The caterers had just arrived and were setting out a sumptuous buffet on trestle tables — all organic — gleaming chafing dishes on white table cloths, coolers full of kombucha, baskets of gluten-free breadsticks, bouquets of wildflowers in bell jars, Grateful Dead mood music. November 3rd, 2015, a gorgeous autumn day, the harvest in and local growers hosting out-of-town pot buyers.
All of a sudden a string of pickups and SUVs came roaring up, skidded to a stop and the undercover cops of the Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force jumped out, guns drawn. Special Agent Jim Wells yelled, “SHERIFF! SEARCH WARRANT! EVERYBODY FREEZE!”
It was Peter Hoyle, scourge of stoners everywhere. Yes sir, Officer Blue Meanie himself, the very last person a self-respecting hippie would invite to lunch.
People scrambled in all directions as more law enforcement vehicles roared up. You'd have thought it was a raid on a nest of Taliban. Cops were shoving people to the ground and cuffing them, more cops sprinted after the runners, as still more cops burst into the houses to search out more partygoers. Soon, the forces of law and order had their prey in one big group as, by turns, each suspect was taken into the “residence” for an “interview.”
Buyers and sellers kept arriving — too stoned or unsuspecting to see what was going on until they, too, were ensnared and added to the herd of captives not far from the feast laid out for them on nearby tables.
“Hey, Pete! Have you tried these canapés? They’re pretty good, actually.”
“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t feed mung bean sprouts to my dog.”
All those arrested were soon released, most merely cited.
The euphemisms law enforcement officers deploy for their reports are always vague, intentionally devised to obscure what had actually taken place. People who have been busted automatically translate these euphemisms, so when Sergeant Peter Hoyle’s report says, “I contacted Sean Holt and escorted him inside the residence” Mr. Holt remembers that Hoyle grabbed him, cuffed him, and dragged him into the house and shoved him into a chair.
Sgt. Hoyle reports, “It was discovered that Holt was on formal felony probation…”
Special Agent Jason Costa (attached to the Task Force from the Mendocino County Probation Department) had already informed Hoyle that Holt was a probationer who had now refused to unlock his cell phone — a violation of the search clause of the terms of his probation. But, hey, Holt had already blown off his court dates and seemed to have no intention of complying with his surveilled life as defined by official Mendocino County. The cellphone lock was a mere inconvenience; Costa was able to open it anyway.
Holt The Unrepentant was arrested, let go, and soon busted again at another big grow, so he's in jail awaiting trial.
The People's evidence against him consisted of orders for weed, contacts with potential buyers. Holt is a businessman, and business is good.
“I don’t know anything about any marijuana transactions. I just came out here to have lunch with my friends,” Holt said.
Another Task Force member, Chris Lunsford, arrested Holt for bringing nine pounds of dessert to the lunch in the form of cannabis. The lunch, in reality, was a dope market.
Holt’s lawyer, Jan Cole-Wilson, asked Agent Lunsford how he knew that Holt had been attending a business lunch. Lunsford said the homeowner, Jodi Dutra, told him.
In all, 102 pounds of marijuana and $204,000 in US currency was seized at Jodi's lunch. Sixteen pounds of the pot was attributed to Ms. Dutra. Most of the cash was taken from Galen “Nick” Pierce.
Considering the amount of cash at Jodi's lunch, not to mention the quality meds, Ms. Dutra's lunch bunch was lucky the cops showed up before, well, before the home invaders who now prowl Mendocino County year-round.
Hoyle then “contacted” Kevin Sanders, who had made a break for it but was run down by Agent Wells in a nice open field tackle. The sullen Mr. Sanders wanted his lawyer before he would answer any questions, so he was set aside, and Hoyle “contacted” the owner of the property, Jodi Dutra.
“I contacted Jodi Dutra and escorted her inside the residence. I advised Dutra of Miranda and she said she understood and agreed to speak to me. Dutra told me the following in summary:
“Dutra said she met [Calvin] Williams and [Timothy] Fowler at a cannabis club in Petaluma six months ago. Dutra said Fowler asked her to get 10 pounds of marijuana for them. Dutra indicated that she was going to broker a 10-pound marijuana deal for Fowler and Williams today and her mother Judy Dutra was aware of it.”
Note how, in the third sentence, the verb changes from “Dutra said,” in the first two sentences to “Dutra indicated…” This makes it sound like Dutra fessed right up, implicating her mother, too. Mom lives next door to Jodi's house on Eastside Calpella Road. But somebody with a legal history like Jodi Dutra’s would probably not be so forthcoming, would she? The verb “indicated” is conveniently vague for Hoyle’s purposes. How Hoyle actually extracted the names of Williams and Fowler and the 10-pound deal from Dutra remains a trade secret, but Dutra didn’t come right out and say any of this or Hoyle would have used the explicit verb “said.”
The use of vagaries and euphemisms by law enforcement infuriates pot growers and dealers. But these same characters are pretty good dissemblers themselves. Here’s a statement from the hostess with the mostess, Ms. Dutra:
“Yes, I sell weed, yes I’m a broker, but I don’t go — Umm…. Okay, this is what I have in mind, is that, and it’s probably bad, but the way my mind thinks about marijuana like if it doesn’t touch my hand and I introduce people, what — what, tell me what am I doing wrong?”
Reminds me of the time a guy on the street in Frisco offered to introduce me to a female friend of his...
“I [Hoyle] asked Dutra what she would have made today if the deal had happened and Dutra said about $50 per pound.” (Ms. Dutra’s cut for each pound of pot sold.)
Dutra wouldn’t give up her cousin’s name to Hoyle. This “male cousin” was supposedly the wheeler-dealer behind the whole operation, but Dutra was determined to do the good deed for the day, take one for the team, and claim the whole show was all on her. As mentioned, Dutra has a long history of busts going back to 2007.
After being booked, Ms. Dutra promptly posted $175,000 bail.
In one of her earlier cases she was represented by District Attorney David Eyster.
This inconvenient fact has resulted in a motion from Calvin Williams to recuse the DA, filed by Williams’ lawyer, Douglas Rhoades of the Office of the Alternate Public Defender. Here are some pertinent paragraphs from Mr. Rhoades’ motion.
“On August 20, 2007, felony arrest warrant was issued charging Jodi Dutra with robbery, transporting marijuana, possession of a firearm and child abuse, as well as a charge of conspiracy to commit a second degree robbery. She was arrested and the Alternate Defender was appointed. Other than her arraignment, the Alternate Defender had no contact with her as she was subsequently arrested in another jurisdiction which resulted in a prison sentence.
“By the time she returned the Alternate Defender had a conflict and [private defense attorney] Phil DeJong was appointed. Before the prelim, David Eyster requested to substitute as her attorney of record and this was granted. Eyster appeared on her behalf 10 times, up to and including her plea to the conspiracy charge, a strike offense, and five years in prison was suspended on March 20, 2009.
“On April 21, 2009, she violated her probation and was jailed when she appeared in court. Eyster wrote the court that he no longer represented Dutra, and Katherine Elliott [now Mendocino County Counsel] was appointed, until May 3, 2012, when the Public Defender took over. By then, David Eyster was the District Attorney.
In March of 2012 Dutra was again before the court on a felony charge of making or possessing counterfeit documents. She was represented at that time by the public defender Linda Thompson and Deputy DA Ray Killion was representing the People, soon to be replaced by Deputy DA Damon Gardner, then Deputy DA Heidi Larson, and later by Deputy DA Scott McMenomey and, finally, Deputy DA Paul Sequiera, who announced that the People had a conflict and asked for the Attorney General to assume the prosecution.
By this time there was hardly a lawyer in the county who hadn’t represented the enterprising Ms. Dutra’s, by now a one-person lawyer's employment program.
“In October 2012, Dutra again found herself [how’s that for a passive verb!] in trouble with the law, this time for embezzlement — a case quickly dismissed by DA Eyster…”
Mr. Rhoades maintains that his client, Calvin Williams, along with co-defendants Timothy Fowler, Brandon Jiminez, Sean Holt, Ramiro Torres, Galen Pierce, Jose Cevallos and Antonio Dattilo — that none of ‘em can get a fair trial because Eyster once represented the star witness, Jodi Dutra, who “indicated” as much to Sgt. Hoyle.
“And here the evidence, and implication, is plain on its face,” Rhoades says: “Eyster previously represented Jodi Dutra who is a principal in the activities charged… And Eyster’s representation was neither incidental nor superfluous: He was her attorney of record in a case that resulted in a conviction for a strike offense. Coincidentally, that same strike, the one he permitted her to plea to, is now being used as a special allegation in the complaint [the current case] signed by C. David Eyster.
“And to complicate things just a bit more, Dutra is now represented by Duncan James, local attorney and Eyster’s former employer. If called to testify, Dutra will say she tried to hire Victoria Shanahan and Duncan contacted her [proposing Eyster’s services] without solicitation.
Rhoades goes on to affirm that “The appearance of conflict is frequently more damaging than an actual conflict. When Dutra is called as a witness she may choose not to testify, as I suspect her current attorney Duncan James would so advise. But if she does, how can Eyster go about cross-examining her? He has already run afoul of the Rules of Professional Conduct.”
At his point Rhoades cites some case law.
In between his citations, he says, “It is not difficult to imagine that Eyster obtained confidential information relating to Dutra while acting as her defense counsel. It is not difficult to imagine that such information might support a decision to file similar charges in the instant case. The appearance of conflict rears its ugly head again and again.
“Again, Eyster may possess no knowledge obtained from his representation of Dutra, as discussed in Rule 3-310 (e.) Indeed, he may have no knowledge at all [sic]. But it would certainly cause a reasonable, rational person to ponder the appropriateness of being both defender and prosecutor for the same individual over a period of eight years. And as such, lead that reasonable and rational person to entertain the idea that a fair trial would likely not result from such a set of circumstances, let alone ponder the propriety of the actions taken.”
Rhoades goes on to cite Rule 1.9, Duties to Former Clients.
“A lawyer who has formerly represented a client in a matter shall not thereafter represent another person in the same or a substantially related matter in which that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the former client unless the former client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.”
In closing Rhodes asks the judge to slap Eyster’s hand:
“For all the reasons set forth in this motion the defendant prays the court to grant the relief sought, and disqualify or recuse C. David Eyster and the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office from this case. Further, the court should consider what judicial sanction, if any, should be imposed on the unethical conduct of C. David Eyster based on the adverse representation against a former client, against said client for a similar violation of law. Finally, should the court grant the motion, the court would, in the petitioner’s opinion, be obliged to report the actions of C. David Eyster to the State Bar of California.”
Jodi Dutra was back in court last Friday, getting ready for her trial with attorney Chris Brooke of the Duncan James law office. It looks like the trial will start in early August.
I asked DA Eyster what he had to say about the motion to recuse his office from all these cases and he replied, “There’s no basis for the motion. The laws Mr. Rhoades is citing have all changed, 30 years ago. Sorry Doug hasn’t caught up.”
We’ll have to wait and see what the judge has to say about that.