Mendo Justice for Smith & Rexrode

by Bruce McEwen, June 30, 2010

A teacher at the Willits Charter School, Clint Smith, had been sleeping with one of his 15-year-old students for quite some time, carrying on with the child in the presence of adults, at least one of them a teacher. When another student finally complained to the right people about the relationship, all the adults said they had no idea such a scandal had been conducted right under their dedicated noses, but Smith was arrested.

Smith, connected in uniquely Mendo ways, got off light.

His argument was that the sex with his 15-year old student was consensual. In most jurisdictions in cases of sexual abuse of a minor that kind of defense wouldn’t cut much ice. Pubescent teens are easily coerced or otherwise persuaded to do the bidding of adult males — even more so when the adult is their teacher, a figure of authority, propriety and alleged wisdom. But Smith only got a little rap on the knuckles, and a few days in the County Jail.

How did he get off so light?

Well, for one thing, he had a good lawyer, Mark Kalina. But there seems to be something else at play in this case. The District Attorney, Meredith Lintott, elected on “feminist” promises to protect women and children, wasn’t particularly adamant in prosecuting the case. She dropped most of the original charges filed by the Willits Police.

Then, too, there was a great deal of “community support” for Smith from North County liberals arrayed in a unique alliance with the Mormon Church among whose influentially large local congregation are included members of Smith's family. Who knows? Maybe Smith descends from the church's founder, Joe Smith, the guy who had a vision from God directing him to authorize polygamy in his church, and to especially include teenage girls in the divine plan to go forth and multiply.

Whatever his pedigree, Smith packed the courtroom with Mormon dignitaries, liberals and even a bearded female therapist, all of whom said Smith was just too darn nice a guy to be packed off to the state pen. You'd have thought the girl had molested him.

Recently elected Judge Clayton Brennan read the many letters of support for the priapic pedagogue, listened to the therapists and, peering out at the overflow turnout for Smith, saw the writing on the wall, as it were, then decided that prison would be too harsh an environment for a man of Smith’s eminence. Prison, after all, is a place for working class molesters, not church-going professionals. A Fort Bragg kid of 19 just went to prison for a much milder dalliance with a teenage girl, and some of us remember the Ukiah truck driver, Mark Sprinkle, who got 45-to-life for 90 seconds of “sexual touching.” Sprinkle's alleged victims had voluntarily removed their clothes in his car.

O yea, Mendo justice can be arbitrary.

Mr. Kalina appeared in court for Smith last week to deal with a matter of the therapy bill for his young victim. The sessions are $45 each and the bill was up to $2620. Kalina said Smith would pay it, and that was that.

Smith, by the way, was not required to register as a sex offender.

* * *

Letters calling for leniency for Russell Rexrode didn’t cut much ice in Judge Ron Brown’s court; Rexrode is neither a teacher nor a child molester, just a country working guy raising a family and a little medical marijuana.

Rexrode had a big manila envelope stuffed with support letters. He tried to give them to his lawyer, Jan Cole-Wilson, to give the judge, but she just shrugged them off. He was left there in the dock, awkwardly wondering how to proceed. Finally, he got the judge’s attention and took them up to the bench. Judge Brown said they wouldn’t make any difference, but that he’d deign to read them anyway, some other time.

A deal had already been made that Rexrode would do the time, 180 days for marijuana cultivation, and 90 more for a violation of probation, and forego the two years of probation which would have got him a lighter jail sentence. Russell Rexrode wants nothing more to do with Mendo justice, ever.

Years ago a drunk lawyer hit Rexrode head-on. Twenty years later the justice system itself hit Rexrode head-on when Fish and Game showed up in show biz, photo-op numbers at Rexrode's Fort Bragg house to arrest him for possessing a baby mountain lion he'd not only rescued but had already turned in. The state's mountain lion rescuers, spotting Rexrode's authorized medical marijuana, summoned the Drug Task Force and, well, here the guy is three years later deep in debt and wondering how his wife and two little kids are going to get by while he's sitting out on Low Gap Road.

Since Rexrode has no criminal record, no violent crimes on his rap sheet, he should qualify for an ankle bracelet, meaning he can do his time at home so he can work to support his family.

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