We can hardly encounter a steaming chunk of news media these days without being forced to consider the matter of the Guilty as Hell cop who got a sweetheart deal despite wronging an innocent lass in most dastardly fashion.
As if it weren’t bad enough in the imaginations and tellings of local journalists, said cop’s Immaculate Plea was aided, abetted and engineered by a Mendocino County cabal featuring a cast of powerful and unethical enablers.
Have I got it right so far?
Let’s go further. Mendocino County’s elected DA, along with one of his longtime senior deputies and in collusion with a Superior Court judge, conspired and carried out an exceedingly lenient plea bargain to benefit a Guilty as Hell cop.
You believe that? You actually believe Dave Eyster, Heidi Larson and Judge Ann Moorman came up with a plan that would soil their reputations and perhaps ruin their careers in order to benefit Kevin Murray?!?
When they try to explain, within the rather tight confines of their relative positions, they are limited because the information they hold is privileged. The judge and prosecutors can’t openly offer opinion, or discuss facts, about a witness’s rap sheet or perceived credibility. Their silence is interpreted by our local news herd as a coverup, and proof of dishonesty in the court.
And from their lofty positions as truth seekers, they refuse to believe anything except chicanery most foul. To protect a dirty cop, mind you, a Guilty as Hell cop to boot.
Friends, readers and interested parties, I worked 34 years doing criminal defense investigations in Mendocino County. A few things I learned:
1) Just because a police report refers to someone as a “Victim” does not mean that person is honest, reliable, a credible witness or even a Victim. Many people, in the course of a lifetime of sordid adventures, get labelled as both Victims and Defendants, depending on the case, and depending on who gets to the phone first to call 9-1-1 and blubber about being abused.
2) The women we agree to call Victims in this matter are criminals. They visit Ukiah on a regular rotating basis, rent room(s) at one of the Ukiah motels lining Highway 101, hang out an “Open for Business” sign, or a red light, and proceed to entertain clients in pay-for-sex (aka “prostitution”). This is illegal and if someone had called the cops on them they would have been labelled “Defendants” in the police report(s)
3) Prostitutes are criminals and the people with whom they consort are criminals. They have sex for money, they use drugs, buy drugs, sell drugs, they cheat on their income taxes and they dodge cops and DAs for a hobby. When caught they lie.
(None of this, of course, ignores the obvious fact that prostitutes themselves can be righteous victims, and in fact probably are victimized in dismaying numbers, in part because their customer base consists of criminals.)
So when criminals become “Victims” they often present problems for the judicial system, and this is where I speculate the heart, soul and foundation of the present case rests.
These so-called victims, I’ll guess, have been busy doing what they do in the interim between having a bad cop arrested and the date set for a jury trial in Mendocino County. Maybe they’ve committed fresh crimes in other counties, and perhaps some of those crimes are ugly.
Maybe they have ripe felony warrants, and the prospect of their being arrested and hauled off to jail following court testimony would be queasy pills for prosecutors to swallow.
Maybe they’re in some other country and they aren’t answering their phones. Maybe they’re in rehab. Maybe they’re in jail, or prison.
And maybe the Mendocino County DA is aware of even less savory details, which he’d be required to furnish defense lawyers. There are also defense investigators, and over the past six months they’ve been sifting through old court files and police reports, talking with witnesses about matters both shocking and common, and putting it all into reports defense attorneys would then provide the DA’s office.
Armed with sufficient information, defense lawyers might grind the so-called Victims into pulp. If particularly effective, maybe these unpleasant facts would persuade a trial jury to return a Not Guilty verdict, thus magically and instantly transforming the Guilty as Hell cop into yesss, a Victim.
I know nothing about this case. But I’ve been involved in plenty of criminal matters where it was difficult to tell those who had visited harm on others from those who, on a particular date and time, got what they had coming to them.
It’s not always clean and clear when it comes to which is the aggrieved party, or which is the worst perpetrator in a tangled series of crimes amongst seasoned criminals.
So you do the best you can with what you’ve got.
(Tom Hine also spent years as a member of the journalism herd, where he, too, often made loud newspaper noises over nothing.)