Dolphins In The Tuna Net
by Bruce McEwen, June 1, 2016
A preliminary examination of the catch from a Laytonville pot bust revealed that a white American, Sydney Roach (sic), arrested last December with three Guatemalans, was merely visiting the pot pharm when the cops arrived. Ms. Roach was found not guilty of the charges the others were facing, cultivation of marijuana for commercial purposes.
Ms. Roach’s attorney, Keith Faulder, told Judge David Nelson that Ms. Roach “was a dolphin who got caught in the tuna net, your honor.”
Alternate Public Defender Douglas Rhoades said his client, Carlos Reyes, was also a dolphin, but Judge Nelson found that Señor Reyes, Señor Walter Chata and Señorita Lucretia Garcia were all tuna and would be held to answer on the charges of cultivation for commercial purposes.
Reyes, Chata, Garcia
The alleged dolphins, five white Americans, got their charges dismissed before they ever got to the prelim. The three tuna were bound over on the Special Allegation that they were armed in the commission of the cultivation crime, even though it was the white guys who had the guns, owned the property, ran the business.
Sydney Roach, Cameron Roach, Frazier
We're reluctant to join the shrill national chorus caw-cawing "racism," but it's not a peanut butter sandwich.
It was so racist that even the three Spanish language interpreters were all white guys — Carlos Benneman (former mayor of Ferndale and ace poker player), Timothy Baird, and Nicholas Zacheral. Only one lawyer was of Hispanic extraction, Sergio Fuentes, counsel for Lucretia Garcia. Do we need to build a wall around Mendoland to send a message to Hispanic immigrants?
The scene of the crime was 2270 Woodman Peak Road, arrayed for strictly utilitarian purposes with trailers, ad hoc sheds, and a Connex shipping container — five “areas” in all.
Deputy Raymond Hendry was first on the scene and went to Area One where he encountered two dolphins, white guys, one with an AK-47 assault rifle, the other with a 9mm automatic. Deputy Hendry didn’t elaborate beyond this terse description — far from it — he had to be coaxed to muster even mono-syllabic answers to Deputy DA Elizabeth Norman's questions. But when it came to the three tuna fish, Hendry became positively voluble.
Norman: “Did you make contact with the white men?”
Hendry: “I did not.”
“I see. What did you do?”
“I moved on to Area Two.”
(Ah, excuse me, officer. You encounter two dolphins with big guns but moved swiftly on to the unarmed tuna?)
“I could hear music coming from that shed.”
“Did you contact anybody there?”
“Who was that?”
“Mr. Reyes and two other Hispanics.”
“What were they doing?”
“How do you know that?”
“They had those shallow cardboard boxes that soda comes in, and they had those in their laps with piles of marijuana buds on one side and piles of stems on the other side, and they had scissors in their hands.”
“What did you do next?”
“I went down a trail to Area Three, a Connex [shipping container], and there were no people there so I went to Area Four, which appeared to be a living area, and there was a white male on the porch and a couple inside.”
These were all dolphins, the Frazier brothers, Brett and Brandon, and Sydney Roach, who was somehow mistaken for a tuna because some stems were in the shipping container, with what Hendry said was a scale.
Deputy Hendry then went up to Area Five where another dolphin with a fully loaded AR-15 assault rifle was guarding more than 200 pounds of processed bud. At this point Hendry said he locked the property down and called Deputy Jeremy Mason to bring a search warrant from Ukiah, and turned the investigation over to Mason.
Ms. Norman was determined that Ms. Roach was in fact a tuna, and not a dolphin. She had one final question for Deputy Hendry.
“Did Ms. Roach tell you where she was staying?”
“She did, yes.”
“She said she was sleeping in the trailer, or lean-to, or whatever it was, on the floor with her boyfriend and a dog.”
On cross, Faulder asked Hendry if he’d made a report.
Hendry: “No, I did not.”
Faulder: “Did you have a reason for that?”
“I briefed Deputy Mason, and he took over.”
“Did you make any notes?”
“Is that Deputy Mason’s report in front of you?”
“Did you use it to refresh your memory before testifying today?”
“So when you testified that you found some stems in the lean-to where my client was staying, you said you “think” there was a scale?”
“I can’t tell you a hundred percent if there was or not.”
“Did you collect any evidence?”
“I don’t believe I did. I don’t believe there was a whole lot in there.”
“Did you take any photographs?”
“Did you interview my client?”
“You saw a white man outside on the porch?”
“Did you ask him his name?”
“Did you ask him to have the couple come out?”
Mr. Fuentes took his turn on cross. Fuentes was representing Lucretia Garcia.
Fuentes: “Did you originally go there to serve an arrest warrant?”
“Did you find this person there?”
“Did you ask any of these individuals where that guy was?”
“Mr. Reyes, and he said he didn’t know.”
“Did you ask my client?”
“No, I don’t believe she speaks English.”
Mr. Rhoades took his turn.
Rhoades: “You said white males were in the first trailer?”
“Did you see who they were?”
“No, the sergeant took over there and I went on to the second location.”
“And that’s where you observed them trimming marijuana with soda pop flats in their laps and scissors in their hands?”
Ms. Macci Baldock , representing Walter Chata, took her turn.
Baldock: “The door was closed but not locked?”
“Did you knock?”
“And Mr. Reyes opened it?”
“Did you go in?”
Deputy DA Norman on redirect:
Norman: “Did you see anything to make you believe Mr. Reyes was trimming?”
Hendry: “I did.”
“And what was that?”
“An empty seat. And I believe he had his trimming scissors in his hand.”
Deputy Hendry stepped down and Deputy Jeremy Mason was called.
On December 1st of 2015 Mason had left Ukiah with a search warrant for the Laytonville property and arrived there, he estimated, around three in the afternoon. Deputy Hendry briefed him with a walk-through of the scene and Mason then talked to the eight people who had been assembled and made comfortable with blankets and water in an open area where they could be guarded by the officers.
Norman: “Did you speak with Ms. Roach?”
Mason: “Yes, we conversed throughout, off and on, and also I recorded a formal interview with her.”
“Did she tell you how long she’d been there?”
“A week or two, she said. She’d come to visit her uncle, Cameron Roach.”
“Was he there?”
“Yes, in Area One.”
“Did she indicate to you whether or not she was aware of the marijuana operation?”
“I don’t recall her specifically saying she was.”
“Was there any evidence in the trailer she was staying in?”
“It looked like it had at one time been set up as a trim room with a table, some scissors, some stems on the floor.”
“Was there a bed?”
“A very small amount of marijuana.”
“And this belonged to the boyfriend, Brenden Frazier, which he’d trimmed for his personal use?
“I believe so, yes.”
“Did you speak with Carlos Reyes?”
“Yes, he spoke broken English and said he was there to trim marijuana.”
“Was he being compensated?”
“Yes, he said he didn’t know how much, but hadn’t yet been paid anything.”
The same was true for the other two Guatamalans — they hadn’t been paid and as things developed it looked like they were not going to be paid. Ever.
Pot growers have created a noble myth of themselves as employer saints who produce miracle cures for the world’s sick and psychologically oppressed. But out in the world dope is only available to those who can afford it, and it isn’t cheap. And it may come as a shock to some readers to learn that trimmigrants, white and Hispanic alike, are often turned out without pay, and the Hispanics are kept quiet with threats of a call to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) if they don’t like it.
In the first location called Area One where the unnamed sergeant was waiting with Cameron Roach and someone known only as Wes, or Wesley, Mason said there were two pounds of butane honey oil (BHO), and a pound of processed bud. Also, these two dolphins were armed with a Springfield XD 9 mm semiautomatic pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle. In Area Two where the trimmigants were working, the box the pistol came in was found. In Area Five, there were the 200 pounds of market-ready “product” and some guy called Murphy or Murray armed with an AR-15 assault rifle fitted with a 30-round banana clip.
“Now,” Deputy DA Norman asked, “do you recall what Ms. Roach said about the marijuana?”
Mason: “She was not involved in it, she said.”
“Was there anything to indicate she was involved?”
“Yes, she was found in Area Four and there was a pile of stems and scissors there.”
On cross Faulder asked if trimming wasn’t a messy job, and Mason conceded it could be.
“Don’t they [trimmers] typically have sticky fingers, from the resin?”
“Not if they wear gloves.”
“Okay… but did you find any gloves?”
“Was there any resin on Ms. Roach’s fingers or clothing?”
“There were eight people there, and none of them told you Ms. Roach was trimming, did they?”
Sergio Fuentes asked, “A person in Area One, this Wes guy, he told you he was leasing the property?”
“And the person in Area Five, this Murphy, he told you he took responsibility for the marijuana, didn’t he?”
“And the charges against both of them were dismissed?”
Doug Rhoades asked, “Did you find any equipment for making butane honey oil?”
“Some pieces, yes, but not all the parts needed.”
“Did my client tell you he’d come that day to get paid?”
“It seems like he may have, yes.”
“Did it appear he was staying on the property?”
“Was Mr. Reyes in possession of any firearms?”
Macci Baldock asked, “Was there any indication my client was staying on the property?”
“Was he in possession of a firearm?”
“And there was no interpreter present?”
Judge Nelson said it was a straightforward case of cultivation for profit and the three Guatamalan defendants were all guilty, as they were “caught in the act.”
At this point Faulder came up with Ms. Roach as the dolphin in the tuna net, and Judge Nelson let Sydney Roach off the proverbial hook. Rhoades tried to apply the metaphor to Mr. Reyes, that Reyes was also a dolphin scooped up in the tuna net, but Nelson wouldn’t agree. Reyes and the other Guatamalans were tuna and would proceed to the cannery for processing. Nelson even found the arming allegation registered against the Guatamalans to be true even though none of the Guatamalans had guns. It was Deputy DA Norman’s theory that the white guys in Area One and Area Five were using the guns to protect the trimmers.
(My theory is they had the guns to keep the trimmers from claiming their wages and making trouble. It is a common practice for growers to sport about with lots of firepower to intimidate trimmers and dissuade them from theft. And what a neat trick, to stick these poor fish with arming allegations, making their felony convictions all the more serious! )
We were under the impression that the practice of charging trimmigrants with felony cultivation was a thing of the past at the DA’s Office, but it now appears we were mistaken. Could it be that local law enforcement anticipates that Donald Trump will win the presidential election and, therefore, they want to already be on his “good side” with anti-immigrant policies in place?
If this crummy case is any indication, it sure looks like it.