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Coleman’s Book Stirs the Pot

BLEYS ROSE'S fine but decade-and-a-half tardy piece on the Bari Bombing case in Sunday's Santa Rosa Press Democrat has unleashed torrents of internet hysteria from the Bari-ites. They were safe so long as they could contain their rolling scam to the Northcoast. Now, thanks to the Press Democrat finally freeing its reporters to write about the case, local law enforcement might be goaded into finally taking a hard look at Who Bombed Judi Bari.

Rose did a fine job outlining the case as it now stands. In a second Press Democrat piece on the case in Monday's paper, columnist Chris Coursey neatly critiques Kate Coleman's breakthrough book on the Bari interlude as he also brings the matter up to date.

Persons following Bari-related events, and thousands of people across the country now will be ruefully amused to learn that Bari once accused Rose of being a CIA agent; any person who argued with Bari or was otherwise skeptical of her version of the bombing was denounced variously as an FBI operative, a sexist, a this, that or the other thing. The diva of dissent lives on in her shrill surrogates who, like their icon, crudely attempt to divert attention from the facts by vilifying the persons who dare challenge the sacred texts.

PERSONS tracking the case should also be aware that the Bari-ites, although they seem to number in the thousands, in fact consist of about a dozen persons, most of them either living off the case via fraudulant non-profit fundraising or frantically trying to keep themselves out of jail because they know the mystery of Who Bombed Judi Bari is not all that mysterious. If the case is solved — and it can be solved through DNA — several residents of the Northcoast will be packed off to prison, a few famous lawyers disbarred, and a whole lot of fancy but wholly undeserved reputations on the national left will be punctured.

BARI HERSELF was a genuinely tragic figure. She did what she had to do, which was to lie about the bombing. If she'd rightly and promptly pointed at her ex-husband as the culprit, a man with a long, long history of violence (and bombings) all the way back to the 1960s, Bari and her ex, Mike Sweeney, both would have been compelled to rat each other off about numerous monkey wrenching adventures they carried out together, the most spectacular one being the blowing up of a hangar at an airstrip near Santa Rosa in 1990. They had big felonies on each other, and their marriage had devolved into a murderous, mutual hatred.

Mike Sweeney, once belonged to the Stanford-based, pseudo-Maoist group that became the SLA in the late 1960s. Both groups murdered people and placed bombs throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Bari knew all this about Sweeney, and Sweeney knew all about the crimes he and Bari had committed together when they were married. Thus the two relics of the 60s lunatic fringe came to have their desperate hands around each other's throats in a can't-bust-em death grip when, in May of 1990, Mike Sweeney's pipe bomb exploded in his ex-wife's Subaru, nearly killing her. In fact the bomb did kill her, albeit seven years later.

Sweeney got her first. Bari could see it coming, and had even looked around for someone to murder Sweeney. Twice, through a close friend named Pam Davis, Bari solicited Irv Sutley to finish Sweeney before Sweeney could finish her. The Bari Cult claims the couple enjoyed a perfectly harmonious post-divorce. Hardly. They literally wanted to kill each other. Sweeney may have been pushed over the edge when Bari began telling friends — falsely, I believe — that Sweeney was sleeping nude with their youngest daughter, the implication being that on top of everything else, her ex was a pervert. Add this inflammatory accusation to a bitter fight over the division of their mutually accumulated property, an even more bitter struggle over custody of their two little girls, and Sweeney's haunting fear that his increasingly well-known ex-wife knew all about him as he tried to make a new life for himself as a recycling bureaucrat, well, women have been murdered for less cause, haven't they?

WHAT WOULD YOU have done in Judi Bari's post-bomb, lose-lose situation? Implicated your ex? Tell all, leaving him to tell all about you? Bari knew Mike Sweeney was a dangerous person, a man who could and would kill her, and she also knew that if she told the cops about him he would tell the cops about her, which explains her offer to the FBI to tell the truth about the bombing if the FBI would grant her immunity from prosecution.

WHEN BARI, through attorney Susan Jordan, approached the FBI for immunity from prosecution, the FBI rightly replied, "You can't be a vic and a perp, kiddo. No deal."

So, Judi Bari did what she had to do: blame her near-murder on the FBI, the Oakland Police Department, loggers, religious nuts, religious nut loggers, men generally. The blame went everywhere but in the direction of her ex-husband, her promiscuous suspect pool expanded to include virtually every male in Northern California except hubbykins. Mike Sweeney was magically transformed into the nicest, most reasonable, most helpful, most understanding ex-husband in the history of ex-husbands. Mike Sweeney and Judi Bari gave new meaning to "Until death do us part."

IT'S THIS SIMPLE: If Judi had told the truth about the bombing she would have lost her two little girls and her budding reputation as martyr to the redwoods. She also would have gone to jail, maybe as an accessory, maybe for previous bombs, including the failed one a month earlier at L-P's office in Cloverdale. (The timber companies, not so incidentally, having found their perfect foils in Bari's ragtag "activists," made more money faster during the Bari period than at any time in timber history. The Bari-Butterfly-Tree-Hugger "legacy" the cult brains constantly invoke is in living fact miles of stumps, closed mills, added Northcoast unemployment, and a true legacy of comprehensive lies and environmental devastation.)

EVERYWHERE and everyone was blamed for the bombing, and everywhere the Bari-Cherney version of the bombing went on the PC Circuit — the Democracy Now axis — it was converted to hard cash for Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, Karen Pickett, Tanya Brannan, and lesser lights like the ghoulish Alicia Littletree, the latter having arrived in Mendocino County long after all the spectacular events of 1990. A handful of cheap hustlers, then, talking left but acting as aggressively right in their own fiduciary interests as Halliburton, raised more than a million bucks by the end of 1999 through their phony non-profit called the Redwood Summer Justice Project. Bari herself went on tour and sang a song she and Cherney wrote called, "Who Bombed Judi Bari?" The money all this shamelessness raised was never accounted for but supported Brannan and Cherney and a squad of cynical "left" lawyers for more than a decade. They said they were raising the money to fight the FBI in federal court, or to save redwoods, or both, and the money poured in. And darned if the bogus case, conveniently purged of any and all reference to who done it, didn't get into federal court, and darned if a whole lot of saps who'd contributed money to get the rolling scam into court weren't surprised to find that the plaintiffs weren't out to win money to save the redwoods or beat back the FBI, the plaintiffs were three private individuals — the two already well-to-do daughters of Bari-Sweeney, and Darryl Cherney, a show biz hustler from the forests of Manhattan.

WHY HAS LAW ENFORCEMENT let these crooks get over? Why did the Justice Department lie down in federal court for a cadre of cash and carry lawyers led by Tony Serra in a civil trial presided over by an old buddy of Serra's named Claudia Wilkin? Why did law enforcement forget all about Judi Bari's preposterously bold offer to tell all in 1990 if the cops would let her off the hook?

That's the question, the big one, the only one, really, because this is a case that can be solved, and should have been solved back when it happened.

IT'S STILL USEFUL to know the players, great and small, especially the small fry (excluding the lockstep yobs at public radio) without whom the Bari Bombing saga would not have gotten the now national prominence it recently has. John McCowen, vociferous Bari-ite, now a member of the Ukiah City Council, went silent when his own possible link to the FBI was raised. McCowen rented his valuable downtown Ukiah premises opposite the Courthouse on West Standley Street to the Mendocino Environment Center for a token rent. That was back in 1988 when a whole bunch of murks began appearing on Mendocino County's perennially interesting stage. McCowen, certainly no radical and barely even an environmentalist, could have rented his potentially lucrative premises for much more than the few dollars he charged the characters who blew the MEC into being in the late 1980s. Did McCowen get competitive money for the space all along? Was he a beneficiary of a political Section 8 program operated by the FBI? What he lost in competitive rent may have made up by the feds so the FBI could conveniently monitor the Redwood Summer project. (Mike Sweeney had a key to the MEC, as did Judi Bari. It was their office, before and after the bombing, and Gary and Betty Ball were full-time gofers for both Bari and Sweeney. The Balls arrived with Bari and left for Colorado upon her death in 1997.)

NICK WILSON of Little River, another full-time Bari-ite, molested the daughter of Antonia Lamb, Mendocino beatnik matriarch, astrologer and song writer. Lamb reads the heavens on tax-subsidized KZYX, as the hills ring with a rhythm section of chicken bones and toe cymbals. "Progressive" Mendocino County is as credulously primitive as any South Pacific cargo cult, which accounts for its traditional hospitality for nutballs ranging from Jim Jones to the Manson Family to the Bari Cult. Wilson paid Lamb not to have him arrested (thus making Mother Lamb a pimp and Wilson...). Wilson allegedly makes his living as a professional photographer [sic!], but in reality he lives off his wife, Nicola, the daughter of the late Morris Boynoff. Mrs. Wilson-Boynoff maintains the pharmacy at Coast Hospital. In 1992, during the tame logging protests now known as the "Albion Uprising," Judi Bari warned young mothers with pre-adolescent daughters to watch their children around "this creep," the reference being to Wilson, of course. Wilson's foul crime against the Lamb girl occurred in the late 1970's when legendary pervert Tree Frog Johnson was serially molesting children in Anderson Valley then at the Whale School, Albion. The children of Mendocino County's counterculture were often served up to predators because the police were, ah, part of "the repressive apparatus of the state" and blah blah blah.

GLENDA ANDERSON, now a reporter out of the Press Democrat's "Ukiah Bureau" was Mike Sweeney's live-in love interest for more than ten years. Ms. Anderson worked for most of those years as a reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal where Sweeney's press releases on what a swell job he was doing as the county's tax-paid recycler often appeared on the paper's front page as "news." Ms. Anderson ran interference at the paper for her man. The paper's editor, K.C. Meadows, is still oddly protective of Sweeney. A real media would have wrapped this case up years ago. As it was, only the AVA plugged away at its obvious contradictions and straight-up falsehoods. But now that the matter has been sanctified and safety-fied by the New York Times, thanks to Kate Coleman's brave but flawed book, here come the Press Democrat and the Frisco papers with their prudent speculations about the bombing, but all of them wondering in print why Bari's ex magically remains excluded from the suspect pool.

MIKE GENIELLA of the Press Democrat told me that just before Judi Bari died at her cabin on String Creek east of Willits he felt sure she wanted to tell him the truth about the bombing. He leaned expectantly in to hear it but she apparently changed her mind and steered the conservation back to safe harbor. Geniella subsequently denied telling me what he told me.

And after a group of skeptics had appealed directly to DA Norm Vroman to re-open the case, Vroman, having listened intently to what we'd said, went out and postured to the media, saying "All Anderson and the rest of them brought me was a movie. A movie isn't evidence. It's all speculation and innuendo." In fact, the "movie" was a careful documentary by Steve Talbot of PBS implicating Sweeney. And we'd also presented Vroman a meticulous collection of evidence, albeit circumstantial. But as Vroman well knows, circumstantial evidence is often much more damning than the forensic kind.

THE BOMB was made in Mendocino County, probably at the Sweeney-Bari property in Redwood Valley or at the nearby home of Meredyth Rinehard, Sweeney's girlfriend at the time. It was designed to explode far from the person or persons who built it. Which it did. If the idea was simply to murder Bari, the device would not have required either a timer or an on/off switch. These additional design features were there for a reason — to get the bomb a hundred miles south of the man who made it. Even the Mendocino County DA ought to be able to get his head around this one. The FBI, too.

NICK WILSON, the unindicted child molester and now the full-time propagandist for the bomber, Mike Sweeney, says Sweeney was "cleared" by the FBI soon after the bombing. He also says I "hated" Judi Bari.

Sweeney wasn't cleared by the FBI. Sweeney, who comes from a wealthy family of lawyers, simply told the FBI to go away and come back with a warrant to search his premises, and if they wanted to talk to him they'd have to arrest him. By the time bumbling G-Men had the warrant Sweeney had removed the evidence that might have been used against him. Art Munoz, a Mendocino County Sheriff's deputy, lived across the road from Bari-Sweeney. He watched Sweeney hustle stuff out of his Redwood Valley house in the hours following the explosion. 

THE FEDS couldn't mount a case against Sweeney at the time because they had no witnesses who would talk to them and they didn't have DNA available to them as the evidentiary tool it has since become. They now have DNA taken from the envelope of the person who wrote to Mike Geniella of the Press Democrat to say he did the bombing. This person called himself (or themselves) "The Lord's Avenger." He (or they) described the bomb in such detail it is obvious the writer (or writers) had constructed the device. And he (or they) tell us they built it. (The Bari bomb is similar in design to the Cloverdale bomb a month prior to the Bari bomb and to the devices that ignited the Santa Rosa air strip hangar in 1980.)

THE PURPOSE of The Lord's Avenger letter was to divert attention from ex-husband Sweeney onto Bill Staley of Potter Valley, the former pro football player cum fundamentalist Christian cum anti-abortion protester who clashed with Bari at an anti-abortion rally in Ukiah. (Sweeney was present at the rally to photograph it.) The DNA taken from The Lord's Avenger Letter was subsequently tested by the Bari-Cherney legal team and the FBI. The two groups had jointly agreed upon a Berkeley lab to do the testing. The DNA from The Lord's Avenger letter is predominantly female with some male DNA on it. A fingerprint, apparently, has also been retrieved from the letter.

AS THE CASE STANDS, it is simply a matter of matching the known DNA to that of a dozen or so likely suspects, aka in the legal world, "material witnesses." Sweeney's DNA would be the first to be tested; then his girlfriend at the time, Meredyth Rinehard; then the late Bari's DNA; then Karen Pickett's; then Pam Davis's. I don't think you'd have to look much farther. If Sweeney were innocent he would have produced his DNA long ago. This guy is the guiltiest-acting innocent person in the history of American crime.

DID I "HATE" JUDI BARI? No. As most people know we were allies in the Redwood Summer period. She wrote for my paper. We were in constant communication. She lived east of Willits, I lived in Boonville. I liked her and I defended her as best I could from an hour away. I'm not a late night music and pot person, she was, so we seldom saw each other socially. I saw her at demos, I talked to her on the phone almost every day, and I visited her place on String Creek every Wednesday when I took my paper to the printer in Willits. We went on speaking trips to The City a few times. We picketed Green Apple Books in SF once when the proprietor of the place, a part-time resident of Boonville, committed a vineyard atrocity near Philo. I can say that I was the only media friend she had at the time, and I tried to be a good friend in every other way, too. I became disenchanted with JB when I discovered she'd lied about the bombing to Steve Talbot, the well-known documentary filmmaker who now produces the award-winning Frontline series for public television. Even before her brazen treachery with Talbot, I wondered why, post-bombing, Judi dared live in the hills where any old killer could easily finish her off at her unsecure, undefended cabin. She told me, "If they get me, they get me." Bullshit. Her daughters lived with her, and Judi Bari loved her daughters. She wouldn't have put them at risk if she even suspected there would be a follow-up attack on her. She knew the bomber was her ex-husband, and she knew he wouldn't try it again. They were back to "Until death do us part."

Bari told Talbot that Sweeney had bombed her, then denounced Talbot as a "liar" for including Sweeney as suspect number one in his gem of a 1991 film on the case, "Who Bombed Judi Bari?" (Please note that of all the dissidents the Bari-ites malign they never, ever touch Talbot. He's been on to them from the very beginning, and without his invaluable work on the case Sweeney probably would have gotten away with it.)

No, I didn't hate Judi Bari. I liked her on a personal level. I came to distrust her but I always liked her because, with me anyway, she was always fun and funny and smart. I knew she came to be surrounded by people she had great contempt for out of pure necessity to prevent the truth about the bombing from being revealed. Great as her personal revulsion for people like Nick Wilson and Beth Bosk was, finally they were all she had. She rightly screamed Sweeney away from her death bed and, surrounded by vampires, without a true friend in all the world, Judi Bari died, taking the truth about her slow motion murder with her to her grave.

FOR ALL THEIR HUFFING and puffing about the FBI, the Bari-ites are, objectively, co-dependents of the FBI. The Bari-ites use the feds as a fundraising foil at PC venues around the country while simultaneously getting the agency to test DNA and to prune their mutually supportive federal case of all reference to who committed the crime.

I think the FBI's peculiar reluctance to find the bomber is probably due to Sweeney's being an FBI snitch all the way back to his Stanford Maoist days. I also think it is highly likely that the Mendocino Environment Center in Ukiah functioned as an FBI listening post during the Redwood Summer period. The FBI, it seems, prefers to let a car-bomb killer get away with his spectacular crime than reveal their little helpers in Mendocino County.

DARRYL CHERNEY, it almost goes without saying, is an utter fraud. He and a crepuscular Humboldt County character called Mark Drake put up a $50,000 reward for Charles Hurwitz but they haven't put up a dime for the bomber. Why? They're afraid they'll find him.

It's clear that Sweeney — the only person among the Bari-ites with any real brain power — also has the goods on people like Cherney, Pam Davis, Meredyth Rinehard, Tanya Brannan, and Karen Pickett. They know if Sweeney goes down he'll take them with him.

For all their latter-day professions of love for the late Judi Bari, Mendo poseurs like Dan Hamburg, Alice Walker, Annie Esposito, and random nutballs like Sister Yasmin, these luminaries fled her while she was organizing Redwood Summer.

There are quite a few people out there who know the truth about aspects of the Bari saga. Some of them know the whole truth, but it will take subpoenas to get it.

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