The joke in Anderson Valley is that the meth tasting rooms begin on the Deep End (Navarro) where the wine tasting rooms leave off. It’s one of those jokes based on regional conceits, the need to look down on your neighbors, that sort of thing. The Deep Enders have heard similar jibes over the years. But the fact is, meth is everywhere. It is the Number One case in the courts — not just in Mendocino County, or the State of California — but everywhere in the United States.
Remember when the worst scumbag in the world was a drug pusher at a schoolyard? The pusher these days is waiting for the kids in the school nurse’s office.
And the biggest scourge in the country just happened to coincide with Big Pharma's appearance in the nation’s schools as crackpot therapists dosed naturally rambunctious children, especially small boys, with the pharmaceutical amphetamine called Ritalin. The kids, as they grew older, shared their pills with their friends, and when they got out of school and lost the free supply, they turned to methamphetamine, which was readily available. And now no other drug can touch it for prevalence and profits.
The courts keep a steady stream of meth users and dealers flowing into a plethora of pricy residential rehabilitation institutions, not to mention Drug Court — the conversion of an entire department of every branch of California Superior Court into a kind of Alcohol Anonymous for tweekers. In Mendo, that would be Judge Clayton Brennan’s auxiliary department in Ukiah, since his work on the Coast is only part time. All to facilitate a nationwide calamity instituted by Big Pharma.
Last spring we had a Deep End baby exposed to dangerous levels of the stuff. The infant boy ended up in the Ukiah hospital. It’s unknown how many infants and toddlers are exposed to meth and never reported, but we suspect this case is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Raymond Mabery was the last defendant to go down in this particular case — the young woman, Samantha Del Valle was sentenced and sent to Drug Court a month ago, the baby placed with his grandparents, and it was fairly evident that in such a sensational case, Mr. Mabery would have the proverbial book thrown at him. In anticipation, Mabery’s mother, Shelly Scaramella, hired one of the best drug defense lawyers around, Justin Petersen.
It is unlikely that Justin Petersen set out to specialize in meth cases, but his locally celebrated father was something of a hero to the soldiers of the larger Mendopia community, and now that the late Richard Petersen is gone, these same folks are turning to Justin Petersen to help solve their kid’s and grandkid’s legal problems.
And Justin Petersen has become really good at it.
Mostly what Petersen does goes on behind the scenes in top secret negotiations with the DA and the judges. This was the case in Mr. Mabery’s case. It is a time-consuming way of practicing law, and as a result, quite expensive. The cost of a private defense leaves a lot of tweekers in the care of the Office of the Public Defender.
Most Public Defender lawyers angle for first-offense adjudications for their meth-head clients, a ballot initiative measure voted in years ago when it was thought meth wasn’t really addictive — back when people thought Big Pharma wouldn’t lie to them, that the calming effect Ritalin had on their kids wasn’t addictive.
Public Defenders also often use the Deferred Entry of Judgment (DOJ) approach, which is based on this wing and a prayer: “If my client can stay clean for 24 months, the problem will go away."
So the options are first offense, DOJ, Drug Court, Residential Rehab, Prison — in escalating order of severity. Prison is usually reserved for the dealers, even though the very culture of the tweeker is such that all users are sellers, and so addicted that they will smoke or snort massive quantities of the stuff if they have it for very long. Their business sense gets a little compromised by things like compulsion and denial.
Another aspect of tweeker culture that the rest of us have a hard time coming to terms with is the absence of conscience. Tweekers often don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. They don’t consider themselves drug addicts. This goes back to the introduction of Ritalin into the schools.
"Dude, it helps me concentrate. I'm self-medicating."
The stigma had to be removed when kids were put on Ritalin, so the other kids wouldn’t look down on them, ridicule or bully them. The kids were taught that there is nothing wrong with Johnny taking Ritalin, but Suzie whose tie-dye and bell-bottoms smell like pot, is obviously a wicked person. The new PC. As a result, many tweekers don’t feel like they’re doing anything wrong, and even Mormon Republican tweekers in Salt Lake City go around to Positively Fourth Street, a popular hippy hangout, and feel righteous about beating up the pot smokers there.
Just the other day, down at the Water Trough in Ukiah throwing horseshoes, these young people came over and lit up. “Hey, don’t do that here,” somebody yelled. “Don’t worry,” the kid with the pipe called back, “It’s meth, not drugs.”
When you are taught that there’s nothing wrong with your drug of choice, and you were forced to take it as a child by people who said they had your best interests in mind, then it becomes a little easier to understand how it could come to pass that a couple of young adults could sit up smoking meth pipes all night with a baby in the room, and not be concerned.
The big problem for Sam’s and Ray’s lawyers was: “The judge is gonna throw the book at ‘em ‘cause they have no remorse.” This is one of the main reasons the case took so long. The defendants had to go to a re-education camp, of sorts, before they had any idea why they were being punished. But it finally came to an end last week, and other than what we all know generally about meth and its users, we’ll never really know what happened — unless, of course, someone like Shelly Scaramella comes forward with some insights only a mom would have (and in fact she’s said she would do just that, when it’s all over).
When the case was called on Friday, Mr. Petersen said there was a resolution, and the preliminary hearing wouldn’t be necessary. Deputy DA Shannon Cox said the basis for the plea had been stated in chambers a week ago, meaning that the details of the agreement would never be made public — and if the reader, the indulgent reader will wallow in a digression momentarily — you’ll enter with me into the Hon. Ann C. Moorman’s chambers through a heavy maple door with a deadbolt from the hallway, and once you cross under the lintel you enter a strictly feminine environment with flouncy frocks and flowers and frightfully frivolous artsy-crafty things everywhere you look — a gathering place for the court’s clerks and stenographers who are all women, and a good old boy’s worst nightmare: Not a wing chair, brandy snifter or cigar humidor in sight. The judge’s desk was clean and neat, every surface polished to a long-widowed grandmother’s fussy standards. A crystal vase of fresh-cut, chaste-white oleander blossoms on one corner. Two black-painted Windsor chairs were pulled up in front of Her Honor’s desk. No cushions on these chairs; whereas all the other furniture was plush as you please. This says something about time limits and our judge’s sense of hospitality towards lawyers.
I’ve also been in the DA’s Office, just before Mr. Eyster remodeled it: Meredith Lintott had it fit out like a harem, with big overstuffed couches and such, but solemn at the same time, like a mix of funeral parlor and Vegas whorehouse.
But back to the courtroom, and back on the record.
The agreement had been made in chambers that defendant Mabery would be pleading to two reduced charges, both misdemeanors.
“But,” DDA Cox said, “if it happens again, it’ll be a felony.”
Count One, Child Endangerment, would be dropped, if he pled to the two lesser charges: Count Two 11550(e) (under the influence of a controlled substance while in possession of loaded firearms); and Count Three 11564 (possession of drug paraphernalia).
It speaks eloquently to Petersen’s ability as a lawyer that the 11550(e) was reduced to a misdemeanor. Cops don’t like tweekers with guns. It makes an already dangerous job even more unpredictable. They would prefer to keep it as a felony and seize those firearms, permanently denying the defendant any further access to guns and ammo. The “automatic” term for this charge is four years in prison, if it happens again.
But the guns weren't seized, and young Mr. Mabery says they weren't loaded, either.
Mabery pled No Contest to the two lesser charges. The difference between a Guilty plea and a No Contest plea in criminal court is meaningless, as far as criminal consequences are concerned. The main reason people choose the Nolo Contendre is because a guilty plea can come back to haunt you in a civil action, if the victims decide to sue. Nevertheless, Petersen insisted on the No Contest plea, and went on to point out that this was going to be what is called a West plea.
A West plea comes from The People vs. West and it simply means — if anything can be termed simple in law — that the only reason the defendant is copping to the plea is because he has no chance of winning in court, even though he’s innocent.
Judge Moorman explained it to Mabery.
“Ms. Cox of the DA’s office has stated a factual basis for the plea [in chambers] but your lawyer Mr. Petersen won’t stipulate to it because chances are you’d be convicted. Do you understand?”
Mabery said he understood. But the expression on his face was as bewildered as it has been all the way through this seemingly endless legal nightmare.
“You’ll have to register as a narcotics offender,” the judge continued. “And serve 90 days in the county jail. Ms. Cox, do you have a factual basis for the plea?”
Prosecutor Cox said, “I do, your honor. On or about March 8th of this year the defendant was in a trailer under the influence of methamphetamine and in possession of multiple loaded firearms; he was also in possession of paraphernalia such as various straws and pipes for the use of ingesting methamphetamine.”
Petersen said, “Your honor, we’ve also agreed that my client would be able to serve the 90 days in a residential treatment program. I have made contact with Primary Purpose (Albion) and made arrangements for him to enter that program and do day-for-day jail-time credit there.”
Cox said, “He can do it day-for-day in residential treatment only if he successfully completes the program. If he walks away or fails in any way, it’s straight to jail. And The People would also be asking for a surrender date at the jail in case the program falls through.”
The surrender date was set for October 24th. If Mabery's not in the program by then, he must surrender himself at the jail in a clean and sober condition before 2 pm.
“Also,” the judge said, “You are to have no contact with a Ms. Samantha Del Valle and Jonathan Sanchez-Del Valle, her baby. Do you understand that?”
Petersen added that this arrangement was as much to his client’s liking as it was to Ms. Del Valle’s, by the way.
“There will be $140 in the victim’s restitution fund fine [to pay the salary of the victim’s witness advocates], a $60 criminal assessment fee (to pay the clerks and bookkeepers), a $40 construction fee (building fund for the new courthouse the judges have their hearts set on), and a $20 conviction fee [to defray the judges expenses at Schat’s Bakery and Patrona Restaurant, and the two new upscale eateries on Standley Street, recently installed to benefit from all the meth profits spilling out of the Courthouse.
The judge looked to Ms. Cox and said, “Is there a motion to dismiss Count One, Child Endangerment?”
Cox said, “So moved, your honor.”
“Okay, that’ll be the order.”
*The schools, where the problem originates, are teaching their students to specialize in fields the rehab programs need, pseudo or para-psychologists and other degrees in advanced babysitting for adults of all ages, along with probation officers and “community service officers” as one part of a crumbling society lives off the other.
Meanwhile, it's harvest time for Mendocino County's and America's more or less sanctioned drug, and the license plates are changing color. The migrant pot pharm workers, more commonly known as trimmers, along with the out-of-town weed buyers are arriving — this influx of out-of-state plates always scatters a little fall color along the curbs, down the highways, byways, side streets and parking lots between Garbleville and haikU this time of year. A little early for the traditional trim season, but many growers this year are using light-deprivation techniques to get their product ready early — before the market floods again.
How close is flood stage?
Confidential sources suggest the cops may have seized a Cessna airplane, over 2,000 pounds of “semi-processed” weed, three-plus pounds of cocaine (uncut), over 40 pounds of gold ingots and silver coins in a ammo box, $219,000 US currency in a Seal-A-Meal package, an AK-47, and enough RubberMaid tubs to collect the last century of this fine publication! Give these guys a couple more years and those tubs would’ve been full of Humboldt & Mendocino dollars — what everywhere else the poor call C-notes.
Yes, the buyers are in town, but caveat emptor, and the sellers should beware, too, because a couple of UNder Cover Law Enforcement (UNCLE) officers are going around with a big sack of money, trying to buy up some of last year’s moldering weed stashes. Our sources say they’ve snagged about a dozen sellers so far.