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The End Of The Tale

The end of the Black Bart Trail Burglar’s tale came Monday morning, 8/21/2023, in Courtroom A of the Superior Court of Mendocino.


Judge Keith Faulder approved a Mental Health Diversion, wherein Douglas James Stone, Jr. agreed to one year of additional mental health counseling for PTSD, with regular reports to the court, in return for the dismissal of the remaining charges against him. Mr. Stone submitted documentation from five mental health professionals attesting to his PTSD; the Court found the information acceptable. The Assistant DA in charge of the case had no objection. I had no objection.

There are other victims from Mr. Stone’s troubled times. I attended every court session and never saw or heard from another victim. They had ample opportunity to protest the diversion, but did not. Mr. Stone has completed some PTSD counseling already, and is intent on benefiting from an additional year.

Research reveals that PTSD is common among health care workers, police, fire fighters, paramedics and veterans. Half of the men in US prisons have PTSD histories. The condition actually changes the way the brain functions and includes such symptoms as nightmares, unwanted thoughts, anxiety, depression, memory loss, mood swing, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse. It is so prevalent among firefighters that the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) has a facility in Maryland for treatment. It is cruel recompense that those who act to save and defend the rest of us are damaged for their valor. Had Mr. Stone been badly burned, we could have seen the damage resulting from his firefighting career. Mental damage is not as easy to detect.

Mr. Stone’s behavior at my Redwood Valley home in April 2020 as a burglar was bonkers. It was the behavior of a man not in his right mind. In my opinion, the Mental Health Diversion is the best resolution for all concerned.

There was a break-in around April 17, 2020, when I was not home, Then, at approximately 10:30 pm on 4/24/2020, Mr. Stone jimmied open the sliding glass door lock and walked into my home. I said: “I have called the police.” He said: “Oh, I thought there was a fire. Sorry.” He then turned and left, partially closing the door behind him. Both he and I were lucky. Neither wanted to harm the other. We avoided escalating the situation.

The financial cost that I suffered from the break-ins was minor. The terror was extreme, but passed after a few months. The benefits, in the form of lessons learned, exceed the cost. Please allow me to share:

1. If you want to have a gun for home protection, get one adequate for the task, learn how to use it and care for it. I had my Grandfather’s 22 automatic, which had been in a drawer for 70 years. In my moment of crisis, I recognized more skill was needed with this tiny gun if I were to execute a preemptive strike, which I considered my best option. With a few more moment’s thought, I realized that I could not murder another human being – although a shootout was morally feasible.

2. Have the gun handy. I had the luxury of 10 minutes to consider my options. Put the gun somewhere you can get it quickly, consistent with keeping it from being used accidentally.

3. Keep a telephone near you. My phone was downstairs, I was upstairs. I didn’t want the burglar to see me, since surprise was to my advantage. I waited until he could not see me to get the phone and call 911.

4. Place a flashlight by the telephone. The burglar turned off my power. He could see me with his headlamp when he turned toward me. I could not see him.

5. Put a wooden or metal rod in the track of a sliding glass door to prevent it from being opened.

6.. Observe the burglar so that you can describe him to law enforcement. Note his appearance, clothing, weapons, vehicles, speech, etc.

I am grateful to Law Enforcement for responding quickly to my call. They encountered Mr. Stone on Black Bart Trail approximately 1.5 miles from my home. Law enforcement meshed the burglar’s description that I provided to Marissa of 911 with the description of goods taken at the first burglary provided to Deputy Denton, and took Mr. Stone to jail.

Marissa was my lifeline. She gathered pertinent information from me, dispatched Law enforcement timely, and stayed on the telephone with me during fright so great I thought my heart would burst.

The collective kindness of my Black Bart Trail neighbors supported me. One grandmother offered to sleep in her car in my driveway to block intruders. A male, legal, pot grower offered his female employee, a former high school wrestler, as a protector. Another loaned me a laptop after the first break-in, and, after the second, said I should have called him instead of 911, so that he could have shot the burglar as he drove down the road. Yet another installed a camera system at my home. Many offered me a bed in their home. A Round Tree Glass man gave me a break on the cost of replacement windows, saying I had suffered enough. All expressed their concern and outrage on my behalf.

Mr. Stone and I spoke in June 2023 about our experiences. He does not remember entering my home. He and his mother have apologized handsomely for my trauma, and I appreciate that they have suffered as well because of Doug’s PTSD and related issues.

Douglas James Stone, Jr. meets the judicial requirements of Restorative Justice as explained by Judge Faulder on 8/21/2023. The law allows that Mr. Stone’s aberrant behavior was triggered by PTSD, and is a defense against criminal charges. He is eligible for treatment to restore himself to health and contribute again to his community. He is already helping other PTSD victims.

Mr. Stone will be telling his story soon.

* * *

Everything Is Broken

Because of a case that interested me, I attended a couple dozen sessions of the Superior Court of Mendocino over the past three years.

I saw a steady flow of impoverished young men charged with felonies and misdemeanors. Judges Carly Dolan and Keith Faulder surfed this tide with kindness, efficiency, and in Judge Faulder‘s case, humor. Surely, we as a society do not want young men driving drunk, knifing granny’s couch, disturbing ex-spouses, troubling diners at Burger King, etc. Law enforcement and our justice system exist to protect us from such abuses. To that end, daily, Mendocino’s residents are sentenced to jail, community service or fines.

I found the court system underfunded and overwhelmed. Because of crowded calendars, cases are frequently rescheduled. Defendants, 90% of whom can neither afford their own attorney nor the loss of income from a day’s work for court appearances, are effectively denied “equal justice.” Public Defender time spent with defendants is minimal. Plea deals, a morally dubious option, are favored. The DA seems incentivized to overcharge, and Court time is wasted reviewing and dismissing overcharges. Some of the Judge’s questions are answered by Public Defenders with: “I think so.” The length of time to resolve an issue is extraordinary and works to further damage the defendant and the victim.

Although I retreated from the wilds of Mendocino to the Doom Loop of San Francisco in 2020, I read the AVA, which has criticized the location of the new courthouse and the use of funds for new construction rather than improvement of the old courthouse. From my recent experience, a new facility is the last thing that needs funding. The DA’s office, and particularly the Public Defender function, needs funding. A handsome new courthouse will not help conditions. It will actually slow down Court processes since all functions beside the courtrooms, i.e., District Attorney staff, Public Defenders, and Law Enforcement will have to “commute” half a dozen blocks to the new location with their bulging files.

The Current Court Calendar, posted on the Mendocino Superior Court site, as of 8/30/2023 is for the week of August 1, 2023. The site instructs users to check the calendar after 5pm for current information. I made five trips to Ukiah from San Francisco based on the then-applicable calendar information shown after 5pm on Friday only to find the following Monday that the 9am case had been rescheduled for another day.

Our judicial system is yet another failed system. It joins the lack of affordable health care, clean and safe public transportation, affordable housing, effective homeless management, effective mental health treatment, ever-troubled education, prosecution of corporate crime, crumbling infrastructure, corrupt politicians — recently joined by SCOTUS, an electoral system that has outlived its time, beleaguered law enforcement, a carceral system that is a disgrace in the industrial world.

Can we not come together as citizens to redirect the billions spent annually on military/defense contractors? Let us elect local, state and federal representatives who will work to improve our people and country rather than support entities enriched by the slaughter and mutilation of the people of other countries.

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