- Mendocino County
- Anderson Valley
by Bruce McEwen, September 7, 2016
Readers who found it reprehensible that the three Guatemalan nationals caught trimming at a commercial pot grow in Laytonville were charged with cultivation and possession for sale will be relieved to hear they all accepted bargains from the DA to plea to misdemeanor charges and were put on probation.
The prelim, like so much else in the criminal justice system, was just a show, intended to frighten the trimmigrants into a quaking respect for the rule of law.
The process of punishing the polar opposites of oppressed immigrants we arrive at the armed and idle fellows with the assault rifles who were sitting on over a hundred pounds of product the day law enforcement came calling: Wesley Murphy and Cameron Roach.
Deputy Raymond Hendry, on a follow-up from a tip by task force agent Jim Wells, came onto the property at 2270 Woodman Peak Road, Laytonville, and found Mr. Murphy, a convicted felon out of San Diego, with an AR-15 assault rifle at one end of the property and at the other end the deputy discovered Cameron Roach with a AK-74 assault rifle.
(We always associate Hendry with his appearance on the stand back in April of 2010 as described by Tim Stelloh: “…And when Denson questioned Hendry on where Gage's Covelo property was — and Hendry said he'd heard it was near Ferry (“Fairy”?) Ranch — the deputy provided the court with this gem: “I didn't even know if 'Ferry Ranch' even existed,” Hendry said. “All I heard was it was a ranch with a bunch of faggots.”)
The strapping lawman was young then. He’s the very definition of discretion these days.)
Omar Figueroa, Roach’s lawyer, thought that Deputy Hendry had dyslexically transposed the numbers and that the rifle was an AK-47 — a common mistake, because the basic Russian design of the AK-47 was updated in 1974 and made to fire a smaller bullet, in much the same way the American M-14 was changed to the M-16 at about the same time, and in much the same way, as far as the ammo went; from 7.62 mm to 5.56 mm (M-16) and 5.48 mm (AK-74).
It may seem a bit overly technical, but the distinction is important because there are some defense lawyers around who consider anything and everything law enforcement officers do to be criminal and that their clients have the right to possess assault rifles no matter how many felonies they have been convicted of — especially in defense of the wonder drug.
Whatever minor discrepancies the defense can come up with to bamboozle a judge who may not know the finer distinctions involved in the American Arsenal is produced. We’ve seen this before, when a question arose between a .40 caliber and a 9mm. The judge, not realizing that the diff was so miniscule that it would require a pair of calipers to determine the difference, ruled erroneously that the witness could not have confused a .40 cal. with a 9mm. (.40 cal. is the exact same thing as 10 mm, but the judge was assuming 9mm and .40 cal. referred to the distinction in the make and model, not merely the chambering, which nearly any make and model may utilize.)
The effort in this case was to confuse the issue of whether or not first-off, a Colt AR-15, which is a commercial version of the military M-16 assault rifle, was indeed an assault rifle; and, next, to reclassify the AK-74 as a sporting rifle, as opposed to an assault rifle.
Now, it should be noted that the arms manufacturers learned in the wake of World War I that after the troops were trained to use the .30-06 Springfield rifle, they later wanted to buy a hunting rifle just like it for sporting purposes; and, for home defense, they sought out a version of the pistol they had been issued while in the military, the 1911 .45. Both these weapons were modified and the same cartridges used again in World War II, with the practical effect that the manufacturers were able to market the “ought-six” and the .45 to two successive generations of sportsmen after hostilities had ceased. We have seen the same phenomena with Vietnam War vets and the sale of the AR-15; and subsequently, the veterans of other actions, such as Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, as new versions of the military rifle have been developed by diverse arms manufacturers.
As a former editor of Guns Magazine I can attest that the makers and marketers of these rifles have gone to extensive legal expense to sell AR-15s under the Second Amendment, and as a result the difficulty of proving in court whether it is an “assault rifle” or a “hunting rifle” has become contentious.
The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 banned Colt AR-15 rifles by name in the State of California. California's 2000 Assault Weapons ban went further and banned AR-15s made by other manufacturers by names such as Bushmaster, PWA, and Olympic Arms.
Then at the end of June, Governor Brown signed a new set of gun laws, one of which includes the feature of a “bullet button” which releases a magazine for a quick change to fresh ammo when the shooter is mowing down unarmed civilians as fast as possible in a US city like San Bernardino or Orlando.
So it should be simple. But it never is.
Here we have Deputy DA Scott McMenomey trying to convince Judge David Nelson — not exactly a gun-nut, incidentally — that certain features demonstrate that Mr. Murphy indeed had an assault rifle.
“Judge, let’s go back to the assault weapons, briefly.”
Mr. McMenomey set his reading glasses on the end of his nose and read from a law tome.
“The law covers all of the AK-variants, including the 74, in addition to which the Colt AR-15s. By definition assault rifles are semi-automatic center-fire firearms with a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously. They may also have a folding stock—”
Just at that moment Judge Ann Moorman came in to listen, and as we were the only people in the gallery, she confided to me that the folding stock was a feature which enabled the shooter to conceal the assault rifle under his coat.
“—a detachable magazine and sometimes a second hand grip, but in any event these are both assault weapons even by the definition of their own manufacturers.”
Figueroa for the defense said, “My client [Mr. Roach] didn’t have an assault weapon, your honor.”
Prosecutor McMenomey asked Hendry, “Did it have a flash suppressor?”
“Yes it did.”
“Did it have a curved detachable magazine [banana clip] with a push-button release?”
“How about a collapsible stock? Did it have one of those?”
“Yes, I think it did.”
Figueroa said, “I would like this reduced to a misdemeanor, and the court may wish to consider the way my client is dressed [a rumpled, ill-fitting suit he’d probably last worn 20 years ago]; he’s a very nice guy, and even has a haircut [the Bullet-Head Special] much like Deputy Hendry’s.”
Wes Murphy’s lawyer was Jonathan Opet of the Office of the Public Defender — this being the defendant who claimed the 100+ pounds of market ready cannabis product was all his…
And it always amazes how somebody with such considerable resources can qualify for a public defender, but generally all they have to do is ask and the court gives them one. Of course he has no job. He’s a grower. And of course he has no money in the bank — it’s all buried in the back yard. And of course he has the property in somebody else’s name… So sure, he gets a free lawyer.
And the free lawyer, Mr. Opet wanted to quash the search warrant,because Deputy Hendry came on to the property with an arrest warrant for another person (who didn’t happen to be there) and found Murphy with his mountain of turkey bags full of bud. Now, Agent Wells had told Hendry that the fugitive might be at the Woodman Peak Road address, and Opet wanted to bring Wells in for a grilling on the stand.
“You may do so at the trial, Mr. Opet,” said Judge Nelson, “but I don’t see a need for it for the purposes of a prelim. There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence and no evidence that the officer was lying so I’m going to deny the motion to suppress, the motion to quash, and the 17b motion [to reduce the charges]. I’ll hold both to answer on the possession for sale and the arming allegations, as well as the felon in possession of an assault rifle. That’ll be the order.”