A jury convicted a surfer April 18 of felony assault of a longtime El Cajon swim coach who was struck in the head with a paddle board, causing brain injuries.
The jury deliberated 11 hours before convicting Paul Taylor Konen, 34, of assault with a deadly weapon upon Kevin Eslinger, 56, while surfing off Sunset Cliffs on June 26, 2018.
Eslinger, who has been associated with the Heartland Swim Association in East County, testified during Konen’s trial in San Diego Superior Court.
Judge Robert Trentacosta set sentencing for May 16. Konen remains free on $30,000 bond.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Greco described Konen as the “bully on the beach.” Eslinger was struck in the head by a 7-foot standing paddle board and suffered a skull fracture that caused Eslinger to have a speech impediment.
Eslinger also worked at El Cajon Valley High School. After being struck in the head, he managed to get to shore and was rushed to a hospital.
“The community will not tolerate assaultive behavior in the water,” said Greco, adding the jury held Konen “accountable” for his actions.
Konen’s attorney, Brian McCarthy, declined comment after the verdict.
Fentanyl smuggler sentenced
A driver who tried to go through the Pine Valley checkpoint with 21 packages of fentanyl has been sentenced to 37 months in federal prison.
Jose Armando Hernandez Velasquez, 24, will be released on May 13, 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin McDonald urged U.S. District Court Judge Janis Sammartino to impose a 51-month term while defense attorney Thomas Sims asked for a 21-month term.
Fentanyl is a dangerous synthetic opioid that is deadly even in small amounts. Velasquez pleaded guilty to possession of fentanyl with intent to distribute.
The incident occurred on Sept. 5, 2018, when Hernandez was driving a silver Mini Cooper at 1:53 p.m. as he approached the Interstate 8 checkpoint.
An agent’s dog alerted him to the vehicle’s floorboard, and the Mini Cooper was sent to a secondary inspection.
The vehicle was transported to the hydraulic lift for further inspection. An agent used a fiber optic scope within an opening and saw sealed bundles on a false bottom compartment.
Agents removed 21 vacuum sealed packages that weighed 55 pounds. The packages contained a mixture of the deadly fentanyl drug and piperidinyl.
Hernandez is a Mexican citizen with a permanent resident card. His girlfriend was initially charged with him, and she told agents she was unaware of any drugs in the vehicle.
A prosecutor asked the judge to dismiss the case against her and she was released from jail.
Parolee with gun given five years, four months
A parolee, Dontae Douglas Smith, 29, was sentenced on April 15 to five years and four months in state prison for possessing a gun in his car in La Mesa following a chase.
Smith pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and felony evasion from San Diego and La Mesa Police in a Dec. 20, 2018 incident.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Laura Halgren imposed four years for the gun possession charge and added one year and four months for evading police. Smith has a 2016 conviction for assault.
Police reported to a burglary in progress call at 4:50 p.m. in San Diego and officers saw Smith driving in a vehicle that matched a description in the call. However, Smith refused to pull over when officers tried to stop him.
This led to a chase on Interstate 8 and into La Mesa. Smith struck several parked cars. He abandoned the car and got onto the trolley in Spring Valley, but was later arrested.
Ironically, the burglary call was investigated and determined to be unfounded and was not related to Smith.