Valley People (July 26, 2017)

by AVA News Service, July 26, 2017

STILL A FEW spots open in the free CERT class coming up in Boonville on August 12, 19 and 26th at the AV Fire Department For more information please call 462-1959 or visit or the CERT website

JESSE SLOTTE, the well-known Iraq war veteran and a former resident of Boonville, has been charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, one count of criminal threats, and one count of felony child endangerment stemming from a crazed attack on his wife in Potter Valley two months ago. Slotte's preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9:30 am Aug. 10 in Department H, County Courthouse, Ukiah.

ELIZABETH DUSENBERRY reminds all us book dinosaurs that “the Anderson Valley library's last open day will be Tuesday, August 1st. So come on in and get your summer reading. Our book sale is continuing until July 29th. We are located in the Home Arts Bldg. at the Fairgrounds. We charge $3 a year per family membership. Hours are Tuesday 1:30-4:30 and Saturday from 2-4.”

AN ELK GROVE man, missing since Sunday, July 9, was found dead in his silver 2000 Ford Mustang near mile marker 4 on Highway 128, not far from Highway One. He was initially described as a 57-year-old African-American, but has since been identified as 76-year-old James Blanton, an African-American with family and friends in Elk Grove.  An autopsy did not reveal cause of death, but the Sheriff's Department said the death does not seem suspicious. A bold Fort Bragg woman, who'd stopped near the dead man’s car and, unable to stifle her curiosity, discovered Blanton’s remains and called the Sheriff.

REASSURING somehow that Boonville, on a quiet Sunday morning with the old bell at the Methodist Church summoning the faithful, still resembles its previous life as an unhurried small town. After the noon hour, our identity goes missing, returning at the 9pm all-clear.

A LITTLE EXCITEMENT flamed up and quickly died in Boonville about 2pm last Friday when a fire burned less than an acre of grass at the high school. Sirens erupted, fire trucks raced through town, a spotter plane and a borate bomber hovered overhead as the combined forces of Anderson Valley Volunteers and CalFire efficiently squelched the blaze, which burned right up to the high school's array of solar panels. Cause? To this observer, a crushed section of cyclone fencing looked as if it had been struck by a vehicle, which may have ignited the fire, which burned northwest towards the Anderson Valley Health Center before firefighters stopped it at the community park separating the school grounds and the Health Center.

JENNIFER AZZI, the famous Stanford and Olympic gold medal basketball player was in town last week presiding over a basketball clinic in the Boonville gym for male and female student athletes from around the county. Ms. Azzi’s week-long hoops camp was sponsored by the Miner-Anderson family at whose Boonville ranch Ms. Azzi made her home while she was in town.

DRIVING UP INTO THE HILLS on a globally warmed morning last week, I snapped on KZYX, and darned if it wasn't Gordon Black stumbling through the liner notes on an album of, in the memorable words of Beth Bosk, "dead white man's music,” formerly called "classical" music by most people whatever their hue. A fanatical station defender — management good, critics flawed human beings — all the way back to the days of its shifty founding father, Sean Donovan, Gordy one day valiantly blocked the station door from an invading horde back whenever it was, literally putting his body in front of a pair of tottering invaders well into their golden years. He's also a poet and all-round fog belt vivant, the last NorCal man known to wear a cravat before noon. Always admired the man’s singularity despite our differences. Anyhoo, Gordy's mellifluous basso-profundo sounded somewhat diminished when I listened in last week, as if he were trying to keep his dentures from whistling while he read. We all get there, Gordy, and you have my total sympathy. Lately, I've also found myself hearing those final approaching footsteps, but as I whirl around to confront the Reaper all I see is a corner of his disappearing shroud, a glint of scythe. And then I thought about, of all people, a pair of audio stalkers who I can't recall ever thinking about even when they were active, so active they tag team-called KZYX whenever the mike was unguarded. The Duke and Duchess of Oil! Who were they? What was their particular obsession? Were they Peak Oilers? Anti-Vaccers? Grassy Know conspiracists? What happened to them, Gordy? Surely the royal couple is catalogued somewhere in your memory's archive. I asked Marco, but he'd already been banned by the time of the Duke and Duchess, and still heads up the roster of non-personed locals. "No," he said, “I don’t remember them. I’ve heard them mentioned — Ed and Nancy? Fred and Edith? Not a clue. I think that was from the years I paid zero attention to KZYX, except to listen to A Prairie Home Companion on my way to Juanita's house on Saturday night."

A READER WRITES: Looking for an old campground. This may be an odd question, but I have to ask.  I am looking for a campground that my family used to camp in 1970 through the 1980's.  It has been closed since.  It was in between Albion and Navarro.  It was in the redwoods, but it is not the Paul Dimmick campground.  There was no fancy toilets, just outhouses.  You could walk the campground down to the swimhole.  Any chance anyone knows where I am talking about?  We used to dive at Van Damme and camp there.

Anna Vierra, Controller
Fremont Toyota

ED NOTE: I think the writer may be referring to the old swimming hole around milepost 6 or 7, after Dimmick if you're driving to the Coast, before Dimmick if you're driving from the Coast. As I dimly recall, the area was so heavily patronized by Coast people (it was out of the summer fog belt) that the County installed a Port-A-Potty. I remember writing up an episode at that location where a Fort Bragg perv, with a brown paper bag with eye slits pulled down over his tormented head, charged naked out of the bushes one afternoon at a group of young mommies and little kids. One mommy chased the guy out to Highway 128 where she got his license plate number and called it in to the cops. He was arrested but, as I recall, did no jail time.

STEALING SAM’S LAND by David Severn in last week’s paper inspired quite a bit of comment of the on-line type. We’re repeating it here for readers of the paper-paper:

William Valley: Interesting read. This seems wrong in so many ways. Of course there are two sides to a story but based on the warden’s report you would not expect it to turn out the way it did. I feel sorry for the sheep rancher. Perhaps Karma will play a role in this some day.

John Burkhart: If you know so much about it David Severn maybe you could have been at the courthouse for the last 10 years while Brian Padilla fought to save water that was purchased and recorded through the county on the Edwards Estate. It goes a lot further back than the picture you are painting. So before you give your biased opinion, get the facts straight.
Since when has law enforcement always been right in Mendocino County!

The sheep rancher obviously was at fault because the courts through a lengthy process determined Sam Prather thought he was above the law.

Bruce Anderson: Please. The 8-page Fish and Wildlife report, with photographs, was legally bullet-proof in anticipation of litigation. But the DA tossed it. Why? Who knows, but Padilla should have been prosecuted. Sam was screwed every which way, and his legal representation was a bad joke.

John Burkhart: Bruce, they tossed it because Warden White had no right to go up there and destroy private property that belonged to the Edwards Estate and they knew it.

Bruce Anderson: A Fish and Wildlife warden has no right to check diversion of a fish stream? The diversion, not so incidentally, was above the deeded access which, you may know, was not in dispute until Mr. Padilla bought the Edwards place and set up his water-hungry pot-grow.

David Severn: John Burkhart, 10 years ago Padilla was in court fighting to take Lynn Archambault’s decades long prescriptive water rights away from her, which he did. Quite simply this previous case of newcomer bullying mentioned in my article was an early example of an exploitive invasion by often rich and greedy marijuana entrepreneurs that we in Anderson Valley now face and must deal with. And, no, law enforcement anywhere is not always right, but in the case at hand Fish and Wildlife did a very thorough investigation involving at least three agents. Relative to your second comment to Bruce, every step of the way was on Sam Prather land and the dam encroachment was not even within the easement zone therefore verifiably illegal on two levels.

Anna Fender: So what are you saying, the justice system is crooked? Did this Brian guy pay off the local government? Looks to me from the article Sam has already been to court a couple times and has lost every time along the way. Are you saying that Sam’s very own lawyer screwed him? This article reeks of bitterness over a lawsuit lost. There’s two sides to every story and this is obviously Sam’s side.

Bruce Anderson: It’s Sam’s side because the other side had no case, outcome notwithstanding. Yes, Sam’s very own lawyer screwed him, via gross incompetence, I’d say

David Severn: Anna, to you I will concede one point, and that was the edit at the end of my piece that said “… the old sheep rancher gets a court-sanctioned mugging.” The story as turned in actually ended “….. and Sam gets screwed.” Certainly I do not feel justice was served in this case but I am not trying to say the justice system itself is crooked. I believe that even without Fish and Wildlife’s damning report if Sam had not been coerced into signing the “Settle Agreement and Release” he would not have been found by judge or jury culpable for a half a million dollars in damages. Given the Fish and Wildlife very thorough report it becomes quite evident that Padilla is the one that owes restitution and not Sam. Yes, I do feel that Sam’s lawyer, Brian Carter, let him down and did not protect Sam from abuse as a lawyer is supposed to do. I am also puzzled by DA Eyster’s decision to not follow through with the incriminating evidence against Padilla. Obviously I present Sam’s side – who do you represent?

Norm Clow: Anybody who thinks Sam Prather feels he is above the law clearly does not know the same Sam Prather the rest of us have known forever.

Marshall Newman: Wrong at so many levels. Frightening too.

Christopher Neary, attorney for Brian Padilla: The criminal case was dismissed because the most serious charge was trespass and Mr. Padilla had a valid easement to be on the land. Mr. Padilla and Sam Prather were co-defendants in the Archimbault case in which it was claimed by the Plaintiff that they had taken the water right away from Mr. Padilla and from Sam Prather by way of prescription. The Plaintiff could not prove the elements of the prescription and Mr. Padilla and Sam prevailed.  Sam did not tell the Fish and Game officer about the easement, but implied by implication that Sam did not know why Mr. Padilla would be taking water from his land when Sam knew that Mr. Padilla and his predecessors had been taking water pursuant to the easement for over 100 years and Sam had even testified in the earlier case in support of Mr. Padilla. When it was learned that Sam had not told the Fish and Wildlife officer about the easement–which he was shown to have actual knowledge of the Department of Fish and Wildlife felt that it had been manipulated by Sam. Perhaps Sam has an explanation but he never provided it. Instead he settled the lawsuit. Keep in mind, also, that Sam was provided a defense by his insurance company from a very aggressive law firm in Redding which assigned three lawyers to the case and took us up to the day before the trial before they discussed settlement in any meaningfully way. If they thought they had such a great case, they should have proceeded to trial. We were ready. I negotiated the settlement with them, not Brian Carter. I might also point out that Mr. Padilla agreed to the settlement after spending tens of thousands of dollars in expenses and he agreed to a settlement which avoided Sam having to face a jury for a still explained act–severing the water line for which Sam knew that Mr. Padilla had an easement. Sam was exposed to potential for punitive damages especially since his interaction with Fish and Wildlife appeared to be an effort to manipulate a wrongful criminal prosecution of Mr. Padilla. Sam had substantial exposure to punitive damages unless he came up with an explanation, which was completely missing from the story. Unfortunately, the author of the story got involved in the whole matter in the past few months, and it appeared that he got so invested in his misunderstanding of the true situation that he did not well serve Sam.

Bruce Anderson: Prior to Padilla, the water from Sam’s property was shared equitably and without rancor by four parties. Post Padilla, lawsuits and bad feeling commenced. The rest of what you say here is obfuscation. The chronology of events makes clear what happened, and what happened was a guy breezes in from San Jose to grow pot and commences to screw Sam, Ms. Archambault, and the Hulberts out of their fair share of water to which all parties, including the new guy, Padilla, had historical access. Sam thought he was signing off on a deal to end the court appearances he was funding, a deal that gave Padilla three acres he was not legally or logically entitled to, but on the basis of a half-assed, unintelligible aerial photo Sam gave up 7 acres, since split in two by Padilla, neatly enhancing the value of Padilla’s holdings considerably. If this case had gone to a jury, Sam would have won going away. As your pal, Eyster, will tell you, Tim Stoen of the DA’s office was ready to prosecute Padilla but, well, DA Eyster decided not to proceed. Fish and Wildlife’s warden White’s case was irrefutable, as a jury would have agreed. I’m surprised you dare defend what amounts to the robbery of an honorable resident of the Anderson Valley. BTW, it was warden White who found that the dam/diversion was on Sam’s property, not Sam.

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