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WEST VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS

OXNARD : Felony Trial Ordered in Theft of Plane

September 14, 1993|JEFF McDONALD

Two men accused of stealing a plane at Oxnard Airport and taking an aerial joy ride were ordered Monday to stand trial on felony charges.

Steven Michael Valenti, 30, and Barton Dean Harvey, 31, both of Oxnard, are charged with taking and operating the aircraft without authorization. If convicted, they could receive up to four years in prison each.

Both men have pleaded innocent. Harvey is free on $5,000 bond, but Valenti still is in custody.

The two men were arrested in the Santa Clara River bottom Aug. 27 moments after safely landing the plane, in which authorities found a nearly empty bottle of vodka.

Prosecutors opted not to bring alcohol-related charges against the men to prevent a jury from acquitting them on the more serious charge of taking the plane and finding them guilty of only of a lesser alcohol-related offenses, Deputy Dist. Atty. Charles R. Roberts said.

Steven Long, one of a group of Bakersfield attorneys who own the aircraft, testified at Monday's preliminary hearing Monday that he was paying for his fuel at Oxnard Airport when he heard the control tower broadcast the identification number of his 1975 Cessna 340.

"I ran out on the ramp and I did not see my aircraft," Long said. "It was gone."

Ventura County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Hamilton, a fingerprint expert, testified that prints found on the controls of the plane matched those of the two defendants.

Valenti was convicted of a similar offense 10 years ago when he stole a light plane and buzzed the Pierpont neighborhood of Ventura.

Municipal Judge Bruce A. Clark sent the case to Superior Court after listening to about 45 minutes of testimony. A Superior Court arraignment was scheduled for Sept. 27.

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