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Mendocino County Today: July 15, 2012

IN MAY OF 2010, 15 Congressmen, including Ron Paul and Bay Area Democrats Pete Stark and Zoe Lofgren, asked Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, to “assure financial institutions (banks) whose account holders are involved in a business ostensibly operating in compliance with a state medical marijuana law” that the feds leave them alone. The previous year, Attorney General Holder had instructed US Attorneys throughout the land that they “should not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

WHAT HAPPENED? Why the federal crackdown over the last year on dispensaries, with another widely publicized raid last week on the largest medical marijuana outlet in Northern California, Harborside, over an IRS complaint claiming that Harborside had not only been trafficking in an illegal substance, but had also been operating in violation of workers comp laws and generally cooking the books? Those are the federal allegations anyway.

BUT THOSE ALLEGATIONS, followed up by federal raids on the most prominent clinics, have meant that the state and locally legalized dispensaries are forced into doing business the same way street dealers do business — cash, thus nullifying the wider benefits of legality such as safe transactions, orderly taxation and so on.


YOU'RE GETTING to be a Mendocino County old timer if you remember Sebastian Coe running the Penofin Mile in Ukiah. Coe is presently the man in charge of the forthcoming London Olympic Games and was, for a time, the fastest distance runner in the world. So, what was he doing in Ukiah? Penofin, a wood preservative, was founded in Ukiah where it still makes its headquarters. The boss, as I recall, was a great fan of the sport, and darned if he didn't lure Coe and a bunch of other world class athletes to Ukiah for a weekend of distance racing in, if memory serves, and it seldom does anymore, 1986.

SHERIFF ALLMAN might be interested in adopting a power strategy generated (sic) by a Brazilian prison. Prisoners held in the Santa Rita Do Sapucal jail ride stationary bikes hooked up to the town's electrical grid, thus helping to illuminate the town. For every three eight-hour days they spend on the bikes, inmates get a day shaved off their sentences.

THERE WILL BE 11 PROPOSITIONS on the November ballot, numbered 30 through 40:

• Prop 30: Governor Brown's tax initiative which would raise the sales tax and raise the income tax on the rich. We're already opposed for lots of reasons beginning with the paltry tax on the wealthy while at the same time raising the sales tax, which everyone pays.

• Prop. 31: Requires a two-year state budget plan and limits expenditures. (Budgets are presently adopted annually.)

• Prop. 32: Restricts political fundraising by unions, the rightwing's canard that unions are responsible for the state's deficits.

• Prop. 33: Allows insurance companies to set rates based on driver's history of coverage, not a good idea unless you think insurance companies should have even more freedom to set rates than they enjoy now.

• Prop. 34: Abolishes the death penalty for life in prison without the possibility of parole.

• Prop. 35: Increases penalties for human trafficking.

• Prop. 36: Revises the three-strikes law to impose life sentences only when the third felony is serious or violent.

• Prop. 37: Requires labeling on raw or processed food that has been made from genetically modified plants or animals.

• Prop. 38: Molly Munger's much more fair tax initiative that would boost taxes on everyone except the poor.

• Prop. 39: Requires multi-state businesses to calculate taxes owed based on one formula, and uses the diff for energy efficiency and clean-energy projects.

• Prop. 40: Challenges state senate redistricting, but this one already seems to have been abandoned by its backers.


JUST IN FROM the Sheriff's Department: A 53-year-old Ukiah man was killed Friday after apparently being assaulted at the scene of an alleged marijuana growing operation, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported. According to the MCSO, deputies responded to a home near Brooktrails on Third Gate Road at 7:41pm on July 13 after receiving a report of an assault. While en route, emergency medical personnel discovered the victim in the bed of a pick-up truck that had stopped on the side of Sherwood Road. The victim, Mark Maples, 53, of Ukiah, was pronounced dead at the scene. Maples' girlfriend, who was with him in the truck, told deputies that she found him at the family residence on Third Gate Road and saw that he had been assaulted and called for help. After determining Maples' injuries were consistent with an assault, deputies responded to the residence where the alleged crime had occurred and found a large-scale marijuana growing operation on the property. Detectives are investigating the suspected murder and an autopsy on Maples is scheduled for early next week. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call the MCSO at 463-4086, and callers can remain anonymous.


BILLY NORBURY, 33, the Redwood Valley man accused of shooting and killing his neighbor, Jamal Andrews, 30, has changed his not guilty plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. Norbury faces a murder charge with a special allegation that he used a gun in the killing of Andrews the night of January 24th. Norbury's attorney, Al Kubanis, persuaded Judge John Behnke to postpone trial until September while Norbury's mental functioning is assessed. The argument about who chooses Norbury's psychiatric evaluator will be held in Behnke's court next Wednesday.


SERGIO FUENTES has resigned from his prosecutor's job with the Mendo DA's Office. He may also face cultivation charges because police found a pot garden on the Fuentes family property in Redwood Valley where Fuentes lives. Fuentes, 33, was hired by former District Attorney Norm Vroman in the DA's Victim-Witness program. Fuentes, a graduate of Ukiah High School, subsequently went off to law school, became an attorney, and went to work for the DA's office.

IN OTHER NEWS from the DA's office, Jared Kelly, 34, has resigned to move back to Boston, his city of origin. Kelly had been working as a prosecutor at Ten Mile Court, Fort Bragg. Brian Weisel, 28, replaces Kelly at Ten Mile. Weisel had previously worked as a public defender in Ukiah. Prior to arriving in Mendocino County, Weisel worked as a prosecutor in Shasta County.

MILL FIRE UPDATE (As of Saturday Morning, July 14, from CalFire): Burnout operations started Friday and continue through Saturday along the south and southeast flanks of the fire. [The fire is in the south end of the Mendocino National Forest about halfway between Potter Valley and Willows.] Firefighters will continue to mop up and secure containment lines on the west and southwest sides of the fire, patrol the north flank, and construct additional containment lines to the south. While nighttime burnout along the southern flank was limited by high humidity Friday night, the fire burned actively in steep rugged terrain in the Little Sullivan Creek area until early morning. Good progress was made securing containment lines. Although the local air districts have lifted air quality alerts, residents should still be aware of smoke impacts. Smoke from the Mill Fire will be visible throughout the day Saturday as burnout operations continue. The cause of the 26,000-acre fire is still under investigation. Containment currently estimated at 50%. Five outbuildings have been destroyed. Firefighting has cost $8.4 million so far for 43 fire crews, 8 helicopters, 110 engines, 19 dozers, 13 water tenders and a total of 1664 firefighters and support staff. Estimated Containment Date: July 20, 2012.

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