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Mendocino County Today: October 16, 2012

A FEDERAL TASK FORCE raided the Potter Valley family property of Mendocino County Under-Sheriff Randy Johnson last Thursday (October 11th). The raid team included DEA, FBI and IRS agents who are said to have confiscated some 500 marijuana plants.

THE FEDS seal their search warrants and, in this case, only grudgingly admitted they'd been in the Potter Valley area where the raid took place not far from Highway 20. It has been clear for some time that the feds have operated independently of local law enforcement, tacit admission that the feds don't trust the locals to keep raid targets secret. A federal attorney warned the Mendo Board of Supervisors that local officials would be held personally liable if Mendocino County proceeded with a plan to essentially license backyard grows for as many as 99 plants. The Mendocino limit presently is 25 plants per parcel.

THE JOHNSON FAMILY'S property is an old resort they've converted to rentals with individual cabins rented to persons with medical marijuana cards. Under-Sheriff Johnson's father and brother live on the premises while Johnson himself lives on an adjacent parcel. The property is owned by Johnson's father.

CAPTAIN JOHNSON has long been viewed as pot-friendly. He was responsible for Mendocino County's aborted medical marijuana permit program and even testified for men arrested in Sonoma County for transporting medicinal marijuana from Mendocino County to dispensaries in the Bay Area. Like most Mendocino County officials, Johnson supports decriminalization strategies which would generate some income for the County from its number one export crop.

SHERIFF TOM ALLMAN said Monday that he would be surprised if Captain Johnson knew that marijuana was being grown next door to Johnson's Potter Valley home.

A BIG WIN FOR JOHN McKELLER is also a big win for the motorists of Mendocino County. McKeller lives on Greenwood Road outside of Philo. You may recall that it was the sunny Sunday morning of May 6th when McKeller set out for his regular yoga session in Ukiah in his black Dodge Durango, the kind of vehicle viewed by law enforcement as a rolling felony. But McKeller is a law-abiding citizen, not a felon. He just likes Durangos.

THAT DAY McKeller knew there was an abalone checkpoint at the Boonville Fairgrounds so he rolled his tinted windows all the way down for easy viewing and proceeded within the posted speed limits through Philo, picking up lawful speed as he approached the Indian Creek Bridge.

“WHICH,” McKeller recalls, “is when a CHP cruiser whipped around and pulled me over at the driveway to KZYX. As the officer walked up to my window I released my seatbelt. The cop said I was driving without a seatbelt, but how could he even see my seatbelt driving the other direction at that redwood grove at the bridge? It’s the darkest stretch of road this side of Navarro. And besides I was wearing my seatbelt.”

THE CHP OFFICER was the infamous Officer Babcock, something of a legend on the South Coast for eagle-eyed seatbelt violations real, but many South Coast people insist, often imagined by the zealous Babcock. There were so many complaints about Babcock from South Coast residents that he was transferred inland to work out of the CHP's Ukiah office.

BACK IN PHILO that bright day in May, Babcock had proceeded to write McKeller a seatbelt ticket. An incredulous McKeller was astounded he was getting a ticket for an offense he had not committed. He soon visited the CHP office in Ukiah where he asked if he could look at the video of his alleged infraction, and was surprised that the duty officer immediately handed it to him.

“THERE IT WAS RIGHT ON TAPE,” McKeller says. “It shows everything — the officer doing a u-turn to catch up with me and me unhooking my seatbelt as he walks up to my window.”

McKELLER'S next stop was Judge Nadel’s courtroom. “You have it on tape?” the judge laughed. “Yes, I do your honor,” McKeller said, “and here it is.” At the end of the viewing, the judge said, “I’m putting this over until Tuesday the 9th of October at 11am. “I’m going to bring the officer in and make him explain this one,” she said.

ON THE 9th of October, which was last Tuesday, Officer Babcock and McKeller both appeared in Judge Nadel's courtroom. “I couldn't get my video to work so I ended up showing it on the judge's laptop. I hadn't heard the audio before. The audio goes on just as Babcock is pulling me over. He's unloading his f-bombs all over the place. As he's following behind me, the whole courtroom hears him saying, “What a fuckin' moron. Why didn't he fuckin' pull over right there? That would have been fuckin' perfect.”

SO, NOW THERE'S the video that clearly shows McKeller, his vehicle at a full halt at the KZYX driveway, unhooking his seatbelt as Officer Babcock walks up to McKeller's Durango with Officer Babcock spraying the Indian Creek neighborhood with f-bombs.

OFFICER BABCOCK didn't know about the video, and certainly didn't know McKeller had a copy which had just now been played in court.

AUDIO-VISUALS BE DAMNED! Babcock stuck to his false story that McKeller not only didn't have his seatbelt on, he'd crossed the yellow highway divider line. However, the video clearly, unmistakably, irrefutably shows the fully seatbelted McKeller not crossing the line. And wearing his seatbelt.

JUDGE NADEL said she'd seen enough as Officer Babcock launched into a laughable spiel about how his own camera “can't see everything” and how he saw what he saw and that he properly ticketed McKeller for not wearing his seatbelt.

“ON TAPE,” McKeller says, you can see that Babcock is a quarter mile away from me when he starts turning around saying that he saw my belt off. My video shows everything and now we have the audio to go with it.”

JUDGE NADEL finds for McKeller. Officer Babcock slammed his chair into the table and stomped out of the courtroom, behavior that would have caused lots of judges to bring him back into the courtroom to threaten him with contempt if he didn't apologize for his behavior.

McKELLER says he will file a formal complaint against Babcock.

COMMENT OF THE DAY: “The mood of humanity lately seems to be darkening again, and to some large degree for understandable reasons. Between the melting of the polar icecaps, the destruction of all edible life in the oceans, and the vulgar spectacle of the paved-over American landscape with its clown monuments mocking all civilized endeavor, and a long list of other insults to healthy life on earth, there's a lot to be depressed about. We stand to lose a proportional amount of human capital accumulated over the past five hundred years as the benighted people of post-Roman Europe lost, and it may take us a thousand years or more to recover — if we recover at all. It's especially disturbing to see the infiltration of the latest version of Jesus mumbo-jumbo — Southern Republican Nascar Evangelical orthodoxy — take over the collective mind of the USA. The poverty of ideas this represents can't be overstated and the timidity of any opposition to it is a disgrace to our heritage. Maybe that's an argument for electing a Mormon president, since that peculiar branch of the church is so self-evidently childish and ridiculous that it will probably do more to defeat religious fanaticism than all the humanist dissertations ever written — or a thousand clones of Madonna Ciccone dancing in stadiums under laser beams in titanium brassieres.” (Jim Kunstler)

THE MENDOCINO COAST HUMANE SOCIETY has for years now been the personal fiefdom of a merrily authoritarian fellow called Jerry Karabensh. He's stuffed the Society's board of directors with automatic YES votes for whatever Karabensh determines the Society, a mass membership non-profit charity, should do. Jerry the K bought his Society dominance with big donations of cash, always the surest Mendo path to instant influence, and has run the whole show going on a decade now.

KARABENSH has condescended to convene the Society's first “open” meeting in nearly ten years this Thursday, October 18, 5:30pm-7 or 7:30pm, depending on Jer's interpretation of the clock face. Interested persons are required to submit questions for the board one week in advance while Jer and his captive board of directors retain the following three response options: 1. Answer the questions at the meeting 2. Answer questions later or 3. Not answer them at all.

THE PESKY PUBLIC can make presentations up to five minutes with, of course, Jer choosing whom to call on.


The Arena Theater Film Club will present Broken English, a 2007 comedy-romance by director Zoe Cassavetes this Monday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m.

Broken English screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and ultimately garnered five award nominations, among them the Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay.

Nora Wilder (Parker Posey), a single career woman works at a Manhattan boutique hotel where her skills in guest relations lack in the romantic department. If it is not her loving and dominant mother (Gena Rowlands) attempting to set her up that consistently fail, she has her friend’s (Drea de Matteo) disastrous blind dates to rely on as a backup for further dismay. She's surrounded by friends who are all happily engaged or romantically involved but somehow, love escapes Nora -- until she meets a Frenchman (Melvil Poupaud) who helps her discover life beyond her self-imposed boundaries.

Film director, screen writer and actress Zoe Rowlands Cassavetes is the daughter of filmmaker John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands.

Her directorial debut was in 2000 in the Sundance Film Festival-featured short film Men Make Women Crazy Theory, but she is best known as the director and writer of Broken English. She says that her inspiration for the film came from her perception of other people's impression that happiness can only come from being in love with someone: "I got caught up and swept up in the whole idea that I didn't have any worth until I found that person ... So I just wanted to make a nice, little portrait about what happens to someone when they get caught up in all of that." Cassavetes was nominated for the 2008 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay but lost to Diablo Cody for Juno. The film is rated PG-13 at a runtime of 97 minutes.

The Arena Theater Film Club shows classics, independent and foreign films, and documentaries on Monday evenings three times per month. The Cineaste membership level of the Arena Theater ($70 per year) includes free admission to Monday evening Film Club events as well as discounts to regular movies and many live events. Guests are welcome to attend Film Club movies for an $8 (adult), $5 (teen) admission. For more information visit

MARVIN SCHENCK leads public tour of painting exhibit

“The Comprehensive Keith” at Grace Hudson Museum, by Roberta Werdinger

On Saturday, Oct. 21st, from 2 to 3:30 pm, curator Marvin Schenck will lead a public tour of the Grace Hudson Museum's current exhibit, "The Comprehensive Keith: A Centennial Tribute." This exhibition is organized and circulated by the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art (formerly the Hearst Art Gallery) to mark the centennial of Keith’s death. Schenck, a former curator at the Hearst Art Gallery and thus intimately familiar with the Keith collection, selected 53 paintings for the present exhibit in Ukiah from the original Saint Mary’s Museum of Art exhibition. He will share his wealth of knowledge of Keith’s life and work on this tour, which is free with museum admission.

William Keith (1838-1911) incorporated influences from the Barbizon and Hudson River painting schools of his day to create a style of landscape painting both intimate and grand. His wilderness rambles with environmentalist John Muir and immersion in Swedenborgian mysticism, both of which emphasized nature as a reflection of our spiritual yearnings, combined with his ever-increasing technical mastery to produce unforgettable portraits of Bay Area and other Northern California mountains, bays, meadows, and forests. "The Comprehensive Keith: A Centennial Tribute" will be on display until January 27, 2013.

Also on display in the Museum's Foyer Hallway is the unique metal-crafted sculpture of Dana Driver. Driver, an Albion resident, picks up natural and human-made objects on her daily walks on the beach and returns them to her studio, where she welds them together in a rigorous process. The results are birds, insects, and animals that both delight and instruct the viewer. Driver's exhibit will be on display until Nov. 4.

The Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House is at 431 S. Main St. in Ukiah and is a part of the City of Ukiah's Community Services Department. The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4:30 pm and from 12 to 4:30 pm on Sunday. General admission is $4, $10 per family, $3 for students and seniors, and free to members or on the first Friday of the month. For more information please go to or call 467-2836.

EEL RIVER RECOVERY PROJECT to Hold Second Annual Retreat — The Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) would like to invite the public to attend its second annual retreat at Emandal Farm east of Willits this Saturday October 20th. ERRP is a grassroots group dedicated to monitoring the health of the Eel River and fostering its recovery. The agenda includes presentations and stream-side monitoring demonstrations as well an afternoon session where ERRP 2013 activities will be planned

Erick Burres who heads the California State Water Resources Board's volunteer monitoring program is a featured presenter and will also give a stream-side monitoring demonstration in the morning. His talk comes just two days after the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and he will talk about how people are working together to help meet its objectives. Stephen Kullman who heads the Wiyot Tribe Environmental Department will talk about the Tribe’s interest in water quality and fisheries data that ERRP is helping collect and their long term goals for co-management. The Wiyot Tribe is currently co-sponsoring the lower Eel River 2012 fall Chinook dive survey with ERRP.

The ERRP basin-wide volunteering monitoring project water quality data from 2012 will be presented at the retreat along with preliminary results from the lower Eel River dive surveys. An automated temperature sensor has been in the upper Eel River at Emandal since June and it will be retrieved as part of morning stream-side monitoring session. ERRP has also been helping surveil potentially toxic algae conditions in the lower reaches of the main Eel River, South Fork and Van Duzen River. Ideas for improving our public health warning system in 2013 will also be shared at the retreat.

The afternoon will be spent learning about different ERRP projects and recruiting volunteers to serve on committees to sustain or expand them. Coffee and bagels will be served from 8-9am and lunch will be provided. The program begins at 9am and the retreat ends at 5pm. See for more information. Call (707) 223-7200 for more information or to RSVP.

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