Winning The Battle, Losing The War
by Bruce McEwen, July 21, 2011
Sean Bradley Hammon was arraigned on July 7th. Visiting Judge William Lamb refused to set bail on a charge of driving under the influence. Hammon's lawyer, public defender Eric Rennert, was still trying last Thursday, a week later, to get Judge Henderson to set bail so Hammon could get out of jail and, as they say, get on with his life.
Judge Henderson turned to the prosecutor, Deputy DA Matt Hubley, to see if there was any justification for keeping Hammon locked up.
Hubley opened the file and started reading Hammon’s rap sheet.
“There are three DUIs in California, and a 1989 conviction for grand theft. He went to prison in ’89, and when he got out he was on probation for a DUI when he was arrested for grand larceny and DUI in Nevada. In ’91 he got a DUI in Texas. He was arrested for grand larceny in Texas in ’93… Hmmmm… Let’s see here, a felony theft in El Paso in ’95, five years confinement… In ’98 another felony theft in Texas, some jail time, a DUI in El Paso follows that in 2000, an assault charge in ’04 in El Paso, a DUI in Texas… A DUI out of Utah in ’05, as well as a felony theft for receiving stolen property… Currently on bail in Nevada pending trial for a prison term… Let’s see, the three outstanding DUIs in California… That’s about it, judge.”
Public Defender Eric Rennert tried to soften Hammon's impressive legal history.
“He has family here locally, your honor, and he’d be willing to abstain from alcohol while on bail.”
Judge Henderson is not your basic Mendo handholder, not a kumbaya kind of guy. He seemed incredulous. He stared at Rennert as if he were about to lock Rennert up, too.
“I’ll set bail in the amount of $450,000” Judge Henderson said.
Somebody in the courtroom exhaled a low whistle of amazement at such a high bail for a DUI.
Judge Henderson smiled and said, “I think his extensive convictions demonstrate he’s a substantial threat to public safety” — and who could argue?
George John Auzans paid $3150 to the court in marijuana eradication fees. This money will go to the Ukiah City Police Department. A city ordnance prohibits outdoor marijuana grows, and only 24 plants may legally be grown indoors to be in compliance with the city’s pot code.
Mr. Auzans had 89 plants and was charged $50 apiece for the eradication of all but 24 of them.
Hank Whipple, the would-be Covelo home invader who went to rob his neighbor’s house armed with a bow and arrow, pled to a very generous deal from the DA: Count two, making a criminal threat. After Mr. Whipple was repulsed by that neighbor with bear spray and a load of birdshot, Whipple had threatened to come back and burn his intended victim’s house down — with him, a Mr. Robert Mann, in it.
Whipple pled to a strike offense with the condition that there would be no state prison time at the outset. He’ll be back next Friday for sentencing after the Probation Department has had time to prepare a report and some recommendations.
In other news, the Courthouse has been equipped with brand new screening equipment and metal detectors. The fancy new machinery was not needed, of course, the old ones worked fine, but contracts have to be honored, and, while employees are being laid off right and left, the judges must have the assurance that state of the art technology will ensure their safety even though these very pricy machines will be scrapped along with the perfectly serviceable old ones as soon as the new Courthouse goes up!