Mendocino County Today: December 29, 2013
by AVA News Service, December 29, 2013
FLU SEASON is upon us, and this year the doctors say we can again blame it on the pigs or, if you prefer, swine, last infecting us the winter of 2009. The symptoms: fevers, body aches and general lethargy — not much different than what most of us feel anyway, especially the lethargy. Best way to avoid it, I've found, is to avoid winter crowds and keep huggers at arm's length. (By the way, when did the hugging epidemic set in? I don't remember hugging near strangers as a form of greeting until when, early 1980s? I find it awkward and mildly repellent, frankly, and can honestly say I have never initiated a hug with anybody outside my immediate family, and even with them only the little ones. It seems to have come on suddenly, all this huggsie-wuggsies; some kinda foreign import probably.
LAST YEAR I didn't get the flu shot and I didn't get the flu. Years past I got the shot and I got the flu. This year, everyone's on my case because of the grandchildren. “You can croak if you want, but we don't want the kids getting sick.” Off I go to Safeway then, of all places, a place I don't associate with preventive medicine or even a particularly healthy diet.
THE SWINE FLU — known as Type A, subtype H1N1 — shows up in more than 90% of positive influenza tests so far this season. But the H1N1 strain actually never went all the way away and it has been circulating since it popped up in 2009. But this year it's resurfacing as the primary source of flu, at least so far.
WHEN H1N1 — a strain that once mostly affected pigs, thus the informal “swine flu” designation — first began infecting people, public health officials were concerned that it could be much more serious and deadlier than other flu strains. But over time, it's turned out to be about as severe as most other strains.
FOR MOST OF US, what's the diff? Symptoms vary a little, but if you're reasonably healthy, you'll be fine. It carries off mostly old people already in fragile condition, not to wish it upon them.
THE UKIAH VALLEY doesn't yet require Spare The Air days, but coming over the hill from Boonville on these eerily dry and brightly sunny winter days, the brown smoggy haze hangs over the County seat as ominously as it does over LA.
(Lake Mendocino, Dec. 2013 (Courtesy, the Ukiah Daily Journal)
REDWOOD VALLEY draws its water directly from Lake Mendocino, which is presently down to maybe two baths and a bottle of mud. RV, in the wettest years, still isn't allowed enough water to build out its many empty parcels. Add Ukiah's northern suburb to the long list of inland water authorities soon to ration what water it takes from Lake Mendo.
A READER wonders why the Ukiah Valley's several water districts and the City of Ukiah haven't activated their water conservation programs, which include both voluntary and mandatory measures. “I am surprised they haven't done something already,” she says.
MY GOD, the suburbs! They encircled the city's boundaries like enemy territory and we thought of them as a loss of privacy, a cesspool of conformity and a life of indescribable dreariness in some split-level village where the place name appeared in The New York Times only when some bored housewife blew off her head with a shotgun. — John Cheever
GUN NUT NATION — Adam Lanza as an infant
RESEEDING THE GRASSY KNOLL
Yo Jeffe Grande,
I thought that my good friend Jeff Blankfort said that my recent effort re: the JFK assassination had been published in your esteemed rag, but I seem to have missed getting that one paper, I guess it would be volume 61 number 51; just never arrived. Was that letter printed in that issue, or was that just posted online? I don't suppose there is any way to try to send me that old issue again? Especially if it had that letter printed in it.
BTW, Jeff was pleased that you didn't follow that letter with snide commentary; don't tell me that, 50 years after the event, my humble efforts have finally planted the seeds of doubt in your mind regarding that most pivotal historical event of my life. Better late than never; the official story is just about as chuck-full of holes as the official story of 9/11, indeed, as the Spanish Civil War and the rest of the world's timid reaction to the spread of fascism made possible a much larger World War II, so the successful selling of the JFK assassination cock and bull story made the 9/11 conspiracy a reasonably safe bet for those who pulled it off.
Hey, I think it's coming up to a year ago that I made that bet with Major Scaramella Re: the Willits bypass being stalled and requiring new bids at double the price; looks like I win that hundred dollar bet, but I was thinking that if you gentlemen prefer, I would trade it for a lunch or dinner with the two of you, either here at my place on Orr Springs Road, in The City, or in any of the fine eating establishments in the Anderson Valley. Donâ€™t seem to have an email for The Major, mind forwarding this to him?
Got a good chuckle out of the putative John Coate book list; gotta write him and see if he and Mary caught that. Funny.
Best wishes and happy new year.
Keep up the great work!
John Arteaga, Ukiah
HUMCO YEAR IN REVIEW
by Daniel Mintz
The last year saw the emergence of county leadership tilted toward one side of the political spectrum. That change has driven a lot of policy, most noticeably on land use, with the county’s 20-year plan for development being the primary arena for bureaucratic muscle-flexing.
• GPU course change — With two new members – supervisors Estelle Fennell and Rex Bohn – joining the Board of Supervisors at the start of the year, the draft General Plan Update was vulnerable to change. With supervisors Ryan Sundberg and Virginia Bass, Bohn and Fennell rounded out a board majority supported by construction-related businesses and committed to economic improvement.
The dissenting view, expressed persistently by Supervisor Mark Lovelace, is that the financial and environmental impacts of development have to be reined in with new regulations. Several new measures to that effect were included in the Planning Commission’s version of the update – and one by one, they were struck in a series of predictable 4 to 1 straw votes.
Mention of health impact assessments was edited out of a policy on determining the significance of traffic impacts. Level of service standards for roads related to development projects were eliminated and minor subdivisions were excluded from a policy proposing mitigations for the county’s infrastructure costs.
A policy on “fair share” developer cost responsibility was also struck and one that would prohibit residential subdivisions in flood plains was altered to conditionally allow them. The board majority also removed a reference to home development being an “incidental use” on timber production parcels and a policy calling for assessment of the impacts of “big box” retail development was deleted.
But the most foundational change to the update was broached at the end of a long hearing in late March, when Fennell said a “fresh look” at the Guiding Principles section would be beneficial. Eventually, the principles section was re-written but the process was messy and divisive, with language on new development restrictions in open space areas excised, re-inserted as a nod toward compromise, and then taken out again at a later hearing to the bitter disappointment of conservationists.
Going into 2014, the update is in a somewhat disheveled state, the target of lawsuit threats from unlikely quarters – the Humboldt Builders Exchange and the Mercer-Fraser construction company – and headed to back the Planning Commission for more tinkering.
The commission’s membership now includes a realtor, a developer and the founder and treasurer of the Humboldt Coalition for Property Rights, ensuring that the update’s return to the commission will be seen as the continuance of a winner-take-all political shift.
• Gallegos bows out — Former county Prosecutor Arnie Klein was the first apparent challenger to District Attorney Paul Gallegos and when he announced his campaign last November, he called the Gallegos-era DA’s Office “a three-legged race horse.”
But Klein and other candidates in the upcoming DA election won’t be running against an embattled incumbent after all – by the end of November, Gallegos had announced that he won’t seek a fourth term, taking many by surprise.
The decision is one of the year’s most politically significant events, as the DA’s Office has reflected the county’s most intense social controversies since Gallegos took office in 2003. Logging practices, police conduct, election spending and marijuana issues have been high profile issues in the county and Gallegos immersed himself in all of them.
That’s made Gallegos – and the office itself – an ongoing symbol of the county’s political trends and division over them. Accordingly, views of the DA are sharply divided and his decision not to run renders the election as a more complicated and perhaps more substantial event.
Instead of deciding on the continuance a controversial DA, voters will now generally consider new visions for the office. Multiple candidates, including current prosecutors, are said to be running but it’s hard to imagine a DA with more capacity for inciting political sensibilities than Gallegos.
• Lovelace versus the ‘Gang of Four’ — The group dynamics of the Board of Supervisors can be summed up in one phrase – four to one.
Representation of development and conservation interests is now lopsided on the board. So when debates on subjects like land use erupt, it’s Supervisor Mark Lovelace who single-handedly carries the ball for environmentalists.
But Fennell, Bohn, Bass and Sundberg together represent a trend in support of maximizing economic potential. Construction is where the job-generating action is, or can be if it’s given room to be cost-effective.
It’s worthy of noting that many of the board’s votes are unanimous, even in the straw votes of the contentious General Plan Update. But when decisions on development-related matters loom, it’s almost invariably Lovelace versus the Gang of Four (the desultory but catchy name that vocal liberal commenter Sylvia De Rooy has given the board majority).
Some decisions have accented the division without having gained much notice. Like when Lovelace was replaced by Bass as the county’s representative to the California State Association of Counties (CSAC). The discussion about it was civil but the move may have heightened resentment over Bass’ subsequent replacement of Lovelace as co-chair of a CSAC coastal counties regional group.
Surprised and disappointed by Bass’ nomination for the post by Bohn at a recent CSAC conference, Lovelace approached them afterward and gave them what he described as a sarcastic “good ole boy slap on the back” in reaction to it.
Lovelace in turn was slapped back politically, as the quasi-aggressive gesture was derided as the action of a supervisor in need of anger control. That can be debated, but the obviousness of political and interpersonal tension was noted when the usually straight-faced Times-Standard newspaper ran a report on the incident under the headline: “Frustrations between supervisors boil over.”
The year started with a commitment to conflict resolution, however, with supervisors engaging in a facilitated “team building” workshop. Supervisors were asked to jot down answers to the question, “In 2015, how do you want the Board of Supervisors to be known by the community?”
Responses included “proactive, straightforward, no B.S.,” “able to act on a clear vision for the future,” “stable, effective, transparent,” “smart and thoughtful,” and “trusted, responsive, strong leaders.”
There are those who believe the board hasn’t succeeded in embodying those adjectives but 2015 is still a year away.
• McKee’s Punishment — A legal action that’s been fought since it was filed in 2002 reached a milestone this year when a Humboldt Superior Court judge decided that $200,000 in fines will be imposed against Bob McKee’s Tooby Ranch partnership for violations of the state’s Williamson Act law.
It was a not quite definitive conclusion to a courtroom saga full of less than conclusive results. A county judge originally ruled in favor of McKee but in 2008, a state Appeals Court overturned the local ruling, declaring that McKee violated state law and referring the matter back to county court to decide how the situation should be remedied.
Judge Dale Reinholtsen strived for compromise, writing in his proposed decision that “both sides acted reasonably but imperfectly.” He wrote that McKee’s partnership can be “credited for openly and honestly presenting their plan for the ranch to Humboldt” but he added that the plan was nevertheless illegal and Buck Mountain had “already embarked on the plan unilaterally.”
Both sides unsuccessfully objected to aspects of Reinholtsen’s decision. One of the county’s primary objections was over Reinholtsen’s tallying of penalty fines as single violations rather than continuing ones, which would have significantly increased the financial punishment.
Millions of dollars in attorney’s fees have been spent by each side, and those costs aren’t recoverable in this type of land use case. The county’s $3 million-plus expenditure was robustly noted by San Francisco-based attorney Robert Moore, who’s representing McKee, in a Times-Standard report.
He equated the penalty decision to a loss for the county, calling it “a slap in the face.”
But the judge’s penalty decision has been appealed, and not by the county.
• MJ: The Five-plant Solution — Regulating economic activity isn’t popular or easy, but in the case of medical marijuana, regulation is popular concept that’s extremely difficult to carry out.
As court cases defined the parameters of what counties can and can’t do under the shadow of federal law, the Board of Supervisors advanced a series of moves to set parameters for marijuana production.
A sketch version of an outdoor cultivation ordinance was put on the table last spring, with various cultivation allowances based on parcel sizes. It was met with disappointment in Southern Humboldt and after an April community meeting in Garberville, Fennell said the draft ordinance will need to be altered to gain acceptance.
“I don’t think there’s a very high level of buy-in at this point,” she had said.
By May, the approach had changed. Weighing geographically-divided community opinion, supervisors decided to narrow the ordinance’s focus to impacts that affect neighborhoods.
Most supervisors agreed that remote grows associated with a variety of environmental harms will be more difficult to address and should be considered after neighborhood grows are regulated.
Fennell didn’t respond warmly to that. The option of “redirecting resources away from ordinance development and into engagement on issues of enforcement and resources” was offered in a written staff report and she favored it.
Her absence due to illness was in its early stages in late October, when the draft ordinance re-surfaced in a form that went down even less smoothly in SoHum. Supervisors directed staff to develop an outdoor medical marijuana cultivation law that will prohibit outdoor grows on parcels smaller than a half-acre.
It will allow no more than five mature plants per parcel on parcels sized between a half-acre to five acres. In Southern Humboldt, that’s an insultingly stingy allowance.
But in Willow Creek, where residents have objected to the prevalence of outdoor grows, it’s seen as a fix to rural neighborhood nuisances.
When supervisors take up the ordinance again, they’ll be less concerned about the division between state and federal laws than they will be about geographical and cultural divisions within the county.
STATEMENT OF THE DAY: "Bloomberg earlier this year did a study that said that there’s an $83 billion-a-year subsidy coming from the government and flowing into Wall Street. And that comes from the cheap cost of borrowing that they get directly from the Federal Reserve, and it also comes from the fact that the people who loan Wall Street money assume that the government would bail them out again if they ever got into trouble, and so they loan them money at a lower rate than they would to a bank that they don’t see as too big to fail. So, $83 billion of government subsidies every year, a big chunk of that, I guess, they’re just putting right back into their pockets and giving out in bonuses. Another reason that they’re doing so well is they continue to commit crimes that are very profitable. There was a huge settlement this year with JPMorgan that was a $13 billion settlement that was the result of mortgages that they sold during the crisis that were very shady and were misrepresented. Investors actually lost $26 billion on that, so $13 billion sounds like a big settlement, but it’s actually just a fraction of the money that people lost. But then you have things like JPMorgan manipulating electricity markets and charging consumers in California more money than they should be, because they’re manipulating the market. We saw credit card fraud. We saw JPMorgan fined for that, to the tune of $300 million. So they’re still doing things that are criminal that actually happen to be highly profitable."
— Alexis Goldstein, “The Other 98%”
LETTER TO BOEING’S BOSS
Squeezing Workers for Corporate Welfare
by Ralph Nader
Dear Mr. McNerney:
The squeeze that you and Boeing are putting on your machinist workers’ pensions, pay scales and your stance on other labor issues regarding the assembling of the new 777X airliners is unseemly for several reasons.
First, consider your pay this year of $21.1 million, a 15 percent increase from the previous year, and much higher than your predecessors. That sum does not demonstrate a moral authority to require sacrifices from your workers at a time of rising Boeing sales and profits, dividend increases, cash hoard, and another notorious $10 billion stock buyback. I say notorious because stock buybacks per se do little for shareholder values and a lot for the enlarged stock options of top executives.
Second, you’re holding an auction for your long-time workers jobs in other states, inciting a bidding war whereby states are giving away taxpayer assets to lure your 777X assembly factory with huge tax holidays and other subsidies. Washington state outdid itself with a new law, signed by Governor Jay Inslee with the largest state business tax break package for Boeing in history. The tax escape law “will give Boeing and its suppliers about $8.7 billion in tax breaks between now and 2040,” according to the Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) calculations. CTJ adds that “Boeing has managed to avoid paying even a dime of state income taxes nationwide on $35 billion in pretax U.S. profits.” Boeing also received tax advantages from the federal government, including $1.8 billion in federal income tax rebates on its $35 billion in U.S. profits between 2003 and 2012.
Third, in 1997 the Justice Department allowed Boeing to merge with McDonnell Douglas, making Boeing the only manufacturer of commercial jet planes in the United States – a domestic monopoly, justified by the only other foreign competitor – Airbus Industries in Europe. Another valuable gift by Uncle Sam brought about by your company’s Washington lobbyists.
Fourth, recall Boeing’s contract with the Department of Defense for the initial phase of Air Force’s KC-46 aerial tanker program that provoked sharp criticism by Senator John McCain in July 2011 for the excessive burdens on American taxpayers from cost over-runs in a supposed “fixed price” contract. In a letter to Department of Defense Undersecretary Ashton B. Carter, Senator McCain wondered “why under a fixed-price, relatively low-risk contract, taxpayers may have to pay 60 percent of any overrun within that band – up to $600 million.”
A book could be written about the Boeing company’s strategy for externalization of a variety of its costs onto innocent, defensely people – whether workers or taxpayers. Boeing’s systemic campaigns for corporate welfare are shameful. Your company is one of the major corporate welfare kings in America, running a close race with the champion – General Electric. As CTJ wrote: Boeing “employs an army of site location and tax consultants, whose job has been to blackmail states into giving Boeing lavish tax breaks.” These include sales and property tax breaks which drain communities’ ability to provide for school and other public facilities (www.goodjobsfirst.org/corporate-subsidy-watch/boeing).
Fifth, there is the gigantic subject of your outsourcing to foreign suppliers, in particular Japan where your technology transfers, damaging the longer term viability of U.S. competitiveness in the aerospace sector for short term gains favoring Boeing, merit thorough examination by the Congress. As you know Boeing’s foreign outsourcing brought your company considerable quality control and delay troubles with the Dreamliner.
You need to read the 2005 report by the Defense Science Board about the hollowing out of domestic capability in the electronics industry from this kind of overseas outsourcing migration by U.S. companies.
For starters read the current copy of The American Conservative magazine’s cover story titled “Japan’s Plan to Unmake Boeing,” describing the full assistance of Boeing. No doubt, if your further cruel downward pressure on your machinists culminates in your destroying their union local and their jobs by leaving the state of Washington and going for example to the anti-union state of South Carolina, there will be further public inquiries. Such as how perverse incentives provided by your suppliers in Japan and elsewhere have furthered job losses here and accelerated your company’s technology transfers perhaps beyond the tipping point against the U.S. national interest.
Sincerely yours, Ralph Nader
(Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.)
CHRISTMAS IN PRISON
by Bruce McEwen
It’s no longer news that the career outlaw Walter ‘Kris’ Miller will be spending the rest of his days in prison for the attempted murder of a peace officer. But some of the details of the closing arguments and the aftermath of the case are worth noting. Sheriff Tom Allman himself appeared at the County Courthouse to hear DA David Eyster’s closing arguments. The cop Miller shot at was one of Allman’s deputies, Darren Brewster.
Miller had leaned out the passenger window and cranked off a series of shots at Brewster's patrol wagon during a high-speed chase up the Boonville-Ukiah Road. He didn't hit Brewster, but he did hit the deputy's radiator, disabling the deputy's vehicle.Mendo’s dynamic chief prosecutor put on quite a show putting Miller away forever.
The DA started out by telling the jury that they were under no pressure, that their job would be easy, that they needn’t fret too much over which of the various choices they would have to make. The DA's power point-style presentation started with Count One, Attempted Murder on a Peace Officer.
“It doesn’t matter,” Eyster said, “whether you pick First Degree or Second Degree Attempted Murder. Either way will be fine, whatever you think is right.”
The jury had been instructed by Judge John Behnke that they were not to consider the issue of punishment, but the DA was certain that either attempted murder one or two was still a “strike” offense, and Miller, a two striker, was about to whiff big time on a called third strike, a screaming fastball right down his pipe.
The basic facts of the charge, Eyster said, had been proved beyond any reasonable doubt; the rest was quibbling.
Count Two, Assault With a Firearm on a Peace Officer was almost superfluous, strike four so to speak. Eyster told the jurors that if Miller was guilty of attempted murder with a firearm, then he necessarily would have had to make the assault with a firearm. The DA throws on a variety of charges which he amends as the case unfolds, tossing the excess.
Some of the charges Eyster wanted to pile onto Miller were denied by Judge Behnke on the grounds that they would delay proceedings while defense attorney Al Kubanis reviewed them and worked out a defense strategy for his doomed defendant. The extraneous charges had to do with shooting from an occupied vehicle, and shooting from a moving vehicle, and shooting at an occupied vehicle — all of which are against the law.
There were already eight charges against Miller, and it turned out that the jury found him guilty of all of them. Miller’s only defense was that he didn’t actually shoot at the pursuing Deputy Brewster. He said he'd merely fired shots out of his car window in the hope that Brewster would back off. Miller said he had no idea how a bullet had ended up in the cop car. A ricochet, maybe, he guessed.
A foot up from the radiator sat the driver, deputy Brewster. Shoot in the direction of someone and…
The DA said in his closing statement that if the shot had been a ricochet it would have made a “keyhole” puncture in the car’s radiator, not a clean round hole.
There were also some burglary charges, along with the charge of being Felon in Possession of a Firearm, all of which the DA had no trouble establishing beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defense attorney Kubanis thought he could get the jury to acquit on one of the burglaries, the one on a home owned by people named Bennett who live just off the Ukiah-Boonville Road.
Nope, said the jury. Guilty on that one, too.
“What this case is about,” Eyster told the jury, “is whether we’ll tolerate someone trying to kill one of our police officers, one of the guys who are out there to protect us all.”
The DA had neatly deconstructed each of Miller’s tales the defendant had told from the witness stand the week before, starting with the one about there being a “shoot-to-kill” or “armed-and-dangerous” BOLO (be on the lookout) on Miller. This story, concocted by Miller himself, got back to some of Miller’s old girlfriends, and at least one of these tender hearts (the one this reporter spoke to) believed that Miller had been shooting at Brewster in self-defense.
“The truth,” Eyster said, “is that Deputy Brewster had no idea how well armed and highly dangerous the suspect was. His co-defendant, Ms. Tracy Cox, called Mr. Miller by his nickname, 'Ludakris'; and that’s just what this defense is: It’s ludicrous.”
As for the rest of Miller’s lengthy testimony [featured in last week’s AVA], Eyster summed up tersely with the comment that “You have to decide if the testimony of a six-time convicted felon — convicted of crimes of moral turpitude — is credible. He even lied to his own father, saying the cops had a shoot-to kill BOLO on him. ‘I had no choice but to shoot that motherfucker,’ he told his father.”
“A cold, calculated decision to kill can be reached very quickly,” Eyster told the jury, “and that’s what we have here. Mr. Miller knew he’d go back to prison if he was caught with all that stuff he’d taken from the Haga residence, and he decided to shoot and kill Deputy Brewster to prevent that. Ms. Cox testified that Miller said he’d get life if he got caught; that was when Tracy Cox was telling Christopher Skaggs (the driver of the fleeing vehicle) that he’d be better off if they went peaceably... when Miller first put it (the gun) out the window to shoot, he had to bring it back in and take the safety off. The law talks about intent — what was Miller’s intent on shots one two three four five and six? Prosecution is not required to prove motive, but look at what Tracy Cox testified he said at the traffic stop: ‘I’ll do life!’”
He’ll do life now.
The court convened the next day to hash it all out.
Count One, Attempted Murder on a Peace Officer with two strike priors: 25-to-life.
Count Two, Assault on a Peace Officer with a Firearm with two strike priors: 25-to-life. (However, for sentencing purposes, Counts One and Two will be combined.)
Count Four, First Degree Burglary (the Haga residence) with two strike priors: 25-to-life.
Count Five, First Degree Burglary (the Bennett residence) with two strike priors: 25-to-life.
Count Six, Attempting to Dissuade a Witness (threatening Bennett) with two strike priors: 25-to-life.
Count Eight, a felon in Possession of a Firearm (doubles for each count): 38 years, however the judge has discretion of eight of these years, so Miller will only face 130 years in all probability.
Formal sentencing date was set for February 7.
* * *
After the excitement of the Miller trial, the court returned to mundane matters, such as a guy who could very well be a kind of apprentice to the notorious Miller — a younger guy heading down the same path, Nathan Martin.
“This comes on for judgment and sentencing,” Judge Behnke said.
“Linda Thompson, for Mr. Martin who is present and in custody.”
“Say one more word, and you’ll be joining him in jail,” a hefty correctional officer warned a woman in the gallery.
The woman turned to me and asked, “What’s his problem?”
“It’s a violation of the Penal Code to communicate with the prisoners when they’re in the courtroom.”
“What, are you a lawyer or something?”
“Nope, just a courthouse hack.”
“Why would you wanna hang out here?”
“Wull, have you ever seen how a cat likes to play in a box?”
“Wull, when you try to force a cat into a box, it’s a different story, isn’t it? The cat don’t like it any more. It’s the same thing with the courthouse: It’s kinda interesting, if you don’t have to be here. You must be here because you have to…?
“Yeah, that’s my son up there.”
“The cute one, of course.”
Nathan Martin bore an uncanny resemblance to Walter Miller.
“Of course; the innocent-looking guy?”
“The primary case is the burglary,” Deputy DA Josh Rosenfeld said.
Primary case. You hear that phrase and you know the defendant is in deep trouble.
Judge Behnke said, “I’ve read the report and recommendation for the mid-term prison sentence from the probation office, which I’m inclined to follow; the report notes he took responsibility early on, but his record, by my reading, doesn’t lend itself to, uh, any kind of.... well, with all the repeated thefts… how much was the restitution, Mr. Rosenfeld?”
“It was over $18,000, your honor. The generator was severely damaged and the copper wire alone was of significant value. In addition, there’s the 11377a (possession of methamphetamine for sale).
Behnke said, “I thought I’d seen a petition filed by the probation office for three years and eight months on the 11377a. Also, we have Mr. Martin walking away from a rehab program.”
Public Defender Thompson said, “We could just give him credit for the time he’s already done in jail, but allow him a chance to get back into rehab. Mr. Martin left the Ark [the Salvation Army’s rehab center] after arguing with staff, and after a few blocks he realized he’d made a mistake and wanted to go back. The Salvation Army said they’d take him back, but he had to wait 30 days to re-enroll. So he came back up here and turned himself in to Probation.”
Ms. Thompson had something she wanted the judge to read and took the pages up to the bench. She said, “Mr. Martin has burned his bridges, but I don’t think his case is the best use of jail space. He started using meth when he was quite young…”
Meth had also fueled Miller's last run, and it fuels much of the crime in Mendocino County, and here was another young guy going to prison for white powder.
DDA Rosenfeld said, “Mr. Martin is ready and able to say anything we want to hear. But he left Jerico after only two days.”
“Is that a bad program?” Thompson blurted. “I dunno, but the Ark is a great program, and Nathan understands he hurt his family, but mostly he hurt himself.”
The consensus — which was apparently arrived at while our Chief Public Defender was behind the door — is that Jerico is one of the better programs — tougher than a Rottweiler on steroids, and therefore one of the more successful rehab programs, whereas The Salvation Army’s “Ark” is about as demanding as a toothless housecat. Martin lasted a couple of weeks at The Ark before he walked off, leaving a piece of his mind on a written note criticizing the smoking rules, among other things. Apparently, he thinks these programs would be more effective if the clients made the rules. Now that he’s in front of the judge he wants back in the program rather than San Quentin therapy.
Rosenfeld said, “He did more than just financial damage to that business and the community, as well.”
Behnke asked, “Was that Sparky’s business, his uncle?”
“Yes, your honor, I believe it was.”
Thompson said, “If we can just give Nathan the opportunity to complete the program at The Ark, then I believe we’ll have made a much better use of our jail space.”
Judge Behnke looked up from the pages Thompson had given him, peering over his reading glasses. He said, “The event that triggered this letter was he got a reprimand for smoking, and…”
“He should have accepted it and moved on, but…”
“But he wrote this letter instead. Did he write this letter before he left?”
“Yes,” Thompson said.
The judge didn’t seem beguiled by the defendant's prose. He laid it aside and turned to the probation officer, Rhonda Hansen.
Ms. Hansen said, “We realize Mr. Martin needs rehab and we’ve been pretty generous with him in that regard. He walked away from Jerico after two days and only lasted a couple of weeks at the Salvation Army Program, but he needs to understand that he needs to dig down deep when it gets bad.”
Behnke said, “What’s the DA’s position?”
“We’d be giving him a break he doesn’t deserve. He’s been given a lot of breaks and I have serious questions about what he can do out in the real world. He’s made the wrong decision every time we’ve given him a chance. If he wants to put his money where his mouth is, though, he’s gonna have to do the three years and eight months, because that was the deal: Either complete the program or do the time.”
The judge took off his glasses and said, “Looking at where we’ve been with this case, and where we are today — and I’m a proponent of giving a defendant with a drug problem a chance — but I remember this case, so I ask myself what has he learned, and what have we learned? And I’m a proponent of giving the young a chance, but looking back over this case, and what we’ve done in the past, I don’t see how I can do that again. If it were state prison, I’d be searching for some way out, but we have local options. He has three felonies now, and he seemed to know the surveillance cameras were on him and he went ahead and did it anyway… Somewhere, somehow, things have to change. I can’t keep telling people ‘This is your last chance,’ so I’m gonna sentence him now to the three years and eight months, locally, under 1170h. We promised it before and we’re going to deliver it today.”
Which was majorly generous of the judge because it means the guy will do most of his time in the County Jail.
The kid's mother became very angry. Her son was looking at her. She was about to go off, but the big cop was up and moving towards her and she reconsidered. You can shoot up meth and steal from your own family, but to your mother you’re still just a cute face in a dirty diaper.
Behnke put his glasses back on and scanned the file. He said, “The other case is entirely separate, the 11377a, so it’s appropriate that the sentence run consecutive, but I’ll let him serve the last eight months on supervised release — and he has substantial credits, so I’ll suspend some of the prison term. You have 60 days to appeal.”
On the way out I saw the mother arguing with the probation officer, and I was grateful I didn’t have that job. Apparently, DDA Rosenfeld doesn’t like his job either. He leaves at the first of the year for the Police Academy to fulfill his ambition to trade in his suit and tie for the uniform of the Ukiah Police Department.
Rosenfeld says it pays better.
* * *
The long arm of the law also nabbed Charles Merritt Osborne. Mr. O had been at large for almost a year, having jumped bail on a transport of cannabis charge. Readers may recall that Mr. Osborne met some Mendo and SoHum pot pharmers at Piercy late at night in 2012 to buy a large quantity of weed. The deal went south when the pot pharmas noted that Osborne had paid them with hundred he'd run off a xerox machine. One of the growers had held a C-note up to the headlights as the sellers and the buyer were parked down along the Eel River to do their deal. There was a mutual grab for guns, and Osborne jumped in his Range Rover with the weed and roared away while the growers scrambled for cover.
The growers called the cops and Osborne was caught after a high-speed chase just north of Willits where deputies and CHP officers had place a strip of nails across Highway 101. Osborne took off on foot, finally plunging into a blackberry thicket from where the cops gleefully extracted him. The People vs. Osborne eventually arrived in the County Courthouse, Ukiah, where Osborne eventually was represented by Justin Petersen, having stalled the case for over a year by switching lawyers. Finally, Judge Leonard LaCasse brought Osborne's delaying tactics to a screeching halt, telling Mr. O, “We need to either cut bait or fish, here.”
Judge LaCasse likes fishing metaphors. He’s retired now, and he’s spending the holidays on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean, flyfishing.
Osborne, 42, way back had posted bail. He'd recently been caught in Concord by Dog the Bounty Hunter, or Dog's equivalent.
Judge Behnke read off the bad news to Osborne:
Three years and eight months for transporting the cannabis he'd stolen, and two years and eight months for the failure to appear in court. Total: Six years, four months.