Judge denies probation request in ‘Bird Rock Bandit’ case


City News Service

A judge refused Friday a defense request to shorten probation for a La Jolla High school graduate who was at the scene of a 2007 “Bird Rock Bandits” group fight that resulted in the death of a professional surfer.

Henri “Hank” Hendricks, now 24, pleaded guilty in June 2008 to being an accessory after the fact in the death of 24-year-old Emery Kauanui. As part of his three-year probation, Hendricks served 90 days in the county jail.

Defense attorney Richard Gates told Judge John Einhorn that Hendricks has been denied re-enrollment at the University of New Hampshire — where he played football — because he is on probation for the felony conviction.

But Einhorn said he anticipated Hendricks completing his entire stint on probation.

“I think it’s too early to grant the relief requested,” the judge said.

Einhorn did offer to convert Hendricks’ formal probation to summary probation, which would eliminate the need to check in with a probation officer, but that offer was put on hold.

Thomas Hendricks said earlier that his son “has done everything everybody’s asked him to do” while on probation and wants to get his business degree.

The father said his son was not a drinker and had met up with friends from high school the night of the fight at the Brew House in La Jolla.

Hendricks was a backup quarterback for the University of New Hampshire when he was charged in September 2007.

Prosecutors said Hendricks could have stopped the group fight in front of the victim’s house, but didn’t.

Seth Cravens, now 24, was convicted of second-degree murder for throwing the punch that resulted in Kauanui’s death and was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

Three others — Eric House, 22, Matthew Yanke, 23, and Orlando Osuna, 24 — pleaded guilty in 2008 to involuntary manslaughter for their involvement in the case. They were sentenced to jail and probation.

The three — all members of the “Bird Rock Bandits” — were on probation this past December when they were arrested for violating court orders about associating with each other and drug use. Those orders were originally imposed on them at sentencing in the case involving the surfer’s death.

The judge on Jan. 22

revoked probation

and each was ordered to serve three years in prison.

After the arrests in December, Yanke — who suffers from bipolar disorder, according to his attorney — 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.

Osuna admitted testing positive for marijuana nine times since last April, and the judge found that the defendant also violated probation by attending a function at a bar and being in the presence of Yanke.

The younger Hendricks was not involved in any of the cases regarding probation violations.

Prosecutors contended the defendants’ allegiance to the “Bird Rock Bandits” — described at trial as a group of friends who often gathered near Bird Rock in La Jolla, getting into fights, crashing parties and bullying people in the area — made Kauanui’s death a crime committed by a street gang, but the judge previously 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 Brew House. The two had gotten into a dispute at the bar when Kauanui spilled a drink on House.

Kauanui was driven home by Grosso. The others 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” into the victim’s face. Kauanui fell backward and hit his head, fracturing his skull. He died four days later at a hospital.

Grosso told detectives that she tried to pull House off Kauanui during the fight, but Hendricks pushed her away, telling her she didn’t know what was going on.

Authorities said Cravens, Yanke and Hendricks spent that night at Yanke’s house.