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Mendocino County Today: September 14, 2012

Alonso

FORT BRAGG POLICE were summoned to a home in the 200 block of North Harold Street at 3:50am last Saturday night (September 8) when a 16-year-old boy reported that a man, soon identified as Daniel Alonso, had entered his home through the unlocked front door and grabbed the boy's genitals while he slept on the couch. Alonso ran from the home when the boy woke up, picked up a hammer and chased Alonso onto Harold Street where the boy lost sight of him. Alonso was arrested at his home on Sunday morning and charged with sexual battery on a minor and burglary. He is being held in the Mendocino County Jail on $100,000 bail.

THE ALONSO EPISODE occurred the day after the FBPD did a perv check on the town's registered sex offenders, of whom there are the startling number of 20, all men, most elderly. All of them were in apparent compliance with the registration laws.

ACCORDING to the Board of Supervisors' recently approved budget, their “Major Accomplishments” for last year were: “In coordination with the Executive Office, the Board of Supervisors held several priority setting workshops throughout the year that informally established a framework for priorities in the context of an extremely limited fiscal environment. The Board was actively engaged in legislative advocacy efforts and policy development, utilizing Executive Office and departmental staff to proactively address issues at the State and federal level of government. The Board pursued a policy of full cost recovery on fees for County services. In addition, the Board was a catalyst for various efficiency efforts in County government from consolidation of County buildings to new agreements with labor units the Board authorized several cost reduction policies to adjust to the new revenue reality. The Board assured services are delivered that meet: public safety, health, social, cultural, education, transportation, economic, and environmental needs of our communities. The Board conducted regular meetings, special work sessions, joint policy sessions with local officials, and select evening and off site meetings throughout the County in Fiscal Year 2010/2011 in response to constituent interest and policy developments. The Board endeavored to maintain a responsive and responsible government to sustain the quality of life of the people of Mendocino County while responsibly addressing unprecedented fiscal challenges facing the organization and the residents of Mendocino County."

THIS SOUNDS LIKE a lot of blah-blah. Which it is. In fact, the Supervisors are doing pretty well at running the County, managing to meet our basic civic needs with less and less money.

THE FRESH BUDGET for 2012-2013 begins, by the way, almost $3 mil in the black. On paper. In theory. With footnotes.

ACCORDING TO THE DA’s on-line statistics, there were 15 jury trials, six of them for drunk driving, in 2011, 11 of which resulted in guilty verdicts; two persons were found not guilty; and two trials ended in hung juries. So far in 2012 there have been 13 jury trials, five of them drunk driving cases, all of which resulted in guilty verdicts.

DA EYSTER listed the following “Major Accomplishments” in 2011: “The District Attorney carried a full caseload and appeared in court on cases, while also handling the day-to-day management of the office. The District Attorney prosecuted a Three Strikes case that resulted in the imposition of a sentence of 25 years to life, the longest sentence imposed on any defendant in calendar year 2011. With an increased focus on the prosecution of serious and violent offenders, was successful in removing 105 local felony offenders to state prison in calendar year 2011. For January 1, 2012 through May 8, 2012, an additional 35 local felony offenders have been removed to state prison. Decreased the average time it takes to litigate a marijuana-related case in the local courts to approximately 90 days, from approximately 15 months in the year 2010. This decrease has resulted in significant budget savings across the board to all stakeholders in the local criminal justice system. Employing an under-utilized statute promoted by Senator Barry Keene and that became law 29 years ago, the District Attorney collected over $500,000 in marijuana-related restitution in calendar year 2011 for local financially-strapped law enforcement agencies. For January 1, 2012, through May 14, 2012, restitution of $320,964. The jury trial conviction rate for calendar year 2011 rose to 82%, in comparison to the conviction rate of 71% achieved in calendar year 2010. For calendar year 2012, 15 out of 16 defendants have been found guilty, with the one case being a hung jury. Decreased operational spending. For example, using a five-year average of expenses as a benchmark, the DA’s Office has experienced a 5% decrease in overall office expenses from that five-year average. Other budget accounts have experienced up to a 56% decrease over the same average. Reinvigorated a misdemeanor educational diversion program to divert from the criminal justice system first-time, low level offenders at the pre-file stage. District Attorney testified before Assembly committees in calendar year 2011 on proposed modifications to the Health and Safety Code. Deputy District Attorneys were active in coaching mock trial competitors, speaking at the Reality Check program, as well as the Every 15 Minutes program to educate local high school students about the dangers of driving under the influence. Asset forfeiture monies have been donated to the Youth Project (counseling and teen drug court programs), an increased Sober Grad Night effort county-wide, and supporting anti- drug messaging through local sports programming. With the hiring of a Public Information Officer, news releases and media access have been increased so that the public is generally better aware of the progress of cases and other noteworthy news. Revised the office’s procedures and practices. District Attorney has generally undertaken all charging decisions, resulting in consistency and fairness in the filing process. Increased the marijuana conviction rate from 56% to 81%, and recovered over $500,000 in restitution to the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office. Reduced the number of new cases filed in the courts by filing only violations of probation, as well as relying on state parole to punish violators through parole proceedings. Prosecutors continued to work closely with the Victim/Witness Advocates and with the victims of crime to ensure victim needs are met. Information on filing statistics, asset forfeiture numbers, and other information is now available online. The District Attorney’s website www.co.mendocino.ca.us/da features, among other things, statistics of cases submitted for review. The website also includes asset forfeiture statistics, information on the various divisions and bureaus, news releases, a link to the Check Enforcement Program, Victim Witness information and other frequently requested information. Much of this information was not available in prior years, but is now available because the District Attorney is requiring a new level of transparency."

THE NUMBER OF MURDERS in Mendocino County in 2011, a total of 10, set a record for the 21st century. Two of the homicides were the two victims of Aaron Bassler — Matt Coleman and Jere Melo. If those two were taken out of the statistics, the 2011 murder count would have been eight which was reached in 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2009. Since Susan Keegan’s death was only recently revised as “homicide,” it’s safe to say that the actual number of homicides in 2011 was 11, not 10.

• Bushay Campground: Arone Schnebly (pending), William Crocker (pending), Marvin Johnson (convicted), Simon Thornton (convicted), who were involved in the killing of Joseph Litteral.

• Fort Bragg. James Kester, accused of killing Jason Blackshear (pending).

• Glenn Hughes, Fort Bragg Campground murder of Jose Madrid, apparently both under the influence of alcohol. (Pending)

• Samuel Campos who killed his girlfriend while aiming at his dog. (convicted, plead guilty)

(Plus the Melo and Coleman murders)

So, apparently there were four other homicides in 2011 which have not (yet) resulted in an arrest for murder.

IN 2001 FIVE HATE CRIMES were referred to the DA, one rejected, three charged not as hate crimes, one conviction but not a conviction on the hate part of the allegation.

MENDOCINO COUNTY DA Mendocino County DA Issues Warning About Marijuana Advertising (August 23, 2012) — Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster is publicly challenging as misleading local newspaper and radio marijuana-related advertising by an Upper Lake doctor. Milan L. Hopkins, 67, has been placing advertising in local newspapers and purchasing radio spots offering to clear up the “confusion and misinformation” being spread by “newspapers and law enforcement.” Of particular concern to DA Eyster is Hopkins primary claim that his recommendations will protect people in any county from prosecution under state law for 99 plants and 19 pounds of processed cannabis, a claim that Eyster suggests is nothing more than bad legal advice. DA Eyster states it is currently the informal policy of prosecutors in Mendocino County to give no weight to a Hopkins recommendation, a policy that has been shared with all law enforcement agencies in Mendocino County. This informal policy is because DA Eyster has yet to have a Hopkins recommendation come across his desk that recommends an amount of marijuana less than 19 pounds and 99 marijuana plants to any single patient. “What are the odds that every patient this man sees ends up with the same boilerplate diagnosis of needing what we normally would consider commercial quantities of marijuana,” asked Eyster rhetorically. Eyster also noted that the California Medical Board publicly accused Hopkins in April of gross negligence in connection with dispensing medical marijuana recommendations. It's the third time since 1979 that the medical board has taken action against Hopkins, and the state board is yet again seeking revocation or suspension of Hopkins' medical license. Hopkins has denied the medical board charges. DA Eyster says any boilerplate recommendation, including those issued by Hopkins at either of his Lake County offices, is a disservice to patients with legitimate medical needs. “Let me be clear – Doc Hop’s claim that his recommendations will protect individuals from prosecution is a risky exaggeration,” said Eyster. “What Hopkins’ advertising blitz overlooks are the critical issues of how to stay out of court, how to properly and legally document one’s medical needs, and how to go about doing this in such a way that when the police show up at the front door nobody goes to jail,” said Eyster. Boilerplate recommendations are a “waste of time and money, and more likely than not will disappoint big time when push comes to shove,” concluded the DA.

JEFF BLANKFORT WRITES: In a letter in the September 5th AVA, I reported that the California assembly had passed by a unanimous 80-0 vote, HR 35, a non-binding resolution which condemned all protests on state university campuses against Israel and in support of the Palestinians as antisemitic, if not outright hate crimes, and that use of such terms as “ethnic cleansing,” “war crimes,” and “apartheid,” in describing Israeli behavior was threatening to the psychological and physical well being of the state's Jewish college students, (some of whom take part in these protests) but the on-campus organizing for BDS (“boycott, divestment, and sanctions”") is what really pushed our legislators to hold  a match to the 1st Amendment and the concept of academic freedom without thinking twice about it. As we have seen in the behavior of Congress, when an Israeli prime minister or one of his Washington surrogates shouts “Jump!,” our members (or rather “their” members) of Congress ask, “How high?” It seems that the next member of Congress to represent Mendocino County, Jared Huffman, currently the 1st District Assemblyman (Marin County), already has his Air Jordans and is ready to serve the powers that be. Two weeks ago, I asked his office and that of Wes Chesbro, our assemblyman, for written explanations of why they agreed to co-sponsor this fetid resolution. Chesbro's Sacramento office did not respond but the night before my September 12th Takes on the World program on KZYX, I received the following email message from Huffman.

“HELLO JEFF, Regarding my support of HR 35, I take anti-Semitism very seriously, I believe it is on the rise, and that’s why I supported HR 35. Upon reflecting on the wording of HR 35, however, I agree that it is overly broad and should have been more narrowly focused to avoid the implication that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. I understood HR 35 to be mainly focused on the so-called ‘BDS’ (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement which has gotten some traction on college campuses, and which I strongly oppose. The BDS movement has singled out and applied a blatant double-standard toward Israel (this in itself can be seen as a form of anti-Semitism or racism) in an attempt to de-legitimize the Jewish state, while praising and supporting groups like Hamas – which, to this day, vows in its charter to destroy Israel and kill all of its Jewish inhabitants. BDS leaders are advocates of a ‘one state’ solution for the Israel-Palestinian conflict. What that means, based on demographics, the stated intentions of groups like Hamas, the fierce anti-Semitism of neighboring Arab states (where Jews are by law prohibited from being citizens), and the history of the region – is that the world’s only Jewish state would cease to exist and Jews who chose to remain would almost certainly be subjected to genocide. I agree with HR 35’s condemnation of the BDS movement, and so should anyone else who believes Israel has a right to exist as a state and Israeli Jews have a right to live in peace and security. That said, HR 35 should have included language acknowledging the difference between overt and de facto anti-Semitism such as the BDS movement, the use of swastikas, etc., and legitimate forms of pro-Palestinian (or anti-Israeli) expression that are perfectly acceptable as part of the political debate on any college campus.  I regret that my colleagues and I did not do a good enough job of scrutinizing the resolution to ensure that it was carefully written. I hope that answers your question. — Jared Huffman”

* * *

ON SEPTEMBER 12, I read most of Huffman's response on my program, pointing out that while many BDS supporters are in favor of a single democratic state, the BDS movement takes no position on the final solution and that not only does the BDS movement not support Hamas, it criticizes Hamas on its website over its restrictions on movement of Palestinians within Gaza and its hindering of those who try to leave. The notion that our next member of Congress believes that calling for boycotting, divesting and sanctioning companies that produce or to do business with companies that operate in the Occupied West Bank is the equivalent to drawing a swastika on a wall is chilling. That he also believes that under a single state the Palestinians would subject Israel's Jewish population to genocide is something that not even Israelis claim but when one is wearing Air Jordans, there is no limit to how high someone can jump when trying to please. Even Mike Thompson never went this far. — Jeff Blankfort, Ukiah

2 Comments

  1. Jim Hill September 14, 2012

    The Kelly decision cleared up how much cannabis a patient may possess . Patients are not subject to any specific limits and do not require a physician recommendation to exceed any law enforcement imposed limit.

    From the Kelly decision:
    http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/revpub/B195624.PDF

    The jury was instructed as follows: “Possession or cultivation of marijuana is not unlawful if authorized by the Compassionate Use Act. The Compassionate Use Act allows a person to possess or cultivate marijuana for personal medical purposes when a physician has recommended or approved such use. The amount of marijuana possessed or cultivated must be reasonably related to the patient’s current medical needs. The People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not authorized to possess or cultivate marijuana for medical purposes. If the People have not met this burden, you must find the defendant not guilty of this charge.”

    And,
    Under the CUA as adopted by Proposition 215, these individuals are not subject to any specific limits and do not require a physician‟s recommendation in order to exceed any such limits; instead they may possess an amount of medical marijuana reasonably necessary for their…., personal medical needs.

    And,
    the CUA‟s guarantee that a qualified patient may possess and cultivate any amount of marijuana reasonably necessary for his or her current medical condition.

    Is Dr. Hopkins presumed innocent? Is he entitled to defend himself and present evidence to refute the allegations against him? Does the Superior Court recognize his prescriptions? Is he entitled to due process?

    For the last 50 years Law Enforcement has insisted that cannabis is not medicine, do they still feel that way?

    Should patients accept the medical opinion of Law Enforcement before they listen to a Medical Board licensed physician?

    Can Law Enforcement determine a patients’ current medical need?

    As always just my opinion,
    Jim Hill
    Potter Valley

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