Jill Ravitch & Bruce Anderson on Glenn Sunkett
by Tim Stelloh, March 3, 2010
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Glenn Sunkett's problems firing public defender Linda Thompson. In the following excerpt from this week's Off the Record, prosecutor Jill Ravitch and AVA editor Bruce Anderson weigh in on Sunkett's Thompson problem...
Bruce McEwen reports: “Glenn Sunkett had his Marsden hearing last Wednesday, his formal attempt to dump his public defender, Linda Thompson. These things usually take less than half an hour; Sunkett's been in court four times on his. Chief DA Prosecutor Jill Ravitch gave me the heads-up during lunch break just before Number Four started. I was on the back steps grabbing a smoke when Ravitch stopped by to apologize for firing me up in front of a crowded courtroom the day before when she wondered out loud why my newspaper and placed Public Defender Linda Thompson's predicament with Glenn Sunkett on the front page. But before I could respond, Judge Ron Brown came out of his lair and the court was again in session. But when Ms. Ravitch talked to me the next day she exclaimed, “You guys gave him (Sunkett) so much ink!” I promptly sold her a paper and noted we'd given Sunkett more space this week. The prosecutor asked me to call her Jill and we parted on jolly terms. The public is excluded from Marsden hearings to spare the lawyer in question from embarrassment. The only way media slime can find out what happened is from one of the involved parties, preferably both. The DA's office rolls right over for the San Francisco Chronicle (as they did in the Vargas case last week), but remains grim faced and standing when it comes to the AVA. And The Public Defender won't even so much as deign to return a single one of our repeated calls, then whines privately that we're unfair to her.”
HERE'S THE PROBLEM with Thompson from the perspective of the editor of this fine publication: Sunkett is a black man from Oakland looking at the rest of his life in prison for a home invasion conviction. Thompson is a diminutive lesbian who dresses in men's suits, which is the gender equivalent of a male lawyer appearing in court dressed as a woman. Juries have a hard time getting past distractions of this type, which I state as a fact because local jurors have talked to me specifically about cases involving Thompson. Thompson is Mendocino County's Public Defender, the boss of the office. And she's Sunkett's lawyer. Sunkett says Thompson not only screwed up his case big time, she won't do him the ordinary courtesy of returning his phone calls. Looked at from his perspective, the perspective of a drowning man, I think Sunkett's got a beef, a major beef. He ought to be able to get Thompson off his case, and she ought to get off his case if for no other reason than it's his case with his life at stake. I don't think Thompson is a good lawyer. I don't think she's even an adequate lawyer, not that inability has ever prevented success in public sector Mendocino County. I've written at length about another criminal matter, that of Tai Abreu, where Thompson's grotesquely incompetent defense put that kid, age 19, in the pen for the rest of his life without the possibility of parole while his two confederates got convictions that will put them back in Fort Bragg while they're still fairly young men. I think Thompson puts her vanity and her apparent need to make a political gender statement ahead of the lives of the people she's allegedly defending. Why has it taken Sunkett four hearings to get away from her? Why do the tax-paid lawyers involved prevent the public from being fully informed as to how the Sunkett matter, and lots of other matters, are resolved? They wouldn't get away with dummying up in a major media market, but they get away with it up here because the Boonville weekly is the only goddam paper in this lunatic jurisdiction that ever asks anybody anything. The public has an absolute right to know how effectively their money is being spent, and Thompson and the rest of legal hackdom over there in the County Courthouse has zero right to keep us in the dark.