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DA & Judge: ‘Don’t Believe Your Lyin’ Eyes’

I’m sure you’ve all been following the miscarriage of justice that occurred this past week with the sweetheart plea bargain and slap-on-the-wrist sentencing of former UPD Sergeant Kevin Murray, a guy who is clearly a serial sexual predator and someone who uses meth — at least detectives found a crank bag in his police locker, so I’m assuming it’s for personal use. 

Thanks to DA David Eyster and Judge Anne Moorman, this guy was given a get-out-of-jail-free plea bargain. A deal that stinks to high heaven, as my grandmother used to say.

As reported this week by the UDJ’s Justine Frederiksen, After stating that she had very few options at her disposal, Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ann C. Moorman sentenced former Ukiah Police Department Sgt. Kevin P. Murray to two years in prison Tuesday, a term that is currently suspended as he begins serving 24 months of supervised probation.

“But if you take one step out of line, you’re going to the joint; I’m giving you one chance on this,’ Moorman said to Murray, who declined to make a statement prior to sentencing, beyond what he had already submitted to the judge.

“In explaining her ruling to the victims as well as the community-at-large, Moorman described the plea agreement reached between the prosecution and the defense in July (which dismissed all sexual offenses and had Murray pleading no contest to one misdemeanor and one “Strike” felony on the condition that he receive probation) as amounting to the District Attorney’s Office “signaling to the court that they did not establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Referring to a proposal received Monday from the DA’s Office that recommended Murray serve “360 days in county jail,” Moorman described that as both an “unsound recommendation” and “mildly inappropriate.”

Instead, Moorman said she was removing the option of county jail and sentencing Murray to prison time, explaining that she wanted to ensure that even if Murray violated his probation with only six months left on his sentence, “he will go to prison. That is vastly different than if he went to county jail.

“This is not to be interpreted as just a slap on the wrist, or as leniency that is not available to other defendants,” Moorman continued, explaining that she was also requiring Murray to complete a course of counseling for sexual offenders, despite the fact that all sexual offenses Murray was previously charged with were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Eyster copped out on prosecuting the proverbial poster portrait of a bad cop, alleging that a victim, whose hotel room Murray broke into with the aid of a room key card he stole from her during an earlier traffic stop, didn’t make herself available to testify in court.

The victim’s attorney said that’s hogwash. He stated he attempted to contact the DA’s office several times to work out her availability to testify in the case but his calls were never returned. The DA’s office denies all this.

First of all, I’m assuming the victim’s attorney has phone records of the placed calls but let’s not quibble about that.

If the DA was interested in getting this bad cop put away and bring justice to his victims — one of whom was a former UPD officer — he could have issued a subpoena compelling her to appear at trial. It could be argued that he would have been taking his chances about what, if anything, she would say, but her attorney is adamant she was committed in assisting with the full prosecution of Murray.

Even Judge Moorman was aware the proceedings in her courtroom were not passing the smell test.

According to the UDJ report, “In addressing the victims, identified in court as only S.Y. and Jane Doe, Moorman said she ‘took no pleasure in today’s proceedings for many, many reasons, and that nothing I say or do can restore what’s been taken from you, which is your sense of personal safety and trust’.”

Of course, Moorman could have arrested this travesty right at the beginning of trial after being presented with the contemptible plea deal.

Judges do not have to accept plea bargains. Period.

Though the practice is not common, judges can reject plea deals.

In making that decision, the judge evaluates whether the punishment is appropriate in light of the seriousness of the charges, the defendant’s character, the defendant’s prior criminal record, the interest of the victim(s), and the interests of the general public.

Judge Moorman had a wide berth to reject the malodorous plea deal but she didn’t. Instead, she went along to get along, apparently.

It’s these types of events that make the public cynical and distrustful of our criminal justice system. 

There’s an old saying that describes exactly what happened in that Ukiah courtroom this past week:

“The worst form of injustice is pretended justice.”

* * *

Speaking Publicly, So To Speak

by Jim Shields

Frequently people tell me that Mendocino County’s website is not very “user friendly.”

I’m not very adept at navigating all the various different modes of electronic communications but I can usually figure out how to get messages and comments transmitted to the intended recipients.

But recently I’ve been having problems sending so-called “eComments” which allow you to address specific items on the Board of Supervisors meeting agendas.

I just found out why that’s the case.

Here’s the story.

Mark Scaramella, long-time political reporter for the Anderson Valley Advertiser, wrote this week:

A few days ago, in her Supervisors report on Mendofever.com, KZYX/Freelance reporter Sarah Reith said:

“The public is also no longer privy to correspondence with the Board of Supervisors on matters of public interest. Up until the beginning of June, comments addressed to the Board about items under discussion during the meetings would be attached to the pertinent agenda item. They were often plentiful, and they ranged from expert opinions to angry one-liners. But a new system, called Granicus, requires commenters to create a password-protected account, which has not caught on.”

Very correct. “Not caught on…” is an understatement. Reith continued, “Since then, only county documents have appeared on the agendas.”

Apparently, even the memo that elected Auditor Controller Treasurer Tax Collector Treasurer (ACTTC?) Chamise Cubbison wrote to the Board last month complaining about their misinformation and failure to include her in budget clarification discussions was unable to be posted as a comment to the Board’s ill-considered agenda item.

Other documents from well-known and well-established people and organizations which rightfully should be attached to relevant agenda items have also gone astray from Cannabis growers and groups to municipal advisory councils. 

If even people like elected office-holders, and representatives of local organizations can’t get their comments to the Board and public or the Board, what about the rest of us? And what about that “accountability” that some local organizations say they plan to demand when the Board misallocates sales tax revenues? If the public and the Board don’t even know about their failures, how can an elected official be held accountable?

According to BOS Chair Ted Williams, the problem is caused by a case of the “shorts,” as in the County is short on cash and employees. 

“We simply didn’t have staff time, based on the number of comments,” Williams explained. “I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have that simplified model that we had before, but it’s a struggle, and it’s not just in the clerk’s office. It’s across the board. Every problem that we look at, we say, we don’t have enough personnel to carry it out. Yes, it’s a problem…I don’t know what that solution is today. It’s not as easy as directing staff to put back in place what was in place previously. Because we simply don’t have the staff time to carry it out.”

With the advent of so-called “hybrid meetings,” the Supervisors need to get this problem straightened out immediately because the Brown Act requires that all meetings of a local government body be open and public and that all persons be permitted to attend and participate either in person or via electronic means, whether it be the previous eComment system or the newly implemented Granicus system. 

To deny citizens the right to comment by electronic means at public meetings is a clear violation of the Brown Act. If the Board’s Clerk Office is short-staffed, then the Board needs to hire additional employees so the public can be heard.

After all, it is the law.

* * *

California’s Failed Bottle Deposit System

I’ve always thought California’s preeminent citizens’ advocacy organization is Consumer Watchdog (“CW”).

This week, the group urged Governor Newsom to reform a hopelessly shattered bottle deposit system via a budget trailer bill as the group unveiled its top 10 signs of the system’s collapse. 

They’ve got a lot of work to do though because there’s two weeks left in the legislative year.

 “We need Governor Newsom to clean up the deposit system’s glaring problems by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a targeted way,” said CW’s Liza Tucker. “California needs to join the most progressive bottle deposit states by installing automated technology at redemption centers and at major supermarket chains. Those chains must be required to refund bottle deposits so that returning empties and getting deposit refunds is as easy as buying beverages in the first place.” 

Consumer Watchdog says, “Over the last decade, the state’s inadequate subsidies have starved a network of redemption centers into closing while supermarkets aren’t universally required to refund bottle deposits. Many that are required refuse. A survey of over 500 California retailers obligated to refund California Redemption Value (CRV) of a nickel or dime found that 100% of Walmarts, 75% of Ralphs and 60% of Costcos illegally turn consumers away.”

Here’s CW’s Top 10 list of the state’s failed bottle deposit system:

1. Only 58% of California CRV containers were redeemed last year, making California 3rd to last among ten bottle deposit states.

2. Californians paying roughly $1.5 billion in bottle deposits each year get back just little more than half.

3. Fewer than 550 convenient redemption sites in supermarket parking lots exist to serve 40 million Californians. 

4. Up to two thirds of legally obligated retailers refuse to redeem deposits.

5. Many residents of rural Northern California must drive up to 50 miles or more to get CRV refunds.

6.. Thirty-one out of 58 California counties have five or fewer redemption centers.

7. Sixty percent of Californians would redeem containers if the system was convenient.

8. Less than one in four Californians redeem bottle deposits while more than three quarters lose CRV to curbside bins.

9. One-third of containers thrown into curbside bins are landfilled while haulers bill the state for CRV.

10. In 2020, 13.4 billion beverage containers in wound up in landfills, incinerators or as litter.

(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, observer@pacific.net, the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District, and is also chairman of the Laytonville Area Municipal Advisory Council. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)

One Comment

  1. George Dorner September 16, 2022

    Not to worry. If Kevin Murray is caught misbehaving, the judge will slap his other wrist.

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