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Off The Record

MENDOCINO COUNTY DA David Eyster recently dispatched his ace prosecutor, Paul Sequiera, to Mule Creek State Prison for Mark Sprinkle's parole hearing. Eyster seems to think that Sprinkle is too dangerous to be let out of prison after 16 years on a “child molest” conviction, the facts of which have been exhaustively discussed in this newspaper. Sequiera's presentation included a brand new accusation; that years ago, when Sprinkle was still being held in the Mendocino County Jail, he had tried to find someone to murder his prosecutor, Beth Norman. Ms. Norman, who is still with the DA's office, had offered Sprinkle 3-5 if he would plead guilty to the molest charges. Sprinkle, insisting to this day that he's innocent of the charges, refused to plead guilty and, as it inevitably does, the local justice system proceeded to max Sprinkle out. Big time with a sentence of 45-to-life. Sequiera, incidentally, pulling out all the stops, told the parole board that Norman herself would have attended the hearing but she was afraid for her life! After all these years as a prosecutor she's suddenly afraid? I think it's more likely that she still hates the guy on such a visceral, unreasoning level she's managed to retroactively traumatize herself. Ms. Norman has prosecuted persons far more dangerous than Sprinkle, a non-violent offender. The intervention of the DA's office at Sprinkle's parole hearing earlier this month has again resulted in his being denied parole, this time for another five years before he can even apply for another hearing.

SPRINKLE'S CRIME? Three girls suddenly took their clothes off in his car. Sprinkle commenced a busy 90 seconds of gyno-touchings. That was the essential allegation that Ms. Norman took to a jury 16 years ago, and that was the allegation the girls themselves testified to in court, freely, even laughingly admitting that they removed their clothes as a joke. Two of the girls were, to put it mildly, sexually precocious. The third girl was a ten-year-old the other two were supposedly babysitting. The leader of the sudden disrobe was, in effect, Sprinkle's step-daughter. Sprinkle had been engaged to her mother, a heavy drug user with a long history of unsustained child molest accusations against the serial men in her turbulent life. There is every indication that Mom, bitter because Sprinkle had wisely refused to marry her, put her daughter up to entrapping Sprinkle. That daughter, Natasha, at the time of the alleged molest, had just turned 14. With the body of a 20-year-old pole dancer, and regularly seen late at night at the truck stop north of Ukiah, Natasha was not sexually inexperienced. The afternoon of the alleged molest, Natasha had shouted, “Let's race!” and soon all three girls were nude in Sprinkle's car west of Ukiah on the old Masonite Road. Sprinkle had not asked them to take their clothes off or in any way coerced them into doing it. What ensued, of course, is the core of the dispute that got Sprinkle a total of 45-years-to-life. The girls said Sprinkle “touched their privates,” one of them casually describing her reproductive organs as “my pubes.” That was it. No “full body penetration,” in the charming phrase of law enforcement, no violence, no threats of violence.

SPRINKLE HAS ALWAYS INSISTED he didn't even do the 90 seconds which has won him life in prison, but this guy is somehow a dangerous predator in the grand tradition of the crime? The schoolyard stalker? The internet porn perv? The Humbert-Humbert of Ukiah trailer parks? Two of Sprinkle's jurors signed affidavits that if they'd known Sprinkle was going to get 45 years for this extremely dubious crime, they would not have found him guilty.

WELL KNOWN to Ukiah-area law enforcement, Sprinkle had been in more than his share of minor trouble before the alleged molest. He was one of these guys who'd drive by the cops and flip them off, and he was a fixture in the tweeker, lowlife community. Local cops were jubilant at his disproportionate sentence for the alleged molest. But whatever his after-hours life, Sprinkle had always been employed and, except for his drug adventures and low-intensity crimes — he once set a dumpster on fire and was convicted of arson — he'd always been a contributing citizen as a long-haul truck driver.

IN FEBRUARY OF 2012, Mark Sprinkle is no longer a young man. His drug days, presumably, are behind him. He has not gotten in trouble in prison where his record has been almost perfect. He's now 52 years old and in poor health, often hospitalized for severe asthma attacks. There is no opposition to Sprinkle's release from his alleged victims who, incidentally, cannot be found, at least by me and I've looked, and looked hard. Why our DA would go out of his way to keep this man in prison is absolutely mystifying. Sprinkle's continued incarceration is certainly not in the public interest to pay to keep in prison at a time when truly dangerous people are being released every day, many of them right here in Mendocino County. In fact, under the new state sentencing guidelines, persons locally convicted of bad stuff up to and including felony assaults, will do their time in the leisurely confines of the Mendocino County Jail.

JoANN WIPIJEWSKI, writing for the essential CounterPunch website, provides a helpful clarification which applies directly to the Sprinkle case: “Sexual abuse is a term that ought to be summarily dispatched to the tumbrils, as it has lost any shred of meaning, which is the whole point in this extended night of moral panic. There is no need whatsoever for this term, except to obfuscate. There are plain terms, readily understood, with common meanings (or more common): rape, forced fellatio — strange, you never hear of forced cunnilingus — [Oh yes you do, see Jeffrey St Clair’s recent CounterPunch essay on Willie Dixon — Alexander Cockburn], exhibitionism, leering, groping, finger-fucking, pawing, dirty talk, kidnapping, exploitation in x, y and z ways (yes, that would require more words — how burdensome is precision), unwanted touching, unwanted hugging… The list is long because people may experience, or claim to experience, different things as abuse. But abuse is potent in law, and is therefore a handmaid of prosecution. In the various sex panic stories over the past 20 years ‘sexual abuse’ has meant everything from fantasized Satanic black masses to actual rape to nudity in the YMCA showers. (That last is not a flourish; the Catholic Church caved, paying out tens of thousands of dollars to people who said they saw Father Geoghan walk around naked in the YMCA shower room, nothing else. He, as you recall, was murdered in prison to the cheers of the liberal faithful after he was convicted for touching a kid’s ass while pulling him out of a pool.) Let’s call things by their names. And let’s restore ‘fondling,’ a word that has been yanked into the sexual abuse bag, to its proper place in the realm of sexual play. ‘Molestation’ is a fine word no one would confuse with ‘fondling.’ Without the catch-all ‘abuse,’ people might be able to claw their way back to sanity by distinguishing what is harmless or unruly or actually criminal. And while we’re at it, let’s throw sex offender into the tumbril. As it is, a sex offender might be: a rapist; a child who draws a stick figure with breasts and penis, a child who plays doctor with another or kisses another or slaps the ass of another or asks the teacher for a hug; a teacher who gives a hug; a voyeur; a collector of porn; a kidnapper and torturer; an exhibitionist; a person caught urinating in public; a high school senior who has sex with a high school freshman; anyone who transmits sexual pictures to another person; anyone who transmits pictures that some policeman decides are sexual to another person; anyone caught having sex in the bushes, etc. Like terrorist, ‘sex offender’ is most useful in defining a group of people out of the realm of rights, making them a new category of human being, against whom any atrocity of the state is considered acceptable. Exception: ‘self-abuse.’ In its blur of rigor and humor it’s far more evocative of the act it describes than masturbation, onanism, self-pleasuring, jacking off, etc.”

IN THE FIRST useful legislation Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro has introduced in years, if not ever, the state would reimburse Mendocino County some $250,000 for the expenses incurred during the 36-day manhunt for Aaron Bassler. The actual cost of the Bassler affair is estimated by Sheriff Allman at upwards of $266,000 but any amount of recompense would be welcomed by broke Mendocino County. The siege of the forests just north of Fort Bragg in the hunt for Bassler began when Bassler, mentally ill for years, shot and killed Jere Melo and was soon linked to the murder of land trust manager Matthew Coleman a couple of weeks earlier. In excellent physical condition, Bassler eluded law enforcement until he was finally shot and killed by a swat team from Sacramento.

FORMER NORTHCOAST CONGRESSMAN, Frank Riggs, his instinct for political evil undiminished, surfaced this week in Phoenix where he was introduced by Rick Santorum as Santorum's Arizona campaign manager.

FLIP OUT OF THE WEEK honors go to Gilberto Olea-Vargas, 20, of Ukiah. On Monday night about 9, deputies from the County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to 2075 N. State St. in Ukiah “regarding a male subject vandalizing the residence and possibly under the influence of drugs. When deputies arrived, they were directed to a male subject standing in the street without his shirt on. He was covered with a white ash type powder, talking to himself and occasionally laughing out loud. Family members informed deputies that Gilberto had been ingesting the designer drug known as Bath Salts for the past three days and he was acting violent towards them. Family members stated that Gilberto had vandalized a cast iron stove that was attached to a wall in the residence, that's why he was covered in ash. Gilberto had also taken a large metal pipe and vandalized a truck that belonged to his father. Gilberto was incoherent, and then very aggressive but was restrained by deputies, put in handcuffs and arrested for public intoxication and felony vandalism and taken to Ukiah Valley Medical Center for clearance and being under the influence of Bath Salts. At the hospital, Gilberto would become very aggressive and try to break his handcuffs, he would then calm down and again become aggressive. Gilberto was later transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail for the listed charges and his bail set at $15,000.”

CONGRESSMAN WINE GUY veers left: “From: Congressman Mike Thompson. Subject: Put Americans Back to Work Rebuilding our Roads and Bridges. Dear Friends, While accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged to our nation and himself a New Deal for the American People. At the time, America was facing some of the Great Depression’s darkest days. Infrastructure investments were the centerpiece of the New Deal because these investments were one of the strongest jump-starts for a struggling economy. Americans from all corners of our country were put to work modernizing our roads and bridges. Nearly 80 years later, our nation is once again faced with high unemployment and slow economic growth. And once again we need bold investments to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The best way to get our economy moving again is to put Americans back to work fixing our roads, schools and bridges… Sincerely, Mike Thompson Member of Congress.”

THE NORTHERN SPOTTED OWL is widely assumed to be mostly holding out on the 400,000 acres owned by the Green Diamond Resource Company, located mostly in Northern Humboldt and on into Del Norte counties. Not long ago, survival of the owl was a huge issue between environmentalists and timber companies. Enviros claimed logging practices were destroying owl habitat, and timber companies were soon compelled to modify harvest practices to ensure the minimal welfare of the spotted owl. Lately, however, the spotted owl is in danger of being wiped out by the barred owl, native to the East Coast but now found in NorCal forests. The barred owl is larger than its cousin, Little Spotty, and has aggressively moved Spotty out of Spotty's carefully crafted set asides on Green Diamond land. Now, in a supreme irony, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is “potentially moving forward with some experimental removal of the barred owl.” By shooting them. That's right. Shooting the barred owls found in spotted owl habitat, luring them with an owl call then blasting them with a shotgun. Predictably, the government's madcap pursuit of the barred owl is creating a storm of opposition. Stephanie Bowles Griffin of the Humane Society is among the persons leading the charge to stop the owl slaughter. “Our concern is that they will remove 3,000 animals, those animals will be killed and others from the surrounding areas will simply fly in and this will become just an ongoing vicious kill cycle. This is a natural range expansion; this is not an invasive species. We prefer to have nature take its course.” On its part, Green Diamond is taking Spotty's side. To protect Spotty, Green Diamond wants to help Fish and Wildlife shotgun the barred owl out of the north woods. Fish and Wildlife will release an environmental impact statement on February 28th. The agency says it wants public input.

THE CONCLUDING paragraph in a blast at Obama's drug policies in the current Rolling Stone: “For law-enforcement officials who handle marijuana on the front lines, such attitudes [i.e., the Obama administration’s new hard-line on pot, even pot that’s legal under state law] highlight how out of touch the administration has become. ‘Whether you call it medical or recreational, the marijuana genie is out of the bottle, and there's no one who's going to put it back in,’ insists Sheriff Allman of Mendocino, whose department had been targeted by federal prosecutors for its attempts to regulate medical pot. ‘For federal officials who plug their ears and say, “No, it's not true, it's not true,” I have some words for them: You need to get over it’.”

ALSO FROM the same Rolling Stone piece by Tim Dickenson: “It's true that California has no shortage of illegal pot dealers. Nonmedical marijuana is the state's largest cash crop, raking in an estimated $14 billion a year. And demand is growing, in part because former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger thwarted a ballot measure aimed at full legalization in 2010 by removing criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of pot. But instead of focusing limited federal resources on off-the-grid growers in places like Humboldt County, who are often armed and violent, Haag targeted Matthew Cohen, a medical-marijuana farmer in Mendocino who was growing 99 plants under the direct supervision of the county sheriff. As part of a pioneering collaboration with local law enforcement, Cohen marked each of his plants with county-supplied tags, had his secured facility inspected and distributed the marijuana he grew directly to patients in his nonprofit collective.

“COHEN appeared to be precisely the kind of caregiver that the Ogden memo [from the early days of the Obama administration when they deferred to state law] advised should be given safe harbor for operating in ‘clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law.’ But last October, DEA agents stormed Cohen's farm in the middle of the night and cut down his crop. Sheriff Tom Allman, who learned of the raid on his turf only an hour before it was executed, was outraged. ‘Matt Cohen was not in violation of any state or local ordinances when federal agents arrived at his location,’ Allman says. In January, Haag took the fight to the next level, threatening county officials like Allman with federal sanctions. Three weeks later, county supervisors voted to abandon the program to license and monitor Mendocino's legal growers. ‘This is a huge step backward,’ says Allman.”

ANGELA PINCHES has entered a plea of not guilty to charges of possessing marijuana for sale and maintaining a place for cultivation. Ms. Pinches is the daughter of Third District Supervisor John Pinches. She was cited in two raids on her Redwood Valley home on Vineyard Oaks Drive, cited, but not taken into custody on either occasion. She was recently informed by mail by the Mendocino County District Attorney's office ordering her to appear Friday. Which she did for the purpose of entering a not guilty plea.

BACK IN 2004 when Fort Bragg’s Mendocino Coast District Hospital faced a large budget deficit due to the profligate management practices of its board of directors and CEO Bryan Ballard, Ballard and Company just went on spending on more medical staff and expanded facilities in the hope that admissions would magically increase and the government would just keep on forking over. By 2006 Ballard and his top finance guy, Jacob Lewis, were gone, leaving behind a financial mess that took years for new management and a new board of directors to repair.

BUT IN 2005, when Ballard realized that something had to be done about the financial mess he'd made, he came up with a list of “money losers” — five hospital departments — that Ballard wanted eliminated, including the essential Hospital-based ambulance service. It was then that critics of the Ballard regime discovered that Ballard and Lewis were cooking the books to make certain departments look like “money losers,” in an attempt to distract the Board from looking at the real money-losers — Ballard and Allen. By narrow Board votes, and with an alarmed public looking on as Mendocino County's only community-owned medical center lingered on life support, essential departments escaped the manufactured budget ax and a few months later both Ballard and Lewis had “resigned” before they were fired. In 2007 a new management team was in place which included several of Ballard’s prescient critics. Construction was scaled back, the billing system fixed, the hiring binge ended, and Coast District Hospital regained a precarious hold on financial stability.

IT’S NOW 2012 and again Coast Hospital faces financial problems, this time not of its own making. Fewer and fewer Fort Bragg residents have jobs that come with health insurance, medical costs are up, Obamacare, even if it has some minor improvement potential, is still a ways off, and admissions are down. However, unlike the Ballard days, Coast now has honest and capable management. At a special meeting on Feb. 16 the Board authorized CEO Hino to borrow $500k in anticipation of a delayed Medicare reimbursement. Hino also announced that all hospital managers will take an immediate 5% pay cut, saving $180k; that two senior management positions will be eliminated (one will return to a work-supervisor role, the other will retire), benefits for part-time staff will be eliminated and/or consolidated into full-time jobs, and “productivity targets” will be established. Hino also plans to review the hospital’s contracts with an eye further reducing costs. Hino also said he’s looking at “clinical changes” involving the Hospital’s home health service, an important community benefit that is chronically difficult for any hospital to finance, let along a rural hospital. We haven’t heard what the hospital employees union thinks of some of these steps, but it’s a good sign that management is out front with honest assessments of possible solutions. Coast Hospital's doctor-contracts were a source of the hospital’s financial problems back during the Ballard era too, but even though Ballard’s own consultants suggested that they be reviewed, nothing came of it.

EVEN BY THE DUAL aesthetics of Ukiah and McDonald's, double whammies in visual squalor, the McDonald's at Perkins and Orchard, the gateway to the Mendocino County seat, is a depressing sight, kind of like a giant, fish-free aquarium painted in those uniquely awful McDonald's colors of off-yellow, off-orange, off-red so frightful that even the little kids it's designed to entice don't voluntarily enter it. That McDonald's is coming down, and in its place a new McDonald’s will arise. Efrain Corona, identified as Big Mac's man for NorCal, appeared before the Ukiah Planning Commission last Wednesday night. “The building is more than 40 years old,” he said. “Our intent is to redevelop it and make the building look a lot nicer and make the site flow a lot better. You'll find a very different building than what you're used to seeing.” The only way to improve a McDonald's in Ukiah is to put it underground. That particular intersection can't get any uglier, and we shall see what we shall see, but with the new County Courthouse, guaranteed to be the visual equivalent of the now abandoned Willits Courthouse times at least ten, the main path into central Ukiah will be an even more foreboding gauntlet of hideous structures all the way to Perkins and State Street.

LAST FEBRUARY, when Supervisor John McCowen pointed out that the County should not lend the ongoing parcel scam at the Brooktrails township northwest of Willits the legitimacy of the County's backing, his fellow Supervisors voted 4-1 to allow the ongoing swindle continue, essentially saying, “Buyer beware.” Now it turns out that Brooktrails is also costing the County tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars a year out of the General Fund, according to Linda Williams in last week’s Willits News.

THE BROOKTRAILS situation is compounded by state and county law, further compounded by the ongoing real estate depression, and unaddressed at the Mendocino County level.

HERE’S SUPERVISOR McCOWEN’S summary of the problem from last February (2011): “Many of these lots are routinely tax defaulted,” began McCowen, half expecting his colleagues to be sympathetic to his carefully researched analysis, “They are auctioned by the County. They are purchased often by speculators or unsuspecting members of the public. They currently are under a water moratorium. For many of them sewer is not available under any circumstances. They are postage stamp sized lots where it would not be feasible to do septic. So without sewer they are essentially unbuildable. People purchase these lots either directly, thinking they’re getting a bargain, or they purchase them from a speculator who bought them, often over the internet, pay exorbitant, inflated prices, then they start making the inquiries they should have made in the beginning. They find out they bought a worthless piece of ground. They quit paying on it. Eventually it tax defaults. We, the County, sell it again at auction, a speculator buys it up, resells it. I suspect some of these lots have been sold multiple times over the last 30 years, and, so, I’m looking at this as if the County in a sense is essentially complicit in fraud in that we know we are auctioning worthless lots, in some cases picked up by speculators, marketed to unsophisticated people. For the Brooktrails lots about half the names of the owners are Hispanic or Asian surnames. I think at a minimum, if we’re going to be selling these lots we should do everything we can to notify the public of the true condition of them. And I know that’s not in the economic interest of the County. But I’m asking the question, Is it ethical to just sell these lots on the open market or at open auction without providing the information about serious material defects that we know affects the value and the buildability of these lots?”

TURNS OUT that McCowen, as accurate as he was in his basic assessment, was wrong that having the County back away from the scam is “not in the economic interest of the County.” Why? Because, as Ms. Williams of the Willits News points out, more and more of the unbuildable lots are either being abandoned or sitting unsold, causing the County to lose tax revenues at the same time it advances the Brooktrails portion of the taxes back to Brooktrails from the County’s general fund (under the so-called “Teeter Plan”). The County also pays Brooktrails fire and water fees on the tax-defaulted, County-owned empty lots even though there’s minimal threat of fire and no water or sewer hook-ups. And Brooktrails is poised to raise fire and water fees by 50%.

UNTIL a couple of years ago, most of the Brooktrails owners would at least pay the taxes and fees on their unbuildable lots. And most of those that defaulted on their taxes were eventually resold to other unwitting buyers and the County would pick up the back taxes from the new owners — new owners who, like the old owners — were unaware that their new property was unbuildable. But now with the real estate market depressed, plus the increasingly high accumulated taxes, fees and penalties on these lots, owners are walking away without paying the County back. More and more of the lots sit unsold and the County has no chance of recovering the back taxes, not to mention the basic property tax revenue.

THIS IS NOT A SMALL PROBLEM. 4,089 (almost 75%) of the assessable 5,502 Brooktrails lots are vacant and are likely to remain so. No taxes were paid on about 600 of the 4,089 vacant lots last year. But who’s buying? Nobody. As the fees increase and accumulate it’s harder and harder to sell the unbuildable lots because the back taxes and fees can be more than the small lots are assessed for.

ASSUMING McCowen brings the issue back to the Board with this new information that the County is losing serious money on Brooktrails, some of his fellow “we-have-no-money” Supervisors should see the light. (Although the way out of this convoluted tax mess now after all these years is far from clear.)

STOP THE PRESSES! From Monday's Press Democrat: “Lady Gaga spotted in Sonoma, Geyserville.” Ho hum. We see Gagas of both sexes every day right here in Boonville.

THE YUROK TRIBE'S Forestry Director and two Eureka biologists are suspected of embezzling $900,000 that was supposed to go for spotted owl research, according to a story in Sunday's Eureka Times-Standard. The scheme allegedly had then-tribal Forestry Director Roland Raymond's submitting false invoices to the Yurok Tribe on behalf of Sean McAllister and Ron LeValley, of Mad River Biologists while, it seems, the three of them divvied up the money among themselves. The Tribe complained to the Del Norte District Attorney's Office in October that equipment Raymond had supposedly purchased for McAllister and LeValley could not be found. “At least $870,000 of the embezzled funds are specifically related to the spotted owl project,” stated Del Norte County District Attorney Jon Alexander. The DA's search warrant, filed last Thursday, indicates there are Yurok Tribe checks cashed by McAllister, receipts of large cash withdrawals, transfers to LeValley's personal account and checks sent from LeValley to Raymond. The biologists were to do survey work on the northern spotted owl on tribal land, but the work was never done, the DA said. He also said the case caught the attention of the U.S. Attorney's Office, as it involves the theft of federal funds. McAllister was arrested Thursday afternoon while LeValley turned himself in Thursday night. Raymond is being sought. Raymond, incidentally was named the Yurok Tribe's “Director of the Year” in 2009.

A READER WRITES: “15-20 years ago the average American made the choice to drive huge vehicles that got very low mileage instead of smaller, fuel efficient vehicles like a Pious, I mean Prius. For example, when I still lived in NorCal, I drove a Honda Civic that got 35+mpgs, and only filled up the tank every two weeks. OK, I had a very short in-town commute. But I was talking with a F-250 owner at the gas station one time and he filled his truck twice a week, and bitched about the cost. When I asked him if he actually needed or used the huge truck in his line of work, the answer was “No,” he just drove it because “it was comfortable and he liked that he could 'look down' on the other cars.” When I suggested he try a Civic, he looked at me like I had suddenly developed Tourettes Syndrome, or had threatened to emasculate him. Yes, it's the Choices we Made. And we can't un-make them now; it’s too late. So now, many of the choices we could have made that would have left us with some control over our lives are instead being made by forces outside our control. So I say tough shit to all those driving huge, fuel-inefficient vehicles, you made that choice, you are just going to have to live with it. If you had been smart, and made a different choice, perhaps you wouldn't be making the choice of filling the tank and eating dog food, or having steak for dinner and waiting till next week to put some gas in the Pious.”

STATE SENATOR Noreen Evans has endorsed Stacey Lawson for Congress. If you came in late, or tend not to pay attention to Northcoast politics, candidate Lawson is a multi-millionaire, complete with her own guru, who has decided she should represent the 2nd Congressional District, which extends from Marin County north to the Oregon border. Lawson moved to San Rafael from San Francisco three years ago. She made a lot of dough fiddling with computer programs or something and, like a lot of rich people, soon concluded that because she's rich she should be running everything. Congressman Corktop Thompson, by the way, is running next door in another reconfigured district now called the 1st Congressional District, heavy on the wine business, which has always been Corktop's primary funder. Ms. Lawson's belated entry into the race means that prominent Democrats are clearly unhappy with the perceived Demo frontrunner, Jared Huffman, presently sitting as a State Assemblyman out of Marin. Former Congressman Bosco and now Evans have jumped on the Lawson bandwagon while Lawson herself, with heavy Frisco money supplementing her own fortune, thinks she can buy her way into Congress. And why shouldn't she think she can buy in given the many precedents? Congressman Corktop and career officeholder Wes Chesbro have announced for Huffman as Northcoast progs have lined up behind Norman Solomon, but with Lawson and her bottomless money vats in the race, it seems to look better for Solomon and not too good for Huffman. Senator Evans, burbling along in the usual fuzz-brained clichés of main stem Democrats, says of Ms. Lawson, “Stacey Lawson’s real-world experience as an educator and small business advocate is exactly what we need to help create good jobs on the North Coast and throughout America. I have been very impressed with her understanding of how to create jobs, respect for the environment and willingness to fight for middle-class families. Please join me in supporting Stacey Lawson for Congress.”

NOTHING PERSONAL, NOREEN, but going from Congressman Corktop to Swami Lawson wouldn't even be a lateral political move. Even Corktop came out last week for some FDR-like federal spending projects that would truly employ people on the scale and rates of pay that people need to be employed at to keep this kind of economy limping along. The destruction of the Northcoast's timber-based economy, and the living wage jobs that went with it, was destroyed by cash and carry corporations as Democrat officeholders looked benignly on and even encouraged. (cf Dan Hauser, Bosco, Chesbro and so on.) Lawson's money will make her formidable. She has no discernible ideas. She will of course get the Comfortable Lady vote, the women who think it's really, really important to staff the Titanic with a female crew, but outside the purple comfort zone there's no real enthusiasm for any candidate anywhere except here among lefties for Solomon.

ARE YOU AS NOSTALGIC as I am for the days when job meant work? A specific task you got paid to do? Anything from, say, coal mining to convenience store clerk, that particular job being the most dangerous job in America, statistically considered. Even writing for a newspaper or editing one is generally considered labor. After all, you've got to come up with a work product every week and a certain number of people have to buy it to keep the newspaper limping along. So, we're sitting around the other day trying to figure out how many Mendo people draw attractive money doing nothing at all. There's a small army of them. Put work hour video cameras on MCOE's Paul Tichinin at $120,000 a year, or Bruce Richard at the Mendocino Transit Authority, $90,000, or Anne Molgaard at First Five, another $90,000, the three most egregious cases we can think of, and you'd find Tichinin and Richard doing absolutely nothing while Ms. Molgaard would be sitting in a circle with a dozen other Nice Ladies chatting about their “visions” of this, that and the other thing, their primary “vision” being how to rake off a nice hunk of the cigarette tax money for themselves to administer programs that allegedly do nice things for the children of the poor. But, but.... but why not set aside all the cig money in an educational trust for these children who, against all the odds, make it all the way to 18 and want to go to college? Or just give them the accumulated money on their 18th birthday to set themselves up with? Because you'd throw several hundred Mendo Nice People out of work, that's why. Most parasitic of all, probably, Tichinin and Richard excepted, are the non-profit rake-off artists at Redwood Children's Services and Tapestry, taking their annual whacks at funding for that special category of doomed American child, the one being raised by the government, with those Nice People fastened on that kid's funding like a Kalimantan leech until he's 18 when he gets a final hug and a gentle but firm shove out the door, the lavish funding for him suddenly ended.

WE ARE TRYING to find the 97 pound Jacqueline Nicole Audet, 22, who has been regularly arrested since she was 18 for drunk in public and disorderly conduct. Please call the AVA at 895-3016 if you are her or can put us in touch with her.

WILL PARRISH reported a few weeks back on the case of Ramiro Hernandez Farias, a Ukiah resident originally from the southwestern state of Michoacan, Mexico, who has been living without papers here in Gringolandia for more than seven years. Farias was arrested by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during Operation Full Court Press, the much-ballyhooed sweep of public lands executed this past August by a phalanx of local, state, and federal marijuana eradicators. Farias has languished in Yuba County without charges for more than seven months, but he had nothing to do with marijuana cultivation. He was merely hanging out with his family on Cow Mountain, the BLM-sponsored recreation area east of Ukiah, at the time he was swept up by the feds.

Farias' family originally came to Gringolandia to escape persecution by one of Mexico's ultra-violent drug cartels, La Familia, which had offed his father-in-law and tortured his uncle, an outgrowth off the cartel's efforts to take over new turf. With help from his Santa Rosa-based attorney, Richard Coshnear, he is seeking to gain asylum status under the international torture convention, of which the US is a signatory, which would allow him to remain in the US and thereby avoid his own horrible fate at that hands of the cartel.

Farias appeared before a San Francisco immigration judge on Valentine's Day, February 14th. After three hours of testimony, the judge was unable to render an immediate decision on his fate. He continued the case until April 9th, the next time he has an opening on his calendar (such is the volume of cases at the SF immigration court during the Obama era.)

Farias is not alone in having been rounded up during Full Court Press, despite having no demonstrable ties to the marijuana cultivation industry. The question arises: To what degree was the combined federal-local campaign to squelch marijuana growing on public lands merely a pretext the federal immigration cops exploited in order to round up local undocumented people, in the process shattering their families, and in some cases — like that of Farias — endangering their lives. There are several cases similar to that of Farias. Will had originally planned to feature a follow-up on the Farias case a few weeks ago, but it's taken him longer than he expected to wrap up his full investigation of who was arrested during Operation Full Court Press, and under what circumstances. He plans to complete that follow-up piece in time for next week's issue.


  1. james marmon March 4, 2012

    I would like to comment on the Sprinkle case. At the time of this crime I was employed as a crisis worker for Mendocino County Youth Project and I was pesonally involved in the case. What the AVA has missed is the extensive grooming that took place with this young woman. She believed that she was in love with Mr. Sprinkle and wanted to be his wife. He did nothing to pursuade her otherwise. This was public record, Mark Sprinkle deserves what he got.

    • james marmon January 15, 2016

      I forgot I commented on this 4 years ago, I’ve changed my mind, 45 to life was too harsh.

    • james marmon January 15, 2016

      “Child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions for child sexual abuse.”

      If anything this is what Mark is guilty of. There was never any penetration and presumably only touch took place. No one knows if their relationship was leading to penetration or not, I believe it was only a matter of time. Natasha was throwing herself at him, and she was a very attractive young lady.

      But, to sentence him to life for just thinking about committing a crime, is really harsh, and that goes for the Judge Moorman thing too. If you’ve ever been to jail you would know that District Attorney’s and Judges are inmates favorite subjects and there’s a lot of inmates sitting around who wish them something other than a pleasant day. Eyster could fill a jail and a whole bunch of prisons with his just his critics alone.

      • james marmon January 15, 2016

        Oops! I mistook Beth Norman for Ann Moorman, sorry. Sorry judge, but they still don’t like you.

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