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Chef Frandsen’s Choppa-Choppa

District Attorney David Eyster handled Chef Frandsen’s plea bargain.

It's a bad sign for the defendant when a District Attorney himself wants to put you away.


That's his name, the guy the DA himself is prosecuting. Chef is accused of using a knife for non-culinary purposes. On another person, in fact.

The charge is attempted murder resulting in great bodily injury, meaning the guy that got sliced almost bought the store.

But the Chef is young, and young guys do dumb things. The Chef doesn't have priors either. Maybe he's got a break coming.

It wasn’t a chef’s knife the Chef deployed, it was a switchblade, and it didn’t come out in court whether the victim had been cut or stabbed. But no matter how you slice it, the kid was still looking at some serious punishment.

A woman in the gallery old enough to be the Chef's mother wept through the entire proceeding, and that's always the worst part of these things, mom or poor old grandma, weeping and weeping.

DA Eyster is not a hardhearted guy. He was willing to reduce the Chef's charges “to battery resulting in great — strike that — resulting in serious bodily injury, and possession of a switchblade.”

The DA stood with his arms folded resolutely facing the defendant who was under guard in the dock.

“I’ll be asking for five years,” the DA said. “So I don’t want anybody to be misled.”

Frandsen’s lawyer, Jan Cole-Wilson, who normally handles juvenile matters, said her client understood.

Visiting retired Judge Arnold Rosenfield was ready to take the plea, but the proceeding would have to wait a few minutes, so a new judge, the Hon. — and freshly robed — Ann Moorman, could come up and try her hand at swinging the sword of justice. Rosenfield disappeared into chambers, and Moorman came out.

Judge Moorman had recently put another fellow away for five years and four months, a repeat offender in the white powder business — possession of large quantities of methamphetamine. The defendant said it was for his own use, and his lawyer Public Defender Linda Thompson wanted to get him into a treatment program.

Old timers remember a case where a guy said he'd thought the bag of cocaine his nose was in when the cops came through the door was sheet rock powder. He'd been giving it the sniff test he said. He swore to that one, but everyone else laughed, including the judge, and off he went.

Judge Moorman hadn't bought Meth Man's story either, and off he'd gone. The new judge isn’t afraid to use her power.

It took a while before we got back to the Chef Frandsen matter, and it seemed likely that the poor woman weeping in the gallery would run out of hankies before we got to him.

Mr. Nova was now the defendant. He was on probation for two previous DUIs when he went out and got another one. Deputy DA Brian Newman was afraid Mr. Nova was going to kill someone and wanted him put away.

Judge Moorman made the observation that Nova had never been to treatment and wanted to give him a chance. She said, “Last time I checked CDC wasn’t exactly offering people a chance to get off alcohol.”

Then she asked Nova’s lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Dan Haehl, “How are we going to assist Mr. Nova with his drinking problem?”

Mr. Haehl was taken by surprise, and while he recovered his wits, Mr. Newman — who recently filed his resignation papers to take a job with the US Attorney’s office in San Francisco — renewed his concern for public safety, saying there was plenty of help for those who wanted it in prison, and Nova would have the advantage of being in a sober environment. “Mr. Nova likes to drink and drive and it’s just a matter of time before he kills someone.”

Moorman said, “Still, I’m not inclined to send him to prison.”

Mr. Haehl said, “He has his father’s home in Redwood Valley, and he’s going to be doing as much time in jail and treatment as he would in prison, anyway.”

Moorman said, “Alright. Mr. Nova, I’ve read this probation report and recommendation and I’m not without my concerns. Driving a car is one of the most dangerous things we do. It takes all of our concentration. We can’t even be talking on cell phones or anything else, let alone drinking… I have no doubt you have an alcohol problem and it’s my job to give you an opportunity to do something about it. But also I have to protect the public. Now, here’s an opportunity for you to help yourself. I’m going to compile your sentence in such a way that if you don’t complete the program I’m probably going to be sending you to prison.” A pause for effect. “The tribe has services available to you and you need to use it. I find a positive attitude in your case and therefore I’m going to admit you on probation for a period of 60 months and 180 days in the county jail.”

Then the judge began reading all the terms and conditions of the probation. Usually, the lawyers have already gone over this material with the defendants so it’s somewhat redundant, but redundant legalisms are precisely what judges spend most of their time doing. It is tedious, soul-numbing work, but, if you can get it, it pays pretty good.

Back to Chef Frandsen.

DA Eyster said he’d discussed the plea deal with the victim who agreed with the recommendation. The more serious charge would be considered in the course of sentencing. Ms. Cole-Wilson said her client understood it was an open plea. Frandsen would get “exposed to” four years for the battery and another year for the switchblade. It would count as a strike, Judge Moorman said.

Frandsen said he understood.

Judge Moorman took his plea, so she’ll be the one who sentences him when the report and recommendations come back from the probation department. And probably the one who sees him in court again if he violates.

If I were him, I’d watch it. Prison isn’t pretty.

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