Crazy Cases

by Bruce McEwen, October 26, 2011

Here in Mendocino County, intoxicant capitol of the United States, there's a grape glut and there's a marijuana glut, both caused by too many people on the production end of the product.

There's also a dummy glut at the Mendocino County Courthouse. We'll get to it.

The pot glut has sent prices down, way down. Wine prices are also down, but Two Buck Chuck took the la out of that la di da a long time ago. Why spring for a forty dollar chardonnay when you can get a Two Buck Chuck that's just as good, if not better?

So what began as a mere high off a plant that grows wild has evolved into a medicinal cure-all, rising from marijuana to cannabis, which puts a little distance between it and spliff, joint, grass, number, joint, shake, weed, locoweed, ganja, doobie, herb, hash, maryjane, pot, reefer, and the grubbier addresses on Dope Street. There are major dealers who now call themselves "cannabis brokers."

Deputy Derek Hendry caught a certain Mr. Parsons, a broker, with 16 “Eight-Balls” of methamphetamine that Parsons had received in the mail from Los Angeles. Parsons task, as broker, was to trade the eight-balls for Mendo Mellow. An eight-ball, by the way, is an eighth of an ounce of crank, and at the going rate it's a straight-across trade for a pound of local bud. Mr. Parsons was going around the county trading meth for pounds of “cannabis," trading a very bad drug for a not-so-bad drug.

Hendry said, “I don’t know exactly the rate of exchange, but he had a notebook to keep track of the transactions and explained that he was a ‘broker’.”

The prosecutor, Deputy DA Katherine Houston, asked at unnecessary length, “Did you form an opinion of his activities in this regard?”

“Yes, I think he was trading the eight-balls of meth for pounds of marijuana.”

Three other brokers were caught simply transporting marijuana This trio also had more than $25,000 in cash with them in addition to a big load of pot. They were the cannabis brokerage firm of Clark, Henderson & Jones — Frederick Clark, 24, of Glendale; Zachary Henderson, 20, of Dateland, Arizona; Joseph Jones, 30, of Payson, Arizona. Their firm was arraigned last Friday, but the details of their business dealings were not revealed because they don't yet have lawyers. But if they would put that twenty-five thou the cops took off them at the end of a fishing line and drag it through the County Courthouse they'd probably have fifty defense attorneys to choose from. Like a lot of people busted with lots of cash, these three seem headed for a public defender, which means the taxpayers pick up their legal tab.

Then there was the case of The People vs. Anthony Michels, 26, and Patrick Dale, 27, of Ukiah. One of their defense lawyers commented, “Remarkable as it may seem, this series of crimes was inspired more out of boredom than any financial concerns.”

Dumb and Dumber pled out early to burglarizing a series of businesses, residences and vehicles just to pass the time — the weather being mild and nothing on TV worth watching.

Michels and Dale got off light with 180 days in the Mendocino County Jail and five years probation, but surely they'd have to pay for the stuff they stole, all $7,403 of it? y

Visiting judge Richard Kalustian seemed so upset at the pointlessness of the crimes — neither of these characters needed the money — that he resolved to make them pay $200 per month.

“Are you guys working at all?" the judge asked.

No, they were not. They’d never had jobs, and probably never would have jobs because, one of the lawyers explained, they were…

Judge Kalustian didn’t care.

“I’m going to order the $200 per month and hold them liable "both jointly and severally" — do either of you know what that means?”

The two defendants had no idea. The term was as foreign to them as the world of work.

“It means you will both be responsible until every penny is paid back! And I want one of the first disbursements to go to Ward Hanes for $1,380.”

From the looks of these two, we’ve got a feeling Mr. Hanes will be waiting a long time for his money.

A squabble between neighbors in Potter Valley had escalated to the point where it had gotten all the way to Superior Court.

Ms. Morningstar Redbird Hoaglin, 34, of Potter Valley, is being prosecuted for an episode that began with warm, fuzzy puppies and escalated to hand-to-hand combat.

Mr. and Mrs. Hoaglin and their neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Dalton, are long-time antagonists. Defense attorney Keith Faulder, represented the injured party, Ms. Hoaglin, who, it seems kicked off the fray when Mrs. Dalton came driving down the road while the Daltons and another man were trying to get a litter of puppies out of the roadway. Faulder told the judge that Ms. Hoaglin ignored the Dalton's, er, passionate demands to slow down. Unkind words were exchanged.

Who did what to whom was being sorted out in court.

Was Ms. Dalton driving down Eel River Road at an unsafe speed and didn't even slow down when she saw a litter of puppies were in the road?

“I had to go pick up my son and take him to jujitsu,” Ms. Dalton explained, suggesting she may have been in a hurry.

“So you were heading into town. Then what happened next?” Ms. Norman asked.

“Morningstar and Jamie started flipping me off and saying, ‘You fucking bitch!’”

(These days, the F-Word rings throughout the Mendocino County Courthouse as frequency as "Your Honor.")

“And all you were doing was trying to go into town, and pick up your son, so he could get to his class,” Ms. Norman said.

Mr. Faulder objected that, at best, Ms. Norman was leading the witness.

Judge William Lamb allowed the question.

“Were you forced to stop?” Norman continued. “Yes,” Ms. Dalton replied. “Morningstar got in front of my car and made me stop. They were still flipping me off and saying, ‘Fuck you, bitch!’”

“Where was James Fleenor?”

“Jamie was on the other side of the road.”

“Did they explain why they stopped you?”

“No. They were blocking the road just to harass me. They said, ‘Get off the road, bitch!’”

“Did they say anything about puppies being in the road or in danger?”


All three defendants and their lawyers, as well as others in the gallery, guffawed loudly at this denial.

“So what did you do?”

“I stopped! I couldn’t move. They were in front of me!”

“What happened next?”

“Um… well, she kept saying ‘Fuck you, bitch’ and uh, ‘Get the fuck off the road.’ She was saying, ‘This is my road, bitch.’”

“Oh, my,” Ms. Norman exclaimed in terms reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, “What ever did you do?”

“I froze! I was so scared!”

The formidably constructed Ms. Dalton certainly didn't look like she scared easy.

Other motorists had stopped to allow the ‘defendants’ to get the pups safely off the road, but if you went solely by Ms. Dalton's testimony she, the good mom, was simply driving down the road to pick up her son when her maniacal neighbors jumped into the road to pepper her with vile insults.

“Ms. Dalton,” Faulder for the defense asked, “can you describe the road?”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she said sullenly.

Faulder chuckled amiably and said, “Well, where is it?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, it runs right in front of their house, correct.”

“Well, a little bit,” the witness grudgingly allowed.

“And how far is it from the house?”

“How far?”

“Yes! How far!? Can you tell me how far the road is from the house?!”

Ms. Dalton set her jaw, tilted her head back, and looked down her nose at the impertinent attorney, ignoring the question.

“Well, let me put it this way,” Faulder continued, “You saw not only the three defendants but also their dogs, as well, didn’t you?”

Still no answer.

“And they were trying to get their dogs out of the road, correct?”

Ms. Dalton launched into a disjointed historical explanation about why she dislikes Ms. Hoaglin, avoiding the issue of the dogs. Faulder let her finish, then returned to the subject of the dogs.

“Isn’t it true that Ms. Hoaglin was upset because you were going too fast and the dogs were in the road?”

No answer.

“And isn’t it also true that just before this incident you had another incident involving Ms. Hoaglin, and she had called the police on your husband?”

“My husband didn’t do anything! She’s just a” —

“I don’t mean to be rude," Faulder interjected, “but we can’t talk at the same time, Ms. Dalton. You are aware that Ms. Hoaglin reported a crime against your husband, are you not?”

“I don’t know if it was a crime,” Ms. Dalton sniffed.

Judge Lamb said, “Do you know that there was a report?”

“I guess so…”

“That’s probably the best we’re going to get,” the exasperated judge said.

Faulder agreed. “I’ll move on, your honor. So it’s your testimony, Mrs. Dalton, that you went and picked up your son, then called 911?”

“I didn’t know if I could call 911.”

“But you did?”


“Nothing further.”

Ms. Catherine Livingstone, of the Public Defender’s office was representing Morningstar Hoaglin.

“Was my client holding a dog?” she asked Mrs. Dalton.


“Was Jamie trying to collect the dogs?”

No response from Mrs. Dalton.

“Did you roll down your window to speak to Morningstar?”

“No! I was in shock!”

Mr. Lewis Finch of the Alternate Public Defender’s office was representing another co-defendant, Joshua Nelson-Dean, 18, of Talmage. Finch suppressed his amusement at the thought of Ms. Dalton, who obviously has the disposition of a rottweiler and the vocabulary of a sailor, being shocked at much of anything.

Mr. Finch continued with Ms. Dalton, “You mentioned you were in shock, and yet you told the deputy that this happens all the time…?”

“Yes, those two behave like that all the time to me.”

“But you didn’t call 911. You called your husband from the road, didn’t you?”


“And you were really upset, weren’t you?”


“Nothing further.”

Ms. Norman called Mr. David Dalton to the witness stand.

She said, “Now, Mr. Dalton: You got a call from your wife on September 16th about 3pm, saying something had happened. Is that correct?”

“Yes. I was going to a poker tournament at the Coyote Valley Casino.”

“So you were on your way. What did you see when you came to the scene?”

“I saw Josh Nelson in the road.”

“Did you talk to him?”

“I asked him where Jamie and Morningstar were.”

“Did you argue with him?”


“Did he tell you where Morningstar was?”

“He said she was down by the river.”

“Anything else?

“I asked ‘em why they were messing with my wife.”

“What did you do?”

“I pushed past Josh and went towards the river, then she [Morningstar] came cussing at me calling me names, saying ‘Fuck this, Fuck that’ and slapped me across the face.”

“Had you had any problems with these people before?”

“No, not that day. Anyway, she slapped me across the face and her boyfriend punched me from behind. He was trying to punch me from behind her.”

“What did you do?”

“I slapped Martha [Morningstar} back and pushed Jamie to the ground.”

“Did you have any problems with Mr. Fleenor?”

“No. But Martha [Morningstar] grabbed my shirt and started trying to pull me, but I twisted her grip loose and pushed her away. I was trying to defend myself, but slipped and fell to the ground and then they both jumped on me. Then Josh grabbed a rock and started hitting me in the head. I managed to get up but noticed my shirt was ripped and my $3,000 gold necklace was missing.”

When the cops arrived, charges of theft and assault were lodged against the three dog defenders, the two Hoaglins and Fleenor. They were jailed back in September. Faulder had tried to get defendant Fleenor out of jail so he could feed the pups, but Ms. Norman argued successfully against it. Judge Lamb released Fleenor last week.

But back to Mr. Dalton, witness for The People.

Mr. Finch asked, “Didn’t you recently assault somebody with a baseball bat?”

Dalton looked like he wanted to assault Finch with a baseball bat. Dalton said, “I remember being asked that but I didn’t have any hostile altercation with anybody.”

“And that was just a couple of months before this incident, in July, wasn’t it?”

“I don’t know what you’re getting at,” Dalton told Finch, with an edge of threat in his voice.

Dalton then began what soon became a long and winding answer about why in theory he might go after someone with a baseball bat as Faulder and Finch objected as to relevance just as prosecutor Beth Norman, seeing that one of her star witnesses was beginning to look like a psycho himself, said, “Well, if you’ll just let him go on, it may come to him, eventually."

Judge Lamb, seeing that the whole show was by now all the way over into pure absurdity, called the lawyers into his chambers. When the lawyers and the judge reappeared, the judge said he’d allow the assault charge to stand, but the theft of the necklace was thrown out, and Fleenor was released to go feed the dogs.

The case is scheduled to go to jury trial November 28th.

A more plausible victim would be Demetria Pike, who “smirked” at her neighbor, a Mr. Denico Perry, who jumped out of his car and ran Ms. Pike down in the middle of the street and beat her over the head with a tire-iron.

(Do you get the feeling that there are a lot of dangerously unhinged people roaming this fair land of ours?)

Officer Andy Phillips of the Ukiah Police Department was dispatched to Waugh Lane where he found Ms. Pike with her head broken open and numerous other visible injuries to other parts of her battered body.

Officer Phillips found Mr. Perry standing at the corner of Cooper and Waugh Lane with blood on his sweatshirt. Perry told the officer that he was tired of Demetria and her sister “harassing” him for the past year. When Demetria smirked at him it was the last straw.

“He said he struck her an unknown number of times,” Officer Phillips said.

With a tire iron. A tire iron. He hit a woman repeatedly with a tire iron.

There was a time in America when this kind of thing didn't happen, and it wasn't all that long ago.

Ms. Pike told Officer Phillips that she'd heard Perry yell at her as his car door slammed. She started running away and got struck in the back of the head with what she described as a tire-iron or crow bar.

This testimony was corroborated by a bystander who called herself Isabelle.

Officer Phillips said the bleeding gash in Ms. Pike's head was about as wide as his middle finger, and he’s a pretty big cop with big hands. Phillips said the wound was at least two inches long.

Mr. Perry’s public defender didn’t have much to say for his client. What could he say? PD Farris Perviance is confident that the case will be resolved without a trial. Since there’s no defense for attacking a woman with a tire iron for whatever reason short of her shooting a gun at you from close up, it will be interesting to see what kind of deal The People offer this maniac.

This is what social collapse looks like, as my friend Vicky is fond of saying.

One Response to Crazy Cases

  1. Steven Gill Reply

    January 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Is this a result of rampant methamphetamine use, or just the human melodrama in all it’s perversity?

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