The DA’s ace trial lawyer, Matt Hubley, has resigned. He has removed his services, himself and his handsome family to Sonoma County where he will be working for his former associate here in Mendocino County, and current Sonoma County DA, Jill Ravitch.
Sonoma County pays better, too. Mendo loses lots of people, from social workers to cops, to Sonoma County.
Hubley had been assigned to the prosecution of CalTrans nemesis, Will Parrish. Hubley’s only parting comment was that he would not miss the People v. Parrish.
Introducing Jeff Boyd, the new kid in the County Courthouse. He'll get the Parrish case. Boyd probably should have had the Parrish matter in the first place rather than wasting Hubley's time and talent on misdemeanor demonstrators.
But disproportion and CalTrans have long been synonymous. The Bypass is overlarge, overly destructive and comprehensively over-dumb. Hippie-proofing the CalTrans boondoggle has cost an estimated $1+ million in cop overtime alone. The CHP has been pulled off drunks and dope interdiction on Highway 101 to pull people with bird names off tractors and out of trees. As CalTrans shuts down for the winter months, and Bypass demonstrators plot their winter offensive, the CHP will continue to guard the massive construction project, soon to be a six-mile-long mud pit.
So, that's that and on to Josh Rosenfeld, a promising trial man who's made his bones going after heroin and tweak dealers, and there’s certainly merit in that.
A certain Mr. Thomas Simril was pulled over on Highway 101 with a couple of golf ball-sized stashes of heroin. Rosenfeld represented The People vs. Simril. Mr. Simril, as they say, is “known to law enforcement.” He's been busted in Mendocino County for drugs before.
Officer Gabe Aponte had smelled marijuana while making a routine traffic stop for speeding on Simril, and had searched Simril’s vehicle where he found the heroin.
Defense attorney Dan Haehl of the Office of the Public Defender tried to get his client off on some probable cause quibbles.
Haehl: “You stopped my client for speeding?”
Haehl: “Why did you get Mr. Simril out of the car?”
Aponte: “There was a strong smell of marijuana.”
Haehl: “Did he have any marijuana?”
Aponte: “Yes. About an ounce.”
Haehl: “Did the gentleman have a doctor’s recommendation for the marijuana?”
Rosenfeld: “Objection. Relevance.”
Judge Behnke: “Sustained.”
Haehl: “What was your probable cause for searching Mr. Simril’s car?”
Rosenfeld: “Objection. This was not on calendar for a motion to suppress.”
Rosenfeld: “What made you think the substance you found was heroin?”
Aponte: “The texture and the odor. It has a very foul, distinct odor.”
Rosenfeld presented the court with a lab report from the Department of Justice in Sacramento showing that the substance was indeed heroin and asked for a holding order on count one, transportation of a controlled substance; and count two, possession for sale. Judge Behnke granted the motion for possession, but declined to agree that there was any proof the heroin was for sale.
Next up were co-defendants Josh Teal and Misty Worthington, accused of possessing meth for sale, and possession of firearms by a felon, in Teal’s case.
Rosenfeld called his witness, Special Agent Derek Hendry of the Major Crimes Task Force. Agent Hendry is a tall, fit-looking young man. He said he and his Task Force colleagues had visited an address just off Highway 101 in Willits where there was a yard sale in progress. The Task Force, however, wasn't at the yard sale to buy second hand kid's toys and Reader's Digest condensed books. They hustled on past the yard sale and busted on into a shop and a trailer home where they found the meth and a group of people, mostly women, who, as in the case of Mr. Simril, are “known to law enforcement.”
Jan Cole-Wilson was defending Teal. She didn’t have much of a defense because her client had gallantly claimed that all the confiscated “contraband” belonged solely to him.
The Known To Law Enforcement Ladies were off the hook.
Teal's noble confession visibly pleased co-defendant Misty Worthington and her lawyer, Patricia Littlefield of the Office of the Alternate Public Defender. Ms. Cole-Wilson did manage to get Teal off on one of the charges against him: possession of a stolen backhoe. Whether or not the backhoe had been included in the yard sale was not mentioned during testimony.
Agent Hendry said Willits Police Officer Anderson had told him the backhoe was stolen. Teal said the owner of the machine had died and left it to him. Cole-Wilson argued that Hendry’s testimony was hearsay, and should be thrown out of court. Judge Behnke agreed. For the record, then, the backhoe was Teal's inheritance.
Ms. Littlefield wanted Agent Hendry to draw a diagram of the crime scene and show where everything and everybody was when the cops busted in. There was a fenced-in property with a lot of what Hendry described as “junk and trash everywhere” — the ostensible yard sale — a big warehouse or shop, and a house trailer parked behind it. In the shop, several women were sitting around a table. Teal was discovered sitting on the toilet.
Hendry: “It was a mess, to be honest.”
Littlefield: “Where was Mr. Teal?”
Hendry (pointing to the diagram of the trailer): “He was in here, pulling up his pants.”
Littlefield: “And the people in the shop all had a history as drug users?”
Hendry: “I believed they were all drug users.”
Littlefield: “Had you seen Misty Worthington before?”
(Pardon the interruption, but how come so many tweaker ladies are named Misty or Crystal or Desiree or Bambi or Brandy or Tiffany?)
Littlefield: “How many officers did you have on the scene?”
Hendry: “Eight to ten.”
Littlefield: “How soon did you have everybody rounded up?”
Hendry: “Within five minutes.”
Littlefield: “Did you personally find the $2500?”
Hendry: “No, I was told about it, and collected it as evidence along with the methamphetamine, the firearms and digital scales.”
Littlefield: “Didn’t Mr. Teal say everything on the property was his?”
Hendry: “He did, yes.”
Littlefield: “Ms. Worthington said you were trying to get her to rat on Mr. Teal. Did you?”
Hendry: “I initiated an interview with Ms. Worthington. She’s dating Mr. Teal, so I assumed she knew about the meth.”
Littlefield: “How long did you interview her?”
Hendry: “About two minutes.”
Littlefield: “Did you ask her to rat on Mr. Teal?”
Hendry: “I asked her if she sold meth and she said no. I asked if Josh sold meth and she lowered her head.”
Littlefield: “So you thought if he was selling meth then she was part of the package. Were you tired that day?”
Hendry: “I’m tired every day.”
Littlefield: “You look tired.”
Hendry: “I am, it’s been a long day.”
Littlefield: “Did you evaluate any of the persons on the property for being under the influence of methamphetamine?”
Hendry: “I don’t believe so.”
Rosenfeld: “Did Ms. Worthington tell you she lived on the property?”
Hendry: “Yes, she said she did and had been in a dating relationship off and on with Mr. Teal.”
("Dating relationship.” Maybe the other ladies present were chaperones.)
Rosenfeld: “How much methamphetamine did you find, and where was it?”
Hendry: “Just over 19 grams, and it was in a backpack.”
Rosenfeld: “How far was the backpack from Ms. Worthington?”
Hendry: “It was right next to her, within three feet. There was 1.8 grams in the kitchen and 0.4 grams in the bedroom night stand.”
Rosenfeld: “Did you find any packaging material in the trailer?”
Hendry: “Yes, one-inch by one-inch plastic zip bags, and three digital scales.”
Rosenfeld: “And the cash was in the trailer?”
Hendry: “Yes, and in Mr. Teal’s pocket.”
Rosenfeld: “And the firearms — there was a shotgun with a round in the chamber?”
Rosenfeld: “And a loaded .38 revolver?”
Rosenfeld: “A 30-30 and a 10-.22?”
Rosenfeld: “There was a silencer. Do you have any experience with silencers?”
Hendry: “No, I use Agent Peter Hoyle. He’s my silencer.”
(This Hendry kid is developing quite a wit. Describing the legendary Hoyle as a “silencer” is a hoot.)
Littlefield: “There were three or four other women in the room with Ms. Worthington, correct?”
Rosenfeld: “That’s right.”
Littlefield: “And they were all sitting pretty close, weren’t they?”
Littlefield: “How far were the others from Misty?”
Hendry: “Stay right there where you are, and Misty would be about where I am.”
Littlefield: “So, about 25 feet?”
Hendry: “Correct, and the pack was right by her feet.”
Littlefield: “Did you find Misty’s wallet in the pack?”
Hendry: “It was in her purse, I think.”
Littlefield: “You have no knowledge of the on and off relationship Misty was having with Josh?”
(Tweaker love! Off and on, up and down, in and out so long as the tweak lasts.)
“I have no idea of her personal life,” the deputy said, seeming to shudder at the prospect of knowing any more than he already knew.
Littlefield: “Okay, thank you.”
Behnke: “Any objection if I receive the photographs and diagram into evidence?”
Rosenfeld had some exhibits he wanted entered. One showed Teal to be a felon, and the others proved some of the firearms had been stolen.
Closing arguments began.
Littlefield: “You can have knowledge of what someone else is doing and have no criminal liability yourself.”
Behnke: “I agree with that, however…”
Littlefield: “Agent Hendry attributes the backpack to Ms. Worthington when three other people are in the shop, and we don’t have any evidence that she was involved with him [Teal] — I just don’t think there’s enough evidence to hold her [Worthington].”
Behnke: “She was closest in proximity to the backpack, and it’s kind of a lot of methamphetamine. The fact that the makeup bag had a feminine aspect to it and that is where two of the digital scales were found… But the question is whether I am strongly suspicious, and I am. The fact that Mr. Teal said everything was his seems a little like one of those noble statements one makes to shelter someone else, so I think there’s enough evidence to hold Ms. Worthington on count two, possession of methamphetamine for sale.”
Josh Teal got the same charge, plus a felon in possession of stolen firearms.
The charge of stealing the backhoe was dropped.
Arraignment on the information was set for November 28th. Happy Thanksgiving.