Deputy DA Houston Porter is leaving the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office for a post with the DA’s office in Marin County. Porter’s last case involved the alleged theft of a scanner from Grocery Outlet in Ukiah by co-defendants Sarah Walker and Christopher Todd Mangrum, the latter raised in Boonville.
At last week’s preliminary hearing, Porter called his first witness, Officer Christopher Min of the Ukiah Police Department. Min said he had been dispatched on July 9th to the Ukiah Grocery Outlet to view a video from July 4th of Mr. Mangrum placing the scanner in a shopping cart, covering it with other items before Ms. Walker took it from the cart, put it in her purse and left the store. Having viewed the video, Officer Min was on his way back to the Ukiah PD when he spotted the two culprits from the video in a white SUV on Oak Street, a block from the police station.
Officer Min stopped the SUV and asked the occupants about the events of July 4th. Mr. Mangrum said he thought the scanner was his cell phone and picked it up by accident and later found it in his things, and didn’t know what it was or where it came from.
Officer Max Brazil, Min’s partner, separately interviewed Ms. Walker, and she admitted leaving the store with the scanner. Prosecutor Porter had no further questions, having already established from Min’s testimony that the store manager valued the scanner at more than $1100, which qualified it as grand theft, a felony.
Porter called Officer Brazil who testified that Ms. Walker told him they [Walker and Mangrum] were just curious about what it [the scanner] was. When asked why they didn’t return it, Walker said it was because they lived in Willits.
Ms. Walker’s lawyer, Doug Rhoades of the Office of the Alternate Public Defender, called his investigator, Rachael Kidd. Ms. Kidd had gone online and researched the price of scanners and said she found them (the Zebra TC70X model) in a price range from $1700 to as cheap as $200.
Mr. Porter said the cheap ones were probably stolen. Anthony Adams of the Office of the Public Defender, Mangrum’s lawyer, objected.
Judge Cindee Mayfield sustained the objection.
Porter asked if any of the cheaper scanners Kidd found on line were new and in the box?
Kidd said there was one that was “like new” for $878 – “with free shipping!”
Porter asked, “Was it in the box?”
Kidd: “It doesn’t say.”
Porter recalled Officer Min to rebut Ms. Kidd.
Porter: “Did you do a similar search earlier today at my request?”
Min: “I did.”
Porter: “What did you find?”
Min: “The cheapest I could find, for new and in the box, went from $1219 up to $1700. Others, used ones, were as low as $400.”
Rhoades: “Our contention is simply the value, the replacement value, what it costs new, doesn’t matter, because this was a used device.”
Adams: “There’s been no proof that the value of the item was over $950 [the new limit for felony grand theft under Prop 47].”
Porter: “For the purposes of a prelim the value set by the victim should be enough.”
The victim, store manager Thomas Patterson, had depreciated the value of the scanner at a rate of $7 per month for the three to four months it had been in use; hence, $1100 and change. On People’s exhibit One, an invoice, or photo of an invoice, there was no date shown.
Adams: “The depreciation is strictly a tax issue; and a far cry from from the replacement value.”
Porter: “He [Mr. Patterson] shouldn’t have to buy one, that was possibly stolen, on the internet.”
Mayfield: “The court finds the elements of the underlying charge have been proven, and as Mr. Porter points out for the purposes of a prelim the victim’s valuation of the stolen property may be accepted and I therefore will hold the defendants to answer.”
Walker and Mangrum also had other legal difficulties and were also in violation of their probation status. Mr. Porter, we presume, will have to deal with a higher class of criminals in Marin County where $1100 is probably considered chicken-feed, small potatoes, loose change, insignificant remuneration, paltry dross, chump change, or what-have-you.
AVA courtroom sketch artist Pete Castro witnessed a clash of politics in downtown Ukiah last Wednesday at lunchtime when a person known as “Mark” began shouting “Seig Heil” and throwing up Nazi salutes at the top floor of the Marks Building where attorney Al Kubanis has a Trump/Pence poster and an old Colonial flag hanging in his office window across the street from the Courthouse.
The character known only as Mark was making such a ruckus that DA David Eyster and his Chief Investigator Kevin Bailey came out from their ground floor Courthouse offices to investigate, along with several bailiffs and some of the Courthouse security personnel. Chief Inspector Bailey asked our trusty courtroom artist if he knew Mark. Pete said he did, and Bailey asked Pete if he thought Mark was “a danger to himself or others?” which is the basic standard for determining whether or not to place someone under arrest. (How nuts is this guy?) Pete said, “Nah, not even, he’s just expressing his views, same as Al Kubanis is.” Pete then advised Mark to cool it, and a trip to jail for Mark was averted, but not before Kubanis appeared at his office window to flip Mark the bird.