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Willits, After Dark

Dear AVA,

Trucked by the Mendocino Public Pretender.

My name is Michael Jay Overholt. I want my story to be posted in your paper because both I and a lot of other people all love to read it. If you like it please send me a copy. I have no money considering I'm currently incarcerated within the confines of Mendocino County Jail.


One night I was chillin' with my best friend Elaine in Willits on Northbrook Way. Elaine and I were taking some shots in her garage when an old acquaintance I hadn't seen in years stopped by with a bottle of tequila. His name was Tim. Tim had just recently got out of prison. (I'm not sure for what.) So we drank the bottle. Then Tim came up with the bright idea of, "Hey Mike. Let's go to the bar." I said, "No — I'd rather stay here where I'm safe because I'm already drunk." Tim begged and nagged me until I finally gave in. I changed my clothes and we headed across the street to a bar called The Redwood Room. After a few drinks we headed across the street to another bar called Diggers. After we left Diggers I was completely smashed. So Tim (I think) wanted to walk towards the Chevron. At this point I was so drunk that I blacked out.

But apparently the following went down: According to what Tim told me a few days later in court, we ran into three 18- or 19-year-old kids. The kids apparently asked me to buy them some beer. So I took the money and we all proceeded to walk to the Chevron. Then I went into the gas station and bought a sandwich and I think a milk or something. When I came out the three kids asked, "Where's our beer?" To which I replied, "It's right here — in sandwich form." I proceeded to laugh in their face. Which, if that is what I really did, I was of course in the wrong. Then the three kids tried to jump me. I started fighting with them when Tim came out of the store and helped me win the fight.

When I came to we were down at the north end of town and my retarded drunk ass was throwing rocks through windows. My bad. Very stupid.

We made it almost all the way to Elaine's when Jake Donahue, a Willits cop, pulled us over. He said that we had committed a robbery. The kids said that when we were in the fight that Tim demanded their money and reached his hand into their pocket and stole their pack of cigarettes. The cops in fact found a pack of cigarettes into Tim's pocket. Then the kids identified us and we were sent to jail for strong-armed robbery over the cigarettes.

I was charged with accessory to the robbery. The court date arrived and I still couldn't remember the details of what happened that night. To this day all I know is what Tim told me.

Two weeks later I had been asking my dump truck Public Defender to give me the evidence brought against me, the witness statements, etc. This dumptruck's name was Lewis Finch. He said he would do that every week but he never did.

Finally the District Attorney offered me a deal: plead guilty to accessory to robbery and do 45 days in county jail and be released on 36 months of felony probation with a suspended sentence of three years (high), two years (mid), or 16 months (low).

So not knowing what the supposed victim and witness statements about the situation were, I pled guilty so I could get out of jail and try to save my job.

Afterwards Mr. Finch gave finally me the statements. Every one of the kids I was in a fight with had a different story of what happened that night. They didn't add up at all. I could have won my case. Seeing as how I didn't actually commit the crime in the first place, I was literally TRUCKED by my Public Pretender because I didn't have the money to afford a real lawyer to defend me. My bad — my bad for not being rich enough for the justice system of Mendocino County. I guess they have to make their money somehow, right?

So here I was living from couch to couch performing odd jobs, just to feed myself and to obviously be an alcoholic. Felony probation actually helped me. I stopped drinking because they tested me regularly. I went from a homeless alcoholic in the streets to working a full-time construction job and remaining sober. I rented a three-bedroom apartment which I kept for over a year, found a girlfriend, and supported her and her child and four of her friends for the whole duration. I pulled my life together effectively. Curtis Laybus (my probation officer) told me he was proud of how far I'd come since the probation.

One day I made an appointment with the head of probation (I don't remember his name). I asked him about maybe getting let off of probation early. He said after looking through my files that I had a $400 fine to pay and after that it was up to Curtis Laybus, the probation officer, to let me go. I paid the fine. Then I went to Curtis to ask him. Curtis said I was doing really good and all he needed to do was go over my file and that releasing me from probation early was a real possibility due to the fact that I had come so far.

Each month Curtis told me he was too busy and had no time to go over my files. He promised to do so in the next month, over and over and over. But he never kept his word.

Then the next thing I knew he was switched and no longer was my probation officer. So after getting to know me on a personal level he left me to a new probation officer who did not know how far I'd come and how hard I tried and, for that matter, didn't even care!

Then I was cited for driving on a suspended license (which I didn't know my license was suspended). I lived in Laytonville at that time. The CHP officer took my car.

I tried to hitchhike to Ukiah to go to court but I couldn't make it. So a warrant was issued. Well, having a warrant I decided not to report to probation because I wanted to keep my apartment which I was late on rent for because the people I was supporting were not helping me with the rent at all. And with a warrant my new probation officer would just throw me in jail and I would have lost everything not to mention my girlfriend cheated on me and left me with superhigh bills. So I eventually lost everything anyway.

After I was picked up in Willits on the outstanding warrant I spent 12 hours in jail before bailing myself out. I went to court and the judge sentenced me to 90 days in jail which is 45 days with halftime.

This was in September of 2014. I had just lost everything I had worked so hard to accomplish and I was deeply depressed. I was homeless, broke, alone and once again drinking. I was supposed to turn myself in on November 5.

But one night I was drinking red wine at the bar and I met a woman from France named Vally. We spent every moment together. She would walk 2 miles in the rain to get to my friend's house knowing there was no electricity. She was the most down to earth woman I've ever met. She was going back to France in January of 2015 so I only had two months to be with her. She helped me come out of my dark depression and she really liked me.

So instead of cutting our time short and turning myself in on November 5, I decided to turn myself in on January 23, 2015 so that I could be with her until the day she went back to her country. After all she did for me it was the least I could do.

January came around and I turned myself in. I waved down Officer Donahue, the same cop who arrested me in the first place, and I booked myself into the Mendocino County Jail.

When I went to court, probation through the towel at me. They gave me my mid-term suspended sentence of two years prison time (to be served in the County jail) with half time. So I had to spend a year straight in Mendocino County Jail. I asked for a rehabilitation program and they said there was no supporting evidence that I was an alcoholic.

But honestly, this could have all been avoided if I had money for a lawyer in the first place. Instead, I had a Public Pretender!

So that's the story of how the Public Pretender and Probation trucked my life.

I get out on December 7. 2015. Somehow I don't feel I deserve to do this much time. I've come a long way in my life. Everybody who knows me would say the same. At least when I get out there is no more probation. But I still have to walk on eggshells being an ex-felon now.

Some justice system, huh? Like I said, They have to make their money somehow. They make money on every inmate in jail for each day they're in jail. It's the sad truth. It's not justice, it's just a business like any other business. It's all about the money. Thanks for listening.


Michael Jay Overholt


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