Every time a judge denies a motion to suppress evidence, the judge is saying to the cop, “Good job, your methods are perfectly legal, no room for improvement; keep up the good work.”
The Confidential Informant had smelled marijuana at 9057 East Road, Redwood Valley, a property rented by John Rule. The informant had allegedly smelled marijuana on three different visits.
“Was she related to law enforcement?” Mr. Rule’s lawyer, J. David Nick, wanted to know.
Deputy DA Katherine ‘Kitty’ Houston said the informant’s identity was “confidential.”
Nick said he only wanted to know whether “he or she” was related to law enforcement. There was some back and forth about the witness perhaps having had his or her own legal difficulty disappear in exchange for his or her sniff tests.
Whatever the confidential informant's legal history, his or her olfactory prowess was assumed accurate and disinterested; a good citizen simply doing his or her duty. The informant told deputy Timothy Goss that he or she had thrice sniffed out devil weed at Mr. Rule's place, and having detected it went to deputy Goss with the scent fresh in his or her nostrils.
Deputy Goss soon appeared at Mr. Rule's front door where a “female” answered and “went out back” to get John Rule and his son, Jason Dominguez.
Deputy Goss also smelled marijuana and asked to see the source. Rule and Dominguez declined to give the deputy a tour of what turned out to be an indoor grow. Deputy Goss hustled off to get a search warrant, and soon returned with a harvest crew consisting entirely of cops.
When Goss and his posse returned, Goss said “Rule and Dominguez were loading U-Haul boxes of ‘bud marijuana’ into a pick-up, and it looked like a lot had already been hauled off.”
“Did Mr. Rule tell you where the marijuana had been taken?” prosecutor Houston asked.
“He agreed to go with deputy Hendry, and show him where they’d taken it.
Mr. Rule had refused to show deputy Goss the weed, now he was taking a deputy to the site of the hastily evacuated bud?
About here it gets painful, extortionate you might say.
Defense attorney Nick asked deputy Goss, “Did you talk to Jason Dominguez about a referral to Child Protective Services regarding his three children?”
“I’m sure I did, with 60 some-odd pounds of marijuana and a 158 growing plants,” Goss replied.
“You had this conversation where John Rule, the children’s grandfather, could hear.”
“I don’t know what he could hear.”
“Ever say anything to Mr. Dominguez about CPS in front of the children?”
In other words, did you tell Dominguez that unless he took you to the dope you'd call Children's Protective Services and have them confiscate his children? Did you tell him that in front of the hostages, er, the children?
Deputy Goss was furious.
“No!” he snapped. “That’s ridiculous! I can’t believe you’d even....” The deputy was leaning forward aggressively, his eyes blazing.
Ms. Houston cut him off.
“Deputy Goss, please. Did you ever tell anyone you were going to arrest Mr. Rule’s wife or Mr. Dominguez’s girlfriend?”
Goss relaxed a little.
“No,” he said. “Never.”
Mr. Nick asked, “Did you ever write anything about CPS in your report?”
“I don’t know,” Goss said without heat.
“Nothing further,” Nick said.
Deputy Raymond Derek Hendry was called to testify. Hendry had driven John Rule out to a property off Webb Ranch Road. He said Rule directed him there. Rule got out and opened a gate with a code, and opened a second gate with a key. There was an army-style tent where the bud marijuana had been left on the floor.
DA Houston entered some photos into evidence and asked Hendry, “Any hesitation? Did he appear to be delaying?”
“I don’t believe he was delaying. We went straight there. He was very co-operative.”
“Had you done or said anything to make him co-operative?”
Nick had his doubts.
“Did you overhear what deputy Goss said about CPS before he got in the vehicle to go with you to the property?” asked Nick.
“No, I didn’t hear anything Goss told him. Rule was willing to take me.”
Nick and his partner, E.D. Lerman, Jason Dominguez’s lawyer, couldn’t pin the cops down on the threats to take the children.
“Did you tell Mr. Rule you’d go to the Willits school and take his wife out of her classroom where she’s taught for over 30 years?”
“I don’t recall.”
“You called Mr. Rule’s wife, Joan Thomas Rule at the school. Did you have the conversation about CPS with Mr. Dominguez before you called Mr. Rule’s wife?”
“I don’t recall.”
“Why did you call her?”
“She was the owner of the property.” (The Webb Ranch Road where Mr. Webb had taken the marijuana.)
“And she gave you permission to search the property?”
Mustaches twirling, enter.....
“Special Agent Peter Hoyle had arrived by then with the form; he gave it to her to sign.”
“Did she seem upset?”
“Yes, she was shocked by all the marijuana. She said she hadn’t been to the property in years. She was concerned about her name being in the papers.”
“Did she say she knew about the grow on the property Mr. Rule rented, on East Road?”
“She said she thought it was a workshop.”
“Was she surprised when you showed her it was a growhouse?”
“Yes, she was very upset. She said she’d sign anything to let us remove it.”
Task Force Special Agent Peter Hoyle, the legendary Peter Hoyle, arch nemesis of Mendocino County's number one cash crop, was called.
“Did she (Mrs. Rule) have any hesitation about signing the consent to search?” asked Houston.
“She was upset?”
“Concerned as to her exposure.”
“She consented with no qualms?”
“No. None whatsoever,” Hoyle answered.
Special Agent Hoyle was the very picture of rectitude in his Vegas Vogue leisure suit. They say you can get a whiff of Barbasol when Hoyle's up close and personal.
Defense attorney Nick asked, “Officer Hoyle, in relation to when she signed the consent form, when did she express her concern?”
“I don’t recall, chronologically, it may have been ongoing. I don’t know.”
Nick picked up the consent form and delivered it to Hoyle at the witness stand.
“Where did you get the description of the property on the form?”
“I don’t remember.”
Mr. Rule was called.
Nick established that Rule had started out as a lot man and had become a car salesman before he broke his back moving a refrigerator. Since then he’d been a medical marijuana patient. With his thick glasses and white shirt, he looked like a rocket scientist in a 1960s TV show.
Mr. Rule testified that Deputy Goss threatened to take his truck and his grow lights, and put his grandkids in the infamously arbitrary hands of Children's Protective Services, a public agency staffed largely by stupid and unfeeling persons that responsible parents would move mountains to keep their children away from.
“Threats. I heard their threats and tactics and said I’d like to confer with my son. Then I went back and told them where it was.”
Mr. Rule said that he had a contract to supply medical marijuana to Herban Legend, the cannabis dispensary in Fort Bragg, for $3,600 per pound.
Mr. Rule said he wasn’t making any money because his PG&E bill was $2,500 and his rent was $5,000 per month.
Mr. Nick “just wanted the court to know this was not a profiteering situation, you honor. Nothing further.”
Ms. Houston began her cross.
“So initially, you did not show your medical recommendation to deputy Goss.”
“He didn’t ask for it.”
“Why didn’t you say you were medical marijuana patients?”
“Well, we’d heard so many stories. And one officer coming to your door is not a safe situation. I was abused by an officer when I was a kid, and, well, I just don’t — when an officer comes to my door, there’s got to be two. If two had come I might have been more receptive.”
“Did you have your recommendations posted?”
“You said your recommendation was signed by Dr. Assad. When was the last time you saw Dr. Assad?”
(Fred Gardner reported here last week that Dr. Assad had been stripped of his license to practice.)
“Dr. Courtney. I believe I saw Dr. Courtney last.”
“Did you bring your recommendation to court?”
“I believe it is in the file.”
“And the contract with Herban Legend?”
In the end, Judge Brown denied the motion to suppress the evidence. Law enforcement had, the judge ruled, behaved by the book in bartering the kids for the dope.
* * *
Regarding a recent letter to this newspaper from a
Mr. Tim Taber asking why he was in jail:
I’ve seen Mr. Taber in court many times lately, and there’s always a strikingly gorgeous woman looking on — probably the woman Mr. Taber told us he planned to marry in his letter. With her is a distinguished-looking older gentleman, whom I assume to be the gorgeous one's father or perhaps grandfather.
If memory serves, Taber was taken into custody on the order of Judge Clayton Brennan, because, I think, Taber hadn’t reported to his parole officer. That day, the bailiff gave Taber's wristwatch to the gorgeous one, Ms. Rinah Tappan, as the bailiff put the cuffs on the love of her life. Since then, Taber and Tappan, along with her impressively patriarichal-looking chaperone, and generally one or two other knock-out babes, have become regular presences at the Courthouse. The beautiful women and the older gentleman with his wonderfully carved cane present a tableau reminiscent of that Dos Equis ad, The Most Interesting Man In The World.
Mr. Taber said in his letter that he’s charged with attempted murder, a stabbing, with his latest court appearance ending in another postponement for lack of the correct judge. The case cannot go forward until Judge Brown returns from vacation around the fourth of December. Taber has gone through several defense attorneys since his incarceration, but he can’t withdraw his plea unless it’s before the judge who took it — the Honorable Ron Brown.
* * *
Also taking their initial “baby steps” along the long march to justice this week were:
Nancie Henthorne, Covelo’s alleged 67 year old grandma crank dealer was in court as was suspected meth dealer, Olen Sowers of Fort Bragg. Defendants up on capital charges included the Point Arena juvenile being tried as an adult, Marcos Escareno, and Kenneth Rogers, the Westport man convicted of an attempted murder for hire in August.
* * *
We were saddened to hear that long-time AVA reader Duane Dahl died in Ukiah last week. There will be an informal pot-luck memorial/remembrance for Duane at the Forest Club, 239 N. State Street, Ukiah, this Thursday, November 19th at 1:00 p.m. Stop by to toast our beloved friend! (707) 462-7169 for info.) ¥¥