The Fort Bragg Advocate-News published a lengthy compilation of accused double-murderer/fugitive Aaron Bassler’s criminal record last week. The clear primary features of Bassler’s criminal history over about 15 years since he graduated from high school involve booze and weapons (DUIs, drunk in public, stolen guns, illegal gun possession, etc.) Most of the charges were plead down to minimal jail sentences, unsupervised probation, or dismissed outright.
Conspicuously missing from the Advocate-News’s otherwise comprehensive criminal history of Mr. Bassler was the name of the judge who presided over these many cases where very little was done about Bassler’s increasingly obvious problems. Since most of the cases were in Ten Mile Court, we can safely assume that the Judge involved was now-retired (and very unlamented) Judge Jonathan Lehan. But nowhere in the Advocate-News review is there any mention of the judge in Bassler’s numerous court appearances, nor any mention of any judge expressing any interest in how previous orders were carried out, why the criminal conduct continued with minimal sanction, or what would be done to actually deal with the problem(s). Instead, we find people (primarily Bassler’s father, but others as well) blaming cops and mental health staff and understaffed programs for not doing their jobs or not taking the Bassler situation seriously. But if Judge Lehan — who may easily be the single largest part of the Bassler problem — had really wanted to address Bassler’s criminal behavior, he had lots of tools at his disposal — none of which are being mentioned by critics of the local criminal justice or mental health systems.