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Civil rights charge against Chico State employee | Lassen Volcanic Park welcomes visitors | Bill targets faulty expert testimony

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The latest North State and California news on our airwaves for Monday, June 6.

Chico State employee charged with civil rights violation

A Chico State employee is accused of a hate crime after allegedly calling for mass shootings against white and Black people.

University custodian Kerry Thao is charged in Butte County Superior Court with a misdemeanor civil rights violation. He pleaded not guilty Thursday.

Prosecutors said in court documents Thao posted a string of comments last month on YouTube, calling for gun violence against white people for what Thao allegedly described as the country’s “betrayal” of Asian Americans.

Thao, who is listed as Asian in court documents, also allegedly referenced last month’s mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, in which a gunman is accused of carrying out a racist attack that left 10 Black people dead. Thao allegedly called for more violence against Black people.

Thao remains in custody at the county jail without bail. His attorney said in court at least some of the comments were made on the spur of the moment after watching videos about violence perpetrated against Asian Americans. The attorney argued Thao would not be a threat to the community if released from jail pending trial.

The District Attorney’s Office said in court papers Thao possessed multiple firearms, including two assault rifles. Chico State said in a news release law enforcement removed firearms from Thao’s possession. The school further said he was placed on leave and would not return to campus.

Andre Byik, NSPR

Highway through Lassen Volcanic National Park opens

The 30-mile highway that winds through Lassen Volcanic National Park opened on Friday, and much of the park is now accessible to visitors despite the burn scar from last year’s Dixie Fire.

The fire’s footprint covers nearly 70% of the park, according to park officials, but spokesperson Kevin Sweeney said there’s still plenty for people to see and do.

“They’re going to notice some changes, but it’s not all doom and gloom; the fire did not impact west of the park road, so Lassen Peak, Sulphur Works, Manzanita Lake,” he said.

The burn scar is most severe in Warner Valley, Juniper Lake and some of the wilderness areas east of the park road, Sweeney said.

The Park Service plans to keep most of Lassen open, even in damaged areas, he said, but visitors hiking over burned terrain will need to do some extra planning.

Ken Devol, NSPR

Criminal justice legislation targets faulty expert testimony

A new criminal justice reform bill is advancing in the state Legislature.

Sen. Scott Wiener says his measure is intended to prevent people from being wrongfully convicted because of expert testimony that is flawed or faulty.

Janet Dixon was wrongfully convicted of an arson felony-murder in 1981 and spent 40 years in prison before her sentence was overturned.

"The expert testimony at my trial was so believable, the jury without having formal training probably felt obligated to agree,” Dixon said. “At times, I even doubted myself and did not know what was happening or why."

Under the bill, expert opinions that fail to use valid methodology, research, peer-reviewed studies or scientifically sound data do not satisfy the requirements for admissible testimony.

The measure heads next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

— CapRadio Staff

State lawmaker seeks extending bar closing time

A state lawmaker hopes the third time's a charm when it comes to his bill that would extend last call at bars. Sen. Scott Wiener's bill would allow seven cities to move closing time from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Wiener’s first attempt was approved by the Legislature in 2018 but rejected by then-Gov. Jerry Brown. His second attempt to get the law passed failed to get out of the Assembly.

Under his latest proposal that he unveiled inside a San Francisco bar, a pilot program would give San Francisco, Oakland, Fresno, West Hollywood, Coachella, Cathedral City and Palm Springs the option of moving bar closing times.

The San Francisco lawmaker said his city's nightlife is one of its draws and an economic asset that's been hit hard by the pandemic.

— CapRadio Staff

Stories from NPR partner stations are edited by NSPR Staff for digital presentation and credited as requested.

In other news

  • California lawmakers mull buying out farmers to save water: “After decades of fighting farmers in court over how much water they can take out of California’s rivers and streams, some state lawmakers want to try something different: use taxpayer money to buy out farmers.” — The Associated Press
  • Former Yreka clerk arrested again; suspected of rape: “Arthur Franklin Timothy Boyd, who was arrested two months ago on suspicion of child pornography, has been arrested again, Mount Shasta police announced last Friday, June 3.” — The Siskiyou Daily News
  • Outdoor recreation programs collaborate: “In a mountain community with an abundance of outdoor activities, you’ll find people of all ages that are interested in outdoor recreation. Feather River College and Plumas Charter School decided to join their programs together to benefit their students.” — Plumas News

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Sarah is an award-winning reporter, producer and editor. She’s worked at North State Public Radio for six years and was previously the station’s News Director before leaving to study at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
A graduate of California State University, Chico, Andre Byik is an award-winning journalist who has reported in Northern California since 2012. He joined North State Public Radio in 2020, following roles at the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review.
Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.
Adia White is a broadcast journalist and producer with nearly 10 years of experience. Her work has appeared on WNYC, This American Life, Capital Public Radio and other local and national programs. She started at North State Public Radio as a freelance reporter in 2017 before leaving for a stint at Northern California Public Media in Santa Rosa.