Charm Day At The County Courthouse
by Bruce McEwen, January 18, 2017
Oh help me in my weakness, I heard the drifter say, as they took him from the courtroom and were dragging him away. My trip has been a pleasant one and my time it is not long, but I still do not know what it is that I've done wrong…
— Bob Dylan, ‘The Drifter’s Escape’
It has taken a long time to get Thessalonian Love back into court. Since his conviction by a jury for trying to abduct a Point Arena minor and sell her to his friends in San Bernardino, Mr. Love has shown considerable contempt for Mendocino County justice, mainly in the form of spitting on anyone who comes within range, such as his defense lawyers, Jan Cole-Wilson and Patrick Pekin, as well as Probation Officer Sandra Plaza and various correctional officers.
For his trial, Mr. Love had been brought to court in civilian clothes, rather than the CalTrans orange jump suit (a holdover from the Inquisition, incidentally) and shackles jailbirds are generally paraded into court wearing, and on the last day of his trial, as he was waiting to board the paddy-wagon back to his VIP suite at the Low Gap Hilton, he bolted into the swanky precincts of Ukiah’s Westside.
Coincidentally, former defense attorney Keith Faulder was throwing a party that very afternoon to launch his ultimately successful run for the Superior Court Bench, and a great many dignitaries — including Judge Ann Moorman, who had presided over Love’s trial — were arriving at Faulder’s posh office complex on West Standley Street just as the area was swarming with police squads in full battle-rattle vaulting prim white picket fences, trampling through flowerbeds, and being half-dragged by eager German Shepherd police dogs straining at their leashes and snapping hungrily at the lazy housecats to clear off, get out of the way, a dangerous fugitive is at large! By the time I got there it was the kind of scene most crime reporters can only hope to find in lurid crime novels.
When I left Faulder’s party, the dragnet had moved on, spread out in various directions, and went on throughout the night. But somehow the wily Love eluded capture until next morning when bailiff James Scroggins, on his way to unlock the courthouse for the day, spotted the fugitive standing nonchalantly in the Walgreen’s parking lot, apparently disoriented and wondering, no doubt, which way to go.
After conviction and during sentencing, Love started his obnoxious spitting. First, at his lawyer, Jan Cole-Wilson, who had fought well and worked hard for him, pointing out that the rap culture, with all its pornographic misogyny, actually appealed to teenage girls, especially those raised in liberal households and taught from childhood to embrace diversity, especially the culture of disadvantaged and marginalized Afro-Americans. Then, when Love met with Probation Officer Sandra Plaza for an interview to determine sentencing recommendations, he spat on her. This could, if you will, besmirch said recommendation in the long run — and my what a long run it has turned into!
After Ms. Cole-Wilson left her practice for health reasons, Mr. Pekin was assigned the difficult case and Mr. Love was sent to the court psychiatrist for an evaluation with a written warning for the doctor to be careful of coming in range of Love’s oral projectiles. For a long time Love was obliged to wear a spitting mask, a disposable diaper held in place over his mouth with a mosquito-net hood. Eventually, he must have promised not to spit on anybody because he came to court the last few times without the mask.
This leniency turned out to be overly optimistic.
Besides the escape and the spitting, Love had committed some other felonies while in custody, namely threatening and trying to intimidate and dissuade witnesses from speaking at his sentencing — they had already testified against him during the trial — these witnesses being the victim, Priscilla V. (no last name given in court for minors) and her mother, Nancy Torres.
At long last a prelim on these added charges was held last week in Judge Ann Moorman’s court and Deputy DA Shannon Cox called her Coast investigator, former Fort Bragg Police Chief Scott Mayberry, to the stand. Inspector Mayberry highlighted the salient aspects of the case, how Love had trolled the internet for Priscilla in what’s called catphishing (a species of dating wherein a predator assumes a false persona to dupe the callow or coy) and came to Point Arena to catch her and take her back to San Bernardino. Mayberry told the court how close it had been, and how mom, Ms. Torres, only found out what was afoot at the last moment before Priscilla “eloped” with Love.
Mayberry: “She [Ms. Torres] intercepted some text messages earlier that day and alerted the sheriff’s deputies. When asked how they were going to live, she [Priscilla] said the plan was that she would have sex with his [Love’s] friends for money.”
Deputy DA Cox: “When did you [Mayberry] get involved in the case?”
Mayberry: “In April, April 11th a letter was intercepted; a letter addressed to Priscilla, which was a violation of a criminal protective order that he have no contact with her.”
Thessalonian Love was seated at the defense table alongside Mr. Pekin, and he [Love] sat glowering at the officer on the witness stand. He was not wearing the spitter’s mask. Ms. Cox showed Mayberry the letter and he identified it as the one confiscated by the correctional officers. The contents of the letter were acknowledged by Pekin to be of a highly threatening nature.
Deputy DA Cox: “And to your knowledge did Mr. Love escape from the jail during his trial?”
Mr. Pekin: “Objection, your honor. What’s the relevance?”
Cox: “It goes to show the defendant was capable of carrying out the threats, your honor.”
Judge Moorman: “The objection’s overruled. Carry on, Ms. Cox.”
Cox: “And what was the verdict of the jury?”
Mayberry: “Guilty on all counts.”
Cox: “And was there a criminal protective order in place?”
Mayberry: “There was, yes. For both Priscilla and her mother.”
Cox: “Were there other letters from Mr. Love confiscated by the staff at the jail?”
Mayberry: “Yes there were. In August, during the run-up to the sentencing phase, two more letters were confiscated. One, dated August 23 was addressed to Nancy T. at the Sea Ranch Lodge where she worked.”
Moorman: “She’s an adult — why are you withholding her last name?”
Cox: “We are not, your honor. That’s the way the letter was addressed.”
Moorman: “But it was intended for Ms. Torres?”
Cox: “Yes, your honor. Inspector Mayberry, was Ms. Torres intending to make a statement at the sentencing?”
Mayberry: “Yes, she was, so I asked to meet with her and did so on October 13th, 2016. I asked if she’d seen any letters from Mr. Love and she said she had not. I then gave her the letter to read, and she read it.”
Cox: “What was her reaction?”
Mayberry: “Her response was that the letters were a threat to hers and her daughter’s lives, and the reference to a “hug” meant that he [Love] would hug her after she was dead. As she said this she was trembling and blinking back tears. She said she was going to move out of the area, as she had heard he had already escaped once and she was afraid he’d get out again.”
That’s when it happened. There was a loud bang as the chair Love was in flew back onto the floor — I looked up from my notebook with a start to see the bailiff and corrections officers wrestling with Love to get him away from Mr. Pekin. Pekin was wiping his face with a wad of Kleenex, and the officers were putting the spitter’s mask on Love — who, nonetheless, was shouting angrily.
“Fuck that bald-headed white bitch! Motherfuckin’ bitch, I already told her once, and her motherfucken crooked-assed hoe mmmughhm…”
The spitter’s mask, now firmly in place, made it hard for the would-be pimp to say more and the officers hustled Love out of the courtroom. Mr. Pekin finished wiping the spittle off his face and said, “No big deal, I want to proceed. Bring him [Love] back. Let’s do this.”
Moorman: “We’ll take a recess and see if Mr. Love wants to calm down and come back.”
Mr. Pekin went down to ask after Love’s mental state. The answer was apparently in the negative, because when court resumed Love was absent. Pekin admitted the letter contained “certain threatening language, but he is in no way trying to prevent her from testifying, even though it is highly threatening.”
Moorman turned to Cox: “Since the letters were delivered to the victim by law enforcement, how can this be anything other than an attempt?”
Cox: “In this situation, we have a letter sent to her [Ms. Torres'] place of employment, and he [Love] intended that the threat be communicated to her [Torres].
Moorman: “You are going to have to brief this. He was in custody and it probably went unnoticed that his mail was being intercepted; so I want you both to brief this with reference to the defendant’s intent, and have it in by January 26th.”
* * *
Another charmer, Brandon Smith, was remanded into custody at the courthouse Friday after a struggle involving one Deputy DA, the court bailiff and two correctional officers. Mr. Smith had come to court “blazing” on methamphetamine for a confirmation of his preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for the next Tuesday. Bailiff Jeffery Courtney had noticed that Smith was exhibiting signs of meth use so he made a signal (crossed wrists) to Correctional Officer Maria Zuberier that the defendant was going to be remanded.
When Judge John Behnke called Smith’s case, Smith came forward through the gate to stand next to his lawyer, Douglas Rhoades, the Alternate Public Defender. CO Zuberbier moved into position behind Smith, only to discover she didn’t have a pair of handcuffs on her duty belt. By this time, Smith had tweaked what was up, that he was going to the time out room out on Low Gap and made a spirited dash for the door.
However, Deputy DA Joshua Rosenfeld — who had once left the DA’s Office to spend a few years on the Ukiah Police force — blocked Smith and struggled briefly with him, holding the intensely wriggling and profusely sweating subject (as slippery and energetic as an electric eel) against the locked side of the double doors, until CO Jason Dyche and Bailiff Courtney came to assist with the tackle and administer the handcuffs.
As Smith was again brought before the judge, he delivered himself of some favorite tweaker epithets, both racial and homophobic: “Suck my dick, judge. All you fucking faggot niggers can suck my dick!”
Tweakers raised in Mendocino County understand that these are the worst things anybody can say in public — the n-word and homosexual hate allusions really get right up the liberal nose, and having lived next to a meth dealer in Ukiah we’ve seen and heard the same insults often. In fact this same Brandon Smith was a regular at Tweak House and was very likely one of the tweakers who put homophobic graffiti all over the next door trailer last summer.
As a result of his outrageous courtroom display, new charges have been filed against Smith as he rests up in jail for his prelim to continue.
PS. The bailiff that day was Deputy Bill, Boonville Bill, whose parents reside across the street from AVA HQ. Deputy Arthur Barkley, Her Honor Ann Moorman's trusty old bailiff had been called out on the floods and so Bill was on duty when Thessalonian finally spit it out — so Bill had to lead the charge to subdue and to mask the Spitter Love. Bill's a smoker. I went out on the sidewalk later to quiz him as he was lighting up. It was pretty intense, for a sec. Then Bill grinned, blew a puff of smoke and said, “No comment, McEwen.”