- Ciera Found
- Dalton Missing
- Candidate Forum
- Fire Recovery
- One-Sided Signs
- Shelter Report
- Pop Quiz
- Ed Notes
- Meet Roderick
- Little Dog
- Reverse 911
- Water Testing
- Homeless Capital
- County Museum
- Mentally Ill
- Home Invasions
- Yesterday's Catch
- Irish Sanctuary
- Zen Awards
- Foreign Healthcare
- Small Wars
- Tax Code
- Line Dancing
- Welfare Ranching
- Rogers Saga
FROM THE SHERIFF
On 04-07-2018 the body of what appeared to be an African American Female was recovered in the Pacific Ocean surf in the area of Juan Creek and Highway 1 in Westport, California.
Due to the condition of the body the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Division enlisted the assistance of the California Department of Justice Bureau of Forensic Services Richmond DNA laboratory in identifying the body.
On 04-17-2018 the Coroner’s Division was notified the Richmond DNA laboratory identified the body from DNA analysis as being Ciera Hart, a missing member of the Hart family.
Through an ongoing examination of legal documents the Coroner’s Division was able to determine her legal first name to be spelled “Ciera” and not Sierra as previously released. The Coroner’s Division was also able to determine Ciera’s legal age as being 12 years-old at the time of the incident as opposed to 15 years-old which was also previously released.
The autopsy results including BA/Toxicology analysis for Ciera is pending at this time.
THE PARENTS OF DALTON JAMES COOKE of Fort Bragg are searching for him. According to his mother, he ran away on the 12th. Dalton turned 17 this week, she said. He is 6 foot tall and about 130 pounds. He has strawberry-blond hair and blue eyes. He also wears braces. He may be hiding out in the Fort Bragg area.
“He often wears a sweatshirt and a baseball hat,” his mom said. “He gets around on foot or a long board.”
If you have any information on him, please contact the Fort Bragg Police at (707) 961-2800.
FIVE IN ONE
Wednesday, Today: April 18 Candidates Forum
Having interviewed all the candidates for 5th district supervisor (and watched a lot of forums!), I will host them all together in the mendocinotv.com/ studio on April 18. This will be a live call-in/online comment show from 2-4pm. Joining me in the audience to ask questions will be Chris Calder of the Beacon/Advocate/Digital Media papers, Katy Tahja from Comptche and prolific Mendocino County historian, Sally Stewart who has been the owner/operator of Southern Exposure salon in Mendocino for 40 years, Marianne McGee of MendocinoTV, and a missive from Beth Bosk who cannot attend.
After Q&A we will conduct this simulation:
We want to see the five of you work together to resolve an issue as if you are the BOS. The question of spending the new mental health tax money on the old Howard Hospital in Willits is currently being promoted. Mariann McGee will frame the problem and provide some context as public comment. Then you will figure out how to deal with it, discuss it, try to resolve it, and maybe even vote on it (or pass it on to a consultant). Take your time, show us what you can bring to the table, challenge each other, rise above partisan politics and districts and do what is best for the County’s citizens.
Your audience is watching.
FIRE RECOVERY COMMUNITY MEETING
Rebuilding Mendocino County Strong
The fire recovery community meeting will be an opportunity for residents to receive updated information on debris removal operations. There will be a presentation on the Hope City Crisis Network, which rebuilds homes for families at a reduced cost. The local services and programs that are available through the M-ROC (Rebuilding our Community) Resource Room will be presented.
When: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Where: Eagle Peak Middle School Cafeteria, 8601 West Rd, Redwood Valley CA 95470
Agencies attending: Mendocino County Planning and Building Services, Mendocino County Department of Transportation, Mendocino County Environmental Health, M-ROC Resource Room, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Cal OES, FEMA
Live Online: This community meeting will be streamed live on the Mendocino County YouTube Channel.
For more information please contact the Mendocino County Executive Office at (707) 463-4441.
(Photo by Judy Valadao)
THE END OF COMMON SENSE
Coming down Greenwood ridge I see a Chris Skyhawk sign and a few days later a Ted Williams sign. Aside from the sad meaninglessness of all this plastic BS, I notice right away that Williams didn’t even have the foresight to pay the extra for two-sided signs, a white glaring board going down Greenwood and his important name showing up only for the uphill drive. At least Chris understood the obvious efficiency of buying two sided signs.
Some guy wants me to vote for him when he’s going to overload the landfill with his inept choice of signage layout? Wonder what similar mistakes he’d be likely to make with our money! Today some little minion had to come back to this location and install a whole new sign so that the downhill folk would not miss Ted's name next to Skyhawk who at least had the sense to fly in both directions. Ridiculous!
The devils in the details as usual.
MENDO ANIMAL SHELTER REPORT for February 2018
February 1, 2018, through February 28, 2018:
- 13 feral cats received
- 41 owner surrendered animals received
- 31 cats, 116 dogs, 7 livestock animals and 1 pocket pet impounded
- 155 total stray animals received
February 1, 2018, through February 28, 2018:
- 27 dogs adopted
- 12 cats adopted
- 7 other animals adopted
- 42 animals transferred to rescue organizations
- 50 animals were returned to their owners
- 2 owner-surrended animals euthanized
- 6 cats and 14 dogs and shelter animals euthanized
- Live release rate of approximately 88%
Who is this woman?
FROM THE PRESS DEMOCRAT:
"The Domaine Carneros 2013 Brut won Best of Show Sparkling for its bouquet of aromas, from pear and honeycomb to brioche. It offers a creamy texture, elegant structure and a long finish. The judges complimented its flavors of ‘yellow apple and Bartlett pear’.”
I WONDER how the wine hacks keep coming up with their "bouquets of aromas." What the heck does a brioche smell like? It's basically a fancy French muffin, isn't it, and why would you want wine with a muffin smell in it? But the free wine writers can go on like this forever, although I'm sure they can also recycle the same twenty or so "bouquets" without anyone noticing. Any of us boozers know the diff between good wine and the not so good wine, the diff between White Horse scotch and single malts, Germaine Robin and cooking brandy, Budweiser from any of the quality beers brewed up right here in Boonville.
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THE CASE OF WESTPORT'S Kenny Rogers is known among County lawyers as "the miracle conviction." There was zero evidence that Rogers had hired or even asked a Sacramento thug to shoot up the home of Rogers' Westport Fire Department adversary, a fellow named Simon, but off Rogers went to the state pen, and off went his lawyers with a ruinous amount of Rogers' money for making a hash out of his defense. I've appended below Tim Stelloh's story on the Rogers saga, and we have also posted a recent letter to us from Rogers.
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NOT THAT I'M SURPRISED the Marbut Report on local homelessness is being resisted by the County's helping pros out of their usual self-interest, but I have yet to see a coherent, or even an incoherent, refutation of Marbut's recommendations, which, in a nutshell are: A single strategy that puts the homegrown homeless first and keeps the transient homeless moving on down the road. To accomplish this modest and commonsense goal the helping pros would coordinate their efforts for the greater good, maybe even combine their efforts into a single approach as in, for instance, Eugene, Oregon where a large facility in West Eugene houses all the houseless because no one is allowed to set up home under a city freeway or in the bushes along the mighty Willamette. The Eugene shelter is church-run, while the terminal drunks, drug heads and crazy people — the problem homeless — are housed in a jail annex. Since the Supervisors paid Marbut a handsome nickel for his analysis of the local prob — more of a local prob by the day — they should insist the helping pros cooperate or lose their funding. Prediction: Until the homeless become so many they're camping on the lawns of Westside Ukiah they'll continue to complicate the lives of the commercial people in Ukiah's and Fort Bragg's business districts.
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IN AMNESIA COUNTRY, as here in Amnesia County, history starts all over again every day. The FBI is a major re-invention lately, what with that prig Comey cashing in on his own shady behavior when he was Director, but the even greater re-write is the history of the FBI itself, an historical fact solidified, we thought, from the many books written about the agency and its nutball founder, J. Edgar Hoover, a blackmailer all his days. Hoover, also a closet case, stayed in office all those years because he amassed dossiers on the sex lives of presidents and people around presidents. For instance, he had reams of material on the Kennedys' interludes with Marilyn Monroe, and audio tapes of MLK's romps with women who were not his wife. From its beginnings as a national police force the FBI has, foremost, been a political police force, perpetually on the trail of anarchists, then communists, then black radicals and not so radical black people like, most famously, Martin Luther King. The notion that the FBI is this chaste, above-it-all, apolitical agency is simply not true.
MEET & GREET FOR DAVE RODERICK on Monday, April 23rd
Fifth District Supervisorial candidate Dave Roderick will be hosted at a Meet & Greet in Ukiah on Monday, April 23rd from 5 to 7 pm. The event will be held at Factory Pipe World Headquarters, 1307 Masonite Road in Ukiah.
Ross Liberty, owner of Factory Pipe and host of the event, is looking forward to a good turnout. “Dave Roderick would be a great supervisor for the 5th District. He knows the county, having gone to school in Mendocino and Boonville, and now operates a successful metal fabrication business in Hopland. As a founding member of the Mendocino County Association of Fire Districts and a volunteer firefighter, Dave was able to convince the Board of Supervisors to allocate vital funds to fire districts throughout the county. I really believe that the more people hear from Dave and understand his views on county government, the more they will like him.”
Factory Pipe is located on the north end of Ukiah. Take Ford Road past the Raley’s shopping center and veer left before the railroad tracks.
Wine and snacks will be served. Bring your questions for the candidate!
LITTLE DOG SAYS, “The thing with Skrag is he's lazy right in my face! And me working my paws to the claws, 24-7!”
INTERESTING ITEM from the minutes of the recent AV Fire Department Budget Committee meeting: “Committee member Scaramella said he'd heard that among the steps being considered since the Redwood Complex fires and the after-action report (now in draft form at the County level), individual Fire Chiefs will have authority to initiate reverse 911 calls in their area without going through dispatch. Scaramella wanted to make sure the Chief was aware of it and that local reverse 911 protocols are developed if/when this authority is enacted. Chief Avila replied that the Fire Chiefs have been told that changes are coming but have not been trained or familiarized with the new system. Avila also said that Mendocino County has not yet done an independent OES after-action review like Sonoma County did and he hopes that an independent outside report is prepared at some point.”
WHY WE TEST WATER
by Jim Shields (Mendocino County Observer)
Really good news on the weather front for the Laytonville area: We’ve had lots of rain. Not that we really needed it, but still it’s better to have more of something and not need it, as opposed to needing it and not having it, right?
This past week’s atmospheric river of storms (AKA “Pineapple Express”) dropped 7.85 inches of rain, along with a little snow and sleet mixed in. Total historical rainfall for April is 4.20 inches, so we’ve topped that by 3.65 inches and we’re not even half-way through the month yet.
To date we’ve received 49 inches of rain, compared to the historical average of 62.30 inches, so again we’re in great shape as the aquifer the water district draws its water from is fully recharged. We’ve found that if we get approximately half our normal rainfall (about 33 inches to 34 inches of the historic average of 67 inches), the aquifer is recharged.
Speaking of water, I’ll continue our discussion from last week regarding contamination issues surrounding the Laytonville Landfill, which has been closed now for 25 years.
There are some folks who believe that our town’s water supply has been contaminated by the old dump. I can tell you that there is absolutely no evidence to support those claims, and lots of evidence to refute those allegations. The town’s water supply is provably safe and free of whatever contamination is in the landfill.
So let’s take it from the top.
For 25 years I’ve said that landfills, especially closed landfills, by definition are contaminated. To me there’s nothing to argue about on that issue. Landfills contain everything from plain old garbage to flashlight batteries, to household cleaning products, to car batteries, old tires, petroleum products, to some genuinely toxic substances like long-banned pesticides and herbicides, or PCBs and Hexavalent Chromium (“chrome 6”).
As I said, it’s my belief that all landfills by definition are contaminated.
The real question, especially with closed landfills, is: Are the various nasty constituents found in them remaining confined to the landfill, or are they “leaching” or “migrating” off-site into surrounding areas and causing health risks to humans.
The County of Mendocino owns and maintains the closed landfill here in Laytonville. Under the law, Mendocino County is responsible for monitoring and testing that landfill to ensure that it is not posing a risk to public health. To date, and this could change at any time, there is no evidence that the closed landfill presents a health risk. But the Laytonville County Water District does not accept as fact that just because the landfill may not be a public health risk today, that we have no obligations to ensure that our water remains safe and uncontaminated.
So in order to protect our water supply, the District literally conducts thousands of tests every year. Because the closed landfill is in the District’s boundaries, we assume nothing when it comes to public health risks. That’s why we test our water. We want to actually know beyond any doubt our water is safe.
Specifically because of concerns that certain contaminants may be in the landfill, for example PCBs and chrome 6, we test for them. In fact, we’ll be testing for them in the next week or so, and I’ll let you know the results. But to date there have never been positive “hits” for either in our water source. We know what’s in our water source: iron, manganese, and a small amount naturally occurring arsenic, which we successfully treat out below the maximum contaminant level set by EPA. There is nothing else in our water and we know that from all the testing we do.
We’ll continue this discussion next week when I’ll share with you a recent investigation and report that was issued concerning these issues on the Cahto Reservation.
I thought you find it interesting to learn about all the different things we test for in our water.
LCWD Water Quality Testing:
1, 1 2, 2 Tetrachloroethane, 1, 1 Dichloroethene, 1, 1, 1 Trichloroethane, 1, 1, 2 Trichloroethane, 1, 2 Dichlorobenzene, 1, 2 Dichloroethane, 1, 2 Dichloropropane, 1, 2, 3, TCP, 1, 2, 4 Trichlorobenzene, 1, 3 Dichloropropene (total), 1, 4 Dichlorobenzene, 2,4,5-TP (silvex), 2,4-D, Aggressive Index, Alachlor, Aluminum, Ammonia as N, Anions by EPA methos 300.0, Antimony, Arsenic, Asbestos, Atrazine, Bac T / Coliform, Barium, Benzene, Beryllium, Bicarbonate, Bicarbonate Alkalinity as CaCO3 , Bromodichloromethane, Bromoform., Cadmium, Calcium, Carbon Dioxide, Free, Carbon Tetrachloride, Carbonate, Carbonate Alkalinity as CaCO3, Chloride, Chlorobenzene, Chloroform., Chromium, Cis-1, 2 Dichloroethene, Color, Copper, Dalapon, Dibromoacetic Acid, Dibromochloromethane, Dichloroacetic Acid, Ethylbenzene, Fluoride, Foaming Agents, Gross Alpha, Haloacetic Acids (5) (HAA5), Hardness,, Hexavalent Chromium, Hydrogen Sulfide, Hydroxide, Hydroxide alkalinity as CacO3, Iron, Lead & Copper, Magnesium, Manganese, MBAS, calculated as LAS, mw340, Mercury, Methyl tert-butyl ether, Methylene Chloride, Methyl-tert-butyl-ether, Molinate, Momochloroacetic Acid, Monobromoacetic Acid., Monochlorobenzene, MTBE (Primary), MTBE (secondary), Nickle, Nitrate as (N), Odor, PCB-Polychlorinated biphenyl, Perchlorate, pH, Phosphorus, Total, Potassium, Selenium, Silica, Silver, Simazine, Sodium, Specific Conductance (EC), Strontium, Styrene, Sulfate as SO4, Sulfide, Dissolved, Tetrachloroethene, Tetrachloroethylene, Thallium, Thiobencarb, Toluene, Total Alkalinity as CaCO3, Total Dissolved Solids, Total Haloacetic Acid, Total Trihalomethanes, Trans-1, 2 Dichloroethene, Trialomethanes (total), Trichloroacetic Acid, Trichloroethene, Trichlorofluoromethane, Trichlorotrifluoroethane (Freon 113), Turbidity, Vanadium, Vinyl Chloride, Xylenes (total), Zinc.
(Jim Shields is the Mendocino County Observer’s editor and publisher, and is also the long-time district manager of the Laytonville County Water District. Listen to his radio program “This and That” every Saturday at 12 noon on KPFN 105.1 FM, also streamed live: http://www.kpfn.org)
LISTEN TO MARBUT
To the Editor:
Greetings from South Ukiah, still proud lands that City Hall has forsaken. I arrived in Ukiah when it was known as one of the 100 best small towns in America. Last year Mendocino County attained the dubious honor of being #1 in per capita homeless in the nation. I’ve heard from elected officials and others that this really isn’t the case, so I challenged them. Who has a higher per capita homeless rate than Mendocino County? So far no response, just an eloquent silence.
How did we get here? Clearly it’s either bad planning or no planning. I ask you to consider the findings of a dispassionate, thoughtful expert. On March 15th Dr. Robert Marbut delivered his eye opening 53 page report to the public, available online here: mendocinocounty.org/home/showdocument?id=20042
He clearly states his recommendations to mitigate our current crisis. He talks about adopting a common nomenclature so all stakeholders are on the same page, enrolling everyone who utilizes our services in the “Homeless Management Information System” (HMIS), using strategic/systemic versus tactical/agency centered approaches, eliminating “silos of influence,” and avoiding duplication of services to prevent “shopping” (“guests” 86’d from one program only to mosey down the block and enroll in another). Dr. Marbut says for a community of our size, we need only one site for a homeless center. If Ukiah’s City Council votes to approve the NorCal Christian Ministries project at 150 Luce Avenue, then Ukiah will have five centers. That is going the wrong way…up…and openly flouting many of Dr. Marbut’s recommendations.
I wish to make the following very clear. I know and respect the people behind the NorCal Ministries project — they are nice, thoughtful, compassionate, and honorable. They sincerely want to help the downtrodden and I wish them the best. However, I think Dr. Marbut has the experience, the track record, that require the community and Ukiah City Council to slow down and do it right.
In the meantime, is there any reason why Plowshares or RCS’s day shelter could not accommodate NorCal’s program in their slew of offerings? I recall that is what the community was told when both the Plowshares and RCS projects were approved. I sincerely hope that this was not a bait and switch, and that one of these existing entities will take NorCal’s program under their wing.
During the 10/04/2017 appeal of the RCS project at 1045 South State, a petition was submitted asking for a moratorium on all Ukiah homeless related planning decisions until there was a plan in place to measure the success or failure of any such project within Ukiah city limits, specifically to lessen the impact of homelessness on our community. The moratorium petition was signed by 780 Ukiah citizens, shoppers, and voters. The City Council ignored the petition and unanimously voted to approve the project.
Do Ukiah citizens really want the enabling, expanding status quo or is it time to try something else? Taxpayers want to see results, not platitudes or more empty promises. We all want to help the homeless lift themselves from our streets, stop loitering in front of our businesses, stop camping in our parks and stream beds, give them hope, and have them re-enter productive society. Per Dr. Marbut’s recommendations; all homeless people should be funneled through a single organization, entered in the HMIS, diagnosed, and prescribed a treatment program. Each person in therapy will then be tracked and the progress they make to better themselves makes them eligible for additional services. Utilize incentives that positively reinforce good behaviors. Public or private programs that continue to enable bad behavior must be shut down. Laws already on the books should be vigorously enforced by UPD. Those ‘guests’ unwilling to productively engage with our local homeless services should be encouraged to seek help in a different community.
“Street Graduation Rates,” or success attained by each homeless program, must be transparent and posted for public viewing on the City’s website. Those entrenched in, and entrapped by, the status quo will doubtless complain.
Until Ukiah’s City Council sets up this structure, the current harebrained approach of unanimously approving any program or project dealing with the “Homeless” should be tabled or denied. Otherwise, we can expect a lot more of the same.
Please voice your opinion. The next City Council meeting is April 18 at 6 p.m.
KEEP THEM SEPARATE
To the Editor:
An Open Letter to Editor, to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors and to the Mendocino County Museum Advisory Board:
I disagree with the plan to consolidate three county services — the libraries, the county museum, and parks — into one Cultural Services Agency. The reasons given for this plan seem rather limp, such as to “provide greater access across all demographics to information, cultural resources, etc.” In reality, such access already exists if these organizations have adequate funding and energetic leadership to help county residents learn how to connect, learn, and grow in our libraries, museum, and parks.
I will focus on advocating for the Mendocino County Museum as a volunteer who put in hundreds of hours from December 2015 to the present in helping guest curate and promote the exhibit “Willits Main Street: Then and Now,” with my collaborator Judi Berdis. Doing over 50 interviews for this exhibit with local residents informed me not only about the history of our county, but also about the value of the county museum and what it needs to operate well.
Since Alison Glassey’s leave of absence and resignation as of June 2017, the reduced staff has struggled to function to the museum’s utmost capacity. When Herb Pruett helped establish the museum in 1972, he had seven or eight full time staff working there. Now the museum is down to two full time employees (a curator and administrative assistant), one very part-time director, and two very part-time employees who help run the front desk and the gift shop. That’s not enough to bring our museum up to snuff!
In recent years, the museum sponsored a grand Kinetic Carnivale, a Mushroom and Wine tour, the county-wide Museum Road Show, and many other smaller events and programs that pulled in visitors from across the county and beyond. Well managed, the museum can serve as a county community center with these kinds of events, along with book readings, lectures, tours, and more, all of which could help the museum pay for creating intriguing exhibits.
Like the libraries and parks, the museum needs to have experienced leadership, and more of it, not less, as well as more funding to bring the museum into the 21st century as a model institution for learning about and experiencing our rich county history. As curators, Judi and I were often told what we could not do with the limited funds of the museum. But look at what cutting-edge museums are able to create, using exciting, interactive exhibits that draw young people into history. The most recent permanent exhibit, Woven Worlds on the Native peoples of Mendocino County created by Victoria Patterson, does do that with video, and colorful, tactile, and interactive devices. The whole museum could be renewed with such innovative designs.
Our county museum needs to maintain its own identity and have a surge of support to renovate old exhibits and dream up new ones. The newly hired curator, Karen Mattson, brings wonderful professional experience. She will surely initiate new ways of helping us see our county’s history and future. It may be time to put away the “garage” of wagons and the years-long store fronts in the main exhibit hall and try some other exhibits that will enhance new understandings of our communities in this county.
Let’s be open minded about how to support this valued institution, which typically draws over 3,700 people a year as is, and could draw more. We should be enhancing our educational access and tourism, not finding ways to diminish what our institutions can provide.
Are violent home-invasions coming to your neighborhood? As long as stupid laws about marijuana exist, violence around it will continue.
The legalization of marijuana should have been structured simply to decriminalize innocuous personal behavior. Instead, politicians got greedy for large tax revenues and encouraged a new “industry.” The new industrial marijuana grow sites in our neighborhoods have become attractive soft targets for violent predators. Result: We now have violent home-invasions.
If the supervisors want to avoid more violent home invasions, they must strictly limit commercial marijuana grow sites to industrial-zoned areas. They should substantially lower the taxes on growers so that working within the system is more attractive. And they should require all commercial growers to clearly mark their locations with street signs and online listings so that innocent neighbors no longer are targets. In short, they should treat this “industry” like an industry.
Violent, murderous home-invasions aren’t relatively rare events occurring elsewhere. They are currently happening here in Sonoma County and will continue unless the supervisors act. Concerned hand-wringing, delusional gun-free zones and reliance on law enforcement (always after the fact) won’t work. The commercial grow sites hiding in our neighborhoods are invitations to violence.
CATCH OF THE DAY, April 17, 2018
WILLIAM BETTEGA, Covelo. Domestic battery, willful cruelty to child with possible injury or death.
ANDREW BRIDGE, Ukiah. Domestic battery.
ELISA CERVANTES, Boonville. Controlled substance while armed, smuggling controlled substance/liquor into jail, concealed weapon in vehicle, felon/addict with firearm, ammo possession by prohibited person, alteration of firearm ID, probation revocation.
MARVIN GIBSON, Willits. Over an ounce of pot, concealed weapon in vehicle, alternation of firearm ID.
MELISSA HERNANDEZ, Lathrop/Ukiah. Failure to appear.
ZACHARY LIENHART, Healdsburg/Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-alcohol.
JESSE SLOTTE, Ukiah. Probation revocation.
JUAN VALDESPINO-CRUZ, Elk. DUI, suspended license, false info to cop.
MARLEY WALRATH, Ukiah. Stolen vehicle.
DOUGLAS WHIPPLE III, Covelo. Controlled substance, county parole violation.
SAN FRANCISCO, A SANCTUARY CITY — FOR THE IRISH TOO
by Nadya Connolly Williams
A starkly political film from the north of Ireland was an unusual choice for this year's annual San Francisco Independent Film Festival, "Indie Fest"- held every February. The Fest screened the 2017 feature "Maze" which is based closely on the spectacular real-life 1983 prison break of 38 Irish Republican inmates from Her Majesty's Prison The Maze in Northern Ireland — a maximum security prison considered to be one of the most escape-proof in Europe. All escapees were members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and had been convicted of taking part in armed paramilitary campaigns during Ireland's anti-colonial civil war in the British-dominated six counties of the north of Ireland.
It seems that even the Indie Fest programmers might not have known that at least four of these men found sanctuary 25 years ago here in San Francisco in Trump's nemesis, the Sanctuary City by the Bay. Crucial to understanding the covert protection and care given by the Irish American community here to the escaped 'convicts' is the political concept that "One man's terrorist is another man's Freedom Fighter" — and one man's "criminal" is another man's Political Prisoner.
Billed as a "Northern California Premiere," the screening at the venerable Roxie Theater was introduced by a festival staffer as, "a film that will not appear in any mainstream cinema" on the West Coast, or anywhere in the U.S., he wagered. This writer was in the audience and pointed out to the host of the screening, and to the others in attendance, that at least four of the 38 escapees made their way to San Francisco by the early to mid-1990s.
In fact, a well-known Irish bar at the time, a mere two blocks from the Roxie Theater, had an "underground railway" in the basement that harbored the four, along with other escapees and assorted Irish who were sought by British intelligence forces through our FBI. All this was a total surprise to the festival staffer, and, it seems, most in the audience. I suspect that one of the Indie Fest programmers must have known about this San Francisco political fugitive history and sanctuary tradition to have made this unusual film selection for their festival.
The San Francisco escapees were known as "The H-Block 4" since the Maze prison blocks where they were held are H-shaped buildings. The Four were gradually apprehended in California between 1992 and '94 by the FBI to stand trial during the mid-to-late '90s in San Francisco courts for possible extradition. During the course of their incarceration and trials, the H-Block 4 were: represented pro bono by some of San Francisco's top blue ribbon lawyers, made Honorary Grand Marshalls of the huge annual Saint Patrick's Day Parade, and supported by some of the most influential politicians and officials in the San Francisco and California state governments.
Little did the Indie Fest organizers know that the Dovre Club on 18th Street, near Valencia Street, was where the basement safe house was located, just two blocks from the Roxie cinema on 16th, near Valencia. The bar's owner Patrick Joseph "Paddy" Nolan is well worth a brief diversion now from discussion of the film and the H-Block 4. Although this article is about "Maze" and the fugitives, as you read on you will certainly agree that Paddy Nolan merits his stories to be told — and his link to the escapees will be well established.
Nolan was a well-know and vocal Dublin-born supporter of Irish Northern Aid, a major American organization in the movement to free the north of Ireland from British rule and to unite the Republic of Ireland in the south with Northern Ireland into a single Irish nation (the island was partitioned by Britain in 1922).
Besides harboring escaped Maze prisoners after their 1983 breakout, Nolan was most famous for an event that he carried out earlier in 1979 in front of one of San Francisco's most elite hotels when Princess Margaret of the British royal family was visiting The City. The princess had apparently called the Irish people "pigs." Here's a paragraph from the 1981 New York Times article, explaining why Margaret cancelled a visit to the U.S. in that year of '81:
"Princess Margaret became embroiled in the Irish issue in 1979 when she allegedly said to the Mayor of Chicago, Jane M. Byrne, that ''the Irish are pigs.'' Although she denied making the remark, she had to withstand several noisy demonstrations, including a large protest in San Francisco."
So during the princess's '79 visit Paddy and cohorts loaded a large truck with piglets, backed it up to the entrance of the posh Saint Francis Hotel where Margaret was staying in the heart of The City over looking Union Square, dropped the tail gate, and unloaded the swine into the hotel's lobby!
A few years later, in May of 1981, Paddy enlisted the aid of Irish bar owners in the SF Bay Area to hold a three-hour shutdown of local saloons as a memorial to political prisoner Bobby Sands, the first of 10 hunger strikers to die in Northern Ireland prisons during a protest fast-to-the-death. "Sands alerted the whole world to something. The kid died for something," Nolan told The Chronicleat the time, adding that he, too, wanted to increase the public's awareness of the Irish nationalist struggle.
A sign above the door of Paddy's Dovre Club read, "Patrick's Irish Toast: Let's Drink to the Final Defeat of the British Army in Northern Ireland. Or Anywhere." The club is still around, but relocated down the street on the corner of 26th and Valencia.
Another much-loved caper by Mr. Nolan came about when Queen Elizabeth II had been invited in 1983 by then-president Reagan to have her first look at the West Coast of the United States from the royal yacht, the Britannia. Paddy got some boating buddies to load up several of their craft with rotting fish as the royals entered the Bay. It was hoped that the gathering swarm of seagulls following the boats, which were following the Britannia, succeeded in jamming the radar and radio systems. In addition, it certainly could not have cast a very pleasant odor across the waves either.
Paddy Nolan died of cancer in 1996 just as the trials of the H-Block 4 were concluding. His funeral program's cover was a photo of Paddy and his nephew, each holding a corner, using a British union jack flag to wipe under the tail of a huge boar!
And who were among Paddy Nolan's pall bearers at his funeral? Then-San Francisco City District Attorney Terence Hallinan, son of a famous legal family, and then-San Francisco City and County Sherriff Michael Hennessey. Incidentally, Hennessey was the longest-serving sheriff in the history of San Francisco and was the longest-tenured sheriff in the State of California — 32 years in all. He was elected in 1979 (17 years before the funeral) and had been reelected in seven subsequent elections — receiving more than one million votes in all. That's quite a résumé for the pall bearer of a man who — everyone knew — harbored escaped "criminals."
Another thing that everyone knows now is that there are a lot of "illegal" Irish immigrants here — economic refugees. Starting with the 2007 Global Economic Rip Off (why not call it what it was?) the Republic of the south saw unemployment, heroin and emigration coming back, along with gentrification and a widening income gap. Sound familiar? So there are many mostly young Irish women and men who've come on tourist or student visas, but stay to work. False 'green cards' and social security cards are easy to get. Besides, these immigrants slip under Trump's Racist Radar because they are White English-speaking Europeans, not Latinos or Muslims.
Of the four Maze escapees in San Francisco, one was extradited back to the north of Ireland in 1996 and returned to prison, before being released in 1998. He lives there today with his American wife and family. The remaining three were released to their homes in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1990s as legal wrangling continued. In 2000 the British government announced that the extradition requests for them were being withdrawn as part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. However, in 2009, one of the men, who lived in Berkeley, had married a U.S. citizen and was freed by the courts to resume life at home, was detained during a trip to Texas on a passport issue. He was removed from the United States to the Republic of Ireland, where he must stay. The remaining two have been living peaceful lives in the SF Bay Area for over 20 years.
"Maze" focuses almost exclusively on an actual prisoner, Larry Marley, who was one of the masterminds behind the 1983 break. None of the H-Block 4 that San Franciscans know are identified in the film. The epilogue tells us that Marley was released from prison, but murdered in his home by a Loyalist (pro-UK) death squad. Though it is a gripping story and detail is exhaustive, the film might be a weak draw for someone who is not familiar with, or engaged in, the political landscape of the modern Irish struggle. It has however, stirred a lot of interest — and controversy — in Ireland and Britain. True to actual events, the epilogue tells us that many of the prisoners were apprehended within two days, and fully half within two years of the breakout. Nineteen went on trial over the death of a Maze prison guard, who had been stabbed, but had died of coronary failure during the escape. The judge acquitted all nineteen as he could not correlate the stabbing to the heart attack.
Of the remaining prisoners on the lam, several died or were killed, and still others were apprehended over the years in various countries and jailed — to be set free later. However, some were arrested, but not charged nor re-imprisoned. Two of the 38 have never been caught and are still at large and free to this day.
Billed as "an amazing true story" of "the biggest prison escape in Europe since World War II" the film and the event itself serve as a history lesson for San Francisco and California. Since 1985, this has been a Sanctuary City and as of last year California is now a Sanctuary State, both Trump nemeses. A safe Haven for many who deserve protection and political asylum — including the Irish.
(FOR CRAIG STEHR)
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
As far as government sponsored healthcare working out in America, there are some structural problems that would have to be repaired first. My longest old time buddy is an RN that works for a “healthcare” corporation. He makes big bucks administrating the Medicaid patients that he is given to oversee. Through legal technicalities we are actually allowing millions of foreign nationals to come to the US, sign the proper paperwork that will allow them to be medically treated for their ailments once they hit the ground. Their maladies vary all over the spectrum and when they are done they are even given prescriptions for OTC analgesics such as Tylenol, because by doing so, the government will pay for them as well. These people then go back to their home countries, where my friend maintains contact with them and makes sure they go for their follow up treatment back home with wellness visits and prescriptions all paid for buy US?
I am not making this up, I swear to you and my friend sometimes feels bad about it because it is clearly not right, but he cannot change the system so at least he can profit from it. And the real money is raked in by the top execs who can easily afford to pay their political stooges to see to it that this never changes. Change THAT problem and then we can talk about handout programs.
SYRIA BOMBING REVEALS WEAKNESS OF THERESA MAY
by Patrick Cockburn
Political leaders in power generally like small wars. It enables them to stand tall, wrap the flag around them, pretend they hold the fate of the nation in their hands, and denigrate their opponents as unpatriotic softies.
Theresa May is behaving in keeping with this stereotype since ordering four British planes to join the very limited air attack on three Syrian facilities on Saturday morning. Her performances are low-key but resolute, occasionally aping Elizabeth I at Tilbury defying the Spanish Armada, but more usually recalling a stern-faced Judi Dench as M, sending 007 on some dangerous but necessary mission to thwart the plots of the enemy. The trick is to appear weighed down by a terrible sense of responsibility, but not afraid to take decisive action in defence of our nation.
The media likewise enjoys a short sharp military conflict. It is good for business because people have a stronger imperative than normal to find out what is happening in the world. The first newspapers were born out of the wars at the end of the 16th and beginning of 17th centuries. Military conflict is exciting and provides plenty of melodrama that can be reported as a simple conflict between good and evil.
On this occasion, the minimalist nature of the strikes left news anchors and their caste of reporters all dressed up but with nowhere to go. Their sense of disappointment and anticlimax at not reporting a real war was ill-concealed. Suddenly, there were too many actors on stage without enough lines to speak, though each, from Washington to Moscow to Beirut (few seem to have made it to Damascus, presumably because of an absence of visas), had to have their say even when they had nothing of interest to report. Coverage was consequently tedious and unrevealing since even those correspondents with something original and interesting to say did not have the time to say it.
But the air strikes on Saturday morning should not be dismissed simply as a glorified PR stunt. They have a very real significance, though one that is diametrically the opposite to that claimed by Donald Trump, Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron. What we saw was not a demonstration of strength by the US, UK and France but a demonstration of weakness.
The evidence for this, reflecting the real balance of power in Syria, is the list of targets that were not attacked rather than the three that were. Tremendous efforts were made not to kill or injure any Russians, as the dominant political and military force in Syria. The Iranians and Hezbollah of Lebanon were evidently out of bounds. So too was the Syrian army, including its elite divisions, heavy equipment and ammunition dumps. Unlike Baghdad in 1991, 1998 and 2003, there were no cruise missiles striking empty but iconic sites like the presidential palace or defence ministry buildings in Damascus.
Theresa May and Boris Johnson argue that the air strikes were simply “humanitarian” in intent and to prevent the “normalisation” of the use of poison gas. Johnson speaks as if Assad were the first to use gas since the First World War, ignoring the tens of thousands of Iranians and Kurds gassed in the Iran-Iraq war by Saddam Hussein, who was supported by the US, UK and France.
Suppose that the threat of renewed air strikes does deter Assad: this is not necessarily great news for the Syrian people because less than 1 per cent – some 1,900 people out of the half a million Syrians who have died violently in the wars since 2011 – have died by gas. If foreign leaders showed any real concern over seven years of butchery in Syria, they would have made greater efforts in the past to bring this horrendous war to an end.
The restrained nature of the air strikes was sensible and realistic, reflecting the real balance of power in Syria. Assad is backed by Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Shia forces from Iraq and has largely won the civil war. This is not going to change without an open-ended campaign of mass bombing in support of rebel ground troops like that which Nato conducted in Libya in 2011.
A similar campaign could not be conducted against Assad because, unlike Isis, he has powerful foreign allies in the shape of Russia and Iran. As the US discovered to its cost, the only determined and experienced anti-Assad fighters available, aside from the Kurds, belong to Isis and al-Qaeda. Remember how, in 2016, an embarrassed Pentagon admitted spending $500m to produce just five trained moderate pro-US fighters, rather than the 5,000 it had expected?
The point is that even far more extensive air strikes would not have changed the outcome of the Syrian war, though they would certainly have escalated it and killed a lot more people.
There is a myth, lately adopted by President Trump, that President Obamalost a real opportunity to weaken or get rid of Assad in 2013, but the factors that restrained Obama then apply today with equal force to Trump: it is not possible to get rid of Assad without a wider war and, even if he went, the outcome would be a collapse of the state, as in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq, producing chaos in which Isis and al-Qaeda will flourish.
(Patrick Cockburn is the author of The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.)
I'M A MILLIONAIRE who creates zero jobs. Why do I pay less tax than you?
WESTPORT COMMUNITY CENTER FUNDRAISER!
Pot Luck/Line Dance Party benefiting the Westport Community Center
Kaye Alley from I'd Rather Be Line Dancing will be teaching Line Dances
Saturday, April 21st
Potluck starts at 2:00
Line Dancing from 3:00-5:00
Westport Community Center — Abalone Street — East of Westport Store
$15 At The Door
Hope to see Ya'll there!
DAMAGING PUBLIC LAND IN MARIN
Regarding "Cattle grazing on public lands is incompatible with wildlife" (SF Chronicle, April 9): Eric Molvar's comments on the ecological disaster caused by cattle ranching on public lands at Point Reyes National Seashore were spot-on.
Several decades ago, I was employed as the wildlife biologist there, managing the elk program, including the starting of a population at Limantour. Molvar's contrast of the degraded condition of the cattle pastures with the more ecologically intact elk range reflects my observations precisely. In his short piece, Molvar was unable to list all the damaging ecological consequences of this welfare ranching, including effects on water quality and anadromous fish.
Cattle also harbor and spread to wildlife, especially elk, the disease paratuberculosis, caused by intestinal bacterium. I nearly gag thinking of the spreading and volatilizing of manure from cattle-manure ponds done every year by the ranches.
The specious argument that cattle ranching is a "historic" use and must be preserved is laughable in the face of the effort to give the weakest nods to the longest and most historic use, that of Native Americans.
These National Park Service lands would much better serve their public owners as a demonstration of ecological restoration rather than as a continuing degradation of them.
ROGERS HAS HOPE
As always I hope all (or at least most) is well on the homefront with you and yours. My adventure continues in the so-called justice system. There continues to be hope. A 30 year professor of law at UCSF has taken my case pro bono working with my paralegal, Howard Herships. They are seeking to overturn my conviction based on the unethical interaction between prosecutor Tim Stoen and my paid counsel, Masuda, who Stoen falsely threatened to call as a witness only to create a conflict so he could walk with my $125,000 retainer! (I'm awaiting a court date.)
The State Bar is also pursuing both Stoen and Masuda on separate issues. My civil lawsuit is also plugging along in court. Time will tell.
I see Westport made news with the suicide of that family off a cliff. I know that spot very well. On several occasions people would push junker cars off that cliff. Our Westport fire department would get called by tourists thinking someone had driven off that road.
Fact is, there is no curve in the highway there. It's a pull-out that you can't misjudge. Those ladies knew what they were doing, killing all their kids!
Again, people kill people, not guns, not cars, not bombs. Sick people!
San Quentin has recently been reclassified as a "non-designated" prison which means that the administration can bring protective custody prisoners here in general population. Child molesters and rapists to name a few. Things are shaking to say the least.
I’m making the best of things. I'm pitching on the softball team this year. At 60 it's a challenge to play with 20 and 30-year-olds. Physically I feel 30! Praise God for my strength. Hopefully this will be the last year behind bars. I look forward to enjoying a cold brew and real meal one day with you.
Thanks for all you do. Your paper continues to print the truth, not fake news with an agenda!
God bless / your friend,
* * *
WATERBOARDED: THE KENNY ROGERS SAGA
by Tim Stelloh (July 2009)
The village of Westport is the last outpost before Mendocino County's northern coast disappears into a roadless swath of rugged shoreline and redwood-carpeted hills. It is spread across roughly one mile by one-half mile of coast, and has one store, two gas pumps and 47 registered voters. Retirees are Westport's dominant demographic, and 15 miles of coiling coastal highway separate it from the closest town.
In this very small village, there is one political entity — the five-member Westport County Water District, which oversees the local volunteer fire department and provides sewage treatment and water to several dozen homes. In this very small district, there have been many fiery debates over the years between board members: Sheriff's deputies were called to intervene at a meeting. Recalls have been organized. And in one now infamous case in 2005, Alan Simon, the board chairman at the time, was nearly killed in the doorway of his home by nine shots from a semi-automatic .22 Ruger pistol.
Shortly after the shooting, Kenneth "Kenny" Rogers, Simon's water board rival, was arrested for soliciting Simon's murder. At the time, Rogers was the chairman of the Mendocino County Republican Central Committee; he had also recently been fired from his post as Westport's assistant fire chief and replaced in a recall by Simon as the water board's chairman.
The district attorney's case against Rogers meandered through the courts for years, with continuances and a near no-prison plea deal. But last week, after a two-and-a-half week trial at the Ukiah Superior Court, Rogers, a lanky 51 year old who never failed to greet jurors with a beaming smile and who seemed to own an endless supply of pastel short-sleeve button-ups, was convicted of conspiracy and attempted murder. The former charge carries a sentence of up to 25 to life; the latter carries a life sentence. Sentencing is set for August 14, and Rogers' attorney, J. David Markham, says he's planning an appeal.
As told by Tim Stoen, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, the story of Kenny Rogers was as salacious as they come — a story without parallel outside the Emerald Triangle: It was a story of a vengeful, pot-growing Republican official who hired a hit man to murder a political enemy — and offered to pay for the deed with marijuana. It was a story of an ambitious politician with a lethal style of small-town politics who by day was one of the North Coast's few proud conservatives and by night waded in a criminal cesspool.
Defense attorney Markham's strategy was to offer up a more one-sided version of the defendant — a Kenny Rogers who was ambitious but law-abiding; a Kenny Rogers who was indeed furious about the loss of his jobs, but was reasonable and respectable, a man who filed lawsuits when he felt he'd been wronged. Markham described a man of values, a man who wouldn't in a thousand years ask a friend who'd spent much of his life in prison to fire nine bullets into the front door of a political nemesis.
IT WAS ABOUT 10:30 pm on the evening of June 17, 2005, when Alan Simon heard something at the front door of his gray, two-story home on Hillcrest Terrace, one of Westport's few residential streets.
"I was getting ready for bed and brushing my teeth when someone loudly and aggressively started banging on the door, saying 'Kathy — where's Kathy?'" Simon, 53, recently testified, adding a low, guttural cadence to his impression of the voice coming from the other side of his door. "The hairs on the back of my neck went up. I knew something was wrong."
Simon said he told the man that no Kathy lived there. Then he called the police. The man, Simon told the dispatcher, was a white man with a fu-manchu mustache wearing a baseball cap and a blue windbreaker. "I opened the door and he wasn't there, so I stepped on the threshold and saw a man leaning up against a white sports car with his arms crossed. I held up the phone and said 'The police are on the way.' He walked toward the yard and said, 'Hey man, I don't want any trouble," Simon said. "Then his right arm came up. He had a gun and he fired it. I ran in, shut the door and hit the deck... My front door was exploding around me."
Police would later find eight shell casings from a .22 around Simon's house and nine bullet perforations in his front door. Simon had been grazed in the head and wrist; he was subsequently taken to the hospital. Police searched for the white convertible that night but found nothing. Stoen would later argue the shooter had hid out that night in Rogers' 320-acre property outside Westport.
The following day, a CHP officer who was on duty around Laytonville — about 25 miles from Westport — spotted the white car driving east on Branscomb Road. The officer, Mark McNelly, flicked on his lights and pulled a U-turn; a minor chase followed. While in pursuit, McNelly said he saw the driver — a man from Citrus Heights named Richard Dean Peacock — throw a white plastic bag out of the passenger side window.
Inside the bag, police would later learn, was the .22 Ruger used to shoot up Simon's house. Police would learn that Peacock, who would be convicted in 2006 of attempting to kill Simon and sentenced to 71 years in prison, knew Rogers.
Shortly after Peacock's arrest, cops started asking Rogers questions. So Rogers — in a preemptive effort to clear the air — visited his buddy, then-sheriff Tony Craver, in Ukiah, who referred him to a detective.
In a videotaped interview from three days after the shooting, Rogers was the charismatic gladhander Stoen would later describe him as — even while detailing his loathing for Alan Simon. Rogers called Simon a "Hollywood guy," part of the "new blood" in town who didn't respect him. He called Simon a jerk. He called him arrogant. He called him an asshole. Rogers said he was an old body builder and that he'd love to punch Simon out.
Their beef, he said, could be traced back to politics and the apparently deep cultural divide that permeated his small coastal village: The fact of George W. Bush's 2004 re-election and his own unflinching embrace of Republican politics — he told detective Andy Alvarado it was his "religion" — had made Rogers anathema to local liberals. He told the detective that he and Simon had had "harsh words" on the local water board, and that he'd recently called Simon up and told him that if he didn't get water to the district's storage tanks, he'd "hang him — politically." Simon would later testify that Rogers never used the word "politically" to end the sentence, so at the time, he took the call as a death threat and called the sheriff's office.
Now, a few words on the Westport water board.
Kenny Rogers was appointed to the village board soon after he moved his family from Sacramento to Westport in the late 1990s; he was appointed chairman not long after. Other board members would soon accuse Rogers of running a good ol' boy club — a system where he'd give favorable water rates to friends and where district money seemed to disappear (a grand jury investigation from 1999 found a number of problems with the district, but didn't mention the above criticisms). At a meeting in 2004, Rogers and Keith Grier, the only black man in Westport at the time, got in an argument at a board meeting; Rogers accused Grier that night of injuring Rogers' wife. Deputies were summoned and Grier was arrested — though Grier would later tell the DA's office he'd been "falsely accused" by Rogers. (Stoen said nothing ever became of the charges.)
Nevertheless, the seeds of the 2005 recall had been planted.
An anti-Kenny Rogers coalition formed and decided to nominate Grier to take over as water board director. He declined, so Simon, then a recently retired film scout and relative newcomer to Westport, offered himself as the candidate.
Simon would later testify that once the recall papers had been filed by Velma Bowen, who'd also been a board member, Rogers began making house calls. He pleaded with the signatories to contact the county registrar and have their names removed. When Rogers visited Simon, and Simon refused, saying the recall was part of the democratic process, Rogers got furious.
In a strange courtroom exchange, Rogers' lawyer asked Simon what happened next. "You want me to tell you what happened next?" Simon asked, visibly uncomfortable with the question. "Yes, that's what I asked," Markham replied. After several moments of silence, Simon responded. "[Rogers] said, 'You want to have a nigger run this town? You want to have a woman — Velma Bowen — who's sucked the cock of every man in this town'" run the water board? Simon said he then told Rogers to leave.
As Simon spoke, Rogers shook his head; but at the time, his attorney didn't challenge Simon's testimony. It wasn't until the next day that Markham chalked up the exchange to an error on his part — he said he shouldn't have asked the question — and asked Judge Ron Brown to strike the testimony, which the judge agreed to do on the grounds that it wasn't relevant to the case. (Outside the courtroom, Markham declined to discuss the details of the exchange, except to say that Rogers never made the remarks about Bowen or Grier.)
On August 31, following Rogers' alleged unsuccessful effort to quash the recall, 50 of Westport's 68 registered voters at the time cast ballots. Twenty-nine voted to recall Ken Rogers; 19 voted against. Twenty-eight voters elected Alan Simon.
Rogers had lost, but in a letter to the county registrar, he denied all the allegations of misconduct: He said he'd spent countless volunteer hours working for the district; he said he'd obtained grants for improvements and studies, overseen equipment maintenance, handled complaints from dissatisfied customers and only spent funds approved by the board.
The following January, charging gross neglect, the board relieved Rogers from his assistant fire chief post. Rogers told the board the move was illegal — and that he'd see them in court. Soon after, feces was smeared on the door handle of the Westport firehouse and appeared on the front doors of the hotel Grier owned at the time. A note was posted outside the Westport store that referred to Simon as "Lord" and fearfully predicted a fascist takeover of the water district. It ended with a slur of particular insult to Simon, who is Jewish: Heil, Simon, the note said (though the note's writer misspelled "heil").
None of these incidents would ever be connected to Rogers. But the bitter, small-town politics of Westport's water district were about to get a good deal more bitter.
* * *
Six months later, in the Sheriff's interview room, Rogers complained to detective Alvarado about his illegal firing. And he told the detective that even though he couldn't stand Simon, he was dealing with the water board fallout with a lawsuit that demanded he be reinstated (which eventually happened, though Rogers retired as soon as he got his job back).
Rogers explained to Alvarado how he'd met Peacock — along with Peacock's little brother, Michael — years earlier in Sacramento through his auto shop, Once Again New. He described both brothers as convicts with long criminal records and "bad cards" who he was afraid of, but whom he'd tried to help out. He said he'd gotten Richard a landscaping job in Sacramento, and that he'd seen him there not long before the shooting. He'd later tell police it was the other way around — that Peacock had driven out to the coast with a girlfriend to visit him. (Stoen, of course, would seize on this seeming about-face as evidence of Rogers' guilt.) Rogers also told the detective that he'd hired Michael to keep people from illegally growing pot on a remote part of his large property.
"I needed a thug out there . . . to keep the Mexican guys from doing a big marijuana grow," he said.
Yet the fact that "three carloads" of cops had shown up to Rogers' property after the shooting seemed front and center in the Republican chairman's mind. Rogers was, after all, on an upward trajectory within the party and angling for Sacramento. The last thing Rogers wanted was bunch of sheriff's deputies lumbering around his property, especially when he'd failed to tell his Republican pals he was growing pot there. So when he visited detective Alvarado that June day, Rogers made sure to tell him he had 54 plants that belonged to his wife and partner — along with the requisite medical cards. Cops would later discover he had nearly three times that many mature pot plants along with clones and garbage cans filled with shake.
"I'm just a bit paranoid because I don't want it to get out media-wise — it could jeopardize my position within the party," he said, not knowing then that within days he'd be arrested for attempted murder, conspiracy, solicitation and cultivation of marijuana; that within months he'd resign his chairmanship; and that he'd soon leave Mendocino County altogether for neighboring Lake County.
Toward the end of the interview, in another statement Stoen would offer as evidence against Rogers, Rogers offered his own hypothesis of the shooting. "I think Al [Simon] would set shit up like this," he said. "I wouldn't put it past him."
This theory gained traction among a small cadre of Rogers supporters, including George Lancaster, Westport's former fire chief who was also canned by the water board, and Fort Bragg attorney Tim O'Laughlin. O'Laughlin, who represented Rogers against the water board and who, for a time, represented Rogers in his criminal case, says he has forensic evidence that raises questions about Simon's story from the night of the shooting — though Markham presented none of that evidence in the most recent case. (He said there may have been inconsistencies in Simon's testimony, but those questions were relevant to Richard Peacock's trial — not Rogers'.)
The district attorney's office, of course, has offered a very different storyline since the case was first brought to trial in 2006: the DA has claimed all along that Rogers hired Peacock to off a political foe.
Following Richard Peacock's arrest, Peacock's brother, Michael, would contact police and tell them that just before the shooting, Richard had told him about his plan to go to Simon's house. He would tell police that Rogers had offered Richard payment of three to four pounds of marijuana to hurt Simon. Michael Peacock would tell police that Rogers had tried to hire him to beat up Keith Grier after the alleged assault incident — and that Peacock had told Rogers he'd ask a skinhead acquaintance if he was interested (nothing ever became of the request).
Police would discover that the pistol used to shoot up Alan Simon's house had been reported missing by Velma Bowen, the water board member with whom Kenny Rogers and his family had stayed during the summer of 1999. Rogers, Bowen would tell police, was the only one who'd known where she kept the gun — though Rogers had denied taking it when she asked him about it after discovering it was missing.
On Rogers' digital camera, police would find a photo of the façade of Alan Simon's house. In phone calls between Richard Peacock and Rogers after Peacock's arrest, law enforcement found what they considered incriminating statements. For instance, they found that Rogers promised Peacock money while he was in prison, and that he'd promised to "take care of all the business on the outside" until Peacock was released. "Bottom line brother — I'm looking out for you," Rogers told Peacock. And in a phone call Rogers made from the county jail to Once Again New, he told the man on the other end of the line to "clean things up" at his shop.
But one of the prosecution's strangest pieces of evidence against Rogers wouldn't turn up until later — until Richard Peacock had begun his journey through the courts and back to the institution where he'll likely spend the rest of his life.
* * *
Shortly before Richard Peacock's August 4, 2005 preliminary hearing for the attempted murder of Alan Simon, he received a letter at the Mendocino County Jail. It was handwritten, postmarked Yuba City and signed by a woman named Kate.
"Dear Richard, Hope all's going well for you," the letter read. "I heardabout Michael's B.S. and can't believe he's related to you. Anyway, I will get the 'Red Dog' to your kid with some school clothes, money and will keep an eye out for her. Hope to see you soon, but it's tough. I'm sending $40 for your books, more to come. Miss you, your friend Kate. P.S. Who is this Keith guy calling for Michael? I'm not returning his calls. I think he has $ for...?"
On the face of it, the letter seems harmless, and Peacock didn't know what to make of it; he didn't know anyone named Kate in Yuba City. That changed once the hearing began. Rogers was leaving the witness box — where he'd invoked his right to remain silent — when, according to sheriff's Lt. J.D. Bushnell, who was guarding Peacock that day in court, Rogers looked at Peacock, flashed a smirk and winked. (Peacock would later tell Bushnell he also saw Rogers pat his side, as if he had a gun.) Shortly after, Rogers' then-attorney, Donald Masuda, delivered a message to Peacock's public defender, Wes Hamilton. Rogers' wife was going to "take care" of Peacock's 13-year-old daughter, Bobbi, said Masuda, who would eventually be ordered off the case for serving as the unwitting courier of a potential threat. Hamilton passed along the message, and Peacock put these seemingly innocuous events together — the letter, the smirk, the gun pat and the message from Masuda. Then he freaked out.
In open court, even as his lawyer was telling him to zip it, he announced the message was a threat against his daughter. The "red dog" mentioned in the letter referred to the pistol grip of a .45 caliber owned by Rogers — a pistol grip colored red and adorned with the image of a dog that Rogers had shown Peacock. He told Bushnell during a recess that Rogers made the threat because "he could be the one to put [Rogers] away."
It was, in other words, a classic intimidation move. If Peacock talked, something bad would happen to his family.
When Peacock was called to testify in the most recent trial, he kept his mouth shut — about the "red dog letter," as it's come to be called, along with most everything else.
Peacock, 59, looked as if he'd aged a decade in the four years since his arrest. In photos taken shortly after the shooting, he looked thick and broad shouldered. He had a shaved head and was clean-shaven — minus the fu-manchu. Now, wearing black and white striped jail garb, he appeared shrunken, gaunt and unshaven, and most days he was brought to court in a wheelchair — the product, he said, of a knife fight in Pelican Bay in which his spine was injured.
He was by turns forthright, angry and entertaining — but always gregarious. While the court was in recess, for instance, he gave a tutorial on the Peckerwood prison gang. "You're a peckerwood," he said, looking at Tim Stoen. "I'm a peckerwood. That cop over there — he's a Peckerwood. You're a white man."
While his court appointed lawyer, Donald Lipmanson, was out moving his car to avoid a ticket, Peacock began offering his thoughts on the case to anyone who would listen — without the jury present, of course. Without prompting, Peacock, who pleaded not guilty in his 2006 trial and has maintained his innocence since, looked at Kevin Cline, the case's lead detective, and said, "You guys should have solved the crime just like that."
Then, echoing some of O'Laughlin's theories on the case, he said that Simon's injuries didn't come from the .22 — they came from glass. And he said that police had never checked the DNA from three drops of blood found outside Simon's front door. (In an October 2005 letter from jail, he said that he'd never touched the .22 Ruger thrown from his car window, and that police never found his prints on it.)
His refusal to testify stemmed from his apparent belief that he got screwed by his court-appointed lawyer Jan Cole-Wilson during his attempted murder trial. He's filed a state habeas corpus suit — which was denied — along with an appeal, which was also denied, and he said he's in the process of filing suit in federal district court. (When the judge learned Peacock had a habeas suit and appointed Jan Cole-Wilson to represent him again, he replied: "I'm not talking to that broad for all the tea in China.") The judge didn't find Peacock's claim compelling enough to keep him from testifying — as there was no evidence he'd filed anything yet — so he ordered him to talk. When Peacock didn't, Brown, in a somewhat feeble reproach, found Peacock in contempt, then sent him on his to way finishing what is essentially a life sentence.
Rogers' answer to the red dog letter was simple. His wife, Christine, testified that the red dog was exactly that — a massive stuffed Clifford toy that her husband had won in the mid-90s at Marine World in Vallejo (the dog, about three feet tall, was lugged into court as evidence). Her husband, she said, had already discussed giving the dog to Peacock's daughter before he was arrested.
As for the letter, O'Laughlin said it did indeed come from the Rogers family — and that it had been signed "Kate" because Rogers didn't want to jeopardize his political future. "He was a big deal in the Republican Party. [The Central Committee] was grooming him for state senate," he said. "But here's the other thing: they didn't know what the fuck was going on... So he was trying to keep out of it."
* * *
The trial that ended this week was the third time the district attorney's office had attempted to prosecute Kenny Rogers. In 2006, the judge granted a continuance after two key witnesses, Richard Peacock and Velma Bowen, were hospitalized. In 2007, during another round of court proceedings, the DA's office offered Rogers a deal: If he pleaded guilty to harboring a fugitive, they'd let him off with a few years in the state pen. At first, Rogers accepted, thinking he'd get away with an ankle bracelet and some quality home time, O'Laughlin said. In response, an angry group of Westport residents began a letter-writing campaign and held a press conference outside the Ukiah Superior Court. When the judge subsequently said Rogers deserved three years in state prison, Rogers withdrew his plea. In the most recent trial, he faced conspiracy and attempted murder charges; Stoen said he dropped the other charges for "strategic" reasons.
"Proof problems" were the key reason the DA's office offered Rogers the deal in 2007. Chief among those problems was Michael Peacock: He was nowhere to be seen the day he'd been subpoenaed to testify about the conversation he said he'd had with his brother. This time, it seemed there might be a repeat.
Like his brother, Michael Peacock has a fu-manchu and fully tattooed arms. He'd shown up to court on a Monday with his sister and brother-in-law — but he wasn't called to testify. When that time came, the following day, he was gone, back to Sacramento, ("We boogied," said Ed Harke, his brother-in-law, adding that no one had told them to stick around.) Peacock finally did return, but his testimony was hardly the smoking gun the DA's office might have expected it to be.
For starters, Michael Peacock, who's a long-time drug user and the baby in a family of nine, according to his sister, was hardly able to articulate himself without stammering into a nerve-wracked stupor (at least when being questioned by Stoen). He was slippery on nearly everything except how much time he'd spent in prison ("over a lifetime"), though after much repetition and rephrasing, Stoen was able to pin him down on some of the statements he'd made to the cops after the shooting. After much parsing, for instance, he confirmed that Rogers had offered him marijuana to beat up a black guy, and had offered the same — one pound up front, three to four pounds total — if his brother "put hands" on the guy who'd gotten him kicked off the water board.
Yet most of his confirmations were undermined with a few simple questions from Markham. For whatever reason, Peacock responded far better to him than Stoen — particularly when Markham began pressing him on his statements to the cops. In one exchange, he got Peacock to say basically he'd made much of his story up.
Markham: "Did the police tell you they could get a deal from the DA [for your brother]?"
Peacock: "I think so."
Markham: "Did they tell you they needed you to testify to help your brother?"
Peacock: "...I'd do anything to help my brother."
Markham: "Did they tell you what they needed from you?"
Peacock: "...They said Kenny Rogers is gonna' walk and your brother's gonna' go down."
Markham: "Did you tell them what they wanted to hear?"
Peacock: "I don't know how much of it was true and how much of it was false...It was a bunch of getbacks [at Kenny Rogers]."
Markham: "Were you mad at Kenny?"
Richard Peacock was, as you might expect, furious with his brother after he learned he had, in Richard's words, told a "sermon" of "half-truths and lies" to the police. But in a series of letters he wrote from jail to friends and family after his arrest, his sentiments were more complex than simple anger. Take the following passage from a letter he wrote to his brother in October 2005:
"I must admit Michael, you really fuck-up [sic]. Not just [with] me but for you as well," he wrote. "I can't even guess why you did this and said those nasty lies about me. I understand you're mad because of what happened at my trailer with that piece of garbage bitch. My God Michael, that gave you no cause [to] . . . cause so much trouble and pain for so many. But fuck that. You're still my kid brother and my mother's son, we have the same blood in our vain [sic]. We all make mistakes, including me as well, I made a lot of them. I wish I could turn the clock back and undo some of the things I did that cause not only me trouble and pain but you as well and other loved ones. I can only say I'm sorry so many times."
* * *
The courtroom was packed as the attorneys prepared their closing arguments last Monday. On one side, more than a dozen people from Westport had made the slog down the coast and over the hill. On the other side was Rogers' family. Outside, someone was handing out a flyer — called Snoopy's Spotlight Street Sheet — which contained, along with verse about pedophiles and the CIA's once secret MK Ultra program, vague, convoluted references to the case, including a mention of Tim Stoen's previous life at the People's Temple.
Stoen, who has an understated style — and a habit of closing his eyes and bowing his head slightly whenever jurors enter the room, making him look a bit monkish — appeared to have guzzled a few Red Bulls during a break in his three hour-plus closing statement; in its highly caffeinated final hour, Stoen referred to his witnesses with alternating superlatives: they were "first-rate," "class acts," "terrific," "upright" — or, in the case of Wes Hamilton, "good and folksy." And, of course, he lobbed a few hyperbole bombs at Rogers, who was "grandiose, brazen," and a "legend in his own mind." Stoen emphasized his evidence and played for the first time the dramatic 911 call Simon made to the police the night of the shooting. Then he turned the theatrics up a notch with a quote from famous author and Christian scholar CS Lewis.
"The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid 'dens of crime' that Dickens loved to paint," Stoen said. "It is not done even in concentration and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered ... in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices."
Kenny Rogers, Stoen said, was that quiet man with the white collar — "he was the office man who sat in the office and ordered a street criminal to his bidding."
Markham didn't bother trying to top Stoen's presentation. He plodded through a power point presentation, offered an unmemorable quote from Buddha and recapped the weaknesses in Stoen's entirely circumstantial case. He stressed that the red dog was really the giant stuffed Clifford toy plopped in the corner next to the judge's clerk; that the cops had never found a gun with a red handle on it when they searched Rogers' properties; that not a word from the Brothers Peacock could be trusted. And the gun that Rogers allegedly stole from Velma Bowen? It was, in fact, in the Rogers' home, buried in a tool box — never mind that Rogers had denied taking the gun in the first place. It had gotten from the Rogers' home to Richard via Michael, Markham said, reminding jurors that Michael had been seen with the gun at Rogers' property "while keeping the Mexicans out." The photo of the house found in Rogers' camera was for a friend from Sacramento, a man named Eric Beren, who was house shopping at the time and who testified that Rogers occasionally sent him photos from Westport (Simon's house was up for sale at the time the photo was taken). And the jailhouse phone call between Rogers and Peacock? They were just good buddies, and Peacock was checking in on his pal. Lastly, the call Rogers made to his shop was strictly pot-related — it was a phone call from an ambitious politician anxious about the media malaise just over the horizon.
Peacock, Markham argued, had been a loyal, loose cannon of a friend, a man whose values had been crystallized not by the principles that informed reasonable, respectable Kenny Rogers, but by the many, many years he'd spent in prison. And when Peacock heard his pal was ticked off at Simon — well, he did what any man who'd spent his whole life in prison would do. "He wanted to surprise a friend," Markham said. "But Ken Rogers had no idea what he'd planned."
The verdict, which came after nearly two days of deliberation, was met with sobs from the Rogers family and hugs from Westport folk. As soon as the first guilty charge was announced, Rogers' head dropped to the defense table. A few moments later, he looked sternly at the jury, shook his head and mouthed the words, "I didn't do it."
Then the bailiff escorted him out.
Outside the courtroom, with tears streaming down his face, Rogers' son Norman repeatedly told detective Kevin Cline he was a "sick motherfucker." For Simon, that post-trial exchange with Cline was just as frank — but profoundly different.
"I shook hands with Kevin Cline and he said just one word to me," Simon said. "Justice."
POP QUIZ ANSWER: The woman pictured is the recently elected Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrin Jakobsdottir.