Thursday, November 8, 2007

Big Blowout, Going Out of Business Yard Sale

The Perris man could face up to three years in prison for an ad directed at the Riverside County district attorney. He denies placing the ad on behalf of gang.

A Perris man accused of threatening Riverside County Dist. Atty. Rod Pacheco in a newspaper ad pleaded guilty Wednesday to making a threat and could face as much as three years in prison.

Chandler William Cardwell, 33, worked in the Riverside Press-Enterprise's classified advertising department when he placed an ad Aug. 25 for a "Big Blowout, Going Out of Business" yard sale with proceeds to benefit the "Rod Pacheco memorial fund." It listed the district attorney's home address and phone number.

Pacheco and police said the ad appeared to be a response to Pacheco's announcement the previous day that he was seeking an injunction to restrict members of Riverside's East Side Riva gang from gathering and to force them to adhere to a curfew.

Cardwell's brother-in-law is a member of the gang, officials say. Deputy Atty. Gen. Michael Murphy said Cardwell's ties to the gang remain unclear, but "he clearly associates with them."

Cardwell's attorney, Richard Carnero, said Wednesday that his client is not a gang member. The ad was not placed "in connection with any gang," he said.

"He was a little upset because Pacheco was getting these injunctions, and that was affecting a lot of innocent people," Carnero said.

"I don't think he viewed the ad as a threat."

"He's a jokester and a kind man; he'd never hurt anybody," Carnero said after the hearing.

"I think this could have been a little joke that got away from him."

Through a spokeswoman, Pacheco declined to comment.

Cardwell pleaded not guilty in September after investigators traced the ad to him through cellphone records.

With Wednesday's plea, Murphy agreed to drop an allegation that Cardwell committed the crime on behalf of the gang.

Another threat charge and a forgery charge, stemming from fake bank account information Cardwell gave when he placed the ad, were also dropped.

"The felony threat -- that was the heart of the case," said Murphy, whose office prosecuted the case so the district attorney's office would not have a conflict. "We got what we wanted."

When Riverside Superior Court Judge Thomas H. Cahraman asked Cardwell whether he "willfully and unlawfully" threatened to seriously injure Pacheco, Cardwell softly answered, "Yes, your honor."

Carnero said Cardwell was eager to avoid trial and return home to care for his pregnant wife.
Cardwell's attorney said he hoped that the judge would consider his client's remorse and his limited criminal record, which includes a 1994 conviction for misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon.

"He's so sorry for what he did," Carnero said. "He's also sorry for what he put Mr. Pacheco and his family through."

Cahraman set sentencing for Dec. 10.

By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer November 8, 2007