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News

Santa Ana bar brawl: Women ‘took cheap shots’ at victim’s head, prosecutor says

A prosecutor used his closing arguments Tuesday to say two women charged with murder “took cheap shots” as they kicked a 23-year-old recent Chapman graduate on the head, causing her blunt force trauma death outside a trendy Santa Ana nightclub earlier this year.

The two women, defendants Vanessa Zavala, 26, and Candace Brito, 27, are on trial for victim Kim Pham’s beating death, the result of a chaotic bar brawl outside the now-shuttered Crosby nightclub in the early hours of January 18, 2014, authorities said.

They are charged with second degree murder and assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

“They took cheap shots at the victim’s head,” Orange County senior deputy District Attorney Troy Pino alleged in his closing argument.

Pino said that the two women, twenty-something Santa Ana office workers, did not show mercy in the fight.

“The evidence is very clear,” Pino said. “The defendants both kicked Miss Pham in the head.”

But what kicks? a defense attorney rebutted in his closing argument.

Witnesses have been unable to say that they, with their own eyes, saw a kick land, and cell phone videos taken during the brawl seem to not show either defendant kick, defense attorney Kenneth Reed, who is representing Zavala, said.

“The (cell phone video) does not show Vanesa Zavala kick Kim Pham in the head,” Reed said. “The tape doesn’t show that.”

The cell phone video, one of about three taken during the fight, has an obstructed view and has been open to much interpretation by attorneys during the trial.

Reed said that while the fight may have been a tragedy, it does not mean that the defendants committed a crime.

The fight is believed to have been caused after a friend of the defendants bumped into Pham, who was with a group of friends was either taking or had just taken a group picture. Words were exchanged and then Pham threw a punch, attorneys said, and a chaotic brawl quickly began. 

The defense has argued that Zavala and Brito acted in self-defense as they entered the fray of the fluid fight.

The trial will continue Wednesday, July 23, 2014, with a closing argument by defense attorney Michael Molfetta, who is representing Brito, and an expected counter-argument by Pino. 

The jury will then begin its deliberations.

By Tim Worden.

Published July 22, 2014 at 6:15 p.m.

Updated July 23, 2014 at 8:30 a.m.

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News

Possible video of defendants landing deadly kick sought in Kim Pham trial

The Justice for Kim Pham Facebook page Tuesday night asked supporters for their help in searching for a missing video that allegedly shows one or both of the two women charged in Kim Pham’s death land a kick to Pham’s head in the fateful January 2014 bar brawl.

The video, which has been alluded to by witnesses, did not get in the possession of police due to a mix-up, according to media reports.

Santa Ana police did not get a copy of the video because they thought they already had it, and the man who filmed it was visiting the area, a Santa Ana detective testified, according to OC Weekly.

The trial has so far focused on a separate cell phone video that shows part of the brawl, but does not to show defendants Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 26, or Candace Marie Brito, 27, kick Pham.

The man who filmed that video, witness Darwin Arayata, testified last week that he did not see a kick land, but inferred that at least one did through reactions that he saw.

Judge Thomas Goethals may rule out discussion on the video if it is not found, the Weekly reports.

By Tim Worden.
Published at 11:15 p.m. on July 14, 2014.

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News

Witness who filmed brawl testifies in Kim Pham beating death trial

A memorial for Kim Pham in downtown Santa Ana in late January 2014.
A memorial for Kim Pham in downtown Santa Ana in January 2014.

SANTA ANA – A man who shot a now-ubiquitous cell phone video of the chaotic Crosby bar brawl in Santa Ana earlier this year testified in the trial of two women charged in Kim Pham’s beating death Thursday morning.

But, like how that video has been interpreted as showing two different narratives of the brawl, the witness’ statements seem to show that making a definitive analysis of what happened in that “crazy scene” may prove difficult.

BACKGROUND:

The altercation has received national attention for something many people think could have been so preventable: What began as two strangers bumping into each other soon turned into an all-out melee that left a young woman dead.

Pham, 23, who was with a group of friends, was left comatose, dying days later from blunt force trauma to the head, according to authorities.

Santa Ana residents Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 26, and Candace Marie Brito, 27, have been charged for her death, with counts of second degree murder and assaulting with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

TODAY (THURSDAY, JULY 10, 2014):

Witness Darwin Arayata, who did not know any of the individuals in the fight, testified that he was in line at the Crosby, a now-shuttered nightclub that was then part of downtown Santa Ana’s trendy bar scene, in the early hours of January 18, 2014, when he heard a verbal exchange farther back in the line.

When asked by defense attorney Michael Molfetta, who is representing Brito, if he saw Pham raise her hand to strike the girl she was arguing with, Arayata testified yes, strengthening a narrative that has emerged that Pham may have threw the first punch in the scuffle.

Arayata said that from there, the scuffle escalated as several fights broke out, most notably that of Pham and the other woman, Amelia, a friend of Brito and Zavala’s, of which Brito and Zavala soon entered the fray, at times, to battle Pham.

The prosecution emphasized that Arayata told Santa Ana detectives soon after the brawl that he believed that Zavala and Brito kicked Pham on the head.

The defense, however, tried to cloud this by playing the video several times Thursday and pointing out that he did not have a clear view of the brawl, as other people were obstructing his view.

When cross-examined by attorney Kenneth Reed, who is representing Zavala, Arayata said, “I did not see a kick land on the head.”

Molfetta, the other defense attorney, said that the phrase “it looked like” was the closest Arayata could come to saying he saw the kicks when he was interviewed by police detectives in January.

By Tim Worden

Published July 10, 2014 at 4 p.m.

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News

Cell phone videos may be key to Kim Pham beating death trial

The memorial for Kim Pham as seen on January 20, 2014.
The memorial for Kim Pham as seen on January 20, 2014.
  • Trial will attempt to piece together the chaotic bar brawl that led to Kim Pham’s death

SANTA ANA – Attorneys representing the defense and prosecution both said in their opening statements today that witness cell phone videos may play a key role in the trial of two women charged in the January nightclub beating death of Kim Pham.

But what those videos show, it seems, is up to interpretation.

The two cell phone videos — taken by witnesses of the chaotic late-night brawl outside the now-shuttered Crosby nightclub in downtown Santa Ana — either show that defendants Vanesa Tapia Zavala, 26, and Candace Marie Brito, 27, punched or kicked Pham, leading to her blunt force trauma death, or merely that the two Santa Ana residents were among an unruly group of 20 or 30 people as several fights flared up at the fluid scene, attorneys said.

Zavala and Brito are charged with second degree murder and assaulting with force likely to cause great bodily injury.

“During the fight it’s nearly always two on one,” said Orange County senior deputy District Attorney Troy Pino, who as prosecutor is representing the state in the case.

“The defendants kicked (Pham) on the head when she’s down, and the victim dies from her injuries,” he added, laying out what he says the evidence will show in the trial.

The fight was started, Pino said, when Pham’s group was taking or had just taken a photo on the sidewalk in front of the nighclub just after midnight on January 18,2014.

“There’s a bump … and there’s a little bit of rudeness,” Pino said. “There’s a verbal altercation … (which) escalates into a physical fight.”

It seems like Pham threw the first punch, although witness accounts are murky on that, Pino added.

The defense attorneys emphasized this point, arguing that the scene was chaotic and fluid and that Pham was the aggressor.

Friends and family of Kim Pham speak at a news conference to show their support for Kim on Wednesday, July 9, 2014.
Friends and family of Kim Pham speak at a news conference to show their support for Kim on Wednesday, July 9, 2014.

“You’re allowed to hit back when someone hit you,” said defense attorney Kenneth Reed, who is representing Zavala.

“The evidence is going to show that (Brito) was defending herself and her friends,” said defense attorney Michael Molfetta, who is representing Brito.

The cell phone videos, played several times during the opening statements, show an incomplete picture of the brawl, which began at the waiting line of the busy bar and ran out onto the middle of Broadway and across the street, according to witness accounts.

They show other people, including friends of Pham, Zavala and Brito, at times enter the fight, although it is hard to determine what is happening, the attorneys said. 

Eight seconds of one of the videos has been posted online: View it here.

Several people are heard yelling and saying expletives, including at one point where Pham says, “Tell me again, (expletive),” to Amelia, an acquaintance of Zavala and Brito that was involved in the melee, according to Pino.

The fight culminated with kicks to Pham’s head, which seven eyewitnesses reported seeing, according to the prosecution. Pham was left comatose and never regain consciousness. She died two days later, giving her organs away as an organ donor.

By Tim Worden. 

Published July 9, 2014 at 2:30 p.m.

Updated July 9, 2014 at 8 p.m.

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News

Protesters urge Rep. Royce to pass immigration reform bill

A Brea police motorocycle officer watches as immigration reform protesters march through downtown Brea on June 27, 2014.
A Brea police motorocycle officer watches as immigration reform protesters march through downtown Brea on June 27, 2014.
An immigration activist speaks during a news conference leading into the rally around noon on June 27, 2014.
An immigration reform activist speaks during a news conference leading into the rally around noon on June 27, 2014.

BREA – Police arrested seven immigration reform advocates following a march and protest in downtown Brea to urge Rep. Ed Royce, R-Brea, to pass an immigration bill that has been awaiting Congressional approval for a year, on Friday, June 27, 2014, according to organizers.

The bill, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, would provide more paths for illegal immigrants to gain legal status and citizenship.

It was passed in the Senate on June 27, 2013.

Around 300 to 400 protesters, most from Asian-American, Latino and workers’ union groups, marched through downtown shortly after noon on Friday, following a news conference where several union leaders called on Royce to take up the legislation.

Hee Joo Yoon, executive director of the Korean Resource Center and one of the advocates arrested, said the event, held as part of the National Day to Stop Separating Families, was meant for the immigrant community to come together to present their voice.

“I am getting arrested today to tell Representative Ed Royce that he has an obligation to stop hiding behind excuses and publicly support legislation that brings millions of aspiring Americans out of shadows and stop tearing apart families,” Yoon said.

By Tim Worden.

Posted Friday, June 27, 2014 at 1:30 p.m.

Updated Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 11 a.m.

Immigration reform activists met at Rep. Ed Royce's downtown Brea office Friday, June 27.
Immigration reform activists met at Rep. Ed Royce’s downtown Brea office Friday, June 27.
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Journalism News

Isla Vista shooting resurfaces old debates about gun control, mental health and … the media?

As members of the news media converged to the college town of Isla Vista, a hometown college newspaper decided to withdraw

A screenshot of a Santa Barbara Independent photograph by Paul Wellman showing Isla Vista residents protesting the constant presence of TV crews in the area, according to the photo's caption.
A screenshot of a Santa Barbara Independent photograph by Paul Wellman showing Isla Vista residents protesting the constant presence of TV crews in the area, according to the photo’s caption.

A massacre in the college town of Isla Vista, California, over the weekend has renewed well-oiled debates about gun violence and mental health issues in America. But it has also raised another question: How should the media cover these tragedies?

It is a question that often gets asked in the wake of tragedies of this magnitude — seven were left dead, including the gunman, and 13 injured in the Friday night attacks — but hardly ever this quickly, with bullet holes only just being dislodged from the scene of the shootings and with victims still recovering in the hospital.

For many news organizations, the initial report of a shooting is nothing out of the ordinary: In the Los Angeles region, an hour and a half south of Isla Vista and Santa Barbara, a photographer or TV cameraman is often at the scene of such reports within the hour, if not sooner.

That was the case with the Isla Vista shooting, as photographers from the Santa Barbara Independent and UC Santa Barbara’s student-run newspaper The Daily Nexus, among several other media organizations, were at the scene late that night.

The Daily Nexus has in the past few days since meticulously covered all aspects of the story, which happened just blocks from the campus, in a magnitude and quality that rivals that of the Los Angeles Times.

In another high-profile news event, a reporter and two TV cameramen try to get a view of a protest at the Kelly Thomas memorial in Fullerton, California, in January 2014.
In a similarly high-profile news story, a reporter and two TV videographers (all three from different agencies) were among more than a dozen members of the media covering a protest in Fullerton, California, in January 2014. (Photo by Tim Worden)

The multitude of photographers and TV stations converging on a national story is nothing new, and is fairly common in the competitive news market in Southern California. But news hit Monday of an odd-man out:

The Bottom Line, UCSB’s student government-run newspaper — a rival of the independently student-run Daily Nexus — came out with an editorial: “Why We Have Not Yet Published Anything on the Isla Vista Shooting.”

“Whenever tragedy strikes,” the op-ed begins, “emergency responders and journalists are some of the first on scene and are, consequently, more likely to suffer from emotional trauma because of it.”

The staff needed time to mourn and process the tragedy, the op-ed added.

Media critics were quick to pounce on the no-reporting stance of the newspaper, with some, such as Calbuzz’s Jerry Roberts, saying the paper was skirting “its role as a community news source,” as cited by media critic Jim Romenesko.

But it’s not like there was an absence of news with The Bottom Line out. (TBL did, however, live tweet it on Twitter and now is covering it on its website.)

The LA Times alone, for example, had at least two reporters and seven photographers covering the story in Isla Vista over the course the three-day weekend, according to an analysis of its reporting and photographs.

Dozens of other photographers, as well as TV crews from the region, were also congregating in the area all weekend, prompting some residents to urge the media to respect their privacy, making signs that read things like “Let Us Grieve in Peace.”

Of course reporting from the scene is necessary, as it is the media’s job and responsibility to tell the account of a story to those who were not there, and this, being a national story, carries an even heavier importance.

But what about over-reporting? Part of The Bottom Line’s reason for not reporting on the tragedy is an ethical reason, as it cited the Professional Journalists Code of Ethics’ guideline of “Minimize Harm,” which says: “Journalists should show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.”

The Bottom Line should be commended for its boldness in standing apart from the crowd by not heavily reporting the massacre, as it was attempting to minimize the emotional harm to its staff.

And besides, it’s not like interested residents don’t have half a dozen other media outlets at their fingertips to get the story from anyway.

By Tim Worden. Published May 27, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.

 

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News

NSA Leaker Snowden a Hero

The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras; photo on CNN.
The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras; photo on CNN.

Since the NSA whistelblower identified himself as Edward Snowden, an intelligence official who has worked with the CIA and NSA, on Sunday, reactions have been mixed.

Already, two top Congress officials – Senator Diane Feinstein and House Speaker John Boehner – have called Snowden a traitor, Feinstein going so far as to say he is guilty of treason.

Treason? No. Having an idealistic sense of what our country should and should not do? Yes.

The reason Snowden leaked the potentially hazardous (to the U.S. government) onslaught of documents to the Washington Post and The Guardian was because, as he told the Guaridan, “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.”

The NSA should not track ordinary American electronic communications because we, as Americans living in America with an American idealism, want to be free from a dragnet of government oversight.

Working for the CIA and and in the defense industry in an IT-type role, Snowden claims he was given a high degree of access into documents that officials have said only 30 to 40 people have access to.

It was these documents, he told the Guardian, that horrified Snowden. Everyone in the U.S. almost expects that the government – through a complex web of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and a bunch of other acronymns – is utilizing this newfound “Internet” to collect data. It’s only natural since now CIA agents can track terrorists with keystrokes. But tracking anything and everything?

“Mass surveillance is a violation of universal rights,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation stated in a blog post condemning the NSA’s actions.

As a result, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is among a group of 86 civil liberties and Internet companies saying that spying on American electronic communications is not permissible.

“This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that protect their right to privacy,” the groups said in an open letter sent to U.S. lawmakers.

The NSA seal; photo from Wikimedia Commons.
The NSA seal; photo from Wikimedia Commons.

This was part of the reason Snowden decided to leak the information. The NSA, Snowden said, “are intent on making every conversation and every form of behavior in the world known to them.”

The primary goal of the NSA, which is part of the Defense Department as the National Security Agency, is to get timely and accurate information on foreign powers and individuals to foster national security, according to its mission statement.

According to Executive Order 12333, two of the NSA’s goals are:

  • Collection of signals intelligence information for national foreign intelligence purposes in accordance with guidance from the Director of Central Intelligence
  • Establishment and operation of an effective unified organization for signals intelligence activities, except for the delegation of operational control over certain operations that are conducted through other elements of the Intelligence Community. No other department or agency may engage in signals intelligence activities except pursuant to a delegation by the Secretary of Defense;

A glimpse at the Executive Order did not find any explicit cases where the NSA’s goals are to conduct domestic intelligence, although it is not mentioned either way. However, the FBI is generally in charge of domestic intelligence.

That being said, the NSA collecting data on American companies headquartered in America – like Facebook, Google, Yahoo – and on American citizens using those companies is a complete overstepping of the government’s authority.

Since this NSA data collection system was covert, most Americans did not know about it. The U.S. government should not be able to pick up Jane Doe’s Facebook messages and emails without her consent and with her thinking she is being private since Facebook has told its users they can expect privacy.

Snowden saw this and did something about it. Sure, he could have talked to his employers or tried talking to someone one higher up in the NSA to voice his concerns. But he was likely to not get far. (Still, that is no excuse not to try, so he could have at least tried it.)

Regardless, coming out to the media was a powerful step that might enact some change. So far, according to media outlets, the Obama administration, NSA and a bunch of other semi-impacted agencies like the Justice Department have not done anything. But they will: They’ll probably try to snatch him from Hong Kong first (there are reports that he left his hotel). And there will probably be closed-door sessions in Congress to sort out this mess.

Because Snowden is, to many of them, a bug. He’s a whistelblower, a pesky guy that did something illegal (yes, it is illegal since he signed confidentiality contracts) in the better interests of the nation. But not in the better interests of career intelligence officials who have used the aftermath of 9/11 to enact a dragnet of intelligence to squash further dissident.

Snowden did something illegal, yes. But he is no traitor to this country: He is a mild-mannered (according to the Guardian) government intelligence official with adept skills at hacking.

And he realized that what his country was doing behind the backs of 300 million drug-dealing, democracy-lovin’, gun-toting students, businessmen, Christians and atheists was wrong.

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Cal State Fullerton News Posts

Search for Maribel Ramos, missing CSUF student, to expand this weekend

Maribel Ramos (CSUF)

Update May 16, 2013 at 10 a.m.: A post on the “Find Maribel Ramos” Facebook page announced an Awareness Walk scheduled for Saturday, May 18, in Peters Canyon Trail in Tustin.

The post said they are not authorized for a search rescue but will pass out fliers.

As the search for a Cal State Fullerton student who is a former Army sergeant continues into a second week, her family and friends will expand the search effort this weekend.

Maribel Ramos, 36, a criminal justice major, has been missing since May 2.

A beefed up search and rescue effort with military personnel has been scheduled for Saturday, said Lucy Gonzalez, the missing woman’s sister.

“Right now we don’t know where she is, we don’t have any new clues,” said Gonzalez, who has become the spokeswoman for Ramos’ family in the search, on Wednesday afternoon.

A karaoke fundraiser is being planned to support the search effort, Gonzalez said.

“We need to find Maribel. We’re doing everything that we need to do to find her and raise money for a reward,” Gonzalez said.

On campus, a “Maribel Ramos Resource Center” has been set up near University Outreach on the fifth floor of Langsdorf Hall. Fliers and maps of Orange are available to assist the search effort.

Ramos served in the Army in Afghanistan, Iraq and South Korea, and a CSUF News statement said she was recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Orange Police Department, which has called the disappearance suspicious, has asked that any information about Ramos can be reported at (714) 744-7313.

Tim Worden / The Daily Titan – May 16, 2013, at 8 a.m.

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Cal State Fullerton News

Tweeting the CSUF lockdown (Part I: Chaos)

A SWAT team roamed the campus, a helicopter flooded a searchlight onto Mihaylo Hall and students barricaded entrances to classrooms at Cal State Fullerton Wednesday as the campus went into lockdown.

It was like Black Hawk Down.

I was at the sixth floor of College Park, the building in the background in the photo above. Our vantage point at the Daily Titan, the school’s newspaper, gave us the eyes and ears of campus. We used this to our advantage by tweeting. At one point, a dozen SWAT officers prowled Mihaylo Hall across from us, so we ducked from the windows because we had a very real fear that a firefight might start between SWAT and the suspect, who was believed to have a gun.

It all began as the police were searching for two suspects who made their way to Cal State Fullerton from a Moreno Valley jewelry store robbery at 3 p.m. They crashed in front of the Marriot Hotel next to CSUF at 3:47 p.m. Two of the suspects were caught, but the other two ran on foot onto the campus (another hijakced another vehicle and went to Watts in Los Angeles).

The student they crashed into was heading to CSUF to take a test. By 4 p.m. students were evacuating.

I was at the scene of the crime by 4:04 p.m., so about 17 minutes late. A few of our Daily Titan reporters and photographers had been there 10 minutes before me. At first we thought this was just some normal thing like a hit-and-run.

Then I saw a California Highway Patrol officer strutting down Nutwood Avenue, walking in the center of westbound’s three lanes, carrying an M16.

It’s a blur, but I am 95 percent sure I was 15 feet away from the police officers when they put one of the suspects into custody (not sure if the first or second suspect they caught). They pushed us back five feet or so to put up police tape over the sidewalk as they secured the area near Steven G. Mihaylo Hall.

I tweeted this at 4:09, a tweet that got picked up on Cal State Fullerton’s storify:

It became clear that this was something big, so the editor-in-chief for the Daily Titan told me to go back to the Daily Titan newsroom and write a brief on this and send some tweets from the Daily Titan. As soon as he told me this, I decked across Nutwood Avenue. It was brimming with traffic so I rushed through and dodged cars. My backpack must have been opened because on my way to College Park, I heard the sound of my illustration H pencil falling from my backpack. That’s a high-quality art pencil, but I did not even want to waste the five seconds it would take to pick it up.

By 4:20, the campus was in full lockdown.

I got into the newsroom and told everyone the gameplan: Tweet, write a brief and get photos up online. We knew something was going on, but most of us did not know what. We knew there was a suspect, but even at the time we did not know what or if he was armed. We tried to call our reporters that were out covering it.

Our web editor who has access to the newspaper’s Facebook and Twitter went out to report, then got locked up in Dan Black Hall, so I did not know what to do at first. We tried calling him, but his phone started buzzing at the computer next to me. He left his phone. I’m hazy about this part, but I think I thought what the password might be so I tried that and it worked. But we had already wasted valuable time. So I headed up our social media coverage.

This was the first Tweet I sent:

https://twitter.com/dtnewsdesk/status/279020419514765312

I tweeted that at 4:30, but I could have sent that at 4:09 if I had the Twitter access and if we had better organization. It was like a war and we were ambushed. The Daily Titan fared well that night, but scoring the spotlight 20 minutes earlier would have sealed the deal for us.

I had my mistakes, and I made them early.

I tweeted this at 4:36 p.m.:

https://twitter.com/dtnewsdesk/status/279022023102058496

We later realized that the suspects’ car was the Lexus and the student’s car was the Hyundai.

At at 4:48 p.m. I sent this one:

https://twitter.com/dtnewsdesk/status/279024917993889793

Doh! It was a rumor, but I did not give attribution or anything. Police denied any gunshots throughout the entire night. Besides, at the time it was actually a rumored gunshot by undetermined person, either by police or a suspect.

This ends Part I: Chaos. I will post a narrative of the entire night, including one point where police officers with M16s came to our newsroom and we stood up and told them we are staying in the building, even though a full evacuation had been called for the building.

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Cal State Fullerton News Politics

Libertarian candidate Gov. Gary Johnson visits Cal State Fullerton

Gov. Johnson speaks about fiscal responsibility while decrying “crony capitalism”

By Tim Worden and Chris Konte, published in Tuesday’s Daily Titan.

Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s 2012 presidential candidate, visited Cal State Fullerton Monday to promote his message of limited government, saying that voting for a third-party candidate is not a waste of anyone’s vote.

Johnson, who served two terms as the New Mexico governor from 1995 to 2003, originally ran as a Republican in this election, but switched to the Libertarian Party in May after a stagnant showing at the beginning of the election cycle.

He is known for his views on low-taxation and military nonintervention. He earned the nickname “Governor Veto” for vetoing what he claimed was more than 700 bills, in addition to 1,000 line-item vetoes while in office.

By the end of his eight years as governor, the Washington Post reported the size of state government had been considerably reduced and New Mexico was basking in a budget surplus.

Students had a chance to meet Johnson before and after the event, which was set up by the CSUF group Students for Gary Johnson. Many attendees to the noontime speech in the Quad wore Johnson and Ron Paul shirts.

Johnson said citizens have the power to change the course of the country.

“You’re your own movie director, you’re your own producer, you’re on the screen. Do you like what you see? If you don’t like what you see, change your life. You have control of your life, and you can make that change tomorrow,” Johnson said to the crowd of nearly 120 students.

Johnson made his name by founding a construction and handyman company, Big J, that grew to employ a thousand people. He had never been involved in politics before he ran for governor of New Mexico as a Republican in the 1995 election, something he said a Republican chairman at the time told him would not allow him to win.

“Well I did win, and I’d like to think it was based on what I had to say, which was, ‘Let’s just bring a common sense business approach to state government.’ Best product, best service, lowest price. Let’s keep government out of the bedroom, let’s keep government away from making decisions in your and my life that only you and I should be making,” said Johnson.

Johnson urged students to reconsider the notion of “wasted votes,” or votes for a candidate who has little chance of winning, such as a third-party candidate.

“I know right now that you’re all hearing this notion of wasted votes. What is more of a wasted vote than voting for somebody you don’t believe in?” asked Johnson. “The way we change things in this country is to vote for the person that most mirrors what you think.”

Derek Leininger, a Students for Gary Johnson group organizer who is pursuing a master’s in public administration at CSUF, said no Californian’s vote counts anyway, since “our state always goes blue.”

According to a Reason-Rupe poll released Friday, 53 percent of Californians said they will vote for Obama and 38 percent will vote for Romney. The poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

“To actually really make your vote count in this election, bolstering the third party is a very productive way to show the opposition that we’re not consenting anymore,” said Leininger, who became a Libertarian in 2007 by being attracted to Congressman Ron Paul.

The Orange County Libertarian Party has reported a 6 percent growth in members over the last month and a half, according to Tom Hanson, chair for the Orange County Libertarian Party, who was present at the event.

Others disagree with the viability of third-party candidates. Don Matthewson, Ph.D., a political science professor at CSUF, said most libertarian views are immature, akin to a two-year-old who wants less rules to follow.

“A well thought-out third-party candidate cannot win, but can force the other two candidates to face some key issues,” said Matthewson, citing Ross Perot as an example. Perot won 21 percent of the popular vote in 1992.

Historically, third parties have not fared well in presidential elections. In 2008, the Independent and Libertarian candidates managed only 0.56 percent and 0.4 percent of the popular vote, respectively, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

Johnson was introduced by Assemblyman Chris Norby, who presides over the 65th assembly district, which includes CSUF, and Steve Collett, treasurer of the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine initiative.

Norby, a Republican and CSUF alumnus, said war should not be a permanent policy for this country, and that people who believe in freedom have a choice this fall.

“Remember this: It’s much better to vote for somebody you want and lose, than vote for somebody you don’t want, and win,” he said.