Local News

Friday, Apr 09 2010 06:19 PM

Prosecutor of high-profile cases becomes judge

BY STEVE E. SWENSON, Californian staff writer sswenson@bakersfield.com

A local prosecutor who has handled a spate of high-profile cases has been appointed judge of Kern County Superior Court, the office of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced.

John Lua, 38, will replace Judge Gary Ingle, 61, who recently retired after serving 29 years as a judge in Shafter.

Lua, a Republican, has been a deputy district attorney in Bakersfield since 1999. He said Friday he was very pleased by the appointment and he expects to be sworn in at the end of April and serve in Bakersfield.

He said his reactions to being appointed were "shock, nervous, appreciative and excited."

He handled the recent trial of two detention deputies -- Ralph Contreras and Daniel Lindini -- convicted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, respectively, in the 2005 beating death of 30-year-old James Moore.

Lua is currently handling the murder and multiple rape case against Michael Charles Brown Jr. stemming from the 2000 stabbing death of Ruby Lee Jackson-Meriweather and the reported rapes of four women between 2007 and 2008.

Other cases Lua tackled include that of Angelo Mendoza, who is now at Patton State Hospital following a ruling he was mentally incompetent to face charges of biting out one of the eyes of his 4-year-old son about a year ago, and the sexual exploitation conviction of former Dr. Esmail Nadjmabadi.

His current cases will be assigned to other prosecutors, he said.

Lua earned his law degree from Whittier Law School and a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

He has been married to his wife, Eileen, for 11 years and they are the parents of four daughters. Lua is also an avid golfer who shoots in the 70s.

The job pays $178,789 a year.

Ingle was appointed judge at age 32 in 1981 by then Gov. Jerry Brown. He was born in Wasco, grew up in Buttonwillow and lived in Shafter while he was a judge. He was actively involved in community activities in Shafter.

He was known for a special drug court that sought to help people quit using drugs and for taking driver's licenses away from 100 mph speeders on Interstate 5. In 2005, a handmade sign on Interstate 5 announced "1,290 licenses were taken here last year."

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