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Convicted murderer denied petition

A judge has ruled that Kevin Galik, convicted of the 1996 slaying of 11-year-old Traci Rene Conrad, will not get a new trial.

After claims were made that newly discovered DNA evidence exonerated Galik of the murder, Judge H.N. Papadakis denied Galik’s petition to present his case before the court again, according to Kings County Superior Court documents.

The Northern California Innocence Project, along with its attorney, Kelley Fleming, filed a writ of habeas corpus on Galik’s behalf in 2014. In it, the organization alleges that re-tested DNA evidence excludes Galik, now 58, as a possible male contributor in the death of the Hanford girl.

Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes said “habeas corpus” translates to saying “you have the body.” He said people file this type of writ when they believe they are wrongfully in jail and are asking to come before a judge again to present new evidence.

The new evidence in this case includes vaginal swabs and swabs of duct tape used to bind Traci. The evidence was tested in 2013 by Bode Technology as part of a 2012 agreement between the Innocence Project and the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.

The Innocence Project states that Galik’s DNA was excluded in vaginal swab testing and was also excluded as a major contributor to the DNA found on the duct tape. Galik’s DNA could not however be conclusively excluded as a minor contributor to the duct tape DNA, the petition states.

According to court documents, new evidence must be “credible” and “of such decisive force and value that it would have more likely than not changed the outcome at trial.”

Fagundes said Galik has filed several appeals in the past, but they have all been denied. He said when the Innocence Project came in four years ago and asked the previous district attorney’s administration to do further DNA testing, the request should have been denied.

As part of the return argument during the hearing in November 2017, the DA’s office, which was represented by Deputy District Attorney Louis Torch, stated that the evidence tested had been contaminated by a Fresno Department of Justice laboratory staff member during processing. The office also argued that the DNA evidence failed to completely exonerate Galik.

Fagundes said the new DNA evidence was characterized with the “terrifying trilogy”: low level DNA, multiple contributors, and a physiological source that is both unknown and unknowable.

Papadakis listened to the presentation of new evidence and denied Galik’s request for habeas corpus on Jan. 22.

Part of the court document states: “Such weaknesses in the DNA results obtained in this case undermine both the credibility and significance of such evidence to an extent which, in the opinion of this court, renders the same unlikely to have changed the outcome of the Criminal Case.”

Fagundes said Torch did a “phenomenal job” on a case with complicated subject matter and believes it was Torch’s tenacity and research that helped get the request denied.

“We’re happy the judge saw the evidence as we did,” Fagundes said, adding the Conrad family shouldn’t have had to relive the case.

“It’s a travesty the Innocence Project made the family go through this again,” Fagundes said.

Fleming, who represented Galik along with Linda Starr, said the Innocence Project will appeal the ruling.

"Kevin Galik is not the source of newly discovered male DNA evidence collected from intimate swabs taken from the victim's body,” said a statement from Fleming on Monday. “We believe that the court erred in its application of a recently enacted law regarding the presentation of newly discovered evidence and intend to take the case to the Fifth District Court of Appeal."

Traci was reported missing in February 1996. She had left home to walk the few blocks to the Galik home where she planned to visit Galik's son, who was a friend of hers.

Her body was found nearly a month later after Galik family members reported smelling a strong odor coming from the backyard pottery kiln. Traci was discovered in the kiln bound at the hands and feet with duct tape and gagged. It was determined that she died from suffocation.

Evidence later linked Galik, who was 36-years-old at the time, to the killing and he was arrested on March 27, 1996.

In 1997, a jury convicted Galik of murder and found that the crime occurred in the commission or attempted commission of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under the age of 14. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He is incarcerated in the Mule Creek State Prison in Ione.

Hanford Cow Run on Sunday

HANFORD — Slowpokes will have to moo-ve over during the annual Hanford Cow Run this weekend.

Entering its third year, the half marathon and 5K run is proving that the idea of a regular half marathon in Hanford has legs.

“We want to make Hanford the ‘it’ spot for running,” said Run for All co-founder Eunice Rosas. “People come from all over to visit Hanford and participate in the race. They stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants and that’s what we’ve wanted. We want Hanford to stand out in the running community.”

Runners come from all over the state, including Los Angeles, Salinas, Stockton, Sacramento and points in between, Rosas said.

The race begins and ends in the parking lot of Frontier Elementary School, near Mustang Drive in Hanford. Racers will head to Excelsior Avenue before turning back.

The route passes by landmarks like Kings Dairy Supply and Bertao Livestock.

The Cow Run was named as a tongue-in-cheek way to lean into Hanford’s reputation with dairy, livestock — and the smells come that can come with them.

The half marathon run is a standard 13.1 miles, while the 5K is 3.1, a perfect length for those who don't want to get their calves too tired.

The race is a family event, Rosas said. Around 50 children under 18 are registered to participate in either the half marathon or the 5K run.

Funds from registration fees, which are $85 for the half marathon and $55 for the 5K after today, will benefit Valley Children’s Hospital and mascot George the Giraffe will be at the race, cheering runners on.

“The kids get excited to see him,” Rosas said.

The race has seen great support from Kings County officials and sponsor Adventist Health, Rosas said.

“About 100 of our employees will run this year,” said Adventist Health Talent Acquisitionist Meghan Henshaw.

Through the Adventist wellness program, employees are sponsored to run in the race of their choice on the company dime. Running the race also earns employees “healthy living points” that they can accumulate to receive health insurance discounts.

Through corporate wellness policies, employees from Costco and Leprino Foods will also participate, Rosas said.

“That’s what we want. We want more people to support their employees and give them an incentive to stay active, making them happier employees,” she said.

Rosas and her husband, Cesar Rodriguez, took note that there isn’t much in this part of the Valley for marathon runners outside of the Rockin’ Rudolph Run in December and Visalia’s End of the Trail Half Marathon and 10K in February.

But until the Cow Run began in 2016, Hanford’s marathon scene had no legs to stand on.

The couple, who have owned AAA Mufflers & Tires on East Seventh Street for about 20 years, decided to start the nonprofit organization, Run For All, to bring a running culture to Hanford and promote active, healthy lifestyles.

The first year, the hopes were to get participation in the triple digits.

“We felt that if we could make our goal of at least 100 runners, we could make [the race] work,” Rosas said. “And we completed it with 389 registrations.”

Last year’s goal was to try to repeat those kinds of numbers, erring on the conservative side. The organizers were hoping for 300 participants. They got 421.

This year’s goal is 500 runners, a goal that Rosas said they’re close to reaching.

Runners each get a goodie bag with a T-shirt, and a cowbell, customized with different colors each year, a collector’s item for repeat runners. Trucker hats and other items are also included. All finishers receive a medal and cash prizes are awarded to the top three male and female finisher of each race.

Participants are also treated to a full post-run breakfast.

The organization is always looking for more sponsors, volunteers to help things flow smoothly and participants to cheer runners on.

Last year, Visalia’s Chelsey Velde ran the half-marathon in 1 hour, 36 minutes, winning the womens’ division, while Jesus Campos of Fresno, finished the race in 72 minutes.   

“We’re hoping someone beats that record this year,” Rosas said.

House intel committee votes to release classified memo (copy)

WASHINGTON — Brushing aside opposition from the Justice Department, Republicans on the House intelligence committee voted Monday to release a classified memo that purports to show improper use of surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia investigation.

The four-page memo has become a political flashpoint, with President Donald Trump and many Republicans pushing for its release and suggesting that some in the Justice Department and FBI have conspired against the president.

The memo was written by Republicans on the committee, led by chairman Rep. Devin Nunes of California, a close Trump ally who has become a fierce critic of the FBI and the Justice Department. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump's campaign was involved.

Republicans have said the memo reveals grave concerns about abuses of the government surveillance powers in the Russia investigation. Democrats have called it a selectively edited group of GOP talking points that attempt to distract from the committee's own investigation into Russian meddling.

The vote to release the memo is an unprecedented move by the committee, which typically goes out of its way to protect classified information in the interest of protecting intelligence sources and methods. The memo was delivered by courier to the White House on Monday evening. Trump now has five days to object to its release by the committee.

The White House said late Monday that the president will meet with his national security team and White House counsel to discuss the memo in the coming days.

Republicans said they are confident that the release won't harm national security. They also said they would not release the underlying intelligence that informed the memo.

"You'll see for yourself that it's not necessary," said Texas Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who's leading the House's Russia investigation.

But Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the panel had "crossed a deeply regrettable line."

"Today this committee voted to put the president's personal interests, perhaps their own political interest, above the national interest," he said, noting that the memo's release could compromise intelligence sources and methods.

While Trump's White House signaled he would likely support the Republican memo's release, his Justice Department has voiced concerns.

In a letter to Nunes last week, Justice officials said releasing the classified memo could be "extraordinarily reckless" and asked to review it. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd suggested that releasing classified information could damage the United States' relationship with other countries with which it shares intelligence.

After those complaints, FBI Director Christopher Wray reviewed the memo over the weekend.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who was with Wray when he reviewed the memo, said the FBI director did not raise any national security concerns with him. Gowdy said the memo doesn't reveal any intelligence methods but it does reveal "one source."

But Schiff said that Wray told him Monday that the review didn't satisfy his concerns about the release of the memo. Wray wanted to brief the committee about FBI and Justice Department concerns ahead of any release, a request committee Republicans blocked, Schiff said.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment Monday evening.

Privately, Trump has been fuming over the Justice Department's opposition to releasing the memo, according to an administration official not authorized to discuss private conversations and speaking on condition of anonymity.

At the behest of Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly and other White House officials contacted Justice Department officials in the past week to convey the president's displeasure with the department's leadership on the issue specifically, the official said. In a series of calls, Kelly urged the Justice officials to do more within the bounds of the law to get the memo out, the official said.

It still is unclear how exactly when or how the memo will be released.

Conaway said the memo could be released within the five-day window if Trump signals his approval for releasing it. But committee rules don't address how that approval must be given — or what happens if it comes in the form of a tweet.

Sentinel File Photo 

Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes

Motorcycle crash leaves one dead

HANFORD — A Hanford man is dead after being hit by a car after initially crashing his motorcycle.

On Friday just before 10 p.m., officers from the CHP Hanford area said they responded to the State Route 198 westbound off-ramp to State Route 43 for a report of a traffic collision with two people lying in the roadway.

During the course of the investigation, officers determined a 2016 Harley Davidson motorcycle was traveling westbound on State Route 198 and took the exit toward State Route 43. The motorcycle was being driven by a 58-year-old Hanford man with a 55-year-old female passenger, also from Hanford.

For reasons unknown at this time, the driver lost control of the motorcycle and CHP officials said both the driver and passenger were ejected from the motorcycle.

Moments after the initial collision, officials said a 2008 Honda was driving westbound on State Route 198 to State Route 43 and the car struck the male driver of the motorcycle, who was lying in the roadway.

The man died at the scene, and officers said the female passenger of the motorcycle complained of pain to her head and chest and was transported to Adventist Medical Center in Hanford.

The cause of this collision remains under investigation, but CHP officials said it appears alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the collision.