The Rundown

Posted October 15, 2009 in News


Rafael Madrigal’s airtight alibi, which inexplicably left him suffocating in prison for nine years, finally gets to a judge, who overturns the 34-year-old’s conviction for attempted murder, throws out his 53-years-to-life sentence—and sets him free. U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc L. Goldman easily observes that evidence indicates Madrigal was not involved in a drive-by shooting in 2000. Of course, Madrigal could have told him that—the shooting occurred at about 3 p.m. in East Los Angeles on July 5, 2000; Madrigal was at work in Rancho Cucamonga until 3:30 p.m. More than a dozen of Madrigal’s co-workers could have told the judge and jury, too; Madrigal even gave one of them a ride home. Madrigal’s defense attorney, Andrew M. Stein, could have explained all this, too—but he called only one co-worker to testify, didn’t allow Madrigal to testify and never informed the jury of a taped jailhouse conversation that indicated Madrigal was not involved. “Stein did not just botch one witness or one argument or one issue,” writes Judge Goldman. “He repeatedly demonstrated the lack of diligence required for a vigorous defense.” 



The hard work of a Lake Elsinore family with three home-based businesses—child care, marijuana-growing and bomb-making—blows up in their faces when one of the entrepreneurs blows off most of his left hand. That would be 23-year-old Benjamin Kuzelka, who is experimenting with an explosive liquid when it . . . well . . . yeah. When the cops show up to investigate they discover the bomb-making materials . . . and the pot farm . . . and the day care . . . and arrest 55-year-old Rebecca Kuzelka and her 21-year-old son, Grey Kuzelka. Rebecca insists her bomb-making little boy is really just a chemistry geek. “It was just a kid in a garage who likes to experiment,” she says. “I’m guilty of not knowing what’s going on in my own home.” Not good for someone licensed to run a day care—law enforcement describes that as “child endangerment.” Rebecca and Grey go to jail. When Benjamin gets out of the hospital, they’ll put the cuffs—well, cuff—on him. 



Only a few days back home after those nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Rafael Madrigal gets a two-weeks-to-vacate notice from the mortgage company. Apparently, his father hasn’t been keeping up on the payments on the house the family has owned since 1995. That’s because Madrigal’s father—the family breadwinner since Madrigal went to prison—died in January. “The thing that hurts me the most about this house is that my dad put so much work into it,” Madrigal tells The Press-Enterprise. “It’s what he worked for day in and day out.”



President Barack Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize, which is of course a terrible thing—and not just because he didn’t thank his predecessor, former President George W. Bush, in his acceptance speech. I mean, does anybody really think Obama would have stood a chance of winning the most prestigious international peace prize in the world if Bush’s eight years of warmongering and torturing and talking like a dumbshit hadn’t made Obama look so peaceful and reasonable and capable of speaking in complete sentences? Yet none of this is why Obama’s selection is most objectionable. The real question is who died and left a handful of Norwegians in charge of the most-prestigious award in the world? What? Alfred Nobel, you say? Oh, okay. Just asking.



Hal Durian devotes his nostalgia column in The Press-Enterprise—“Riverside Recollections,” the thing is called—to the Great Depression, as if we aren’t getting enough of that in 2009. But Durian’s recitation of 20-plus percent unemployment rates, salary cuts for city and state employees between 10 and 30 percent, an uptick in armed robberies and after-hours burglaries and adults eating every other day so their flour-sack-wearing kids wouldn’t go to school hungry provide a not-totally unwelcome reminder that the good old days weren’t always . . . good, that is. Not to mention you could get polio at the public swimming pool.



Freeway Series?



I make travel plans and will leave from Los Angeles International Airport, not Ontario, which of course is the trend. I’m very trendy. Also, very cheap. It costs more to fly out of Ontario International because as airlines abandon the place the costs are spread across the airlines that remain. So per-passenger costs are $14.50 at Ontario, compared to between $2 and $5 per passenger at Palm Springs, Long Beach and Burbank, and $5 to $6 at LAX—which owns Ontario, where there will be fewer travelers this year than any time in the past 20 years. That’s amazing in a region where the population has doubled since 1988. Only 4.83 million passengers are expected to use Ontario International this year, down from 7.2 million in 2007. Still, trendy!


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