No Restitution in Lost Hiker Case: Judge

Search for two hikers lost in Orange County forest drew national headlines

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Kyndall Jack and Nicolas Cendoya, who ventured into the wilderness in the Trabuco Canyon area of Cleveland National Forest, are pictured after they were rescued in early April 2013.

    A judge has ruled that Orange County Fire Authority officials cannot recover thousands of dollars in costs incurred in the search for a pair of lost Trabuco Canyon hikers, one of whom was later charged with possession of methamphetamine.

    The news came as Nic Cendoya pleaded guilty to meth possession charges, which authorities say was found in the car that he drove up to the mountain before getting lost Easter Sunday night with his friend, Kyndall Jack.

    Taxpayers Likely to Foot $160K Bill for OC Hiker Rescue

    [LA] Taxpayers Likely to Foot $160K Bill for OC Hiker Rescue
    The Costa Mesa teens who went missing in Trabuco Canyon could be responsible for the $160,000 it cost Orange County officials to find them. Dozens of deputies and firefighters searched around the clock for the hiking duo. Nicholas Cendoya, 19, said he didn't want his parents to be burdened with the cost, but if it came to it, he would help out. Vikki Vargas reports from Santa Ana for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on April 30, 2013. (Published Tuesday, Apr 30, 2013)

    The case that drew national headlines turned into a debate about how much the 19-year-old defendant owes to a volunteer who broke his back in the search.

    Nick Papageorge's IV, 20, is using a victim's rights law to seek financial compensation for his back surgery and a weeklong hospital stay, which Mission Hospital officials told him cost about $350,000.

    Rescued Hiker Charged With Meth Possession

    [LA] Rescued Hiker Charged With Meth Possession
    Kyndall Jack and Nicolas Cendoya became lost after they ventured into the wilderness in the Trabuco Canyon area of Cleveland National Forest. Cendoya was charged Tuesday with the possession of drugs that were found in a car at the trailhead. Robert Kovacik reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on May 1, 2013. (Published Thursday, May 2, 2013)

    “I would like to get compensation for my parents,” Papageorge's said outside the courtroom.

    Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who raised the issue of how Marsy's Law factors into the criminal prosecution of Cendoya, said he went to court not as an attorney or supervisor, but as a volunteer family representative helping Papageorge's family with their legal claims.

    Injured OC Search Volunteer Seeks $360,000 in Restitution from Found Hiker

    [LA] Injured OC Search Volunteer Seeks $360,000 in Restitution from Found Hiker
    A volunteer injured during a successful search for two missing hikers in Orange County is seeking $360,000 in restitution from one of the hikers, who has since been charged with felony drug possession. NBC4's Annette Arreola reports. (Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013)

    Spitzer said Cendoya's attorney, Paul Meyer, was “been very gracious” in discussions on resolving the medical expense issues. So far, the family said it has been billed for $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses and does not know how much the insurance companies will cover.

    Papageorge's, who helped with the search for Cendoya and his 18-year-old friend Jack for two days, fell about 110 feet. He had titanium screws put in his back, but doctors have told him he can expect a full recovery that will not inhibit his intended career as a firefighter-paramedic.

    OC Found Hiker Charged With Felony Drug Possession

    [LA] OC Found Hiker Charged With Felony Drug Possession
    Nicolas Cendoya, 19, was charged with felony drug possession. The teen and his friend were lost for days in an Orange County canyon, and one of the rescuers who was injured is seeking restitution for his medical bills in light of the hiker's drug charge. Vikki Vargas reports from Santa Ana for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 22, 2013. (Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013)

    Papageorge's said he had heard rumors the two hikers had been using drugs before getting lost in the canyon, but it did not discourage him from joining the search.

    “I would go out and do it again," he said, adding, “I'm not angry... We all make mistakes.”

    At issue now legally is whether Cendoya would ever have to pay any compensation to Papgeorge’s.

    Cendoya is eligible for a drug diversion program, and if he is accepted and completes the requirements, he will not have a conviction his record, preventing Papageorge's from seeking compensation, according to Spitzer and Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon.

    Spitzer said he will argue that the state law preventing compensation to Papgeorge's if Cendoya completes the drug diversion program is “unconstitutional” under Marsy's Law.

    Orange County officials estimate it cost more than $160,000 to rescue Cendoya and Jack, but they cannot seek compensation either because a law that would have allowed that expired in 1999. Orange County supervisors on Tuesday approved a draft of a bill that they asked Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Tustin, to
    sponsor.

    Sheriff's deputies searching for Cendoya allegedly found 497 milligrams of methamphetamine in the car that he drove up to the mountain. He was charged April 30 with a felony count of possession of a controlled substance.

    Cendoya and Jack went missing on Easter Sunday night when they became lost while hiking. Cendoya was rescued late April 3, and Jack was found the next morning. Both were found dehydrated, hallucinating and delirious.

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