My name is Joseph Hart. I want to detail the record which can all be verified in the court and police reports of the illegal and corrupt actions that have happened to me by the Mendocino County officials and the real outcome of my trial that you wrote about in your latest issue.
[AVA, 9/2/2020] “I'VE GOT a call in to Jan Cole-Wilson whose lawyerly abilities I've always admired. (Seriously. I'm not just buttering her up to get a call-back, which I don’t expect.) She's second in command to Mr. Aaron, Public Defender. I called her this Wednesday, having never once in forty years ever getting a call back from the Public Defender's office — on the off chance she would talk to me about The People vs. Joseph Phillip Hart. I have the DA's presser notifying the public that Hart was found guilty of a "knife attack" which occurred under a Willits overpass back in early March. Hart got a jury trial that lasted 7 days, which means Cole-Wilson really went to bat for the guy. I want to know what her defense was. Simple question. I assume Hart pled self-defense, and I doubt the fight was with a vegetarian Gandhian. If she doesn't call back, I'll drive over the hill to have a look at the case file and let you know what I find.”
I am a 43-year-old small-business owner who has lived between Mendocino County and Kauai, Hawaii for the last 13 years. I breed a unique hibiscus crop commonly called “Kenaf” (Hibiscus cannabinus L.), www.kencoind.com, and work within the oil and gas and wastewater industries on environmental performance issues through the use of renewable materials made from this crop.
I generally spend late spring through the end of summer in Covelo doing an organic grow with a group of "friends." From fall through early spring I am in Kawai breeding Kenaf for seed. Then I go to Houston Texas in late spring to attend oil and gas tradeshows pushing these renewable solutions and my book that I published on the subject of the kenaf: Plant-based Solutions for Industrial Growth and Environmental Regeneration. www.kenafbook.com.
In late February as the trade shows were being canceled and Kanai was talking to locking down and bringing in the National Guard because of covid, which they did, I got a call from what I thought was my long-time "friend," Jairen Sylvester: who told me he had gotten a great 90 acre property up Spy Rock Road, and asking if I would be willing to come help him cover the rent and clean up the property. We would split the crop.
This is a guy who has worked for me off and on for the last 10 years. I have housed, fed and clothed and even traveled with him. So when he described the property with large spring pools, creeks, a river and views, I was totally game, especially since the country is going weird and I'm not a fan of Covelo anymore.
I got to the property the first week of March. He had things that I kept in storage in Covelo with a place set up for me. I went into town and spent almost $2000 to buy propane, gasoline, seeds and plant starts of all kinds and plenty of food to eat as he was up there with no money and a box of Ramen noodles almost empty.
I spent three weeks cleaning up garbage on this land. The previous owners had left, as their operation had apparently ended in multiple murders and was filled with trash.
During this time we were the only two people up there and there wasn't a single argument or conflict. (As his police report will attest.)
On March 29 I checked the "grow room" with all the veggies, herbs and cannabis starts and I saw that they were all covered in mold because he had been overwatering and failing to turn on the lights. When I told him about this he got all defensive telling me, "It's none of your business, I got this."
I reminded him, since I paid for everything, it is my business. I did not see him again until the next morning, March 30, when he walked into the geodesic dome where I stayed with a .38 caliber pistol in his hand telling me, "I want social distancing," and that I had to get off the property.
After almost 2 hours of him screaming and yelling and telling me he was going to kill me if I didn't hurry up, I got my things packed in a truck he had. Due to epilepsy I have no license and currently have no vehicle of my own here.
We rode in silence down Spy Rock except for him smoking a bong at the bottom of Spy Rock at Highway 101. He pulled over and said he was going to hide his bong while we went into town. I got out and urinated at this time. But since it was raining, and covid was around, and I had a whole truck load full of stuff, I did get back in expecting to get out in Laytonville. Big mistake!
He refused to stop in Laytonville telling me he was going to Willits and I could get out there. Just north of Highway 162 on 101 we hydroplaned as he was smoking the bong that he never dropped off at the bottom of Spy Rock. When we hydroplaned a second time into oncoming traffic I just wanted to get out!
According to his court testimony I asked to be let out at least 10 times. I even tried calling 911 by the rest stop 10 miles north of Willits to which he replied and screamed, "There is no emergency, he just wants to go to the bathroom."
I lost reception at some point on that first 911 call. When we got off on the North Willits exit I told him to let me out! He responded by hitting me in the face and telling me to “quit being a bitch."
At that point I began throwing punches at him and pressing him against the driver's door holding his right arm not knowing if he still had the gun on him. During this time I was calling for help, asking people to call the police and to open the door for me. The first five or six cars just kept driving.
At this point I saw that he was reaching for a knife he had under his left leg next to his bong. I grabbed it. It turned out to be one of two knives in a case and I did stick him in the leg two times as I was calling for help. According to his testimony he didn't realize he had been stabbed, and he tried to grab the other knife and told me, "I'm going to cut you up!"
I told him to stop and let me out. When he didn't, I stabbed him in the side at which time he said, "Okay, okay, I'm going to let you out. Please don't stab me again," and I did not. I told him to just stop and let me out! He got out and ran to a Caltrans truck that had pulled over as I called 911 and waited for the sheriff.
When I saw the blood trail to the Caltrans truck I was hollering, "Please bring him to the hospital" the Caltrans man said no.
I waited for a sheriff to arrive. I was completely cooperative. In return I was left alongside the road, and handcuffed for almost 8 hours. I had two grand mal seizures and had to urinate all over myself multiple times. They did call an ambulance. They told the first one that I had claimed I was okay.
When I was booked into jail the real nightmare started. First at the status hearing they falsely claimed I had multiple previous convictions. I have only one previous conviction, almost 25 years ago in Illinois.
I was given a $500,000 bond because of the multiple false claims. I was put in solitary confinement and I have been in solitary confinement since March 31 with my only disciplinary infraction being on July 22 for insolence.
My first month here I was ridiculed and even put in a padded cell with just a hole in the ground that was full of urine and feces because jail staff said I was faking my seizures.
Gratefully there was a nurse who called to my neurologist and confirmed that I have epilepsy and have severe seizures. I have still not seen a doctor but they have occasionally offered me a couple of different medications which if they simply read my medical files would see I am either allergic to or they should not try to administer them without doing blood testing first which they have not done.
I offered to take a lie detector test and drug tests as I wasn't on drugs. I have never done meth, or heroine and I don't drink, etc.
At first the district attorney told a judge that I didn't have a scratch on me. But then the police reports and booking photos showed I had minor cuts on my hands and bruises on my neck and head.
To add insult to injury, all my personal things I had at the scene and in the truck, all my business computers and backup drives, a rare coin collection I have been collecting since I was 11, a crystal collection, clothes and six pounds of weed was supposedly "shredded” thirty days after my arrest which would be in violation of state and federal law. I had $788 in my wallet when I was arrested. I only had $588 when I got to the jail — all of this is documented.
As for the trial which could be watched on youtube at “Mendocino County Jury Trial,” you can see that the Mendocino County sheriffs never fingerprinted Mr. Sylvester's knife, never went back to Spy Rock to look for weapons, even though Mr. Sylvester admitted he had a 12 gauge. They never even really searched the scene for the .38. But Detective Sergio Ochoa-Pedroza did admit on the stand that he would have shot Sylvester if he had done that to him.
Sylvester admitted to refusing to let me out of the truck even though I asked him at least 10 times. He admitted to going down the road smoking the bong even though he has a couple of previous DUIs. He admitted I was calling for help as we were fighting in the truck.
In the end the jury came back with an irregular "double verdict." They were clearly instructed by Judge Dolan to deliver one of three verdicts: Not guilty by self-defense; Guilty by a misdemeanor; or Guilty by a felony.
After the verdict was read and the jury was relieved, my lawyer realized that the verdict said, "Guilty of misdemeanor and Guilty of a felony," which is impossible since I had only one charge and Judge Dolan's instructions were clear in having one verdict.
I go back to court on September 18 and I expect Judge Carly Dolan will do the right thing and call a mistrial. I will then demand the district attorney make a public apology and a correct press release demanded by law. I feel they know this but are trying to prejudice the case.
I did not take any of their plea offers -- eight years, four years, three years, probation with a four-year suspended -- because I was defending myself.
I appreciate the work Ms. Jan Cole Wilson did on my behalf. She is probably overworked and underappreciated. Every private attorney I contacted wanted $30,000-$50,000 upfront for this case which is not over! I will take this all the way to the Supreme Court if I have to and I am definitely preparing a federal suit to file in the Ninth District over the way they violated my rights, destroyed my business essentials and property while leaving me numerous times in a cell having seizures.
There are court records, police reports and evidence of all of this!
Thank you all for taking the time to read this. One final thing: I never wanted to do that to him. I am in no way proud of what happened and I genuinely only did that in self-defense because I was afraid of being stabbed after having gone through a very intense and stressful three hours with him.
Joseph Hart A# 39961
951 Low Gap Road
Ukiah, CA 95482
PS. Please check the following websites so you may know my real motives and the kind of person I am: