Press "Enter" to skip to content

Home Invasion Season Opens Early, Or…

There’s only two kinds of criminals in the world: 1. Those who have been caught; 2. The rest of us.

— Grandpa McEwen

Rural sharpies could easily lure young city dudes to Mendoland using a cache of last year’s unsold marijuana as bait, pull out a gun at the right moment (say, when the buyer complains about the freshness of the product), get the drop on the city boys, take their money then sic the police on the suckas by calling 911 and yelling, “We were just robbed by home invaders.”

If you were desperate enough to try it, there wouldn’t be much to lose, only last year’s crop, which will have to be thrown out soon, anyway. This is the defense, or appears to be the defense, at an extended PX (preliminary examination) of the evidence against three so-called home invaders from Oakland who have been in custody since the beginning of August on charges of an attempted home invasion in Willits and, or one of them, assault with a deadly weapon — assault rifle.

The three defendants are James Earl Lovely (appearing with attorney Charles Applegate), Willie Devan Samuels (attorney Heidi Larson), and Golden Thomas Venters (attorney William Conwell.)

Lovely, Samuels, Venters

And in the DA’s corner, Deputy DA Scott McMenomey and his star witnesses, Feather Sullivan and Michelle Mack — the other witnesses have, ahem, Fifth Amendment “issues,” and need to have lawyers advise them on whether to take the stand or not, as they might incriminate themselves.

Trier of Fact, Judge Ann Moorman: “Does the defense waive formal reading of the charges?”

Defense Trio, in unison: “So waived, your honor.”

Moorman: “Mr. McMenomey, call your first witness.”

Prosecutor McMenomey: “The People call Feather Sullivan… August 1st?”

Sullivan: “I was at a friend’s house in Willits, on Crest Street, Royce Welter’s house. I was woken up in the early morning hours and a bunch of people were in the house. I heard somebody come through the gate and opened the door to see who it was, and the first gentleman on the left (at the defense table) pushed past me with what I took to be a machinegun in his hand.”

The defendants were seated in a row behind their respective lawyers.

McMenomey: “Approximately how long was the gun?”

Sullivan: “About like that.”

Moorman: “Let the record reflect that the witness is holding her hands about two feet apart.”

McMenomey: “What color was it?”

Sullivan: “It was black, and I can’t be positive, but it may have had a short clip. Anyway, he started waving it around and asking the others to ‘get it, get it and let’s go!’ They had it all bagged up.”

McMenomey: “What were the other two doing?”

Sullivan: “The other one pulled out a pistol — I think it was a Glock, it didn’t have the thingy that spins around…”

McMenomey: “A cylinder?”

Sullivan: “Yeah, a cylinder. It was the kind where you go ch-chink, like that [Feather mimed pulling back the slide on an automatic] — and from then on it was a lot of chaos.”

McMenomey: “What did Samuels do with the pistol?”

Sullivan: “He was yelling and pointing at each of us. Michelle had gotten down on the ground behind the counter, and he [Samuels] took everything on the bar — there was a stereo and lots of stuff — and swiped it all off the bar towards us in the kitchen.”

McMenomey: “What happened next?’

Sulivan: “The guy with the machine-looking-gun [Venters] was yelling at him [Samuels] to get the bag that was in the kitchen. Michelle went behind the sink, and I was sitting on the bag and he [Samuels] was yelling at me to give it to him, and he, the guy with the machinegun [Venters], said, ‘just pop her’ then he [Samuels] grabbed the strap and popped me with the gun and they were gone.”

McMenomey: “Did you ever see the other defendant [James Lovely] with a gun?”

Sullivan: “I … I can’t be sure of that.”

Heidi Larson on cross: “It’s your testimony that you woke up the others?”

Sullivan: “Yes.”

Larson: “But isn’t it true that you were cleaning the kitchen?”

Sullivan: “No, I was sleeping and woke up and went in the kitchen and was helping wash the dishes.”

Larson: “Isn’t it true that you trim marijuana for Mr. Welters?”

Sullivan: “That’s correct.”

Larson: “And as to the bag of marijuana, you kicked it into the kitchen and sat on it to protect it?”

Sullivan: “It’s hard to explain. It’s small, a trailer, so it’s not very far.”

Larson: “Mr. Welters pulled out a rifle, didn’t he?”

Sullivan: “No.”

Mr. Lovely leaned over and whispered something to his lawyer.

Larson: “And then there was a struggle, wasn’t there?”

Sullivan: “No, I can’t say that.”

Again, Lovely whispered an urgent message to his lawyer.

Larson: “You told the officers that you were cleaning the kitchen when the doorbell rang, didn’t you?”

Sullivan: “I was sleeping when they first came in. Then I heard the chime, so I opened the door to see who it was — it was Mr. Venters and he pushed past me.”

Larson: “What about Jesse and Antifa? [Two of the defendants] Had you met them before?”

(Antifa? An anti-fascist home invader?)

Sullivan: “No.”

Larson: “Isn’t it true Jesse pulled out a knife and held it to Mr. Samuels’ throat?”

Sullivan: “No.”

More urgent whispering at the defense table.

Larson: “The marijuana they supposedly took — it was where?”

Sullivan: “In the living room.”

Larson: “So it was already in bags?”

Sullivan: “I don’t know.”

Larson: “But you suspected a deal was being brokered?”

Sullivan: “That’s the only reason Jesse would be coming to the house.”

Larson: “You can’t say all three had firearms, can you?”

Sullivan: “I can tell you two did. As for the third… I can’t say that.”

Larson: “Nothing further.”

Charles Applegate on cross: “To be clear, you were at Royce Welter’s house?”

Sullivan: “Yes.”

Applegate: “And you describe him as a good friend?”

Sullivan: “Yes.”

Applegate: “You told the police you opened the door for the white guy [Venters] to come in?”

Sullivan: “He’d already been in the house earlier and I heard the buzzer and opened the door to see who it was — I’d seen them in the house, but didn’t see ‘em leave.”

Applegate: “You said you were asleep and you told the officers you saw them come in as a group and that you were there making dinner.”

Sullivan: “We were washing dishes.”

Applegate: “Dinner for friends?”

Sullivan; “That’s the reason we were there, but we were washing dishes and putting things away, and there was a girl who was hungry, so I made her a plate of food, and wrapped it up in tinfoil. If they all came together I don’t know.”

Applegate: “What about Jesse?” [One of the defendants]

Sullivan: “Jesse came by earlier.”

Applegate: “How much earlier?”

Sullivan: “I don’t know, I don’t care about time, it doesn’t matter what time it is to me.”

Applegate: “You told the officers that the gentleman with the gun struck you accidentally with the gun while reaching for the bag you were sitting on.”

Sullivan: “No.”

Applegate: “You told the officer you had a knot over your right eye and you told the investigator over the left eye.”

McMenomey: “Objection, argumentative.”

Moorman: “Don’t argue with the witness, counsel.”

Applegate: “You told the police you thought it was a joke.”

Sullivan: “That’s correct. At first, I did.”

Applegate: “And you let him [Vetners] in?”

Sullivan: “I opened the door to see who it was and he pushed his way in.”

Applegate: “Did you tell the police you heard gunfire?”

Sullivan: “No. I was told they let one off after they went out, though, and it may have been.”

Applegate: “Nothing further.

Bill Conwell on cross: “You talked about being hit — what side of the head was it?”

Sullivan: “Here.”

Conwell: “That would be the right side?

Sullivan: “Yes.”

Conwell: “You were sleeping when Mr. Venters first entered the house — do you know how long he’d been in the house before going out again?”

Sullivan: “No.”

Conwell: “The others?”

Sullivan: “No.”

Conwell: “Know what time you went to sleep?”

Sullivan: “It must have been around 2 am.”

Conwell: “That’s a rough guess?”

Sullivan: “Actually, I can’t be positive about that.”

Conwell: “Know how long you slept?”

Sullivan: “Maybe an hour-and-a-half.”

Conwell: “Was there a reason you felt a marijuana deal was being brokered?”

Sullivan: “Yeah: there were three black men in the house at an odd hour — that’s odd in Willits.”

Conwell: “Were you aware that Royce Welters sells marijuana?”

Sullivan: “I had an idea that he might, but didn’t know for sure.”

Ms. Sullivan trims weed for the guy, and only has a vague idea of whether he sells it or not — Hmmm. Now, there’s an understatement, which for its modesty alone, deserves a place in the record books. Also please note the many indications of the picaresque lives led by this cast of characters — midnight meals, strangers at all hours and so on.

Conwell: “How did you know what was inside the black duffle bag?”

Sullivan: “Because it was open.”

Conwell: “Ever see large quantities of marijuana in the house before?”

Sullivan: “I don’t know how much you consider a large quantity.”

Canwell: “More than one pound?”

Sullivan: “Yes.”

Conwell: “How many times?”

Sullivan: “Maybe five.”

Conwell: “Did you smoke any marijuana that evening?”

Sullivan: “No.”

Conwell: “Take any other illegal drugs?”

Sullivan: “No.”

Conwell: “Know what time you had dinner?”

Sullivan: “I believe it was between 1:30 and 2 am.”

Conwell: “A large dinner?”

Sullivan: “Wull, yeah.”

Conwell: “Recall what you had?”

Sullivan: “Shrimp scampi.”

Conwell: “Any alcohol to drink?”

Sullivan: “No.”

Conwell: “Nothing further.”

A recess was called for lunch.

Michelle Mack was called: “I saw him [Venters] enter with an assault rifle, and saw him point in everybody’s direction, back and forth. I ducked down in the kitchen on the floor with a little dog, and when I looked up one of ‘em was pointing a pistol in my face.”

Ms. Mack identified Mr. Samuels as the one who put the gun in her face.

Mack: “I covered my face and went back down on the floor.”

McMenomey: “What was Feather [Sullivan] doing?”

Mack: “She was sitting on the bag, and the guy knocked everything off the counter at us. I thought he was going to shoot us.”

McMenomey: “Did you observe a struggle with Feather over the bag?”

Mack: “She was sitting on it and he pulled it out from under her, then they pretty much left. I did hear the guy with the rifle say ‘pop her, take her out’ and I thought they were going to kill one of us.”

McMenomey: “Who called law enforcement?”

Mack: “Feather.”

Attorney Heidi Larson: “Good afternoon, Ms. Mark — how late did you have dinner?”

Mark: “About 11 or 12.”

Larson: “What did you have?”

Mack: “Fettuccini Alfredo. Maybe there was some bread.”

Earlier, Feather said shrimp scampi was the menu. Now we have fettucini alfredo. Whatever it was, I guess we can say Italian food was served the night in question.

Larson: “Jesse was there?”

Mack: “I didn’t know who he was.”

Larson: “You did tell police maybe there was a marijuana deal being brokered, didn’t you?”

Mack: “I thought there may have been, yes.”

Larson: “How often do you go to Royce’s house?”

Mack: “I don’t go there that often, I’ve just known him all my life, that’s all.”

Larson: “How did you conclude there was a marijuana deal going on?”

Mack: “I don’t know, I was just doing the dishes, and there was marijuana in the bags.”

Larson: “At some point did you see Royce with a rifle?”

Mack: “No, I did not.”

Larson: “Did you stay behind the counter?”

Mack: “Yes, I did.”

Larson: “Did you see Jesse earlier?”

Mack: “No, ma’am.”

Applegate: “You hadn’t seen any of the five before that night?”

Mack: “Correct.”

Applegate: “When you say two people came by, who did you mean?”

Mack: “Royce went outside, and I just assumed he was there.”

Applegate: “What time did you get there?”

Mack: “Nine or 10, not really sure. I don’t wear a watch or anything.”

Applegate: “So at 10 o’clock or so you were cooking dinner?”

Mack: “It was pretty late… after midnight I was washing dishes, but I wasn’t really rushing to do things.”

Applegate: “Remember what time they all came?”

Mack: “I don’t really know — the cops were there around 3 or 4 in the morning.”

Applegate: “Was the first thing that caught your attention Mr. Venters with the rifle?”

Mack: “The first thing that caught my attention was five people in the house.”

Applegate: “And one of the three here today pointed a pistol in your face?”

Mack: “Yes.”

Applegate: “And you were staying in the same room as Feather?”

Mack: “Yes.”

Applegate: “Remember how many black bags there were?”

Mack: “I do not, maybe two.”

Applegate: “You heard a gunshot?”

Mack: “I heard a loud noise — it could have been.”

Applegate: “You told the police it was.”

Mack: “I told ‘em it coulda been.”

Applegate: “Have any conversation with the woman who entered with them?”

Mack: “I said ‘hello’.”

Applegate: “Where was she during the robbery?”

Mack: “Sitting in a chair, I think, but I was trying to hide.”

Applegate: “Whose dog were you holding?”

Mack: “Feather’s, a tiny Chihuahua.”

Applegate: “Do you know who said, ‘pop her, pop her’?”

Mack: “I’m not sure.”

Applegate: “Any sense of who was in charge?”

Mack: “I believe it was the one saying ‘pop her, pop her’.”

Conwell: “You were having dinner about 3 o’clock?”

Mack: “No, Sir, that was when the cops showed.”

Conwell: “So this all happened …when?”

Mack: “I don’t know but it was after midnight.”

Conwell: “An hour or two later?”

Mack: “Yes.”

Conwell: “You and Feather were cleaning together?”

Mack: “Yes.”

Conwell: “See any marijuana in the trailer?”

Mack: “Yes I did.”

Conwell: “See who brought it out?”

Mack: “I don’t know.”

Conwell: “Do you know who owned it?”

Mack: “I assume…”

Moorman: “Don’t assume!”

Mack: “I don’t know who owned it.”

Conwell: “Now, do you know if Royce talked about drugs with the others?”

Mack: “No, he did not.”

Conwell: “What did you think they were there for, then?”

Mack: “I don’t know.”

Conwell: “Who was the first to enter?”

Mack: “I don’t know what order they came in.”

Conwell: “Did you talk to Royce about this incident before testifying today?”

Mack: “About what?”

Conwell: “Just in general?”

Mack: “In general, yes.”

Conqwell: “Did you talk to Feather after she testified?”

Mack: “I asked her if she wanted to go get food.”

Conwell: “That was the extent of your conversation?”

Mack: “Yes.”

Conwell: “Did you smoke marijuana on the night of this incident?”

Mack: “No, I don’t smoke.”

Conwell: “But you were aware there was a large amount of marijuana?”

Moorman: “That’s been asked and answered.”

Conwell: “You ducked when they came in?”

Mack: “Not until I saw a weapon.”

Conwell: “Did Royce begin the conversation?”

Mack: “They were all talking. I was in the kitchen talking to Feather.”

Conwell: “Could you tell what they were saying?”

Mack: “I was having my own conversation with Feather.”

Conwell: “How long before the yelling started?”

Mack: “I don’t really recall.”

Conwell’s client, Venters, leaned over and whispered something to Conwell.

Conwell: “Where’s the bathroom in this trailer?”

Mack: “I didn’t use it so I don’t know, but I imagine it’s down the hall. I’ve only been there once or twice before, and never really hang out with Royce, I just know him my whole life.”

Conwell: “For what purpose were you there that night?”

Mack: “To cook dinner.”

Again Conwell’s client whispered a message.

Conwell: “Have anything to drink — anything alcoholic?”

Mack: “I had a Sprite.”

Conwell: “Did you plan on sleeping over?”

Mack: “No. Feather and I were going back to where we stay.”

Conwell had the witness draw a diagram of the floor plan of the trailer house, and while this was ongoing, it was decided to finish the prelim on Wednesday, September 12 at 1:30. We hope to have an update next week.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *