It was October of 1999 when California's Attorney General made national news by announcing that marijuana cops had racked up a record haul of marijuana from Mendocino County gardens. The Attorney General's triumphant press release even went so far as to calculate the number of joints that might have been rolled out of the confiscated pot plants, arousing suspicions among the cannabis-savvy that a heartbroken toker had composed the AG's announcement.
What California's lawyer-in-chief didn't say was that none of the marijuana farmers were arrested. None. Which would seem to be a statistical improbability considering that tons of the stuff was pulled up. The pot raiders had found their way to some big pot patches, but they never seemed to quite catch up with the people who were growing it, probably because the raids were entirely a ritualistic 9-5 enterprise, the whole show as predictable as winter rain. A raid before noon, another one after lunch, and it’s Miller Time for the camo buddies. The pot pharmas performed their half of the ritual by not being present when the raiders arrived.
But lots of people used to get arrested on various pot-related charges, and lots of people still managed to get themselves busted.
The people who got arrested were people like Jeanne Smith, then of Philo.
On Thursday evening, October 7th of 1999, Ms. Smith, 53, her son, Mylan Logan, 23, and Ms. Smith's 4-year-old granddaughter, set out from their home on Monte Bloyd Road heading south towards Philo. Mylan was sitting in the back seat with what became a disputed amount of marijuana. The little girl was strapped in a car seat next to her grandmother, the driver. This improbable trio of alleged dope mules was driving to a house Mylan had arranged to share with surfer friends on the Mendocino Coast.
Ms. Smith was, and probably still is, an attractive blonde who could pass for a much younger woman. She did not at all resemble Grandma Smuckers. Ms. Smith had lived in Mendocino County for years. An accomplished writer who contributed regularly to the Parents Journal, worked with the old A&E magazine at the Mendocino Art Center and, with her son, marketed cigars on the internet.
Mylan was a competitive surfer of some repute, so good at catching the big waves he qualified for international surfing contests from Bali to Half Moon Bay.
It was 7:45pm when Jeanne Smith's 1990 Volvo station wagon passed by the service station in Philo. Ms. Smith, echoing several million American soccer moms, said she’d owned Volvos for years “because they’re the safest car there is to drive kids around in.”
Jay Neiman of the California Highway Patrol sat in his patrol car at the service station with his “five drug” dope dog, an animal trained to detect five different varieties of illegal substances.
Officer Neiman was prepped for what the police call “drug interdiction,” and October was the month a lot of Mendocino County’s primary export product was on the road south.
At the time, Mendo Mellow brought about $5,000 for 16 ounces of bud, more money than gold fetched at the time.
The vigilant officer Neiman couldn’t help but see a Volvo with tinted windows pass by. Tinted windows? Officer Neiman pulled out onto Highway 128 and drove up behind Ms. Smith. As the two vehicles passed through Philo, Officer Neiman flipped on his red lights and pulled Ms. Smith over near the Indian Creek bridge.
Officer Neiman told Ms. Smith she’d driven through Philo, speed limit 30mph, at 43 mph.
Ms. Smith disagreed.
“I always go slow there because I know a pedestrian was killed in Philo a few years ago. I’m so aware of that stretch. At most I was going a fraction over 30.”
Officer Neiman said he could smell pot when he walked up to the Volvo. “Reeked,” was the term another officer used to describe the pervasive odor of fresh bud wafting out of Grandma Smith’s car.
And then the real action began.
“My son was yanked out of the car and handcuffed before the cop even looked inside the car, ” Ms. Smith remembered. “The pot was stuffed into bags on the back seat. He could probably see it from outside the car.”
Standing beside 128 in a bright white t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, his hands cuffed in front of him, young Mylan suddenly made a break for it. He sprinted across 128, and east into the towering redwoods that line the first 50 yards of Indian Creek Road.
Ms. Smith said officer Neiman pulled his gun and sighted in on the big target presented by her son's rapidly receding but vivid t-shirt.
“I asked him if he was going to shoot my son. He said he wouldn't have to, the dogs would chew him up.”
Ms. Smith said officer Neiman seemed unnaturally excited even before Mylan took off.
“If they'd taken him in for a urine test he'd have come up with meth. He couldn't stand still, which is why my son ran, ” Ms. Smith says, adding that officer Neiman “was sweating like a pig, and bouncing all over the place.”
As Ms. Smith calmed her granddaughter, officer Neiman called for back-up. He couldn't very well leave his pursuit vehicle unattended, or the Volvo with its “interdicted contraband” and the “suspects,” now reduced to two possible perps, the youthful grandmother, Ms. Smith, and her 4-year-old granddaughter, while he and his dope dog ran after Mylan in the unlighted murk of Indian Creek Road. Reinforcements would be needed to guard the perps and the pot while a search was mounted for Mylan.
Soon, more cops and more dogs were at the scene.
Off duty CHP officer Rick Rajeski, who still lives in Boonville, and “another young cop showed up,” Ms. Smith said. She recognized Rajeski “from having seen him around the valley and at the Redwood Drive-In.” She says she heard one of the officers say to the unnaturally excited Neiman, “You need to calm down a little bit.”
Deputy Squires, Anderson Valley's legendary resident deputy, also soon appeared with his dog and, right behind Squires, a load of Mendo County narcs and more dope dogs.
Young Mylan, he of the fleet feet, may have been Billy the Kid reincarnated for all law enforcement knew. Sure, his mom and the little girl looked harmless, but there was some scraggly dope in the back of the Volvo and the kid had bolted. What was he running from?
Whatever it was, there were enough cops at Indian Creek bridge to take out a platoon of Taliban, and enough dope dogs to sniff out all the dope in South Philo.
Then, according to Ms. Smith, “One of the cops turned to me and said, ‘You're going to jail. Who shall we call to pick up the child?’”
“There's absolutely no one to call to pick up the child,” the desolate grandmother replied.
Ms. Smith was standing beside 128. Her handcuffed son was lost in the woods of Indian Creek with the cops and a bunch of dogs after him. A pound of pot was sitting on the back seat of her car. Her granddaughter was wide eyed with terror at events unlike any she’d seen in Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. And now a cop informed her that unless she gave them permission to search her house they would take her to jail and her granddaughter to a foster home.
“Give it to me,” grandma said. “I'll sign.”
Ms. Smith signed the consent-to-search form as deputy Squires and his eager dog jogged down Indian Creek Road to look for Mylan.
“The kid didn't know where he was going,” deputy Squires said later, “and it was real dark. But the dog found him in some brush right away. I yelled out, ‘The dog will find you. If you run, he will definitely bite you. Come out now and I'll call the dog off’.”
With Deputy Squires' can't miss 'em mutt circling Mylan's bush and growling for the opportunity to sample surfer flesh, Squires shouted out “about ten more warnings than the law says I have to and darned if the kid doesn't get up and run again. And that kid can move, I tell you.”
But not as fast as the dog, who nipped at Mylan's fleeing form until Mylan jumped off the road and into Indian Creek itself. Deputy Squires said his dog was now looking at surfer dude crouched in “about a four-foot pool.”
But surfer dude wasn’t through yet. He leaped out of the pool for one more futile dash up Indian Creek Road where deputy Squires’ dog tackled him for the last time and, according to the deputy, “chewed on the kid’s leg pretty good.”
Deputy Squires and Mylan, the catcher and the caught, chatted amiably as they walked back up to the assembled forces of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department’s narco squad, three CHP officers, and the Anderson Valley Ambulance crew, all of them arrayed at Grandma Smith’s Volvo station wagon at Indian Creek bridge.
Surfer dude, having sustained several dog bites to his right leg, climbed into the ambulance for the trip to the emergency room in Ukiah where he was treated for the dog bites and booked into the County Jail on charges related to the production and transportation for the purposes of sale of marijuana.
As Mylan was hauled off in the Anderson Valley Ambulance, the police cavalcade followed Ms. Smith and her now becalmed granddaughter back to Ms. Smith's home on Monte Bloyd Road.
Ms. Smith said the cops found some more marijuana at her house. “Altogether there might be three pounds, max,” she said, “and not good stuff either. We're not professionals.” She said the officer who did the search “was very nice. He didn’t tear things up.” Another officer, she says, quizzed her on the physiology of female mid-life. “He asked me if I was going through menopause and asked me what kind of pills I took for it. It was all very weird.”
Grandma Smith suspected a love-struck neighbor had snitched her off. “I told him I wasn’t interested,” nipping the neighborhood romance in the bud, so to speak. “Just before we left that night, he tore out of his place like he was going to a fire.”
Ms. Smith insisted she was not speeding and therefore there was no reason for officer Neiman to stop her. Ms. Smith was convinced the tinted windows of her Volvo translated to officer Neiman as “dope car.” She suspected she was the victim of a “pretext” or “profile” stop. The tinted windows were, in the see-through eyes of law enforcement, synonymous with suspicious activity.
“When I bought the car in Santa Rosa it already had the tinted windows,” Ms. Smith maintained. “I didn’t think anything about it until now. And if I was stopped for speeding, where’s my speeding ticket?”
The CHP's then-spokesman in Ukiah, Sgt. Ron Carfi, said emphatically that the CHP did not make “so-called profile stops.”
“We make a lot of traffic stops,” Sgt Carfi said, “and as we do we often see other criminal activities.”
Carfi identified the arresting officer as Jay Neiman — Ms. Smith hadn’t known his name — and confirmed that Neiman had been accompanied that night by a dog trained to “sniff out five different drugs.” The Sgt. said that Mylan Logan had a prior for “transportation.” (Four years earlier Mylan had been arrested in San Diego when he was discovered with 4 ounces of pot during a traffic stop.) The CHP sarge then segued into a brief aside that might be called “The Deterioration of Personal American Ethical Standards.”
“How old are you?” he asked me before he said, “I'm 49. I remember the days when people would admit that they'd done something wrong. It just amazes me now that everyone's innocent. When I was 23 I remember a drunk driver defendant saying to the judge, ‘I do drink too much, your honor, but I'd like a break in this case.’ But these days? I'm not drunk, I wasn't speeding, the officer's lying.”
Sgt. Carfi, having put this particular bust into historical perspective, shifted into cop-speak as he read through the CHP's official report on the episode, humming past those sentences he preferred not to share with media slime.
“Officer Neiman clocked the Volvo at 43 mph in a 30mph zone in Philo at 19:45 hours. When he stopped the vehicle, officer Neiman detected an overwhelming odor of green marijuana in the vehicle. We found 7 pounds in the vehicle in 2 cardboard boxes and 3 paper bags in the rear of the vehicle. The driver signed a consent to search her home where we found a small marijuana-growing operation and about 12 pounds of marijuana, some of it shake. We also found a small number of what we suspect are hallucinogenic mushrooms.”
Ms. Smith was not arrested. Her Volvo was not confiscated. She was cited for transportation of marijuana with intent to sell and one charge of marijuana cultivation. Ditto for Mylan, although he was held in the County Jail from Thursday night until Monday morning's Courthouse cattle call when the judge released him on his own recognizance. On October 29th, during their 90-second arraignment, Ms. Smith and her son entered not guilty pleas. Ms. Smith was represented by the Public Defender's Office, Mylan hired Ukiah attorney Phil deJong to represent him.
“There's no way we had as much marijuana as they said,” Ms. Smith insisted. “One of the first things Mylan's lawyer is going to do is get the real weight of the marijuana. It wasn’t anywhere near as much as the police say they found. And I never did get a speeding ticket,” she said.
It all disappeared into small fines for mother and son, and probation for both of them.