Frequent Flyers

by Bruce McEwen, September 16, 2010

Captain Fathom has gotten out of jail for the umpteenth time. He’d been accused of stealing a car, something completely out of character for the aging lefty.

The Captain had become involved in a confused episode involving a rental car. He's been behind the wheel when the overdue vehicle was spotted in Fort Bragg. Who could ever know what the facts of the matter were? He'd told the judge he wanted Richard Petersen as his lawyer, and the good Mr. Petersen, among the Northcoast's premier criminal defense attorneys, agreed to take The Captain's case pro bono. Shortly thereafter, the charges were dropped and the Captain was released.

“Catch and release,” the Captain calls it.

He boasts that he has more arrests for 647f — drunk in public — than anyone else in Mendocino County. He’s a vigorous 71 and drinks long and deep, and with nearly fifty years of catches and releases behind him he is well on his way to becoming Mendocino County's all-time 647f, cop code for drunk in public. When The Captain stays at his Albion hippie shack and drinks he has a hard time getting in trouble, but when The Captain, a gregarious sort, drinks and steps outside to seek company he's likely as not already on his way over the hill to his familiar suite at the Low Gap Hilton.

Another frequent flyer is Franz Wittenkeller of Fort Bragg. Franz is only 44, so it will take him at least another 30 years to catch up with The Captain in frequent flyer miles, but he’s off to a good start. Last week, however, Mr. W was before the judge on a more serious charge — robbery.

I know Mr. W and he's no more a robber than Captain Fathom is a car thief.

A confidential source gave me the lowdown. The “victim” had given Franz and his drinking buddy, Mike Vickers, some money for dope and — no surprise to anyone — Franz and Vickers immediately converted the cash to strong drink, and drank it up, perhaps congratulating themselves that they spared their acquaintance from the evils of drugs. For some reason Judge Jonathan Lehan in Fort Bragg didn’t want to hear this case so it was sent to Judge Ron Brown’s court in Ukiah. Berry Robinson, Franz’s defense lawyer, told Judge Brown that it looked to him like the case would be easily resolved. The “victim” didn’t want to prosecute Franz, he just wanted his $40 back. A prelim was set for the 15th.

Then there’s the Flight 11550 frequent flyers. Being under the influence of methamphetamine is listed as a crime under 11550 of the Health & Safety Code. More commonly known as “tweekers,” sources tell me the cops have a tiny little lapel pin with 11550 on it, which they award to officers who have busted at least 50 tweekers. Silver for 50, gold for 100, platinum, diamond, crystal meth, and so on up the awards ladder.

Judge Richard Henderson absolutely hates meth, but he was absent last week and Judge Cindee Mayfield was sitting in for him. She would sentence some truly committed users.

Crystal Campagnola was up first. (Why are they always named Crystal?) Crystal had gotten high and ripped off her friends, John and Elizabeth Finn. A family member had died and Crystal and her low down boyfriend had ransacked the deceased woman’s house, taking many valuable items that have not been recovered. The prosecution, Deputy DA Shannon Cox, asked the judge to throw the book at Campagnola.

“She has violated this trust she had with these people,” Ms. Cox said. “One of them was so angry and hurt he couldn’t trust himself to even come into the courtroom with Ms. Campagnola. I understand she has a problem with meth and no prior record, but given the large amount of valuables lost and the violation of these people’s trust, The People feel that a full year in jail is warranted, although we wouldn’t object to day-for-day credit in a treatment program. Also, she was actually cheerful at going into custody to get away from her children!” Ms. Cox added.

O Crystal! How far you have fallen.

Judge Mayfield looked over her glasses at the Defendant’s lawyer, public defender Carly Dolan, for a response and said she’d been in the family court, “So you don’t need to spend too much time on the issue with the children.”

Ms. Dolan said her client was very remorseful for her actions.

“Also, there was a man involved. Ms. Campagnola involves herself with abusive men, and in this case she allowed herself to be manipulated by him, and let him into the house,” Dolan said. “But I would like to address prosecution’s comment about my client’s meth use. She’s been on a waiting list to get into AODP and it’s ironic that now she’s committed a felony she will finally have access to treatment. Finally, she has not lost her children to CPS and that shows that she will be successful on probation. But if the court decides to send her to jail, she’d like some time to prepare her oldest child for the long separation.”

Ms. Cox wanted Crystal remanded on the spot.

“Her daughter should have been made aware by now that she would be going to jail.”

Ms. Dolan asked for just one or two days, saying the length of the sentence would determine whether the child would be placed with the father or not.

Judge Mayfield said, “Ms. Campagnola may not have a lengthy record, but she got a break from the people with a second degree burglary when it should have been a first degree. She worked a terrible violation on the Finns and the Probation recommendation of 170 days I think is fair. As for the request for time to prepare, you were aware a month ago there would be a substantial jail sentence so I’m going to order you remanded. Restitution will be reserved, and as drug addiction seems to be a driving force in this case, you can at some further time get into a day-for-day treatment program.”

Crystal, blinking back tears, was handcuffed and led away.

Darrell Caradine was up next. Or was he? Nope. He was gone.

“He’s out in the hall with the baby,” his lawyer, Dan Haehl, explained.

“Well, invite him back in,” Mayfield said impatiently.

Mr. Haehl returned shortly with his client.

Mr. Caradine was looking at corporal injury to a spouse and possession of felony amounts of meth among several charges.

Deputy DA Katherine Houston said she would submit on the Probation report and recommendations, which said that Mr. Caradine should go away for four years.

Defense attorney Haehl put up as good an argument as possible in the overwhelmingly incriminating circumstances.

“I know his record is quite long, with a lot of misdemeanor conduct back in the 80s and 90s, then a felony; then a second felony in ’02 — mostly drug-related misdemeanors and DUIs. Now, I know he’s presumptively ineligible for probation, and in this case he was transporting methamphetamine but it was for his own use. He says in the Probation report that he likes to be high. He’s one of those folks who, when he has a little money, likes to buy enough to support his habit. His admission that he likes to be high, I think, is telling. I think he’d be a good candidate for long-term treatment, maybe the drug court. In the evaluation from the probation report they say there’s no circumstances admitting of reason for mitigation, but he has a family now and I think he’s ready to deal with his addiction. He’s a house-husband, your honor; he stays at home and takes care of the baby while his wife is in school and at work. Probation says he’s living off his wife, but Mr. Caradine has a part-time job. I have a letter here from Sherry Sanchez at the Coast Community Center and she says he has the desire but not the tools to do something about his addiction. And his wife would like to see him get some treatment.”

Judge Mayfield asked, “Mr. Caradine, did you have something to say?”

“Yes, your honor. I know I’ve been in court a lot. I’ve probably been here more than you. I’m an addict, but I think I can do it this time.”

“Didn’t you go to treatment before?”

“I did,” the defendant admitted without pride in the results.

“Well,” Mayfield said, “your wife, and your attorney, and Ms. Sanchez want you to get clean and that’s all well and good, but you need to want to get clean yourself.”

“I’m willing to put forth whatever effort it takes. I don’t know what else to say.”

Judge Mayfield turned to the probation officer, Tim King.

Mr. King said, “I know he struggles with it, and when he’s not using he’s a pretty personable guy. If the court does sentence him to prison, I’d like to see him get into Correctional Recovery Center.”

Ms. Houston, for The People, said she’d agree to that.

“Given his history, I think we can stipulate to that without going through the evaluation process. (This highly sensible arrangement will no doubt infuriate the legions of psychologists who depend on often redundant evaluations to maintain their upscale lifestyles. Crime pays best for the professional classes of Mendocino County.)

Mayfield turned again to the defendant.

“I appreciate your admission,” she said. “On the other hand your abysmal criminal record is impossible for the court to ignore. The weight of this record cannot be set aside. You’ve always said you haven’t sold but the facts in this case indicate otherwise and I’m going to follow the recommendation to sentence you to the aggravated four-year term, with 30, 60 and 100 days in the other cases to run concurrent.”

Caradine wanted to hug and kiss the wife and baby good-bye, but the bailiff already had the cuffs on him. The baby sucked a pacifier in wide-eyed wonder and mother cried while daddy disappeared for four years.

It was unclear what Brandon Haggett, 19, had done, but he owed the county $1063.27 and had a prior conviction for petty theft. His lawyer, Elizabeth Fowlds of the Public Defender’s office, had relocated to Sonoma County and Eric Rennert was standing in for her. Rennert and on young Mr. Haggett looked on impassively as Deputy DA Matt Hubley said he would submit to the recommendation from the Probation office, and Mr. Rennert went along with it, too.

“However,” Rennert said. “I don’t think he (Haggett) was aware of the possibility of being remanded to the jail today. He has a job doing landscaping and would like to turn himself in in two weeks. He hasn’t given any notice to his employer, your honor.”

Judge Mayfield asked Haggett if he had anything to say for himself.

He did.

“I’m very sorry for my actions and accept whatever you decide, but I’d be happy if I could just keep my job so I can pay the restitution I owe.”

“Where do you work?”

“For my brother’s landscaping company in Laytonville.”

“And you think your brother won’t give your job back?”

“No, Ma’am. I’m not treated any different than any other employee.”

“I see. I’m going to follow the probation recommendation and impose the 180 days with three years probation. And I will grant a one week delay so that you can keep your job and repay the $1063.27.”

Another poor bastard was about to get sentenced, but someone was tugging at my sleeve, beckoning me into the hall.

“You need to go next door,” I was told. “Something big is going down.”

Judge Brown’s court was full. There were 12 defendants, with their respective lawyers and a crowd of other, uninvolved lawyers, watching. One of the on-lookers brought me up to speed.

“See those three gorgeous damsels up front?”

I, in fact, had seen them. They were dressed to the nines and made the other ladies in the room look kinda dowdy, rustic even.

“Well, they’re from Tony Serra’s office in San Francisco and they filed a motion to dismiss this case because the marijuana laws are too vague. Apparently, they read the AVA and saw your report a few weeks ago where Keith Faulder got his guy off. Anyway, they’re saying the laws are unconstitutional. But Judge Brown said if that’s the case then wouldn’t the 215 cards be unconstitutional as well?”

The prosecutor was Deputy DA Rayburn ‘Courthouse Hunk’ Killion, and it occurred to me that these three stunning young lawyers, who all admitted to being avid readers of the AVA, had come to check him out since I had noted his bonafides in the hunk-department earlier.

Mr. Killion, for his part, was all for declaring the 215 cards unconstitutional, but Judge Brown wanted to put it over until November 5th. The lawyers all agreed on the date and Brown called a recess. I was then treated to an introduction to the glamorous trio of Pier 5 attorneys — Anne Marie Tomassini, Sara Zalkin and Shari Lynn White.

Ms. White tarried to chat.

She said she had a framed copy of the AVA on her wall. It was an issue from about ten years ago when she had defended a Mendo man whose wife was sleeping with a DEA agent. The DEA agent had persuaded the wife to bug her own bedroom to get the goods on her husband, John Dalton. My editor still gets sputtering mad when he remembers the Dalton case.

“The absolute worst case of badged narco-terrorism we ever wrote up. The narcs seduce this guy's wife then they get her to put a tape recorder under the couple's bed where this woman is boffing both the narc and her husband. Jezebel herself would have cringed in shame! Then Tony Serra argued in Frisco's federal court that it all represented “egregious government conduct,” which it sure as hell for a slam dunk fact did, but the federal judge, who seemed senile to me, said it didn't. A lot of judges are so goddam dumb and gutless it shakes my faith in the system, which I haven't had anyway in fifty years.”

A front-page cartoon of the scene had been drawn by Mary Miles who is now herself a lawyer in San Francisco, and who, in collaboration with the editor’s brother Rob, has delayed San Francisco's expansion of bicycle lanes.

“They long ago said good-bye to even a semblance of rationality,” the editor says of his former relative and colleague.

Anyhow, in the current case Ms. White said her client, Mr. Joseph Thompson, was the ostensible landowner and the others were trimmers. It was a collective, she asserted, and some disgruntled member of the co-operative on Blackhawk Drive in Willits had turned the others in. In the event the motion to dismiss failed, but she hoped to have the name of the informant revealed.

Judge Brown assumed the sentencing duties for the afternoon.

A Mr. Van Slagle had two prior felonies when he went joy-riding in somebody else’s car. Also, he was on probation — two probations, both for driving — and not only driving, but drinking and driving — on a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

“He has a pretty atrocious record and I did struggle with this,” Judge Brown said. “But I do consider this somewhat unusual, since the car was recovered after only a short distance, so I’m prepared to offer a grant of probation.”

Van Slagle got 120 days with 30 days each for the violations of probation, 180 total.

Another car thief wasn’t so lucky.

Mr. Dwayne Mason got 16 months in the state prison, and he has to pay $2509.52 to Monica and George Kenyon, which it cost to get the Kenyons' car clear of impoundment fees and shipped back to them in Southern California.

Mr. Mason’s lawyer, Dan Haehl asked, “Did the court want to see this very nice letter? Apparently most of the money was paid by the insurance company.”

“Wait a minute,” Mr. Killion, DA, said, “Let me see that. There must be some kind of clerical error.”

The lawyers conferred and finally agreed: $2509.25.

Chancelor Thorsen was next up.

AVA readers may recall that Mr. Thorsen is the guy who, along with Marley Miller, tried to rob a Gualala pharmacy at gunpoint for some prescription oxycontin. The store owner pulled out his own revolver and fired warning shots at the perps who quickly ran out of the store and were soon arrested.

Defense attorney Berry Robinson was confused.

“On the one hand they recommend a year in the state prison, but then they ask for a year in jail.”

Judge Brown turned to Tim King of the probation office for clarification, but didn’t get any.

“I’m confused myself,” Mr. King said.

“Do the parties want to proceed?” Brown asked gamely.

Robinson conferred with Thorsen, then asked, “Will there be a chance of one year or two years?”

“I haven’t made up my mind yet.”

Brown was ready to go, but Thorsen, only a kid, balked, gulped, and turned pale.

Brown said, “Apparently, he walked into a store with what looked like a gun?”

“My client wants additional time your honor. And there is a co-defendant, Marley Miller, whom Mr. Haehl represents, I believe. Besides, the owner of the pharmacy calculated the restitution and we have some questions regarding that.”

Mr. Killion hadn’t seen the restitution figures, he said.

The sentencing was reset, and Thorsen submitted a letter of apology to the store owner and his employees.

Next, a convicted rapist from Gualala, Anthony Mondragon, stood in the dock.

This guy is pathetic. He's also dangerous. He's graduated from stealing women's underwear to full-on sexual assaults.

Judge Brown said, “It’s my understanding this was a stipulated sentence?”

“Yes,” Mondragon's lawyer, Katherine Elliott said. “But in the police contact information there’s an inappropriate statement about his status as a resident alien.”

Deputy DA Steve Jackson had no objection to the statement being stricken.

Ms. Elliott: “Mr. Mondragon is developmentally disabled. And for the record he demonstrates mild retardation, which will determine where he’s placed in the state prison system and his mother’s asking him to be committed to the Porterville Center.”

Brown: “That’s not an option. The parties have agreed to a mid-term which would be four years, and Mr. Mondragon will have to register as a sex offender.”

Jackson: “Before you move on, your honor, besides the sexual battery there’s the first degree burglary.”

Brown: “And I have discretion in that case?”

Jackson: “Correct.”

Elliott: “His mother would like to address the court on that.”

Brown: “The response is ‘No’.”

Jackson: “The People are asking that DNA testing be required since he will eventually be released on parole.”

Brown agreed: “The parties have stipulated to the mid-term so it would be one additional year. Anything further?”

Elliott: “No.”

Jackson: “The people will file a release from the criminal protective order.”

At this point a young woman, presumably a victim of Mondragon's, hurried from the courtroom.

Brown: “The defendant will be remanded into the custody of the Sheriff for transportation to the Department of Corrections.”

In the foyer of Brown’s courtroom I ran into Deputy DAs Matt Hubley and Shannon Cox. Ms. Cox was ribbing Mr. Hubley. She said, “Matt wants you to call him the courthouse Hunk.”

I said, “Look, I didn’t come up with that. I heard it from about a dozen women around here.”

Matt asked, “Did you hear how the Chicken Ridge Shootout case ended?”

“No. I saw Darvel Blackwell was on the docket for a pre-trial conference, but his lawyer, Carly Dolan, told me it would only get postponed since Judge Henderson was away.”

“Well, Henderson came in the next day and Blackwell pled out.”

“Wasn’t he facing something like 21 years?”

“He was. But Henderson only gave him the same as Jacobs, four years for assault with a deadly weapon and another year for the use of a firearm.”

I was glad to hear it. It was my opinion that Darvel Blackwell, Clifton Lee Jacobs and Marquise Walker had been snookered by the Covelo boys, Troy Sims, Jackie Slade and Robert Long.

These guys are all rap artists and if anything good comes out of the caper — besides the miracle that Long survived a gunshot wound to the head — I hope it will be some good rap.

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