LOS ANGELES — A state appeals court panel Tuesday upheld a man's conviction for masterminding the 1994 kidnap-murders of two Redondo Beach men whose bodies were dumped in San Diego County.
The three-justice panel from California's 2nd District Court of Appeal rejected Howard Bloomgarden's claim that his Los Angeles trial for the Oct. 26, 1994, strangulations of Peter Kovach and Ted Gould constituted double jeopardy because he had already pleaded guilty in New York to a federal charge arising from the killings.
"California's dual sovereignty doctrine permitted appellant to be convicted under state law of aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder with special circumstances in addition to his earlier conviction under federal law for violation of the Travel Act," the panel found in its 47-page ruling.
The appellate court justices noted that Bloomgarden "had a motive and the means to orchestrate the kidnappings."
Authorities believe Kovach, 26, was targeted after having a falling- out with Bloomgarden over a drug operation.
Gould, who worked with Kovach at the Galleria Telecom store in Redondo Beach, was abducted along with Kovach. According to Deputy District Attorney Geoff Lewin, Gould was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Kovach and Gould were taken to a motel in Lawndale, where they were strangled by Kenneth Friedman, who was sentenced to death in December 2005. He died in August 2012 on San Quentin's Death Row of an apparent suicide.
The prosecutor painted Bloomgarden as the mastermind behind the plan, calling the evidence against him "absolutely overwhelming."
Bloomgarden -- who had been serving a 33-year federal sentence -- was sentenced in Los Angeles to life in prison without the possibility of parole in June 2016.