Solo In Covelo

by Bruce McEwen, December 27, 2011

The court was waiting for the defendant, Ira ‘Redhawk’ Reyes. Reyes was on his way to the County Courthouse in Ukiah from his home in Covelo. We knew Redhawk was on the way because his public defender, Dan Haehl, said Redhawk was on his way. Lawyer and client were in cell phone contact. Judge Leonard LaCasse stuck his head out his chamber door to see if the defendant had arrived.

“He’s north of Willits,” Haehl said.

Judge LaCasse found this news vague to the point of annoyance.

“What does that mean? He could be in Arcata or Vancouver!”

Haehl smiled sourly at the judge's little joke. The Reyes sightings weren't exactly like Santa Claus on Christmas eve, and Reyes isn't exactly a ho-ho-ho type of guy, but his leisurely journey from Covelo for his date with the blind lady of justice had its humorous aspects.

LaCasse, who retired last year, is an avid fly fisherman. In winter, fly fishermen tie flies in preparation for the coming fishing season. He went back into his chambers to wait for Redhawk to appear. Maybe the judge passed the time with a Royal Coachman or a McGinty. Is it an art to deceive a trout with an artificial fly? Or is it a sin? Izaak Walton gave the sportsman something to think on as he tied his flies.

The day's witness in the Redhawk case, deputy Tim Goss, gave the rest of us something to think about as we waited for Redhawk to appear. Deputy Goss had been doing “solo duty” in Covelo where it gets lonely after the CHP goes home at midnight. For a small community, Covelo is heavy on tough guys who spend their youths transitioning in and out of the state prison system. The tough guys tend to bring the whole community down, what with their drinking and drugging and violence and threats of violence.

In a recent incident Goss said he'd needed the back-up services of a K-9 and Boonville's deputy Craig Walker, who happened to be in Ukiah with his new wonder dog, Bullet. Walker had sped north up 101 then east to Covelo.

“I was following this guy who kept swerving over the centerline,” Goss said. "After a couple of miles I realized he was swerving into the on-coming lane every time he came to a streetlight. Finally, I pulled him over and asked why. He said he thought these streetlights were cars entering the highway from side roads. Turns out he had $23,000 in pocket money and…”

But just then, the man of the hour, Ira Redhawk Reyes, walked into the courtroom. At 6'2" and 230 pounds, Redhawk, age 24, gets your attention.

I remembered the defendant from his arraignment early in November. Deputy Christine De Los Santos had brought him into Judge Ann Moorman’s courtroom that day. Redhawk had flopped down in a chair and leaned his head on the rail as if he were exhausted. Then he threw his head back and groaned like a man in physical agony. He legs stiffened in front of him and his head hung backwards over the defendant's chair.

Judge Moorman had said, “Mr. Reyes, I’d like you to sit up.”

Reyes didn’t respond. Deputy De Los Santos explained, “He’s not feeling well, your honor.”

“I can appreciate that you’re not feeling well, Mr. Reyes, but these are serious charges and I would like your full attention.”

Mr. Reyes was finally able to sit up long enough for the re-appointment of the Public Defender’s office to represent him — they'd represented Redhawk in his earlier multiple legal difficulties. Angelina Potter took a copy of the complaint on behalf of her boss, Linda Thompson. That complaint had alleged that while Reyes was on probation he had committed first-degree robbery with the special allegation that he had used a firearm. Ms. Potter had brusquely entered Not Guilty pleas, denied all the special allegations, and the preliminary hearing was set for November 29th. Dan Haehl was assigned the case, but Reyes had filed a Marsden Motion to have Haehl removed as his attorney. Judge John Behnke kept Haehl on and the prelim was reset for the December 21st in front of Judge LaCasse. And here we were, the reluctant Redhawk unhappy with his lawyer.

Attorney Haehl, ever the gentleman, and in his inimitably humble manner, apologized to the judge:

“Mr. Reyes refuses to speak to me, your honor. I’ve tried to meet with him but he refuses to see me, and when I went to the jail the corrections officers said he refused to talk to me.”

“He’s trying to control the process,” Judge LaCasse said, his voice rising impatiently. “He comes in here 29 minutes late after being let out on bail, and wants to stall things further. He had a Marsden hearing in front of Judge Behnke, a sound and fair jurist by all accounts, and it was denied. If he chooses not to talk to you, that’s his choice. But the prelim is going forward as scheduled. Counsel, call your first witness.”

If there were more judges like LaCasse this nation's clogged court calendars would quickly be unclogged. LaCasse doesn't monkey around with the criminal class, especially the career defendants of that class.

Deputy DA Matt Hubley called Deputy Sheriff Tim Goss who came forward and was sworn. Goss has worn the uniform for over 15 years and had been called to the scene from the Willits area to look into a possible armed robbery in Covelo. When he got to Covelo, a drive of about an hour from Willits — forty-five minutes if you're in a big hurry — at around 10pm where he met the alleged victim, a Mr. Callen.

Hubley: “Did the victim tell you what happened? … First of all, what was he [Callen] like?”

Goss: “Mr. Callen was shaken, visibly upset. He said the subject, Ira Reyes, came to his property and pointed a gun at him and robbed him of $20. I was in radio contact with tribal police who said they’d seen him {Redhawk] and we went to arrest him. I was in contact with Officer Rabano who had a visual on the subject who was at his mother’s residence on Henderson Lane.”

Hubley: “Did Mr. Callen describe the weapon?”

Goss: “He said it was a Mini-14, a semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle.”

With back-up in place — Sgt. Davis and Deputy DeMarco from Willits — Goss went around to Mom's back door with a spotlight. Sgt. Davis and Deputy DeMarco went to the front door and made the arrest, placing the subject, the eternal subject you might say, in Goss’s car.

Hubley: “Did you talk to him?”

Goss: “I told him he wasn’t under arrest, but I just wanted to ask him a few questions.”

“Did he agree to talk?”

“He said, ‘Yeah, who did I fucking rob this time?’ He indicated he gets blamed for everything that happens in the valley. We were looking around the residence, the chicken coop and sheds for the weapon and he said, ‘Good luck with that, Bro.’”

“Did you contact a person named Shelly Legget?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Did she have any information regarding the case?”

“Yes. She explained that she and Mr. Reyes had not been involved in any criminal activity. She said they’d been at her house on Mountain Lion Road. Then later they’d driven out by the airport to Mr. Reyes’ mother’s house on Henderson Lane. Sgt. Davis and Deputy DeMarco were dispatched to Airport Road, they checked the area and found a Mini-14 in a black nylon bag hidden in some brush.”

“What time was this?”

“11:30-ish.”

“Did it appear to have been there long?”

“Clearly not. The road is not well-maintained, there’s little traffic in the area, and the grass had been freshly matted. There was dew on everything, but the bag the rifle was in was dry.”

“Did you re-contact Mr. Callen?”

“Yes. He said he’d been in front of his residence when Ira Reyes and an unknown female in a car pulled up. He said, 'Ira asked me for money. I’d loaned him money before and never been paid back, so I said I had no money,’ and Ira left the property.”

“But he came back?”

“That’s correct. About 20 minutes later Mr. Callen was at the back of the structure with two others, Tim and Mike, and Ira came back armed with a Mini-14 and ordered the three individuals into the house.”

“Did they comply?”

“Yes, they did. Then there was a verbal exchange. Mr. Reyes made some vulgar statements about white people to the effect they ‘have all the money and need to give some to the Native Americans.’”

“Did he point the weapon at Michael Costa?”

“Mr. Callen said, ‘He pointed the weapon at all of us, demanding money and weed.’”

“Anyone else enter the building?”

“A female named Jordan. She was let in when she knocked, saw what was happening and begged Reyes to let her use the bathroom. She fled through the window and was never seen again that night.”

“How did this all end?”

“After he got the money he left. The event took about 10 minutes. When he left he told Mr. Callen ‘If you call the police, I’ll kill you’.”

“Was it reported promptly?”

“Within the hour.”

The officers had had Callen park behind the substation so Reyes wouldn’t see his vehicle when they brought Reyes past the headlights of the patrol cars and into the interrogation room. Callen was standing behind the lights with an officer ready to identify Reyes as the suspect who robbed him.

Goss: “That’s him, Callen said.”

Hubley submitted Reyes rap sheet, pointing out a previous felony conviction. This was done in order to add a third count: felon in possession of a firearm.

Mr. Haehl was at something of a loss as to how he should proceed on cross-examination in light of his client’s reticence, his client's long legal history and, one should think, his client's extreme dislike for him.

Haehl asked the arresting officer if he’d checked to see if the victim, Mr. Callen, “had been drinking…?”

Goss: “No. My opinion was he was afraid.”

Haehl: “How far from the place of arrest was the weapon found?”

Goss; “Less than a mile.”

Haehl: “What was Mr. Reyes’ physical condition?”

Goss: “Uninjured.”

Haehl: “Had he been drinking?”

Goss: “He was uncooperative.”

Haehl: “Was he 647f. [drunk in public]?”

Goss: “No.”

Haehl: “Nothing further at this time, your honor."

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