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Ventura County

Man Guilty of Illegally Bulldozing 300 Oaks

A judge convicts the real estate broker who cleared nearly half of his 43-acre Ojai property. He faces up to 31/2 years' incarceration and fines.

May 24, 2003|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles man was found guilty Friday of illegally bulldozing 300 oak trees from his Ojai property.

William Kaddis, 58, was convicted of 11 criminal counts stemming from the clearing of nearly half of his 43-acre property off Baldwin Road in the fall of 2001. He was acquitted on two additional counts.

The case was heard by Superior Court Judge Kevin J. McGee after Kaddis, a real estate broker, opted to forgo a jury trial.

In addition to the charges related to the trees, McGee found Kaddis guilty of illegally keeping 62 dogs on the property, filing a false police report and altering a streambed on his land without proper permits.

"I think he made an excellent, well-reasoned ruling," Deputy Dist. Atty. Karen Wold said.

"This was the largest rape of land in the history of Ventura County, and if they think we wouldn't prosecute anyone who destroyed our environment, they're wrong," she said.

Kaddis' attorney, who had argued against the constitutionality of tree ordinances during his closing statements, said the verdict was not completely unexpected.

The attorney, Roger Diamond, plans to take the matter to an appellate court unless Kaddis and the Probation Department can reach an agreement.

"It might make more sense for Mr. Kaddis to settle this and write this off as experience," Diamond said.

Diamond said he would base his appeal on the constitutionality of the ordinance.

"I admire the county for being environmentally sensitive, but I wonder about their hypocrisy when they approved the Ahmanson Ranch project," he said, referring to a controversial 3,050-home development in eastern Ventura County.

"Typically what county officials do is go after the small guy ... but they don't have the guts to say no to the big people."

At sentencing, Kaddis faces up to 3 1/2 years' incarceration and substantial fines but could receive probation.

Meanwhile, Diamond said his client does not know what to do with his dogs, which the county has asked him to remove from the property.

"It's a real dilemma for him," Diamond said.

"It's overwhelmingly expensive to find a home for all those dogs."

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