Mendocino County Today: July 25, 2013
by AVA News Service, July 24, 2013
WHAT'S BLACK and never works? Decaf, you racist dog!
EARLY POLLING shows Hillary Clinton leading the Democratic pack by a wide margin, with a whopping 63% of Democrats telling pollsters that they would vote for the former first lady. Vice President Joe “Joey The Bag Man” Biden came in second with 13% support among Democrats, the party of middle of the road extremists.
THE PARTY OF LINCOLN? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie leads so far with 15% support among an unappealing pack that includes mega-nut Randian, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, and the gringo-ized Ted Cruz.
POLLS CLAIM that Clinton would beat New Jersey Fats with 47% of the vote to his 41%. The woman accurately described by a former female aide as a “monster,” would beat Jeb Bush worse, and the other mediocrities among the Republican frontrunners worse yet.
GIVEN THESE CHOICES, the AVA is already recommending a vote for whomever the Greens put up. The Democrats and Republicans are interchangeable (and disastrous) on the big issues, as Obama has demonstrated beyond all doubt.
THE ONLY DEMOCRAT who appeals to us is Elizabeth Warren, the sole federal officeholder to at least try to control the banks as we head inexorably toward fiscal cataclysm. She’s a lot smarter than Hillary, a much better talker, and she’s undoubtedly much more of a human being. Of course as a smart and principled person, she has no shot at the presidency.
THE WHOLE SYSTEM STINKS
By Elizabeth Warren
I’ve spent years fighting back against credit card companies that put out zero-interest teaser rate cards, planning to jack up the price later and make all their profits in the fine print. I also fought back against teaser rate mortgages that promised low payments in the first few years, but then shot up to rates that pushed millions of families into foreclosure. So it’s shocking to me that the United States Senate would offer its own teaser rate for our student loan system — a system that is scheduled to make more than $184 billion in profits over the next ten years. That's not the business the United States government should be in. Speak out right now to make sure the Senate doesn't pass a deal that would let federal student loans go even higher than their current 6.8% rate. We had a majority in the Senate to keep student interest rates low, but because of Republican filibusters, the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans jumped from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1st. Instead of restoring that 3.4% rate, a new so-called "compromise" plan on the table raises the interest rate on those loans this year to 3.86% for undergraduate students, and 5.41% for graduate students in 2013. And then it gets worse. The plan is set up to collect higher interest rates in future years. After just 24 months, the rate jumps above 6.8% for graduate students. Within a few years, rates for all loans will be higher than if Congress does nothing -- and some could climb as high as 10.5%. Even worse, with the federal government already making billions in profits off these programs, the "compromise" plan is set up to actually increase those profits by hundreds of millions of dollars more. I can't support a proposal that squeezes even more profits out of our kids, while millionaires and billionaires still don't pay their fair share. This is a bad deal. Senator Jack Reed has offered an amendment that is a true compromise: let rates move with the market, but set a cap on student loan interest rates at their current rates. I am proud to cosponsor that amendment. It's the only way to ensure that students don't end up paying more than they would if Congress does nothing. The Senate will vote on the compromise bill as early as this week. Please speak out now and demand support for Senator Reed's student loan amendment. In the end, this is a simple math problem. If Republicans insist that we continue to make the same $184 billion in profit off of the student loan program, that just means that students in future years will have to pay higher rates to make up the difference. I don't believe in pitting our kids against each other. In fact, I think this whole system stinks. We should not go along with any plan that demands that our students continue to produce huge profits for our government. Making billions and billions in profits off the backs of students is obscene. Senator Jack Reed's amendment is the only plan on the table right now that guarantees student loan interest rates won't skyrocket above their current levels. We need to pass this amendment for our kids and grandkids. Sign up now to support Senator Reed's amendment. I appreciate the hard work that my colleagues have done to try to defeat the Republican filibuster so that we can keep student loan rates low. But our students are drowning under a trillion dollars in student loan debt. We need to start now with one basic principle: cut government profits on student loans. I can't support a deal that actually increases those profits.
PULITZER PRIZE WINNING AUTHOR, HEDRICK SMITH, will be John Sakowicz’s guest on "All About Money” on KZYX, on Friday, July 26, at am to talk about his new book, "Who Stole the American Dream?"
LIBERTARIANS LEADING THE FIGHT AGAINST THE NSA
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Hero) is leading the charge
by Justin Raimondo
Edward Snowden’s sacrifice was not in vain because many thousands in the United States are rising to take up the battle he started. And they mean to win.
At the head of the libertarian army that’s storming the gates of the Leviathan: Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), a Ron Paul Republican who won his congressional seat in 2010, and has been in the vanguard of Washington’s young libertarian Turks ever since. And now he has the statist Establishment of both parties fuming, with his amendment to the 2014 defense appropriations bill, the LIBERT-E Act, (H.R. 2399, the Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act) which would outlaw the National Security Agency’s data dragnet, amending the Patriot Act to limit data collection to specific US citizens under active investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court opinions be made available to Congress and declassified summaries of the opinions be made available to the public. With liberal Democrat John Conyers signed on as a co-sponsor, and 32 members of Congress from both parties on board, the libertarian movement’s brightest star in the House has thrown a real monkey wrench into the campaign to minimize and whitewash the vast and unaccountable surveillance system secretly set up by the NSA.
And he’s got the Regimists in a real panic. Just reading that Huffington Post headline – "NSA’s Keith Alexander Calls Emergency Private Briefing To Lobby Against Justin Amash Amendment Curtailing Its Power" – was so thrilling that I had to stop writing this column, for a moment, and just bask.
Think of it: forty or so years ago, when the libertarian movement had only just stopped being big enough to fit inside Murray Rothbard’s living room, we often got feedback like "Oh, I didn’t know the librarians had their own political movement." This morning I read a headline in the Financial Times exclaiming: "Libertarian Republicans Block Pentagon Bill"! Yes, libertarian Republicans – of varying degrees of consistency – in Congress, a small but growing and highly visible vanguard of liberty, which calls itself the Liberty Caucus. And in the fight against the Surveillance State, they are getting support from progressives with a conscience, who are daring to break with this administration over its draconian approach to civil liberties. That’s what has NSA snoop-in-chief Keith Alexander in such a last-minute lather, getting Rep. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (D-Maryland) to call a special top secret briefing for members of Congress:
"The invitation warned members that they could not share what they learned with their constituents or others. ‘The briefing will be held at the Top Secret/SCI level and will be strictly Members-Only,’ reads the invite."
It’s impossible to parody these people – every time they open their mouths they give themselves away. To anyone outside Washington, D.C., this reads like an invitation to a Soviet Politboro meeting, circa 1933. Is this the kind of government Americans want? I hardly think so. We may be decadent epigones of our pioneer ancestors, effete pushovers for any freebie-promising politico, but Americans aren’t ready for Brezhnevism quite yet.
Ruppersberger, a reliably neoconservative Republican who represents a Maryland district with many thousands of NSA employees (NSA headquarters is in Ft. Meade) has defended the NSA’s spying by declaring "if you have to find a needle in a haystack, you need the haystack" – as succinct a justification for an authoritarian state as has ever been uttered.
The stakes are high – higher than they’ve ever been. And libertarians have a key role to play in this unfolding drama. The libertarian congressional leadership has taken the initiative, with Rep. Amash and Sen. Rand Paul both introducing legislation to roll back the NSA and stand up for the Bill of Rights. Nothing less than the future of the republic is at stake. Which is why grassroots libertarians, and the growing number of liberals and conservatives who never knew we were so close to total tyranny, must back them up. The vote on the LIBERT-E Act is likely coming up on Wednesday – that’s tomorrow. So please – call your congressional representatives.
Don’t know what number to call? Find out here.
Listen to me: this is important. When I heard about this effort – and Amash’s procedural victory in getting this bill on the congressional calendar – I dropped my previous plan to write a column on another topic and insisted they post this one early, so we can get a good jump on the vote and really have an effect. When you call, specific that you are urging a vote for H.R. 2399, an amendment to the defense appropriations bill, that would scale back the powers of the NSA. Be nice, and be brief.
WE’VE BEEN TOLD that local Congressman Jared “Spike” Huffman voted in favor of restricting the NSA.
PUBLIC SHOWS OVERWHELMING OPPOSITION TO SHASTA DAM RAISE PLAN
by Dan Bacher
One thing became clear from the public workshop regarding the proposed Shasta Dam raise held at the Holiday Inn in Redding on July 16 — the vast majority of local people, ranging from Winnemem Wintu Tribe members to local business owners, oppose the raising of the dam.
When one woman in the crowd asked for a show of hands of those who oppose the dam raise and those who support it, the majority of the 250 people in the audience raised their hands in opposition. Only a small number of hands went up in support of the controversial plan.
The event began with a power point presentation by Michelle Denning of the Bureau of Reclamation, accompanied by other Reclamation staff and consultants.
The primary purposes of the project are to (1) “increase survival of anadromous fish populations in the upper Sacramento River” and (2) “increase water supply and water supply reliability for agricultural, municipal and industrial, and environmental purposes," according to the Bureau.
The workshop focused on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for raising Shasta Dam. The 90-day public comment and review period for the EIS started on July 1 – and the workshop held in Redding was one of three workshops held throughout the state that week.
The draft EIR evaluates five controversial alternatives that would raise the dam from 6.5 feet to 18.5 feet, increasing the reservoir’s capacity by 256,000 to 634,000 acre-feet. The document also evaluates a “no-action alternative.”
Presenters claimed that the study, the Shasta Lake Water Resources Investigation, would improve the “operational flexibility” of the Delta watershed and increase the survival of salmon and other fish in the Sacramento River by increasing the amount of cold water pool available to be released to improve downstream temperature conditions for fish during critical periods.
Other “benefits” touted in the power point presentation include increased flood protection, providing additional hydropower supplies, and improving water quality in the Sacramento River and the Delta.
However, as one speaker after another pointed out in an informal public comment and question period, there are many adverse impacts of the project. These include the inundation of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s sacred sites, the need to relocate boat ramps, campgrounds and other recreational facilities, dislocation of residents and business owners on Shasta Lake, loss of future income by displaced people, the take and loss of habitat for numerous special-status species at Shasta Lake and vicinity, and impacts on south Delta water levels and Delta outflows.
The project would also impact the McCloud River’s status for listing as a federal Wild & Scenic River. Dam raise critics also questioned whether the management of the cold water pool is effective way of managing declining populations of Central Valley Chinook salmon.
Kenwani-Cahee Kravitz, a member of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, said the Shasta Dam raise would violate her religious freedoms.
“My daughter will not be able to do her puberty ceremony if the dam is raised," said Kravitz. "Our sacred rock where we conduct the puberty ceremony will go under water if the dam is raised.”
Harold Jones, owner of Sugar Loaf Cottages on Lake Shasta, said his operation would go out of business if the dam is raised 18-1/2 feet as proposed.
“If they take the property and pay for the land, then what will we do about our future income? The government doesn’t allow future income loss to be considered in compensating landowners and business owners,” he emphasized.
Caleen Sisk, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, asked several questions starting with, "When will the 1941 Indian Land Acquisition Act, that took the tribal lands, be addressed?"
The officials refused to answer this question, since they apparently had no answer.
Sisk also asked: "Will raising the dam meet the demands of Southern California?"
Denning responded that the dam raise would provide water to the Central Valley Project and deliver some exported water to people in the San Joaquin Valley, East Bay Area and Glenn and Colusa Counties, but acknowledged that it would be not be enough to satisfy all of the contracts and Southern California.
Finally, Sisk asked, "Where is the plan to get the salmon above the dam?"
Denning responded, “The biological opinion alternatives dedicate 60 percent of storage to cold water to improve downriver conditions for fisheries in dry and critically dry years by meeting the temperature requirements,” but she never really addressed the plan to get the fish above the dams.
The Winnemen Wintu have been for years trying to pressure the federal government to reintroduce winter run Chinook salmon, by means of salmon transplanted to New Zealand around the turn of the century, to the McCloud River above Shasta Dam.
Sisk also emphasized that the current cold water pool management isn’t producing the targeted number of fish, as required by federal law.
The Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992 mandated the doubling of all anadromous fish populations, including Central Valley chinook salmon, by 2002. Instead, the salmon populations crashed in 2008 and 2009, due to record water exports out of the Delta and poor ocean and river conditions, and the goal of 990,000 naturally spawning salmon has never been met.
A new analysis released on May 13 by the Golden Gate Salmon Association (GGSA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reveals that the salmon fishery is limping along at only 20 percent of the population goal required by state and federal law. (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/05/15/18736849.php
“How do you expect extending the cold water pool for salmon at Shasta will produce more salmon when the current cold water pool management hasn’t made more fish?” Sisk said. "This is not logical."
Chris, a local resident, l exposed the absurdity of plans to raise the dam when the lake has been has filled only 11 times in the 59 years of the existence of the reservoir, only 19 percent of the time.
“This tells us that the lake has been mismanaged 48 percent of the time. It makes more sense to manage the water that you have in the reservoir than than to raise the dam,” he pointed out.
In response to my question about the relation between the plan to build the peripheral tunnels and the dam raise proposal, Denning said there is “no relationship between the dam raise study and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.”
However, everybody who has studied the issue knows that there is a clear relationship between the two projects because one is contingent upon the other. The dam is being raised to provide increased water to corporate agribusiness and oil companies that will be shipped south through the peripheral tunnels.
After the meeting Chief Sisk pointed out that participants in the workshop forgot to ask two key questions about emergency evacuation plans and toxic waste.
“No one asked about the evacuation plans for Redding should the dam ever break," said Sisk. "Just think... no one thought Hurricane Katrina would ever happen.”
“Also, what about the toxic waste at the bottom of the Lake?" she noted.
Background: In February of 2012, the Bureau of Reclamation released a Draft Feasibility Study that determined the project was both" technically and environmentally feasible," as well as "economically justified;" the study determined that raising the dam 18.5 feet would cost just over $1 billion dollars and would produce from $18 to $63 million in net economic benefits per year.
The project is just in its beginning stages; the Draft Feasibility Report, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and the public comments received on both documents will be used to determine next steps. If the project is approved, it could be completed by 2021.
Written comments on the Draft EIS may be provided at any time before midnight Monday, September 30, and should be mailed to Katrina Chow, Project Manager, Reclamation, Planning Division, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825-1893, 916-978-5067 (TTY 916-978-5608), or email BOR-MPR-SLWRI [at] usbr.gov. All comments will be considered.
The Bureau will host three formal public hearings to receive oral or written comments regarding the draft EIS. They will be held on the following dates at the following locations:
Tuesday, September 10, 6-8 p.m., Holiday Inn, Palomino Room, 1900 Hilltop Drive, Redding, CA. 96002
Wednesday, September 11, 1-3 p.m., Cal Expo Quality Inn Hotel and Suites, Conference Room, 1413 Howe Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95825
Thursday, September 12, 6-8 p.m., Merced County Fairgrounds, Germino Building, 403 F Street, Los Banos, CA 93635
For information on the Draft EIS, please visit 'http://www.usbr.gov/mp/nepa/nepa_projdetails.cfm?Project_ID=1915. If you encounter problems accessing the documents online, please call 916-978-5100.
ROLLING STONE SALES ARE UP BY 20% even though some retailers refused to stock the magazine after it featured the Boston bombing suspect on its cover.
The controversial August cover, which made Dzhokhar Tsarnaev look more like a rock star than a terrorism suspect, sparked outrage when it was released earlier this month.
As Boston officials and victims lambasted the magazine for celebrating the suspect and ignoring the victims, some retailers, including CVS and Walgreens, pulled the edition from its shelves.
But despite this backlash, it appears that the magazine has sold more copies this month than normal.
A circulation source told the New York Post that sales for the issue until the first weekend of the month were running around 20% above its normal rate.
Rolling Stone usually sells around 81,000 copies, but the estimated sell-through is now believed to be at least 90,000 copies, the source said.
A Rolling Stone spokeswoman declined comment on the figures.
The cover of August's edition is a self-taken portrait of Tsarnaev, 19, and he is identified simply as “The Bomber.” The article promises to explain “how a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam, and became a monster.”
The cover of Rolling Stone is typically occupied by rock stars and actors, and many felt the choice glorified Tsarnaev, who is accused of killing four people and wounding more than 260.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino described the cover as a “total disgrace” and said it should have put survivors or first responders on the cover. “Why are we glorifying a guy who created mayhem in the city of Boston?” Menino asked. “Why would we want to heroize this guy? He's a terrorist. We don't want him in our neighborhoods. We don't want him on magazines. We don't want him anywhere.”
MBTA Transit Officer Richard ‘Dic’ Donahue, who almost died when he was shot during a firefight with the Tsarnaev brothers, said: “I cannot and do not condone the cover of the magazine.”
In their brief statement, Rolling Stone — founded in the 1960s by Jann Wenner who is still editor-in-chief — said their “hearts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and our thoughts are always with them.”
“The cover story we are publishing this week falls within the traditions of journalism and Rolling Stone's long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day,” it said.
Pointing out that Dzhokhar is in the same age group as many of their readers, Rolling Stone said that fact “makes it all the more important for us to examine the complexities of this issue.”
In response to the cover, police photographer Sgt. Sean Murphy released photographs showing a weak and bloodied Tsarnaev in the moments before he was captured.
The Massachusetts police did not authorize the release of the images, and he has now been put on desk duty until an investigation into his conduct is complete.
Tsarnaev, who is currently being held without bail in a federal prison in Massachusetts, has pleaded not guilty to 30 counts — including the four killings — associated with the bombing.
(Courtesy, the London Daily Mail)
THE TALMAGE FLAG BURNER
by Bruce McEwen
Doff your hat and clap your hand over your heart! If in uniform, snap to attention and salute! Run up the colors, and play “The Stars and Stripes Forever”!
“I’m not safe at the jail,” hollered Michael T. Grunwald, suspected of torching Old Glory.
“They’re after me!”
Grunwald could be heard howling in anger, fear and perhaps pain, all the way down the elevator and out the back, condemning the court, slandering the judge, the system, the halls of justice, the whole show. Everyone was gape-mouthed. Grunwald had pulled off one of the all-time Courthouse freakouts.
But he hadn't helped his defense much.
Mr. Grunwald, 58, of Talmage, was arrested June 13th, the day before Flag Day, and charged with arson. He was accused of burning a neighbor’s flag that same morning at 2070 Old River Road. Nobody saw him burn the flag, so Grunwald seemed to think he had an open and shut case for his own innocence and decided he didn’t need a lawyer. He could handle the matter himself.
To many people, defending yourself in court seems simple enough. You just tell the judge what happened and he or she will understand. Judges, being fair and reasonable individuals of intelligence and with their share of experience in the big, wide world, will be understanding. Tell it to Judge Simpatico and he or she will cut you loose.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Except in closing arguments, you are seldom allowed to tell the judge what happened. By the time you get to court and find this out, it’s too late to make a new plan. All you are going to be allowed to do, you discover, is ask some questions of a witness, which, in this case, was the cop who busted you.
The cop will have told his side of the story at the prompting of the prosecutor, and your side must be told only through cross-examination of the cop. Ever try to get somebody — someone on the other side — to tell your side?
The cop won't think you have a side. He will not want to answer your questions, and he will know how to dodge them even if you do get off what you think are real zingers. You will get frustrated and flustered and look like a fool. Worse, you’ll get convicted of whatever you’re charged with. Then, if you're human, you’ll get angry at the system and everyone involved in it, and make yourself look not only guilty but also crazy, even to those who would otherwise have thought you sane and innocent.
Keep in mind that the rules of evidence are complex and rigid. Even experienced lawyers have difficulty getting it right. In fact, most lawyers are not trial lawyers for the simple reason that presenting evidence in court is too demanding, too tricky, and they simply can’t manage it.
The former DA, Meredith Lintott, had a court date last week but didn't show. She sent her lawyer, Mr. Kindopp (see below)*. Ms. Lintott is a seasoned lawyer, been in lots of courtrooms. Why would she feel the need to hire a lawyer? Because she knows better than to represent herself. When professionals with extensive education and experience know better than to go to court without a lawyer, why would you, Mr. Grunwald — especially when the judge is willing to appoint one for free?
Mr. Grunwald was the latest example of this timeless folly of a fool representing himself. It was Grunwald’s word against the cop’s.
Deputy Paoli had arrived after the flag fire had been doused. But Grunwald was still footin' it on home, and he'd been seen in the immediate vicinity of the flag burning. It still seemed to Grunwald that he had a fair chance of winning the case.
But Grunwald didn’t understand, for one thing, that this was a preliminary hearing, not a trial. The prosecution, in the form of a talented young lawyer named Josh Rosenfeld, did not have to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Grunwald burnt the flag, making him an arsonist, since the flag was attached to a house.
At a prelim, all Deputy DA Rosenfeld had to do was make the judge “reasonably suspicious” that Grunwald may have set Old Glory aflame. And while losing a prelim is not a conviction, it is at least halfway there, and most reasonable defendants see the writing on the wall, as it were, and settle for whatever they can get when the facts are laid out during this first hearing. Another thing Grunwald didn’t seem know was that this was a 115 prelim, a result of Proposition 115, which meant the prosecution didn’t have to subpoena all the witnesses they would bring to a trial. In essence, it meant the cop could repeat hearsay as evidence; that is, what other people told him about what had happened.
In the old days, before Prop 115, anyone an officer spoke with would have to be brought to court and sworn in to testify, like in a trial, so the defense could cross-examine them. Not anymore. And herein lay the Mr. Grunwald's doom on his first excursion into “the system.”
As mentioned earlier, Mr. Rosenfeld is a talented trial lawyer. But it didn’t take much talent to put Grunwald on the ropes. Rosenfeld called Deputy Paoli to the stand, his only witness. Paoli said when he arrived at the scene he talked to a cable splicer for AT&T, Brian Farrer. Farrer told Paoli that he saw the suspect, Grunwald, walking away from the burning flag at a fast pace. Just then a neighbor came out of a nearby house, a Mr. Diaz, who helped Farrer put the flag fire out. Mr. Diaz said he recognized Grunwald from the previous day, June 12th.
On June 12th, a vehicle had hit a power pole in the area and knocked down some power lines which started a grass and brush fire. Mr. Grunwald was there trying to put the fire out, and he became angry at the other residents who had not helped him fight the blaze before the Ukiah Fire truck got there.
Deputy Paoli was allowed considerable latitude in his narration, which an experienced lawyer would have objected to. Grunwald was not an experienced lawyer. And DDA Rosenfeld knew what questions to ask to dig the defendant in deeper.
“Do many of the houses have wells and electric water pumps in that area?” Rosenfeld asked.
“Yes,” Paoli answered, “and with the power lines down, the homeowners were unable to use their hoses to extinguish the fire.”
“So, there was no water and Grunwald was upset, yelling at people?”
“Yes. He was very agitated with the local residents for not providing water.”
The next day, after the flag fire was put out, Sergeant Dan Edwards responded to the arson call and saw Grunwald, who fit the description Diaz and Farrer had given him, in the 1200 block of Talmage Road and searched him, finding a Bic lighter in his pocket. Grunwald was asked if he had “an issue” with residents in the area the day before, and when he admitted he was upset with them for not helping put out the fire the day before, he was taken into custody.
On cross, Grunwald said, “Supposedly, those people recognized me from the day before.”
“What is your question, Mr. Grunwald?” Judge Ann Moorman asked. “You have to ask the witness questions. You can’t just make statements.”
“I want to know how they recognized me.”
“You have to ask a question.”
“How did they recognize me?”
Paoli said they recognized him as the person trying to put out the fire the day before.
“Right across the street is Buddha Land,” Grunwald said.
Paoli looked on blankly.
“What’s your question,” Moorman asked.
“Well, isn’t Buddha Land right across the street?”
“Yes,” Paoli said.
“And there’s lots of dry grass and fields there, correct?”
“So if you lived up the street like I do you’d think I was right to fight that fire!”
“That’s not a proper question, Mr. Grunwald,” Moorman said.
“This was an electrical fire, wasn’t it? And you don’t fight an electrical fire with water, do you?”
Paoli said nothing.
“Oh… Now, you say your sergeant searched me and found a Bic?”
“Did he also say I smoke cigarettes — it was very nice for you he left that part out?”
“That’s argumentative, Mr. Grunwald.”
“Well, did he find anything else?”
“Did Diaz or Farrer actually see me light the flag on fire?”
“So we don’t even know who did it. Was anyone seen lighting the flag on fire?”
Grunwald was out of questions, and deputy Paoli stepped down.
“Do you want to argue, Mr. Grunwald?”
Grunwald said, “I see there were no eyewitnesses that I lit the flag on fire. I was seen in the area and that’s all. So, I’d move to dismiss this case.”
Moorman said, “The burden on the people in a prelim is not to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you set the fire, but only to create a strong suspicion that you may have, and they have met that burden. The testimony from the witness was that you were seen leaving the area in a hasty fashion, and the flag was burning. That is reasonable suspicion, and I’m going to hold you to answer.”
Grunwald had lost, but he wanted out of jail. His bail had been set at $100,000 because as soon as he'd bailed out of jail on the flag burning arrest, he went to his ex-wife’s house and took a rather ominous array of items from her — a pair of coveralls, a hatchet, a pair of slippers. There was also an allegation that he’d whispered in his ex-wife's ear while she was sleeping and had otherwise annoyed her. The whispers apparently weren't of the sweet nothings genre because his ex immediately called the police. Then there were some charges of taking things from a car, an allegation of possession of a controlled substance. And since Grunwald had accumulated these charges while on bail for the flag burning his bail had been increased to $100,000.
“I’d like to get OR’d,” Grunwald told Judge Moorman. “I need to pay rent and I have animals to take care of. I’ve made all my court appearances, and I’ve lived here over 20 years.”
DDA Rosenfeld said Grunwald represented a threat to both the community and his ex-wife and bail should remain at $100,000.
Judge Moorman agreed, at which point Grunwald went all the way off.
“Do you know how many times these cops have arrested me on little bullshit charges?” Grunwald yelled at the judge. “Just because I turned in their little dope dealer who was selling drugs down at the high school? And I don’t feel safe with these cops, they’re out to get me. Look! [holding up his shackled leg] — Look at this! There, now I’ve said it: it’s out there, in open court. But this court isn’t worth a shit, and neither are you. You need to fix your hair, your hair’s a mess!”
Dude, you just went so far over the line you'll need a compass to find your way back.
The deputy was hustling Grunwald out as fast as he could, but we could hear the defendant loud and clear all the way downstairs.
The guy probably ought to get a sanity hearing. If he isn't nuts he's doing a great job faking it.
(*The case against former DA Meredith Lintott is a libel suit brought by Robert Forest of Fort Bragg, as described by Tim Stelloh in these pages back in 2009 and re-printed here. Recently, a state appellate court rejected Ms. Lintott’s claim that Mr. Forest’s suit was a SLAPP suit, thus allowing it to go forward. But it’s not scheduled for trial until next year, at the earliest.)
Fort Bragg’s Smoking Police Report
by Tim Stelloh
That's what caused the argument between Robert Forest and Stanley Douglass one November afternoon three years ago, in 2006. They were in downtown Fort Bragg, and Forest was walking from a coffee shop back toward the bar where, earlier, he'd had a couple drinks and where he'd parked his motorcycle. Douglass was walking along Franklin Street. They met. They scuffled. And that's when Forest, then 54, removed a .32 pistol from his pocket and aimed at Douglass, then 26.
That much is clear.
How that scuffle lead to a federal lawsuit filed two months ago claiming a former Fort Bragg cop had altered police documents, thus causing Forest's “wrongful” and “malicious” prosecution in the same case, is another story.
Which we'll get to.
First, a bit more on that cigarette. How the argument happened is still up for debate: According to police reports, Forest said he was walking back from Headlands Cafe when Douglass, who's black, approached him, grabbed him, demanded a cigarette. Forest told police that Douglass had said he was a gangbanger and that he'd rough Forest up. Forest also said he felt threatened, so he got his pistol — for which he had a concealed weapons permit (that would later be suspended).
Douglass put it differently. He told the cops that as he was walking past the bar, saw Forest and asked him for a cigarette. An argument followed, so Douglass started walking away — which is when Forest grabbed him and pulled out the gun. A witness provided police — and later the DA — with a version of events that more or less matched Douglass's. The police arrested Forest (who, it turned out, had been convicted 20 years earlier for carrying a concealed, loaded weapon), charged him with assault with a deadly weapon and forwarded the case to the DA's office.
Which is when things got weird.
About a month after the incident, Forest's arresting officer sent an email to recently hired Police Chief Mark Puthuff. The report had apparently been changed: Words had been rephrased. Conversations the officer never had had been inserted. Paragraphs where Forest described his side of the scuffle had been deleted.
“I was working on the supplement you had requested on this case, and when I began to re-read my (4 page) supplement to refresh my memory, I realized that it had been altered. No, I'm not kidding, it has literally been changed,” wrote the officer, Sgt. Brandon Lee. “I found some paragraphs inserted that I never put in there, and then found some missing as well. This is pretty typical fro [sic] FBPD. Anyway, I am sending you this email to let you know that I printed a copy of my supplement, with highlighted sections where the narrative had been changed or deleted. I find this very disturbing, because if I had not taken the time to review it, I never would have known it was like that.”
In the margins of the report, Lee scrawled comments noting which sections had been altered. “This is garbage,” he wrote at the top of the report, “and I would not testify to this under oath that I wrote this!”
Meanwhile, the DA's office was proceeding with the case — though shortly after Lee sent that email, prosecutor Tim Stoen learned of the problems at the police department. He learned that Lee had accused a veteran supervising officer, Lt. Floyd Higdon, of altering the report, according to court documents.
Forest, who once worked with Higdon as a reserve officer, had “professional and personal disagreements” with the lieutenant. The day Forest was arrested and booked, those differences were apparently on full display: Forest promptly asked if Higdon was the officer who'd ordered his arrest. (He was). “I should've known,” he told the arresting officer, Brandon Lee. When Lee asked if Forest could post bail in Fort Bragg, Higdon “insisted” that he be moved to Ukiah instead.
Shortly after these problems began, Higdon retired. He'd been on the force 25 years. He then left Mendo altogether for Merced in the Central Valley, where he's now a police commander; he'd been “recruited” by former Fort Bragg police chief Russ Thomas, he said. Higdon declined to comment on the charges, except to say he'd deny them and that he didn't alter anything.
Problems dogged the DA's case against Forest, however, and in January 2008, District Attorney Meredith Lintott dropped the charges against him. Nowhere in her decision did she mention the problems with Higdon and Lee; she simply said a conviction was not probable.
Tim Stoen, the prosecutor, still maintains that he would have gotten a guilty verdict if his boss had stuck it out. At the time, he made sure Fort Bragg PD knew how he felt.
“It seemed obvious to me that this conflict within the department was causing it to reverse position on the desirability of prosecuting Robert Forest despite the 'firearm seriousness' of the charge’,” he said, according to court documents. “At the preliminary hearing the defendant's first attorney stated in open court that the new chief of police [Mark Puthuff] himself had gone so far as to tell him — the defense attorney! — that Lieutenant Higdon had poisoned the reports in this case,” Stoen said. “After working for seven different elected District Attorneys, I cannot recall a single instance where the internal quarrels within a law enforcement department created a similar attempt to impugn the integrity of an ongoing prosecution.”
That “poison” is one of the central claims in Forest's federal case. So are the “disagreements.”
Nevertheless, the attorney representing Higdon — along with the city of Fort Bragg and the Fort Bragg Police Department, which are also named in the suit — said she's confident they'll win. “We believe the complaint to be unfounded and expect that will be the ultimate outcome,” said the lawyer, Nancy Delaney.
Donald Kilmer, Forest's attorney, said a tentative agreement has been in reached in the case, although details are yet to be worked out.
To see the documents behind this story, visit TheAVA.com. ¥¥
(Jonah Owen-Lamb contributed to this story.)