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The Dangerous Lessons of the Tobie Case

In 2003, Lifeworks group home manager Jack Graves recruited a known juvenile criminal named Kevin Tobie, who had been kicked out of San Francisco public schools because he'd been convicted of serious juvenile weapons crimes, and placed him right into Anderson Valley High School with no questions asked and no restrictions or conditions imposed.

The known juvenile criminal was subsequently arrested for attempted rape of one of his classmates. Sheriff's investigators found other rape or attempted-rape victims after this arrest, but charges were dropped by the District Attorney for unspecified reasons, and the juvenile criminal was put right back into Anderson Valley High School again, along with his victims, still with no restrictions, conditions or supervision.

Although Graves was aware of Mr. Tobie's juvenile criminal record, and objected to his adoption by a well-meaning Anderson Valley family, neither Graves nor the juvenile probation department informed that family of Tobie's criminal history — the apparently charming young criminal had found a clever way out of the physically demanding group home regimen before reaching the age of 18. 

The known juvenile criminal, knowing that he narrowly escaped conviction on the rape charges on legal technicalities, nevertheless decided to obtain an unlicensed Saturday Night Special in San Francisco and load it with at least three bullets. Unfortunately for Tobie, but fortunately for Anderson Valley, Tobie was caught with the handgun when he was stopped for speeding and driving without a license on Highway 101 outside of Ukiah.

About two weeks later, the known juvenile criminal then sought out and took revenge on Boonville's Paullen Walsh in the aftermath of a car dent and a minor scuffle at the Boonville gravel pit by arming himself with a large piece of pipe and clobbering the drunk Walsh who was taunted into chasing the juvenile criminal.

The known juvenile criminal then told false versions of events to friends and authorities, was caught lying, was forced to admit his guilt and criminal intent, and yet still finds significant portions of the local community taking his side, believing his false versions of events, saying that the known juvenile criminal is being persecuted because he's black.

After being charged with assault with a deadly weapon causing great bodily injury, the known juvenile criminal was given a preliminary hearing where Superior Court Judge Ron Brown heard police testimony and determined that Tobie should be held to account for the crime.

Instead of going to trial, the known juvenile criminal pled guilty to the assault to a judge other than the one who had heard the preliminary hearing testimony and who promised the known juvenile felon no state prison if he'd plead guilty.

Mendocino County's Probation Department then wrote another incompetent probation report and sentencing recommendation, explaining that the known juvenile criminal is both ineligible and a very bad candidate for probation. No matter — they recommend probation anyway.

Having violated probation and avoided prison on several prior occasions, Tobie nearly killed a man in an intentional, violent act of revenge, has a visibly wrongheaded probation report submitted to Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Henry Nelson — not the judge who heard the preliminary hearing testimony of the police investigators — who had not only immediately promised no prison in exchange for a guilty plea but who then accepted the incompetent probation report and suspends the known juvenile criminal's prison sentence (sending him to the County jail for six months on the gun charge, however) and gave him four years of felony probation (after completion of the six months in jail).

When Kevin Tobie was stopped for speeding by the California Highway Patrol on July 8th, 2004, he was asked if he had any weapons or drugs in his vehicle. Tobie replied that there were no weapons or drugs in the vehicle. The CHP officer then told Mr. Tobie that his vehicle was going to be impounded because he did not have a driver's license, asking him again whether there were weapons or drugs in the vehicle. This time Tobie answered, Yes. There was a 9mm Saturday Night Special in the pocket of his jacket on the right rear passenger seat (not in the trunk as some stories have it). The gun was loaded with three bullets. Mr. Tobie had no gun permit. He told the officer that he had obtained the gun from a "dope fiend in San Francisco."

According to Mr. Tobie's probation report on this gun crime, Mr. Tobie, 18, has a juvenile criminal history which consists of "juvenile adjudications for committing a crime while armed with a firearm or deadly weapon, burglary, carrying a switchblade knife, accessory to a felony, and drug-related offenses." When probation officer Tim King asked Tobie why he obtained the gun, Tobie replied, "I just purchased it to say I had a gun."

"The defendant is 18 years old, with a lengthy history of arrests and adjudications," noted King. "There was no reason at all for the defendant to be carrying a loaded firearm. However, his history of possessing dangerous and deadly weapons would lead one to believe it was for disapproving purposes."

Disapproving purposes... like maybe taking deadly revenge on someone who dented his car door.

"The defendant has been out of the juvenile system for a year," continues King. "He has been getting into trouble since he was 12 years old. He has been in and out of group homes, failing most placements, until his graduation from Lifeworks Academy in Boonville in 2003. A strong message needs to be sent to this young man. Consequences in the adult world are much more stern than those as a juvenile."

Strong message... King went on to recommend six months in jail for the gun offense. And Judge Henry Nelson duly sentenced Tobie to six months for this dangerous offense. 

Failed most placements... Tobie's criminal activities resulted in his being expelled from San Francisco public schools stemming from criminal conduct going back to the year 2000 when he was put on six months' probation, then placed at Centerpoint group Home in San Francisco which he promptly ran away from. In January of 2001 Tobie was placed in "Bridge To Success" in San Francisco and managed to last there only until the summer where he "failed" and was placed into Walden House in Stanislaus County. He ran away from there too. In August of 2001 he was placed into Jack Graves' Lifeworks school in Boonville, and from there directly into the general population of Anderson Valley High School. Graves didn't offer, and Anderson Valley High School didn't ask about Tobie's juvenile criminal record. Graves and Anderson Valley High School continue to maintain their own little version of "don't ask, don't tell" regarding Graves juvenile hall recruitments. Anderson Valley High School puts no restrictions on these group home placements and does not impose conditions such as requiring that juveniles with criminal histories be supervised by an adult employed by Graves while on campus.

Readers of this newspaper are already familiar with the details of Mr. Tobie's vicious assault on Paullen Walsh, of Boonville, on the night of July 24, 2004, just over two weeks after Tobie's unlicensed Saturday Night Special was confiscated from him. Witnesses say they saw Mr. Tobie hit Mr. Walsh in the head at least three times with the pipe. At least one witness said he saw Mr. Tobie kicking Mr. Walsh while he was unconscious on the ground. 

When first contacted by sheriff's investigators, Mr. Tobie and his unindicted associate, 17-year old Alex McClure, said they were involved in a fight with four others at the Pic'N'Pay store downtown. They said they were then followed by some number of the four individuals out to the high school, and ended up at the fairgrounds parking lot where they were rammed by the following vehicle when they stopped short. According to Tobie's first version of events, when he got out of the car and asked Walsh what was going on, Walsh pulled out a pipe and swung it at Tobie. Tobie said that he somehow evaded the pipe and tackled Walsh and wrestled the pipe from him. In Tobie's self-serving story, it was only when Walsh lunged at him that Tobie says he swung the pipe at Walsh. Tobie also said he "thought" he only swung it once. Tobie insisted that he did not have the pipe at first and that he only hit Walsh once. 

Tobie's story was a complete lie.

When Deputy Kevin Bailey visited Mr. Walsh in his Santa Rosa hospital room it was immediately obvious that Walsh had been struck multiple times. He had a fractured skull and his cheek was opened to the jaw, requiring 57 stitches and other major facial reconstruction. 

After talking with Alex McClure, Bailey got McClure to admit that the fight had not started at the Pic'N'Pay, but rather at the gravel pit south of town. When confronted with McClure's admission, Mr. Tobie then changed his story and admitted that the incident had begun at the gravel pit when, according to Tobie, Paullen Walsh opened his car door and dented Mr. Tobie's rental car. After a relatively minor scuffle between Tobie and McClure and Walsh and the Schoenahl brothers, Tobie and McClure then went back to McClure's house where they armed themselves with a large wrench and a pipe and went back downtown looking for Walsh to seek revenge — revenge for the scuffle that had begun at the gravel pit. Armed with their weapons, Tobie and McClure drove around downtown Boonville hoping to lure Walsh, who had been drinking at the Boonville Lodge, to come after him. 

Tobie told Detective Kevin Bailey that his initial lie was told because he was "scared" — presumably of being identified as the aggressor. Tobie also subsequently admitted, "I'm pretty sure I was ready for revenge and shit." When Detective Bailey asked Tobie why he did not fistfight Walsh instead of striking him with a pipe, he replied, "I just don't think like that."

Detective Bailey then informed Tobie that due to his deception during the investigation and the fact that he had struck an unarmed man with a pipe and later lied about how it occurred and where it occurred he was being arrested for assault with a deadly weapon. 

Detective Bailey, is the same detective who investigated allegations made against Tobie of rape or attempted rape of other Anderson Valley High School girls prior to the incident at the fairgrounds. For reasons never fully made public, District Attorney Norm Vroman chose not to press charges against Tobie for those alleged rape incidents. Presumably, Vroman's decision not to file charges had something to do with the "credibility" of the vulnerable victim(s), the amount of proof that would be required to sustain the charge(s), or the fact that at least one of the girls had had previous consensual sexual contact with Tobie. During that investigation it became obvious to Detective Bailey that Mr. Tobie preferred to give false versions of events when asked about allegations against him. "I have dealt with [Tobie] in the past," Bailey said concerning his investigation of the rape allegations. "His initial response is to lie until the facts are proven." Bailey added, "This guy was involved in a verbal altercation, which was basically a street brawl. After the altercation was over with, he went out of his way to arm himself with a weapon, and sought the victim out later in order to cause him serious injury." Bailey added that he believes "the defendant is capable and will likely commit more serious crimes in the future." When Probation Officer King asked Tobie about the incident at the gravel pit, Tobie replied, "We were smoking marijuana at a gravel pit in Boonville and we got in a fight with some guys."

From the probation report—

"Probation eligibility: Penal Code Section 1203(e)2 declares the defendant presumptively ineligible for probation due to committing the crime with the use of a deadly weapon. 1203(e)3 declares the defendant presumptively ineligible for probation because the crime involved great bodily injury. 

"Criteria affecting probation: The defendant hit the victim in the head with a metal pipe, causing serious injuries, making the circumstances of the crime more serious as compared to other instances of the same crime. The defendant's prior record of juvenile criminal conduct is lengthy. The defendant's prior performance on probation was unsatisfactory. The defendant expressed willingness to comply with the terms of probation. The defendant appears to have the ability to comply with reasonable terms of probation as indicated by his age, education and health. The likely effect of imprisonment on the defendant would be detrimental. This will be the defendant's first felony conviction [as an adult] and he will suffer adverse collateral consequences. The defendant did not express any remorse. If not imprisoned, it is likely the defendant could be a danger to others."

"Circumstances in aggravation: the crime involved a high degree of cruelty and callousness. The defendant was engaged in violent conduct which indicates a serious danger to society. The defendant's prior performance on probation was unsatisfactory. 

"Circumstances in mitigation: defendant voluntarily acknowledged wrongdoing at an early stage of the criminal process.

So Mr. Tobie is "presumptively ineligible" for probation; the crime was "more serious" than other similar crimes; Tobie has a lengthy juvenile criminal record; his previous performance on probation was "unsatisfactory"; and Tobie "did not express any remorse."

The only "circumstance in mitigation" listed by Officer King — "defendant voluntarily acknowledged wrongdoing at an early stage of the criminal process" — is contradicted by Mr. King's own probation report that Tobie at first lied about what had happened and attempted to blame Walsh for bringing the pipe to the fairgrounds parking lot. Tobie only admitted to what really happened when confronted by Detective Bailey. In no way did "the defendant voluntarily acknowledge his wrongdoing at an early stage of the criminal process." In fact, "the defendant" lied about his wrongdoing at an early stage of the criminal process. 

So, what would you expect the probation officer to recommend? Prison? Jail? 

"When reviewing the defendant's juvenile record, which is somewhat lengthy, he has been getting into trouble since he was 12 years old. By age 14 he was in and out of placement (three different group homes) before graduating in 2003. Apparently the defendant was raised by his grandmother who had very little control of his lifestyle (running away) before his becoming a ward of the court. When I questioned the defendant about his involvement in the crime, he did not have much to say. He showed no remorse, nor did he seem concerned about the injuries he had caused the victim. He did not appear to be bothered by the severity of his crime, nor was he worried about the consequences that may come with it. All this started out as 'another fight in Boonville.' The victim did not deserve the type of beating he endured. The defendant needs to understand this was a very serious crime. The victim could have easily been killed after being struck in the head by a metal pipe. Nevertheless the defendant should feel fortunate the court promised no state prison at the outset. He could easily be sent to prison for this type of behavior. He should not expect any more leniency than that. The defendant is presumptively ineligible for probation, his young age, and the fact that this is his first felony conviction as an adult would suggest this is an unusual case. Therefore I respectively recommend the defendant be placed on probation for a period of 36 months."

Somewhat lengthy... no remorse... no concern... needs to understand this was a serious crime... victim could easily have been killed... ineligible for probation...

King recommended probation for nearly killing Paullen Walsh and after giving not one legitimate reason for probation.

Making matters worse, King's probation evaluation concludes that if probation is denied and the defendant is sentenced to prison, "this appears to be a middle term case of three years" — even though the factors in aggravation far outweigh the factors in mitigation.

Among the restrictions imposed on Mr. Tobie, he must:

  • Seek and maintain meaningful employment and keep his probation officer advised of his employer's name and address. 
  • Obey all laws and orders of the probation officer. 
  • Not use or have in his possession or under his control any marijuana except with an approved Mendocino County Sheriff's Department Proposition 215 card, nor any other narcotics, or other illegal, restricted drugs. 
  • Submit to drug testing, search and seizure at any time with or without a warrant by any peace officer of his person, vehicle, property, or any property under his control with or without cause. 
  • Have no contact with the victim. 
  • Cooperate fully with any and all forms of rehabilitation or counseling.
  • Not possessing any kind of firearm or ammunition whatsoever, nor any type of dangerous weapon including knives, nunchucks, etc.
  • Pay restitution to Paullen Walsh through the Mendocino County Collections Department in an amount as yet undetermined, plus interest at a rate of 10% per annum, in addition to a 10% administrative fee. 
  • Complete 250 hours of community service. 

Many non-criminals would have trouble meeting these terms. 

Will Tobie violate his probation?

Although Probation Officer King carefully recounts Tobie's criminal juvenile record, listing arrests and failures of placements, King avoids any reference to Tobie's arrest for attempted rape. It's as if these well-documented incidents never occurred. 

Tobie had a lengthy juvenile criminal record including the use of a weapon to commit serious crimes, which caused him to be kicked out of public school in San Francisco. However, when Jack Graves recruited Tobie into his Lifeworks program, Tobie was immediately put right back in Anderson Valley High School, no questions asked, no conditions imposed (such as requiring Graves to employ adult supervision while on campus). Tobie then charmed his way into being adopted by a local family who later had to learn of Tobie's current and prior criminal activity from the Sheriff's detective who investigated the rape allegations.

In December, both Detective Bailey and Prosecutor Keith Faulder were sought out by Alex McClure's sister, Vanessa, a college student, who told Bailey and Faulder that she was doing a college "research paper" on the Tobie case. The subject of Ms. McClure's "research" just happened to be the friend of her brother — an unindicted assistant in the fairgrounds assault. Bailey declined to speak to Ms. McClure. Faulder, however, invited the young researcher to his office to discuss the case. According to Faulder, Ms. McClure wanted to know why he was persecuting Mr. Tobie, as if Tobie was the victim in the case. Faulder said it appeared to him that her knowledge of the case was based entirely on Mr. Tobie's deceptive version of events. Faulder suggested to Ms. McClure that she seek out sources of information other than Mr. Tobie and her brother before drawing any conclusions.

Mr. Tobie still seems to have charmed many naive Boonville residents from teenage on up with deceptions and self-serving versions of events. He probably even charmed his Probation Officer — who knew better. He convinced them — in spite of the well-documented and publicized evidence to the contrary — that his accusers were all racists persecuting admitted criminal Kevin Tobie simply because he is black. 

Is there another criminal time bomb ticking at Lifeworks Academy? Not many people seem to care — especially the responsible parties at Lifeworks Academy, Anderson Valley High School, or Mendo's inattentive and lax probation office and courtrooms.

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