Sentences Dealt To Bird Rock Bandits

As reported by Dana Littlefield for The San Diego Tribune.

September 6, 2008

Onlookers sat silently in court yesterday as images of La Jolla surfer Emery Kauanui Jr. flashed across a screen. Only the sobs of his mother and brothers could be heard over the strains of music.

Before sentencing four young men convicted in Kauanui’s death, San Diego Superior Court Judge John Einhorn told them to stand and face all the people in the large courtroom.

"Look who you’ve let down, and don’t you ever forget it," Einhorn said. "These people would rather be anywhere else in the world than here today."

Einhorn later sentenced the men to county jail and placed them on three years’ probation.

Eric House, 21, and Matthew Yanke, 22, were ordered to serve 210 days each. Orlando Osuna, 23, received the longest jail term at 349 days. The three pleaded guilty in June to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the fight that led to Kauanui’s death.

Henri "Hank" Hendricks, 22, was ordered to serve 90 days in jail. He had pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact.

Einhorn said he chose probation over prison because of the defendants’ lack of criminal history and their apparent ability to comply with the terms of probation. He said there was no evidence indicating that any of these men threw the fatal punch.

However, the judge noted that none tried to help Kauanui, 24, as he lay bleeding on the ground.

"Nobody won, guys," Einhorn said. "Please show your community, your families, the Kauanui family, the memory of Emery Kauanui and the court that I haven’t made a mistake on the sentencing."

The prosecution had sought prison terms for everyone but Hendricks.

The judge ordered the men to stay away from Windansea beach while on probation and prohibited them from contacting fellow defendants in the case, the victim’s family or others named by prosecutors.

Moments later, sheriff’s deputies led the men from the courtroom to be booked into custody.

The men, all graduates of La Jolla High School, were arrested last year and charged with murder before pleading guilty to lesser felonies.

A fifth defendant, Seth Cravens, 22, is scheduled to go to trial in October. If convicted of second-degree murder, he faces a possible prison sentence of 15 years to life.

Prosecutors said the five men were members of the Bird Rock Bandits, a group that engaged in many alcohol-fueled fights in the neighborhood over several years.

For the full story check out The San Diego Union Tribune.