November 18, 2004
Three Men Arranged for Murder of Israelis
Three men facing possible death sentences for the murder of two Israelis were arraigned in L.A. County Superior Court on Nov. 10.
During a brief court appearance, the men, handcuffed and wearing blue prison jumpsuits, pleaded not guilty to the killing of Benjamin Wertzberger and Adar Neeman, two longtime friends from Rishon L'Zion.
The two Israelis were last seen alive on Dec. 2, 2002, as they planned to drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Their bodies were not discovered until September of last year in a shallow grave in the Mojave Desert near Barstow.
The suspects, Shane Huang, Benjamin Frandsen and Nicholas Turner, have each been charged with two counts of murder under special circumstances of multiple murder.
Deputy District Attorney Karla Karlin, the prosecutor, said that the special circumstances "make them eligible for the death penalty, although my office has not yet decided whether to seek capital punishment."
Wertzberger, 24, also known as Ben Berger, came to Los Angeles four years ago hoping for a career as a disc jockey. According to court records, he became involved with drug dealers shortly after his arrival.
Neeman, 25, traveled to Los Angeles, at Wertzberger's invitation, one month before the planned trip to Las Vegas.
Superior Court Judge Michael Hoff set the trial date for Jan. 6 at the Van Nuys Courthouse. Karlin estimated that the trial will last about one month. – Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Marines' Westwood 'Invasion' a Mistake
Two U.S. Marine light armored vehicles (LAVs) appeared at an anti-war demonstration in front of Westwood's Federal Building on Tuesday night.
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism (ANSWER), a group that opposes the war in Iraq and supports Palestinian rights, reportedly organized the protest at the corner of Veteran and Wilshire boulevards. The Marine vehicles, which are essentially light tanks with tires instead of treads, had their cannons uncovered and were manned by soldiers in battle gear.
Surprised protesters, many with signs decrying the invasion of Fallujah in Iraq, blocked the LAVs with their bodies and exchanged words with the soldiers before the LAPD cleared the path.
"It's a whole lot of nothing," officer Kathy Simpson, a Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman, told the L.A. Times. "The tanks were there for Veterans Day. They ride in the parade and wave."
Authorities said the soldiers apparently lost their way and were driving around the Federal Building trying to find the correct address.
The protesters' pictures and videos of the encounter soon circulated on the Internet, sparking a brief uproar over the needless display of force at a rally. The Marine base at Camp Pendleton denied that was their intention. – Idan Ivri, Contributing Writer
ADL Briefs Law Enforcement on Hate Crimes
The Anti-Defamation League hosted about 100 police and other law enforcement officials for a Nov. 4 briefing on domestic terrorism.
Mark Pitcavage, an Ohio-based hate crimes expert and director of the ADL's fact-finding department, was the main speaker at the daylong police briefing, which brought officers from Glendale, San Bernardino, the Los Angeles Unified School District, California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles Police Department's major crimes division to the Santa Monica Boulevard offices of ADL.
"Extreme ideologies create extreme actions," Pitcavage said.
Police also learned that unlike typical criminals, whose crimes often are narrowly focused, extremists commit a wide variety of crimes to finance their revolutionary visions.
And while foreign terrorists plot against the United States, homegrown extremists are being welcomed in the Middle East. Pitcavage said that since Sept. 11, racist essays written by Louisiana neo-Nazi David Duke have been widely reprinted in the Arab media. – David Finnigan, Contributing Writer