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Sparing Silverman

As the courtroom fell idle awaiting prisoner Jacob Silverman to be transported from the jail, and as the estimated time of arrival came and went, the conversation of the court officers having somehow got started on the urban legend of underground tunnels below the courthouse and other buildings in the downtown area, Judge John Behnke related an anecdote from the good old days, the mid-80s, when his current courtroom, at the top of the courthouse and directly across from Supervisor John McCowen’s building, was a jail.

In those days, the judge said, there was an underground pot grow, in the cellars of the Mendocino Environmental Center, which had been discovered accidentally when a kid walking with his mom on the sidewalk dropped his only quarter through a grating. Mom couldn’t get the kid to let the quarter go and after looking through the grating, shading his eyes from the glare of the sidewalk by cupping his hands around his face, he finally saw a room full of plants his quarter had fallen into.

In those days, Behnke recalled, the prisoners used to tear the bed sheets into strips and fashion long strings which they lowered down, at night, and their friends would attach joints to the strings and the prisoners would haul the contraband up to the cells where they would all partake.

After over an hour (of waiting for Mr. Silverman) Corporal Hendry came in from the jail and reported that Mr. Silverman was refusing to come to court. Hendry (cousin to the legendary local lawman of the same last name) said that as they were trying to shackle Silverman for transport he became combative and kicked a corrections officer. He was then taken to the ground and continued to resist…

Angelina Potter, Silverman’s lawyer, said that was enough, the court didn’t need to hear any more details of her client’s behavior. She asked that a mental health professional be called in to talk to Silverman, give him the weekend to calm down, and see if he would come peaceably to court on Monday.

Judge Behnke agreed, saying he didn’t want to see anybody get hurt.


On the way out of the courthouse Ms. Potter told me that Mr. Silverman often became extremely upset by reading the AVA. (Which, I am reliably informed, now goes to every unit at the jail.) Ms. Potter seemed to be appealing to me to tone my reports down, so as to spare her client these episodes of unpleasantness. I therefore resolved to temper this report with Judge Behnke’s nostalgic reminiscences.

If it is any consolation to Mr. Silverman, I would like to say that about a year ago I was arrested for passing out in a barroom, and on my way to jail, I was taken to UVMC for a medical clearance. At the hospital, I told the medico clipping his electronic vitals equipment to me that he did not have my permission to treat me. He kept right on doing his thing and when I jerked my hand away from him, the officers cuffed me and bundled me away to the jail. All of which was fine with me. I’d been intoxicated in public, and got what I had coming.

But what annoyed me was when I later learned that the officers told the Ukiah Daily Journal that I had become “combative” with the medical staff. This was an exaggeration, to my mind, but the officers have to take this position because it always transpires that defense will minimize the behavior and try to make the officers appear callous. It is just the way our adversarial system of justice – the envy of the world – works.

And so keep in mind, Mr. Silverman, that I too have been in similar situations and have finally learned the answer to that ageless riddle:

What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

(I’ll let the readers answer for themselves.)


Two cases set for trial this week, Jewel Evern Dyer and Dr. Benjamin Meyer, pled out at the last moment. The first, Mr. Dyer, who killed his father with a baseball bat, took an open plea to Voluntary Manslaughter last Thursday during a pre-trial conference; his exposure is a triad of three, six or 11 years in prison, with one thrown in for admitting to the Special Allegation that he used a weapon (a bat). Technically, he is eligible for probation, but it would be surprising if this were to happen. The case is currently with the Probation Department for sentencing recommendations, and May 15th at 1:30 has been set for Judgment and Sentencing. 

Dr. Meyer, who shot two of his Potter Valley neighbor’s dogs in their kennels, then knocked the woman down who owned the dogs and threatened her with the shotgun, on Monday morning pled to counts of malicious and intentional animal cruelty, killing one dog, a great Pyrenees, and maiming another, a border collie, and admitted to the Special Allegation of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. Meyer's maximum exposure is 13 years and eight months in prison. Counts Four and Five, assault with a firearm and threatening to shoot the woman were dropped in exchange for the plea. Part of the agreement was that Meyer would not make a motion to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor until the full term of probation has been served, which gives us a hint that Probation will not be asking for any time in custody when the case comes back for Judgment and Sentencing on June 12th at 1:30.

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