This was on the Drudge Report on 08/28/07
RHE man gets jail time for property fixes
By Megan Bagdonas
He built a fence, a retaining wall, a patio and a few concrete
columns to decorate his driveway, and now Francisco Linares is going
to jail for it.
Linares had been given six months to get final permits for the
offending structures or remove them as part of a plea agreement
reached in January, when he pleaded no contest to five misdemeanor
counts of violating the Rolling Hills Estates building code.
If he failed to do one or the other, Linares faced six months in
On Monday, Torrance Superior Court Judge Sandra Thompson chastised
Linares, a Farmers Insurance district manager, for not completing
what he agreed to do in January and then handed him the maximum
sentence without possibility of house arrest or probation.
"Imagine my disappointment to find we are no further along in
resolving these issues," Thompson said. "At the rate we're going,
we'll still be talking about this at my retirement party."
Linares is scheduled to report to county jail Sept. 10.
"I'm not scared," Linares said about spending time in jail. "It's
just very unfair. The city said they wanted to teach me a lesson
because they thought I wanted to get away with a lot of stuff."
Richard Hamar, Linares' attorney, said he has never heard of
anything like this.
"We're talking about fixing a fence that was on city property," he
said. "He didn't build a Las Vegas casino. You put a guy in jail for
six months because he repaired the city fence?"
The 51-year-old bought the nearly 1-acre property in the 4600 block
of Palos Verdes Drive North in 1998. After tearing down an adobe
house on the site and building a 3,000-square-foot French-style
home, he began landscaping.
When Linares asked the city to repair the white three-railed fence
behind his house, he was told it was on his property and his
responsibility. So he replaced the termite-infested planks. Then the
city reversed itself and said Linares had illegally built the fence
on city property.
In October 2004, the city charged Linares with three misdemeanors:
for not taking down the fence, having a retaining wall built higher
than a 2-foot restriction and for erecting stone columns without a
neighborhood compatibility analysis. Later inspections found eight
other violations, including a lack of permits for plumbing and
"He's had a couple of years to correct the problems," said Dean
Pucci, a Fullerton attorney contracted as the city's prosecutor.
"His options were to obtain final permits or remove all of these
structures built without permits."
Linares lives in the house with his wife and three daughters. He
contends that he didn't remove the structures because he believed
the permits would be approved.
However, Pucci said no permits are pending, since Linares failed to
resubmit an application that was deemed incomplete.
At the sentencing, Hamar said his client was a good Christian man
who has never committed a crime and who worked diligently - 142
hours - to try to resolve the issues with the city.
And the only reason he was not able to complete the stipulations of
the plea agreement, he said, was because of the city's confusing
building codes and negligence in rendering a decision on his permit
"We established that he did everything that was humanly possible to
comply. And the un-rebutted evidence is that (the city) hasn't ruled
on the permits," Hamar said. "To
do something as harsh as put a
good man in jail for six months, you got to look at the impact on
society. What will society gain if you put this man in jail?"
The prosecutor, however, said, "In virtually every city in every
county a violation of the municipal code is a crime."
Hamar said he plans to appeal.
"I'm praying that there will be an appeal and that my dad won't be
sentenced to jail," said daughter Vanessa Linares, 18. "My dad is
the backbone of our family. How would we be able to hold up if he's