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Mendocino County Today: February 5, 2013


HOYLE NETS ANOTHER BULGO: Special Agent Peter Hoyle of the Mendo Major Crimes Task Force has brought another Bulgarian pot pharma to justice. This one is Dimiter Kostantinov, formerly of Sofia presently of Huntington Beach. Three years ago, Hoyle bagged two other Bulgarians in the fertile hills of Covelo. Ann Moorman defended those Bulgos, but Hoyle's latest international trophy, this Bulgo, is appearing before Ms. Moorman who is now a superior court judge. And, oh! what a difference a little more authority makes. The evidence was almost the same as the Bulgos that the judge was defending a few short years ago — about 70 plants worth. And Hoyle nailed this Bulgo in just about the same location as he'd found the previous Bulgos — Bentley Ranch Road out of Covelo. (Bruce McEwen)


Frase (Feb 2010)
Frase (Feb 2010)

PHILLIP FRASE was in civil court last week wearing a nice suit and so freshly barbered I scarcely recognized him. Last time I saw him he was sitting in the criminal dock with a long plaited beard and scraggly hair and looking positively Manson-esque. He was facing two separate murder charges, one in Mendocino County and one in Siskiyou County. He pled to manslaughter in the death of Steven Schmidt and the charges in Siskiyou County were dropped. He got out on parole on October 3rd, he said, and had come home to dear old Mendo only to find that members of the Matthew Graves family had taken over his house on Bell Springs Road and had turned it into a marijuana grow site. Frase said he tried to get the Graves people to leave, but they chased him off, and he had to call the cops, only to receive a threatening phone call from Matt Graves. He was in court to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) to keep Graves away from him. Judge Cindee Mayfield granted the TRO. Frase said he'd killed Steven Schmidt in self-defense, and looking through his file, I read the transcript from his prelim, wherein he told Detective Clint Byrnes that Schmidt struck him [Frase] and knocked him down. Frase said Schmidt had demanded a pound of weed to sell but Frase had refused and Schmidt hit him. While Frase was on the ground he found a length of pipe, and came up swinging, killing Schmidt with four blows to the head. Frase then fixed a noose around Schmidt’s neck and dragged him into the woods where he secured the body to a tree and covered it with debris. Schmidt’s girlfriend, Kathy Troxell, grew worried over Schmidt’s absence and called the cops, who brought in a cadaver dog and found Schmidt's remains. Frase had also been seen driving Schmidt’s motor home, which was found in Fort Bragg. The DA wasn’t willing to go all the way to self-defense on this one, but they did offer Frase a reduction to manslaughter charges. At the time, Richard Petersen was representing Frase, and Frase said he would have taken the case to trial if Mr. Petersen hadn’t had to retire for health reasons. So he pled to manslaughter and soon got out on parole (he had already spent 499 days in the Mendocino jail) only to find Matt Graves ensconced on his land. Frase is currently living in motels in Willits and Ukiah, until he can get his property back. Frase was also accused of murdering a Siskiyou woman who was involved, it is alleged, in a dope-growing business Frase had in that county before moving to Bell Springs Road, one of Mendocino County's more exciting neighborhoods. How many people have restraining orders against Matt Graves? I asked Probation Officer Tim King, but he just waved his hand in disgust and exasperation. It seems law enforcement can do nothing with the jolly Graves, who beats Mendo in court every time he's prosecuted here. But on March 5th Graves goes to federal court in San Francisco, and the local authorities seem happy to be shed of “the Matt Graves problem,” as one officer characterized it. (Bruce McEwen)



THE JURY came back last Thursday with some good news and some bad news for Glenn Hughes. The good news was the jury found him Not Guilty of Count One, first degree murder, in the beating death of Jose Madrid just 13 months ago at the Hidden Pines Campground outside of Fort Bragg.

THE BAD NEWS was they found Hughes guilty of second degree murder, and with his record of prison priors, he’ll be going to prison for a long time just as Governor Brown has come under federal orders to thin out the state prison population. More bad news came in the form of a Guilty verdict on Count Two, using force likely to cause great bodily harm to Shannon Wilson, the late Joe Madrid’s girlfriend, who tried to stop the beating of Madrid. Sentencing won’t be until March 1st. Hughes is already pushing 60 so he's essentially looking at death by geriatrics.

CONSIDERING the impact the 911 call had on the jury — they could hear Madrid being beaten and Ms. Wilson frantic efforts to pull Hughes off Madrid — spending his golden years behind bars is perhaps the best defendant Hughes could have hoped for.

WHEN DEFENSE ATTORNEY Carly Dolan brought up the unanswered questions as to how the injuries to the decedent’s head — which the County Medical Examiner admitted were “superficial” — had caused his death, Hughes must have entertained some hope of acquittal. The actual “mechanism of death” was uncertain, and vital organs like the brain and heart were not preserved for further examination.

MS. DOLAN is pretty smart herself and probably knew better than to stake her defense of Hughes on Madrid being dead before Hughes started beating on him, and in her closing statements she tried instead to get the jury to consider her client’s state of inebriation in hopes of getting the outcome reduced to manslaughter. The jury instructions allowed for this possibility, but were not convinced that Hughes had been totally out of his mind from drink, mainly because of some of the things he said and did during the police interrogation.

HUGHES lied about everything during the taped interview with the homicide detective about four hours after the event. His coherence did not seem consistent with someone who claimed to just been in a state of alcoholic blackout a few hours before. And at one point when Hughes was left alone in the interrogation room, he could be heard muttering to himself that he surely was going to be going to prison for the rest of his life.

WHEN HUGHES took the stand, he claimed he didn’t remember any of the police interview, ample time to sober up at least a bit, it seems. And all the jurors had been screened to make sure they had more than just a nodding familiarity with the effects of liquor on themselves and others.

A FEW HOURS before the verdict was returned, the jury had returned to the courtroom for clarification on one of the instructions about the law as it pertains to getting drunk out of one’s mind and beating someone up, in this case, as it applied to the beating of Ms. Shannon Wilson as she tried to stop Hughes. And Mr. Hughes went off to spend the rest of his life in prison. (Bruce McEwen)


SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN will be appearing on the radio twice this week to discuss both his book “Out There in the Woods,” co-authored with Steve Sparks, that gives a detailed account of the Aaron Bassler double murder investigation, and also the related topics of Mental Health care in the County, gun control, and marijuana. He will be on KZYX with host Norman de Vall at 9am on Thursday, Feb 7 and then KGO 810AM on the Pat Thurston Show that airs at 6.05pm on Sunday, Feb 10.



MAN BEATER OF THE WEEK. There are ladies who really should be suppressed, and Ms. Gabrela Ahumada would seem to be one of them. Ms. Ahumada was arrested in Fort Bragg on January 31, 2013 for “misdemeanor battery against a person the defendant had dating, engagement, marriage or domestic relationship with,” and booked into the Mendocino County Jail on bail of $10,000. Ms. Ahumada's boyfriend had a tree fall on him, breaking his leg in several places. Confined to his bed as he healed, his leg in a cast, Ms. Ahumada arrived for a visit during which she informed the young man that he was not the father of their child. In the ensuing exchange of harsh words, Ms. Ahumada, apparently out of verbal ammo, dumped the young man's urine bottle in his face and tried to strike the young man's broken leg with his crutch. So, there he was, stripped of his paternity, his hair reeking from the urine shampoo, Ms. Ahumada still coming at him with the crutch. The young man was left with no option but a 911 call.


COMMENT OF THE DAY: The rule of law isn't really the rule of law if it doesn't apply equally to everybody. I mean, if you're going to put somebody in jail for having a joint is his pocket you can't let higher ranking HSBC officials off for laundering eight hundred million dollars for the worst drug dealers in the entire world. — Matt Taibbi



Super Bowl XLVII will be remembered for the Baltimore Ravens’ thrilling 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. It will be remembered for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s MVP performance. It will be remembered for San Francisco’s remarkable comeback from a 28-6 deficit led by their quicksilver quarterback Colin Kaepernick in just his tenth career start.

But more than anything else, the game will be remembered for a thirty-four-minute stadium blackout early in the second half that plunged the New Orleans Super Dome first into darkness and then a kind of eerie twilight. The official reason for this calamity was that too much electricity was coursing through the dome after Beyonce’s fierce halftime show. Unofficially, this was a symbolic moment that could resonate far longer than the game itself.

Some will see the blackout as a comment upon New Orleans. The Super Dome is supposed to stand, in post-hurricane, post-levees New Orleans as a symbol of the city’s resurgence. It’s also supposed to stand as a symbol of the city’s reborn tourism industry and status as an “event town” ready to be the Mecca for Fortune 500 companies and the hottest happenings in sports. But this economic comeback, with an emphasis on low-paying, zero-benefits service-industry jobs, has had another effect as well: widening inequality. The poverty rate is up to 29 percent, 8 percent higher than in 2007 when the city was still rebuilding after the Hurricane. Child poverty is up to 42 percent and the Lower Ninth Ward has seen its population drop by 80 percent in the last decade. The “event economics” of what Professor Jules Boykoff calls “celebration capitalism” only exacerbates these trends, creating a small army of migrant service-industry workers forever attempting to catch on to the “seasonal work” brought by these splashy yet temporary gatherings. Nineteen sixty-eight Olympian Dr. John Carlos once said, “The reason the Olympics are only every four years is because it takes them four years to count all the money. The problem is who gets a piece of the pie and who gets the crumbs.” This completely correlates with an event like the Super Bowl. It’s a neoliberal Trojan Horse that brings a tremendous amount of capital that flows up and barely trickles down. As for infrastructure, city officials trumpet the millions an event like the Super Bowl will bring into the city, while not saying a word about the billions in corporate welfare that goes into making the gathering “suitable” for the thousands of outside guests. Roads, bridges and public transportation, actually see a net loss. This isn’t a New Orleans story. It’s the story of Urban America whose levees broke long before the 2008 recession.

But the Blackout Bowl speaks to an even greater sense of unease. When South Africa hosted the World Cup, the European Press was filled with denunciations of this choice, because surely “a developing nation” wouldn’t have the wherewithal to host an event of such status and magnitude. What does the thirty-four-minute blackout—caused by too much electricity—say about this country? Have we overdeveloped or are we actually undeveloping? Are we the player, so pumped up on steroids that we can barely squeeze out of their jerseys or are we the player so decimated by repeated blows to the head, we need help remembering the names of our family? We’re both: two Americas defined by structural inequality and the withering of the idea that this could be one indivisible country with collective, common interests.

If there was one commercial in the swamp of Madison Avenue goop, that actually had an unintentional ring of truth, it was the ad for CBS’s sitcom 2 Broke Girls. The show is about two young waitresses, the whip-smart Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs, as they struggle through the Great Recession in Brooklyn. The ad had Dennings and Behr strip and pole-dance while the phrase 2 Broke Girls flashed in neon over their heads. This is neoliberal America in nutshell: a place where there are those who strip and those who watch; those who serve and those who get served. This is an unsustainable state of affairs. The problem with widening inequality is that like the blackout, it really doesn’t matter whether it happened because there was too much electricity or not enough. It results with everyone sitting in the dark with no solution in sight.

(Dave Zirin is the author of the forthcoming “Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the SportsWorld Upside Down” (The New Press) Contact him at


SUPERBOWL. By Eric Bergeson

The Super Bowl rendered the usually crowded freeways of Phoenix, Arizona, as quiet as I-29 during a blizzard.

Even Christmas can't command such a complete shutdown of the American automobile as the Super Bowl.

Driving up and down the silent streets on Super Bowl Sunday, the license plates on parked cars showed up in clusters.

On Arroyo Avenue, we have a Super Bowl party of people from Washington State.

Next door are a bunch of North Dakotans, gathered inside around a warm television celebrating our most sacred national holiday.

On the next street sit a half-dozen pickups from Iowa, pig manure still clinging to the mud flaps.

Even some Texans take refuge in Arizona's warmth. And next door, a party of rural northern Californians gained boisterous steam after the game was settled and the final commercial ran.

The highlight of the broadcast for the nomadic agrarians came when the booming voice of the late Paul Harvey echoed through the decades in a tribute to farmers sponsored by Dodge trucks.

Although the game itself was no slouch, it is a peculiarity of the Super Bowl national holiday that most people tune in for the commercials.

The question after game is rarely, “what might have happened if Jim Harbaugh had pulled his right-hander in the eighth inning?” as it might be after a World Series.

No, the question is “Which was your favorite commercial?” or, for the inveterately competitive: “Who had the best commercial?”

Debate ensues.

The consensus among farm people formed quickly: Dodge Ram's decision to combine the golden vocal pipes of the late Paul Harvey with gauzy images of idealized farm scenes won the day.

Ah, Paul Harvey. Characterized as a “conservative radio commentator” by those in the business, Harvey came from a time when minimal standards of decency and dignity still applied in the news entertainment business.

“Conservative commentator” meant something different in Harvey's day.

He didn't much like hippies, and he didn't like President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society, but Paul Harvey didn't scream in rage, bang on the table, march on Washington DC, or try to foment revolution.

Instead, Paul Harvey's voice was the calm sound of a dear old midwestern Dad who confidently hoped that the country would someday come to its senses and get a job and a haircut.

His conventional, middle-America opinions were clear, but Paul Harvey's real trademark was not his politics, but his reassuring, resonant voice, his pauses, his idiosyncratic phrasing, as well as his shameless willingness to weave his sponsors into his commentary as if their miraculous products were the real news.

Listen, folks, my oh my, goodness sakes alive, if you haven't tried the rich whole wheat goodness of Shredded Wheat, you are missing out on… the breakfast experience of a… lifetime!

And, by the way, unemployment figures are in and more people are working. I said: more…people…are…working.

Page two.

For a Future Farmers of America convention at which he spoke in 1978, the grandiloquent Paul Harvey delivered a little homily entitled, “So God Created a Farmer.”

The thesis of Harvey's homily neatly fit the myth to which we in farm country still subscribe.

On the Eighth Day, after creating the firmament and taking a Sunday nap, God created the sturdy folks who get up before dawn and milk cows so the rest of us will have something to pour on our Shredded Wheat Monday morning.

Yes, on the eighth day God created the farmer.

Fountains of virtue all, farmers only take a break from feeding their donkeys to attend church, bring pies to the fair, save an injured bird or shoot a gol-darn coyote who's pesterin the chickens.

It was an act of genius for Dodge to appropriate a great American storyteller to foist our farming myth on the decadent American masses watching the Superbowl.

The majority of the people watching the ad must have wondered if any of those farmers had time to watch the Superbowl, given the probability that a cow needed hernia surgery out on the back 40 at that very moment.

Some Americans might have felt pangs of guilt for sitting on their duffs watching Beyonce while virtuous farmers lugged bushels of grain to the Shredded Wheat factory so America could have breakfast tomorrow morning.

We won't let them in on the reality.

It is more likely that an America's farmer sold his or her soybeans to the Japanese last October, jumped in their Dodge pickup and went to Arizona.

Cows? They get milked in factories. Wheat? Went out on the unit train in December.

Forget getting up before dawn, we have to get up in time to pick up chips, salsa and beer and get over to the Nelsons in Mesa before kick-off.


THE MENDOCINO COAST WRITERS CONFERENCE announces Five Under Twenty-Five, a new initiative offering full-tuition scholarships for up to five young writers who live or attend school in one of five Northern California counties: Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, or Sonoma. Applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 25 at the time of the conference, which takes place July 25-27, 2013. The scholarship covers conference fees only ($525) and does not include travel and lodging expenses. Awards are made on the basis of merit. No entry fee is required. The scholarship application has three parts — and application form, a writing sample, and a brief cover letter that offers thoughts on what the applicant hopes to gain from attending. Judges will read and evaluate writing samples based on literary quality, and appropriate use of grammar and punctuation. School grades and transcripts will not be considered. The applicant’s actual writing and dedication to the power of the written word are what matter. The application window is March 15 – May 1, 2013. Selections will be made and scholarship winners notified by May 31. If you have won a scholarship to the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference in the past three years, you are not eligible to apply for the Five Under Twenty-five scholarship. You may apply again if you received a scholarship four or more years ago. Winners are full participants in intensive writing workshops as well as all lectures, panel discussions and literary readings. Their work is also considered for publication in MCWC’s online literary journal, the Noyo River Review. The Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, now in its 24th year, offers a place where writers find encouragement, expertise and inspiration. Scholarship winners will be welcomed into a vibrant and supportive literary community. The conference takes place at the College of the Redwoods Mendocino Campus in Fort Bragg, CA. With attendance limited to 100 people, and faculty and participants eating together on campus, opportunities for informal conversation are numerous. For detailed information and an application for the Five Under Twenty-five scholarships, please check the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference website at (Gordon Black)

One Comment

  1. February 5, 2013

    I thought the term “Bulgo” must refer to a person of Bugarian extraction.
    Amazingly Google does not return a hit for the word in this sense.
    The only reference is: “An individual or object resembling fecal waste.”

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