Courthouse Review, 2013
by Bruce McEwen, January 1, 2014
Things look a whole lot clearer when you see 'em in your rearview mirror.
— John Prine
Those of us who have come to loathe our obligatory Year In Review features find scant consolation in the reassurance that we are honoring a venerable old newspaper tradition, for it is the staid orthodoxy and stodgy mindset that give rise to these traditions we so righteously deplore. We arrive at this state of snooty detestation from our training in the ever eminent psychological esthetics of repetition, redundancy, repetition, and more repetition.
Easily the worst aspect of the news media. This is especially grim duty for those of us who have devoted our careers to curing the more onerous ills inherent in modern newsgathering and reporting, and repetition is nothing if not the most fatally* benign of these maladies: The radio alarm goes off in the morning telling us the President is in a tiz over the Congress while the stock market vacillates. This is not really news, because it was mentioned in a teaser (like a movie trailer, showing highlights of coming films) the day before. We go out and get the newspaper and read an identical account of what we have just heard, spoiling our breakfast. News bulletins interrupt the background music at luncheon to remind us of what we already know, “We asked the White House Press Secretary if rumors of the President’s response had been characterized as a ‘tizzy’ by his critics.” The press secretary said, “Yes, there were rumors that the President’s critics had characterized his reaction as a ‘tizzy’.” So we’ve got it from the reporter, and then from the source, and if that’s not plain enough, here comes the news anchor to remind us: “The White House confirms rumors of the Presidential tizzy.”
We stop for cocktails on the way home and note that CNN, MSNBC, FOXNEWS, all the lounge and barroom TVs — are all running the President’s tizzy on a loop, a circular rehearsal of the one report, and after dinner the evening news on the television presents the entire story all over again, with trumpet fanfare, drum roll, and a dusty emissary running up panting the news — any wonder King David hanged the messenger? — by which time we sorely wish the President, the Congress and the Senate would all go hang. If the story is big enough to rate a spot in your Year In Review article, it will have gone on like this for a week or more. I have seen otherwise sane men and women suddenly bolt out of their chairs, crumple the local newssheet in their bare hands, fling it aside and march off with blood in their eyes.
*By then you’ve slapped your forehead so many times, you finally knock yourself over and hit your head on the hearthstone. Fatally.
The media circus mentality insists that these are the truly memorable stories, and a gleaning of the ones that got the most coverage throughout the year are the ones everyone is just dying to hear all over again (or so our richest editors assume). You wish your influence could help spread your detestation for this kind of repetition.
Alas, no. I, personally, generally choose to write stories that would otherwise be completely overlooked in the mad rush of everyone else covering The Big Story. If I do write about The Big Ones, I try to take in aspects of the story that the other news outlets have neglected. Hence, an annual review of my work rarely includes what everyone else remembers and therefore expects.
My preference has cost me more than a few good-paying editorships over the years, but I defy you to name more than a slender list of times I’ve been scooped, eh?
To be an editor at a mainstream newspaper, you must take considerable delight in boring the daylights out of the readership. Where such malice originates is obscure. Perhaps you were hired as a columnist at a paper you never agreed with, editorially, to begin with. So the impulse is to have some fun. Wouldn’t you?
I could never do it. But this is Mendocino County, where every day is a new day, and each year you can reinvent yourself, and be whomever you wish to be, and I don’t want to be labeled as the only person in the county who is utterly incapable of change: So here I am, writing a Year In Review — albeit of my own esoteric choices; not The Big News.
When I returned from a sabbatical to the north last January, I was astounded to find that the local media was completely ignoring the murder trial of Glen Hughes. I picked up the case and followed it through, never once seeing any other reporters anywhere near the courthouse. Mr. Hughes was finally convicted of beating his friend Jose Madrid to death after being left to walk home from a Fort Bragg bar on New Year’s Eve. It was a two mile hike to the Hidden Pines Campground where both men lived with their girlfriends, and when Hughes got there he was in a towering rage. He pulled Madrid from his tent and beat him to death while Madrid’s girlfriend, Shannon Wilson, fought desperately to pull Hughes off. The killing was recorded by the 911 dispatcher, as Ms. Wilson's cellphone, knocked aside, still picked up the fleshy thumps of the attack and Wilson’s desperate screams for Hughes to stop, and Ms. Wilson took a pretty nasty beating herself, trying to save her man.
I wrote three articles on the Hughes trial. There were no other reports of it anywhere in the newspapers, on the radio, or TV. For aught anyone except AVA readers know, the foursome are still living happily ever after at the Hidden Pines Campground. It’s odd, though, if you look at Craig’s List. The Hidden Pines has the absolute lowest prices for RV parking and camping anywhere in California — yet, the place is generally empty as a graveyard.
It's a brutal beat, covering crime in Mendoland, and more murder is on the way in this roundup, but the homicidal brutality, oddly enough, is generally balanced by a crazy kind of comedy that crime reporters elsewhere can only wish for. Maybe it’s the weed; maybe the wine; maybe — no, strike that, there’s no maybe about it: It’s definitely the meth that causes the more bizarre crimes.
Consider the Mill Creek Peeper.
Patrick O'Brien has a serious meth prob. When he gets high on the stuff the mere sound of female voices arouses him to the point of doing insane things — like peeping through windows and masturbating — or trying to. But the meth apparently causes erectile dysfunction and frustration ensues. So then O'Brien tries the doors to see if he can get in; when that fails, he tries the windows.
This behavior, understandably, frightens the people whose houses he tries to see into and break into. It especially terrifies single mothers living in rural areas like Ukiah's Mill Creek Road.
And doubly terrified a certain Ms. Turri and her children who live on Mill Creek Road. Last fall, Ms. Turri told Judge John Behnke that ever since an incident on September 19th she and her kids had lived a life under siege.
The statement of precautions was quite lengthy and detailed. The lives of these people had been disrupted to the point they had lost their peace of mind, their freedom.
An especially poignant moment occurred when Ms. Turri described how her pre-adolescent daughter was unable to sleep for fear O'Brien would come out of a closet or out from under her bed to drag her out and murder her.
Ms. Turri testified that she'd had been obliged to go out and buy a gun; how she had to bring all the kids together each night and advise them that she was putting the bullets in the gun in case the prowling penis appeared, and she described how she warned her children to stay away from the weapon.
It may strike the reader as unreasonable that such a state of affairs should be allowed to fester for four months. But the charges were listed in the complaint simply as prowling, a misdemeanor.
After the Turri family left at the end of the trial and enough time had elapsed that they would not have to see Patrick Timothy O'Brien in their rear-view mirror, O'Brien was told he could now leave the courtroom.
* * *
As the month of February began, we heard the case of a Humboldt pot pharma and learned how thuggish the new breed of grower has become in an article entitled “The iPhone as a Weapon.”
A HumCo pot and ecstasy dealer named Mark Sky had been caught in Willits with some MDMA pills. Sky brought his Arcata lawyer Jeffrey Schwartz to Ukiah to get him out of the jam, but the jam just got stickier and stickier.
The prosecution of Sky had been taken over by Deputy DA Scott McMenomey. McMenomey buttonholed defense attorney Schwartz in the hallway before the case was called where he told Jeffrey that if he went through with the prelim, why, then, the DA was going to make a big stink about the brass knuckles and the concentrated cannabis that were also found on defendant Sky.
Schwartz regarded the deputy DA with a look of baffled incredulity. The “brass knuckles” were one of those novel iPhone cases, that defendant Sky had had his iPhone in at the time he was busted. A phone case that looks like brass knuckles is a marketing gimmick, not a weapon.
Drug runners are vulnerable to lots of people other than cops, and weapons are needed to protect the “product” — the latest slang for marijuana. Or they just want to look cool. Or both. But one would think drug mules would be a little more discrete, a little more low profile if they want to get to the other side of Willits, the money side, and then on down to the Marin-Sonoma county line with their cargo intact.
Like so many pot cases, the iPhone case case never made it to trial. Of the very few that do, Kim LaValle’s transportation of marijuana to the city was one where our current DA David Eyster showed that no matter how profitable and how common cannabis is in this area, it is still not legal.
At the beginning of “Trial By Ambush,” we noted that:
District Attorney Dave Eyster said, “A lot of folks are beginning to think there are no rules, that anything goes, and that this is the wild, wild west when it comes to marijuana. It’s not. There are rules, and the rules must be followed or there will be consequences.”
One rule is 11360 of the Health & Safety Code, which says transportation of more than an ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana for sale is illegal.
This was the charge that Kim LaValle was facing, and she'd been nailed with a lot more pot than an ounce. And when she was found guilty by the jury, you’d have thought she’d been given the death penalty judging by the piteous howls of grief and outrage erupting from her supporters in the courtroom.
The local “marijuana community,” of course, is as sanctimonious as any sect of religious fanatics anywhere. Many people hereabouts have made tidy little fortunes growing weed, and money, however you might make it, has always had a self-vindicating effect on the human ego. “I do it, I'm good, how I make money is therefore also good.” It's no surprise then that enforcement of a law designed to curtail commercial pot sales will be taken as a “war crime” against the selfless growers “just trying to relieve some of the suffering in the world.”
Ms. LaValle’s defense was the martyr's defense. She was just trying to help with pain relief.
The jury wasn't out long, and they found Ms. LaValle guilty as charged.
The DA took issue with our summation of that case, and wrote an eloquent letter to that effect, but space and time being at a premium, we won’t include it, as it would necessitate a lengthy rebuttal.
* * *
Then there was case of the jailhouse attack on an inmate to finish off the month of February which we reported in “The Revenge Of The Coke Machine.”
Robert S. Sherman is a Point Arena auto mechanic sentenced to the County Jail for selling stolen property. Sherman was arrested when he boldly appropriated a water tank from the Elk Fire Department and sold it about thirty miles down the Coast to a homeowner at Sea Ranch. While in jail, Sherman continued his larcenous ways by defrauding a Coke machine. This crime caused Mr. Sherman to get his face stomped in, all his teeth knocked out and his upper jaw and eye sockets crushed.
Most people would say the latter punishment was out of all proportion to Sherman's crime against the machine.
No, the jailers did not do this to Mr. Sherman, but fighting among inmates and inmate beatings of other inmates are fairly common occurrences at the jail, although there are inexperienced liberals who prefer to assume that jailers, aka corrections officers, do the beating.
Surely, the oppressed wouldn't do this to each other.
It was a jailer who probably saved Sherman's life.
Inmates had figured out a way to get free Cokes.
Sherman called for a moratorium on the looting of the Coke machine because it all was getting too obvious, and someone said they saw him put a “kite,” a snitch’s note in the suggestion box — yes, the prisoners get to make suggestions on the lace curtains — and this resulted in his getting the beating.
Mr. Radcliffe has made something of a career out of home invasion robberies. He was looking at life in prison for his latest caper, which wasn't what you would call well planned. The guy already had two strikes, and this one, because it was semi-violent, would have gotten him a third strike, 25 years to life.
So when the prosecution offered Radcliffe 18 years instead of a jury trial that would find him guilty in about 30 seconds, Radcliffe grabbed 18 years.
Radcliffe had let himself in to the apartment of a retired couple on Waugh Lane in Ukiah while both residents, Mr. and Mrs. Dotson, were at home. No one knows how long Radcliffe was in the apartment before he presented himself to the shocked couple, but it had been long enough for him to sort through Mrs. Dotson’s underwear drawer and outfit himself in her underwear, stockings, and one of her wrap around skirts. When his ensemble was complete, Radcliffe came up behind the unsuspecting Mrs. Dotson as she sat watching TV and working a crossword puzzle and started rubbing her arms and whispering in her ear.
Mrs. Dotson shot out of her chair and screamed for her husband who came running from the computer room. An altercation ensued and Mr. Dotson tore his wife's dress off Radcliffe who then fled the residence in Mrs. Dotson’s underwear, grabbing Mrs. Dotson’s purse as he exited the premises.
The next day Mrs. Dotson found her driver’s license, social security card and Medicare card scattered along the abandoned railroad tracks behind her apartment. Her cash, about a hundred bucks, was gone. The track, by the way, function as a kind of alternate travel route for inland bums who shuffle to and from central Ukiah on booze and dope runs. If they stay on the tracks, the cops don't bother them.
The situation the Dotsons found themselves in with Radcliffe was bizarre in the extreme, which may explain why Mr. and Mrs. Dotson didn’t agree in all the details of their adventure with the intruder-beast. The prosecution felt that given the inconsistencies, it would be better to get the defendant put away for definite 18 years rather than risk a possible acquittal, and there goes one more free range psycho out onto the streets of Ukiah.
Radcliffe was already on parole before his excursion into grandma's underwear drawer; he was going back inside either way, jury trial or plea deal.
* * *
And finally we have the unforgettable case of the young man who couldn’t reign in his passions and resorted to masturbating in public, in broad daylight, a story we called “Wangdoodle Blues.”
“Did the defendant ejaculate?”
“He said he didn’t. He said it was his first time masturbating in public, and he became nervous and was unable to ejaculate.”
Cory Rupp, 20, of Ukiah, was on trial for lewd and lascivious acts in public, specifically whacking off in broad daylight in the driveway of Julia Carrera's home in Ukiah.
(Mendo pot people will remember Ms. Carrera as the County’s third-party marijuana inspector under Mendo’s now-defunct marijuana permit program.)
Ms. Carrera’s friend, Alyra Slocum, a well-known Ukiah singer-songwriter, had arrived at Ms. Carrera's home, noting that Mr. Whackoffski was, uh, pleasuring himself virtually in Ms. Carrera's front yard. The two women locked themselves in the house where they quickly decided to call the police to report a young man pacing up and down the sidewalk, whacking away, perhaps having been further aroused, nay transported, by the arrival of the comely Ms. Slocum.
“He must have had a lot of practice, to be able to do it while walking down the street,” Ms. Carrera would testify. “Alyra arrived and I said, ‘Get in here,’ and I pulled her into the house and locked the door.”
She had a point. Mobile masturbation would seem to be fairly rare. If the kid had also been chewing gum we'd have a real prodigy on our hands. [sic]
What did the pud-pulling pedestrian have to say in his defense: “I was off my meds.”
Charles Oshinuga from the Office of the Public Defender was assigned to Rupp’s case, and since he is the newest lawyer in the Public Defender's stable, it seems reasonable to assume that none of the other public defenders were vying to defend the libidinous lad.
Oshinuga is also a very good basketball player, having won a 3-on-3 championship for UC Davis with two other law students in a statewide tournament at UCLA in 2011. Oshinuga's boss, Public Defender Linda Thompson, may have figured, “This case cries out for an athletic defense.”
The matter was heard as a bench trial (in front of a judge), as opposed to a jury trial. Oshinuga had only legalities to worry about, not the added burden of weeding out female jurors genetically predisposed to castration for male sex crimes.
The young attorney began his cross-examination of Ms. Carrera with a merry, “Good morning, Ms. Carrera! How ya doin’ today?”
“I’m creeped-out,” the vic bluntly replied.
Oshinuga cut to the chase.
“You don’t remember the specific time when you first saw Mr. Rupp in your driveway, isn’t that correct …what you told the officer?”
“It was daytime,” Ms. Carrera snapped, obviously still offended at the memory of unrestrained male sexuality in her driveway.
“Well,” Oshinuga persisted, “was it before noon, afternoon — what?”
“Before,” Carrera said.
“And you asked my client to leave?”
“Wull, yeah…” with an implied, “Duh. You don't think I invited him in for coffee, do you?”
“Then you remained inside?”
“Of course I stayed inside — what do you think I was gonna do?”
Oshinuga ignored the “Well, duh” implications of Ms. Carrera's replies. “So you were looking out the window?”
“And he was still in the driveway?”
“You told the officer that he was still in the driveway. Did you see his penis?”
“Not all of it — he had it covered with his hand, going up and down.”
“And he was looking around aimlessly…?”
“No! I didn’t say ‘aimlessly’! He was looking at my house! He was across the street by then, and he was looking at my house — and jacking off!”
“Did my client, at any time, say anything?”
“He was jacking off in front of my house! Why would I care anything about what he had to say?”
“So you don’t recall my client saying anything. Did he make any gestures?”
“Gestures? Gestures? Why are you asking me about gestures? I don’t care about gestures!”
“So he didn’t make any gestures?”
“Gestures — Did he make any gestures?”
“Gestures? Gestures? Why are you asking me about gestures? I don’t care about gestures!”
“So he didn’t make any gestures?”
“Gestures. Did he make any gestures?”
“What are you trying to do? He was jacking off”—
Just then the court reporter threw up her hands in frustration and said, “Stop! You are both talking over each other and I can’t keep up. I don’t even know where we are, now.”
Judge John Behnke admonished both lawyer and witness to slow down. (No one said to the court reporter, “I believe the last statement by the witness was ‘jacking off’.”)
Ms. Carrera had been flaring her nostrils and walling her eyes like an elk cornered by wolf. She was incredulous. It hadn't even been lunch time that day and she'd had a major perv in her driveway waving his weenie and whinnying like a horse and now she's in court and this Oshinuga guy is asking every dumb question imaginable.
On his part, Oshinuga — wisely, I think — hadn’t come anywhere near the witness stand, choosing instead to remain behind the defense table. But it was crucial that he ask these questions because the second, most damning element of the charge was whether or not his client was attempting to draw attention to himself — or had simply, all of an instant, become so overwhelmed with the splendors of Ukiah's fall fecundity that he just had to contribute his seed to next year's bounty.
In a world of misunderstanding there are always other possibilities.
Oshinuga resumed his interrogation of an increasingly hostile witness.
“So it is true that my client never spoke to you or made any gestures?”
“When you say ‘gestures’ I tend to think of, you know, flipping someone off, that kind of thing… So I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
“Fair enough. But he wasn’t pointing to himself, or anything like that was he?”
“How could he? He was too busy jacking off!”
“Is it true he never said anything?”
“Yeah, that’s true.”
“Is there a lawn?”
Again, Ms. Carrera reacted as though Oshinuga was deliberately trying her patience.
“What has that got to do with some jerk jacking off in my driveway? It’s the neighbor’s lawn, anyway. Why?”
“Is there a fence?”
“Huh? Are you serious? A fence? Yeah, sure. There’s a little ornamental picket fence, so what?”
“And a tree?”
Ms. Carrera was terminally exasperated.
“Okay, yeah, there’s a tree, and you know what? It wouldn’t have surprised me at this point if ‘your client’ had climbed the tree and hung from a branch by his tail, jacking off the whole time!”
“Was the tree between my client and the street?”
“Phew,” the witness exhaled, her lower lip jutting so that a few wisps of hair on her forehead wafted momentarily aloft. “Lemme think. Was he hiding behind the tree? I really don’t think so. He was across the street jacking off and looking at my house.”
“How far was that?”
“I dunno, maybe 30 feet…”
“Then how do you know he was looking at your house?”
“He was looking at my house!”
“You could see his eyes at that distance?”
“Did he make eye contact with you?”
“He made eye contact with me!”
“Then what did he do?”
“He wiped his hand on his shirt and walked on down the street towards the golf course.”
“Nothing further. Thank you, Ms. Carrera.”
The DA’s sex crimes prosecutor is Heidi Larson. She has a pretty heavy docket, an unrelievedly sordid caseload it is, too, although you’d never know it because most people, even reporters, can’t sit through endless child abuse and rape cases without going vigilante. Ms. Larson prosecutes the worst creeps imaginable. She called the next witness, Alyra Slocum.
The fact that both the victim-witnesses were attractive women will do little to exonerate the wandering onanist, Corey Rupp. The fact that Ms. Slocum’s arrived on the scene when Mr. Rupp already had his passions in hand, so to speak, could, I suppose, in some wild stretch of indulgent speculation, be construed as understandable, because of her (Ms. Slocum’s) understated and yet undeniable charm. Where Ms. Carerra had, uh, aroused Mr. Rupp's passions, the sight of Ms. Slocum pulling into Carerra's driveway propelled Rupp into full-on dropped-pants ecstasy.
Ms. Larson doesn’t blush at the facts of life, no matter how bizarre. The prosecutor repeated the facts for the new witness, Ms. Slocum.
“On or about August 8th, sometime around 11 o’clock in the morning, you arrived at 801 Maple Avenue in your silver Jeep Liberty. Your friend, Ms. Carrera, rushed you inside, saying something to the effect that there was someone creepy out there, and you told the officers that you later saw him standing by your car… We know all this, but can you tell me what you saw the defendant doing?”
Ms. Slocum went red as the proverbial beet. She tried to speak, but her voice squeaked and cracked. She tried again. This time we heard a few strained words, to the effect: “I saw him standing by my car. He was touching himself. He wore a black hoody and dark pants, but, wull, his pants were down and his hands were on his private parts.”
Ms. Larson demanded full candor.
“Touching himself,” she recited contemptuously. “His hands on his private parts…[ha!]” The prosecutor paced a few steps in front of the witness, then stopped and rocked on her heels, her hands clasped behind her back. “Do you mean his penis?”
“Yes,” Slocum whispered, her eyes dropping demurely, her ears glowing dangerously near the temperature of combustion. Maidenly modesty in a time of universal decadence! It was, in a way, kinda life-affirming in a porn-drenched age.
“So you actually saw his penis?”
“Umhum,” the witness whimpered.
“Is that a ‘yes’?”
Ms. Slocum looked like she might bolt from the room.
“I couldn’t particularly see anything,” she stammered hurriedly. “And, honestly, I wasn’t trying to look at it. But it was just like really blatant.”
“How did you feel?”
“Ummm… uncomfortable, disturbed.”
Public Defender Oshinuga whispered with his client, Mr. Grandly Inappropriate, Mr. Meat Beater. At last the defender of the defenseless beamed his winning smile and introduced himself to the reluctant witness.
“How’d ye do, Ms. Slocum. Pleasant autumn day, isn’t it?”
Well, it was a nice day until I arrived in this place where it's all pervs and penises.
“When you first saw my client, how far away were you?”
“Maybe 25 feet.”
“Did he say anything?”
“Did he make any gestures?”
“So you were unsure whether he was looking towards you two ladies, weren’t you?”
“I couldn’t see well enough to tell if he was looking at the house.”
Ms. Larson called Sergeant Cedric Crook of the Ukiah Police Department. Crook had been the patrol sergeant that hot, libidinous August day. Crook, like all cops, is a PhD in aberrant behavior. He calmly recited his stark version of events.
“It was 9:50-something. Officer Schapmire had the suspect in custody and he [the suspect] first told me he had been ‘trying to go pee and was only shaking his penis’ when he got aroused by the presence of a female and started jacking off. He later admitted to pulling down his pants and jacking off. He said a female in a silver Jeep Liberty had arrived.”
“Did Mr. Rupp tell you whether or not he ejaculated?”
“He said he did not. He said he got nervous. He said he’d never done it before.”
“He said he’d never done what before?”
“He said he’d never jacked off in public before.”
“Did he admit he’d lied about having to urinate?”
“He did, yes.”
“That’s all I have,” Larson said.
Oshinuga asked the officer, “What time did you say it was when you arrived?”
“So he would have been seen by the first female before that time?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“Did he tell you where the first female went?”
“He said he wasn’t positive, but he thought she’d gone into the residence.”
“Isn’t it true that he said he wasn’t masturbating when he first saw the female exit the silver Jeep Liberty?”
“That’s when he first said he got aroused.”
“So, the masturbation could have occurred after the women had gone inside the residence?”
“It could have.”
“In your report you said he thought she saw him 'jerking off.' Now, were those his words or yours?”
“I don’t understand.”
“You said he said he thought she saw him jerking off, but did you say, ‘Did she see you jerking off’ and he said, ‘Yes’, or did he say he thought she saw him jerking off?”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“I mean, Did he just say ‘Yes’ to your questions or did he make the statements about his having thought she saw him jacking off?”
“I don’t recall.”
“So when you say he admitted he was aroused, that was in response to a question of yours?”
“I don’t remember whether it was something he said or a question of mine he answered.”
“So those are not words out of his mouth?”
“Most likely anything he said were his responses to my questions.”
“So you don’t know if he said he thought she saw him or merely said ‘yes’ to your question?”
“Correct. It could have been what he said or an answer to a question.”
Ms. Larson called Officer Tyler Schapmire.
“Where were you on the morning of August 8th at about 10 o’clock?”
“I was dispatched to an address on Cypress Avenue.”
Larson suggested Officer Schapmire check his report. He did so and admitted his mistake, “I was dispatched to the 800 block of Maple Avenue.”
“You just had the wrong tree,” Judge Behnke quipped.
“What did you find on Maple Avenue, Officer Schapmire?”
“The defendant, Corey Rupp, with his pants down.”
“What did he tell you he was doing?”
“He said he’d been urinating and was just shaking it off. Then Sergeant Crook arrived and I went to talk to the two females. When I got back Sergeant Crook informed me that Rupp had admitted to masturbating. He said he lived on Cypress Avenue and had left the house after an argument with family members. He admitted that his penis was exposed and that he had been masturbating in public.”
“Did you ask him whether any of the females had seen him?”
“I don’t believe I clarified that with him.”
Oshinuga asked, “Did Ms. Carrera specify where she first saw my client?”
“She said she first saw him on the sidewalk by her driveway.”
“Did she say he was looking at her?”
“She never told me specifically that she saw him look at them.”
“The People rest,” Larson said.
Oshinuga put his hapless client on the stand.
“How ya doin’?”
“Did you have a fight that day?”
“About 3:30 in the morning.”
“What did you do?”
“I left the house and started walking.”
“Are you on any medications?”
“Yes. Welbutrin and Abilify.”
“Did you take ‘em that morning?”
“No, I didn’t get a chance to.”
“How long was it before you started masturbating?”
“About seven hours.”
“Did you see anyone?”
“Did you hear anything?”
“Yes, a voice saying ‘What are you doing?’ and telling me to leave.”
“What did you do?”
“I left, then came back. The only person I saw was the one in the Jeep.”
“Left and came back?”
There may be stalking implications here, and public masturbation, like many ostensibly harmless sexual behaviors, can be the opening act to much more dire crimes.
Ms. Larson declined to cross.
Judge Behnke asked for closing arguments. Larson reserved hers.
Oshinuga summed up: “My position is that my client wasn’t directing any public attention to his genitals; he was behind a tree, so he couldn’t be seen from the street; and, secondly, he didn’t see anyone or do anything to draw attention to himself. When Ms. Carrera spoke to him he left. The second time she saw him he was 25 to 30 feet away, and Ms. Slocum said she was unsure whether he was looking at them or trying to draw attention to himself. So it is defense’s position that the second element of the charge hasn’t been proved.”
Ms. Larson told it from The People's perspective: “The defendant admits to exposing himself in public and admits to masturbating. He admits to leaving and then returning to the area. There’s case law that asserts the other person doesn’t have to see his genitals to prove intent. In this case he was clearly aware that others were present — he was facing the house masturbating when he knew people were in it.”
Judge Behnke took a ten-minute recess to read some law. When he returned he said, “The defendant did expose his private parts in a public place, and in the purview of the statute — Ms. Carrera was in the area and told him to leave and when Ms. Slocum arrives, he returns and repeats the conduct — we have lewd conduct in their presence. It seems to me this is a situation where the defendant was acting with lewd intent, so I do find him guilty.”
* * *
These are the kinds of cases that make news reporting rewarding. There were many more, of course, cases that included celebrities like Supervisor Dan Hamburg and his disturbed son, and local captains of industry like general contractor Peter Richardson and the improbably large amounts of marijuana he says he grows and juices for his prostate cancer, but there just isn’t space to include them all. No problem, though — I feel certain there will be plenty more in 2014.