Random Acts of Fshhhh & Swooof

by Bruce McEwen, July 20, 2016

Norton

Norton

James Allen Norton was enjoying himself immensely at the Evergreen Village shopping center in Willits on June 28th as he strolled through the parking lot slashing the tires of parked cars, chortling at each slash, a form of recreation he derives a great deal of pleasure from, he said to the police officers who arrested him.

Norton is Mendocino County's first  known recreational tire slasher — all of our other local cases of tire slashing have been done out of revenge for losing one’s girlfriend to another suitor, that sort of thing. But from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, it seems, the tire slashing craze has become the next big thing, an ever more audacious fad with increasing numbers of random victims, the most sensational case early in June, in Anchorage, Alaska, where 87 airplanes at Merrill Field had their tires slashed, just for giggles, as far as anyone can tell. In California there have been recent tire slashing sprees in Lompoc (33 cars), Carlsbad (38 cars) and San Fernando (“dozens”).

Willits Police Officer Michael Bennett asked Norton why he would do such a thing. Norton said he likes the sound of the air rushing out.

A look online at Yahoo Answers gives some insight: “It goes FSHHHH really loud as the air rushes out of the slash mark.”

At a site called rotteneggs.com we learned how it’s done: “Walk up to the tire and slash from the top all the way down the side, it should go flat immediately with a big SWOOOF.”

By the time Norton had slashed 11 tires, at around 11:30 in the morning, he was so absorbed in his intoxicating diversion that a woman took notice. She called the cops, gave a description of Norton's costume — they dress in black in case you wanna be a copycat slasher.

Lieutenant Mason of the Sheriff’s Department detained our avant-garde slash artist in mid-spree, saving one of the tires on a green Honda belonging to Jamie Chevalier; Ms. Chevalier's other three tires had already been slashed.

“Oh my God,” she reportedly gasped. “Those tires cost a hundred dollars apiece.”

All four tires on Dr. John Williams’ silver Mercedes had been slashed, and there was a third victim whose name and vehicle make we didn’t get. That person also lost four tires.

“Thank God I had Triple-A for the towing,” Dr. Williams said.

Deputy DA Luke Oakley just didn’t get it. Oakley is a young guy, too, but he couldn’t get a grip on the joie d’ vivre of this new and exhilarating fad. The spoilsport prosecutor wanted Norton charged with felony vandalism. Ms. Chevalier said her tires cost $100 each and Dr. Williams thought his tires would come to $1200, even though he had AAA insurance and the towing wouldn’t be a problem. This put the bill over $1500 — well into felony status even under the absurd Proposition 47 guidelines. And that was without counting the third victim’s losses.

But defense attorney Jonathan Opet objected, saying the victims were not experts on tire prices.

Judge David Nelson overruled Opet’s objections. The judge said it was reasonable that a person would know how much their tires cost.

“But, your honor,” Opet complained, “this should be reduced to a misdemeanor. My client was very cooperative with the police. He merits the reduction.”

Prosecutor Oakley pointed out that Norton had a prison prior, a history of domestic violence, methamphetamine use, and thefts.  The guy's crimes seemed to be getting dumber. Also, the officer said Norton turned uncooperative and combative when asked to take a drug test, meaning he was probably tweaked.

DA Oakley and Judge Nelson called it “chilling” and "alarming" to go out and slash people’s tires just to hear the sound of the air rushing out.

Norton was held to answer on the felony and will be back in court July 29th — a month after the slashing spree to the day, and also the anniversary of a simultaneous slashing event in Warminster, Pennsylvania, that lends precedent to our Willits case, lending it the cachet of a copycat criminal, of being in on something really stupid and vicious, sort of like the spate of tire burnings that swept through Berlin a few years ago. (In that instance, they used those pellets used for camp stoves for backpackers, set on the inside of the tire, often igniting the whole car. Let's hope our numerous local morons don't hear about that one.

* * *

Mr. Taylor Miller was up next but he had to be taken across the hall to Judge Ann Moorman’s court, as one of Opet’s client’s was demanding a closed hearing (on a Marsden motion to remove his attorney) and Nelson’s courtroom would have to be cleared for him to hear it. The gallant Miller stands accused of at least three wife beating incidents.

Miller & Haley

Miller & Haley

Deputy DA Oakley called Deputy Jeffery Andrade, who had been dispatched to an address on Orr Springs Road, May 17th, 2016, about “1500 hours [3pm to civilians]” some 45 minutes from Ukiah, where, approximately an hour later, he found Ashley Haley, scared and crying, in borrowed clothes, with a bleeding cut on top of her head, blood on her arms, her chest and neck, and the borrowed clothes. She said her boyfriend, whom she lived with, had pistol-whipped her. She was at a neighbor’s house and afraid to go home.

Oakley: “Did she say why he had hit her?”

Andrade: “She said she’d asked him to go get dog food because the dogs hadn’t eaten in two days. When he refused, she took his wallet and went to the truck; then she came back looking for the keys and he pointed an AR-15 rifle at her and said he should just kill her. When she turned to leave she felt the gun barrel hit her head.”

Oakley: “Is that a direct quote?”

Andrade: “No, but here it is in my report: ‘I ought-a just go ahead and kill you right now.’ That’s what she said he said.”

Oakley: “What did she do after she was hit?”

Andrade: “She ran away to the neighbor’s house.”

Oakley: “What was her demeanor like?”

Andrade: “She was scared and crying — she didn’t want to go back, she thought she was going to die.”

Oakley: “Did she tell you anything else?”

Andrade: “She said she’d been assaulted by him in April; he’d choked her out, hit her in the face, breaking her nose and giving her two black eyes, and chipping a tooth. When she covered her face with her arms, he hit her in the side and broke her ribs and collapsed a lung.”

Oakley: “Was she treated for these injuries?”

Andrade: “She showed me a scar where a tube had been inserted to drain her lung.”

Oakley: “Anything else?”

Andrade: “She said he’d driven her to the district attorney’s office and told her to drop the charges — he’d been arrested for domestic violence in February. Several trips, she said.”

Anthony Adams of the public defender’s office on cross-examination: “The term ‘pistol whipped’ is in your report?”

Andrade: “Yes, it is.”

Adams: “Can you show me where?”

Andrade: “Right here.”

Adams: “That’s something you heard her say?”

Andrade: “Yes.”

Adams: “Or did dispatch tell you that?”

Andrade: “Yes, and she did too.”

Adams: “Did she tell you he had the gun?”

Andrade: “She told me he had an AR-15 and a .45 handgun next to the bed.”

Adams: “Did you locate an AR-15?”

Andrade: “I did not search the residence.”

Adams: “Was Miller arrested?”

Andrade: “No, sir, he was not.”

Adams: “What about the .45?”

Andrade: “I did not find it.”

Adams: “Did you say you saw a tube in her chest?”

Andrade: “No, sir, I saw a scar. And that’s what I said.”

Adams: “Was there any evidence of the veracity of her statements?”

Andrade: “She did have a chipped tooth.”

Adams: “Did Ms. Haley, or was it the neighbor who called dispatch?”

Andrade: “The neighbor did.”

Adams: “”Did dispatch use the term ‘pistol whipped’?”

Andrade: “Yes they did.”

Adams: “Nothing further.”

Oakley: “Were there any weapons found?”

Adams: “Objection!”

Moorman: “Overruled.”

Andrade: “A .17 caliber Mossberg rifle by the entryway, and about 20 12-gauge shotgun shells. They were in a bandolier.”

Moorman: “When did the drive to the DA’s office occur?”

Andrade: “I don’t know but he was arrested in February.”

Moorman: “Is this witness excused?”

Oakley: “Yes, your honor. The People call Mariano Guzman. … As an investigator for the DA’s office you contacted Ashley Haley about the details of an assault in April… Do you remember what she had to say?”

Guzman: “She told me he blamed her for not being able to visit his daughter and punched her in the face — after choking her out, which she said caused her to lose consciousness. He broke her nose and she had two black eyes. And then there was the chipped tooth. She put up her hands, to protect her face, she said, and he hit her in the ribs, knocked out her breath and she again passed out.”

Oakley: “Was she taken to the hospital?”

Guzman: “The next day he started to drive her to the hospital, then decided she wasn’t that hurt, there was arguing about what to tell the doctor, and they turned back. The following day {with her looking like he might have a corpse on his hands otherwise} lover boy took Ashley in to the Ukiah Valley Medical Center, and she told the Emergency Room staff she’d been in an ATV accident. She had broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a tube was inserted in her chest. Apparently, a broken rib had punctured a lung. Besides the facial injuries.”

Oakley: “Did she tell you she wanted to move away from the defendant?”

Guzman: “She said she didn’t want to go back. She was afraid of him.”

Oakley: “Was her mother, Ms. Kam aware of these incidents?”

Guzman: “She said Ashley contacted her by phone from the hospital and sent her photographs of her injuries.”

These pictures were entered into evidence.

Adams: “Who took these photographs?”

Guzman: “Ms. Kam told me her daughter did.”

Adams: “Have you verified that?”

Guzman: “Not yet.”

Adams: “So would it be fair to say you don’t know when the injuries occurred?”

Guzman: “Well, Ms. Haley and her mother say they happened in April.”

Adams: “Your honor, this is hearsay.”

Moorman: “The rules of a 115 PX [preliminary hearing] allow it, counsel.”

Adams: “Yes, but the witness has never taken the class — he’s too old… they never taught it in his day, your honor.”

Moorman: “Yes, but anyone with five years doesn’t have to take it and the witness has 35 years, counsel, so I’m gonna overrule your objection. Anything else?”

Adams: “Nothing further. Your honor, we are going to submit on the counts one [the February beating], two [the April beating], and three [the May beating], but I do not believe there has been any evidence that he drove her to the DA’s office, or of any intimidation — there’s simply an assertion that they drove there together.

Moorman: “Officer Andrade said she told him it was on more than one occasion and it was to get her to drop the charges.”

Adams, a glib man, held his tongue.

Oakley sounded like he was reading from a textbook. It can't be easy defending a thorough scumbag like Miller. “That would not negate the charge regardless of intent; he has taken action to keep this from being prosecuted, interfering with the orderly administration of justice.”

Moorman: “Well, that’s the alternative theory, and we’ll find out soon enough because I’m gonna go ahead and issue the holding order on all four counts, and the special allegation of great bodily injury. Let’s set this for arraignment on the information on July 29th in Department B, and Judge Nelson can take it from there.

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