drive, Orange County Fire Authority spokeswoman Colleen Windsor said. Coroner’s officials were summoned to the scene about 13 minutes later, incident logs from the California Highway Patrol show.
The identities of the two people killed in the collision were not immediately released.
Officials did not immediately discus the events leading up to the crash. However, preliminary information from the CHP log suggested that a vehicle with two occupants struck a sign and somehow came to rest on top of the center divider of the freeway.
SANTA ANA — A twice-convicted drunken driver was convicted Monday of second-degree murder and other charges for a high-speed, wrong-way DUI crash on the Santa Ana (5) Freeway that killed a man and seriously injured his passenger.
Jurors deliberated for about an hour before convicting Ivan Gonzalez of Lake Forest of second-degree murder, driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury and driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level exceeding the legal limit of .08%. The panel also found true sentencing enhancements for inflicting great bodily injury.
Gonzalez was charged with murder instead of manslaughter because state law allows for enhanced charges when a defendant has been previously convicted of drunken driving. Gonzalez pleaded guilty June 30, 2016, and Feb. 27, 2017, to driving under the influence.
Gonzalez, who is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 3, faces up to 18 years to life in prison.
The crash happened just after 2 a.m. on Jan. 5, 2018, on the “flyover” connector from the Santa Ana (5) Freeway to the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Brian Orue.
The collision killed 33-year-old Michael Johnston Jr. of Brea and seriously injured his passenger, Amber Rickman, who suffered multiple fractures to her face and jaw, and a broken leg.
Three hours after the crash, the defendant’s blood-alcohol level was measured at .20 to .21% — almost three times the legal limit of .08, according to Orue.
A “black box” computer in Gonzalez’s Toyota Camry showed his car was going 99.52 mph about one second before the crash, and slowed to 74.64 at 0.1 seconds before the collision, the prosecutor said.
The defendant’s southbound Camry slammed into Johnston’s 2000 Ford Mustang head-on in the northbound HOV lane as police officers were frantically attempting to catch up to Gonzalez and stop him, Orue said.
California Highway Patrol Officer Bryan Gonzalez was the first to spot the defendant’s wrong-way vehicle at Gene Autry Way on the 5 Freeway, and two other officers gave chase when they heard his dispatches over the police radio, Orue said.
Gonzalez got on the southbound side of the freeway to try to catch up to the southbound defendant in the northbound lanes, Orue said.
“That’s where the nightmare starts,” Orue said, telling jurors that the officer “gets up to speeds of 100 mph” and still couldn’t catch up with the defendant.
Video from the officers’ squad cars was shown to jurors.
Gonzalez had been drinking from about 10:15 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. at the Round 1 bowling alley at MainPlace Mall in Santa Ana prior to the crash, Orue said.
“When this occurred, he was signed up for an alcohol class,” the prosecutor said, adding the defendant had just met with an alcohol counselor.
Gonzalez’s attorney, J.R. Thomas, argued that the evidence in the case was “circumstantial,” as he implored them to keep an open mind.
“Mr. Gonzalez has made mistakes, no doubt about it,” Thomas said, but argued it was “not a case of murder.”
Thomas contended that his client was “unconscious leading up to and at the point of the collision,” so could not have formed a state of mind with “malice aforethought,” which is one of the necessary legal elements of a murder charge.
Authorities on Thursday shut down a suspected drug lab in a residential neighborhood in Anaheim that allegedly used explosive butane gas to manufacture a concentrated form of cannabis.
After serving a search warrant around noon inside a house at 113 N. Tustin Ave., deputies found evidence of the illicit production of butane honey oil (BHO), a highly potent extract of marijuana, Orange County sheriff’s Sgt. Joses Walehwa said.
Deputies took two people into custody in connection with the alleged drug lab on suspicion of narcotics-related charges. Their names were not immediately released.
#OCSDPIO Today at approximately noon, deputies executed a narcotics-related search warrant in the 100 block of N. Tustin Ave in Anaheim. During the search, deputies located materials and chemicals consistent with a butane honey oil lab. Two suspects are in custody. pic.twitter.com/3KM5T1FaLh
BHO is produced by using flammable butane or propane gas as a solvent to extract and distill that plant’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The unlicensed manufacture of the drug has been linked to multiple fires and explosions in Orange County and elsewhere in Southern California.
Details regarding the amount of finished BHO was recovered from the home searched Thursday was not immediately released. The building is in a residential area near the intersection of North Tustin Avenue and East Santa Ana Canyon Road, and surrounded by other houses.
SANTA ANA — Two cars collided in a Santa Ana intersection on Saturday, killing a passenger, authorities said.
The crash, which killed a man in a front passenger seat of one of the cars, was reported at 10:50 a.m. in the intersection of Newhope Street and Westminster Boulevard, Santa Ana police said.
Statements and video surveillance indicated the driver of a purple 2013 Hyundai Sonata was southbound on Newhope Street in the left lane when his car was struck in the rear by a black 2014 Toyota Camry that was making a left turn, police said. The Hyundai driver lost control of the car and crashed into a large street light at the southwest corner.
The Hyundai sustained major damage on the passenger side and the man in the front passenger seat was pronounced dead at the scene from major upper body injuries, police said.
The man driving the car suffered bruises to his face and jaw and was taken by Orange County Fire Authority paramedics to a hospital for treatment.
Two women in the back seat suffered major internal injuries and were taken to hospitals, where one was listed in critical condition, police said.
The man driving the Toyota reported no injuries and remained at the scene. The left front of his car was moderately damaged, police said.
Neither alcohol nor drugs appeared to be factors in the crash, police said.