Ugh. That's about the only response one can have to Christine Pelisek's sad, sad story about the senseless killing of college student Luis Santos, allegedly by a group of privileged kids from Sacramento (“J'Accuse,” April 23). Santos was killed in a fight on the campus of San Diego State, allegedly when two sets of guys, all of them intoxicated and overly aggressive, came to words, then blows, then knives. Santos, by all accounts a good kid, pulled the shortest straw. The private-schooled Sacramento kids, self-titled the “Hazard Crew,” include Esteban Núñez, son of former California Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, and are also said to be good kids; but, allegedly, some of them had the knives, and two of them have turned state's witnesses. Meanwhile, powerful friends, including L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, put in good words for the younger Núñez and his pals.

“The press must remain alert to outside pressure from mayors, VIPs and politicians who may want to influence the outcome of this high-profile trial,” writes Antl. “The truth will come out shortly and will haunt every college student who once felt 'safe' while walking on any U.S. campus. Esteban Núñez, Ryan Jett, Rafael Garcia and Leshanor Thomas have a lot of explaining to do about their deeds that fatal night. And from what I have read, at least two of the defendants — Núñez and Jett — are very dangerous to society, as stated by their own admissions.”

Carol Langstaff says that she “started reading this full of sympathy for the victim. By the time I got to the end, though, he started sounding pretty 'thuggish' in his own right (or was at least pretending to be). I have always warned my son about doing that, unless you are stupid and ignorant enough to follow through on it. Santos was neither, and he paid the ultimate price for being a li'l wannabe gangsta. Let his story be a warning for those who like to play tough guy.

“It's obviously understandable why the parents of the accused are using all means necessary to fight on their behalf,” writes James R. Nolan. “These are their children, whom they love and would go out of their way and give their lives for should it come to that. This is also what blinds them to who those children are, how they behave, and what they're capable of (and what they may have done) when not under their watch.

“Núñez, Jett, their friends and the victims were all guilty of being drunk. Their behavior was adolescent, stupid, uncalled for, and proved nothing. But there was absolutely no reason for fisticuffs or the use of knives. The victims were unarmed and unprepared for battle, unlike the assailants, and if the defense attempts the wishful-thinking assumption 'one of Santos' friends must've had a knife' angle, it will only prove how far the defenders of justice, truth and the law will go to bend the rules to win their case and damn the consequences if it tarnishes the ideals they're supposed to be fighting on behalf of,” Nolan continues.

Intentionally or unintentionally, a life was taken; those who did it have been fingered. It's time the parents, the mayor and everyone who supports the defendants finally stopped being in denial, and started to accept the realization that their power and influence cannot be used to protect, subvert or assuage these kids' guilt.

“They don't need to be protected, they need to be stopped, helped and bettered as people. They don't deserve a lighter or overturned sentence, they need to face their penitence just as an impoverished kid their own age (and guilty of the same crime) would. Justice cannot be honed on a knife's edge.”

The trial begins May 3.

Remember the opening sequence of The Godfather: Part II? The Mafia shaking down all the little people. Now, instead of the mob, imagine Yelp, the San Francisco–based ratings site. As Tim Elfrink points out (“Cry for Yelp,” April 23), that's how a lot of businesses view Yelp, which allows members (via a monthly fee) to remove negative reviews. And several are suing the company.

“This is pure BS,” says Blogger. “Yelp doesn't have enough pull to completely ruin a business.”

But Annie, a reader and local business owner, explains how it works in her case: “I have a women's fashion business in Santa Monica. I had many excellent reviews on Yelp. My competition had lots of negatives. One day I get a phone call from Lisa at Yelp soliciting an ad. I say, 'Thank you, but no thank you.' A few days later a customer tells me to go to Yelp: My competition has taken an ad and her bad reviews are NOWHERE to be seen, she only has terrific reviews. My good reviews have ALL disappeared, and I now have lots of negative reviews!!!! WTF???? I call Lisa and mention this to her, and she tells me that the sales department has nothing to do with the reviews, but she'll look into it. She continues to call me and solicit me for business. I told her I was not interested in being shaken down. My bad reviews remain and my competition looks terrific — she is not. Ugh. In today's tight market, you better believe that ANY negative press/opinions hurt … and can help put already struggling businesses out of business.”

Another reader, Sara, says, simply: “Shame on you, Yelp — I'm shocked.”

Tibby Rothman's story about a planned nature center at Whittier Narrows (“Pave to Save Whittier Narrows?,” April 23) provoked much comment, most of it aghast. Mireya Parravicini's response is both representative and succinct: “One of the flimsy excuses for the proposed construction at Whittier Narrows Nature Center is that it will serve to educate the people about the natural environment. Educate? About the natural environment? Please! What better classroom to teach about nature than our very-much-threatened open space! Take a class of third-graders on a tour of a concrete center? Please, let us have nature to teach about nature!”

Or, as David Siegrist pleads, “Let it be … let it be … let it be … JUST AS IT IS!”

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