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Mendocino County Today: September 16, 2012

On the Lam for Two Decades; Caught, Deported & Sentenced

Skippy Massey, Humboldt Sentinel

San Francisco — Lionel Scott Harris — who until 2011 had been a fugitive since he fled during his federal criminal trial in June 1990 — was sentenced September 8th to ten-and-a-half years in prison for maritime drug smuggling and bail jumping, US Northern District Attorney Melinda Haag announced Friday.

According to court records and proceedings, Harris and others were first indicted in January 1989 on federal charges for the December 1988 importation of more than 11,000 pounds of marijuana into Shelter Cove and Humboldt County on the sailboat Japy Hermes.

The Japy Hermes

Harris was arrested shortly thereafter, but was released on a $300,000 bond pending trial. Harris fled in the middle of his trial in June of 1990. While convicted on all counts in absentia, he wasn’t sentenced. Harris was then indicted for the federal crime of bail jumping in January of 1991.

As part of “Operation Death Match,” an initiative cross-matching passport and government death records, the Diplomatic Security Service of the US Department of State determined that Harris was living on Margarita Island in Venezuela using the identity of his deceased brother.

After remaining a federal fugitive for over 20 years, Harris was deported to the United States by Venezuelan authorities in September of 2011. On May 25, 2012, Harris pleaded guilty to the bail jumping charge.

The sentence was handed down by US District Court Judge Susan Illston for importation of marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, conspiracy to import marijuana, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and a separate guilty plea to one count of bail jumping. Judge Illston also sentenced Harris to three years of supervised release and a special assessment of $300.

US Attorneys prosecuted Harris’s case after the international fugitive investigation was conducted by the Diplomatic Security Service and the United States Marshal Service. The drug smuggling investigation was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Customs Service (now part of the Department of Homeland Security).

Suspected of trafficking marijuana and drugs from Asia to the US and Europe — and once thought to be in hiding in either Mexico, Thailand, or Singapore before being found in Santa Margarita — the 68-year-old fugitive’s days of basking in the sun are over.


PERTINENT COMMENT OF THE DAY from Elliot Sperber: “As its anniversary is celebrated, we will no doubt be reminded that no matter what else it achieved, or failed to, Occupy Wall Street managed to introduce if not a new sensitivity of inequality to the world, it at least introduced a new phrase into popular political parlance. Indeed, the slogan ‘We Are the 99%’ concisely articulates the fact that a deep, structural conflict exists between the so-called 1%, who own virtually the entire planet, and the 99%, who spend their lives in the service of that 1%. And though in actuality power is distributed in more complicated ways than the phrase suggests, and an elite far smaller than 1% calls the shots worldwide, with the willing complicity of much of the 99%, 99-to-1 sums up the point well enough. Because of this, the phrase has resonated strongly throughout not only the US, but around the world. With such ingrained inequalities in place, a society with democratic pretenses utterly fails to live up to the ideals on which the legitimacy of its representative government rests.”

UNKIND comment of the day from Anon: “Hayfork. A thousand people, three last names.”

FRISCO NOTE: The naked guys on grotesque daily display at Castro and Market have become a tourist attraction but a bummer (sic) for most residents of the area. Exhibitionism, of course, is now a constant of urban life, but fat guys walking around naked, neon doo-dads dangling from their saggy puds, and permanently camped in the parklet at Castro and Market, is now almost universally regarded as over the line in the town where over the line began and has been nurtured since 1967.

THE NAKED GUYS can be credited with one achievement — some unintentionally hilarious discussion at the SF Board of Supervisors, one of whom, Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro, suggested that the Naked Guys at least be required to place towels beneath them before they plop themselves down. But even Weiner now wants the Naked Guys gone.

THE NAKED GUYS, predictably, claim they represent a frontier of free speech and a glorious protest against prudery. (I say this country needs MORE prudery, not less. And a return to personal reticence while we're at it.)

QUICK ILLUSTRATION: This old lady I knew, older than I am now, and I'm old, tottered in to visit one day towing an even older gaffer. “This is my lover, Johnny,” she announced, a most unseemly glint in her eye, as she gestured at the old guy, who looked like he'd need a Cialis IV going round the clock to even remind him what he was supposed to do. I didn't need to know the precise nature of that relationship, did I? But anymore people, often total strangers, blurt out confidences best not confided. The fact that the old boy was with her was sufficient for me to understand that she was, as they say in Therapy Land, “in a relationship,” someone to share a toothbrush with. Now that The Boomers are coming on-line — millions of narcissists in human wave attacks for the next decade — we'll hear even more we'd rather not.

WE SPENT A FEW MINUTES wondering what would happen if the Naked Guys began to appear, say, in Ukiah's Alex Thomas Plaza. The Mendocino Environment Center would co-demonstrate in support, the Board of Supervisors would vote 3-2 against public nudity, the Democratic Central Committee of Mendocino County would remain neutral “on the issue.” But as soon as it was revealed that the Mendo Naked Guys were registered Republicans, the condemnation would be instantly and savagely universal. (America's major pervs are almost all Republicans, a fact confirmed by years of restroom hijinks by Republican congressmen.)

MENDOCINO COUNTY'S first case of West Nile virus, as found during an autopsy of a dead bird, has been confirmed. Sonoma and Lake counties have also reported cases of the virus. Autopsies on twelve birds and a squirrel in Sonoma County, and five birds in Lake County, found that the creatures had been carried off by West Nile. No human cases have been reported in any of the three counties this year. West Nile is carried by mosquitos. Mosquitos breed in standing water, so you're supposed to get your water up and running and keep it that way.

JOSE GRIJALBA, 20, AND JOSE PERALTA, 19, were arrested by Fort Bragg police last Wednesday because police believe the pair jumped out of their car and attacked and beat an 11-year-old boy and an 18-year-old during what police assumed was a gang-related attack . The attack occurred the previous Monday in the 400 block of North Franklin Street.

JERRY BROWN has signed legislation which should reduce the more unreasonably burdensome regulatory and liability costs for the timber industry. Assembly Bill 1492 limits the liability that private land owners bear for fires that spread from their land to public lands, creates a funding source to offset regulatory costs and lengthens timelines for timber harvest plans. AB 1492 was introduced by the Budget Committee, which includes North Coast Assemblymen Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.


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