San Francisco - A federal appeals court Tuesday reinstated the murder conviction of a man who was caught up in a cult conspiracy known as Pendragon that aimed at a paramilitary takeover of Marin County in 1982.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed a decision in which a federal judge in 2007 overturned the 1984 Marin County Superior Court conviction of Crossan Hoover, 43, for the murder of antique car restorer Richard Baldwin of San Rafael.
Hoover was 17 when he killed Baldwin, 39, by hitting him with a baseball bat and stabbing him with a screwdriver and chisel on July 6, 1982, allegedly at the direction of his employer, contractor and Pendragon leader Mark Richards.
Prosecutors said the purpose of the crime was to obtain several thousand dollars in cash carried by Baldwin.
Hoover was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Richards was separately convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.
The Pendragon cult sought a paramilitary takeover of Marin County and creation of a modern-day Camelot with Richards as King Arthur and his teenage workers as knights, according to court rulings.
Richards allegedly promoted plans in meetings with his workers to take over Marin County by destroying the Golden Gate and Richmond-San Rafael bridges and placing a laser gun on top of Mount Tamalpais.
Hoover took his case to the federal courts after losing appeals in the state court system.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Larson overturned the conviction in 2007 because of a faulty jury instruction on insanity and alleged prosecution manipulation of evidence given to a court-appointed psychiatrist.
But in Tuesday's ruling, a three-judge appeals court said those two factors didn't make a difference to the outcome of the case and reinstated the conviction.
Meanwhile, Hoover is due for a parole hearing on Jan. 15, according to Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian.
Berberian, who as a then-assistant district attorney was the prosecutor in the case, said he was gratified by the ruling.
Hoover's attorney in the appeal, Nina Wilder, was not available for comment on the ruling, which could be appealed further.
In 2007, Wilder said Hoover's conviction "was a grave miscarriage of justice given his mental condition and complete control by Richards."
Hoover is in custody at California State Prison, Solano, Berberian said.
Deputy California Attorney General Peggy Ruffra, who represented prosecutors in the appeals, said, "I think the 9th Circuit reached the correct decision in upholding this conviction for first-degree murder."