by Bruce McEwen, July 13, 2016
The majority of local pot pharmas brought in by law enforcement are too young to qualify as part of the back-to-the-land demographic. Those old hippies have already made their bones, paid off their humble country homes, retired to a pot pension, as it were, and they make enough on the medicine they grow within the county’s legal standards to support their modest hobbies, such as restoring collectable automobiles, spinning vinyl records at the local radio station, noodling spacey riffs on vintage guitars, or writing their florid and misty memoirs. It is the younger, more ambitious growers, by and large, who turn up in court.
These young people were raised during an era of stagnation in the building trades, the menialization of auto mechanics into minimum wage oil-change garages, the end of light industry and hometown shops overwhelmed by cheap manufactured goods from China, and the end of free college tuition in California — in short, the advent of NAFTA, student loan rackets, and other forms of neoliberalism have left this generation stranded in a world that has little use for their meager skills. How could they be expected to dress and comport themselves like the role models they were given on TV — the characters in Friends and Seinfeld, South Park and Scooby-Doo?
I hear the readership out there, collectively tamping down a yawn and asking, “What’s with all this thought-piece literary stuff, McEwen? No story this week, is that the problem?”
Well, yes. And I could become a bore of global repute, were I to prose along in this vein for more than a paragraph or two, practicing hypotaxis sentence structures of hyperbolic scope, so I don’t realistically expect any more than a cursory skimming of this gossipy column. But what I was trying to elicit with the foregoing departure was some compassion for these young people who have inherited a world that has no place for more than a very elite few of them, and employ that noble theme as a vehicle to convey a couple of scintillating anecdotes about some of the more prominent denizens of the Ukiah courthouse.
To begin with, an emissary from the Coast came in this week, made his leg up to the press booth, saying, “Don’t get up, gents… I just wanted to pay my respects to the new king maker, the mighty AVA.”
The small delegation was bearing (metaphorically) a purple-prose wreath, formerly reserved for those bygone days when it was traditionally lain, with Tim Stoen’s blessing, at the tomb of the Unknown Liberal, “A-Ninny Mouse” (Coast baby-talk for anonymous) which is code for a Coast entity named Steve Antler (the passive mover and aggressive shaker who gave us the incompetent Judge Clayton Brennan, ten years ago).
Freshly minted Judge Faulder himself came by to ask what kind of whisky (Maker’s Mark) he could send to the AVA Office in appreciation for our endorsement of his narrowly triumphant candidacy.
Then, much to the disgust of the lawyers from the public defender’s office, the new chief prosecutor, Rick Welsh spent a couple of days basking in the salutary glow of my company and asking for introductions — “you seem to know everyone who comes in here, on both sides of the law, McEwen. Who’s that old guy interpreting for the three Yorkville killers?”
“Oh, that’s a long-time friend and neighbor of the late Alexander Cockburn, the AVA’s most illustrious writer. Hey, Carlos, come over here a minute. Carlos Benemann, this is Rick Welsh, the DA’s new rottweilier.”
Welsh: “A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Benemann.”
Benemann: “Don’t be so sure.”
Benemann: “Don’t be so sure it’s a pleasure — you may think better of it after you get to know me.”
AVA: “Come on, Carlos, don’t scare the new guy off — Carlos is probably the only guy you’ve ever met who has a swastika stamped on his birth certificate, Rick.” (Mr. B's father was a pilot in the Luftwaffen. Mr. B himself was born in Argentina at the beginning of the Nazi diaspora. He is a former mayor of Ferndale and a high stakes poker player.)
AVA: “Tell him, Carlos.”
Benemann: “Really. And, that reminds me. Now that you’ve got Trump about to become president, don’t ask me how the German people could ever have allowed Hitler to come to power!”
AVA: “Point taken.”
The three Mexican guys accused of killing a guerilla grower above Highway 128 near Yorkville last year are progressing through the time-consuming process of having their cases “severed” so they can be tried individually for the grizzly murder. A date was set to set a date. So, it’s on for date-setting. By the time it goes to trial, if it does, everybody will have forgotten all about it.
But, to get to the meat of this vegan smorgasbord, pass the salt, please, and wasn’t there a pending motion on the bill of fare? Something about charging the district attorney with conflict of interest in a big pot bust, the Jodi Dutra power lunch extravaganza we wrote about a couple of weeks ago where a bunch of growers and buyers were playing pseudo-roles as big business executives at an open-air pot bazaar? Oh yes, and so the motion was heard on Friday — and nothing happened.
A lawyer from the Attorney General’s Office, Lauren Aptor, said she didn’t see a conflict and Judge Ann Moorman said she didn’t see one either. DA David Eyster had to be represented by one of his deputies, Josh Rosenfeld, who agreed with the judge and AG lawyer.
Doug Rhoades from the Alternate Public Defender’s Office, the lawyer who filed the motion, said it would be a conflict if the DA were put in a position where he had to cross-examine his former client — Ms. Dutra. The AG said that was all speculation, and the judge said she’d never allow such a thing, anyway.
A co-defendant was there with his lawyer, long time Mendocino defense attorney E.D. Lerman, and this caused some excitement when the judge scolded Ms. Lerman from standing before the court with her nose glued to the screen of her smart phone. Ms. Lerman glanced away from the screen at the sound of her name — “Ms. Lerman, I will not tolerate lawyers on their phones when they are before this court! It’s bad enough that when I look out at the well all of you have your phones up to your faces, but I will not put up with it when your are before the court.”
Ms. Lerman took the interruption graciously and murmured, as she continued to read what was on the screen of her phone, “Oh sorry, your honor, I was just catching up — I hadn’t had a chance to read this motion and wanted to see what it was all about.”
“Put it away, Ms. Lerman!”
“Okay, I will, gimme just a minute…”
“Well. You don’t have to yell. I said okay.”
All the lawyers will file more briefs and the judge will read them and sometime come to a ruling. In the meantime there’s nothing more to report.