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MCT: Friday, February 14, 2020

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A WEAK PULSE OF RAIN, mostly to the north of Cape Mendocino on Saturday night, interrupts an otherwise cool and dry trend for the foreseeable future. (NWS)

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Just in from Jane Futcher:

Subject: Ship has landed, we are still aboard!

Dear family and friends. Happy Valentine’s Day! The president of Cambodia arrived at our dock in Sihanoukville this morning with great fanfare to greet the first passengers off the M.S. Westerdam. The captain awakened us at 6 AM on the ship’s P.A. system asking all of us to get out bed quickly and proceed to the promenade deck to wave our thanks to him. Cambodia is the only Southeast Asian or Asian country that was willing to let us land even though we have no known coronavirus cases aboard. We have had our temperatures taken often. There were dozens of reporters and TV cameras and military officials on the dock as President Hun Sen arrived in a helicopter, with a second helicopter and several naval ships in the harbor to protect him. As the first 100 or so passengers came down the gangplank, he greeted each of them with flowers. Erin and I are still on board and cannot wander into town yet. We may be here for several more days as we await news from the ship and Holland America as to when a chartered flight from the port of Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and from there to our homes, can be arranged for all 1400 of us or so still on board. Could be a few days. But we are safe and happy and healthy. And, as always, very well fed. If they don’t let us off soon we will be unable to fit in any of our clothes! Love, Jane

JUBILANT US PASSENGERS are greeted with Valentine's Day flowers and a kiss from Cambodia's PM as they finally disembark from Westerdam cruise ship after two weeks stranded over coronavirus fears

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MENDOCINO WINEGROWERS reports that the total value of the Mendocino crop for 2019 was about $113 million, down approximately 18% from 2018. Reasons cited: oversupply from a huge harvest in 2018, flat sales, resulting in “many growers without grape contracts had little choice but leave fruit hanging.”

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The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) was recently contacted by the Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD) who asked for help in locating 25-year-old Derek Weidner, of Webster, Texas.

According to the SRPD, Weidner is possibly suicidal and was last seen at approximately 10 p.m. Friday, July 19 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds RV Park in Santa Rosa, where he was staying while working as an electrical lineman with a private company.


Weidner is 6’3″ and 290 pounds with brown eyes, black hair, a heavy build and a beard. A Ukiah California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer located Weidner’s vehicle – a 2015 grey GMC Denali pickup truck with Illinois license plate #124270B – on the morning of Saturday, July 20 parked on Highway 101 at mile marker 6.70 in Hopland. However, at the time the vehicle was found, a missing persons report had not yet been filed and the CHP Officer was unaware of the circumstances.

There was also a report on Facebook that Weidner had asked a Ukiah Friedman’s cashier about places to eat in Ukiah on Tuesday, July 16. 'He seemed to be in good spirits. Told me he was from Texas here for work and was looking for a good place to eat.'

MCSO and the CHP have been actively searching the area using a CHP helicopter as well as CHP Officers, Sheriff’s Deputies and Sheriff’s K-9s. The Mendocino County Search and Rescue (SAR) team performed a more extensive search in and around the area Weidner’s vehicle was located using trailing dogs and ground teams on Tuesday, July 23. The results have yet to be reported.

UPDATE: Derek Weidner, the Texas man who went missing from Santa Rosa in July 2019, has been found deceased. No information regarding when or where he was located has been released.

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Chris, please contact the AVA.

( / 895-3016

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US CENSUS STILL NEEDS WORKERS for Comptche, Boonville, and Philo areas. Hourly wage, convenient work hours that YOU decide + mileage.

(Kathy Wylie)

Please contact for further information

Holly Ugulano is the US Census recruiting person for the Mendocino Coast. While the number of people who have been hired has risen in the County, the areas of Comptche, Boonville, Philo are still VERY LOW. She was asking for us to get the word out again about these positions. The pay rate has increased to $18.00 per hour.

If you know of anyone who would be interested or a way to get the word out, please do so!

Apply at

(Sara O’Donnell)

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Penal Code 372 PC is California's main statute with regards to public nuisances. This code section makes it a crime for a person to create or maintain a public nuisance, or, fail to remove one.

A “nuisance” is an activity or thing that affects the: health, safety, or morals of a community.

PC 372 states:

“Every person who maintains or commits any public nuisance, the punishment for which is not otherwise prescribed, or who willfully omits to perform any legal duty relating to the removal of a public nuisance, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Notice that the “maximum fine” is $1000. But a case could be made that each tree is a violation.

Assuming MRC’s (highly dubious) defense is that it is exempt from nuisance declarations, if the County sent a “Notice To Remove Public Nuisance” to MRC (or any other violator) stating that the potential penalty is $1000 per tree (per day?) does anyone think MRC would risk losing in court and having to pay such a high penalty — or even that its owners would go to jail for up to six months?

Back in 2000 an LA Times story noted that if Union Pacific Railroad company didn’t remove dry weeds along their tracks near Stanton that were creating a fire hazard, “If Union Pacific doesn’t do something soon, city officials said they may hire contractors and bill the railroad company.”

Other examples of weeds/fire hazard nuisance abatement:

From Holtville in Southern California:

“8.24.020 Statutory authority/enforcement authority.

A. California Government Code Section 38771 authorizes a city to declare by ordinance what constitutes a public nuisance. Civil Code Section 3493 outlines the three remedies that a municipality can use to remove or abate the activity. Section 731 of the Code of Civil Procedure authorizes the city attorney to bring a civil action in the name of the people of the state of California to abate public nuisances. Penal Code Section 372 permits the filing of a criminal complaint. Government Code Sections 25485, 38771 and 38773.5 authorize cities to enact local enforcement ordinances that establish administrative procedures to abate public nuisances.” … “The California Constitution (Article XI, Section 7) grants cities the police power to enforce their nuisance ordinance.”

(Mark Scaramella)

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Abortion-Rights Supporters Fear Loss Of Access If Adventist Saves Hospital

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FORMER COAST HOSPITALITY CENTER MANAGER Anna Shaw posted the following comment on the Fifth District Facebook page a few days ago:

Measure B needs to fund a comprehensive cost benefit analysis, with geographic stratification, of each of the proposed services: PHF, CRT, CSU. This needs to be done by a high-level county staffer or a hire/consultant paid at a rate commensurate with the significant responsibility of the project. The cost benefit analysis needs to focus primarily on payment and program structure, and also include staffing models and workforce gaps. The cost benefit analysis should also take a look at location and property options & capital funding opportunities, but this needs to be a lesser component of the analysis, because of the fluid nature of location-options, and because a cost benefit analysis focused on affordability compared to positive outcomes is the primary issue. We need to repeal the tax if the project is unfeasible, and I say that as a person who believes that having a PHF in county would be wonderful.

The BOS needs to require a similar cost benefit analysis of the current model for treatment of the seriously mentally ill. The Kemper report(s) are not that, valuable though they have been. This review needs to pay attention to the evolution of "Healthier California for All" which will critically affect the continuum of care.

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by Jonah Raskin

They don’t come to northern California for the bubbly, the marijuana or the luxury hotels and they don’t enjoy picnic lunches along the Russian River. There are more than 150,000 of them in the whole state, most of them sleeping in the streets of L.A., San Francisco, Ukiah, you name it. If they come for any one reason it’s for the weather, which an indigent wanderer from Missouri described to me as “survivable.” He added, “in winter you don’t see snow here.” This February afternoon on my redwood deck, it’s 83 degree in the shade. It was in the 80s yesterday.

If I had no place to live and no work in Kentucky, Michigan or Vermont I’d make the trek to California to stay dry and as warm as could be inside a tent or in a bedroll under one of the bridges in Santa Rosa or someone other city. I’d be in the company of some confederates addicted to speed and heroin. Others might have an STD or the flu. But at least we’d be in the same boat.

Sonoma County, which likes to call itself “Wine Country,” has been losing population because of the fires and the smoke, the shortage of housing and the high rents that make them unaffordable for men who work in the vineyards and who often commute from as far away as Vallejo and Sacramento, and women who labor in the hospitality industry, also drive long distances and aren’t paid minimum wage.

Even if they were paid a living wage they would not likely be able to afford to live in Sonoma County, which the botanist Luther Burbank described in a letter to his mother as “the chosen spot of all this earth.” Burbank implored her not to repeat his comment to anyone; if she did, he was afraid that loafers and alcoholics would descend en mass and destroy Sonoma. Chosen spots have a way of advertising themselves.

Once the best-selling author Jack London moved from Oakland to Sonoma and began to write about it in letters and in his novel The Valley of the Moon, there was no holding back the waves of migrants who came to farm, ranch, toil in the lumber industry or fish for salmon.

But even the optimistic Jack London knew hard times were coming. In The Iron Heel, he predicted the advent of a dictatorship in the U.S. and in The Scarlet Death he described a pandemic that obliterates most of humanity. Were he alive today he’d have plenty of material to inspire him, including the homeless problem, which has been described as “intractable.” Even charitable and compassionate Christians who help those who sleep under bridges and on the streets tell me “There will always be homelessness.” Still it has not always been a problem here.

It wasn't when I arrived in Sonoma County in 1975, just in time to observe the decline and fall of the apple industry, and the exodus of a generation of young people who couldn't see opportunity in their future if they continued to live here. My parents arrived before me, bought land, and joined the “back-to-the-land movement” which every so often goes through a rebirth. That cycle seems to have come to an end. Young wanna-be farmers flock to Sonoma only to find that they can’t afford to live or work here, and so they move to Oregon and Washington.

Fifty-five years ago Professor Raymond Dasmann wrote a polemical book titled The Destruction of California in which he warned readers that “the worst is yet to come.” He added that most Californians “have only a partial picture of their home state,” that “No person sees the complete picture” and that “The accepted picture is misleading.” In my home county, where hope has become a mantra, and citizens repeat ad nauseam, the slogan “Sonoma Strong” the homeless crisis — which officials have tried to hide and ignore — is a harbinger of a grim future Jack London might have imagined in a dystopian novel. He also would have urged Californians to try to see the whole picture and not accept the official version of the Golden State. Imagine the destruction of California? It won’t be a pretty picture.

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Tule Elk on the brink of extinction! Save Point Reyes! Enough is Enough!

The Tule Elk, native to California, are on the brink of extinction. Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County is now the only national park where you can view these animals, but not for long. Local beef and dairy operations, which lease 30% of the park, are pressuring the National Park Service to “manage” the wild elk through their relocation off the seashore and/or lethal removal. At a time when so much wildlife is already at stake, we ask the park to protect the elk and its habitat and NOT cave to industry pressure. Monica Stevens (Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch), Taracy Vogt, (Charlies Acre's), Deborah Blum (Goatlandia), Sherri Franklin (Muttville), and Marcy Berman (SaveABunny), Miyoko Schinner, and other leading animal welfare pioneers, ask you to take action now by calling Congressman Huffman and signing the petition below to help us save the lives of the Tule Elk.

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"MendoBuild is a fledgling labor network service established to connect local, independent laborers with clients that are looking to get their projects done by affordable local professionals on the Mendocino Coast and surrounding Mendocino County.

For those of you from the Bay Area, this is like a rural, small-timey 'Taskrabbit' that is way more affordable, more personable, and strictly local.

We are starting to pre-launch our services to assess local community and client interest and to identify laborers for our team, of various skills and trades. Our website will continue to be updated as our team grows, and as our services grow.

Examples of our services:

General Property Maintenance, Housekeeping/AirBnB Caretaking, Animal Caretaking, Milling, Carpentry/Framing, Landscaping/Gardening, Tree Felling/Pruning, Painting, Roofing, Gutters, Masonry, Hauling, Dump Runs, Moving Help, Mechanics, Small Electrical and Plumbing jobs, etc

If you have any service suggestions, please reach out to us!

If you are interested in becoming a potential client with MendoBuild, you may sign up for an account on our website, and hit the top upper right-hand corner, and click 'login' to create an account. You can also scroll down the page and input just your email to subscribe. We will notify you as we get closer to our launch date! By this summer we will be ready to begin service, possibly by spring, dependent on interest and need, and the growth of our team.

Our Team is to be made up of skilled and experienced independent laborers and journeymen that keep their own calendars and establish their own skillset. Hourly rate is dependent on experience and expertise in a trade.

Payments and booking are entirely handled online on our website or mobile through our App?with various payout options for team, including direct deposit. Tips are always welcome for our workers.

Each laborer has individual profiles, and each client has their own account for future bookings.

If interested in becoming a laborer with MendoBuild, LLC, please complete our online application, including all requested information. You can access our application by clicking below, or from our website @

Laborer Application:…/1aOl9m_eXJdRIr16Hq9ItVczN_pR…/edit

Our Team is made up of skilled and experienced independent laborers and journeymen that keep their own calendars and establish their own skillset. Hourly rate is dependent on experience and expertise in a trade, and is organized by Small Job, Half Day or Full-day and wage determined by

experience. We give special consideration in pay to skilled journeymen, but this qualification is not required to be part of the Mendo Build network.

We work hard to manage the calendars, client questions, payments and deposits, and actively advertise locally on your behalf. All you have to do is keep your Google calendar current to ensure availability and show up to your jobs and get paid.

In order to get the most from our services, you need to: download the Wix App in the App Store, or


Input our Invite Code: SMARM4

Now you can conveniently book, cancel, and correspond via the WIX app!

MendoBuild, LLC

Mendocino's One-Stop Network for Local, Affordable, Independent Labor

Kala Radl, Owner; 808.430.8972

Sarah Stevenson, Admin; 808-430-8469

Check us out on yelp!…


KZYX. (was) Re: MendoBuild Labor Network pre-launch

Lisa wrote (to MendoBuild, a fledgling labor network service established to connect local, independent laborers with clients that are looking to get their projects done by affordable local professionals on the Mendocino Coast and surrounding Mendocino County): "What benefit to workers is seen by your 15% admin fee? I agree finding labor on the coast is a challenge. Thank you."

Marco here.

If MendoBuild truly gets you regularly scheduled well - enough - paying work that you're struggling to drum up on your own, and you join voluntarily and can leave any time you please and take your client base with you, a 15 percent agent fee isn't that bad, even if the aim of the corp.'s bosses is to reap great rewards later on, which it might or might not be. In this case it doesn't sound like it is, but at the inception it hardly ever does.

That reminds me, what benefit to workers is KZYX's $300,000 a year administration fee? Especially since the real workers there, the local airpeople, are not paid at all for all the shows they show up on time for and do all year long, doing the work that brings in the money the bosses just suck out of the station for themselves with a straw, drinking the workers' milkshakes all the way to the slurp at the end, as it were? And keeping in mind that it's just a dollar an hour ($168 a week, that's less than a single well-off wino around here spends on wine) to jazz every part of the entire system with cheap electricity to "keep the great shows on the air through your generous donations", not to mention the yearly tax derived federal grant that everyone in America pays for whether we like it or not, and without which so-called Mendocino County Public Broadcasting Corporation would have failed utterly ever year of its existence. That's how bad at managing a radio station MCPB Corp. has always been and continues to be.

The airpeople go into it with the agreement that they're truly worth nothing to the well-paid administration but a pat on the head, and that makes it sound reasonable: it's voluntary; they're volunteering to be taken advantage of. Except that when people work for nothing, because they can afford it, in what's basically a government protected monopoly, so the bosses can make out like bandits, however much workers like the work, it hurts workers everywhere who do equal or better work and require to be paid, because they will always be shut out of working there.

In those terms, 15 percent doesn't sound too bad. Fifteen percent of the $600,000+ a year that continually flushes through KZYX is $90,000, enough to give every temp-worker airperson there about $20 an hour, not counting prep time. KZYX is swimming in money, and under competent management it could easily pay it out in artistic stipends, like theater companies do, and the bookkeeping would be a simple task for the bookkeeper and his or her bookkeeping computer program. And this could begin this afternoon with a couple of telephone calls, an email and a stroke of the $60,000-a-year manager's pen.

And remember when last year in October the vast-ranch-owning heirs to some rich law corporation in San Francisco gave like $100,000+ to KZYX and for five minutes they were all, "We'll be able to do wonderful things with that money. Oh, the wonderful things we'll do!" And what did I say? Allow me to repeat: The wonderful thing the bosses are going to do is to end up paying it it all to themselves and then have another pledge drive to smarmily beg for more. And what did they do? Exactly that, as always.

Marco McClean

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Dear Mendocino County Voters,

I recently received my ballot in the mail, as I am sure most of you did. I am very fortunate and humbled to find myself as the sole candidate in the race for Superior Court Judge, Room 3, the seat vacated by the Honorable Judge John A. Behnke. Judge Behnke is an exceptional jurist who is well respected. I can only hope to one day preside over a courtroom as well as he did.

Though I am running unopposed, I want to earn each of your votes. I make the following promises:

  1. I will decide each case fairly and impartially.
  2. I will decide each case promptly.
  3. I will treat all persons in the courtroom with respect, and all cases as important.

I have met many people leading up to this election, and I want to thank each of you for giving me your thoughts. I wish to especially thank my supporters for believing in me. I will make a daily effort to meet your expectations.


Patrick Pekin

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CATCH OF THE DAY, February 13, 2020

Adams-Penrod, Atwood, Beard

KELIE ADAMS-PENROD, Caspar. Protective order violation.

JAMES ATWOOD, Redding/Ukiah. Probation revocation.

ELECTRA BEARD, Fort Bragg. Controlled substance, petty theft, trespassing/refusing to leave, probation revocation.

Davis, Jones, Kidd

BRITTANY DAVIS, Ukiah. Paraphernalia, bad check, false ID, sell-transfer-receive access card with fraudulent intent, probation revocation.

RAYMOND JONES, Ukiah. Domestic abuse, false imprisonment, vandalism, controlled substance, suspended license, criminal threats, county parole violation.

JARED KIDD, Ukiah. Parole violation. (Frequent Flyer)

Meade, Paulino, Perkins

CHERYL MEADE, Fort Bragg. Domestic battery.

JOSEPH PAULINO, Ukiah. Controlled subtance, paraphernalia.

STACEY PERKINS, Garberville/Ukiah. DUI.

Vang, Walker, Williams

VUE VANG, Sacramento/Redwood Valley. Ammo possession by prohibited person.

WAYNE WALKER, Willits. Probation revocation.

ARNOLD WILLIAMS, Lakeport/Ukiah. Unlawful display of registration.

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A grifter from Topeka, With an old hippy van

was run out of town and went on the lam

So he came to Eureka and presented a plan

to bring some tourists to town

The tourists flocked in to see all the trees

the flower-filled meadows, the birds and the bees

but when they retired to their inn every night

what did they spy but the wonderous sight

of fifteen dead junkies who expired last night:

Their corpses festooned all the sidewalks near there

revealing how very deeply the locals all cared

about the people they tell us are our most precious resource

(some of us suspect that they're lying, of course)

A tourist felt sorry for this disposable breed

and wondered why so little was done to help those most in need

while contractors got fat from a trail that leads nowhere

(some of us suspect those fuckers don't care)

So the tourist went out to do a good deed

to give alms to the poor, to succor those in need

And what did he get for all the pains that he took?

a right to the stomach and then a left-hook!

The tourist was rolled then left in an alley to bleed

So the tourist went home - his friends all to tell

about his weekend in Humboldt and its resemblance to Hell

about the locals who run this overpriced tourist trap

and the electorate forced to put up with this crap

(thousands of others have similar stories to tell!)

The story is over I'm happy to say

don't look for a moral, there's none anyway

but perhaps there's a lesson to be learned from these crooks

that we can't learn online or from some tourist book;

If you're passing through — keep driving: don't stay!

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Submission Deadline: Today, February 14


The Arts Council of Mendocino County is accepting applications for the 2020-2022 Sculpture Gallery at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Our 47 acre botanical garden sees more than 86,000 visitors each year. Showcase your artwork amongst the dramatic blooms at our garden by the sea. Be sure to catch the 2018 - 2020 sculptures while you can!

Art in the Gardens

Submission Deadline: March 13


Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is accepting applications for Art in the Gardens 2020! This celebration of creative expression, gorgeous gardens, music, beer, wine, and food attracts as many as 1,500 visitors each year. The Gardens invites artists (open to all art mediums) to submit an application to exhibit their original work at the 28th Art in the Gardens held on Saturday, August 1 from 11AM to 5PM. Applications for this juried art event will be accepted now through March 13, 2020. Jurying will take place following the deadline, and we will send notifications by mid-April.

More details at:

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In 2017 when the project now known as Building Bridges was before the Ukiah City Council Maureen came to the shelter to get a tour to better understand the project before making her decision. Since then Mo has been active in engaging with the staff and the guests at Building Bridges and stops by often to drop off some of the various things the Shelter needs. Homelessness is not a one solution fits all problem in our community, or any other community for that matter, we need someone that is going to meet with neighbors, residents and business owners to work on solutions. When the Ukiah Police Department had to come up with a plan to vacate a growing encampment on Airport Road Mo met with me to make sure that there was communication between advocates and law enforcement. There are tough conversations on the plate around homelessness and Mo is ready to tackle them and hit the ground running as a Supervisor. I support Maureen "Mo" Mulheren as our next Second District Supervisor.

Tony Lee Marsh


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ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, CNN’s Don Lemon hosted ubiquitous Bernie Sanders-basher Jim Messina – solo, without an opposing view – to slam Sanders and his Medicare for All proposal.

Messina was introduced and repeatedly identified only by his former positions: “Former Obama Campaign Manager” and “Former Deputy Chief of Staff, Obama Administration.”

As is typical, viewers weren’t told what Messina’s current job is – perhaps far more relevant information than his positions years ago.

Messina is now a corporate consultant. He is CEO of The Messina Group, whose website boasts corporate clients such as Amazon’s pharmaceutical subsidiary PillPack, Google, Uber, Delta – and the slogan: “Unlocking Industries So Businesses Can Win.”

If properly introduced, it would have been no surprise to CNN viewers that a corporate consultant would malign Sanders, the most popular anti-corporate politician in recent US history.

Host Lemon also neglected to inform viewers that since leaving Team Obama, Messina has been paid handsomely to elect conservative politicians across the globe, including Tory Prime Ministers David Cameron and Theresa May in Britain, and Prime Minster Mariano Rajoy in Spain. Messina’s company website features an image of Cameron next to the banner: “Campaigning for candidates we believe in.”

(in 2013 he received the Machiavelli Award as the Italian American Democrat of the Year.)

— Jeff Cohen

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With Bernie Sanders now having won New Hampshire (and probably Iowa, where he won the popular vote) and confirmed his position as the frontrunner for president in the Democratic Party primaries (the New York Times’ poll guru Nate Silver is giving him a better than 40% chance of gaining enough delegates by the end of the primary season to win the nomination on the all-important first ballot at the National Convention in July), it’s becoming open season on socialism and its more anodyne relative democratic socialism.

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EXCERPT from "The Belief That Everything Will Be Fine Once Trump's Gone Is More Dangerous Than Trump":

It is entirely possible that we'll continue seeing strange electoral results combined with mass media manipulation resulting in Buttigieg riding a contested convention into a superdelegate-boosted nomination, even if Sanders has more votes overall. We have at this point in time seen no reason to believe that Sanders will be able to secure the number of delegates needed to prevent such an occurrence.

Then you've got racist Republican oligarch Mike Bloomberg jumping on the ballot come Super Tuesday, with his $300 million+ ad campaign throwing more chaos into the mix. Billionaire Bloomberg's unprecedented campaign spending power has enabled him to push up just shy of second place in a recent Quinnipiac national poll despite having no redeeming characteristics and no real goal agenda apart from stopping Sanders, which is as clear an illustration as you'll ever see of the power of money in US politics.

Whether it winds up being Buttigieg, Bloomberg, or one of their ideological alt-centrist clones like Amy Klobuchar or the floundering Joe Biden, the mainstream narrative will soon converge around one candidate in a very positive way, with the only important qualification being that they aren't Bernie Sanders. Many powerful people will do everything they can to prevent a Sanders nomination, whose presidency they oppose more than Trump's. As journalist Matt Taibbi recently pointed out, the Democratic establishment has "every incentive to play every conceivable card. Trillions at stake."

The primary argument used will be that defeating Trump is all that matters, even if it's with another racist Republican plutocrat. If they succeed in sabotaging Sanders' candidacy, he will help advance the same argument, as will a majority of his supporters. This argument will click perfectly in to a foundational assumption that establishment narrative managers have spent the last three plus years reinforcing, namely that once Trump is out of office, everything will be okay.

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“These smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?”

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JOHN DALTON is back at home on his Branscomb property after twenty-two years in federal prison on a marijuana conviction. Prior to his arrest, a DEA agent seduced Dalton's wife, entertaining her with rides in a police helicopter and arranging for her to place a tape recorder beneath the Dalton's marital bed, finally moving the woman, to whom Dalton thought he was still married, to the state of Washington without Dalton's knowledge. This behavior by the DEA was not, according to a San Francisco-based federal judge, “egregious government misconduct.” One has to wonder what the hell is egregious government misconduct. We're working on an interview with Dalton about his life inside and what he's found now that he's out. The following comprise the story from the beginning:

(Anderson Valley Advertiser 3-part series first published in January 1999.)

Part One: The 1985 Incident

The KGB-ing Of America, a Case Study

by Mark Heimann

John Dalton currently resides in the Federal Detention Center in Dublin, California. When he's at home, he lives in Redwood Valley just north of Ukiah right here in Mendocino County. Dalton has lived in Dublin for two and a half years, yet he has never been convicted of a crime hasn't been tried for a crime and isn't allowed bail for the crime the federal government claims he committed.

Mr. Dalton is in federal prison because he was indicted on charges of growing marijuana by a federal grand jury before whom he stood alone without the assistance of an attorney and unable to confront his accusers. There is no real evidence that John Dalton has committed any crime, let alone a federal one. None. The government's case consists entirely of the dubious testimony of informants -- snitches -- who have been paid or otherwise coerced into testifying against him. Dalton was denied bail, also on the testimony of snitches. And, because of mandatory sentencing, the Redwood Valley machinist faces life in prison if the justice system believes the stories of persons paid by the federal government to talk about Mr. Dalton to them.

The federal government has seized Dalton's land, home, business and personal possessions, all on the false, misleading and perjurious testimony of a Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent, who, ruining Dalton's life in every possible way, seduced Dalton's second wife and compelled her to divorce him.

Mendocino County narcotics officers assisted the Feds in their pursuit of Mr. Dalton every unhappy step of the way to Dublin.

The following story of John Dalton's victimization at the hands of the federal government, and local law enforcement's complicity in that victimization, could happen to you. The famous attorney, Tony Serra, ably assisted by attorney Shari Greenberger, has signed on to defend Dalton. Serra thinks Dalton's case represents all that has gone berserk in America's crazed war on drugs.

John Dalton's troubles began September 18, 1985. Dalton, his first wife Tamara Milner Dalton, and their young son and daughter, were living on 80 acres below Elkhorn Ridge in the rugged and sparsely populated area northeast of the logging community of Branscomb not far from Laytonville in northern Mendocino County. This is prime marijuana growing country -- approximately 20 square miles of steep, logged-over land covered with thick undergrowth and second and third generation forest traversed by numerous creeks and conveniently placed springs. It's outlaw country, at least in the fevered minds of the more exciteable members of law enforcement. The land is criss-crossed by trails traveled by a sparse population of back-to-the-land homesteaders and pot growers and the cops trying to catch them in their pot patches.

It was about 3:30 or 4:00pm when the bullets began raining down on the Dalton cabin from the ridge above, sending up puffs of dust in the dirt yard out front and cutting off any escape by car. John Dalton hurried his terrified family out the back, instructing his wife to hide with the kids, keeping the cabin between them and the sound of gunfire from the ridge above. With lead falling on three sides of the cabin -- but not hitting it -- Dalton hopped on his all-terrain vehicle and worked his way up the ridge to the spot he thought the shots were coming from. He was unarmed save for a hunting knife on his belt; he did not own a gun.

From the ridgetop Dalton could hear muffled voices coming from the other side of the hill where he stood. The gunfire had stopped. Dalton found a narrow trail leading down the backside of the ridge and followed it on his ATV until it dead-ended. He was turning his machine around when he was knocked off the ATV and to the ground by a flying wedge of camo-clad tacklers. Dalton fought to get away but was overpowered by at least five men togged out as commandos. The men punched and kicked Dalton, concentrating on the liver and kidney area of his back until he passed out. When he came to he was face down with his hands tied behind his back with a man holding his legs crossed behind him until his feet touched his butt.

"I asked the man, 'Who are you guys?'" records Dalton's sworn statement recalling the uniquely perilous episode. "He said, 'We're the cops, you stupid bastard.' Then he wrenched and twisted my feet sideways. I felt an excruciating pain in my knees and ankles. I asked him 'Why are you doing this to me?' He told me I was a marijuana grower; I told him I was not."

John Dalton had stumbled onto a CAMP team, though the encounter was no accident. The Campaign Against Marijuana Planting is a joint operation of Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies. Throughout the 80's, CAMP had a well-deserved reputation as cowboys, riding roughshod over people's civil liberties in their child-like, dress-up zeal to eradicate a weed Californians have voted approval of.

In CAMP's salad days, helicopters routinely flew between the trees to swoop down on isolated homesteads; people's homes were ransacked without search warrants; property was stolen from homes where no arrests had been made or forfeiture proceedings initiated, water lines maliciously torn up, and people beaten. It was a state of war in the marijuana growing regions of what the feds called the Emerald Triangle -- America's primary pot growing center (usually meaning Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties) -- and it wasn't until groups like the Garberville based Civil Liberties Monitoring Project was formed to babysit the cops and inform the public of police abuses that the more outrageous conduct of law enforcement was curbed -- but by no means eliminated; the cops just got sneakier about how they violated people's civil rights.

In the fight that ensued after the camo cowboys knocked John Dalton from his ATV, Mendocino Sheriff's deputy Charlie Bone suffered a dislocated finger. Dalton's injuries, documented by the Ukiah Hospital and Dalton's Redway (Humboldt County) physician, included swollen knees and severe bruising to his back, kidney and liver areas. Individual finger marks were clearly visible on his arms and shoulders, and Dalton required crutches to get around for weeks after his encounter with the forces of law and order.

As Dalton was lying in the dirt, hog-tied with a deputy sitting on top of him twisting his legs, deputy Bone, now a lieutenant with the Mendocino Sheriff's Department, asked Dalton why he was in the neighborhood. Dalton told Bone someone was shooting at his house and he was trying to put a stop to it. Bone denied there was any shooting and called Dalton "a lying son of a bitch." Dalton said he was going to sue and reported Bone saying words to the effect; "You better shut the fuck up. Your problems are just starting, and I'm going to get even with you."

Dalton was arrested and he and his ATV were airlifted off the contested Branscomb ridge by helicopter and transported to the County Jail in Ukiah.

Dalton immediately bailed out of jail and hired an attorney, who in turn hired a private investigator to look into the incident. Dalton and the PI went back to the scene of his encounter with deputy Bone and his four bone crushers. They found more than 200 empty shell casings on the ridgetop not far from where the CAMP cowboys tackled Dalton off his ATV. The casings were in an area that had an unobstructed view of Dalton's cabin below the ridge. Following the same narrow trail Dalton drove his ATV down, the PI found numerous marijuana leaves, then another trail leading down to a cabin on the other side of the ridge from the Dalton cabin.

In Deputy Bone's chaste report on the incident Bones doesn't mention any shots fired and of course claims the officers identified themselves to Dalton, who Bone says, tried to run away, requiring the deputies to tackle and subdue him. Bone also says a marijuana leaf was found wrapped around the handle of Dalton's hunting knife and that another leaf was found on the fender of the ATV. In spite of this incriminating "evidence," charges against Dalton were dropped within eight hours of his arrest and never refiled. As he'd left the County Jail after his arrest a deputy told Dalton that they knew he was a pot grower and that they would "get him." Dalton's attorney tried to convince Dalton to sue, all but promising a six-figure judgment, but deputy Bone's words that he would "get even," and the beating he had already received, convinced Dalton it was best to just get on with his life. ¥¥

The KGB--ing of America, Part 2

Sex, Lies & Audio Tape

by Mark Heimann

The earliest indication that the deputies' threats to "get" John Dalton following the mismatch in the hills above Branscomb were more than the usual macho boasting. They are officially declared in a two-page internal document produced by the Drug Enforcement Administration, titled "Report of Investigation" and dated August 12, 1992. The first page enumerates John Dalton's worldly goods, mostly cars and modest parcels of real estate. Page two boldly lays out exactly what the Feds are up to under headings of "Targets and Objectives." Under "Targets" the DEA lists only one: "The targets of this investigation are the above described assets." And if that's not clear enough, under "Objectives" the DEA reports: "1. The principal objective of this investigation is the successful seizure and forfeiture of DALTON'S property."

And all this time most Americans thought the War On Drugs was being fought to save the youth of the country from lives of marijuana-induced depravity.

It didn't matter that John Dalton had never been convicted of a crime or that he had no criminal record whatsoever and had never been known to use drugs or even be much of a drinker, in the DEA's fervid and acquisitive view he was "dirty" and deserved to be relieved of his life's work product.

Why? Because like God and, perhaps, the IRS, they can.

The second objective listed in the August 1992 DEA report was "…to develop information as to whether DALTON is continuing to cultivate marijuana. Extensive surveillance of DALTON will be necessary to accomplish this objective."

As far as the DEA was concerned Dalton was already guilty, so taking his property was justified. It wasn't a matter of whether or not he was growing pot, it was whether he was still "continuing to cultivate marijuana." The origins of the belief that John Dalton was engaged in pot production was the 1985 incident (see last week's AVA), buttressed by the self-serving information and illegal actions provided by an admitted thief whose resume included convictions for perjury and fraud.

In their zeal to "get even" with Dalton because the tax-funded pot raiders believed Dalton had somehow gotten one over on them, the government's agents proceeded on a lawless rampage of their own.

The year before the DEA's documented interest in Dalton, on August 14, 1991, Dalton's ex-wife Tamara Milner, Susan Bowers and Crystal Charles burglarized Dalton's home in Redwood Valley. (To put it gently, John Dalton has been unlucky in love.) Dalton reported a theft of $7,000 to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department.

A week later on 21 August, Ukiah Police Officers responded to the scene of an accidental shooting in Ukiah. Fifteen-year-old Crystal Charles had accidentally shot another juvenile. When asked by police why she was carrying a gun, Charles said it was for protection from one John Dalton. The pistol-packin' teen explained that she had accompanied her mother, Sue Bowers, and Dalton's ex-wife Tamara Milner, on a burglary of Dalton's house. The family expedition, young Crystal explained to the Ukiah PD, had helped itself to $53,000 they'd found in Dalton's house. When police contacted Ms. Bowers she admitted she and Milner had orchestrated the burglary. Bowers said they ransacked the house and took other items as well to make the burglary look as if it had been random and so Dalton wouldn't suspect them. Bowers then claimed, conveniently, that the money had then been stolen from her. Ms. Bowers daughter, sweet Crystal, said that she told Dalton the three had stolen the money, but had then decided to pack a gun, which she obviously didn't know how to use, in case Dalton chose to exercise some extra-legal authority to recover his dough.

But Dalton, a veritable rock of patience who has no history of violence, instead started calling Ms. Bowers, to ask for his money back. She secretly recorded the calls, including one while police were at her home interviewing her about her wayward daughter and her peculiar notions of family outings. In her testimony to the Federal Grand Jury that indicted Dalton, Bowers candidly admitted that she had recorded Dalton because she "…wanted something to use against him." Portions of these tape recordings were used by DEA Special Agent Mark Nelson three years later in obtaining a search and seizure warrant against Dalton. A portion of one of the calls has Dalton admitting he grew pot.

Of course recording a phone conversation without the consent of both parties is a violation of California law. But more to the point, recording a phone conversation "…for the purpose of committing any criminal or tortious act" or "for the purpose of blackmailing the other party, threatening him, or publicly embarrassing him" is a violation of at least three federal statutes. Both Congress and the United States Supreme Court have ruled that such recordings can not be used in any government proceeding, including the issuance of a search warrant. Yet Special Agent Nelson sprinkled portions of the illegally-taped conversations throughout his affidavit for a search warrant, which was signed by US Magistrate Owen E. Woodruff.

Nowhere in the illegally recorded conversations is there any indication John Dalton threatened the three women, which might have provided an exception to the law making the recordings admissible as a pretext for a search warrant. Dalton had called Bowers because he wanted his money back.

Ironically, the three women were never arrested or charged with the burglary, even after admitting to police they were responsible. Nor was Sue Bowers charged with extortion, blackmail or illegal interception of telephonic communications. And John Dalton didn't get his money back, the lesson being that Mendocino County law enforcement ignores crimes committed against anybody they think might be growing weed.

Victoria "Tori" Horstman

Victoria "Tori" Horstman is a Mendocino County native, 40 years old, who grew up in Fort Bragg and attended Fort Bragg High School. She now lives in Potter Valley. She and John Dalton first met in 1991. Horstman and Dalton each had a boy and a girl from previous marriages, and their girls were participating in a Ukiah dance recital when they met. Dalton was divorced from his first wife, Tamara Milner, and Horstman was divorced from her first husband, John Corrigan. When Horstman and Dalton met, Horstman was dating Ukiah Police officer Marcus Young, at the time a member of the County Wide Narcotics Task Force. Horstman was working at Mendo-Lake Credit Union and Dalton owned 101 Tires in Willits. He had since moved from the rural property he owns in Branscomb to Redwood Valley. There are indications that Cupid was not entirely responsible for the magic moment at the dance recital.

From at least the late 1980s Tori Horstman wanted to be a cop, but, for whatever reasons, never got around to going to the police academy. Maybe it was the influence of Narcotics Officer Marcus Young, whom she was dating, or deputy Ron Caudillo, the head of COMMET, the County of Mendocino Marijuana Eradication Team, whom she met while working at the credit union, that made Ms. Horstman into a cop wannabe. At any rate, by the time she met Dalton, her social circle revolved around cops. And not just any cops, but officers involved in the specialized task of drug interdiction. Ironically, John Dalton knew of his soon-to-be wife's law enforcement ambitions when he started dating Horstman shortly after they met at their daughters' dance recital. After dating Dalton for six months Horstman moved into his Redwood Valley home in the summer of 1992. In August of 1993 they were married in Las Vegas.

In 1992, the enterprising Dalton, a man who has always made money because he is a highly skilled mechanic and machinist, sold his tire shop and started Dalton's Machine Shop, located adjacent to his West Side Road home in Redwood Valley. The master machinist did a thriving business as an engine builder for race cars and ace mechanic for the hot rod set. Dalton's new mate, Tori Horstman, quit the credit union to become the bookkeeper for the machine shop.

But all was not well at the Dalton household. Shortly after they were married, Horstman began drinking. The drinking quickly progressed to full blown alcoholism, with Horstman hiding bottles of vodka around the house and flying into drunken rages, to the point that, on several occasions, Dalton had to call the Sheriff's Department to control his out-of-control wife.

Horstman descended into the pit of alcohol dependence, blaming Dalton for her misery. She began accusing Dalton of physically abusing her, allegations she maintains to this day. Besides just alleging Dalton beat her, Horstman variously claims he kidnapped her, kept her tied up for days at a time, stabbed and cut her, broke her "spine" in multiple places, and beat her with a baseball bat, going so far as to hit himself in the head with the bat to fool the responding deputies into believing his wife was the aggressor.

Wow! Love seems to have flown. And flown violently. But not a single one of Horstman's allegations has ever been substantiated even though she has numerous friends among law enforcement who don't care for John Dalton. The record does show that police were called to the Dalton home numerous times to calm Mrs. Dalton, not her husband.

Josh Corrigan, Horstman's now 19-year-old son, who might be expected to resent abuse of his mother, recently said this about John Dalton: "John is a very gentle man. I have never seen him physically abuse my mother. I've never seen him be even verbally abusive to her. He's a very mellow man."

Corrigan, who worries about his mother's well being, nevertheless resents what she subsequently did to Dalton: "She was a mean drunk, but besides that, what she did to John was wrong."

Josh Corrigan currently resides with his paternal grandparents in Central California. His 16 year old sister was last seen boarding a Greyhound bus for Reno. Victoria "Tori" Horstman is now living in a shack in Potter Valley and says she is "cutting firewood" to make ends meet, though her hands are as soft and unscarred as a newborn's bottom. She says she is "lonely and depressed" and "just wants to get away from people." Horstman claims she has stopped drinking, and is on a daily regimen of Zoloft to help her function. But a series of late night calls to this reporter suggest she is back on the booze and that her mental equilibrium is precarious.

It's about 1:30 in the afternoon and Horstman's wearing a sweater and sweatpants. She has a small cross around her neck and says she was raised Catholic and Seventh Day Adventist. "I'm a moral anal retentive," she says, summarizing the net effect of the dueling theologies on her.

She's an attractive woman with dark, shoulder length hair glinting red highlights. She seems desperate for attention -- needy and clingy. Sometimes when she's talking her eyes glaze over and it's as if she has psychically departed. She's obsessed with "the trauma" she's suffered; her recurring theme is figurative rape -- by Dalton, the DEA, her cop friends. She seems dazed and confused. Her sad narrative jumps all over the place, often contradicting earlier remarks and anecdotes.

The Investigation

The government is charging John Dalton with conducting a continuing criminal enterprise, marijuana cultivation, and witness tampering. Because of mandatory sentencing laws, if Dalton is convicted of all three charges against him he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

But the combined resources of County, State and Federal law enforcement -- the drug warriors -- over a period of nine years, could not catch Dalton with so much as a joint. The problem became how to "get even" with John Dalton if there was no evidence to deploy against him. The boys with the badges needed a special snitch, someone on the inside -- they needed his wife -- and here's where the pursuit of John Dalton veered off into lawlessness.

"It was 1991 or '92 that I first went to Caudillo," Victoria Horstman recalls. "I tried to wipe this all from my mind so I don't remember the exact times and dates." Later she said she and John had been married about four months when she drove to the COMMET house located near the Ukiah airport. (The location of COMMET HQ, especially in 1991, was supposed to be secret. Horstman cryptically explained she knew where it was "because I just did.") But, in the same interview, Horstman claims she made this first visit "in early 1994."

Whatever the exact date, within a couple of weeks Caudillo introduced Horstman to Mark Nelson, a Special Agent of the DEA who was investigating her husband. The three -- Caudillo, Nelson and Mrs. Dalton -- met at the Redwood Rider's Club just around the corner from the Daltons' Redwood Valley home. Mrs. Dalton/Horstman gave Special Agent Nelson bank deposit slips from Dalton's machine shop business.

A week later Horstman again met with Special Agent Nelson at the parking lot of JC Penney's in Ukiah. Nelson had instructed her to park on one side of the store, then wander through Penney's pretending to shop to make sure she hadn't been followed. Horstman then walked out the other side of the store where Nelson was waiting in an unmarked car. (One gets the impression that the "special agent" gets his sleuthing techniques out of old Dick Tracy comic books. Walking in one door of a department store and out the other might baffle a Ukiah Boy Scout troop but it would occur to most cops -- even up here in the sticks -- that most structures possess more than one door.)

Having eluded no one because no one was watching, the special agent and the treacherous housewife drove up Vichy Springs Road and parked beside the unsecured and well-traveled road. Special Agent Nelson produced papers which he demanded Horstman sign without reading. Horstman complied. Then they got out of the car and Nelson took a series of photographs of Horstman. Victoria "Tori" Horstman had finally fulfilled her ambition to be a cop. She was now officially SR3-94-0054 and is referred to as such in all subsequent DEA documents.

Ms. Horstman has often said she became involved with undercover operations as early as 1991. But she doesn't show up in DEA documents until 1994 as her SR3-94-0054 identification number indicates. When asked if it was possible Horstman was working undercover for the local police as early as 1991, John Dalton was at first reluctant to admit the possibility. "That sure wouldn't make me feel very intelligent," Dalton says from his federal prison cell at Dublin. But Dalton remembers Horstman telling him right before they were married that, when she mentioned who she was marrying to Ron Caudillo, Caudillo had told her it was her "big chance to make some points."

There were other incidents in the first years of their marriage, according to Dalton, that seemed to mean his wife's loyalties were divided, but he dismissed her cop tales as drunken delusions. He recalled his wife coming home late at night drunk after being gone all afternoon and evening to say she had been on "surveillance" with Peter Hoyle, at that time a member of the narcotic's task force, now on traffic patrol for the Ukiah PD following his role in a problematical shooting death, a theft of newspapers and a small avalanche of citizen complaints. Hoyle tends to be prone to ultra-vi at little or no provocation.

Mr. Dalton was, at a minimum, an indulgent husband.

Many other nights Horstman would come home drunk and launch into a screaming tirade at Dalton, an unhappy fact of the couple's domestic life confirmed by Horstman's son, Josh Corrigan. Dalton said his wife would often threaten him. "You don't want to fuck with me. I know people." Horstman would then drop the names of police officers who at the time were assigned full-time to drug interdiction. Names like Brad James and Dennis Miller, with whom she would say she had been doing "dirty shit." Miller and James have left Mendocino County accompanied by clouds of controversy and citizen complaints.

Once his missus reappeared in the couple's Redwood Valley home in a disheveled state claiming to have gotten drunk with deputies in a helicopter where she'd peed her pants and thrown up.

John Dalton stood by his woman as stalwartly as Tammy Wynette beside her man.

All these incidents Dalton discounted as the drunken ravings of his manipulative wife, whom he thought was just trying to shift blame for her alcoholism on to a third party -- in this case the police. But in late 1993 Dalton was beginning to wonder.

One night, Mrs. Dalton/Horstman came home, drunk as usual, but uncharacteristically frightened. She said she had been on a surveillance with police where she was instructed to plant a telephone listening device on a telephone pole. Horstman said she was going to be in trouble because she had left the case of her knife hanging on the pole. Horstman had the folding knife she always carried but not the case, and she made such a fuss that Dalton finally agreed to go out into the night to look for it just to placate her, not expecting to find it. Dalton drove to the location his wife had told him about and, after looking around on the ground with a flashlight for the knife case, he shined the light on the pole. There it was, hanging on one of the steel pegs lineman use as steps.

"I sure wish someone had kicked my ass and told me to wake up," is how Dalton now describes his awful years with Horstman. "I guess that explains the Pacific Bell lineman's technical manual she kept hidden with her school books."

During the winter and spring of 1994 Horstman and DEA Special Agent Mark Nelson would meet regularly every two weeks at Mendocino College, where Horstman was taking part-time classes two to three days a week. Nelson gallantly let her know that her and Dalton's phone was tapped. Apart from assisting the feds track her husband, Mrs. Dalton/Horstman was apparently informing on other Mendo objects of federal interest.

In July of 1994, Horstman took a hunter's safety class at the Ukiah Elk's Lodge. Horstman at first denied ever taking any kind of firearms training , saying she never has owned a gun or had a hunting license, and adamantly denied she took the course at the insistence of Special Agent Nelson. When presented with her own handwritten notes from the class, Horstman changed her story, saying she was going to be a hunter. "I was born with a gun in my hand," was her explanation for the hunter's safety course, although she again denied ever acquiring a gun or hunting license.

It was about this time that Special Agent Nelson and Horstman became romantically involved. In a sworn statement Horstman relates the following: "Sometime during the summer Nelson had brought me to a secret house used by the DEA known as the 'Comet House.' … I was blindfolded because he said he did not want me to know where this was… Agent Nelson gave me a beer and later we kissed and fondled each other… When we were at the house that evening and had kissed, he told me he would like to give me an orgasm so he could show me that he could do it as well as John. … I do want to make it clear that Agent Nelson considered me at all times his personal possession and got angry if I ever talked with other DEA agents…"

Horstman said the attraction between her and Nelson had been building for some time. "It was mutual," she says. "I thought 'Why not, I wasn't seeing anyone else," conveniently omitting her husband, John Dalton, whose bed she was sharing and whom she was spying on for Nelson. Horstman says she was aware Nelson was married at the time because "I saw his wedding ring." (Special Agent Mark Nelson, in the summer of 1994, was not only married but had three children and his wife was pregnant with their fourth.)

Horstman said she was very attracted to other DEA agents; during the winter of '94, Mark Haigh. "He was handsome and single. I was interested in him." And Special Agent KC Smith drew Ms. Horstman's fickle attentions when "he'd talk horses with me -- we're both horse people."

But the versatile Special Agent Nelson of Blind Man's Bluff and guaranteed orgasms resented his informant talking with other agents. When asked if Nelson was proprietary towards her, Horstman replied "Proprietary? Yes, that's a good way to put it."

Victoria Horstman insists that her and Nelson's relationship never progressed past the "heavy petting" stage. "Mark and I never had intercourse, goddammit, because we do have morals."

The busy housewife is concerned that she be perceived as a moral person. But when pressed about her relationship with Nelson, Horstman will only admit: "We'd take long rides, he'd put his hand on my leg; there were lots of those long rides." Pressed further about whether she considered "fooling around" with the married Nelson while spying on her husband for him was moral, Horstman grows angry, tearfully shouting "If you're a cop, if you're a cop, you fucking do that. Do you understand?" Growing hysterical Horstman elaborates: "Is it OK for John to beat me and manipulate and stomp all over me? Knowing that I was doing what I was doing? Knowing who I was? Knowing that he married a fucking cop? Did he fucking know that? Yes he did. He knew what he married into." But when pressed and asked to confirm she was a cop or a federal informant when she married Dalton, Horstman calmly says "No."

Horstman seems to have gotten over her infatuation with federal narcs. "Anybody who's a DEA agent is a fuckhead," she declares. Horstman now says she felt used by Nelson -- "raped" -- was the word she uses. In the next breath, Horstman denies she and Nelson ever had intercourse and says she "still loves him," adding that in the summer of '94 they "were in love."

Special Agent Mark Nelson still exerts a strong influence in Victoria Horstman's life even though a 1997 DEA Internal Affairs investigation resulted in an agency order forbidding them from seeing or talking with each other.

But in spite of her expressed animosity for the "fuckheads," Horstman is still in almost daily contact with the DEA, reporting to one of Nelson's superiors, Dale Shepard. When we interviewed her in Potter Valley, Horstman said she called and told Shepard we were coming. She said Shepard told her not to talk to us and to call the Sheriff, but Horstman said she wanted to tell her side of the story, and had illegally tape recorded her call to Shepard to "prove what she said was true."

She also allowed Nelson to search Dalton's house on at least two occasions when Dalton was at work.

During the time Nelson was using Mrs. Dalton to spy on her husband he would script questions for Horstman to pose to her mate. When Horstman balked Nelson would grow cold and threaten her with federal money-laundering charges for making bank deposits from Dalton's machine shop business accounts. Other times Nelson would soothe his distraught informant, telling her she was "a good person. You've got to do the right thing."

Horstman told Nelson that Dalton was giving her money to buy US Postal Money Orders, and that he in turn used the money to buy equipment for the machine shop, a one-ton Ford pick-up, a dragster, and, for his wife, agent SR3, a 1993 Mustang convertible. She turned over to Nelson all of Dalton's bank deposit slips as well.

Meanwhile Special Agent Nelson was conducting "reconnaissance missions in the vicinity of Dalton's Branscomb property" along with Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies and other DEA agents. All told the cannabis commandos found ten gardens over a three month period of "recons" and flyovers, three of which they attributed to Dalton. Nelson, in his affidavit for a search warrant, used the word "vicinity" very loosely, since the pot gardens they found were roughly two and a half miles by road and trails from Dalton's property.

On September 16, 1994, a combined force of local, state and federal law enforcement moved to eradicate the Branscomb area pot gardens. Mark Nelson and four other cops hid in one of the gardens, hoping to catch Dalton in the act of cultivation. Nelson had developed information that the garden they were staking out was being cultivated by Daniel Bang, Dalton's brother-in-law who was married to Dalton's sister Karen. The cops' reasoning seems to be that if Bang was growing, Dalton had to be involved. Neither Bang nor Dalton ever showed up.

Nelson, in his affidavit for a search warrant, says that about 8pm that night and continuing till midnight, there was sporadic machine gun fire from the canyon below the grow site he had staked out. This would have been in the vicinity of the Bang cabin, but Nelson does not say the impressively rapid rifle bangs were being banged out by someone at Mr. Bang's house, settling for an impression that the gunfire was coming from the Dalton property one ridge and two and a half miles away.

That same day Horstman says she received a call at the Redwood Valley house from Daniel Bang, asking for Dalton. Horstman says, though she was not privy to the conversation, that Bang told Dalton of the raid. Dalton then left, and Horstman paged Nelson who called back the next day.

Nelson's sworn statement is that Horstman told him Dalton called about 8pm the night before and that she could hear machine gun fire in the background.

"Horstman had no knowledge that myself and others had remained in one of the marijuana gardens the previous evening," wrote Nelson, "and therefore had no knowledge that her statement regarding the machine gun fire could be corroborated by the agents and officers."#

Horstman makes no mention of this in her sworn statement, but says Nelson told her he had a "special FBI tape recorder that I want you to tape record John with when he comes home."

"He and Ron Caudillo arrived some 15 minutes later," writes Horstman, "dressed in camouflage and Agent Nelson insisted that I put the recorder in our bedroom (behind the headboard of her and Dalton's bed), which I did….

"At approximately 8:30 pm that evening my husband called and stated the property had been raided. This was on a Saturday, I believe, (the raid) and my husband returned home the next day (and) told details of the raid, which were recorded.

"On the next day (Monday) I met Agent Nelson at school and returned the recorder. He told me the recorder was very helpful."

Special Agent Mark Nelson makes no mention of the behind-the-bed tape recorder or his sexual involvement with John Dalton's wife in his sworn affidavit for a search warrant, probably because neither are condoned by the DEA or the courts.

The KGB-ing of America, Part 3

The Payoff

by Mark Heimann

A first read of the federal government's case against John Dalton is deceiving. As outlined in various Drug Enforcement Agency investigative reports and the sworn affidavits of Special Agent Mark Nelson, it looks like Mr. Dalton was at least equivalent in public menace quotient to all the pot smokers at 25 Grateful Dead concerts. We won't even begin to guess at how many thousands of tax dollars and cop man hours have been invested in the Get Dalton Effort.

The government agents just know Dalton's a pot grower, and that he's been cultivating the weed since at least the early '80's. Mendocino authorities were on to Dalton from at least that time, and even knew where his alleged gardens were located but they couldn't catch him. Pot farming is labor-intensive. (Harder work than playing camo buddies 9-5 in the summer time hills of the Northcoast, an objective observer would agree.) A pot planter needs to be in his patch -- the scene of the crime -- for many, many hours. And the sheer smelly bulk of the plants Dalton is alleged to have harvested every year for many years should have led the pot-sniffing mutts of every police department from San Francisco to Crescent City straight to Dalton's door. But John Dalton, Mr. Big of the Northcoast marijuana industry according to local, state and federal police agencies, never got caught with so much as a roach.

Part One of the KGB-ing of America told of a bizarre 1985 incident when camouflaged COMMET cops fired over 200 rifle rounds into the yard surrounding the Dalton family's Branscomb cabin to get Dalton to come outside. When he did, Dalton was gang tackled, beaten unconscious and hauled off to the Mendocino County Jail where he was soon released, uncharged. Dalton has said that two of Mendoland's finest promised to "get even" with him. Dalton, shaken by the beating and the subsequent threats to get him, declined to press charges, his first big mistake. His attorney and private investigator had Dalton's version of events well documented.

Part Two of the KGB-ing of America told of the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency's involvement, beginning in 1992, in the effort to arrest and prosecute the elusive Mr. D who had proved himself beyond the not-so-subtle sleuths of Mendoland. But even with all the power and resources of the combined federal, state and county law enforcement arrayed against him, the cops still couldn't associate citizen Dalton with a pot patch or catch him in possession of marijuana. Raids of three pot patches the Get Dalton Task Force says Farmer Dalton was tending -- huge gardens containing thousands of plants -- the combined forces of law and order could not find a single piece of physical evidence linking Dalton to the devil weed. No fingerprints, no matching paint samples or fencing, no plumbing supplies or tools. Nada. Nothing. No Dalton link to marijuana.

Rather than doing the hard police work necessary to legally catch a pot grower -- like staking out the garden site for a few weeks until the grower arrives to water his plants -- the feds, with the help and cooperation of Mendocino County authorities, resorted to extra-legal means of the police state type to finally "get even" with their favorite 20-year, long haul target.

First they decided to seize and force the forfeiture of all of Dalton's property. To put a patina of legality on the forfeiture action, the feds needed "proof" that Dalton's worldly goods were obtained with the fruits of his labor in the illegal pot fields of upper Branscomb. They needed an informant willing to testify John Dalton was growing pot.

The feds got their big Get Dalton break in 1991 when they found an established crook -- priors for perjury and fraud -- who had burglarized Dalton's home and was secretly tape recording Dalton as a means to blackmail him to prevent Dalton from reporting the burglary to the police. The feds used the testimony of the thief and selected portions of the blackmail recordings as part of their "proof" before a Federal Magistrate that Dalton was engaged in criminal activity. In return for her help, the burglar was not charged with her thefts, nor was she charged with the attempt to blackmail Dalton which just happened to be witnessed by Mendocino County deputies.

In the affidavits thus fraudulently obtained for the government seizure of John Dalton's worldly goods, DEA agent Mark Nelson carefully worded his explanation of how the convenient information of Dalton's alleged wrongdoing happened to drop into his Special Agent lap. Agent Nelson's supple prose was clever enough to lend Federal Magistrate Woodruff plausible cover that the pretext for destroying John Dalton's life was in order when, to even an average reader it was obvious that the Get Dalton information had been obtained illegally and was no basis for a warrant in any of the Western Democracies but this one.

But the blackmail recordings alone were not enough. Luckily, the Mendo cops already had in place a malleable cop wannabe, Victoria "Tori" Horstman, who soon would be uniquely positioned to provide them with information on Dalton's activities. In 1993 Horstman became John Dalton's wife.

Horstman, a mentally unstable alcoholic, was the girl friend of Marcus Young, a member of Mendocino County's Narcotics Task Force when she met Dalton. Horstman alternately claims she was a "cop" when she and Dalton met, and in the next breath denies it. Horstman has never been a police officer, but she loves to hang with cops. Horstman's and Dalton's meeting does not appear to have been by chance, as Horstman herself has confirmed.

By her own account Horstman was officially informing on her husband to the DEA within four months of her marriage to John Dalton. DEA agent Mark Nelson took advantage of Horstman's secret agent fantasies by setting up elaborate clandestine meetings and rendezvous, secret codes, Dick Tracy ruses designed to "shake a tail," and a new identity as agent SR3-94-0054.

Well, one supposes this secret agent stuff is more exciting to the average Redwood Valley housewife than afternoon koffee klatches and TV re-runs of As The World Turns.

Special Agent Nelson even arranged for SR3 to take a gun class, "in case he catches you taping him and you have to shoot him." Horstman now denies she took the class at Agent Nelson's insistence, perhaps feeling foolish that it was only a hunter's safety class and not training in the use of small arms fire in the breakfast nook. When the reality of her spectacular betrayal of her marriage vows began to penetrate Horstman's secret agent fantasies, Agent Nelson would threaten her with nonexistent money laundering charges. (She'd deposited modest amounts of cash from her husband's auto shop with the Mendo-Lake Credit Union where she worked briefly.) Then for good measure, to keep his informant informing, Agent Nelson persuaded Horstman to place a recording device behind her and Dalton's bed.

Of course agent Nelson does not tell Judge Woodruff that he's sleeping with his informant -- the wife of the target of his investigation, not that Woodruff seems especially fastidious with property seizure warrants. Nor does Nelson inform Magistrate Woodruff that he has illegally tapped Dalton's phones and placed recording devices under Dalton's bed. No order for a federal wiretap on Dalton has ever been applied for, much less signed, so Nelson can hardly tell the Magistrate he went ahead and did it anyway.

But in his affidavits for the two warrants Nelson does include plenty of the conversations Dalton had with his wife, conversations which are supposed to be protected by marital privilege and are by law not permitted as a basis for issuing a warrant or as evidence in a courtroom. Got it? Your wife or husband can't carry your bedroom chatter into court. Nelson was careful to intersperse the Daltons' in-home conversations throughout the body of his two affidavits to hide their origins and bolster the probable cause for the issuance of the warrants without forcing Magistrate Woodruff to the obvious conclusion that they'd been illegally obtained.

At 7am on October 6, 1994, Special Agent Nelson, leading a platoon of cops with guns drawn, burst into Dalton and Horstman's Redwood Valley home, throwing everyone, adults and children alike, to the floor. Victoria Horstman-Dalton was allowed to leave within a half hour and a Sheriff's deputy took the children to school, telling them, "Hope you guys said goodbye to your dad, because you ain't going to see him for a long, long time."

But John Dalton was not arrested. As Agent Nelson put it to Dalton, "You're not under arrest John, your things are." (Then why didn't the cops gang tackle Dalton's TV and call it a motherfucker?)

The deputies and federal agents spent seven and a half hours that day searching Dalton's house, machine shop and yard, confiscating his 1992 Ford one-ton truck, 1993 Mustang, a car trailer, and a front-engine dragster race car. Agent Nelson had officially initiated forfeiture proceedings against Dalton, which had been his stated intention ever since August of 1992.

Mark Nelson's joy in tormenting John Dalton seemed boundless. Besides seducing his wife, Nelson rented the house adjacent to Dalton's backyard and from there kept an eye on Dalton's activities. For two weeks Nelson passed his work hours peering at Dalton as Dalton fixed up a '56 Chevy for transportation to replace the vehicles the police had confiscated. As soon as Dalton got the old Chevy running and had loaded up the kids for a test spin, Agents Nelson and Haigh, appeared on the road beside them in a Mendocino County Sheriff's car driven by Deputy Rusty Noe. The Daltons were pulled over. Special Agent Nelson couldn't contain his glee as he snickered at Dalton, "Gee John, we have a seizure warrant for this car too," as he roared off in the Chevy, leaving Dad and the kids to walk home.

Special Agent Nelson and his local cohorts would come back two more times to confiscate valuable items of what was left of Dalton's property, each time making a big show of it to cause Dalton the most embarrassment in front of his children and neighbors. The agents also took it upon themselves to contact Dalton's machine shop customers to scare them away from doing business with Dalton. "Nelson's objective here was to get me down as low as he could," says Dalton, "so I'd have nothing left -- nothing left to sell -- so I couldn't afford a good attorney and couldn't fight him."

This is standard operating procedure for federal narcs these days: First initiate forfeiture action and take every single possession which could be sold to finance an attorney, then once the victim is destitute, hit him with criminal charges so he's forced to take an overworked and under paid public defender who can be counted on to push his client into a plea bargain.

Meanwhile, Victoria Horstman-Dalton had left her husband. Special Agent Nelson, who of course had been sleeping with her, suggested it was time for her to leave her husband. Just before the October 6 raid, Horstman and Nelson -- a two-person divorce court -- met and made the separation arrangements. Nelson gave her $3,000 in $100 bills and had Horstman sign a receipt saying the payment was for 3000 sensimilla marijuana plants. Nelson questioned her closely about the family's morning schedule, gathering the information he needed to conduct the October 6 raid and telling Horstman to "just act surprised." In her naivete, Horstman assumed the raid would take place after the kids were in school.

The fact that Agent Nelson felt free to use Horstman's children as pawns in the game he and Horstman were playing -- holding them at gun point and handcuffing them during the raid -- was a wake-up call for Tori Horstman-Dalton: "He could have waited a half an hour and the kids would have been in school." Horstman began having doubts about continuing her special agent charade, but Nelson insisted her life was in danger and that she had to complete their plan and leave John Dalton.

His wife's increasingly bizarre and drunken behavior during the summer of '94 had resulted in Dalton and Horstman talking divorce. John Dalton was still unaware of the puppet master behind the scenes who was orchestrating the breakup of his family but his wife seemed to be coming apart. After the October 6 raid, Horstman, at Agent Nelson's insistence, moved out of the Redwood Valley house taking her two children with her.

The $3,000 Nelson had given Horstman was intended for her move, but to ensure his dupe followed his plan Nelson showed up at the Redwood Valley house with a U-Haul van and five agents when Dalton was away. The DEA packed and loaded the U-Haul for Mrs. Dalton then sent Tori Horstman and her children up highway 101 with instructions to travel to Blaine, Washington, where Nelson had rented a "crappy little house" for her.

Once Mrs. Dalton and her kids were in Washington, Agent Nelson cut his informant loose to fend for herself. That is until John Dalton figured out, through phone records, where his wife had gone -- and why.

By February of 1995, Dalton knew of some of his wife's treachery but was willing to forgive her. "I loved her, you know," laments Dalton from his Dublin prison cell, "and she loved me."

O John.

Mrs. Dalton also loved Agent Mark Nelson.

Dalton flew to Washington twice that winter to try to put his marriage back together, and both times Horstman-Dalton alerted Nelson, who quickly bugged Dalton's motel rooms and outfitted the ever-willing Horstman with a recording device. Even while she was reconciling with her husband, Horstman was taping him for her DEA lover boy.

While Horstman pursued her betrayal of her husband for Agent Nelson, Nelson was doing very little for her. Nelson had given his Redwood Valley secret agent another $1,200 in cash and the promise of a big pay-off -- 10% was Horstman's understanding -- after he concluded a successful forfeiture action against Dalton. The property and real estate Nelson had confiscated added up to just under $1 million in total value.

Ms. Horstman still has an acquisitive eye on 10% of her former husband's assets.

In a June 13, 1995 internal DEA document, Agent Nelson writes: "It is possible that SR3-94-0054 (Victoria Horstman) will be reestablished in the future for the purpose of making a reward payment based upon SR3-94-0054's assistance in allowing for the seizure of substantial assets in this investigation." The document was counter signed by Nelson's supervisor, Nicholas Console, on June 18, 1995.

But by March of 1995 Victoria Horstman was destitute. She'd pawned everything of value she had -- including her wedding ring -- to pay the rent and feed her kids. When Nelson refused to send money to pay for a badly needed brake job on her car, Horstman called it quits and made a half-hearted suicide attempt, then, with Dalton's and her family's help, moved to Modesto, California.

John Dalton made many trips to Modesto trying to persuade his wife to come back to him, promising that all would be forgiven, but Agent Nelson exerted a stronger influence on his secret agent, convincing Horstman to go ahead with her divorce from the only man who has ever seemed to value her for herself. Special Agent Nelson, just as he had done when he moved Tori to Washington, made sure the divorce would go through by picking up Horstman and driving her to her Santa Rosa attorney to sign the final divorce papers.

On September 27, 1996, John Dalton was arrested at his Redwood Valley machine shop. He had been indicted by a secret Federal grand jury on three charges: Conducting a continuing criminal enterprise, marijuana cultivation and witness tampering. John Dalton was not present at his indictment. He still hasn't faced his accusers. He has been denied bail -- Nelson testified Dalton was a danger to society -- and he has been in the federal prison at Dublin ever since.

To understand the charges against John Dalton, and the refusal of the court to set bail, it is necessary to introduce some of the other government witnesses against him -- all paid informants for the DEA.

Daniel Bang: Bang is John Dalton's brother-in-law, married to Dalton's sister Karen and a career criminal. Daniel and Karen Bang were living on Dalton's Branscomb property in 1987 when Daniel was charged with cultivating 2,801 marijuana plants and possession of pot and hash for sale. In 1991 Mr. Bang was charged with petty theft and then in 1994 he was again caught cultivating pot and possessing pot, hash and methamphetimine. In 1995 he was arrested again on the same charges and then again, in 1996, Bang was found to be operating a drug lab producing methamphetimine near Lakeport, California. At that time Bang was well-armed with rifles and machine guns and had a large quantity of ephedrine, one of the drugs meth is made from.

In return for testifying to the Federal Grand Jury, and agreeing to testify at trial that John Dalton was responsible for the pot garden Bang himself was responsible for, and for agreeing to testify that Dalton had attempted, through Michael Scott, to bribe COMMET commando deputy Noe (see Michael Scott below), and, having plead guilty to one count of cultivating marijuana and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, Daniel Bang was guaranteed a prison term of only ten years instead of the life term his crimes would ordinarily bring him.

The government has traded a crank cook for a suspected pot grower.

William Miranda: Miranda is another one of Dalton's alleged partners in the Branscomb pot gardens, and Tamara Milner's boyfriend. Milner is Dalton's ex-wife who, along with Sue Bowers and Bowers' daughter Crystal, burglarized Dalton's house. (See Part Two of this three-part series.) Miranda was given an immunity agreement from the feds in exchange for his testimony that "John Dalton is a dangerous man," and that Dalton was the principal partner and payee at the Branscomb pot plantation.

Miranda told the Federal Grand Jury that Dalton had provided him and Bang with guns, including an Uzi, and that Dalton had tried to hire him for $30,000 to kill deputies Noe and Caudillo and DEA agent Nelson. Miranda also said he knew of the plot to bribe a member of COMMET, but said he thought it was deputy Franzen. Miranda was paid $3,000 for his testimony, but Special Agent Nelson says the money was for Miranda to "relocate." (Victoria Horstman says Nelson gave Miranda closer to $30,000, and is very upset that Nelson didn't think her work for him was worth an equal amount. "How come Daniel Bang and everyone else gets $20,000 to $30,000," lamented Horstman. "And Karen Bang? And Miranda, I know he got paid too -- big money, not just $3,000. I feel ripped off." But Horstman still holds out hope of a big pay-off to come so she "can buy a little cabin in the woods.")

Miranda's brother Gary has said that the government coerced William Miranda into giving false testimony against John Dalton. Since testifying to the Grand Jury William Miranda has disappeared. Neither the feds nor the defense team has been able to locate him.

Josh Cavender: Another Branscomb area pot grower, who, for "consideration" on a burglary charge was willing to say Dalton is a grower. Cavender, Miranda and Bang all sang out plenty of names to the Grand Jury about Branscomb area residents allegedly involved in the marijuana trade. (If you have been even remotely acquainted with any of these three be forewarned, you're probably on the DEA's hit list.)

Michael Scott: A driver for UPS and a former close personal friend of Deputy Robert Franzen, Scott was arrested and charged with attempting to bribe a police officer (Franzen) in the late summer of 1994. The charge against Scott was dropped for lack of evidence a month before Agent Nelson's affidavit for a search and seizure warrant that resulted in the October 6, 1994 raid on John Dalton's house. Yet Nelson, in his affidavit, claims that the Scott case is ongoing and that Dalton paid Scott to attempt the bribery. This is the genesis of the "witness tampering" charge the Grand Jury also brought against Dalton.

But Michael Scott denies that any bribery attempt took place. He told the Grand Jury that his and Franzen's family were friends who often went camping together. Sometime after a July of 1994 camping trip deputy Franzen came over to the Scott house to look at photos of the trip. Franzen began talking about John Dalton, who Scott knew from delivering packages to him at his machine shop. Franzen wanted Scott to help him "set up" Dalton, but Scott said he would have no part in it.

A few days later deputy Franzen showed up at UPS in Ukiah asking for Scott's help in a "set up." Scott again refused. Three more times the deputy appeared at Scott's work site, causing Scott untold trouble with his employer. On one of these hectoring visits, deputy Franzen left a note asking Scott to meet him near the deputy's Ukiah storage locker. Scott ignored it.

Franzen then tried another tactic, calling Scott at home and telling him that deputy Noe wanted to buy some real estate but was short on cash. Franzen asked Scott to ask John Dalton if he would pay deputy Noe for protection of his pot garden so Noe could buy the land he wanted. Michael Scott came unglued at Franzen's brazen proposal, and was in the process of telling the deputy exactly what he thought of him when Franzen interrupted and asked if Scott's wife was home. Scott said "no" and the deputy abruptly hung-up.

Some days later a Detective Richard Wagner showed up at the Scott home early in the morning and arrested Michael Scott for bribery. Scott immediately posted bail and was released. Just as quickly the charge against him was dropped.

After relaying all of this bush league illegality by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department and their DEA pals to the Federal Grand Jury on January 27, 1996, Michael Scott was again arrested. This time he was charged with ten felony counts related to the alleged pot cultivation enterprise of John Dalton. Added to the list of alleged crimes was a charge of perjury before a Federal Grand Jury. Thus the government gained the leverage to get Michael Scott to say what they needed him to say, both to put John Dalton away and to protect Agent Mark Nelson from charges of lying to a Federal Magistrate.

Michael Scott caved in under the pressure. He wasn't willing to roll the dice on a trial, not with the prospect of spending the rest of his life in a federal prison. Scott, in the most one-sided plea agreement this reporter has ever seen, agreed to plead guilty to perjury and testify "completely, accurately and truthfully" against John Dalton. For their part the government didn't promise anything, but they added another family to the body count of the war on drugs.

John Dalton's attorneys, Tony Serra and Shari Greenberger, have filed motions to dismiss the conjured case against Dalton based on, among other things, the outrageous conduct of Agent Mark Nelson. The "fruit of the poison tree" principle applies here, in that the lies and misrepresentations of Agent Nelson's affidavit for a search warrant makes the warrant invalid, and therefore everything that came after based on the bogus warrant is also invalid, which amounts to the government's entire case against John Dalton.

Remember Special Agent Nelson's threat to bring money laundering charges against Mrs. Dalton if she didn't spy on her husband? Nelson's affadavit to suuport seizure of Dalton's prperty (and his life) included a long list of bank deposits made by Horstman to Dalton's Machine Shop accounts. But a CPA named Bob Hildebrand checked these deposits against Dalton's business invoices and tax records and found they all matched. There was no "money laundering" -- the bank deposits were legitimate.

John Dalton has filed a $44,850,000 lawsuit against the Feds, the DEA, Mendocino County Sheriff's Department, COMMET, and the individual officers involved in the long, tax-funded campaign to get him. Dalton's suit was thrown out by United States District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong in September of 1997. Dalton appealed and has had the suit reinstated by the 9th Circuit Court. If Dalton can get the criminal charges thrown out he's in for a very big pay day, which is why the Feds are playing every sinister trick they can think of to convict him.

John Dalton needs the help of people who believe the government should not be above the law. Financial contributions to help John Dalton with his legal defense can be sent to: John Dalton Defense Fund c/o Law Offices of J.Tony Serra; Pier 5 North; San Francisco, CA 94111.

But more than anything John Dalton needs supporters in court. He has a suppression hearing coming up sometime this month. I'll let AVA readers know as soon as the date of the hearing is set. His family is shattered and broke, and they seldom can afford the trip to Dublin to visit him. You can write to John Dalton at #91792-011, 5675 8th Street, Camp Parks, Dublin, California 94568. ¥¥


March 1999

JOHN DALTON, the Redwood Valley machinist whose travails with the berserk DEA were recently chronicled in these pages by Mark Heimann in his three-part series, "The KGBing of America," is slated to appear in court for a suppression hearing next Tuesday, March 16, 2pm, 17th floor, Federal Building in San Francisco. (Call the court to confirm date and time.) Dalton, who's been held without bail in the federal pen at Dublin for the last two and a half years, is being represented by prominent San Francisco attorney Tony Serra. Bay Area readers who are concerned about the increasing erosion of our civil rights due to the phony "drug war" should attend this hearing and Dalton's subsequent trial -- scheduled to begin May 14. Be sure to call the court clerk in advance to verify , as these court dates are subject to change at the last minute. -- Sara Jacobelli

Prosecution admits its witnesses lied

John Dalton's Day in Court

by Mark Heimann

In a San Francisco federal courtroom last Wednesday and Thursday, Redwood Valley's John Dalton finally got a hearing to dismiss all charges against him because of the government's outrageous conduct in its pursuit of the man they seem to believe is the Northcoast's Mr. Big of the thriving marijuana business. Federal prosecutors and law enforcement easily met their reputation for outrageous conduct by behaving with true-to-form disregard for the rules during the two-day hearing. The attentive and even handed officiating of US District Court Judge Susan Illston, and the staid US Marshals who serve as her bailiffs, stood between a cadre of tax-paid cops and lawyers who seem indifferent to the standards of police behavior which are supposed to prevail in democratic states.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has charged Dalton with a continuing conspiracy to manufacture marijuana and has kept him in the federal prison at Dublin without bail for two years and eight months. But the DEA itself was on trial last week in the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco. The government is desperately worried about this case, and the desperation shows. The DEA and federal prosecutors reached way down into their bag of dirty tricks for even more outrageous conduct including harassment and intimidation of defense witnesses and courtroom spectators. (They assigned a DEA agent to follow this reporter outside the federal building. They're not nearly as slick as they think.)

Additionally, there was a deliberate attempt to misrepresent to the court the contents of the DEA's own policy and procedures manual; an attempt to arrest a defense witness on a specially-contrived bench warrant out of Mendocino County; "lost" potentially exculpatory evidence (a recording of Victoria Horstman by DEA agent Mark Nelson can't be found); and, most significant of all, the DEA and its two-man federal legal team didn't even try to defend the DEA's extra-legal behavior during the investigation which resulted in John Dalton's arrest and incarceration. Instead they relied on the completely irrelevant strategy of portraying Dalton as a monster whose alleged abuse drove his wife into the arms of the DEA.

If the government is successful in convicting John Dalton at trial, scheduled to start August 16, he faces a 30-year-to-life sentence. Dalton is 44 years old. But there isn't a single piece of physical evidence linking him to marijuana cultivation. It's a conspiracy case. The evidence amassed by the DEA against Dalton consists of the dubious testimony of snitches, all of them either rewarded in cash for their input or promised reduced jail sentences for their testimony against the unassuming, long-time resident of Mendocino County. And there are tape recordings obtained via the former Mrs. Dalton in ways routine in police states but not in America.

The official title of last week's hearing was "A Motion to Dismiss for Outrageous Government Conduct."

As reported last week, the federal prosecutors got off to a bad start when they were required to reveal that their primary witness and lead investigator in the case against John Dalton had committed perjury. DEA Special Agent Mark Nelson, in an effort to conceal the date on which he first slept with Dalton's wife, Victoria Horstman, falsified a fingerprint card of Horstman's. Later, during a DEA internal affairs investigation of Nelson and Horstman's affair, Nelson signed an affidavit under penalty of perjury swearing to the bogus date he'd placed on Horstman's print card.

Agent Nelson was the first witness called by the defense when the hearing resumed Wednesday. He was accompanied to the witness stand by his non-government lawyer, George Niespolo. Mark Nelson is a tall, thin, balding 36-year-old guy whose appearance is completely at odds with his role in this case as the irresistible seducer of married women. He looks more like a shoe salesman than an elite drug warrior. He has an extremely high forehead that leaves little room for the rest of his nondescript features which occupy the bottom third of his head. While Nelson's appearance has nothing to do with the trial, most of the courtroom first thought lawyer Niespolo, a stout, ruggedly handsome man, was the drug cop and Nelson was the attorney. Nelson's agent-partner, Robert Price, who sat at the prosecution table throughout the hearing when he wasn't menacing witnesses out in the hall with a lot of ersatz tough guy eyeballing, looked every bit the drug warrior he is. Tall, angular and crewcut clean, Price was so stiff and straight his spine seems to have been surgically replaced with a broom stick.

Defense attorney Tony Serra told the court that at the time in question in 1994 agent Nelson was 32 years old and had been with the DEA for nine years representing his entire law enforcement experience. Serra brought out that it was only the third or fourth time Nelson had supervised and been lead investigator on a case; that he was married with two children and at the time of meeting Mrs. Dalton (Victoria Horstman); and that his wife was pregnant with their third child at the time of his encounters with Mrs. Dalton.

Nelson testified that he became involved with the John Dalton investigation in 1992, and that in February of 1994 he and another agent, believed to be Rob Price, rented a three-bedroom house in Redwood Valley on M Road from a Ukiah real estate broker. The rented premises were to be used as a "safe house" for DEA agents. INS agents also stayed at the safe house from time to time, according to Nelson.

Agent Nelson said he only brought Horstman to the safe house, also known as the COMMET house, on one occasion in September of 1994. He admitted the visit of a civilian was "absolutely" against DEA rules, that he initiated the contact with Horstman and picked her up and brought her to the house when he knew no one else would be there, and that he did not include any of this information in his reports. "It was highly inappropriate for a DEA agent," was Nelson's contrite but incomplete account of Mrs. Dalton's and his first tryst in the tax-funded love nest.

"How many times did you have personal contact with Victoria Horstman prior to September 13, 1994," demanded Serra, "when it was just the two of you alone?"

Nelson: "I think four."

Serra: "Did you advise your supervisor in advance that you planned a private meeting with an informant?'

Nelson: "Probably not."

Serra: "Aren't you required to seek approval in advance from your supervisors to meet privately with an informant?"

Nelson: "Yes."

Serra: "And these were not exigent circumstances? There was no emergency that you had to meet privately with Horstman?"

(Nelson doesn't answer.)

Serra: "You concede you broke the rules?"

Nelson: "Yes."

Serra: "Why the one-on-one meetings?"

Nelson: "I don't know how to answer."

"Why?" demanded Serra, which brought an objection from the prosecutors.

The answer to that question came the next day near the end of the hearing when Dalton's prosecutors attempted to introduce a page from the DEA's manual. The single page from the DEA's top secret sleuth manual the prosecution wished to put in evidence concerned a number of rules about agents meeting with informants but the entire page had been blacked out except for one line, which suggested agents "whenever practical" were not to meet alone with informants.

Tony Serra argued strenuously against allowing the censored document's admission as evidence, arguing that he believed the "redacted" (lawyer talk for omitted or blacked out) portions of the document contained the relevant rules that agents were to never meet alone with an informant without first getting permission from their supervisors, and even then one-on-one meetings could only take place under emergency circumstances. The government argued the DEA's rules were secret, and if they were produced in open court, the public, and presumably the "bad guys," would gain an advantage over the drug warriors.

Judge Illston quickly concluded that allowing only one line of an entire page of regulations into evidence was "self serving," and ordered the government to produce the entire chapter on agent/informant interactions.

Agent Price relayed through the US Attorney that permission would have to be granted at the highest levels of the DEA in Washington DC, and that the judge could not expect an answer for five to seven days. Judge Illston was steadfast, and ordered the DEA to produce the documents.

But by the close of the hearing, Tony Serra had secured the entire DEA manual through his own sources, and his characterization that the DEA's own rules state no agent is to meet privately with an informant without prior approval means what it says. Only in a dire emergency, as when an informant's life is in danger, does the agency permit a one-on-one meeting with an informant, and even then the agent is required to ask permission.

Serra found 15 times where Nelson had documented private meetings with Horstman, none of them under "exigent" circumstances.

Agent Nelson denied a sexual relationship with Horstman as his reason for breaking the DEA's rules and bringing the comely housewife to the so-called safe house.

Tony Serra, a master of cross examination, fired questions at the outgunned adulterer with his trademark machine-gun speed and intensity. There were four main areas Serra covered, three of which -- the events at the "safe house" with John Dalton's wife, the bugging of Dalton and Horstman's bedroom, and Nelson's involvement in Dalton and Horstman's subsequent divorce -- represented the basics of the government's undeniably outrageous conduct in the pursuit of Dalton. Serra got Nelson to admit to the incriminating facts of his lust-driven behavior while he was supposed to be on the job.

Nelson and the DEA went to great lengths to hide the fact that Victoria Horstman was cooperating with them against her husband. In internal DEA reports, Horstman is referred to as an SOI (source of information), or by the special agent number assigned to her, SR 0054. But by the time Nelson got a search and seizure warrant for Dalton, Horstman was balking at further cooperation and wanted to reconcile with her husband. In the search warrant, a public document once it is served, agent Nelson refers to Horstman by name, exposing her to potential retribution. In tens of thousands of court cases, the feds have fought tooth and nail against giving up their informants' identities, and the courts have just as often said they didn't have to name names. This court-sanctioned secrecy has often resulted in convictions where the defendant was unable to confront his accuser. A Marshal commented that he was "disgusted and shocked" by agent Nelson's testimony that the DEA, apparently having concluded that the unhinged Horstman was more trouble than she was worth to them as they chased her husband, blithely revealed her identity.

Asked if he gave up Horstman's identity so he could better control her, Nelson said "no." He said his "boss, the Assistant US Attorney" told him to do it, but after some meaningful stares from the prosecution table that it was unwise of him to blame it on the government lawyer, Nelson backed off and took responsibility for naming Horstman.

(It was at this point I noticed that Nelson no longer wears a wedding ring, a ring Horstman made much of in her statements to investigators. It is also when I became aware of DEA agent Rob Price's repeated trips from the prosecution table to the hallway where defense witnesses were waiting to testify. Later these witnesses would tell me that Price would come out to demand they stop talking or to stop pacing the hall. Price would tell them they were disturbing the judge. But Judge Illston never once commented on any distraction, or even so much as cast a frowning glance at the courtroom doors, and I never heard any noise from outside the courtroom. Neither did the US Marshals who serve as the judge's bailiffs show any concern. The DEA's Price kept up his petty (and failed) attempts to intimidate witnesses testifying against the DEA throughout the two-day hearing.)

A summary of Nelson's testimony:

• He had never taken Horstman up in a helicopter, and that to his knowledge neither had anyone else.

• He paid Horstman a total of $4,800 for her cooperation, plus "tickets and things."

• He denied threatening Horstman with the loss of her children if she didn't inform on her husband. He both admitted and denied threatening her with prosecution for money laundering if she didn't become a snitch.

• He admitted talking to Horstman about a reward payment for her continuing cooperation, but denied the amount discussed was 10% of assets seized from Dalton. (The DEA seized just under $1 million of Dalton's accumulated property. Dalton is a skilled mechanic whose services are much in demand.)

• He admitted agreeing to talk to the US Attorney about getting a Mustang car seized from Dalton for Horstman.

• He denied he's in a position to recommend any reward payment. (In a written report, Nelson recommends a "substantial reward payment" to Horstman.)

• He admits kissing Horstman at the "safe house" in September of 1994, but won't admit that it was on September 14th 1994 he first stepped over the line with Mrs. Dalton and the date he subsequently falsified in his report. He says he kissed her first, then modifies that to say the kiss was "mutual." Asked why he kissed her, Nelson replied, "I felt some attachment. I felt sorry for her and I'd grown to like her. There was an emotional attachment, and I was curious." Tony Serra shot back, "Curious to know what it felt like to kiss another man's wife?" -- objection sustained.

• He admitted he hadn't had sex in three months because of his wife's pregnancy. "You were horny?" Serra bluntly inquired to an immediate sustained objection from the feds. Asked if the emotional attachment was sexual, Nelson replied, "A little bit of that."

• He said he and Horstman each had one beer, but that she only drank a little bit of hers, "maybe a quarter," and that he finished off "the other 3/4 of her beer" as well as his. He said he was somewhat under the influence of alcohol because he hadn't slept or eaten in the past 36 hours. He denied knowing Horstman was an alcoholic.

• He denied fondling Horstman or touching her in any inappropriate way.

• He denied ever kissing Horstman on any other occasion, "Except maybe just a peck, you know, just to say thanks."

• He admits flying Horstman from Washington State to San Francisco, then driving her from there to Santa Rosa to see a divorce lawyer. He denies coercing Horstman to divorce Dalton.

But when Serra's questions turned to fingerprinting Horstman, nominally Nelson's reason for bringing her alone to the "safe house" that star-crossed night of September 14, 1994, Nelson took the 5th. Nelson proceeded to invoke his right against self-incrimination a total of five times, and implied it another when he simply refused to answer Serra's question.

The prosecution consisted of two Assistant US Attorneys, Lewis Davis, who seemed like he might be a human being stuck with a nasty job, and Christine Massullo, a person who obviously enjoys her work Ms. Massullo is smart, quick-witted, and if she has any scruples against going for the kill, they weren't on display. When it came time for the fed's lawyers to get tough, it was Massullo all the way. At times, especially during the breaks, Davis tried to distance himself from his fierce colleague. He'd joke with the defense team while Massullo huddled with Robo Rob Price plotting the next dirty trick.

On cross examination, the feds elicited the fact that former Mendocino Sheriff Sgt. Ron Caudillo introduced the DEA's stumbling agent Nelson to Mrs. Dalton nee Horstman, and that Horstman told Nelson she had been physically abused by John Dalton. The prosecution also managed to posit Ms. Horstman as an innocent girl gone awry because of Dalton's beastly treatment of her.

Tony Serra instantly dismantled the government's presentation of Ms. Horstman as a chaste and loyal suburban housewife by reading the transcript of a brief but explicit phone message left by Horstman at the COMMET headquarters in Ukiah: "This is Victoria Horstman and Mark Nelson can go free. And Rob Clark (believed to be Rob Price's alias) -- I want to suck his dick."

Serra followed his literary introduction of the former Mrs. Dalton by calling her to the stand.

Horstman's testimony was rambling and confused, and obviously contrived and obstructionist when it wasn't rambling and confused. She couldn't recall when she married Dalton or when she divorced him, other than it was "sometime in the '90s." She said she's had a lot of different therapists, but she couldn't recall a single name. She doesn't remember when she first met Nelson, when she started informing on her husband, what drugs she had taken that mourning (Traxene and Zoloft). But, she remembers exactly why her memory is so bad, and never missed an opportunity to expound on it, even when it had nothing to do with the question asked. According to Horstman, she can't recall the 90s because "they were the Dalton years."

"It was because I was tortured at that time," Horstman testified, suggesting the trauma of her marriage had resulted in the memory loss of most of the decade. Asked anything connected with her life with John Dalton -- or not -- and Horstman would sob that she couldn't remember. "It's the trauma." But when she was asked about agent Nelson's avuncular kiss at the "safe house," Horstman's recollection was vivid and detailed. (Before court got started that day, prosecution attorney Lewis Davis assessed his own witness, Ms. Horstman, for the Judge. "Victoria Horstman is a liar." Which leaves the prosecution with two liars as their primary witnesses, DEA Special Agent Mark Nelson and the woman he took to the Redwood Valley safe house for an on-the-job boff on the pretext she was an informant.)

Horstman said it was she who initiated the visit to the "safe house"; she who initiated the kiss; she who initiated an ensuing tongue-lunge; and that she put Nelson's leg ("It was a pressure point") between hers on her crotch. "I initiated that," Horstman said of the footsies. "We were partially lying side by side on the couch." Horstman used the word "initiated" so often in regards to her tryst with Nelson it left the distinct impression she was either well-coached or Nelson was so overcome by the encounter he'd been immobilized.

All the sexual prelims, other than the conceded kiss, contradicts Nelson's testimony. At one point, not in response to a question but apparently to explain the remarkable detail of her memory of the "kiss," Horstman blurted out, "I'm very observant." "I needed to be near Mark because he was my security," explained Horstman. (In a January interview she said she was still in love with Nelson.) But to the DEA internal affairs investigators, Horstman denied ever kissing Nelson until Nelson himself admitted the kiss. Asked to explain her contradictory versions of events, Horstman said, "They (internal affairs) forgot to put it in their laptop."

Asked if she drank all of the beer Nelson gave her at the "safe house," Horstman replied, "Yes. That's what alcoholics do," again contradicting Nelson's testimony that his love interest has left the beer after a lady-like sip.

Horstman had written two letters to the DEA that prompted the internal affairs investigation In her communiqués, Horstman says Mark Nelson grabbed her, pulled her down on the couch and kissed her, forcing his leg into her crotch, and that Nelson had told her, "Don't say anything; it's our little secret." Horstman says she doesn't remember writing that, then explained it was John Dalton who forced her to write the letter and she'd composed it "so he wouldn't beat me." She says Dalton stood over her at their home computer and dictated the letters to the DEA,

"They're Dalton's words, not mine," his former wife told the court.

But when Serra presented her with her declaration, written by his investigator, H. B. O'Keady, and signed by Horstman, which relates eventually the same information as her letters to the DEA, Horstman stated, "I didn't read it. I just assumed he wrote it the way I said it. I thought he taped it," she said of O'Keady's affidavit she'd affixed her signature to. Horstman admitted it was her signature, but insisted she never read it before signing. "It's all one sided," she added irrelevantly.

Throughout her time on the stand, when confronted with words she had written or declarations she'd signed, Horstman insisted either her husband had forced her to write them, or that the investigators had deliberately misconstrued what she had said or that she did not read her statements before signing.

Horstman also claimed when she was cross examined by Serra, that three masked gunmen, one whose voice she recognized as that of her husband, had broken into her bedroom and threatened to dismember her and her family. Horstman broke down at that point, sobbing uncontrollably, and forced a recess.

Back on the stand, Horstman said one of the masked men put a gun in "a sexual area" while threatening her. (Her story was remarkably similar to one she told me in an interview. In that version, it was Dalton's brother, "Jack," who, wearing a mask and brandishing a gun, kidnapped her and took her up into the hills above Redwood Valley and raped her. Horstman said he threatened to "chop off her arms and legs" and stuck a gun between her thighs. No police report was filed on the spectacular interlude with her brother-in-law.)

Horstman made a threatening phone call about this same time (October of 1996) to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office which was taped and reported on by the Sheriff's Department. The report quotes Horstman as saying "Don't fuck with Zack. I'll cut off your arms and legs and I don't give a fuck." Horstman admitted making this call, and said she used the same phrase -- cutting off arms and legs -- because "I learned it from John Dalton." As to the other phone call expressing her desire to free agent Nelson and fellate agent Rob "Clark," Horstman said she probably didn't make the call because "I don't talk like that."

Horstman also related a July 1994 incident in which she claimed Dalton had hit her in the stomach with a baseball bat. (More on this in Deputy Dennis Miller's testimony.) Asked by Serra why the cops didn't arrest Dalton, Horstman said it was because "they were afraid of him."

Last Thursday, day two of the hearing, the prosecution called their first witness, Marjorie Cusick. Cusick is the director of a Contra Costa battered women's shelter, who, on the basis of a two hour interview with Horstman, wrote a report diagnosing her as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. But, as Tony Serra pointed out as he tried unsuccessfully to keep Cusick from parlaying her scant training into expert witness status, Ms. Cusick is not a psychiatrist; she's a self-described psycho-therapist with a master's in clinical psychology and family counseling. Although she has two masters degrees, she was never required to write a thesis, has written no papers for peer review, nor has she participated in clinical or academic studies of the type separating the quacks from the professionals. Cusick admitted she was not an expert on PTSS, and that the few times she has been called as an expert witness by the government she has always had her qualifications challenged by the other side.

Serra strongly objected to Cusick testifying as an expert witness, pointing out she is not an expert, by her own admission, in PTSS, which was Cusick's diagnosis of Ms. Horstman relayed in her written report of her assessment. However, Cusick does appear to have expertise in Battered Woman's Syndrome. "She is going to have to change her diagnosis on the stand," objected Serra, "to keep in her area of expertise." And that is exactly what Cusick did.

Both in her written report and on the witness stand, Cusick simply repeated the claims of her alleged patient, Cusick's credulity far south of professional skepticism. Cusick said it was her opinion that Horstman suffers from battered woman's syndrome and John Dalton is the cause of his ex-wife's malady. Though Cusick conceded one of Horstman's primary coping mechanisms is lying, Cusick declared, "I believe what she told me."

Cusick admitted she never talked to Horstman about her three previous marriages, never talked to her children, and never checked out Horstman's claims of sexual abuse by her father and brother with other relatives who would have had knowledge of the alleged abuse. "It wasn't necessary," Cusick stated flatly. "Talking to other people wasn't significant for my purpose," which had to be the understatement of the hearing and which appeared to be based on the simple premise, "Woman good, man bad."

Nothing could shake Ms. Cusick. Not Horstman's reams of inconsistent and contradictory statements, not physical evidence and certainly not the male police reports suggesting the sorely put upon Dalton was in fact the victim of Horstman's alcohol-fueled abuse. Not even the statements of Horstman's son, who wrote that Dalton was never abusive to his mother, but that mom, a mean drunk, was often abusive to the whole family and "made things up" when she was under the influence who believed her own lies the next day.

Cusick's response to the young man's compellingly frank testimony was that Horstman's son was "coming out of an abusive home and already has battered kid syndrome."

The government got their money's worth from Ms. Cusick but Dr. Freud would probably have had his doubts about the quality of Ms. Cusick's insights.

Unquestionably, the strongest, most dramatic testimony of the entire hearing came form Josh Corrigan, Horstman's 20-year-old son from a previous marriage. Corrigan testified he was 12 or 13 when he first met John Dalton, and that they lived together with his mom and sister and Dalton's son and daughter from a previous marriage.

Josh Corrigan loves his mother, as was plainly obvious from their interactions out in the hall and which added more pathos to proceedings already soaked in it. Young Mr. Corrigan presently lives with his maternal grandparents in Modesto, where he has enrolled in a community college.

The obviously pained student testified that he was very close to his mother, and his relationship with Dalton was "really good. We would ride dirt bikes and work on motors" he said by way of an illustration of his and his step father's close relationship. He answered questions in a thoughtful and forthright manner, but was often nearly overwhelmed by emotion. He was obviously telling the truth.

Corrigan said he had never seen John Dalton physically abuse his mother, or strike her or threaten her in any way. Never once did his mother complain that John Dalton abused her, the young man said. He testified his mom "would get drunk quite a bit. It was pretty bad." His mother's drinking increased dramatically when she got involved with the DEA, which she told him about at the time. Corrigan said Horstman's drinking would leave her "confused. She would sleep a lot. When she drank, she would make up things. It would be a lie, but the next day when she woke up, she would believe it even though it was a lie. Sometimes she would get drunk and stay up all night calling people, swearing at them. That's why I had to leave."

Serra also asked Corrigan if he had ever seen Dalton hit or abuse his mother, in any way, or if Dalton had ever told him he had. "No. Never." Choking back tears, Corrigan described the years with Dalton as "The best of my life. We were a family. John is like my father, every bit as much as my blood father." Under cross examination, when asked by the ruthless prosecutor Ms. Massullo about his statement that "they were the best years of his life" Corrigan broke down, crying, "I miss the old days. Can't get it back. It's all messed up." Even she seemed moved by his testimony.

Corrigan told the judge that his mom showed him the tape recorder in her and Dalton's bedroom.

"The recorder was under the bed on mom's side. It had wires taped to the wall leading up behind the headboard. She said the DEA wanted her to get things on John Dalton."

He also said Horstman had told him there were "bugs in the living room," but she "didn't know where they were hidden" because the DEA had put them there.

Asked why his mother was taping his step father, Corrigan replied, "She told me she would get charged with money laundering if she didn't go along with it."

Tony Serra then asked, "Did your mom ever show you a firearms training certificate?"

"Yes. Definitely," was the young man's answer, again contradicting the testimony of Nelson and Horstman that she hadn't functioned as an impromptu DEA agent. "She said the DEA made her go through firearms training and she showed me the paper."

Corrigan also told about the time his mother came home and excitedly told him about going on a helicopter ride with agent Nelson.

"She said they were drinking beer and had flown over a pot crop, and that she had gotten drunk and then sick and they had to bring her down."

Serra asked about Horstman's state of mind when she told her son about her airborne beer bust.

"Nervous and still buzzing from the booze."

"When she would tell you these things," asked Serra, "did you believe she was telling the truth?"

"Well yes. There's no reason to lie to me," was Corrigan's simple answer.

Corrigan said his mother would often tell him she was in love with Mark Nelson and that they kissed. "She saw him quite a bit," Corrigan recalled.

Horstman's emotionally pounded son recounted the first time he met agent Mark Nelson at the home of Chohni Kellerman-Baird, when the DEA was packing them up for the move to Washington State. His detailed testimony about Nelson taking him to COMMET headquarters and putting his gun on the desk in front of the young man while grilling him about Dalton's activities directly contradicts Nelson's testimony that he hadn't pressured the then-high school student. Corrigan said Nelson put his hand on his leg and told him "(Your mother and I) have a lot of feelings for each other and we've gotten to know each other real well."

Asked how agent Nelson's uniquely personal confidences made him feel, Corrigan answered, "Weird. It made me uncomfortable." Then, starting to sob, Corrigan said, "I love John like a father," and crying openly, "He's a good dad to me."

Once the DEA had moved Corrigan, his mother and Kellerman-Baird to Blaine, Washington, Corrigan said his mother wanted to reconcile with Dalton. "But she said she had to divorce John or go to jail for money laundering, that's what she said Nelson told her."

But John Dalton traced his missing family through phone records and called up, wanting to come for a visit. Horstman immediately called agent Nelson, who flew to Washington and gave her another tape recorder, instructing her to invite Dalton up.

"I saw Mark Nelson the same day John came," related Corrigan. "He said he wanted me to go to his motel and talk to John. Nelson wanted me to ride my bike to John's motel and ask him why he was there."

Agent Nelson has denied seeing or talking to Corrigan during Nelson's Washington visit.

"Mom said she missed John," Corrigan testified, "and wanted to move back with him. But the DEA said she couldn't be around him." Horstman showed her son the tape recorder she had been given by Nelson, fitted into the bottom of her purse.

"Is this the truth?" Serra asked young Corrigan.


"Why did you do it? Why spy on John Dalton for Mark Nelson?"

"I didn't tell John about Mark Nelson because I was scared of them. They said not to tell."

"Have you ever been afraid of John Dalton?"

"No. Never. I wanted to see John on my own."

Corrigan testified he saw Dalton give his mother a new set of wedding rings at their Washington meeting. "She started crying. I think she wanted to move back." But that same day, November 25, 1994, Horstman secretly taped Dalton as the couple walked along railroad tracks near his motel room.

And the DEA-mugged family never did reunite.

Unbeknownst to Dalton, on November 4, 1994, agent Nelson had flown Horstman to San Francisco where he had picked her up and had driven her to a Santa Rosa divorce attorney to sign papers making the couple's divorce final. The DEA had decided to rip apart what God had said no mortal should tear asunder.

Chohni Kellerman-Baird is a junior high school teacher who volunteers at a home where terminally ill children go to die. She now divides her time between Washington State and British Columbia. She testified she first met Horstman and Dalton in Ukiah in 1990, and had attended their wedding. "Tori and I were quite close," Baird says, under the name she has used since moving north. "I was probably her only friend."

Baird testified she was Horstman's confidant, and that Horstman had told her all about her involvement with the DEA at the time it was going full force. "She said she had been approached by the DEA and that they threatened to implicate her in money laundering if she didn't help them. She said she had to "frame -- set up -- John, or go to jail."

Horstman told Baird the DEA had initiated the contact. "She was very scared and would whisper when she talked about them. She said she would go to jail, lose her children and her job -- Horstman worked at Mendo/Lake Credit Union at the time -- if she didn't cooperate with the DEA." Horstman told Baird that Mark Nelson was her contact. "She said I was to never repeat his name," Baird recalled.

Turning toward the judge, Baird described Horstman's relationship with Nelson, as told to her by Horstman.

"Tori had been there before (the kissing incident). She pointed it out to me. She called it the COMMET house, and said it was a place she could go and kick back with the guys and drink beer. She said she was falling in love with Mark Nelson and that they were having an affair. She was confused about it because she said she loved John too. She implied it was a sexual thing, and would flip flop back and forth."

"Did she ever tell you she had sex with Nelson?" asked Serra.


Baird said she first met Mark Nelson in the summer of 1994 at Mendocino Collage when Horstman took her along to meet the apparently loosely supervised federal agent.

"He wanted me to become an 'operative,'" Baird testified. "He told me that an incident many years ago with John Dalton had 'made him look ridiculous' and that he 'wanted to get him.' Nelson said 'that son of a bitch won't get away with it. One way or another I'll get him.' He told me if I didn't cooperate I would lose my children and he would put me in jail."

But Baird didn't cooperate with the DEA, though she lead them to believe she was, and was allowed to attend subsequent meetings with Nelson and Horstman. She testified Nelson encouraged them to take a hunter's safety class ("We went three times"), and that Nelson told Horstman "it was a good idea to get a gun." Horstman told Baird she "wanted to have a gun so she could kill John and make it look like self defense." Horstman's plan, Baird testified, was to "make John angry and then shoot him. She said "Then this whole mess will be over'."

Baird testified to seeing Horstman and Nelson hug and kiss on several occasions -- at the collage and at the credit union where Horstman then worked and where she'd also seen the pair exchange gifts. "They were long kisses," Baird elaborated.

Chonhi Baird's damning testimony included an account of an incident at her house where Horstman, drunk, fell repeatedly and then stood in front of her pressing her fingers into her own arm until they left marks. When Baird asked why she was doing that, Horstman replied, "It's so I can document abuse by John and send him to jail."

Asked by Serra if Dalton ever hit Horstman, or if Horstman ever told her he did, Baird emphatically replied, "Never."

Baird went on to say that "Four or five man wearing blue jackets that said FBI in yellow letters on the back" packed her and Horstman up for the move to Washington, and that Nelson took Josh Corrigan away in his car "for about 45 minutes."

Once established in Blaine on the Canadian border, Baird said Mark Nelson would call daily. "Nelson would hound her," as Baird remembered the agent's calls which she listened to over the speakerphone. "He'd tell her, 'You've got to start divorce proceedings. You can't testify against John until you divorce him.' He told me the same thing, and that if Tori didn't divorce John she would go to jail. But Tori said she didn't really want a divorce. Nelson gave her the money to fly back to California for the divorce."

When Dalton came up to Washington to see his wife, Nelson told Horstman, in front of Baird, that she had to get incriminating info on Dalton "even if you have to sleep with him."

Baird said she saw the tape recorder Nelson had given Horstman, and accurately described it. She also saw the rings Dalton gave his wife. "She was very proud of them. She didn't want to go through with it. She still loved John but she was playing both sides. She would tell me how much she liked sleeping with John."

Baird testified Horstman was a hard-core alcoholic who used to hide cases of wine from her husband. "She is a very mean drunk, very dramatic," said Baird. "When drinking she would say things she shouldn't, like that John abused her. I knew that wasn't true."

Asked how she knew Horstman hadn't been mistreated by Dalton, Baird described the time she picked Horstman up at the Ukiah Hospital.

"The cops were there and she had been drinking. She was on probation for drunk driving and wasn't supposed to drink. She had me tell the cops it was wine vinegar from her salad and they released her to my custody. Tori claimed John had beaten her with a baseball bat. I was really pissed about it, but when I took her to my house and undressed her and helped her take a shower, there wasn't a mark on her. Later, I went to John's house to talk to him about it and he had this big bloody lump on his head."

Prosecutor Massullo started the cross examination of Baird by asking if she was on probation. Baird looked puzzled and answered, "No."

"Do you have a bench warrant out for your arrest?" demanded Massullo.

"Certainly not," was Baird's indignant reply. Massullo then whipped out a bench warrant for Baird's arrest on an outstanding warrant from Mendocino County, saying the warrant discredited Baird's testimony.

Tony Serra bellowed an objection, demanding, "Let me see that," as he snatched the paper from Massullo's hand. "This is a traffic ticket, for Christ sakes," roared Serra. "Only prior felonies and misdemeanor crimes of moral turpitude can be used to impeach," he told a startled Judge Illston.

After a heated exchange between prosecutor Massullo and Serra, the judge told Massullo, "I don't see the relevance of this and I'm not going to allow it."

It turns out the warrant was for a traffic ticket for speeding -- five miles an hour over the limit -- and that Baird had paid the fine with a check, which Mendocino County had duly cashed. But the check was signed Chohni Baird and the ticket was issued to Connie Kellerman. On this basis, a Mendo judge had signed, at the DEA's insistence no doubt, a bench warrant for Ms. Baird's arrest. (We are trying to find out which Mendo judge signed onto this low scheme to undermine Ms. Baird's testimony.)

Outside the courtroom a uniformed San Francisco police officer was waiting to arrest Ms. Baird on the bogus warrant.. But the cop was conveniently lured to the other end of the hall by an unusually attractive woman and Baird slipped out of the courtroom and down the stairwell to freedom. The cop, Cupid's arrow still stuck in his back, went huffing and puffing in pursuit of the fleet Ms. Baird, but found the stairwell door mysteriously jammed. Downstairs in the parking lot scores of DEA and uniformed SF police, frantically yelling into their walkie talkies, also searched for Ms. Baird, a bogus traffic ticket authenticated by a Mendocino County judge, magically converted to a federal all points bulletin for a woman who had committed no crime. But Ms. Baird made her escape, and was last reported on a plane for Alaska -- or was it Scotland?

It was finally time for the government's last witness. Like Ms. Cusick, the feds got their money's worth. Sheriff's deputy Dennis Miller, formally of Mendocino County and now working as a deputy in Eldorado County, testified to a call he received from Victoria Horstman for an assault with a deadly weapon.

Miller testified he had been called to the house next door to Dalton's in Redwood Valley, where he found Horstman doubled up, crying that her husband John had hit her in the stomach with a baseball bat. Miller called an ambulance for Horstman and went next door to knock on Dalton's door. John Dalton answered holding a bloody wash cloth to his face. Miller testified Dalton had a large bump on his head, a cut over his left eye, and a bloody nose.

Dalton told Miller he had come home to find his wife drunk and blaming him for his son's arrest earlier that day. Dalton retreated to his bedroom to escape his rampaging mate, but she followed him into their DEA-bugged bower, and when he turned around she hit him on the head with the bat.

Miller testified Dalton refused to press charges because he said "she's on probation for DUI."

Miller further testified Dalton's injuries did not appear to be serious. Miller stuck by this assessment even after shown pictures of Dalton's wounds, which obviously warranted at a minimum a trip to the emergency room for examination. Miller testified that he "was highly suspicious of (Dalton's) validity. I thought he was lying."

Miller then went to the hospital where he examined Horstman for signs of injuries. Nether he nor the emergency room physician could find any marks on Horstman.

In spite of Dalton's head wound, and the complete absence of signs of injury to Horstman, Miller, at times testifying as confidently about Dalton's wound as if he were an MD, said it was his considered opinion that Horstman was the victim and Dalton had assaulted her.

But Miller made no arrests.

Judge Susan Illston had absorbed this startling testimony for two days and has since had the matter under submission. She will soon decide if the government's outrageous conduct rises to the level of legally qualified outrageous conduct. If she decides that it does, and if it doesn't one can only wonder what does constitute outrageous government conduct, she will dismiss all charges against John Dalton. If the judge decides the government conduct was not sufficiently outrageous in their pursuit of John Dalton, trial is set for August of this year.

July 1999

Judge Denies Dalton's Motion

No Outrageous Conduct

by Eric Brazil

Federal agents went too far in persuading the wife of a suspected marijuana grower to install a tape recorder in their marriage bed to gather evidence against him, a judge said in ruling that the government can't use the tapes as evidence.

Nevertheless, US District Judge Susan Illston found that the conduct of the Drug Enforcement Administration wasn't outrageous enough to compel dismissal of the charges against Mendocino County machinist John Dalton.

"Outrageous government conduct requires more than negligence or poor judgment," Illston said.

Dalton, 44, was indicted in October 1996, on 12 felony counts involving a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana for sale. He goes on trial Aug. 16.

In seeking dismissal of the charges against Dalton, his attorney, J. Tony Serra, argued DEA agent Mark Nelson, 37, is a perjurer who seduced Dalton's then-wife Victoria Horstman, 40, and manipulated her to obtain evidence against Dalton.

Nelson and the DEA went so far over the line that the entire case against Dalton, who has no criminal record, is irreparably tainted, Serra argued.

Nelson admitted inappropriate behavior in violating his agency's regulations by meeting with Horstman alone and falsifying documents relating to that meeting at a DEA safe house, where he and Horstman drank beer and kissed.

He also testified that the DEA paid her $4,800 in expenses when she moved to Washington. But both he and Horstman denied a sexual relationship.

The judge rejected defense contentions that Horstman, an admitted alcoholic, was coerced into cooperating with the DEA and that Nelson and Horstman had a sexual relationship.

Providing Horstman with a tape recorder and persuading her to install it in the bed she shared with Dalton was highly inappropriate conduct by the DEA that goes beyond poor judgment, Illston said.

Consequently, she ruled that the "bedroom tape" cannot be used as evidence at Dalton's trial.

Serra has made alleged outrageous conduct by the DEA and Nelson the centerpiece of his defense of Dalton, and Illston erected a formidable barrier to that defense in her ruling.

Unless Nelson and Horstman testify at Dalton's trial, she said, their relationship and its effect on the investigation is irrelevant, and evidence about it won't be admitted.

(Courtesy, San Francisco Examiner)

Ed note: There are additional motions pending in the Dalton case and Serra says there may be additional developments later this week.

September 1999, by Bruce Anderson

WILLIAM "JOHN" DALTON, 44, of Redwood Valley, has been found guilty by a federal jury in San Francisco of growing pot in Mendocino County. Dalton is looking at life in prison when he's sentenced in December. For running what the government says was a "continuing criminal enterprise" that allegedly took in millions off a pot patch in Branscomb, the snitch-built case seems to have cost at least that many tax dollars to construct. Teams of dope cops followed Dalton around for five years without nailing him for anything until they stole his wife from him. The depressing and dramatically un-American facts of the Dalton case were exhaustively explored in the AVA back in July. Those facts ought to give all democratically-oriented people pause. They include a married DEA agent named Nelson sleeping with, then persuading Mrs. Dalton to place a tape recorder in the Dalton bedroom to secretly record her husband's alleged activities in the drug biz; the same DEA agent, backed up by some apparently under-utilized FBI agents, packing Mrs. Dalton up and moving her to the state of Washington; The DEA agent arranging for Mrs. Dalton to see a divorce attorney to shed Mr. Dalton; the same DEA agent taking Mrs. Dalton for a joy ride in a cop helicopter; the same DEA agent getting drunk with Mrs. Dalton and boffing her in a tax paid so-called "safe house"; the same DEA agent giving Mrs. Dalton $4,800 in tax money to move to the state of Washington; and the government of the United States placing Dalton in federal prison for two years without bail, confiscating all his property and holding him without charges until he finally got into court. A no-spine U.S. District Court judge based in San Francisco by the name of Susan Ilston had earlier ruled that the government's police state behavior in pursuit of Dalton did not amount to "outrageous government conduct." If agent Nelson's and the DEA's behavior in pursuit of Dalton doesn't amount to "outrageous government conduct," what does? Tony Serra is working on challenges to the Dalton verdict but as of right now the government, in the form of the always out-of-control DEA, can do whatever it wants to do outside the rules if it thinks you've made money in the pot business.

December 1999 by Bruce Anderson

FEDERAL JUDGE SUSAN ILLSTON, the judge responsible for sorting out the Remco pollution case vexing Willits, doesn't seem to have much of a sense of justice herself. Illston just gave Redwood Valley's John Dalton 27 years in the federal pen for growing and selling pot he grew at Branscomb near Laytonville. Dalton was the object of an intense, and intensely illegal, pursuit by the Drug Enforcement Agency whose agents, primarily a badged scofflaw named Mark Nelson, consistently ignored the laws federal judges are supposed to have some regard for. Not Illston. She said that it was alright with her if Agent Nelson boffed Mrs. Dalton while she was still Mrs. Dalton, moved Mrs. Dalton and the kids from Redwood Valley to the state of Washington at taxpayer expense and without so much as a phone call from the missus to the mister to tell him she and the kids were gone, swore Mrs. Dalton in as a DEA agent in private ceremonies celebrated by another rounds of government-funded, work-time boffs, got Mrs. Dalton to place a tape recorder beneath the Daltons' marital bower the better to hear Mr. Dalton's dope schemes, took Mrs. Dalton for joy rides in the fed's helicopter, and got Mrs. Dalton drunk and boffed her in the DEA's "safe house" near the Ukiah Airport. When Dalton's attorney, Tony Serra, asked Judge Illston to dismiss the case against Dalton on the grounds of "egregious government misconduct," Illston declared that Agent Nelson's conduct was cool with her although she did disallow the bedroom tapes Mrs. Dalton turned over to Agent Nelson.

DALTON, by the way, was held without bail for more than two years at the federal pen at Dublin before he got into court, his right to a speedy trial casually waived by the Nor Cal federal courts. The feds claim his pot operation was "the largest in North Coast history," a wildly inflated claim typical of the self-aggrandizing DEA and belied by the easy availability of Mendo Mellow everywhere in the land.

AS IF 27 years in prison for a 45-year-old pot grower isn't a life sentence for what a majority of California voters regard as a non-crime, Judge Illston tacked on five years "supervised probation" if Dalton ever does get out while he's more or less alive. To make sure Dalton's days as a free citizen at an advanced age are lived out in absolute poverty, Judge Illston tacked on a $165,000 fine on the apparent assumption Dalton's still got some money. If he does, its discovery has eluded a decade-long, full-time detection effort by every local, state and federal narc assigned to Mendocino County, and how many of these armed, Agent Nelson-style love bunnies are out there, anyway?

JUDGE ILLSTON'S judicial sadism is an ominous sanction for gross police misconduct, and Agent Nelson is the most ominous kind of federally-sanctioned thug. Just last month the guy called K-WINE Radio in Ukiah to demand the names of the people who paid for the pro-pot Yes On G ads the station ran during the recent elections. Agent Love Nuts wasted no time cashing the free pass Judge Illston gave him in the Dalton case.

* * *



  1. Lazarus February 14, 2020

    Found Object

    The long, sad saga of John Dalton.

    As always,

  2. James Marmon February 14, 2020


    Mo is into decorating Ukiah, the 1.1 million dollar renovation of that old building on South State Street for a homeless drop-in shelter is just another decoration and does not address “ending” unsheltered street level homelessness. The center only makes things more comfortable for those folks so that they can continue being unsheltered homeless. That’s because that’s where all the money is generated from, the unsheltered homeless count. A high count enables the City to qualify for more grants so that they can build more expensive, over priced, 12 million dollar “Housing First” apartment complexes that only house a few.

    Shelter First, Housing Fourth !!!!

    James Marmon
    Ukiah Native

    P.S. In regards to decorating Ukiah, it’s like putting lipstick on a pig, its still going to be a pig.

  3. chuck dunbar February 14, 2020

    I’ve read similar analyses of our current situation, with comparative historical context, but this one strikes me as really on the mark–makes a person wonder… :

    “Take a single one of the great breakthroughs of the industrial age — planes and trains and automobiles, antibiotics and indoor plumbing — and it still looms larger in our everyday existence than all of the contributions of the tech revolution combined. We used to travel faster, build bigger, live longer; now we communicate faster, chatter more, snap more selfies…”

    “The Age of Decadence,” Ross Douthat, NY Times, 2/9/20

    • chuck dunbar February 14, 2020

      I’ll add that this quotation is from a long (2 entire pages) lead op ed from last Sunday’s Times, a fascinating piece that I set aside to read again. It’s adapted from Douthat’s new book, The Decadent Society

  4. Harvey Reading February 14, 2020


    The old woman in the yellow coat is the only one who looks “jubilant”, and she was probably just thinking of the distant past as she awaited EMBARKATION onto what appears to be a bus.

  5. Eric Sunswheat February 14, 2020

    RE: Penal Code 372 PC is California’s main statute with regards to public nuisances. This code section makes it a crime for a person to create or maintain a public nuisance, or, fail to remove one.

    A “nuisance” is an activity or thing that affects the: health, safety, or morals of a community.

    PC 372 states:

    “Every person who maintains or commits any public nuisance, the punishment for which is not otherwise prescribed, or who willfully omits to perform any legal duty relating to the removal of a public nuisance, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

    Notice that the “maximum fine” is $1000. But a case could be made that each tree is a violation.

    ————>. Thank you for stating the obvious rebuttal, when it is falsely claimed that there is no enforcement mechanism penalty in Measure V. Finally, legs has a backbone!

  6. Eric Sunswheat February 14, 2020

    RE: We need to repeal the tax if the project is unfeasible, and I say that as a person who believes that having a PHF in county would be wonderful.

    ———->. Revise and repurpose tax in new voter County Initiative to supersede previous ballot vote.

  7. Eric Sunswheat February 14, 2020

    RE: Not Mendocino DA Eyster’s jurisdictional application of law and imposed sentence conviction reform.

    ————> FEB. 13, 2020 9:34 AM
    Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey on Thursday announced that she had secured the dismissal of 66,000 marijuana convictions in Los Angeles County, marking a major step in a growing national effort to undo the harsh effects of a decades-long drug war…

    “What this does is correct that inequity of the past,” Lacey said in an interview. “It gives them a start, a new start.”

    Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Lacey said that her office went a step beyond what the law requires and also fully dismissed felony convictions for cultivating, transporting or selling marijuana for people who are over 50 or under 21, haven’t had a felony conviction in the last 10 years or have completed probation for cannabis convictions…

    The effort was part of a partnership with Code for America, a nonprofit tech organization that developed a computer algorithm to quickly analyze county data to determine which cases were eligible to be cleared under Proposition 64, which in 2016 legalized, among other things, the possession and purchase of up to an ounce of marijuana and allowed people to grow as many as six plants for personal use.

    The technology can scan the records of 10,000 people in “a matter of seconds,” said Evonne Silva, Code for America’s senior program director of criminal justice.

    State legislation signed in 2018 required that California prosecutors review marijuana cases eligible for dismissal and decide whether to challenge any by July of this year…

    Gascón was the first district attorney in California to announce a partnership with Code for America to clear marijuana convictions in San Francisco.

    His office dismissed 9,362 marijuana convictions, an initiative he announced before state law required prosecutors to review the cases. Of those affected in San Francisco, 33% were black and 27% Latino.

    “Government shouldn’t wait for the people to take action, it should take action for the people,” Gascón said in a statement Thursday.

    “For years, and in spite of legalization, individuals were denied employment and housing opportunities because of old marijuana convictions. Lack of access to a job and housing are primary factors that drive recidivism, and that’s why I took this action two years ago.”

  8. Eric Sunswheat February 14, 2020

    FEBRUARY 13, 2020 3:00 PM
    Lacy said the dismissals go beyond the relief called for under Prop. 64 — the 2016 measure that legalized recreational marijuana — and a follow-on implementation law known as AB 1793, which required past pot cases to be dismissed or re-sentenced by July 1 of this year.

    Rather than just reduce the charges from felonies to misdemeanors in accordance with the law, she said she requested dismissals of all the convictions.

    The requested dismissals include 62,000 felony cases filed in L.A. County since 1961. Lacey is also seeking dismissals of about 4,000 misdemeanor cannabis possession cases that were prosecuted by city attorney offices in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Torrance, Pasadena, Inglewood, Burbank, Santa Monica, Hawthorne, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.

    Individuals have had the right to petition a court for their cases to be dismissed, but almost no one has because the process is cumbersome, costly and confusing.

  9. James Marmon February 15, 2020


    California lawmakers question governor’s homeless plan

    “The $750 million proposed by Newsom could go toward rent vouchers, legal support and mediation services, but it would be handled by organizations selected through the state’s Department of Social Services and not by cities, counties or other established local groups that have traditionally delivered the bulk of services to the homeless.”

  10. Gary Smith February 15, 2020

    Dalton story for Valentine’s Day? So cynical.

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