A jury has found Timothy Ryan guilty on three counts of child molestation. He'll get 15 years in prison.
Everybody says they abhor child molesters, but in Mendocino County penalties depend on who you are.
Consider the recent case of Mr. Clint Smith, a teacher at the Willits Charter School. Smith, a married man with two daughters, one of them the same age as his fetching 15-year-old student that he seduced, did a few months in the Mendocino County Jail and went home to the wife and kids, not even required to register as a ChoMo.
Meanwhile, in the state prison at Ione, Mr. Mark Sprinkle, formerly of Ukiah, got 45-to-life for a conviction on allegations amounting to 90 seconds of sexual touching. Three underage floozies, one of them Sprinkle's step-daughter, had suddenly removed their clothes in Mr. Sprinkle's car, probably at the behest of the step-daughter's crankhead mother who Sprinkle had refused to marry. The floozies said Sprinkle had touched their “boobs” and “vaginas.”
Mr. Sprinkle has been in jail for going on 18 years, sleeping on a cot stacked three high in the prison gym.
Local judges prefer to duck these cases, especially when they involve people with money and influence.
A visiting judge, the Hon. Michael Byrne, came out of the judicial woodwork to preside over the case of the People vs. Tim Ryan, and Mr. John Feiner came all the way from Irvine to defend Mr. Ryan.
Attorney Feiner did what defense attorneys always do in these cases.
He further degraded the victim, a 13-year-old girl.
Feiner portrayed her as a latter day Lolita, the defendant the victim.
Poor Mr. Ryan.
Pictures of Ryan's penis were moved into evidence and shown to the jury.
“Yes, sir. That's the weapon. I'd recognize it anywhere.”
This grotesque exhibit was accompanied by transcripts from phone calls and interviews replete with advanced sex talk that would move most fathers to murder Mr. Ryan rather than report him to the cops.
When the girl sat down with a grown man called Detective Clint Barnes to tell Barnes what Ryan had done and said to her, she'd inadvertently giggled at the inherent embarrassments of the situation.
Attorney Feiner pounced.
“You describe her as somber, her shoulders hunched over, but she was laughing at times wasn't she,” Feiner asked Detective Barnes.
“Yes,” Barnes admitted.
Feiner, who looks like the devilish cartoon character Mr. Smithers, and who would also be well cast as a movie perv himself, grinned a Gotcha Grin.
“And isn't it true that she came on to him?”
“Objection,” the prosecutor, Deputy DA Shannon Cox said.
“Sustained,” said the judge. “Rephrase.”
“She approached him.”
Feiner's she-came-on-to-him approach didn't work.
Anybody looking at this kid would find it impossible to imagine her as an aspiring Mae West.
Defense Exhibit A, a photo of Ryan's penis, was moved into evidence.
That's right, the defendant's penis. Shades of Bill Clinton!
For half a day in a Mendocino County courtroom the testimony concerned Mr. Ryan's joystick. Feiner seemed to have fallen in love with it. There was, Feiner argued, a wart on Ryan's unruly reproductive organ, and exactly which side of Mr. Ryan's penis was that wart on, huh? huh? I ask you ladies and gentlemen of the jury, did the alleged victim in this case confuse my client's penis with a dill pickle? A banana slug? A Cruise Missile? Was the wart on the left or right? His right or her left? Tumescent and straining to be free, or flaccid and exhausted?
Judge Byrne called a recess.
Having spoiled everyone else's meal, Feiner had spent his lunch breakpouring down bumpers of pinot and slurping oodles of noodles at Patrona's, the tony restaurant next door to the Courthouse.
“Oh, I almost forgot to ask,” Feiner said, smothering a post-lunch belch with his fist, Detective Barnes having resumed the stand. “You heard her testify that Tim ejaculated on the floor of the garage. Did you sweep the floor to see if any semen was there?”
“No,” Detective Barnes answered.
“So she alleges he gave her marijuana?”
“Yes, that's correct.”
“But that wasn't her exact words; what she said was he just blew it in her face.”
Mr. Feiner's resume boasts that he just got a not-guilty verdict in a child molestation trial where the defendant was looking at 16 years in prison. Feiner was looking to repeat that mighty triumph here in Mendocino County.
He called the kid back to the stand for further humiliation, to call her a liar, essentially. She was already under oath but had to state her name again for the record.
“Katherine,” she said.
“Can I call you Katy?” Feiner asked.
Why not? He'd called the girl everything else.
“Didn't you once have a dream regarding your brother Duran?”
“And after the dream you made allegations against your brother, that he'd molested you, didn't you?”
Deputy DA Shannon Cox rose to cross.
“How long was it before you realized it was a dream?”
“Only about five minutes.”
Ms. Cox told the jury that Katy had, in fact, been molested by one of her other brothers and that it was not so far-fetched that she should have such a dream, but that she knew the difference between a dream and reality. She knew Duran hadn't molested her, but she was so disturbed at this point it must have been affecting her sleep.
Feiner said to the jury, “You heard Katy's mother, Tamara. She came in here and lied to you right to your faces when she said Tim molested her daughter. But she stole Tim's mother's car and said she'd drop all the charges if Tim would give her the car.”
Well, hell, so the child wasn't raised in Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.
“Now, I gotta admit,” Fiener said with a transparently bogus sincerity, “Katy sounded pretty earnest when she came in here and testified. But Tim's dad will tell you that Tim got her in trouble for starting a fire on Halloween in '07 and she had been heard to say afterward that, 'I hate that guy and I'll do anything to get him out of my life'. “
Ms. Cox responded, “It's not surprising that the defendant's father would make these hearsay assertions even over the judge's ruling.”
Ryan's father had spat out this unctuous gobbet of gossip even though the judge had told him not to, just to make sure the jury knew what he thought of the whole seedy affair.
“He would obviously go to any lengths to save his son,” Cox noted. “But you know in your hearts that Katy's not lying. You saw her on the stand. Mr. Feiner makes it look like everybody's out to get poor Timmy Ryan, but maybe he's just a child molester. He tells Katy on the phone that a woman of 28 'is over the hill' and that he has pictures of Miley Cyrus and other young girls in his jail cell.”
Ms. Cox seemed astounded that anyone could construe 28 as being over the hill.
“Think about how Katy testified,” she said. “You saw her. You know she's telling the truth.”
It took the jury a day and a half to find Tim Ryan guilty on all three counts. Poor Timmy Ryan went stumping out of the courtroom on his cane like he was the injured party, a dumpy middle-aged mope followed closely by a female jailer.
Ryan will be back before Judge Byrne to see if the judge will send him up to Ione. Maybe the judge will send him home like Judge Brennan sent Clint Smith home.
* * *
Judge Richard Henderson had to move to a bigger courtroom to accommodate the 19 trimmers busted two weeks ago at a Ukiah warehouse with 700 pounds of weed. The DA is insisting that they all be charged with felony cultivation and deported even though it's obvious they're all local farm laborers with families who were supplementing their grape incomes with after hours work getting pot ready for export.
The hearing was mostly just a formality, confirming each defendant's readiness for the upcoming prelim on the 13th. But the lawyers took advantage of the chance to tell the court exactly how they felt about the silliness of the charges. Jan Cole-Wilson said it best.
“I just want it on the record,” she said, “that as a taxpayer I'm outraged at the waste of tax dollars and the County's and court's resources.”
It took half a day of the County's and court's resources just to get through this one mincing little step in the ponderous march of justice under the “Leadership and Integrity” of DA Meredith Lintott.
Judge LaCasse's court was crowded as well.
A manacled deaf man stood in the dock as a woman flashed hand language interpretations of the proceedings to him from a safe distance.
The deaf man, James David Hoffman, didn't look that dangerous. He was charged with 245.1 of the Penal Code, assault with a deadly weapon, but not a gun in this case. Probation recommended four years in prison.
“But,” Mr. Hoffman's probation officer said, “I've known the defendant about 40 years now, ever since he was a kid, and this is probably his last chance for a change, so I hope he takes it seriously.”
Judge LaCasse agreed that with four years hanging over his head Mr. Hoffman might be inclined to take a treatment program seriously. On the other hand, old habits are hard to break and a residential treatment program was going to be the only option to prison. Unfortunately, these places are mostly full.
Hoffman had already served 80 days of a 364-day sentence in the County Jail and LaCasse was willing to suspend the balance as soon as a bed became available in a treatment facility.
Perhaps hoping to ingratiate himself with the judge, Hoffman said he didn't think 18 months was adequate for his affliction and wanted the judge to add another six months. Maybe Hoffman knows what a lot of us are beginning to suspect: That there probably ain't gonna be no place for the troubled souls among us to go pretty soon.
Hoffman's lawyer, Ms. Livingstone, added that there was a problem with Hoffman's SSI bennies being inadequate to cover his fines. What the Government hands this handicapped man, it takes back with its judicial arm.
And darned if it wasn't the legendary “Kayo,” as in Terrence “Knock Out” Hallinan, in a disagreement with Deputy DA Scott McMenomey over Hallinan's client, Mr. Jaime C. Lerma who had a Windsor address and Mr. McMenomey thought was a flight risk.
Judge LaCasse said, “Help me out here. Is this a weed case?”
Mr. Hallinan said, “He had been working as a low-level laborer in a medical marijuana garden.”
McMenomey said, “He has an X-file, your honor. It means he —”
“I know what that means,” LaCasse said. “I do traffic court — remember?”
Hallinan had gotten his client out on bail. He knows his way around a courtroom. When he was DA in San Francisco, Hallinan was the only DA in the state to endorse Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act.
Next up was Mr. Fermin Robles.
Mr. Robles had his trial date set for next April. This would be the one where Special Agent Peter Hoyle busted Robles, formerly of Chicago, in a drug deal worth about a third of a million bucks that Hoyle discovered in Mr. Robles' car.
But Robles was in court last week to get a different charge dismissed, an 11550, aka being under the influence of a controlled substance, i.e., meth.
Robles' lawyer, Keith Faulder, had made a deal with the DA and that charge was dismissed, but something else was rankling the judge.
Judge LaCasse asked, “What's this other thing trailing here?”
Mr. Faulder said, “Oh, it's just a 12500, your honor.”
“I know what it is. It's driving without a driver's license. And it just grates me to see people get a mulligan on it just because it's trailing something else.”
Faulder said, “I'm not sure I know what a mulligan is, your honor.”
“It's a freebie,” LaCasse explained tersely. “In golf. You get to pick up the ball and put it where you want it.”
Faulder said his client would go ahead and plea to the 12500.
LaCasse found the ticket and fined Robles $437. No mulligans in Judge LaCasse's court.
A couple also from Illinois but unaffiliated with Mr. Robles, got a much worse fine. Ryan T. Murphy and Carrie A. Goebel were charged with the management of a facility for the sale of a controlled substance.
The man of the house went first.
Judge LaCasse went right after Ryan T. Murphy.
“I'm gonna fine him $10, 000 and I want him to tell all his friends back in Illinois, or wherever, not to come to Mendocino County to go into the dope business. You're not gonna get rich and you're gonna go home owing a lot of money.”
The little lady was fined $7,500.
And They both had some jail time to do as well. They wanted to know if they could take turns going to jail so somebody could stay at home and take care of the house pets. Sure, the judge said. In the meantime they could start working off some of their community service hours as well.
Rory P. Robertson and his wife arrived from Washington state with a restraining order in place restraining each from the other and immediately got into a fight.
“There was some finger wagging, a push and a slap,” Deputy DA Steve Jackson said. The People were willing to dismiss the domestic violence if Mr. Robertson would plead to contempt of court for violating the restraining order — with the provision that if there are any further incidents it will be re-filed. Based on the consent of the victim, he was sentenced to the nine days already served.