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The Pitiless Light Of Publicity

The case of The People vs. The Crane Sitter has been assigned to Matthew Hubley, a trial deputy from the District Attorney’s office. The Crane Sitter was originally charged with a trespassing infraction. 

At the arraignment, Judge Richard Henderson asked the DA what the offer was to settle the case, and DA David Eyster said it would be $250 for each of the 11 days, The Crane Sitter, aka Will Parrish, was strapped to the crane, stopping work on a portion of the Willits Bypass for the CalTrans contractor, a multi-national firm with headquarters in Berlin.

The judge said there would be about $250 in routine fees and fines added on. He then released The Crane Sitter on his own recognizance and gave him a few weeks to think it over.

The case has generated some publicity, mainly due to the efforts of a group of supporters who attended all of The Crane Sitter’s court appearances. These same people sponsored a fundraiser for The Crane Sitter’s legal defense — which was well-attended but ultimately unnecessary, because a private defense attorney, who does not fear the pitiless light of publicity, Omar Figueroa, came forward and took the case pro bono. At this juncture, The Crane Sitter has decided to pass on the DA’s offer and take his case to a jury.

Parrish and his lawyer seem to feel that a jury will see that The Crane Sitter had unimpeachable reasons to try to stop work on the Willits Bypass, which is indeed widely regarded as a major boondoggle even by Caltrans standards. And terribly, irreversibly destructive to Little Lake Valley. But in order to get a jury trial, the charges would have to be elevated in seriousness from an infraction to a misdemeanor.

This is what defense counsel asked for, and the DA was more than happy to oblige.

DA Eyster raised the charges to 14 counts of misdemeanor trespass, one count for each day The Crane Sitter was strapped to the crane, and three more counts for previous occasions when he'd been arrested at the job site for getting in the way of wholesale destruction. Mr. Figueroa filed a series of motions before the trial began, and these were supposed to be heard last Tuesday in the Honorable John Behnke’s courtroom.

There was a demurrer, a motion to suppress, and a motion alleging vindictive prosecution.

Eyster's prosecutor, Deputy DA Matt Hubley, complained that he’d just been handed the case and wasn’t ready, so the only motion the judge granted was a motion to continue.

When an ordinary worker — a journeyman bricklayer, for instance — uses the word “continue” he means to pick up his trowel and get back to work, but when lawyers use the term, they mean to put their work off for a few weeks or more.

Mr. Figueroa told the court he’d just been handed some discovery issues and that he may be filing more motions relating to them. He said that Sheriff Tom Allman had been investigating the case and had talked with the defendant’s mother, and if the Sheriff had made a report on that conversation and any related matters the defense wanted a copy of what had been said.

Judge Behnke said these motions could be heard along with the others on Wednesday, September 11th at 10am. Judge Behnke also thanked Mr. Figueroa for submitting a case from the year 1858. It was only one page long, and would be the quickest read the judge had been given in a quite a long time.

* * *

Another case that was continued, continued again, and again, continued last week:

Peter Richardson, once represented by Richard Petersen, who is terminally ill with cancer, is now represented by Keith Faulder. Richardson is also battling cancer, prostate cancer. He juices lots of marijuana to help him beat back the baleful effects of both the disease and its treatments.

A few weeks ago, Faulder told Judge Ann Moorman that the Richardson case was about to be resolved. But last Wednesday Faulder apologized for that recklessly optimistic remark, and admitted that the case was “not resolvable.”

The preliminary hearing would have to be continued, and it was continued to Thursday and continued here and there until it was finally continued until Wednesday, September 11th at 1:30pm.

The DA wanted to get his hands on Richardson’s medical records so he could cross-examine the defense witness, Dr. John Lovejoy of Ukiah, a medical doctor who used to be a gynecologist but whose practice these days is confined to the miracle drug, marijuana, about which he is an expert.

DA Eyster clearly feels that Doc Lovejoy is a quack, and that Richardson, a licensed contractor with many local buildings, including government buildings to his credit, is mostly in the pot business. Eyster wants to see Richardson's confidential medical records because he “may want to impeach the doctor’s testimony,” he said.

Judge Moorman agreed with the DA, stating that there were “legions of cases” where medical records had been made available to the opposing party of an expert witness. However, Her Honor ordered DA Eyster that he was not to discuss the content of the medical file with anyone. Except his investigator.

“Anytime you put a doctor on the stand there’s an implied waiver of the doctor/patient privilege,” the judge said.

Faulder said, “I’m not implying the privilege should not be waived, your honor. Because it’s not relevant to the tryer of fact. What is relevant is whether the amount of marijuana being cultivated was consistent with the patient’s medical needs at the time of the arrest. So we don’t have to get into the underlying facts of what the patient’s medical condition is, you see.”

It appeared fleetingly that Her Honor did see.

But then, looking up from a page of legal scripture she had been studying on her desk, she said, “I’m not reading it that way.”

The judge mentioned some case from the 1970s when much of the legal profession had perpetually runny noses from all the cocaine they sniffed.

Eyster said, “I didn’t put the patient’s medical condition into play — they [the defense] did! And I have a right to see what’s in those records.”

There was a delay in the proceedings, and I met the defendant, Pete Richardson, to drink beer and pitch horseshoes at the Water Trough. Like his attorney, most attorneys in fact, Pete is not adverse to the pitiless white light of publicity.

He basks in it.

But there was once some famous newspaperman who said, “If the parties want it published, it’s not news. If they try to keep it out of the paper, then it’s news.”

“I’m glad you’re covering my case,” Pete told me over a beer.

“In that case, my editor probably won’t print it,” I replied, thinking my editor may have been the newsman quoted above.

“Why does he hate me so much?”

“I don’t think he does, Pete. I really don’t think it’s personal.”

“Oh, yes, he hates me; always has. Now that he’s got all that money from his daughter, he can afford to keep putting that paper out and trashing everybody he doesn’t like.”

“What money did he get from his daughter?”

“You know.”

“I know nothing of the kind.”

“His daughter married the guy who founded Oracle, that’s where all the money comes from.”

“Who told you this?”

“Dan Hamburg.”

“He did?”

“He didn’t have to, everybody knows it. Don’t tell me you didn’t know about it yourself?”

“I swear I had no idea. I’ve met the guy my editor’s daughter married, and I’m truly impressed to learn he founded Oracle.* He couldn’t have been much more than maybe about six years old at the time. He’s only maybe 38 at the most, now. I had no inkling when I met him — or during any subsequent meetings — that I was in the presence of such a prodigy. My thoughts ran somewhat to the contrary, actually.”

“You always have to pull a nasty joke on people, just like your boss, don’t you?”

“Thanks, Pete. You’re just overflowing with compliments.”

* * *

Before Richardson’s case resumed the judge had to take pleas from a couple of Hopland Rancheria guys, Joshua Torres and Jeremy Johns. These two had been at a party and volunteered to go out and get more beer — “We’ll fly if you buy!”

Somebody produced a bank card to fund the continuing merriment, and Torres and Johns went out for a big box of suds.

But Lady Chance was singing her siren song of temptation as Torres and Johns drove past the Sho Ka Wah Hopland Casino (or Choke A Squaw, as the racist, non-Native locals call it) diverting the boys from their beer run with the promise of easy riches. So, in they went to Lady Chance's seductive temple where they used their friend’s bank card to take $500 in cash from the ATM.

Now, all they had to do was hit a jackpot and not only would they return with the beer and their pal's bank card, they'd all have plenty of dough for more beer. Plus interest.

The odds were against them, of course, but Torres and Johns were gamblers and poof! went the $500.

Another gambler would have blamed such a foolproof plan on bad luck, but the judge blamed Torres and Johns. She thought they were smarter than their get rich scheme.

Bert Schlosser has recently returned to duty at the Office of the Alternate Public Defender, having returned from a fishing expedition in Alaska. He was representing Josh Torres. Schlosser told the judge that his client realized he’d made a very stupid mistake.

Public Defender Linda Thompson represented Jeremy Johns. She said her client had also been sobered to the brink of contrition by the stupidity of his crime.

They were both ready to plead to the charges and take the consequences. Both were grateful that the DA was going to let them plead to a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

Judge Moorman took their pleas and told them they’d done something really dumb, not mentioning that without Dumb courthouses all over America would be deserted. The two defendants agreed with the judge and promised not to do it again. She gave them each 90 days in jail, reinstated their probation, told them to stay out of the casino, and ordered them to repay $531.98.

* * *

When Peter Richardson’s case resumed on Thursday, Dr. John Lovejoy went back on the stand and DA Eyster picked up his cross-examination where he’d left off a few weeks ago. But it soon became apparent that too much time had elapsed for Dr. Lovejoy to remember the particulars of Richardson’s medical file, and Eyster wanted specific answers, so the judge continued the matter until September 11th to give the doctor time to focus his powers of recall.

Supervisor Dan Hamburg was there along with his usual entourage. Richardson confided that the supervisor had called him to say he was coming.

The Brotherhood of the Weed runs deep in Mendocino County.

(*Oracle was founded in 1977, well before Ryan — or his wife — was born. But at the time of the conversation with Pete, I was thinking Oracle must have been started back in the late 80s.) I asked the Editor if he hated Pete Richardson. The Editor said, “Who?” He said the only person he hates is some guy in Little River. He said the “inland libs,” as he described them, “range from comic figures to mosquito-like irritants.” ¥¥


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