‘Bird Rock Bandits’ admit probation violations
Three young men who served jail terms for a La Jolla street brawl in which a professional surfer died admitted today that they violated terms of probation by testing positive for marijuana and being in each other’s company.
Eric House, 22, Orlando Osuna Wright, 24, and Matthew Yanke, 23, were ordered to remain in custody without bail pending sentencing on Jan. 22.
The three — along with co-defendant Hank Hendricks — pleaded guilty in June 2008 to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the death a year earlier of 24-year-old Emery Kauanui.
Their original sentences ranged from 349 days in jail for Osuna Wright to 210 days for House and Yanke. Hendricks got 90 days behind bars.
At the time, Judge John Einhorn ordered the defendants to stay away from places where alcohol is served and to have no contact with each other or the named victims in the case.
“Nobody won, guys,” the judge said at the time. “Please show your community, your families, the Kauanui family, (and) the memory of Emery Kauanui, that I haven’t made a mistake on the sentencing.”
A fifth man, Seth Cravens, 23, was convicted of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.
Yanke, Osuna Wright and House — members of the so-called “Bird Rock Bandits” — were arrested last week for violating court orders imposed on them at sentencing.
Einhorn revoked the defendants’ probation after they admitted certain violations.
Yanke admitted being in the presence of Osuna, House and Kauanui’s girlfriend, Jennifer Grosso, and testing positive for marijuana.
House admitted testing positive for marijuana and having his photo taken with Yanke at the Viejas Casino. House’s attorney said his client did not post the photo on Facebook.
Osuna Wright admitted testing positive for marijuana on multiple occasions since April, but would not admit violating other terms of probation.
Attorneys for all three of the defendants unsuccessfully argued that their clients should be released from custody.
Yanke’s attorney, Kerry Steigerwalt, said his client felt himself “slipping” on probation and made an appointment to check himself into a treatment program for emotional and behavioral problems, but canceled the appointment.
“He didn’t want to violate, but he needed help,” Steigerwalt said of Yanke. “He recognized his own frailties.”
Prosecutor Sophia Roach said the admitted probation violations are “quite serious” and urged the judge to hold the defendants without bail pending sentencing.
The judge agreed.
“Mr. Yanke, I don’t trust you,” he said.
House’s attorney, Earll Pott, said his client tested positive only once for drugs and “has not re-offended in any way.”
But Einhorn said he didn’t trust House, either.
The attorney for Osuna Wright, K. Kerry Yianilos, told the judge that her client was working full-time in construction and attending classes at Mesa College. He was arrested the night before finals, his lawyer said.
Yianilos said Osuna Wright was modeling a summer line of clothing for a friend when he violated probation by being in a hotel club.
“He was not there for the purpose of drinking,” the attorney said.
Yianilos said Osuna Wright had also been working weekends to help pay off his legal debts.
But Einhorn was unconvinced and ordered him held without bail, as well.
“Mr. Osuna, you’ve lost my trust in you,” the judge said.
Roach must now decide whether to proceed on the alleged probation violations that weren’t admitted.
During the trial, prosecutors contended the defendants’ allegiance to the hard-partying “Bird Rock Bandits” made Kauanui’s death a crime committed by a street gang, but Einhorn rejected that allegation.
The deadly fight in front of the home of Kauanui’s mother erupted the night of May 24, 2007, after the victim and House were kicked out of the La Jolla Brew House. The two had gotten into a dispute at the bar when Kauanui spilled a drink on House.
Kauanui was driven home by his girlfriend. Cravens, House, Wright and Yanke followed, and House was egged on to fight the victim, according to testimony.
During the fight, Kauanui confronted Cravens, who responded by throwing what the judge described as a “vicious swing’’ that connected with the victim’s face. Kauanui fell backward and hit his head, suffering a severely fractured skull. He died four days later at a hospital.