Evan Morris was sentenced last week for a crime spree that ended last fall at the Forest Club bar in downtown Ukiah. Morris was already on probation for domestic abuse and driving under the influence, among other things, his rampage apparently set in motion when he went off his prescribed bi-polar meds and began self-medicating with steroids and methamphetamines washed down with vodka.
So, when Morris appeared at the Forest Club and was immediately told to leave, he'd already been eighty-sixed for bad acting in the popular bar across State Street from the Mendocino County Courthouse.
The Forest Club employs two bouncers on weekend nights when patrons tend to get out of hand. That night, Morris reluctantly backed out the door as the two big boys, along with the bar owner, Frank Kibbish, approached Morris to remind him he was not welcome. It was late at night but the downtown was well lit.
Kibbish watched as Morris, 50, ran across State Street to the old Sports Attic on West Standley where he acrobatically went up the eight-foot high steel gate like some character out of a Marvel comic book. Within seconds Morris was on the roof of the building that houses Aladdin Bail Bonds, running up and down and screaming insults at Kibbish while threatening to jump.
“Go ahead and jump,” Kibbish urged as he simultaneously called 911.
When the police arrived in force — they knew Morris was hard to handle from previous episodes involving him — Morris fled across the rooftops to the old Palace Hotel and disappeared inside through one of the windows along the rooftop. It was late at night and the police declined to go in the building after the fugitive.
Shortly afterwards Kibbish received a call from Morris who said he was going to come down there to the bar with his shotgun to shoot Kibbish in the face.
“Bring it on,” Kibbish said — or something to that effect. “I don’t take threats very well,” he later explained.
When the Club closed, one of the bouncers was escorting one of the bartenders to her car to protect her from the crazed Morris or whatever other free range menace might lurk in late night Ukiah when Morris hustled back over to the bar from wherever he'd been watching and kicked open the door.
“He came in with a huge knife,” Kibbish said. “And my bouncer, who is six-five, was backing away. I was trying to just calm him down, but he wasn’t hearing anything…”
(The old Marine Corps rule regarding up-close combat is “rush a gun, run from a knife.” Of course that's only when you have the choice of the two.)
Then the bouncer who'd escorted the barmaid came back through the door — he’d seen Morris go in — and as Morris turned to confront this new threat, the others all charged at once, knocking Morris down and disarming him.
“It was like trying to hold a superman down,” Kibbish said. “He kept throwing us off. I had all I could do just to hold his legs while the others tried to pin him down. And Tessa [the other bartender who had already called 911] was standing by holding a whisky bottle by the neck, ready to knock him out if he got loose. We finally got the handcuffs on him, and then the police came.”
Morris quickly made bail. He's a man of means. Or at least his family is. One of Morris’s friends soon posted Morris's bail in cash — $100,000!
But Morris decided to skip bail for an extended vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. And he would still be down there if the guy who put up the bail money hadn't called Morris and advised him he’d better come back and exonerate the bond… or else.
Morris returned from his Mexican exile to a temporary home at the Low Gap Hilton from where he hired Justin Petersen, one of Mendocino County's premier criminal defense lawyers, especially if you're in serious trouble.
It seems to have been a wise hire.
Petersen made a very good deal for Morris with the DA. The mandatory sentence for assault with a deadly weapon — a strike offense, and worse if you're on bail — is five years in state prison. But Petersen convinced the DA that if Morris could get back on his meds — the ones his doctor prescribed, not the Rambo Cocktail — Morris would again be an ideal citizen, one the boys at Rotary and the Private Industry Council could be proud of.
(A “Rambo” according to military legend back in the 80s, was a super suicide soldier drugged with methamphetamines and steroids and vodka, just before going on a one-man suicide mission; hence the term, Rambo Cocktail.)
The deal was a stipulated sentence that the five years would be imposed, but not executed unless Morris went off again. Morris's primary victims did not want to see Morris go off to prison, and those primary victims were Morris’s family.
The secondary victims for certain did want to see Morris go to prison.
Those secondary victims were the owner and staff at the Forest Club.
Judge John Behnke agreed to the deal, but with a very large caveat.
“I want Mr. Morris to understand that if he violates the terms of his probation the consequences will be swift and severe. My contact with him makes it hard to believe that he will comply, but the DA seems confident so I’ll go along with this stipulated sentence.”
The stipulated sentence would include a year in jail — most of which has already been served.
But the architect of the agreement, attorney Petersen, wanted more. “I would like the court to consider letting my client do the jail time in a residential treatment program, day for day.”
DA Eyster, putting the matter of Mr. Morris squarely in its grim reality, summed up: “The probation report on page nine says the defendant was not taking his medications — he forgot — and was drinking alcohol instead. This the probation officer finds to be a mitigating circumstance, but I don’t find it mitigating at all. You notice he takes medication for his heart, too, and he never forgets to take that, but he forgets to take the one that mediates his behavior. And he needs to know he can’t just run off to Mexico and scoff at the court while he plays on the beaches. He has reached the point where he is about to get out of jail, and I just spoke with the victims over at the Forest Club and they’re relieved that he’s still in jail, but bracing for the day he gets out.”
Then began a long discussion about how to manage the five separate cases against Mr. Evan Morris. When they finally got it all hammered out the DA suggested that “Mr. Morris could have the terms and conditions put on his refrigerator door — whatever it takes — so he knows each day what the rules are.”
Behnke, speaking directly to Morris, said, “I’d like to make a final point, Mr. Morris. You were given a huge break wherein you were allowed to plea to a fiction. The victims allowed that, but the storm you created is not over.”
DA Eyster then commented on the family issues, saying that one of the Morris kids had lost a lot of respect for his father. “He [the kid] used to really love his dad a lot, but now he’s confused because his dad is not being a very good role model. He [Evan Morris] is not a dummy; he’s a smart man; a talented man, and maybe he needs to hire somebody to show up at his house and give him his meds.”
Then the judge and lawyers started discussing the issue of stay-away orders for family members and a business in Willits, and this led back into the tangle of cases and how each would be resolved in order to let the guy off with only a year in the slammer (read half-year, considering how nowadays you only serve half of what you’re sentenced to).
Probation Officer Tim King joined in the complicated calculations and when it was over Justin Petersen again asked the judge to consider letting Morris go to the rehab program, instead of jail.
“I did,” Behnke said tersely. Morris would do the remaining time in jail.
“But Mr. Morris,” Behnke continued, “lest you think that this is a small sentence, I’ll caution you that there’s more time available if you violate in the slightest way any of the terms agreed to here; and the likelihood of a strike offense being imposed is very high.”
There was more Talmudic-quality fine tuning on which case would run concurrent with what and which felony would be reduced to a misdemeanor and which of the various violations of the various probations would be terminated and which reinstated.
When these legal knots had been untied and then re-tied, Judge Behnke commented, “That was as confusing a sentence as I have ever had to deal with in my entire career. And I should mention here that I was once briefly acquainted with your father, Mr. Morris, back in the 80s when we were both Peace Corps volunteers.”
Defense attorney Justin Petersen had another speed-freak client being sentenced over in Judge Ann Moorman’s court. This was Kevin N. Kuintzle.
How bad a tweaker was this guy?
“The worst I’ve ever seen,” Deputy DA Shannon Cox said.
Mr. Kuintzle’s “need for speed” was so intense that he took his tweaker friends over to his grandmother’s house where they ransacked the place for anything they could sell for “go fast.” If grandma could have been sold for cash she probably wouldn't be with us, either. Kuintzle then stole a car, a Corvette, “and went through a school zone at a high rate of speed.”
Mr. Petersen admitted that all this sounded bad, very bad.
“I have three kids in that school,” Petersen said. So I would be the last person to say anything in defense of somebody who went past that school at 90mph and under the influence.”
“He went through multiple school zones like that,” DDA Cox added.
The judge asked, “He was the one driving the car?”
“Yes,” Cox said. “That’s why we are asking for the aggravated sentence.”
Petersen said, “As far as the aggravation goes, we don’t often see someone under the influence of methamphetamine who is delusional. [We don't?] But that is how he was described by law enforcement at the time of his arrest, delusional. And it all goes back to the meth. But it was not simply a meth case; it was a little more than that. The meth was the primary factor, and I don’t see why Probation doesn’t see that. His mother and father were both meth addicts, so once he tried it, he was gone. Thank God he was adopted out of that family — and some of them [his adoptive parents] are here today. And he was doing fine — he was a police cadet — but meth derailed him, and here we are today. He’s only 22 years old, and not so entrenched we can’t pull him out. I don’t know if the court remembers when he first came in here…”
“I do,” Judge Moorman said. “I remember that he was a very, very angry young man.”
“Yes, he had a chip on his shoulder and was very unappreciative of anything his aunt tried to do to help him. When his aunt first came to me I told her, No, I would not take him on because I could see it would do no good. So he eventually picked up this felony and she came back again. I told her she was wasting her time. She’s a school teacher and doesn’t need to be spending her money on somebody who is not going to change.”
“Just go out to the jail and see him,” the aunt pleaded with Petersen, and he finally relented.
“So I did, and he had changed,” Petersen said. “He was very appreciative of what his aunt was trying to do for him and he has applied for these programs on his own — Litton Springs, the Salvation Army, the Jericho Project. Now, Kevin and I have had some long talks and he has chosen Jericho over the others, which says something about him. Jericho’s a great program — it’s a hard program and a long one, and they help you start a new life somewhere else, so you don’t fall back in with the same bad influences and all that. The Salvation Army is a good program, but it’s way easy, and if he had chosen that I would be more skeptical. So I’m going to ask the court to let him go to this program — they’ll come and get him tomorrow.”
DDA Cox said, “We are all in agreement that Mr. Kuintzle has a meth problem, but the aggravated term is absolutely appropriate in his case. Not only do we have the threat of great bodily harm, but there is also the monetary value — a Corvette — and factors of increasing seriousness in his arrests suggests a growing threat to the community.”
But Judge Moorman also saw the change in Kuintzle. The jail is a dark and dreary place, but somehow the light gets in and Kevin Kuintzle saw it.
Moorman said, “Your parents didn’t do you any favors, but other people have. Now, it’s up to you. Getting behind the wheel of a car and doing what you did… Well, the sentence I’m imposing is meant to keep you from going near methamphetamine again. I’m going to sentence you to three years in the California Department of Corrections and suspend execution of the sentence. I’m placing you on 36 months probation and 365 days in the county jail. I’m also ordering a 12 month residential rehab program and if, for any reason, you don’t complete it, you will get no credit for the jail time and the prison sentence will take effect.”
Restitution for the stolen items was reserved. ¥¥