News in Brief: Sexual Assault Cases May Enter Plea Bargaining

For more information call 644-8736. For the blood drive call 1-800-448-3543.

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OAKLAND - An Alameda County assistant district attorney said there is a possibility that the youths accused of sexual assault at Willard Middle School will enter into a plea bargain at tomorrow's hearing.

During a hearing yesterday morning at Alameda County Juvenile Court, Walter Jackson also discussed the possibility of consolidating the eight Willard sexual assault cases into one.

Yesterday, the court commissioner only heard the cases of those police call the worst offenders -three youths, aged 13 and 14, who are accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old Berkeley girl Oct. 25. While the boys and the girl were students at Willard at the time, the girl has been pulled out of school and the boys are in custody.

Yesterday's hearing had been delayed from an original Nov. 29 date. Should the case go to trial, it would begin on Dec. 20.

During the proceedings, Jackson gave copies of a report detailing the subsequent alleged sexual assault at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to each of the defendants' attorneys.

The assistant district attorney also said that although investigations are still underway in the cases at both schools, there will be no new charges brought forward against the defendants.

Police are still looking for the tenth suspect in the case.


Driver Cheats Death, Officer Injured

A man escaped with minor injuries after driving his car in front of a moving train Wednesday night, Berkeley police said.

The man, an employee of West Berkeley's O.C. Jones and Sons, Inc., was stopped for the south-bound train at Cedar and Second Street when he became impatient, said Berkeley police Lt. Russell Lopes.

Though lights were blinking and the alarm was sounding, the man "got tired of waiting" and drove around the lever blocking the road, directly in front of the train.

"The train drilled him, knocking the car 50 to 75 feet," Lopes said.

Since the car was hit just in front of the driver's seat, the man was not seriously injured, but had to be cut out of the wreckage by the Berkeley Fire Department, he said.

A police officer, leaving the scene on his motorcycle, was hit by a car at Virginia and Sixth streets. He was taken to Highland Hospitals due to multiple broken bones in his face and jaw and will require facial reconstruction, Lopes said.


Toy, Food, Blood Drives Sponsored

In honor of the holiday season, the Berkeley Fire Department and Berkeley Firefighters Association are joining hands to sponsor toy, food and blood drives for Berkeley residents.

The toy drive is jointly sponsored by the 2000 Marine Corps Toys for Tots Holiday Toy Drive. Residents are being encouraged to donate new, unwrapped toys that will be given to family shelters for the benefit of young children there.

This marks the 18th annual Berkeley Firefighters Association food drive, helping seniors, families, shelters and rehabilitation centers, said John Tarascio of the Berkeley Fire Department.

The Berkeley Firefighters Association and the Berkeley Lions Club are co-sponsoring the holiday food drive for senior citizens of Albany, Berkeley and Emeryville. The drive seeks to obtain donations of healthy food such as canned meat, beans, fruit juices and rice that will then be distributed to needy seniors.

In addition, the American Red Cross is cosponsoring a blood drive Dec. 26, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the fire station on 2029 Berkeley Way.

"It is the holiday season and people have a lot of priorities - not in the least blood donation - so with this drive we hope people will donate blood at a time when there is a dire need for blood," said Dory Ehrlich, a spokesperson for the department.

Employees of the department will put the donations in special food baskets to be given to low-income families and seniors. Barrels for toys and food are available at the seven Berkeley fire stations and the new Public Safety Building.

The food drive ends on Dec. 15, and the toy drive a week later on Dec. 22.



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