Off the Record (Aug. 16, 2017)
by AVA News Service, August 16, 2017
DR. PETER KEEGAN CHARGED WITH MURDER. If you came in late, real late, a Mendocino County criminal grand jury has indicted Keegan for the murder of his wife Susan. Mrs. Keegan was found dead in the couple's South Ukiah home on November 10, 2010. Peter Keegan, a long-time Ukiah general practitioner whose patients were a virtual Who's Who of liberal Ukiah, said his wife of thirty years, and the mother of the couple's two sons, had fallen in the bathroom adjoining her bedroom and struck her head with sufficient force to kill herself. Keegan told police his wife had been under the combined influence of alcohol and prescription drugs.
FAMILY and friends of Mrs. Keegan were immediately suspicious. DA David Eyster, elected soon after Mrs. Keegan's improbable death, immediately began a thorough re-investigation of the case. The results of that investigation were presented to a specially convened grand jury just this week by prosecutor Tim Stoen; the grand jury agreed that Dr. Keegan should be indicted for murder.
THE KEEGAN CASE will reverberate throughout Mendocino County and beyond with its startlingly unique cast of characters, beginning with the Harvard-educated Keegan prosecuted by the former consiglieri for the People’s Temple, Tim Stoen. Defending Keegan is Sonoma County's go-to criminal defense attorney, the formidable Chris Andrian.
PETER KEEGAN is said to be terminally ill with cancer while prosecutor Stoen, 80, has recently undergone brain surgery. Something of a social and professional pariah since the death of his wife, Keegan, prior to his present retirement, had functioned as a part-time doctor with the Indian Health Clinic in Covelo.
PROMINENT UKIAH ATTORNEY, Norm Rosen, who'd functioned as the Keegans' marriage counselor, asked for his files on his work with the Keegans by the DA’s office, claimed attorney-client confidentiality exempted him from testifying to Peter Keegan’s explosive temper. A search warrant of Rosen's office revealed that Rosen was not the couple's attorney but merely their counselor. (The entire sad saga of the Keegans and related matters can be found at the ava’s website: theAVA.com.)
EVEN BY THE SLO-MO standards of local media, MSP and the AVA excepted, it took the rest of the County’s media gang a full day to circulate news of the arrest of Dr. Keegan for the murder of his wife, Susan, and a few never did get around to it. Even though the AVA did the heavy lifting on the story over the years, I find Keegan's indictment more sad than gratifying. I knew Susan Keegan. The instant I heard the circumstances of her death I said to myself, "No way. Impossible." She was an active person who got up every day and did things. For her husband to claim she was a pill-popping drunk was simply untrue and, even for an estranged spouse, un-gallant; persons on the pill and booze merry-go-round don't taking leading roles in little theater productions and meet friends every day for coffees and lunches. Susan Keegan was a fully functioning person and a valued member of her community.
Susan Keegan (photo courtesy Justice4Susan.com)
SUSAN KEEGAN was moving on. The last day of her life she'd met a close friend in Santa Rosa to look at apartments. Her killer claims she arrived home at 10pm, downed pills not to be mixed with alcohol, and got falling down drunk on top of the drugs. Of course him being an MD with access to the full pharmacopeia, I'd say it wasn't difficult for the doctor to stage his estranged wife's bed stand with what he must have hoped would be an incriminating post-mortem display.
TO PREVENT LEAKS — official Mendo suffers a positively Trumpian prob with release of info they'd prefer remained secret — the criminal grand jury that heard the evidence against Keegan met in the mostly deserted Willits Courthouse. And when was the last time a criminal grand jury was called in this county? I can't remember a single one. (The Willits Courthouse, the ugliest structure in the County, maybe the entire Northcoast including Crescent City, was closed when it was determined it was not up to earthquake standards. Fortunately for the Keegan case the Big One didn't strike while this grand jury was in session.)
DA EYSTER DESERVES high marks for staying with the Keegan case. He and his investigators spent a huge amount of time on it, wouldn't let it go, even to the point of subpoenaing the Keegan files of long-time Ukiah attorney Norman Rosen. In the context of years of overly collegial relations among County attorneys and judges, the success of the Rosen subpoena was a surprise. An even greater surprise came from Judge
Richard Henderson who ruled that Rosen's claim of attorney-client privilege was false; Rosen was merely the couple's marriage counselor, not their attorney. Rosen, as Susan Keegan had informed friends and family, had watched Peter Keegan lose his temper when he learned that his wife of 30 years would get half the couple's property in their subsequent parting, a fact of California law the doctor was apparently unaware of.
THE KEEGAN CASE, however it turns out, and it may not run its course given the medical conditions and ages of Keegan and prosecutor Stoen, it's reassuring that Mendocino County at last has a DA who doesn’t give up on murder.
A READER WRITES: “Well, it looks like your persistent efforts finally got Keegan into a courtroom. But…he’s dying of cancer and Stoen is missing part of his brain. The trial could end in the hospital and sentence may be pronounced in the cemetery. If he did it, and with cloud-land looming, one would think he would confess without dragging his kids through this.”
THE GRAND JURY transcripts, by law, become public info after a two-week interlude. We’ll be publishing them whole.
MENDOCINO COUNTY SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN opened the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday morning, August 8, before a public before the Supes and a roomful of pot ordinance people (pro & con) who were there to pressure the County to relax and streamline the rules:
Allman: This is a big day in Mendocino County. I jokingly say that we are not the County of Marijuana but the County of Mendocino. Because marijuana seems to be the topic of concern for every social issue we have in our county. I just want to remind the public that we actually have some other issues. We have some major issues that are confronting the citizens and county government every day. Whether it's mental health, whether it's Lake Mendocino, the deplorable condition it was in —it's getting better, whether it's the road conditions, whether it's the fact that fire departments have to have barbecues to buy firehose and pay for workers compensation. These are issues we have to deal with. It certainly would be wonderful if on board days we had our board room filled with people who want to address those important issues. Because we are not a rich county, we are a rural, poor county. So as we go through today and we talk about marijuana and we talk about the ordinance and how people can make a living and how people can raise their kids in our community, I hope that people understand that it's not just about marijuana. It's about our county. It's about what we're going to look like in 20 or 25 years from now. [Holds up a handful of yellow-stripped grabber devices.] So yes, these are some litter picker-uppers that I have for each board member. [Laughter in the room.] It doesn't take a lot to make our county better. We have a damn good county. This is not to say that you are not doing your job or you’re not picking up litter, because you are. I know all five of you supervisors well and I know you care about our communities. I know the chair [Supervisor John McCowen] — his hobby is cleaning up Ukiah Valley. I appreciated your efforts to make our county better. But I want to go one step further. I encourage you to encourage your constituents: let's work together and let's actually have a conversation one of these days when the marijuana ordinance doesn't even come up! Where we can have a conversation about a school PTA and a picnic and a bake sale for Girl Scout cookies and we are not talking about marijuana. We actually have a lot of good things to talk about. Thank you for doing your service. This is not in any way derogatory. This is telling you that I know the job you are doing and I'm just trying to help you do that job a little better. That's what the sheriff's office does. Thank you. [Wide round of applause from the room.]
Supervisor John McCowen: I will note that for anyone who doesn't know, Sheriff Allman has engaged former Sheriff Jim Tuso to have inmate crews do a clean-up at Lake Mendocino once a week I believe is the timing of it.
SEVERAL POT PEOPLE came to the microphone after Sheriff Allman's statement to take some umbrage with it, pointing out that they do indeed care about other issues but that marijuana is their livelihood, hence their presence. But the sheriff had made his point that Mendo people, the pot brigades included, don’t appear en masse in the Supes chambers or otherwise pay attention to issues beyond their particular concern. Nor do they attend other board or commission meetings, write letters to the editor, or engage in any publicly visible way with them.
SUPERVISOR CARRE BROWN admonished the crowd that if they agreed with someone's statement they should not applaud, but rather put their hands up and wiggle their fingers, “twinkling” approval. The Supes seem panicked at occasional outbursts of applause, although it’s not as if their audience is going to launch into hour-long standing o’s. And I can’t remember when an unruly spectator had to be removed.
WHEN SHERIFF ALLMAN pointed out to the Supervisors that marijuana wasn't the only public discussion we Mendo people should be having, he was expressing an opinion widely shared by most of us unaffiliated with the business, although few of us are unaffected by it, as Google Earth confirms. Right here in Central Boonville more parcels than not have a pot patch out back while large-scale grows, indoor and out, proliferate in the hills.
SO WE WERE SURPRISED when County CEO Carmel Angelo introduced yet another Supe's discussion of the County's fluid marijuana regulations by describing pot as the County's "economic driver." We played it back to make sure we heard right. Yes, she said "the economic driver." But it isn't. It's only one of many economic drivers, and it may not be as prominent as it has been as supply outstrips demand, and the County's unreasonably complicated rules cause small-scale growers to give up. We know several long-time growers who say at the present $500 a pound for last year's dope, a lament we hear in all areas of the county, mom and pop growers are more driven to find a back-up income than they are contributing to Mendocino County's alleged "economic driver."
COUNTY STAFF reported that they have now received 673 applications and issued a whopping 2 permits (up from one issued three weeks ago). Another one is close to being approved. 101 applications are in “pre-site inspection.” And 19 applications have been denied. Ag Commissioner Diane Curry said most of the denials were for Fish & Wildlife violations or Calfire violations or zoning restrictions. One applicant from Covelo insisted that the violations are minor and the entire process is skewed toward finding reasons for denial.
AT THE END OF THE DAY, after a long, meandering and disorganized plod through no particular agenda followed by lots of endless speculation and rhetorical rambles by Board members, the Board again punted the issue back to the bureaucrats for more tweaks. The Supes seemed to hope that staff was listening to the complaints and would come back for more rambling discussions.
SUPERVISOR HAMBURG participated in the pot talk. Hamburg had absented himself from the marijuana issue, attributing his scrupulousness to his daughter’s pot growing operation. When the Board discussed who might be able to attend possible future pot meeting dates, Hamburg said he’d have to “consult with my better half,” but might be available.
DUH headline of the week from the Ukiah Daily Journal: “Willits hotels, gas stations see decline in business.” Which is what bypasses have done ever since Route 66 went into the memory bank.
SECOND DUH HED, this one from The Willits News: ”How businesses get Caltrans signs.” Like, who needs them? Don't we all assume that any town anywhere of more than 500 people offers the gamut of negative food value items.
A READER NOTES: “I’ve found that there are three distinct groups of people in the Bay Area who prove to be very difficult to reason with: the dog people, the bicycle people, and the Burning Man people.”
THEY'RE COMING HOME, but don’t expect welcoming banners stretched across State Street. The Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office has released a list of eight inmates sentenced in Mendocino County who are up for early release under Proposition 57, which voters passed in November.
Here is the full list of inmates: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/home/showdocument?id=10019
AN EGO TOO BIG FOR UKIAH, an editorial by KC Meadows of the Ukiah Daily Journal: “We have to add our voice this week to the screams of the hundreds of local residents who are outraged that City Councilman Steve Scalmanini had the nerve to appeal the Costco project at the last moment, just before it was due to get going — finally! — and reopening the window for others to file new lawsuits against it.
Scalmanini has never been shy about his opposition to the Costco project. He is an elitist who can’t stand anything outside his shallow view of the world, and, like many elitists, will do whatever it takes to force his own standards and values upon those around him. People like Scalmanini are why environmentalism has had to fight a reputation for obstinacy in the face of reasonable compromise, and excessive self-regard against the consensus. In other words, Scalmanini is a jerk. His appeal not only opens the door to more lawsuits against Costco, it sends the message out to all potential employers that even Ukiah’s own local representatives will screw with you if you try to do business here.
Scalmanini is willing to plunge the city back into a pointless and expensive waiting game simply so he can demand solar panels on a Costco store somewhere in the Central Valley. Unreal. Scalmanini should be ashamed of himself. He has never been elected by the voters. He was appointed to his seat and kept it because no one ran against him in the last City Council election. We suspect that will not be the case in the next one.” (The obtuse Scalmanini has since withdrawn his appeal.)
A FORT BRAGG READER WONDERS: "Two items puzzling me and others around here”: 1. Why so many suicides lately, in and around Fort Bragg? One a transient, maybe three others local people. 2. Do the bums have a new drug? Everybody is talking about the crazy behavior erupting around town. One day last week the scanner never stopped."
ABOUT TIME. County is seeking staff for coast animal shelter Mendocino County has posted two job openings in Fort Bragg: An Animal Shelter Supervisor and an Animal Facility Attendant. This is great news for coast residents who have long lobbied for the reopening of a coast shelter. These will not be easy jobs, but the right candidates will make a significant difference in the lives of coast residents and their pets. Applications should be made online, and the deadline for submittal is Tuesday, August 22.
NATALIE GRIFFIN, the brave young woman who dramatically survived a winter accident and near drowning on Highway 101 just north of Willits, which killed her friend and driver Jenna Santos back in January, has filed a $100k-plus claim against Mendocino County.
COASTLIB is rallying to prevent what it describes as a "coup" to remove Fort Bragg City Manager, Linda Ruffing. Ruffing is smart and capable, but she also makes way too much money, has stuffed city hall and the previous city council with persons dependent on her, has run interference for the destructive downtown influence of Hospitality House, brought in a retired cop from LA as police chief while shafting local hero John Naulty, screwing over Naulty simply to place one more person beholden to her in the chief's job. Why a coup? If a majority of the city council says it's time for her to go, don't renew her contract.
GLENDA ANDERSON has apparently retired as the Press Democrat's Mendocino County correspondent. The long-time companion of primary Bari Bombing suspect, Mike Sweeney, it isn't likely that the PD, financially struggling like all print papers, will again assign a full-time reporter to this area of the Northcoast. A journal-chum put it this way, "The job was never kind to her. She suffered at the hands of morons at the editing desks in Santa Rosa, and no doubt is happier now."
A READER WRITES: “Now that your print edition has shrunk, I hope you will still print Malcolm Macdonald’s reports on Coast Hospital and their Board meetings. Nothing ever appears in our Coastal chain fishwraps, so the AVA is the only way for us to stay abreast of the hospital’s business. It’s clear to me we need a new administration. Debt is accumulating under their watch; they are not forthcoming with financial information… Perhaps CalMortgage could do a better job at keeping the Hospital afloat, if for no other reason than to get their loan paid off.”
REMEMBER REACH? REMEMBER CALSTAR? CALSTAR was a not-for-profit helio-medical service. REACH was a for-profit helio-medical service. Their rates were sky-high for non-members. Then Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts, vulture capitalists, swooped in about a year ago and, ever since, emergency services people throughout the county are complaining that service to our vast outback is a lot slower than when REACH and CALSTAR got the ill and the injured up, up and outtahere. Rates are higher than ever, of course. (The local angle: Kohlberg once owned the Toll House, a tourist spa in the hills east of Boonville.) A local doc thinks medical helicopters are unnecessary in the first place, and now that you mention it, has an airborne trip outtahere to hospitals in Santa Rosa or Ukiah ever saved anyone that a trip by road ambulance could saved just as well?
AT THE RISK of groans and catcalls, I recommend Al Gore's new movie called "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power." The film is largely a tribute to Al himself focusing on his truly impressive work in alerting the world to global warming, an irrefutable fact of contemporary life denied by President Bluster. Gore, since his pathetic cave-in to Bush as Bush rigged the Florida vote in the 2000 election, has devoted himself to trying to convince the world to go solar and wind. He brokered an amazing deal between American solar wizards and the Indian government that has brought at least a solar sliver, a solar foot in the door, to a reluctant India, reluctant, as we know because India argues that the West got to pollute everyone's skies on the way to industrial prosperity, and now the West is telling India (and China) to slow down development of its coal plants. (China has gone big into alternate energy.) India was a very hard sell, but Gore brought it off, and good on him. Not expecting to be moved by Sequel, I was oddly touched by this film and Gore's efforts on behalf of sane energy policies, not to mention life on the planet.
IN THE WAKE of the Charlottesville riots, and you have to wonder why the cops let the two groups get anywhere near each other, just how influential is the neo-fascist movement in this country? Beats me, Mendo fascisti are so few and far between, we don't hear from them because, I suppose, they are radically out-numbered on the NorCal Coast. The mainstream media gives them almost zero television face time, but "white nationalism" as cover-all for lots of, ah, unpleasant political sentiment is obviously on the rise because, and we'll cut here to the Sage of Boonville, who has been invited to CNN to share his hard-hitting analysis of root causes with Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room.” Thank you, Wolf. It's nice to be here with you today, and here’s The Situation and The Situation’s cure”:
FASCISM is on the rise because ordinary people are economically squeezed — economically doomed, if things continue as they are. And the country is generally falling apart in many other ways, which are not necessary to list because they're so obvious. Fascism rises out of exactly the growing chaos we have going in this country. What isn't obvious is what we'll call the blanket solution to our problems; Ready, Wolfie? Hold on to your hat:
INSTITUTE CONFISCATORY levels of taxation on incomes over, say, half a mil a year, which would affect almost no one in Mendocino County except a few people with vacation properties here. Taxation under Franklin Roosevelt and Eisenhower was 90 percent on incomes over a hundred thou, but that was then. The money raised would be used for a federal employment program; medicare for everyone; free education through college like the GI Bill only for everyone; a crash housing program run by the federal government to keep rents within the incomes of working people; federal, low interest loan mortgages like we had post World War Two; a national re-build of state hospital programs (thus solving the homeless problem because most of them belong in lock-up wards while they recover themselves); and so on. Bernie hinted at all this stuff, hence the enthusiasm for him, but soon backed off to rejoin the Democrats, few of whom agree with him except for Elizabeth Warren and the Black Political Caucus. Democratic socialism is the only way out, Wolf, which is why nobody heard of it before Bernie, and everyone presently struggling who does hear about it says, "Yep, that's it. The way out."
ON LINE COMMENTS OF THE WEEK
You can just feel it everywhere these days can’t you? That feeling of purposelessness is everywhere. Meaningless activities abound and people across the board are feeling it too, not just us attuned doomers. Nobody gives a shit anymore. You can see it in the quality of products, the service you get at about any business anymore. The cleanliness that is lacking in more and more places. You can feel it as you look into the eyes of many of the people working these low paying, meaningless jobs. Anger lies beneath a thin veneer everywhere. Add in a president whose life work is buttering up people to grease the skids for extracting whatever it is he wants from them, then leaving them behind like discarded trash, and people are starting to realize they are just marks in this whole game of hustling. People won’t change their habits easily. But maybe this will all come down because nobody cares anymore. Nobody is willing to show up to the shit job anymore to be treated like shit while being paid like shit. I don’t know the future, but it sure feels like it’s going to get crappy quite soon.