Ninety-six tears: With Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Lange out front, city and county officials were talking tough Tuesday morning about Manuel Tellez Ramos and George Moises Ramos, owners of California Plating, outside the downtown Hall of Justice after the Ramoses were arraigned in county court. (The Hall of Justice made for a more dramatic backdrop for cameras than the boring old county courthouse next door, where the hearing was actually held.) The business owners, through their attorney, Jeffrey Estes, pleaded not guilty to all 96 charges, which can be boiled down to the general categories of mismanagement of hazardous materials, illegal discharge of pollutants (copper, zinc, chromium, etc.) into the sewer system and violations of various fire, building and zoning codes. City attorneys claim the nefariousness went on from April 7, 2003 through Feb. 25, 2004, when city police officers served California Plating with a search warrant. The two sides will be back in court June 9.
City officials crowed that the case is evidence of an ongoing crackdown of inddustrial businesses in the Logan Heights, Barrio Logan and Grant Hill areas, where community leaders and environmental-justice advocates have been complaining about polluting businesses for decades. City attorneys wanted California Plating shuttered until its owners demonstrated compliance with the law, but Superior Court Commissioner Pennie Carlos refused to shut the business down. Defense attorney Estes told Carlos that there were no violations. He told reporters that the case was part of a "concerted effort to get rid of all industry" in the Barrio Logan area. He also floated a claim that city police officers were overzealous when they served the search warrant and held a gun to the heads of at least two people at the scene.
Countered police spokesman David Cohen, "If he has a complaint against the department, he can contact Internal Affairs, which will conduct an investigation."