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Spitzer: Deny hiker treatment option

Supervisor wants nothing to block volunteer injured while searching for Nicolas Cendoya from getting restitution.

May 22, 2013|By Lauren Williams

A rescued hiker who was arrested after methamphetamine was allegedly found in his car should not enter a program that allows first-time offenders to avoid jail, an Orange County supervisor said Wednesday.

County Supervisor Todd Spitzer argued in a news conference against Nicolas Cendoya, 19, of Costa Mesa, entering the rehabilitation program that could expunge his conviction because a volunteer rescue worker fell 110 feet and was injured trying to help him and another hiker.

"It's not unforeseeable that if you're lost and you are engaging in stupid conduct … people are going to come out and find you," Spitzer said.

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Admission to the program would mean the charges could be dismissed, making it impossible for the volunteer and his family to get restitution to cover medical costs under the Victims' Bill of Rights Act, according to Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon.

Cendoya and hiking companion Kyndall Jack, 18, also of Costa Mesa, went missing for five days starting March 31 in Trabuco Canyon, in southern Orange County. Cendoya was slated to be arraigned Wednesday on a charge of methamphetamine posession but the proceeding was rescheduled to July 12.

Spitzer said he favors the civilian volunteer, Nicholas Papageorge's IV, 20, and his family having access to restitution under the Victims Bill of Rights Act, also known as Marsy's Law.

But he said a judge would have to find a connection between Cendoya's alleged drug possession and Papageorge's IV's injuries before making a decision about a Marsy's Law claim.

The Papageorge family incurred $350,000 worth of medical bills. Because the family is insured, they said they are not yet sure how much they will have to pay out of pocket.

"It's just a miracle God spared me," Papageorge's IV said.

His family held up photos of him after an operation that fused five of his lumbar vertebrae.

"He was injured gravely. … We're lucky to have him alive and not paralyzed," said his father, Nicholas Papageorge's III. "There's no logical reason for his spine not to be severed. My son's behavior, I think, was astounding, to go out there and help."

The younger Papageorge's said he would have still gone looking for Cendoya and Jack if he knew about the drug allegations at the time.

"People make stupid decisions. I've made stupid decisions," he said. "I hope it sets them on the straight and narrow."

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