Mendocino County Today: Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017
by AVA News Service, August 23, 2017
YOU SAY SUPE'S meetings are boring. Not this past one, which featured both a Mendo First and an Only In Mendo.
SUPERVISOR JOHN McCOWEN began Tuesday’s Supervisors meeting by withdrawing the letter he had drafted for the Board asking California Department of Fish & Wildlife to be a little less zealous in raiding and eradicating small pot growers in the County which had applied for but had not yet received permits.
McCowen: “I am aware that the District Attorney has commented on item 4(a). As the author of that letter and in the interest of time I am going to exercise my prerogative to withdraw the letter. I believe it has made the point. I also believe there are more constructive avenues to pursue the concerns that I've expressed in the latter. So unless my colleagues disagree I will withdraw item 4(a) from the agenda.” (No objection)
A ROOM FULL of pot people, mostly from Covelo, fully aware that the County's marijuana rules are geared to screw over small-time growers in favor of mega-grows presided over by outside corporations, filled the Supe's chambers to ask for some reason (and mercy) from their representatives.
THE POT PEOPLE'S PLEAS ran along predictable lines until Sherry Glaser of Albion, looking so formidably pissed off I fought back an impulse to lock my office door, took the mike. Neatly summing up all the preceding arguments, the legendary Ms. G., broke down in tears just prior to going all the way off, concluding her passionate remarks by baring her breasts at Board Chairman John McCowen and his nonplussed colleagues. McCowen, looking like the Fuller Brush Man via McNab's Men's Wear, was the perfect straight man for Ms. Glaser's unprecedented presentation. He stared back unamused at Ms. Glaser's mammary display as he simultaneously cut the power to her mike and frantically tried to gavel her down. And Ms. G, tucking her well-known breasts back into their holsters, stormed up the aisle and out into the hallway, her raging voice echoing back into the seat of local government.
Sherry Glaser: I am the founder of Love In It Cooperative [a pot dispensary in Albion]. I’m very upset, very angry today. I am not thankful. We been coming to you for a couple of years talking about preparing for legalization and we are still discussing cultivation, still avoiding transportation, distribution, or sales. And we are already into harvest. And you are telling us to hurry up? You are telling us to come up here and hurry up? When we have to sit and listen to you go on and on about setbacks? This is disturbing! It's very disturbing! It's so upsetting! [Bursts into tears, pauses, recovers.]. See, what I am getting from you is that you don't understand that people's lives are at stake here! We are all affected by this long drawn out process. You can't seem to understand that we need immediately a provisional license. We need Mendocino medical marijuana licenses to cover us for cultivation, processing, transportation [gasps, sighs] transportation, distribution and sales and a way to pay our independent contractors our taxes. The busts -- the raids that are going on— people are in the process of getting their permits. That's unacceptable! I understand that you, Mr. McCowen, had a letter today to Fish and Wildlife to say lay off. And you withdrew that letter and I want to know why.
McCowen: I stated my reasons at the time. Please continue with your three minutes.
Glaser: The US attorney came in and started threatening the 9.31 program and the Board of Supervisors collapsed. It just collapsed under that. And now when we need your help — how do you expect farmers to get into this program, this permitting program, when they are going to be raided regardless of what they do? No matter how compliant people are, they are still being raided. Do you think the people of this county are going to put themselves at that kind of risk? The people who were raided in the last couple of weeks had already spent money on permitting and compliance and now they have nothing! Do you understand that? Do you understand what it's like to lose your entire livelihood? [Breaks up, tears] For a year? Do you? Do you understand? I'm asking you! These plants are cut! They are cut! Why can't Fish and Wildlife — why can't the sheriff — why can't the DA, why can't all these agencies just issue a a citation? Something simple? A ticket! Have you ever been busted? Have you ever been raided? Any of you? Have you? Do you know what it's like to have soldiers come to your property and terrify your children and your grandchildren? Do you know what it's like to have PTSD? After you are raided?
McCowen: Please conclude.
Glaser: You are here to protect us! We elected you to protect us!
McCowen: Please conclude!
Glaser: Do you realize that we have to deal with all the compliance problems?
McCowen: Cut the mike. We are taking a recess. If you don't step away from the mike we are going to adjourn the meeting.
Glaser (Pulls down the front of her shirt): Breasts not busts! Breasts not busts. Breasts not busts! We are going to take this ourselves.
McCowen: We are going to take a break.
[artist's conception of Supervisor safely viewing Glaser event]
[Mike is cut; no more audio.] Ms. Glaser continues screaming and pointing at the supervisors while the mic is cut. Then she leaves the chambers and the mike is turned back on and Kate Marianchild calmly takes the podium to make a statement for the Willits Environmental Center.
To see Ms. Glaser’s full emotional presentation go to about 2:17:30 hours/minutes into the Supervisors meeting video which can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6N2h5B1vdE
ANOTHER BIZARRE SUPE'S INTERLUDE occurred when the audience, all of them brandishing neat little printed signs reading “Support,” leapt to their feet in silent but animated jubilation as pro small-farm remarks by Supervisor Hamburg boomed out of a speaker phone. (Hamburg was participating via phone.) The “Support” signs are in lieu of clapping and cheering, and also in lieu of “twinkling,” the wiggling of fingers in the air as approval for statements from the podium.
THE KEEGAN CASE. Miracle One occurred when the DA presented it to a specially convened criminal grand jury meeting in nutty secrecy in the mostly abandoned Willits Courthouse. Miracle Two occurred when the GJ said, "Yeah, book his murdering ass." Miracle Three, as the miraculous subsided into Mendo predictability, occurred when The Doctor was booked in and out of the County Jail seven years after he bludgeoned his wife to death. I never thought the case would get this far and, quick, remind me of another local perp — alleged perp — who could put up three hundred thou cash as his promise to appear.
THEN THE MENDO JIVE RE-COMMENCED. Everyone knows Keegan will plead Not Guilty, but Judge Moorman gave him until October 20th to do it. Why?
BECAUSE this thing will never get to a jury, that's why. Keegan's lawyer says his client is a terminal cancer case, implying his medical condition should give Keegan every consideration. Prosecutor Tim Stoen is not only ancient, he also suffers ill health.
OPPORTUNITIES for delays are endless in this situation. Keegan will never see the inside of a jail, but he's gotten justice of a sort with the now public revelations that the cops and the DA are convinced he murdered his wife, Susan. Most of the Mendo public is also convinced of the doctor's guilt, apart from a few Westside Ukiah credulity cases who are saying stuff like, "But, but..... but Peter was my doctor!"
KEEGAN'S LAWYER, Chris Andrian of Santa Rosa, has racked up a kind of nether rep as the go-to guy for doctors who murder their wives. He argued that a Sonoma County medical man’s wife had killed herself ostrich-like in a pale of water in the front yard.
AL GORE'S follow-up eco-warning film, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” will be playing at the Coast Cinema in Fort Bragg as of this Friday, August 25th. Yeah, yeah. Al Gore. Democrats. Clintonism. But the guy gets an attaboy for this one from the mighty ava.
SHARING INFO out of closed sessions of public boards is supposed to be a violation of law, but don't expect to see the cops slap the cuffs on Dave Turner of the Fort Bragg City Council for alerting Meg — Meg The Inevitable — Courtney that the Council was not renewing city manager Linda Ruffing's contract. Meg The Inevitable alerted her fellow Gandhians, and twenty of them turned out to try to bully-whine-sob the FB City Council into retaining Ruffing. Twenty weren't enough and out Ruffing goes with a big pot of Fort Bragg's tax money to ease her into her golden years.
CAUGHT THE TAIL END of Marie Jones talking about de-sal on the KZYX News this morning. (As a station member I am gratified the Philo-based, semi-public operation is at least trying to do some local reporting.) Ms. Jones is Fort Bragg's "Community Development Director." She was rattling on about de-salinization as a possibility for water-short Fort Bragg. It isn't. It's so expensive even where it's been installed in relatively wealthy areas it's a struggle to afford, and Fort Bragg, even if you turned everyone upside down, you'd be lucky if fifty bucks clattered to the sidewalk. (Note to reporter Dan Young. Down boy! Slow your delivery, and occasionally, just for form's sake, ask a skeptical question. You're a reporter, not a stenographer.)
ANOTHER SUGGESTION for the local semi-public radio club: We don't need five minutes of weather as "news." If it's hot in Ukiah, it's hot in Lakeport. How about, "Another warm day for NorCal, warmer of course in the dependably ghastly inland areas but quite nice here in the fog belt where us cool people live." In the winter, barring some globally-warmed gust off the Mongolian plains, "It's cold and rainy. It'll be like that until April when it starts to warm up again." The weather has been the same here for a zillion years. A two-degree temp diff between Gualala and Boonville is not worth noting.
FORT BRAGG CITY MANAGER CANNED
by Rex Gressett (revised/updated)
The news hit Thursday like a thunder clap rippling through the pond of tense city politics. City Manager Linda Ruffing, the absolute power in Fort Bragg municipal affairs, the final dictator and ultimate author of Fort Bragg civic policy, and the absolute controller of every dime of city spending, had “decided to retire.” She made the decision to retire in the same sense that Napoleon retired from Waterloo.
I found out when the Fort Bragg Advocate, Ruffing’s preferred newspaper, put the news on the front page Thursday morning. As the day unrolled, Ruffing went on the air at KZYX as the next safest media available to her.
Reading about the resignation in the Advocate I had to recall that the absence of a critical press in Fort Bragg contributed more to the longevity and power of the city manager’s reign than any other single factor. For many years the Advocate informed the citizens of our city by running Linda’s versions of city affairs. These ‘City Notes.’ This is a channel for power to express itself without interruption.
In times of crisis the Fort Bragg Advocate operates as an effective branch of city hall by adroitly missing as far as humanly possible anything remotely pertaining to controversy which involves the city manager or her policies. That covers a lot of ground. Understandably, city hall thought it only fair to give the Advocate the retirement scoop. As far as I know the mighty AVA, Fort Bragg’s default newspaper, was not notified.
Ruffing spoke to the scanty audience at KZYX where the reporter was glad in the laid back Mendo way to throw softballs to a shaken Ruffing. The new crew of young reporters don’t have enough self confidence to probe, so they miss the humor. And they missed plenty of it. The revulsion factor for local public radio in Fort Bragg is at least partially due to Philo radio’s confidence in the people that we as a city have way lost confidence in. The lack of attention to local dynamics is an overriding reason nobody in Fort Bragg south of Pine listens to them. KZYX was real nice to Ruffing.
The sincere guy from KZYX was courteously supportive to a shaken city manager so rattled by her recent execution to even pretend that the causes for it were not public dissatisfaction. She must have imagined her retirement announcement differently: The elder statesperson a little tired from great exertions and of course deeply satisfied. Instead she blamed irrational forces and human wickedness.
The defrocked administrator expressed sorrowful concern that Fort Bragg would not be able to get along without her. Regretfully, there was no help for it. She will wait quietly behind her giant hedge at her home to say I told you so at a politically opportune moment.
“Loud voices blasting the ears of the city council,” brought her down, she said. The disgraceful treatment of former Police Chief Scott Mayberry she’d orchestrated, and the allegations of improprieties in the Old Coast Hotel deal, had poisoned the water. Ms. Ruffing was the victim of a pernicious incoherence.
It all began as an insult added to injury. The city council, like the rest of the city, had rested on the assurances of the spin machine at city hall that we were not merely solvent but actually uniquely profitable because they were so darned good at getting grants. Under the control of Ruffing’s ongoing operation the city was indeed linked to a life and death dependency on grants, specifically, community block development grants.
We got some grants, but the solvent part turned out to be an exaggeration. Instead, an increasingly jaded city council found itself facing a $400,000 deficit and making a $3 million emergency funds transfer. Kind of ruins your week. Then came the off-hand revelation that the city faced bankruptcy due to a legally mandated CALPERS contribution by 2020. That would be pension payments to county and city workers. If nothing changes they have will have ruined us by 2020.
It did not help the optics that Ruffing’s own salary was exactly half the amount of the current deficit. An unsmiling City Council was forced to transfer $3 million bucks back into the sewer and water fund and out of the money needed for the immediate operation of the city and anything they might plan to do. They were forced to pay you (if you live in Fort Bragg) back the money you paid for your water and that some magical way got transferred into the general fund. The general fund which took the hit, is money basically available to finance whatever policy or program they might come up with.
The new, reform city council is morbidly conscious of a sacred promise to voters to keep the town solvent. Now the council has an empty wallet to do it with .The best ideas floated in council informal discussions involved draconian cuts in personnel. One thing for sure, their options have be significantly proscribed. Even with her canned supporters, Ruffing had had insufficient goodwill to sustain her position.
But it also happens that Ruffing effectively neutered the city council. She left them at the restaurant with no cash to pay the bill and didn’t even give them a hug.
In the immediate wake of the surprise deficit and the $3 million emergency cash transfer, by fortuitous coincidence Ms. Ruffing’s own pay raise came before the council buried where you would expect it to be, in the consent calendar. It is in the consent calendar that pay raises, benefits and gravy are hidden from vulgar public discussion. Sedate and sensible compliance with the golden parachute Ruffing had hoped to sneak by without discussion when cowboy Bernie Norvell pulled her next pay hike off the consent calendar and sent it back to closed session. It was a surprise move that ended up being the snowball that started the avalanche and made Mayor Lindy Peters blink.
When the pay raise went into closed session the doors closed. We don’t know what else they did, but somebody violated the Brown Act in flagrant manner. The leak hit the streets packaged as a sound bite that the city council was undertaking and the leakers were exposing a “coup.” A matter of such cosmic importance was considered more than enough reason to throw the law of California under the town hall bus. That crew was never particular anyway. They all sent emails to each other thus filling (not packing) Town Hall with the familiar old crowd grown brassy in their decades of power monopoly and boldly bluffing. Artifacts from various strata of discredited city councils rejected by the voters went one by one to the microphone followed by their hangers on and Linda Ruffing’s son. It is aspecies of not very subtle political theater we are familiar with in Fort Bragg. Supporters of the City Manager are masters of it. In fact they invented it. But it has worn real thin. They had broken the law in a political maneuver and they acted like it was all ok as long as it was they and not you who are the ones doing it. Will Lee waited till after the break. Lee, originally elected by a constituency openly and firmly against the Status quo run by Ruffing, had nevertheless agreed to pass the deficit budget siding with the Mayor and the ever faithful Dave Turner and deeply distressing the two councilmen who had stood up to a highly questionable, vaguely explained and highly serious financial disclosure. Will Lee had jumped the ship that elected him and he had good reasons. He pointed out that without a budget authorization the city would have to do summersaults to keep operating. He knew the facts were what they were. Whatever had been done in the budget was done and the money was allocated and the general fund was depleted. Putting the operations of the city in jeopardy to make a point was coals to Newcastle. He was not happy and told me privately he would vote to fire her. But he also knew Ruffing had $300k golden parachute in her contract if they did fired her.
The budget passed, but when they went into closed session negotiations were intense. One councilman remarked privately it was like an episode of the Sopranos. When either Turner or Ruffing leaked the meeting , theatrically declaring it to be coup, they demonstrated again their contempt for law. It is behavior widely understood by the community to be routine with this bunch.
It was a similar contempt for the Brown Act which Ruffing and her supporters were previously so proud and not the Old Coast Hotel at all that drove Measue U. This time it was a real visible and irrefutable violation and it stuck in Will Lee’s craw.
Lee, the swing vote that gave Linda her budget, communed with his soul. He has always been ours. He loves his city. He was legitimately outraged over the leaked meeting and the coup spin. He was a fast learner and he was learning a great deal from Linda Ruffing. He appreciated the mentorship, I think. In the budget matter he thought he should keep the city working. But when confronted with the mechanisms of entrenched, self protecting, lying, manipulative power arrogantly flaunting the law and pretending elaborately to be more than the small fraction of the electorate that they are. It was easy to remember what he stood for.
When he swung this time he hit Linda in the butt. No vote was taken, none was needed. Linda could count. Will must have been definite. I am very proud. No golden parachute. Six months on death row.The famous six months that she herself has used to soften the abrasive effect of city halls takeover of the Measure A money and used again in the demolition of the community television station. Linda knows six months on death row diffuses much immediate wrath and happens anyway, she used that six month stay of execution a lot, now she gets to check it out.
City of Fort Bragg Meeting Agenda
Special City Council
The Fort Bragg City Council Meets Concurrently As The Fort Bragg Municipal Improvement District No. 1 And The Fort Bragg Redevelopment Successor Agency
416 N Franklin Street Fort Bragg, CA 95437 Phone: (707) 961-2823 Fax: (707) 961-2802
- Public Comments On Closed Session Items
Public comments may be made on the matters described in this Special Meeting Notice (Government Code Section 54954.3)
- CLOSED SESSION
Conference With Labor Negotiators: Pursuant to Government Code Section 54957.6: City Negotiators: Samantha Zutler, City Attorney; Scott Schneider, Administrative Services Director; Employee Organizations: Fort Bragg Employee Organization; Fort Bragg Police Association
Conference With Legal Counsel - Anticipated Litigation: Significant exposure to litigation pursuant to Paragraph (2) of Subdivision (d) of Section 54956.9: One (1) Potential Case
State Of California ) )Ss.
County Of Mendocino )
I declare, under penalty of perjury, that I am employed by the City of Fort Bragg and that I caused this agenda to be posted in the City Hall notice case on August 22, 2017.
Brenda Jourdain, Administrative Assistant
City of Fort Bragg Page 1 Printed on 8/22/2017
Special City Council Meeting Agenda August 24, 2017 Notice To The Public:
Distribution Of Additional Information Following Agenda Packet Distribution:
- Materials related to an item on this Agenda submitted to the Council/District/Agency after distribution of the agenda packet are available for public inspection in the lobby of City Hall at 416 N. Franklin Street during normal business hours.
• Such documents are also available on the City of Fort Bragg’s website at http://city.fortbragg.com subject to staff’s ability to post the documents before the meeting.
ADA Notice And Hearing Impaired Provisions:
It is the policy of the City of Fort Bragg to offer its public programs, services and meetings in a manner that is readily accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. Upon request, this agenda will be made available in appropriate alternative formats to persons with disabilities.
If you need assistance to ensure your full participation, please contact the City Clerk at (707) 961-2823. Notification 48 hours in advance of any need for assistance will enable the City to make reasonable arrangements to ensure accessibility.
The Council Chamber is equipped with a Wireless Stereo Headphone unit for use by the hearing impaired. The unit operates in conjunction with the Chamber’s sound system. You may request the Wireless Stereo Headphone unit from the City Clerk for personal use during the Council meetings.
This notice is in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (28 CFR, 35.102-35.104 ADA Title II).
TRY TO DO THE RIGHT THING AND…
On August 22,-2017 at about 1:45 AM Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office and officers from the California Highway Patrol responded to a reported stabbing in the 65000 block of Wildwood Drive in Leggett. Once Deputies arrived on scene they learned Forrest Wildberger, 26, of Leggett, and his 27 year-old adult male neighbor had engaged in a physical altercation after the male neighbor entered Wildberger's to intervene during a domestic violence incident. Wildberger, who had been drinking alcohol, pulled out a knife during the altercation and stabbed the victim in the chest. The adult male neighbor who had a single stab wound to the chest, was flown to a hospital in Butte County for medical treatment. Later that day, the adult male was reported to be in stable condition. Wildberger was subsequently arrested for attempted murder and booked into the Mendocino County Jail where he is being held on $250,000 bail.
(Sheriff’s Press Release; booking photo not yet available)
THREE LITTLE WORDS
To Bruce McEwen:
I enjoy your writing. It’s like a good, affordable wine, full bodied yet nuanced. In your recent piece “Jonathan Opet For The Defense” I saw three words I would have put in a different order. It’s the kind of word thing I’d change back and forth and back again in my own writing. In the third paragraph you write “... alleged indigent felons.” I’d switch the first two words. What do you think?
Denny Riley, Ukiah
LITTLE RIVERS OF TIME
by Zack Anderson
One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. –Friedrich Nietzsche
Thanks to three separate repair projects, driving north from Cloverdale on Highway 128 is a joy that lasts almost forever. Eleven miles, dead stop. Five miles, dead stop. Four hundred yards, then slow, slower, bang, you’re dead! They’ve been working on these roads my entire life; the point isn’t to restore the highways to Caesarean robustness, but to mend and move, bulldoze and dig, bow and pray to the washed-out hairpins and pot-holed straightaways that are the altars before which we now genuflect. A god of cement mixers and backhoes has replaced Zeus. Diana is now an orange-vested stop-sign assassin, murderess of rhythm and flow. Hermes has been replaced by a pagan icon ruling Facebook Friend Requests. Diana’s divine realm consists of gas station cash machines: Would You Like A Receipt? And somewhere a mile deep Poseidon’s tears are lost in oceans of watery regret…
Waiting for the elusive Pilot Vehicle to ferry me across the River Yorkville, the caw-caw of Ravens echoes from tree to drowsing rock. I think of Odin’s black birds, Hugin and Munin, Thought and Memory. Each morning the ravens would fly around the earth, then report to their one-eyed Nordic master the crumblings and grumblings of empire, natural and otherwise. That this cosmic power of first light has devolved into Good Morning America and bottle-blondes in tight skirts giggling over sitcom suicides is but one more crime against Cronos and Reason. But does it matter anyway? Call it the Trump/Clinton Effect, but my pathetic self-bleatings fall on my own deaf ears; life is made easier by not listening to anyone, especially myself. This is the world now: frivolous, disposable, and as absurd as hiking boots on a mountain goat.
With this stab of fatal insight my mediocre mind realizes the obvious: the modern world is a cheap approximation of the old. Writ small, the travesty is complete: instead of magical birds and a faithful wolf I have a half-tank of gas and an ipod lecture on the Punic Wars: the illusion of progress and the delusion of knowledge.
As the ravens screech off to inform Odin of the latest outrage, I listen to a description of Scipio Africanus the Younger sacking Carthage. Fire, spear and slaves. Proud maidens slit their throats rather than let their fountains wet the parched and vengeful centurion swords. Victory, gold, empires raised and razed: the millstone of Time grinds History’s corpse into different flours, depending on the place and manner of the milling. Through my bug-streaked windshield, the quality of mercy seems both strained and most limited in scope and depth. In this self-obsessed age, mercy is a poisonous elixir served in thimblefuls to purple lips frothing with ego. Chin chin!
I gaze impatiently at the flagman. Does he not sense what Machiavellian mania he stirs by backing traffic up like a swamp bog? Bereft of wifi or signal, I can neither email nor text. YouTube is the shadow of a skeleton’s stain on yesterday’s breeze -- but what’s that, enemy scouts in the tree line? Miraculous Fatima it’s the Pilot Vehicle! The truck makes a desultory u-turn to remind the wheeled chattel of our servitude, then slowly leads the steel caravan to the asphalt promised land beyond. Free at last! Soon I am speeding past Pomo Tierra, past three crows on a fancy gate, past Lawson’s Christmas Trees where we used to get the holiday Scotch Pine, and suddenly the day is made great by the radiant sight of Larry Carr Sr. flashing by in a white pick-up truck. It’s Panther territory now; can’t you feel it? And there goes the shuttered Oaks Café and the light dancing with forest shadows at the mouth of Fish Rock Road, but what are these signs proclaiming this area the Yorkville Highlands? Is this a part of Brexit called Take-It? Has there been an invasion of bloodstained lairds from loyalist Scotland, who even after these many cruel centuries refuse to lay down their Stuart swords and kiss the Windsor ring?
War. Pinots. Rieslings served by ruddy lassies in gluten-free kilts. As the basil said to the sage in the heirloom garden: The thymes they are a-changin’! But revolutions, like mailing addresses, come and ago. My own valley upbringing was that of a contained nomad. We first lived five miles south of Boonville on the old Mathias Ranch that is now a gay-themed resort and flesh temple. Our next bivouac was a few miles up the Manchester Road in a metal-roofed house perched in a meadow fringed with madrone and oak; what I remember most is the sound of rain splattering on the corrugated tin, a poem unsurpassed by any pen. Finally there was the original Fort Despair on AV Way, just north or west or northwest of the cemetery and across from the Titus homestead and adjacent to the Langleys and the Owens and Bill and Hazel Teague. Rumors are the old outpost is available to rent on AirBnB for an eye-gouging price. We had so much iron in the water that a single washing stained white shirts with rust-colored wounds, and the sulfuric water tasted as it smelled: like a newt-stew broth from the demonic kiln of a blind crone oracle. Fickle springs aside, the exorbitant tariff on the ancestral bunker should include milk baths, zebra-drawn carriage with liveried Mau-Mau’s, and a complimentary Gideon Bible Glock with an extra clip of hollow-points and Jericho™ suppressor. If you’re listening, Jack June, what’s Boontling for, “Put your smartphone down and start running, son!”?
But the world and its primitive monuments to folly are mere sand castles forever rearranged by immortal wind, hard water and gullible tourists. Not to mention the occasional marauding horde of barbarians, from Huns and Vikings to Goths and the DNC.
I find myself driving north, my famished soul desperate for glimpses of a sentimental past. The valley is the valley, but only busier. It’s winery after vineyard after tasting room. Past the landmark Lemon’s Market with their beautifully marbled steaks and the dilapidated yard where the Philo Mill used to hum and buzz. Rolling past the Apple Farm and Gowan’s Oak Tree and the sun-bleached sign for Art’s Apples, and I remember my dad’s old softball team, with Dick and Joan Warsing smoking cigarettes while roaming the clumpy outfield, and Emil Rossi and Angelo Pronsolino and Chris Rossi too. How many hours I stood in the grey dirt of the high school diamond, shagging balls, staring at the hills, feeling the first rush of fog push south into the valley’s sweet heart, like Mongols searching for new pastures for their ponies. But no silver-tipped invaders today, only sun and blue crowning Old Hendy’s giant virgin redwoods, which rise regally from the green, like sentry towers at the gates to pioneer wineries like Husch, Edmeades, Navarro and Lazy Creek started by the Koblers who were from Switzerland, then the Roderick drive-way and Dave’s Navarro Store and Guy’s BBQ and the Drunk Tree and now, to me, the spiritual heart of the valley: the sun-dappled cathedral of old growth redwoods guarding the Boy Scouts Camp, Masonite Road, past the Flynn Creek and Comptche’s lurking madness and Paul Dimmick’s serene camp sites and the ambling river to the left, winding, stealing softly through the forest to the sea. I remember there used to be a swimming hole called Iron Bridge down a brushy path cut through ferns and burnt out stumps. I wonder if it’s still there. I wonder if it ever was.
(Next: Mendocino on a clear day).
NOTES FROM AN INQUISITION
by Bruce McEwen
(An expanded report of the preliminary hearing for the seven trimmers accused of killing Laytonville pot grower Jeffrey Settler.)
* * *
Criminal defense attorney Albert Kubanis asked, "Is there any difference in your mind between an interview and an interrogation?"
Homicide Detective Luis Espinoza responded: "To me, they're all 'interviews'."
* * *
The preliminary hearing in the gang-murder of Laytonville pot pharmer Jeffery Settler last November got underway last Monday, but most of the first day was taken up with pleas from three of the seven defendants. Zachary Wuester, Gary “Giggles” Fitzgerald, and Said “Richie” Mohamed who each pled to nine years in the state prison for “robbery in concert” with the understanding that they would all have to waive credit for time served up until the date of sentencing, and the stipulation that they would not be labeled as “stabbers” in Mr. Settler’s gruesome murder.
Mr. Fitzgerald took the most time during the pleas, telling the judge that he was suffering from the after-effects of LSD; then he spent a long time in consultation with his lawyer. “Giggles” Fitzgerald has pulled similar stunts in his interviews with the homicide detectives involved in the case and perhaps this is how he earned his picturesque nickname.
When the hearing resumed on Tuesday, Mr. Jesse Wells was absent, having told the jailers that he didn’t feel well. Judge John Behnke ordered he be brought to court anyway, as it had been difficult enough arranging a date when all the lawyers and witnesses could be present. However, after Mr. Wells was brought in he continued to complain of his health to his lawyer, Jan Cole-Wilson of the Office of the Alternate Public Defender, who, after putting her hand on her client’s forehead (presumably to test his temperature, and ascertain if he had a fever), asked the judge for a continuance until Wednesday because her client had not been able to sleep the night before, and was having trouble staying awake.
Detective Luis Espinoza was on the stand, and it looked to be a grueling day as all four of the remaining lawyers would be given opportunity for cross-examination of the deputy-investigators, so Behnke decided to hear from a detective from Ashland, Oregon, out of order, so he could be on his way back to Ashland without waiting another day until Wells was feeling better.
Therefore, Detective Von Stewart was called and told the court how he’d been contacted by Detective Moskey (sic) – meaning the lead investigator, Detective Matt Croskey, who now can’t seem to shake the accidental moniker, which the bailiffs were quick make stick — and was sent a photo line-up which Stewart showed to co-worker of defendant Michael Kane’s, a Mr. Geurts, who made a positive ID of suspect Kane in an Ashland, Oregon parking garage. Kane’s lawyer, Ethan Balogh, then asked Detective Stewart if he’d been told the nature of the case, to which Stewart answered no, and added that he still didn’t know what it was all about. Stewart was then excused and Wells returned to the jail, with the prelim set to resume the next day, Tuesday morning, at 9:30.
It was closer to 10:30 when the hearing resumed, and by noon, the cross-examination by all four defense lawyers had finished, and Detective Espinoza stepped down. Espinoza had interviewed (the current euphemism for police interrogations) former suspect Amanda Weist who told Espinoza she was sleeping in the “Engine Room” with Jeffery Settler and her young son Maddox the night of the robbery and murder. The Engine Room was where the 120 pounds of processed marijuana was stored in plastic tubs (sometimes referred to as bins and totes) and Mr. Wells’s lawyer, Jan Cole-Wilson, spent some time making the point that some of these were stacked along the wall behind the door, which would have prevented the door from swinging all the way back against the wall.
Apparently, 20-something Amanda was on good terms with Gary “Giggles” Fitzgerald, so when Fitzgerald knocked on the door at 4:30 in the morning — to get his dog, he said — she unlocked it and the others forced their way in. Amanda was somehow left outside and could hear her child wailing inside where Settler was being attacked. She went back in and got Maddox and made it to her car, a VW Golf, and Said “Richie” Mohamed, who she remembered still had the gate chain draped around his neck, and threw four pounds of pot in her trunk for her, “so you can feed your kid.” (Lawyers have to be professionally credulous, and this leads defendants to think their minimizations are actually believable.) Amanda’s version of events, minimizing her participation and the amount of dope she took, would later be contradicted by the statements of the others.
In fact, it was pointed out by defendant Gary “Cricket” Blank’s lawyer, Al Kubanis, that Mr. Settler had recently spent a night with the mother of his children in Laytonville, and Amanda may have been in a jealous pique over that untimely off-site assignation.
Kubanis also noted that there had been two or three stops at motels on her way to San Francisco with the other two suspects in her car, Fredrick “Freddy” Gaestel and Zachary “Zack” Wuester – one in Willits, another in Sacramento, a third in San Bruno. Kubanis asked if it wouldn’t be kidnapping if, as Amanda maintained, she and her son had been taken against their will, and Espinoza answered yes.
“Were kidnapping charges ever brought?”
“No,” Espinoza admitted.
“Once Amanda got to the motel in San Bruno she contacted her mother who works for Homeland Security, didn’t she?”
“I don’t remember asking about the motel in San Bruno.”
“Well then, was it at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco?”
“Yes, she contacted her mother from San Francisco.”
“Did you ask where she got the money for all these motels and other travel expenses?”
“Not that I recall.”
Many locals have so much ready money from the underground economy that questions concerning the source of it all are generally considered indelicate, if not downright rude. Questions about one’s sex life, no matter how pornographic, are open for discussion, but you better not ask me about my filthy lucre, damn it!
After lunch on Wednesday, lead Detective Matt Croskey took the stand, and started answering questions from the prosecutor, Deputy DA Joshua Rosenfeld. Croskey’s suit looked fresh from the cleaners, his tie knotted with military precision, his hair combed meticulously, his posture reflected the martial ideal, his answers were crisp, concise, polite.
By the time he was excused late Thursday afternoon, however, his shoulders were slumped, and as he leaned on his elbows, he swirled the dregs in his water glass monotonously on the stand. His hair was mussed from having run his hand through it absently a few times, he’d tugged his tie loose from his throat with a forefinger, and, though he drank several carafes of water, his voice was hoarse and gravelly, his answers edged with a note of surly impatience. Such are the outward symptoms of one who has undergone the medieval ordeal of cross-examination by four successive criminal defense lawyers in a murder case.
Det. Croskey had interviewed Melissa Wright, a bartender at Wheels Pub in Laytonville, who told him that Fredrick “Freddy” Gaestel had been at the bar the night before the murder and she said she noticed something was wrong, and when she pressed him, he said he was very angry – and so were his friends, to whom he’d loaned his car – angry enough to murder someone who owed them money.
Croskey then interviewed Gaestel himself at the Cottages Motel across the street from Wheels. Freddy told Croskey that he had worked at Mr. Settler’s grow site and that on November 8th, Mr. Geurts had told five of the workers that Settler wanted them off the property, and they were each paid $500. The five included himself, along with Giggles (Fitzgerald), Richie (Mohamed), Cricket (Blank), and Zack (Wuester), all of whom then went to Garberville for a few days “to party.”
Also at the Cottages Motel was Mr. Geurts who worked in some capacity of authority for Settler at the grow site. He told Croskey that he’d been sleeping in the shop, which had two roll-up garage doors and a regular entry door, which Giggles came in through very late that night—when Geurts saw Giggles he asked, “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Giggles reportedly said he was looking for his dog, then blocked Geurts’s path and said, “You don’t want to go out there.”
Somebody else blocked the entry door from the outside, and when Geurts heard Amanda scream, he turned on the lights and opened one of the roll-up doors, flooding the area in light.
Amanda then came up to him “with fear in her eyes” and whispered, “Get the fuck outta here.” Geurts then ran into the woods and watched from there.
Over the course of the winter, as the rest of the suspects were tracked down, Detective Croskey made trips to Oregon, Eureka, Lake Tahoe, San Diego, and New Jersey to interview all seven suspects, along with repeated interviews at the jail on Low Gap Road in Ukiah. What emerged is the following overview.
The “incident,” as it is being called in the euphemistic vernacular of the courthouse, happened a few days after Californians voted to legalize recreational marijuana last November. In fact, the same day as the vote, November 8th, Mr. Settler had told his foreman, Mr. Geurtz, to pay $500 each to Zachary “Zack” Wuester, Gary “Cricket” Blank, Fred “Freddy” Gestel, Said “Richie” Mohamed, and Gary “Giggles” Fitzgerald and tell them to get off the property.
The five went to Garberville, partied hearty until the money was gone then went back to get what they felt they were owed. They all pretty much agreed on this point.
During this time, the summer of 2016, the news was rife with stories of growers’ abuses, sobering revelations about how wealthy growers were abusing low-level workers, especially young women, forcing them to be sex slaves and that sort of thing, so it was not all that shocking to discover that a young single mom like Amanda Wiest had come to Settler’s grow, and shortly afterwards her boyfriend was sent packing and Weist was soon sleeping with Mr. Settler, while his children and their mother were (perhaps seething over the arrangement) living at the Cottage Motel in Laytonville.
So these five guys came back on November 10th and were drinking at Wheels Pub – a trimmer’s bar; only growers frequent Boomer’s Bar – and they hatched their scheme to go up to Settler’s grow and – well, it depended on who you asked. Some wanted to give Settler a good ass-kicking, others wanted bloodshed. Gary “Cricket” Blank was especially pissed-off. He would end up by his own admission doing at least “ten percent” of the stabbing orgy Jeff Settler died from.
Strange, but it wasn’t really fight.
Strangely, although Michael Kane had never worked on Settler’s pot pharm or had any wages coming. he did “90%” of the stabbing, according to “Cricket.”
They all played the part of the innocent dupe when they told their own stories to Detective Croskey, but the cross-referencing of the other statements put the lie to all these sadly homespun alibis.
For instance, Richie Mohamed said all he did was go along to get some of his old clothes back, and while the others were putting the boots, fists, knives and hatchets to Settler, he was in the kitchen making himself a hot-dog. The others, however, all placed him as the one who had used the bolt cutters to cut the lock and open the gate, then joined the team of four who took up ambush positions on either side of the door, while Giggles Fitzgerald went up and made that initial knock.
They sent Giggles to go knock because he was on favorable terms with Amanda. She recognized his voice and opened the door. Then, with two on each side, all four, Richie Mohamed included, rushed in and overpowered Settler, all four of them falling on him — each version of the story leaves the teller out of this part! — except this Mr. Geurta who, having been forewarned by Amanda to run for his life, went into the nearby woods and watched the robbery-murder from the cover of the trees.
It was about 4:30 in the morning, pitch black, except that when Geurts – who was sleeping in the nearby garage – heard Amanda scream, he flipped on a light and opened a garage door, flooding the area in light and “freezing” everybody in the scene.
Only one of the seven suspects wasn’t at the scene during the “incident” and that was Freddy Gaestel, who stayed at the Wheels Pub and gave the killers his car, along with arming Kane with a Fiskers hatchet out of his trunk.
Michael Kane, according to one version, used this instrument to hit the back of Settler’s head saying, “You piece of shit!” and then the other four fell on him kicking, punching, stabbing until, as the others were loading up the marijuana, Michael Kane, delivering the coup de grace, drove the blade of a knife into Jeffery Settler’s throat.
The long and grueling cross-examination, especially protracted by Kane’s lawyer Ethan Balogh, of course put a lot of doubt on the assertions by the others that Kane was “the heavy,” and that they themselves didn’t take any of the marijuana – honest! They had only gone up there at four in the morning to get some odd article of clothing or two they’d inadvertently left behind after being kicked off the grow November 8th. “Oh no, X or Y had nothing to do with the beating and stabbing, no-no, that was all Kane’s handy-work, not us, honest, we’re just peace-loving hippy kids out for a good time.”
But more than one version makes it clear they were all in on the heist that netted at least 120 pounds of processed bud (valued at what these days? At least $60,000 locally), and that they sold 60 pounds of it to a broker in Redway known as The Magic Hat – which would have left all seven with lots of ready cash for traveling expenses, depending on the fairness of the sharing in the spoils, and plenty of extra pounds of bud to sell elsewhere – where of course, they would get much higher prices than they could ever hope to find locally.
The prelim ended Thursday afternoon to give the lawyers for the four remaining defendants time to sort through the various versions of events and come up with a cogent, convincing and credible theory of their respective clients’ role. They were given three weeks and the hearing was set to resume on the third Friday in September.
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 22, 2017
Arnold, Davis, Hawthorne
SHANNON ARNOLD, Goleta/Fort Bragg. Disoderly conduct-alcohol, failure to appear.
JOSHUA DAVIS, Ukiah. Disobey court order, failure to appear.
KARLY HAWTHORNE, Red Bluff/Ukiah. Petty theft, tear gas, paraphernalia, resisting.
Holmes, Lowe, Martinez
CHARLES HOLMES, Fort Bragg. DUI causing bodily injury.
JAMES LOWE, Clearlake/Ukiah. Controlled substance, paraphernalia, probation revocation.
LIVIER MARTINEZ, Geyserville/Ukiah. Unspecified vehicle offense.
Mendez, Mills, Nicholas
SAMANTHA MENDEZ, Ukiah. Vandalism.
ANDREW MILLS, Ukiah. Criminal intent with intent to terrorize, false imprisonment.
DANIEL NICHOLAS, Ukiah. Disoderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
Preston, Quijada, Stone
CHARLES PRESTON, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, resisting.
KEVIN QUIJADA, Ukiah. Disoderly conduct-alcohol, probation revocation.
ERIC STONE, Madera/Fort Bragg. Disoderly conduct-alcohol, controlled substance, resisting.
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
Getting through the eclipse was easy enough but getting there was a journey. I went to Rexburg Idaho from Seattle, a journey of several hundred miles, For me the eclipse was able to do what eclipses do! Skies were clear and everybody at my campsite had a great time. Nobody was disappointed with the performance. I was struck by the 360 degree sunset or if you prefer, a 360 degree sunrise. I have never seen any descriptions about that phenomenon. A cap of night topped the ring of orange around me.
Any future such get-togethers will not be so carefree. There will be diminishing returns. Gas is cheap now but if in the future it remains cheap it will be because nobody has any money. That is the only way something scarce and desirable can stay cheap. The interstates are in a continual state of being rebuilt but this will not be going on when the economy fails because the tax money will not be there to maintain the roads. The huge crowds that enjoyed this eclipse wont be able to assemble for another.
I’m in a motel halfway back to Seattle staying the night in Drummond Montana. I fear this solar eclipse will be a symbolic link to future generations which will be tied to a steep sharp decline in the American standard of living.
The eclipse comes on slowly but right before totality the physical changes around you accelerate. American decline has been happening slowly for a long time now and I fear an sharp increase in that decline will follow the eclipse pattern.
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “The eclipse? I'd give it maybe half a woof. Skrag was staring straight at the sun asking me WTF. I had to tell the dummy to look away or he'd be blind and stupid.”
ECLIPSED IN UKIAH
No eclipse photo? Here is one from Ukiah taken at 10:14 a.m. if you had wanted one.
Cheers, Pam Partee, Ukiah
A READER WRITES: To Little Dog and that straggly cat. Now HERE is a four-legged with some smarts. This feline has a PhD (Post Hole Digger.) He's checking out the total eclipse. What were YOU two doing? Meowing and communicating with gophers???
THE TRUTH IS that white supremacist groups are pretty small. Their views are so obviously vile that they just don’t appeal to very many people. Generally speaking, then, the answer isn’t to fight them, it’s to outnumber them.
If they announce a rally, liberals should mount a vastly larger counter-rally and…do nothing. Just surround them peaceably and make sure the police are there to do their job if the neo-Nazi types become violent. If antifa folks show up with counter-violence in mind, surround them too.
Nonviolence isn’t the answer to everything, but it is here. The best way to fight these creeps is to take their oxygen away and suffocate them. Fighting and bloodshed get headlines, which is what they want. So shut them down with lots of people but no violence. Eventually they’ll go back to their caves and the press will get bored.
Of course, all of this depends on our president not doing anything further to support their cause. If that happens, I reserve the right to revise and extend my remarks.
— Kevin Drum
GET READY FOR LIBRARY CARD SIGN-UP MONTH. More info to come!
Sat, Aug. 26th -- 3:00-4:30pm LOBA Poetry Reading. Join us for a special poetry reading with author & Ukiah Poet Laureate Emeritus Theresa Whitehill! Open mic for teens and adults follows.
Next Tuesday August 29th, attend our workshop on Email Basics: A Hands-onTech Help Class Join us at the Ukiah Library for hands-on interactivecomputer classes for adults. Learn how to use email to correspond & communicate business matters. Registration is required; please call 463-4490 to sign up!
First Friday Art Walk and Friends of the Library Book Sale next Friday!
Book sale continues on Saturday September 2nd from 10am-3pm.
BG FB Free Day
(Photo by Susie de Castro)
SEPTEMBER PLANNING COMMISSION AGENDA
Dear Interested Parties,
The Planning Commission Agenda for the September 7, 2017 meeting is posted on the department website at: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/government/planning-building-services/meeting-agendas/planning-commission
Please contact staff with any questions.
Victoria Davis, Commission Services Supervisor, 707-234-6664
3:16 AM IN THE CITY
Having just seen "Whose Streets?", (which details the implosion of Ferguson, MO), the view that America is a coherent society is again shown to be utterly ridiculous. The intense conflict in the streets, the excellent interviewing of local residents, and the obligatory footage at City Hall impels me to side with Black Lives Matter. I would have to be a complete imbecile to conclude otherwise. But then, the majority of my American experiences of any significance (with the exception of four years at the University of Arizona), have been either stupid, somewhere between insane and crazy, and for the most part much less necessary than I originally believed. This particularly includes associations with religious groups and gainful employment, which were sometimes combined. Following 67 years of participation in the American experiment in freedom and democracy, I will NEVER again work for anybody else nor be involved in anybody else's social experiment, regardless of intent. This goes double if the face of it is purportedly "spiritual". I already know what I am. I am keen on accelerating into the future, and am interested in associating with others who have a creative approach to their trip on the earth plane.
Contact me at CraigStehr@inbox.com