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Shell Shock & Carcinoma for Those Who Served

Michael Grunwald has been awaiting judgment and sentencing for several weeks. He has been scheduled several times for the procedure but each time more legal aspects of his case have to be looked into and considered. Most recently, it was section 1170.9 of the Penal Code that caused delay.

Michael Grunwald faces four years and eight months in prison. He has been convicted of several offenses while awaiting trial, everything from setting the jail on fire to throwing urine on the guards.

Grunwald Mendo Booking Panel

But any person convicted of a criminal offense who could otherwise be sentenced to county jail or state prison and who alleges that he or she committed the offense as a result of (among other things) post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems stemming from service in the United States military, the court shall, prior to sentencing, make a determination as to whether the defendant was, or currently is, a member of the United States military and whether the defendant may be suffering from these problems as a result of his or her service.

And so the court requested a (confidential) medical assessment of Grunwald from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Along with the usual pre-sentencing investigation and report from the Probation office, a Veterans Affairs outreach officer was present in the honorable Keith Faulder’s court to speak on Grunwald’s behalf. As with most sentencings, Grunwald’s lawyer, the eloquent Daniel Moss, spoke first, giving the court his statement in support of sentence mitigation.

Mr. Moss said he’d gone out to the jail and talked to the people at Inmate Services who told him that Grunwald had completed a number of classes while incarcerated. (We should mention that before taking the classes, Grunwald had been so idle and mischeivious that he decorated the walls of his cell with feces.) 

Mr. Moss presented two certificates to the court. These things are like catnip to judges. They are always printed in ornate 36 point arching gothic script and copperplate calligraphy in gold leaf on heavy vellum cardstock, suitable for framing, and Mr. Moss was as proud as the parent of an honor student as he showed them to Chief Prosecutor Dale Trigg before marching up to the bench and presenting the certificates to Judge Faulder. Faulder, for his part, took a moment to revel in the salutary warmth the certificates exuded.

Mr. Moss then returned to his client’s side and resumed his statement of mitigation. “Michael [Grunwald] has PTSD, as well as other mental health issues and I’ve spoken to Will VanSant [the Veterans Affairs liaison] about the services available [at the VA hospital in San Francisco], as it’s clear his [Grunwald’s] mental health problems played a role in these incidents [a defense euphemism for criminal convictions]; and his service-related disabilities [Grunwald was a boatswain’s mate on a tanker that resupplied agent orange to aircraft carriers during two tours in Viet Nam]; and Mr. VanSant tells me there’s a program available in psychiatric care that features intensive case management.”

The intensive care would be at a place called Fresh Start, which is connected to the VA hospital. This caused some noise from the prosecution because it was not a lock-down facility. Patients can come and go as they please. Mr. Moss countered that many other rehab facilities, like the Salvation Army’s, are not secure either. Faulder said he already knew that. Mr. Trigg said he’d go along with the Probation recommendation but his primary concern was public safety – Grunwald had two local arson convictions, and what with the fire season being at its apex this time of year, Trigg wanted some assurance that Grunwald would stay on his psych meds – “and he hasn’t done that.”

Grunwald tried to say something. He’d been champing at the proverbial bit, as it were, to speak. But Judge Faulder reined him in. “You’ll get your chance, Mr. Grunwald, but you’ve said things in court before that haven’t always been in your interest, and I would rather that you run it by your lawyer first.”

In the meantime, Probation Officer Monica Vargas said she, too, was concerned about the public safety. “He doesn’t show any remorse, your honor. He laughs – literally laughs – at the things he did!”

“He did acknowledge his conduct was wrong,” Moss insisted. “He’s not ignoring society’s values, or flaunting the law.”

“I’m not sure I agree with that,” Faulder said.

Moss said, “Your honor, sometimes people laugh when they’re nervous. And my client was extremely nervous.”

Judge Faulder said, “Mr. Grunwald, this file I have for you has over 20 felony convictions. If I sentence you, you will go to prison. A person with 29 criminal convictions is doing just that: flouting the law. Things like driving without a license – repeatedly – making threats and—”

“Well, your honor,” Grunwald broke in, unable to hold his tongue any longer. “I’ve lived a loner’s life. I’ve never asked for help before and it’s hard for me to do that. My ship was carrying Agent Orange — I just found that out, and it hit me hard — this is my last go-round, I’m dying of cancer and I’m crying out for help, that’s what I need.” Grunwald pulled his jailhouse jumper aside at the collar to reveal an ugly scar where the cancer had been cut out, and resumed with a quaver in his usual bullhorn of a voice.

“I’ve never had so much pain, unbelievable pain, and I’ve been in bed for months at a time. All I’m asking for is a last chance. This is my community. [He has been evicted from the trailer park where he lived for repeatedly causing disturbances in the usually quiet dead-of-night peace at a “seniors only” trailer park.] I love being out in nature. [He will definitely be out in nature, now (if that’s what being on the street means).] I apologize to the court and I did apologize to the young man [the guard he threw urine on].”

“Mr. Grunwald,” Faulder resumed, “there’s a statute I’m required to follow regarding veterans with PTSD [1170.9], so we continued this sentencing until I could get the information and the VA provided it. So I do find you are that person in the statute, and I can order you into a program in lieu of a four year and eight months state prison term, which would be, for a person of your age and condition, a life sentence. But you are a stubborn man, Mr. Grunwald, and you react in a way, a criminal way, when told what to do. And if I put you on probation you are going to be told what to do, and you will have to do it. Can you do it, Mr. Grunwald?”

“Yes, sir!”

“Multiple psychological documents show that this all goes back to your service so the terms will be to complete a treatment program through the Veterans Outreach Program Fresh Start and comply with the VA treatment program and—” Here, Faulder turned to Mr. VanSant – “I want him to go directly to the program, can you arrange it?”

VanSant said he would first arrange with Mr. Dobbs to get a bed at Fresh Start, then get back to the court next week. This was arranged, and put on the calendar. Mr. Moss said that while Grunwald was in jail, his eviction had been completed and all of his clothes had been thrown out; he had nothing to wear once he turned in his blaze orange jailhouse jumper. Moss also wanted some kind of allowance made for an electronic cigarette to accommodate Grunwald’s smoking habit, since he was prohibited from possessing any thing like matches or a Bic lighter due to his two arson convictions. Faulder said there was nothing he could do to alleviate either the embarrassment or the inconvenience of those onerous conditions.

And so it ended… Or, rather, was continued, yet again, until a bed could be made available and some clothes found for yet another veteran of a cause historically ill-conceived, brutally prosecuted, and humiliatingly lost, the war in Vietnam, for which the Mendocino courthouse still flies that absurd black flag, suggesting there’s some kind of honor to be remembered, some lesson learned, something other than shame and guilt, shell-shock and carcinoma remaining for those who served their county. 

Davis Catches A Break After Accidental Home Invasion

Marcus D’Angelo Davis, 38, of Oakland, was staying at the Talmage home of Rachael Martin when he got into a disagreement with another houseguest back around Thanksgiving of last year. After the argument, Davis sought solace in a barroom. Having found more in the way of alcoholic “solace” for his wounded sensibilities, he returned to the Talmage neighborhood somewhat intoxicated and, not only so disoriented directionally that he entered the house of Ms. Martin’s neighbor, Mr. Naumann. Davis’ moral compass seems to have been thrown out of calibration as well, because he’s a man with no criminal record to speak of. But at the home of the unfortunate neighbor, Mr. Nauman, Davis went into some kind of feral trance and started smashing windows on the neighbor’s car and house and, exhausted from his vandalism, passed out on Nauman’s couch.


When Daniel Naumann, 51, of Talmage, came home and found his car and home trashed, and a stranger sleeping on his couch, he wisely armed himself with a handgun before waking the intruder. Once awakened, Davis waited until Naumann turned his back, then picked up a heavy (seven pounds) book, perhaps one of those hefty coffee table tomes, and hit Naumann over the head with it. Naumann weathered the blow, turned round and shot Davis “multiple” times with the handgun.

When the police arrived and asked Davis what he was doing – he was lying on the floor bleeding from “multiple” gunshot wounds, Davis replied that he had been shot with rubber bullets as part of his role in a film he was making. 

This statement to the police, along with Davis’s lack of any criminal record – he had had a DUI many years ago – led the prosecution to drop the major charges, such as First Degree Burglary, Assault with a Deadly weapon, not a gun (the seven pound book), and vandalism – the only charge remaining was simple assault, so there would be no prison time, only a jail sentence and the option of some residential rehab to get off the booze, for which Davis blamed his big night out.

Davis’s lawyer, Daniel Moss, asked the court to reduce the jail time to 180 days, but Judge Keith Faulder imposed the 360 the Probation Department had recommended, and a stay-away order was put in place to keep Davis away from Mr. Naumann.


  1. George Dorner November 15, 2019

    Mr. McEwen, that “absurd black flag” came about as a protest against our government for abandoning our brothers in arms, as well as an honor for all the American servicemen who have been prisoners of war or disappeared during wartime. The Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag is in no way an apology for the war we fought. “Absurd” is a word better applied to a writer who believes otherwise.

    • Bruce McEwen Post author | November 15, 2019

      Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Dorner. I thought those Chuck Norris movies about a full-bird Army colonel on a single-handed mission to rescue POWs were fiction, a kind of ego-porn. But us jarheads were never known for our “intelligence.” One old former marine who worked for the State Dept. and was on the last helicopter to leave the roof of the US embassy in Saigon (he has the sign off the generator room in his basement to prove it, having borrowed a bayonet from a MSG to pry it off) told me there were no POWs left in VIetnam. But what would he know? Anyway, it’s nice to learn that that ugly flag stands for “honor.” Thanks again.

  2. George Dorner November 16, 2019

    On the Fourth of July, we honor our living veterans. On Memorial Day, we honor the veterans who gave their lives while serving. What honor then for those who go missing and are unaccounted for? Only that sable flag.

    Most of the missing that were unaccounted for in Southeast Asia went missing in Laos, not Vietnam. And the Lao communists executed downed pilots. A brutal truth we didn’t want to recognize, and that the communists weren’t about to admit.

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