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Mendocino County Today: August 17, 2013

MANSON, by Jeff Guinn, is a freshly published biography of America's favorite boogeyman. The author has discovered much that was previously unknown of Manson's family origins, and lots about his needy, mostly pathetic followers. Manson always claimed he was a life long victim, that his mother was a teen prostitute, his family cruel to him. Nope. Guinn makes it clear, to this reader anyway, that Charlie, although raised by struggling people in the teeth of the Depression, was simply a bad guy from the time he could walk and talk. His family, including his mother, were decent people who did the best they could with him, but always, given the choice between doing the right thing and the bad, Charlie went for the bad.

SPENDING MUCH of his youth in institutions and then prisons, Manson, in his early thirties, emerged into the free world early in 1967 just as the world seemed to be coming apart with suddenly estranged children, anti-war demos, drugs, riots, and assassinations. Mr. Helter Skelter was in his element. Soon, he was competing for cult-brained followers in the Haight-Ashbury with other sociopaths preying on the hordes of teen runaways and other young people looking for someone to tell them what to do and what to think, looking for family, as Manson quickly discerned.

charles-mansonTHE AUTHOR'S DESCRIPTIONS of Manson's apocalyptic brew of Hobbit-like mysticism, Beatles secret message music, sex, violence, and hallucinogens, attracted quite a crowd from which he winnowed people, especially women, certain to accept as truth whatever Manson told them. He had a real gift for selecting only those followers who could be depended on to accept him as the authority on all things.

MANSON TOLD his "family" that there was a big hole somewhere out in the Mojave, that if the family could  locate its entrance, they could live safe underground while a national race war launched by black people finished off Whitey. But black people, Manson explained to his cretinous recruits, will need someone to run things properly, and that's where we come in.

MANSON was a musician. He wanted to be famous for his music. It was repeated snubs by music industry bigwigs that seemed to propel him to the murders he got some of his followers to commit.

ANYONE WHO'S lived in Mendocino County for any length of time, especially anyone who goes back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, will have had at least peripheral experience with charlatans of the counterculture type, men whose basic pitch was "You give me all your money and you can hang out with me in the hills while I tell you what's what." Versions of that, usually with a religio-mumbo jumbo overlay, and maybe an excited tale about a subterranean cave system linking Lake County to Mendocino. I heard that one for the first time back around '75, and several times since. That period was a kind of mass feed for vultures, and delusion was even more prevalent than pot.

A FRIEND was just telling me the other day that when she first moved to the Anderson Valley she felt a prevalent "bad energy." Then, when someone ran down the full roster of world class psychos who'd called The Valley home, she said she had to will herself to stay. "But it seems a lot mellower now, doesn't it?" Positively bland, I replied, reassuring her that the good old days of Anderson Valley when Tree Frog, Pastor Jim, Lenny Lake, and numberless other nutballs seemed to be over.

FOR A WHILE THERE, though, we had the big boys of bludgeon, not that we knew it when they were "doing their thing," as psychopathology was described at the time. Criminal behavior was often viewed simply as eccentricity, and anybody who thought Tree Frog Johnson seemed to have an unwholesome interest in small boys well, that person was "uptight," probably a racist. Mr. Frog was black, you see, so he couldn't possibly be a creep and predator perv.

LOTS of bad things happened during the hippie hay day, and lots of bad things went unreported, unrecorded. The Man was the enemy, you see, and The Man was broadly defined as anyone who disapproved of sloth and chaos as a way of life. The hippies cleaned up by '75 and immediately proceeded to take over Mendocino County's public bureaucracies, from the schools to the courts, which is why today the old boy's network prevalent most places is, in Mendocino County, a liberal network.

THIS MANSON BIO brings it all back. The author is very good at evoking just how crazy that period was. There are two Mendo references, one of them about Manson being upstaged by a Mendocino guy, not named, and this:

"SINCE the Family was staying together forever, Charlie informed his followers, they needed a permanent home. He assigned Susan Atkins, in mid-pregnancy, to lead some of the others back to Mendocino County and look around for some suitable site...."

THE AUTHOR places the suitable site in Philo. In fact, the Family found a house on Gschwend Road, Navarro.

LOCALS say the Manson Family brought the first LSD into The Valley and routinely sold our native proto hippies marijuana. The Family was soon raided and several of the women, among them two killers, were arrested.

[by Tiffany Revelle]

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office's contracted medical examiner, Dr. Jason Trent, is being replaced after he recanted statements he made in court on a homicide case, opening up the possibility of a retrial for a 40-year-old Hopland man convicted of murder three years ago.

"When you have a pathologist whose statements haven't been consistent, that is obviously of concern," said MCSO spokesman Capt. Greg Van Patten, referring to statements Trent made on the witness stand during the 2010 murder trial for Timothy Slade Elliott, and during an appeal hearing last year.

A jury in August 2010 convicted Elliott of second-degree murder in the September 2008 fatal stabbing of Samuel Brandon Billy, 29.

During the 2012 state appeals process, Trent recanted testimony he made at Elliott's trial that a 1.65-inch knife alleged to have been the murder weapon could have caused the 6.7-inch deep stab wound that killed Billy. Trent claimed he thought the knife was 3 to 4 inches long instead.

At a June hearing on the petition, Trent again reversed his testimony, saying the 1.65-inch knife could indeed have caused the deep wound, and that he was wrong to recant his trial testimony.

Citing Trent's inconsistent testimony, Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman granted Elliott a new trial Thursday. Elliott pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter, a charge that could reduce his sentence to seven years instead of 16.

Moorman called Trent's credibility "damaged" during the June hearing, saying he had recanted his testimony under oath and then reversed it again under oath.

Trent's inconsistency and Moorman's statement spurred the Sheriff's Office to review Trent's contract, and ultimately to opt out of it, according to Van Patten. The contract was good from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2014, he said, and the county gave Trent 90 days notice and signed another contractor.

Dr. Jacqueline Benjamin replaces Trent, starting Sept. 18. Benjamin, who had previously filled in for Trent during his 15-plus years as the medical examiner for Mendocino and Lake counties, comes to Mendocino County from Southern California, according to Van Patten, where she was also being recruited by a medical group. She is currently a pathologist at Keck Hospital of USC Pathology in Los Angeles.

Benjamin specializes in forensic pathology, anatomic pathology and neuropathology -- the latter of which Van Patten said is an asset she brings that Trent doesn't have.

"In rare cases where there is brain pathology that needs to be done, this will mean we don't have to seek outside consultation on that," Van Patten said.

While the details of the contract weren't available Thursday, pending a Public Records Act request, Van Patten said the county pathologist is tasked with investigating deaths, whether or not crime is suspected. The contract provides for payment of $1,240 per standard autopsy and $2,000 per forensic autopsy in Ukiah, with added payment for autopsies in Willits and Fort Bragg.

[courtesy, Ukiah Daily Journal]

[from the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office]

This afternoon [Thursday] in Mendocino County Superior Court, a Hopland man entered a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter in a fatal stabbing case dating to 2008 on Hopland rancheria.

Timothy Slade Elliott
Timothy Slade Elliott

The plea by Timothy Slade Elliott avoided a costly retrial of his disputed murder case surrounding the September, 2008 death of Samuel Brandon Billy. On March 28, the First Appellate District Court directed the local court to re-examine the trial. At issue was whether Elliott, 40, of Hopland, got a fair trial in 2010 and whether he deserves a new one. He claimed his public defender, Linda Thompson, was ineffective legal counsel and deprived him of his right to a fair trial. Superior Court Judge Richard Henderson denied the motion for a new trial at the time, and Elliott was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. An appellate attorney in September 2012 asked for a new trial based on "a prima facie case of ineffective assistance of trial counsel," according to a March 28 order from the First Appellate District Court, which directed the local court to re-examine the trial.

County contract medical examiner Dr. Jason Trent testified in Elliott's 2010 murder trial that a knife -- the alleged murder weapon -- placed in evidence could certainly have made the 6.7-inch stab wound that killed Samuel Brandon Billy in September, 2008. In 2012, Trent changed his mind and in two sworn statements in Elliott's appeals process, said he thought the knife did not make the wound and that he had thought the knife blade in question was 3- to 4-inches, rather than the 1.65 inches it actually was.

Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman on Thursday granted Elliott a new trial, citing the lack of credibility surrounding Trent's changing testimony. Elliott's attorney, Jan Cole-Wilson, and Assistant District Attorney Paul Sequeira told Judge Moorman that they had reached a stipulated agreement to reduce the murder charge against Elliott to voluntary manslaughter. Elliott, who has already served five years in prison, faces a maximum sentence of seven years under the announced agreement. Moorman set Sept. 10 as the date of sentencing for Elliott.

Attached [linked] for background is a June 22, 2013 story in the Ukiah Daily Journal about the case, and events leading up to Thursday's hearing.

[from the Eel River Recovery Project]

SF_Dyerville_08_07_13_AlgaeThe Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) is working cooperatively with the University of California Berkeley and government agencies to help track toxic algae and to minimize risk to the community. After issuance by the Humboldt County Department of Public Health of a toxic algae health advisory in late July, ERRP followed up with an early August photo reconnaissance of the Eel River and its tributaries and is posting them in slide show form to their newly redesigned website (

While stream reaches like the upper South Fork at Leggett and upper Van Duzen River at Grizzly Creek had low algae levels in the first week in August, those conditions could change rapidly. Also, even in areas that are algae-free, swimmer's itch is present, which can cause a mild flea-bite like rash. Advanced algal blooms and potentially toxic conditions are developing in the lower South Fork, lower Van Duzen and lower Eel River. In the future ERRP hopes that additional volunteer monitors will take initiative and submit photos and site descriptions of their favorite swimming spots and to expand coverage to all areas of the watershed. People can check out the new ERRP Facebook page created to facilitate so social media can be used to help provide information and photos.

The 2013 ERRP toxic algae monitoring project is being lead by doctoral candidate Keith Bouma-Gregson, who is not only training volunteers but also using data collected with their assistance for his dissertation. Keith is using UC Berkeley's cooperative arrangement with UC Santa Cruz to acquire resin devices that can absorb blue-green algae toxins and will get help in quantifying them, if they are present. ERRP will inform relevant agencies and the public as study results become available.

Conditions at a swimming spot at Dyerville just upstream of the railroad bridge are no longer swimmable or advisable for contact by pets, with suspended algae as well as well developed algal scum along the shore.
Conditions at a swimming spot at Dyerville just upstream of the railroad bridge are no longer swimmable or advisable for contact by pets, with suspended algae as well as well developed algal scum along the shore.

ERRP is coordinating with Humboldt County Public Health and County Parks, the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Wiyot Tribe on this project. Studies and observations will continue into the fall. Upcoming water quality reconnaissance and algae studies will begin to focus on the lower Eel River, as the fall Chinook salmon begin river entry during a period of extremely low flows and very high levels of algae.

ERRP is a broad-based grassroots movement that operates under the fiscal umbrella of the Trees Foundation. Funding for this study came from the Rose Foundation and private donations. Citizens can contact ERRP to become involved or to share information on the Eel River by calling (707) 223-7200.

WORLD-RENOWNED AMERICAN AUTHOR ALICE WALKER has been disinvited from giving a speech at the University of Michigan because a donor objects to her views on Israel, the agent negotiating the contract was told.

Walker, the Pultizer Prize winning author of The Color Purple, posted on her blog an excerpt of a letter from the agent informing her that the invitation to keynote the 50th anniversary celebration of the Center for the Education of Women at the University of Michigan had been withdrawn.

The agent wrote:

I'm saddened to write this because I'm a proponent of free speech and have been brought up to allow everyone to have their say. But I also realize that there are other considerations that institutions are faced with. This afternoon I was contacted by the University of Michigan instructing me to withdraw their invitation due to the removal of funding from the donors, because of their interpretation of Ms. Walker's comments regarding Israel. They are not willing to fund this program and the university/Women's center do not have the resources to finance this on their own. They are deeply regretful but I wanted to let you know immediately either way. I hope you can appreciate the fact that I'm uncomfortable even having to send this email in the first place. Hopefully we can work together again down the road. Thanks for understanding. I wish things had turned out differently.

Calling the withdrawn invitation "Censorship by Purse String," Walker wrote, "Such behavior, as evidenced by the donors, teaches us our weakness, which should eventually (and soon) show us our strength: women must be in control of our own finances. Not just in the family, but in the schools, work force, and everywhere else. Until we control this part of our lives, our very choices, in any and every area, can be denied us."

Gloria D. Thomas, director of the Center for the Education of Women, acknowledged that Walker had been disinvited, but said that the matter was a "misunderstanding." In an email to The Electronic Intifada, Thomas wrote:

The [Walker's] blog was a result of an unfortunate misunderstanding. As director of the Center for the Education of Women (CEW), I decided to withdraw our invitation because I didn't think Ms. Walker would be our optimum choice for our 50th anniversary.

Our 50th anniversary funding is assured. All donations, for this and other events, are accepted with no provisos or prohibitions regarding free speech. In fact, in a conversation with one of Ms. Walker's friends/representatives, I indicated that I would be willing to speak with other units around campus to serve as a possible co-sponsor for a lecture by Ms. Walker in the near future.

Asked if a speaker had been chosen to replace Walker, Thomas wrote, "No contract has been signed yet. This information will be made available on our website once the contract is confirmed."

alice-walkerIn recent years, Walker has become increasingly outspoken in her support of Palestinian rights, sometimes likening Israel's abuses to the Jim Crow racist system she grew up with in the southern United States. Walker has written about her visit to Gaza, and participated in the June 2011 solidarity flotilla that attempted to reach the territory besieged by Israel, which led to her being demonized by the Israeli army. Her position on boycott has also been deliberately distorted by Israeli media. Walker has campaigned for other artists, most recently Alicia Keys, to respect the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). In her letter to Keys, Walker wrote:

I have written over the years that explain why a cultural boycott of Israel and Israeli institutions (not individuals) is the only option left to artists who cannot bear the unconscionable harm Israel inflicts every day on the people of Palestine, whose major "crime" is that they exist in their own land, land that Israel wants to control as its own.

Could Walker, one of the most celebrated figures in American letters, now be paying the price of refusing to be silent about Palestine?

--Jeffrey Blankfort


Hector Sanchez stood in to pinch hit with 2 on and 2 out in the top of the 9th at the Bug Jar in Washington last Thursday. The Giants were down 3-1 and if they lost the game they would be swept by the Bugs, would have to fly to Miami feeling like a ton of snot, and J. Biro would owe his brother $10. Biro clamped his mitts together and prayed to Jeebus. He prayed to Jeebus even harder than he had prayed during the Miracle of Labor Day in 2010, when a True Act of Jeebus had turnethed the tide towards World Series victory. "O Mighty Jeebus, I humbly pray and beseech you now for a Miracle in Your Holy Name!" Strike one! "O Jeebus the Giants are suffering! Suffering in Your Sacred Quest O Omnipotent Jeebus!" Strike two! "O Jeebus! O Lord! Your Power is moving mightily in the stadium!" Ball one! "Your Miraculous Strength is shaking the stands O Mighty Jeebus! !" Ball two!

There was a delay while a bunch of Bugs met at the mound to discuss the situation. "Lord Jeebus You got 'em rattled now! They feel Your Power and Holy Will moving in the Bug Jar! They faithlessly scoff at your Divine Strength!" Soriano wound up and threw a pitch that had been called a strike all afternoon against batters on the other side of the plate. Ball three! 3-2 count!! A palpable Wave of Terror swept the stands! J. Biro shouted and screamed at the television. "Mighty Jeebus YOU are LORD!! Your Pismatological Giants Power will Precipitate the Pill into the stands NOW in Your Holy Name O MIGHTY JEEBUS!!!" WHACK!!!!

praying-to-jesusSanchez lofts a three-run bomb over the right field fence! 4-3 Giants!! "ALL PRAISES TO JEEBUS!! JEEBUS IS LORD!!!!!" Bottom of the inning, Jeebus' glowing force continued to illuminate His Miraculous Intervention against the dispirited Bugs as Crawford magically levitated into the air and stretched 10 feet to snag a liner. Werth struck out, the final Bug was stomped, and the Glorious Earth Shaking World Changing Victory in the Name of JEEBUS was recorded in the Book!! So, my brethren and sistren, never deride or ignore the Reality and Power of Praying to Jeebus! It's a non-local quantum universe!! Thoughts are things!! It's Never Too Late!! Next, fry the Fish! Then come Home to bash Boston, pummel the Pirates, and turn this thing around in the Mighty Name of Jeebus!! Pray! Pray hard!!!

--J. Biro

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