Treasure Hunt

by Bruce McEwen, November 18, 2010

When hand-held global positioning systems were first released to the general public, nobody but sailors knew quite what to do with the amazing new appliances. Sailors used them to find their exact positions at sea, and the sextant became a museum piece overnight.

But not everybody had a sailboat and sales of the GPS systems were low. Eventually some ingenious marketer came up with the idea of a treasure hunt: take some ersatz booty like a gift certificate for a happy meal at McDonald’s, hide it in the woods and pretty soon everybody had to have a GPS. These days, the kids who grew up with these things can’t find their own butts without one.

And so it happened that a massage therapist ended up in an industrial park in Ukiah looking for her GPS so she and her dude friends could find the woods to go “camping.”

Any reasonable person, maybe even a cop, might suspect this young woman was either stoned or she had her head so far up her butt she needed a windshield in her stomach so she could see where she was going. But anything's possible in Mendoland — a kind of dream-world where everyone’s loaded either physically or mentally. Their psychic GPS's are askew, you might say.

Surely to God, anybody in their right mind knows that going into the woods in this county for recreational activities like “camping” or a quick round of massage “therapy” is like surfing with sharks, jogging with lions, or picnicking with grizzly bears.

So here she is looking for her GPS in this industrial park on North State Street in Ukiah in the middle of the night with the aforementioned dudes. She’s out of her very expensive vehicle, a GMC Yukon Denali prancing around in her heels looking about as non-rural as she could look. The hatchback is open on the Yukon when a cop pulls in on a routine patrol at a frequent burglary site — it’s a bunch of storage units with poor lighting and a chronically defective gate.

“There’s burglaries every week there,” the cop, Tom Davis, said on the stand.

Davis also couldn't help but see another expensive vehicle nearby, a Toyota Camry. As the officer approached the Camry, he smelled the powerful smell of many pounds of bud marijuana, 104 pounds of it, as it turned out, great garbage bags full of it, right there on the Camry's seats, front and back.

And $70,000 in US currency.

Any chance this was a dope deal?

Could it be that the lady in high heels and the dudes weren't going camping?

We don’t know if the massage therapist ever found her GPS in the Yukon. But the GPS in the Camry was installed in the dashboard and harder to lose. The cops downloaded it and it led them to an address in Lake County where they found evidence of a pot plantation, and another $300,000 in cash.

And that there is a treasure hunt!

Okay, let’s give Ms. Linsi B. Manning the benefit of the doubt and all that felicitous equine feces known more familiarly as happy horseshit about being innocent until proven otherwise. Moreover, let’s give Linsi the best defense attorney in the world and see if he can 'splain her out of serious trouble.

Let's give Linsi Mr. Tony Serra, esq.

Brian Newman of the DA’s office was unmoved by the lady's plight or intimidated at going up against the legendary Serra.

“Did you ask her why she thought a driveway into a gated industrial park would take her into the woods?” Newman asked the cop.

The witness was not a cop anymore. He’d quit the Mendocino Sheriff’s office and moved to Alabama. Mendocino County had flown former deputy Tom Davis out here from Birmingham to testify. Some people might say it's a waste of tax money on a pot case, even a big one, in a county where at least one obvious murder, that of Katlyn Long, Fort Bragg, has gone unprosecuted.

“I did ask her that,” Davis said. “She said she wasn’t sure.”

“I see,” Newman said. “And of the three individuals, she was the only one responding to your inquiry?”

“Yes.”

“The co-defendant, Mr. Boden Wood, was he there as well?”

“Yes, and I noticed a male subject in the driver’s seat of the Camry, Mr. Brian Reese. I asked him if there was marijuana in the car and he said he wasn’t sure; it was his first time [!?]. He told me he had received a ride with Mr. Wood.”

“Did you ask him what he was doing behind the wheel?”

“Yes, but he didn’t respond.”

“Did you ask him if he smelled marijuana?”

“Yes, and he said he could.”

“Did you ask Ms. Manning what she was doing?”

“She said she was going camping with these gentlemen.”

“Did you ask Mr. Wood if there was any marijuana in the car?”

Omar Figueroa, a younger version of Serra in all-round formidability, is Boden Wood’s lawyer. Figueroa wanted to know if Mr. Wood had been read his Miranda rights, but Judge Brown said he could ask on cross-examination.

Davis said, “Mr. Wood wasn’t making eye-contact with me, he was looking at the road. When I asked if there was marijuana in the Camry he said it, the car, belonged to his friend in Oakland. He said he had received a ride with Ms. Manning in the Yukon. But she said Wood came with Reese in the Camry.”

Davis called for backup. He put Ms. Manning in his patrol car; Wood and the virginal Reese were put into other patrol cars as they arrived. Davis then searched the Camry and found the 104 pounds of weed in plain sight.

“Then what did you do,” Newman asked Davis.

“I went and talked to Ms. Manning. I thought there’d be a large amount of US currency in her vehicle.”

Serra objected.

He said that Davis was jumping to conclusions. Judge Brown didn’t agree, and told Davis to continue.

Davis said he found $70,000 in a backpack in the Yukon. Then he placed Manning in handcuffs and told her she was under arrest. He read her her rights and she said she wanted to talk to her lawyer. He arrested Wood and read him his rights.

Then Davis asked him, “What’s going on here?”

Newman said, “What was his answer?”

“He said, ‘You’re looking at it,’ or something to that effect. He said, ‘Times are tough and a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do’.”

Tony Serra began his cross.

“How many times do you go by the Carousel industrial park?”

“I’d say no less than three or four times that night.”

“How long had you been patrolling the area?” he asked.

“Four to six months,” Davis answered.

“So you’ve been patrolling the area for four to six months, and therefore you pass that gate four to six times a night — it has a lock?”

“Yes, you enter a code — when it’s working.”

“So you’d go in there routinely?”

“Yes.”

“And this was with the permission of the manager?”

“Yes. I had the code.”

“On this occasion was the lock broken?”

“As of that date I can’t tell you if the lock was broken or just open.”

“Your report says it was open and ‘possibly’ broken and had been for several days.”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“Does your memory dim with time?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re being honest?”

“Yes.”

“And you try to be accurate?”

“Yes.”

“And do you believe that your memory would be more accurate after several days than after several months?”

“Yes.”

“So you don’t know if the lock was broken.”

“I typed ‘possibly’ in my report because I didn’t inspect it, but I knew it had been broken before and probably was again.”

“It was open all the way?”

“Yes. It’s a large gate, I’d say at least 30 feet.

“Two cars could pass?”

“Yes.”

“Describe the lighting.”

There’s not much lighting. Maybe some small ambient light from State Street, but I’m not sure.”

“So it’s not entirely preposterous that a vehicle could turn off there and be lost?”

“Anything’s possible.”

And inside the facility, what’s the lighting like?”

“It’s mostly dark.”

“And there’s other vehicles parked in there?”

“I think there were some, a couple that were broken down; they hadn’t been moved in quite a while.”

“Objection,” Newman said. “Relevance.”

Serra said, “He sees the Camry and he wants to check it out for ‘officer safety’ —

Davis: “I don’t know what you’re getting at.”

Serra: “I’m trying to say it’s not that suspicious, is it? Other cars are parked there and he’s not concerned about who might be in them, only the Camry.”

Judge Brown: “I don’t know if he’s driving through the park or just pulled in.”

Serra: “I’ll submit that if he’d gone over there somebody could have shot him in the side.”

Newman: “Objection.”

Brown: “Rephrase.”

Davis: “I’d seen those other cars before. The ones that caught my attention were the Camry and the Yukon. I hadn’t seen them before.”

“Was your vehicle in motion when you first saw the Camry?”

“I had stopped to surveil them.”

“Did you turn off your lights?”

“No.”

“How far away were they?”

“About 150 feet.”

“What would they have to do to get past you?”

“Put it in drive and drive past me. The driveway’s 30 to 40 feet across.

“So when you first saw them you weren’t suspicious of a burglary, were you?”

“No.”

“And had you been in that spot in the past?”

“Yes.”

“And was it a burglary?”

“Yes. Three or four weeks before. It wasn’t my case but they were using an acetylene torch to cut the lock.”

“Did you see a torch in this case?”

“No.”

“How many burglaries in the last month have there been there?”

“I’ve taken two, and there’s probably been three or four more.”

“Did you have any conversations about this with the proprietor?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well, didn’t you go to the proprietor and say, ‘Hey, man, you have at least four burglaries a month here, why don’t you fix the lock’?”

Mr. Serra tended to raise his voice and take on an irascible demeanor at times, which seemed to have an intimidating effect on the witness.

“No.”

“Why not?” Serra thundered.

“Objection,” Newman said. “That’s a question to ask the proprietor.”

“I’ll allow it,” Brown said.

Davis said, “I advised him it might be a good idea, but it’s not my job to fix the lock.”

“When was that?”

“Two or three weeks prior”

“Then why did you say in your report that every several days it would get fixed and then broken again?”

“It was a habitual problem with this gate.”

“If it was a habitual problem with this gate, why didn’t you”—?

“It wasn’t my job to fix the gate.”

“You don’t have an independent recollection of using your flashlight but on direct you said you possibly used your flashlight?”

“I generally do have the flashlight in my non-dominant hand.”

“So now you’re changing that to 90 per cent certain you had a flashlight?”

“Yes.”

“And you were 15 feet away. Couldn’t you see the camping gear in the back of my client’s vehicle with the hatch open?”

“So I guess I was 25 to 30 feet away.”

“What kind of tone did you use?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Well, didn’t you say, ‘Hey! What are you doing there?’!”

“No. I didn’t feel like I needed to.”

“My client, in the first instance, did she not claim they were lost and trying to locate a GPS unit?”

“Yes.”

“And did she not say this at least twice?”

“Yes, I believe it was twice.”

“Did you ask why the hatch was up?”

“No.”

“Did you have any conversation with my client trying to verify what she said?”

“I thought she was looking for a GPS in a storage unit.”

“Do you think it’s reasonable to conclude that the GPS would be in a storage unit?” Serra shouted.

“I’m not sure,” Davis said meekly

“You asked my client what was going on and she stated she was not sure.”

“That’s correct.”

“She stated she met Mr. Wood and Mr. Reese and they were going camping. She told you she was a massage therapist — did you ask her if there was anything illegal in her vehicle?”

“Yes.”

“And she stated she had nothing illegal and that she did not want you to search her vehicle. At that point you had her sit on the hood of your vehicle?”

“Yes.”

And at that point you had not approached the other vehicle and smelled the marijuana?”

“That’s not true.”

“Then your report is not chronological?”

“Objection.”

“Sustained.”

“When you placed my client in your vehicle was she under arrest?”

“No.”

“But isn’t it fair to say that when she’s in there she can’t get out?”

“Yes, that’s true.”

“So she wasn’t free to leave?”

“She was not. Not at that point.”

“So I’m asking you, did you smell marijuana coming from my client’s vehicle?”

“No.”

“And you saw camping gear in the back of the Yukon?”

“I told you I was 20 to 30 feet away.”

“But when you approached, you saw the camping gear?”

“Yes, and I also found the $70,000 in the pack.”

“Yes, but I’m going back. Was it a man’s backpack or a female’s?”

“I don’t know. It was blue.”

“What else did you find in the pack? Were there any female things, or were they men’s?”

“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Deputy Van Patten. He’s the one who searched it.”

“My client hasn’t claimed any of that money, has she?”

Newman: “Objection.”

Brown: “Overruled.”

Davis: “I heard it was hers.”

Serra: “So somebody else told you that.”

Davis: “That’s the first I’ve heard it wasn’t so, yes.”

Serra: “You said you smelled fresh green marijuana.”

“Yes.”

“You didn’t smell burnt marijuana.”

“No.”

“Do dried buds smell the same as fresh green marijuana?”

“Uh, no. I don’t know.”

“So you don’t know what you smelled, whether it was fresh green marijuana or dried buds — it could have been bamboo shoots?’

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“So you were asking my client to search her vehicle because there might have been something”—?

“Objection — argumentative.”

“Sustained.”

“I have nothing further.”

Mr. Serra sat down and Mr. Figueroa rose to have a go at former Deputy Davis.

Figueroa: “Now, former Deputy Davis, you have refreshed your memory of the events of the early morning hours of that day in May of ’09, have you not?”

Davis: “Yes, that’s correct.”

Figueroa: “Do you remember the case number?”

Newman: “Objection. Relevance.”

Figueroa: “It’s relevant to his ability to recollect, your honor.”

Judge Brown rolled his head around on his shoulders like maybe Figueroa was the pain in his honor's neck. “I’ll allow it,” the judge said tentatively.

Davis recited the case number.

Figueroa then had Davis draw a diagram of the scene and rehearsed the bust again from the beginning up until his client, Mr. Wood, was placed in Deputy Gupta’s patrol car.

Figueroa said, “Now, at that point he was not under arrest?”

“Correct. He was only being detained.”

“How long was he detained?”

“From the point I saw the bags until I discovered the marijuana — seven to 10 minutes.”

“At what point did you read him his Miranda rights?”

“After I found the marijuana.”

“Do you recall the words he used to waive his Miranda rights?”

“He stated he understood.”

“Yes, but what words did he use to waive his rights?”

“He said he understood,” Davis repeated.

Figueroa said, “Your honor, he did not waive his rights.”

Newman said, “He continued to speak after he was read his rights.”

Figueroa said, “What we have here is some kind of implied waiver.”

Judge Brown said, “Once you have said you understand your rights and then you continue to discuss it with the deputy, then it is implied that you have waived your rights.”

Special Agent Derek Hendry of the Task Force was called.

SA Hendry testified that the Camry was taken to the Sheriff’s Office on Low Gap Road and the GPS was downloaded to find out where it had been just before the bust. The Task Force then got a search warrant for a property on Upper Lake Road. They went to the property and seized over $300,000 in US currency. Not only that, they’d also found something indicating Ms. Manning had been at the address on Upper Lake Road.

Mr. Serra was furious. It was the first he’d heard of the Upper Lake Road connection. Serra roared, “You cannot NOT give us the discovery and then prosecute us without it!”

Newman said, “They (Serra and Figueroa) were given the discovery, I have a clear memory of it. We called counsel and told them we had the car and they could come inspect it.”

Serra said, “You cannot impose that on counsel — to say, oh come on up here and look at it! He has to send it to us! They go to a place where pot was grown and they find her purse — or I don’t know what — but I don’t have standing because I don’t have discovery.”

Newman said, “I’d be happy to provide them with the data, if counsel wants.”

Judge Brown said they would need some time to work this out, then he called a break in the proceeding until Newman could provide the discovery.

--

Heard In The Halls

Mendocino County’s Multi-agency Major Crimes Task Force returned to the Muller pot plantation (see last week’s Court Report) the following day and found another $200,000 in US currency. A Task Force Special Agent brought the cash to the Courthouse in a brown paper bag. A local lawyer quipped, “That’s how they get those search warrants signed so easy — just keep the groceries coming!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *