LONG TIME COUNTY CAO-CEO, AL BELTRAMI, HAS DIED. Sheriff Tom Allman has posted this statement: "Today, 11/23/13, a legend in Mendocino County passed away. His name was Al Beltrami. He had that magic ability to make local government work better. He was a long term CAO (Chief Administrative Officer) with Mendocino County, and he was also an interim CEO for the County. He worked with Governors and federally elected officials to make things better. May Al Rest In Peace and may his legacy forever be remembered as a person who understood the need for our leaders to work with each other instead of fighting each other. Thank you Al for what you have done to make Mendocino County a better place to live, work and raise families."
BRUCE McEWEN from Friday's County Courthouse: The courts are frozen in fear, unable to proceed with mental cases; and what they fear is Ortner, the new for-profit mental services contractor. For the past several weeks, “It’s been a nightmare,” to use a descriptive phrase oft-repeated by officers of the court. One judge who recently ordered a defendant to North Valley Hospital was told, “North Valley is no longer accepting mental patients with criminal issues.” How’s that for flat finality, your honor. The judge ordered Deputy County Counsel Doug Lozak to go to Mr. Pinizzotto and inform him “the buck stops with you.” There was some frantic scrambling around and the forlorn mental patient was returned to the jail. The attorney for this patient/defendant was Jessica Hoagland of the Office of the Public Defender and when asked for a comment she said she had better first ask her boss, Public Defender Linda Thompson, who just happened to be passing by. Ms. Hoagland hailed PD Thompson and asked if she could give a comment. The answer was: “Better not. We don’t dare make things worse.” I asked a deputy from the DA’s Office, Beth Norman, who has some experience with handling the press on sensitive matters and she said, “These orders are prepared by PD Linda Thompson, and they’re pretty straightforward. Yet, every time we have a problem getting someone placed.” She went on to say that it was bad before, and something needed to be done, but it has gotten much worse. “I don’t know what they [Ortner] are doing outside of the courts, but what I’ve seen just around here is cause for worry. We have these criminal defendants who don’t understand the proceedings, so something needs to be done and nothing is getting done.” Judge John Behnke was passing by and I offered a penny for his thoughts. “I really shouldn’t,” he replied. “We're going to all sit down and work this out. It’s not as bad as Obamacare,” he joked, referring to the difficulties they were having getting the new system implemented. “I can’t talk about individual cases, obviously, and I don’t want to cause more problems by saying anything until after we can have a meeting.” When is the meeting? “It hasn’t been scheduled yet.”
BRICE LEE MCKINNON, 22, of Willits belongs in a mental hospital, but there aren't mental hospitals so the ordinarily proportionate and humane judge, Ann Moorman, packed this kid, a pyromaniac, off to the state pen for six years and eight months. Although he had a juvenile history setting arson fires, McKinnon somehow got on as a volunteer with the Willits-Little Lake Fire Department under whose auspices he set more fires. It's unlikely that McKinnon, a married man with children, will get the kind of therapeutic treatment he needs in the overwhelmed state prison system.
THAT INCH OF RAIN we got last week hasn't dampened outback combustibility. A stubborn wildland fire just east of Retech (Hopland) broke out Friday morning about ten and wasn't fully extinguished until after 10pm. Another much larger fire continues to burn in the hills near the Geysers on the Sonoma-Mendo border northeast of Cloverdale. Rain is predicted for this coming Wednesday.
HIGH GLADE FIRE BURNING ON MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST: Upper Lake, CA: The Mendocino National Forest is currently fighting a fire located in a remote area north of High Glade Lookout on the Upper Lake Ranger District of the Mendocino National Forest. The High Glade Fire was spotted this morning. The cause of the fire is under investigation. It is estimated to be approximately 350 acres and is 0 percent contained. Smoke from the fire is highly visible this afternoon in the mountains west of Interstate 5. Engine crews, handcrews and aviation resources are currently working on containing the fire. As winds have died down this afternoon, the rate of spread has slowed, giving fire crews the opportunity to make progress. For more information, please contact the Mendocino National Forest at 530-934-3316, or visit www.fs.usda.gov/mendocino. Updates will also be available on Inciweb at www.inciweb.org or on Twitter @Mendocino NF. As of Saturday morning, the fire was approximately 350 acres with 0% containment. By afternoon, the rate of spread had slowed, giving fire crews the opportunity to make progress Saturday afternoon. (CalFire Press Release)
LETTER OF THE WEEK
When I was dean of the College of Science and Engineering at San Francisco State University, I testified before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and elsewhere against the peripheral canal and its potential negative impact on the bay and the delta. Now we have a plan presented for a delta tunnel project with an estimated price of $14 billion. I ran out a calculation based on the cost estimates versus the final cost for two recent state projects — the Bay Bridge and the Devil's Slide tunnel — for comparison. Using the inflation factors, which caused the final cost of both these projects to be about 10 times the original estimates, I project that the final cost of the delta tunnels should come in at about $200 billion — assuming they can be built at all through water-saturated mud. The original (1974) estimated cost for the 0.8-mile-long Devil's Slide tunnel was $45 million. It came in 10 years late at $440 million. That is $550 million per mile, so 70 miles of tunnel in the delta should have cost at least $38.5 billion had it been started ten years ago. If the state thinks that the water contractors are going to fund a $200 billion water project, it is seriously misguided. The entire project is a fantasy. The annual state budget is $96 billion, so it's not coming from there. — James C. Kelley, Half Moon Bay
AS OF JANUARY 1ST, under the Taste California Act, distillers of fine and not-so-fine spirits can sell booze samples. Until then, they've got to give tastes away. The implications for Mendo? Not too many, but there are some local wineries branching off to include brandy, and we've long been home to that most excellent brew, Germain-Robin. So, my fellow dipsos, we'll soon be able to knock back shots of Mendo brandy in the splendors of winery tasting rooms.
HOW COME HUMCO has more fun?
STATE WATER PROJECT INITIAL ALLOCATION ONLY 5% - AFTER SUMMER OF RESERVOIR DRAINING
California officials blame endangered fish for dire water supply forecast
by Dan Bacher
As rain began to fall on Northern California, state officials issued a dire water supply forecast for State Water Project contractors, citing "operational constraints" to protect endangered Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt and longfin smelt as one of "several factors" resulting in the gloomy estimate.
The Department of Water Resources (DWR) on November 19 sent a memo to the State Water Contractors stating that their initial allocation is going to be just 5% of their requests for water, just 208,628 acre-feet of the 4,172,536 acre-feet of "Table A" water that they requested.
"This allocation is made consistent with the long-term water supply contracts and public policy," said Carl A. Torgerson of the Department of Water Resources. "DWR considered several factors, including existing storage in SWP (State Water Project) conservation reservoirs, SWP operational constraints such as the conditions of the recent Biological Opinions for Delta smelt and salmonids and the longfin smelt incidental take permit, and 2014 contractor demands."
"DWR may revise allocations if warranted by the year's developing hydrologic and water supply conditions," said Torgerson.
With the release of the initial allocation, you can expect the Brown administration to intensify its campaign to build the peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), even though the plan would not create one drop of new water and would hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt and green sturgeon.
You can also expect corporate agribusiness interests and their political allies to launch new legislative, administrative and legal attacks on the recent Biological Opinions protecting Delta smelt and salmonids and other species.
The DWR memo failed to mention that the state and federal governments, in their zeal to pump Delta water for use by agribusiness interests, developers and oil companies, pumped massive quantities of water down the Sacramento, Feather and American rivers this summer, resulting in dramatically low water conditions in Shasta, Oroville, Folsom and other reservoirs.
The export of water down the Sacramento this summer also resulted in the moving of the compliance point for water temperature control standards to protect endangered winter run Chinook salmon - and in the State Water Resources Control Board's decision to "relax" (break) Delta water quality standards.
"To expedite water exports this summer, the Central Valley and State Water Projects violated water quality standards in the South Delta in June and July through August 15 and in the Western Delta at Emmaton in April, May and June and at Jersey Point in June," according to Bill Jennings of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. "Additionally, the temperature compliance point on the Sacramento River was moved upstream from Red Bluff to Anderson, eliminating almost two-thirds of the river miles of spawning habitat for endangered winter-run chinook salmon."
Jennings slammed DWR for blaming the low water conditions on "operational constraints" allegedly used to "protect" Delta smelt, longfin smelt and salmonids when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's 2013 Fall Mid Water Trawl (FMWT) abundance indices reveal that populations of Delta fish are only a small fraction of their historical abundance before Delta water exports began.
The indices for Delta smelt (7), striped bass (23), threadfin shad (70), and American shad (135) were the second, second, third and second lowest, respectively, in the 46 years of the survey. The index for longfin smelt (36) was comparable to the very low indices of recent years.
"In other words, Delta smelt, striped bass, longfin smelt, American shad and threadfin shad populations in 2013 have plummeted 98.9, 99.6, 99.7, 89.1, 98.1 percent, respectively, from the average of the initial six years of the survey (1967-1972)," said Jennings. "The splittail index was not released, but the 2012 September-October index was zero."
Jennings emphasized, "There is no limit to the gall of these folks. They killed 98.9 percent of the Delta smelt population and now they are blaming the 1.1 percent that are left for causing operational constraints on pumping? Then they wiped out 99.7 percent of the longfin smelt - and now they are blaming the remaining three-tenths of 1 percent for operational constraints on public trust water as they continue to embezzle from the public trust?"
It is no surprise to Jennings and other public trust advocates that the State Water Project initial allocation is only 5 percent - after Lake Oroville on the Feather River was emptied of much of its carryover storage this summer to export water south. The reservoir went down from 87.6 percent of maximum storage earlier this year to only 41 percent of capacity, 1,422,816 acre feet, now.
San Luis Reservoir, the joint state-federal facility that stores water for both the Central Valley and State Water Projects, is holding only 503,483 acre feet of water, 25 percent of capacity.
Ironically, Southern California SWP reservoirs that store exported water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are in very good shape. Pyramid Lake is 97 percent of capacity, while Castaic is 85 percent of capacity.
An August 2013 CSPA report, titled "Summer of 2013: the demise of Delta smelt under D-1641 Delta Water Quality Standards," revealed how the state and federal projects "massacred" Delta smelt by increasing exports five-fold in late June and dramatically reducing Delta outflow in early July. This caused the low salinity zone and Delta smelt to be drawn into the western Delta where they encountered lethal temperatures caused by a upstream reservoir releases coupled with high ambient temperatures.
Another CSPA report, titled "The Consequences of the End of VAMP's Export Restrictions," detailed how the 2013 Vernalis pulse flow on the San Joaquin River was exported via "an unauthorized water transfer that avoided environmental review and killed salmon and Delta smelt."
"The historical pattern and practice of violating regulatory requirements established to protect fisheries is outrageous, but the consistent failure by regulators and trustee agencies to enforce the law is simply incomprehensible and indicates a collaborative culture of noncompliance," stated Jennings.
"The FBI would be investigating and the Justice Department prosecuting if a financial trust had ignored regulations over three decades and reduced trust assets by 99%. I can understand water agencies attempting to take water that doesn't belong to them, but I can't understand the cops giving them the green light," Jennings concluded.
For more information and to read the reports, go to the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance website at: http://www.calsport.org/
HUMCO DA PAUL GALLEGOS WON’T RUN FOR RE-ELECTION
By Daniel Mintz
The county’s upcoming district attorney election will have a new dynamic now that incumbent Humboldt County DA Paul Gallegos has announced that he won’t be in it.
In a Nov. 20 press release, Gallegos said he believes “we have accomplished more than I ever thought we would be able to do over the last 11 years” but has decided not to run for a fourth term.
Taking a reflective tone, Gallegos considers the length of his time as DA in the context of his children’s progression into high school years. “My oldest son was four years old when I was elected to office,” he said. “He is graduating from high school this year.”
Likewise, his older daughter is now a high school freshman and his younger daughter is entering middle school. “I mention this because I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to get back to my wife and children,” said Gallegos.
Prior to becoming DA, Gallegos partnered with his wife, Joan, as defense attorneys in the Eureka-based Gallegos and Gallegos firm. In the release, Gallegos doesn’t state what his post-DA work plans are.
Gallegos’ tenure has been controversial, particularly during his first two terms. He became DA in 2003 after deciding to run “on a whim” and surprisingly defeating then-DA Terry Farmer.
Farmer was strongly supported by his prosecutors and Gallegos entered an office full of people that didn’t want to work for him and had ridiculed him during the election. The situation wasn’t helped when Gallegos launched a controversial and unsuccessful prosecution of the Pacific Lumber Company, a move that distracted his transition and triggered a recall election.
After winning it, Gallegos’ bid for a second term was challenged by well-liked Prosecutor Worth Dikeman, whose campaign platform echoed increasing doubts about the DA’s management ability. But Gallegos defeated him.
Allison Jackson, a former county prosecutor that Gallegos fired in 2004, challenged him when he ran for a second term but like Dikeman, she lost by about 2,000 votes.
The start of Gallegos’ second term was marked by another controversial and unsuccessful prosecution, this time of former Eureka Police Chief Dave Douglas and Lt. Tony Zanotti. They were the commanding officers during a stand-off with Cheri Moore, a mentally ill Eureka woman who was killed by a team of officers after making threats and brandishing a flare gun in her apartment.
Gallegos’ third term has been less flamboyant but management-related criticisms continue. For many people, however, his professed independence from police, commitment to environmental enforcement, locally acceptable marijuana prosecution policies and community outreach efforts have distinguished him as an exceptional DA.
His term ends in January of 2015. So far, only one candidate – former County Prosecutor Arnie Klein, who was hired by Gallegos in 2006 – has announced candidacy in the upcoming election.
CRAZY VATOS CONTROLAS!
by Bruce McEwen
The Fort Bragg gang problem doesn’t seem to be getting any better. The idiot wars between the red and the blue, the north and the south, the Norteños and the Sueños, La Familia and the Mexican Mafia, the gangs that have been the source of so much violence and intimidation up and down the state, and even in remote Fort Bragg, only seems to be getting worse.
Ivan Sanchez lost his bid for release at a prelim last week. He was up for assault with a deadly weapon in that one. This week, Sanchez will face another preliminary hearing on a separate charge of attempted murder. In the mean time, he was in court last week on charges that he'd struck another gang guy with a homemade billyclub.
Earlier this year, on Monday the 26th of August, Sanchez was arrested on charges of beating and stabbing his 20-year-old girlfriend in the middle of Fort Bragg. He'd already beaten the girl for two hours in the home they share. She was finally able to run outside where Sanchez caught up with her and beat her some more, topping off the assault by stabbing her.
Mr. Sanchez is a member of the Sueños — the Crazy Vatos Controlas — the crazy dudes in control of Fort Bragg's street life. Sanchez's latest victim was a gangbanger from the opposing team, the Norteños Richard Wayne Olstad, who seems to have become an honorary Mexican, at least for gang purposes.
Some of you may remember Richie Olstad from a series of stories a year ago featuring Fort Bragg’s self-anointed “most dominant female” gangbanger, Alyssa Colberg. Maricruz Alvarez-Carrillo, another gangster and formerly significant other to Ivan Sanchez, went to prison for chopping up Miss Colbert with an axe.
Go ahead. Pinch yourself. “You mean these people live in Fort Bragg? You mean they keep doing this stuff?”
And they're repeatedly let out of jail to do it again and again.
Olstad, being housed at the jail on burglary charges, was waiting to testify against Sanchez in a holding cell in the bowels of the County Courthouse. He was brought up after everyone was seated, which took a ridiculous amount of trouble due to the “eccentricities” of Lewis “Screwy-Lewie” Finch from the Office of the Alternate Public Defender.
Finch had called for a private meeting with Judge John Behnke and Deputy DA Shannon Cox. He wanted to switch tables. Prosecution usually sits at the table to the judge’s right, and the defense sits to the left. But Finch, for some obscure reason, wanted the change and everyone had to go in His Honor’s chambers for Finch to explain his desire for table turning.
The request was granted and Olstad was brought up to testify. He wore a gang tattoo for the red gangbangers, but said he had given up gang life. Back in May, he said, he’d gone out shopping at the Fort Bragg Safeway with his girlfriend, Cheyenne. Apparently the alpha femme fatale, Fort Bragg's dominant female, Ms. Colberg, had dumped Richie for a more exciting guy.
Olstad and Cheyenne got some grub and were headed home, pushing a bicycle along Franklin Street when they encountered Ivan Sanchez.
At this point Olstad’s testimony became highly reluctant. Simple yes or no responses took an inordinate amount of time for him to formulate, and when he managed them they were muttered or mumbled in a barely audible, hushed tone.
DDA Cox asked, “Did you know Ivan Sanchez?”
Olstad glanced quickly at the defendant then cut his eyes away, falling silent.
Ms. Cox waited. No response from Olstad.
“Had you at least heard of Mr. Sanchez?” Cox prodded.
“Surely you must at least have heard of him,” she persisted.
“Yeah, I saw him around town,” Olstad eventually muttered. “But I didn’t really know him.”
Olstad had helped put Sanchez's ax wielding girlfriend in prison and here he was saying he scarcely knew the man.
“Did you know he was affiliated with a gang?”
“Objection, your honor,” Finch chirped. “Relevance.”
Judge Behnke looked at Finch. The charges were gang-related — how could gang affiliation not be relevant?
“Overruled,” Behnke said.
“Yeah,” Olstad eventually mumbled.
“So you knew Mr. Sanchez was a member of a gang,” Cox repeated for the record in case the court reporter hadn’t heard correctly. “Did he approach you?”
“Did he say anything?
“Do you remember what was said?”
No response, other than some nervous fidgeting, no eye contact.
“So he approached you… Then what happened?”
“Uhh… a couple of things.”
“Well, what happened first?”
“Uh… (silence). Uhh… (more silence). Uh, he kinda stopped.”
“Did he come close to you before he stopped?”
“I, uh, think so.”
“Did he say anything?”
“Did you say anything?”
“I think so… not sure… I think I was probably angry… or being defensive.”
Judge Behnke was getting impatient. “How close did he come to you?”
“A foot or two,” Olstad answered.
“What happened next?” Cox asked.
“Uh… (silence). He, uh… (silence). He, uh, grabbed something.”
“From where did he grab it?”
“From his pocket.”
“Can you tell the court what it looked like, this something he grabbed from his pocket?”
“Uh, a stick.”
“So this stick that he grabbed from his pocket, what did he do with it?”
Judge Behnke suggested, “Just try to picture it in your mind, then describe for us what happened.”
Unfortunately, Richie Olstad’s mind was already full of pictures of what was going to happen to him for snitching on a gangbanger, and another long silent pause ensued. “He swung the stick,” the witness finally said.
“Do you remember what the stick was swinging for?”
“Where did it hit you?”
“On the shoulder.”
“How did that happen?”
“Had you not moved, would the stick have hit you in the head?”
“Objection,” Finch said. “Calls for speculation.”
“It doesn’t take an expert to tell he’s about to be struck in the face with a stick, counsel,” Judge Behnke said. “The objection is overruled.”
Prosecutor Cox asked Olstad, “What did you do?”
“I started running, which was kinda hard with the groceries and a bike.”
“Had you had any problems with Mr. Sanchez in the past?”
“Not really,” Olstad temporized inanely.
“Can you describe the stick? How long it was?”
“About a foot.”
“Where did you go?”
“To Cheyenne’s house.”
“What happened next?”
“The police came and took me to jail.”
“Do you recall what was said to Officer Mason?”
“Objection,” Finch said.
“Overruled," the judge said. "What prosecution is doing is laying foundation, counsel. I anticipate it’s in preparation to calling Officer Mason.”
“I want a standing objection, then,” Finch sniffed.
Cox said, “Do you remember telling Officer Mason that you didn’t want to fight with Sanchez?”
“You don’t really want to be here today, do you?”
Mr. Finch began his cross.
“Do you remember talking to the police officers on May 16th?”
“Had you used meth?”
“Not that day.”
“The day before?”
“Remember how much?”
“You use it every day?”
“With someone else?”
“No, by myself.”
“But you know someone named Cheyenne?”
“Yeah. She’s my girlfriend.”
“Were you doing meth with her?”
“I don’t remember that.”
“So you don’t remember what really happened, do you?”
“I’m not retarded, I remember what happened.”
“Are you on any meds now?”
“Have you been charged with anything lately?”
“Yes. This last summer.”
“Around the time of this incident?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Had you smoked any marijuana that day?”
“I have a doctor’s recommendation for that.”
“Were you stoned, then?”
“Is this something you need every day?”
“Yes. I have anger problems, and it helps me. But, no, I didn’t use any that day.”
“But when you do use it it helps you with your anger?”
“Yes, it does.”
“You had a bicycle with you — wait, strike that. You said you were hit on the shoulder?
“Were you focused on the stick?”
“You were looking at it, correct?”
“Did you push your bicycle into Ivan?”
“It came into contact with him, didn’t it?”
“Was anyone with you other than Cheyenne?”
Finch flipped through some pages of his legal pad and said, “Jut a couple more questions… Were you on probation?”
“When was the last time?”
“I dunno. Probably some time, like, after July… I’m pretty sure.”
“What was that for?”
“When were you arrested for that?”
“It was, like, July… I’m pretty sure."
“These anger problems you keep having — that occurs when you’re not smoking pot?”
“Yeah. I get frustrated easy.”
“And you were not smoking on May 16th when this incident occurred?”
Deputy DA Shannon Cox called Officer Jeremy Mason of the Fort Bragg Police Department.
Mason said he’d been dispatched at 7:30 on the evening of the 16th to the scene of an assault in progress, involving a weapon, on Franklin Street.
“When you arrived, what did you see?”
“I saw an individual in a blue T-shirt and khaki pants with a blue bandanna hanging out of his back pocket. He also had a small bat with a chain hanging out of his pants. He denied being in any fight, but he was perspiring as though he’d been doing something physical.”
“Who was the reporting party?”
Officer Mason gave the name.
Cox asked, “Did she describe the suspect?”
“Yes; her description matched the individual I had seen, the defendant, Ivan Sanchez.”
“What happened then?”
“I received a domestic violence call and went to 140 East Oak Street [the home of Cheyenne], where I found Mr. Olstad who said he was the victim of an incident. They [Richie and Cheyenne] were arguing about the incident. She [Cheyenne] and Olstad told me that he’d been hit on the shoulder and they had fled.”
“Did Mr. Olstad tell you he knew Mr. Sanchez?”
“He did. He said he’d had problems with him before, and that Cheyenne had been sleeping with Ivan Sanchez’s brother.”
“Did you arrest Olstad?”
“Yes, I did.”
“He had an active arrest warrant.”
“Did you notice anything about his sobriety?”
“Yes. I detected signs of meth use and a subsequent urine analysis revealed opiates in his system.”
“What did [the witness] tell you she saw?”
“She said she saw Richie with a female, and Ivan, for no apparent reason, pulled out a weapon and struck Richie. She specified that he did not fight back in any way and was retreating.”
“Did she describe the weapon?”
“She said it was a baton or wooden stick he pulled out of his pocket. She was with her daughter, and the daughter also saw Sanchez hit Olstad and saw Olstad flee. Then she said Sanchez made gang signs with his hands. The daughter also saw these hand signs — which they recognized from TV were gang signs; she said Mr. Sanchez had a tattoo of the number 13 on the back of his head.”
“What did you do?”
“I went to the Sanchez home the next day.”
“Were you able to make contact with the suspect?”
“I was, yes. At first I thought I would have to force the door, but there was a vicious dog being very unfriendly, and Mr. Sanchez came out to protect the dog — he was afraid we would harm the dog, and he wanted to take care of it, but he was not allowed to do so. Another officer with a catch pole caught the dog and restrained it.”
“Did you search the residence?”
“Yes, we did. We found the clothing he’d been wearing the day before and located a wooden bat or club that fit the description of the one used against Olstad, and a blue bandanna.”
Judge Behnke said, “Cross, Mr. Finch?”
“Briefly, your honor. You say [the witness] and her daughter saw my client display gang signs that they recognized from TV?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“But they were in a car, weren’t they?”
“And they could see all this from a moving vehicle?”
“They came to a stop at the corner of Chestnut and Franklin.”
“And the things my client did with his hands appeared to them to be gang signs?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“Based on what they’d seen on TV?”
“But she was driving a car?”
“Then how could they see all this?”
“They came to a stop at the stop sign and observed it unfolding right before their eyes.”
“I have no further — no, wait! There’s one further avenue I haven’t explored: The domestic violence call to the address on Oak Street. They were crying over the incident, is that your understanding?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“How did you learn that information, that Cheyenne had been intimately involved with my client’s brother?”
“She told me that.”
“And the stick you found at the residence, how big was it?”
“It was one and a quarter inches in diameter, 11 inches long and appeared to be sawn off from a piece of dowling used in closets to hang clothes from.”
“How much did it weigh?”
“It weighed 160 grams.”
“When you arrested my client on the 17th did he have any weapons on him at that time?”
“And how many people live at that residence?”
“At least three brothers.”
“And how many of them are on parole?”
“At least one.”
Deputy DA Cox called Sergeant Andrew Kendl, Fort Bragg’s gang expert, to the stand. He had taken a photo line up of some gangbangers to the witness and her daughter and they had both — separately — picked Ivan Sanchez from the line up. Sgt. Kendl said he’d had numerous contacts with Ivan Sanchez and knew him to be a member of the Crazy Vatos Controlas, Fort Bragg’s blue gangbangers, the foot soldiers for the Mexican Mafia prison gang. He estimated there were approximately 20 of them in Fort Bragg and that they used assault, vandalism, intimidation, and other forms of violence to promote their colors.
“Does Mr. Sanchez have a special moniker, an alias or street name?”
“Yes,” Kendl answered. His moniker is “Silent.”
“Let me ask you a hypothetical question, Sgt. Kendl,” Ms. Cox said. “If someone was a member of this gang and they saw a person with a rival gang tattoo — such as Mr. Olstad’s — would he be inclined for any reason to attack this person?”
“He would, yes.”
“And why is that?”
“Doing so would add prestige to himself and the gang; it would show loyalty, and provide him with status in order to move up in the gang hierarchy. It would help if he wore the gang colors while doing so, and gave the gang signs with his hands to show that he doesn’t fear the consequences — that he has no fear of repercussions; and that he has no fear of the rival gang nor of law enforcement.”
Finch wanted to use the same hypothetical question, but he seemed to lose track of the point he was trying to make and ended up quarreling with the witness.
Finch said, “If a person whose brother is sleeping with a female who’s with another person wouldn’t that arouse passions that are not related to the gang?”
Kendl said, “Why would he attack someone who was with someone his brother had once slept with, wearing all his gang colors and giving gang signs if it wasn’t gang related?”
Finch jumped to his feet: “Objection, non-responsive!”
“So it’s possible my client was acting out of some motive entirely unrelated to the gang, isn’t it?”
“I couldn’t really see that as possible given all the other gang-related evidence we have in this incident.”
“But he could have just been stepping up for his brother, isn’t that correct?”
“Not really; not in this case; not with all we know, now.”
“But hypothetically, if someone was sleeping with your brother and then you saw her with someone else, it could be he was just stepping up for his brother, couldn’t he?”
“If neither were in a gang I’d say that could, possibly, be correct.”
“Just because he was in a gang it doesn’t mean he couldn’t be stepping up because his brother once was sleeping with this woman that he later saw with this other guy, and”—
The judge said, “Mr. Finch, you are free to argue that point in closing, but all you are doing at this point is arguing with the witness, which you are not free to do.”
Finch said, “My client’s brother had slept with the victim’s current girlfriend and isn’t it possible that that was the reason for the incident and that his being in a gang had nothing to do with it?”
Kendl said, “It’s all gang related. When Mr. Sanchez is wearing gang colors, and giving gang signs when he attacks a rival, that’s gang related whether his brother slept with the rival’s girlfriend or not.”
Finch kept beating the table with a rag he’d chewed to ribbons. I wondered if we'd get some foam, too. Everyone looked on amazed.
As they say, and as Finch was again establishing, when the facts are on your side, pound the facts; when the law is on your side, pound the law; when neither is on your side, pound the table.
Finch finally ran out of wind.
Judge Behnke said, “Any more argument, Mr. Finch?”
“Briefly, your honor. What I’m getting at is there’s the possibility that the assault was not gang-related. We have two lay witnesses who say hand signs they think were gang signs based on what they saw on TV, not actual fact.”
Behnke said, “I agree, but that’s relatively minor in the totality of the evidence.”
Finch said, “Then I’m ready to submit.”
Cox said, “The People are asking for a holding order on the assault with a deadly weapon; and also on the special allegation that this incident and the defendant was affiliated with a violent street gang, using threats, assault, intimidation, vandalism and weapons for the promotion of the street gang.”
Judge Behnke wrapped it up: “I find sufficient cause to hold the defendant on the 245 9a.0-1 and also that it was gang related. Obviously, this is a street gang. Whether it was avenging his brother over a former girlfriend or not, he was wearing gang colors and the crime has all the elements the law requires. Those are all met. He’s an active participant and the assault was on another gang member. So I do find evidence to hold him on count two. As for the civilians, the signs were something even a layperson attributes to a gang. So I’ll hold him on both counts and we can arraign him on this information when he comes in on the 15th for the attempted murder prelim.”
by Spec MacQuayde
The idea originally sprung to mind while I was seated in the familiar hand-me-down reclining chair in front of the barn at the Boont Berry Farm. Liz and Abeja were picking up milk for Emerald Earth and pitching the original Not-So-Simple-Living Fair.
“We want you to do a workshop on dairy cows,” said Liz.
“I'm not really the guy for the job,” I said, clutching a can of PBR. “I've milked anywhere from one to five cows for four years, and anyway here I am selling off the herd and moving back to Indiana. I'm quitting. This is illegal in California and they're coming down on everyone.”
“But that's what we want — somebody who's started out from scratch, who's dealt with the obstacles.” “Okay, sure,” I said, since the Boont Berry Farm is of course directly across the creek from the fairgrounds. “I'll take a heifer over to the pens there as long as I can bring a twelve pack of beer and sit next to the heifer and not really have much to demonstrate or anything.”
“Sounds good — you really need to have the beer?”
“Yeah. AND I want to do a demonstration on what I'm really talented at.”
“Uh — what is that?”
“The one thing I'm good at in life is using a hoe. Not just using a hoe, but showing somebody how to use a hoe. So I want to give a demonstration on how to show somebody how to use a hoe.”
They thought about it, said they'd get back to me, and Capt. Rainbow who was emcee of the bands and whatnot on the stage called, inquiring what I had in mind. Basically a friend's girlfriend had agreed to accompany me on stage as a “woofer" — willing worker on an organic farm. I planned to demonstrate how to use a hoe, and eventually infuriate her to the point that she slapped me audibly and whacked me over the head with a hoe, at which point Abeja charged the stage and engaged in battle with the hoe handles, finally interrupted by Captain Rainbow as the referee. Everything went without a hitch except the ziplock bag of catsup and water I had under my hat as a prop failed to rupture because the “woofer” could not bring herself to whack my leather hat with enough force. So I had to grab the bag and bust it over my head before collapsing.
Those first couple years getting started here in Indiana, I spent many lonely hours chopping weeds out of rows of lettuce and carrots, bending over tediously to pull and untangle them, and my desire to put together an instructional video on how to use a hoe branched out into a full-fledged fantasy that I shared finally this spring with “the girls,” one morning as we chopped crabgrass out of sugar snap peas. “I want to do a video, you know, on how to use a hoe. I mean I've been a hoer for what now, twenty-some years. It's the only thing I'm good at.”
They liked the idea and agreed that Jetta would be game to play the Hoer along with me. Sure enough she agreed when we ran it by her, and as they talked to girlfriends it turned out a whole bunch of them wanted to be Hoers for fun, for a bunch of laughs. Then came the Mudpit idea, and it became clear that we were going to plan an Event. Talking around at farmers markets and festivals it seemed the idea sounded good to most people, though some were a little reluctant when they heard we were calling this, “HOeFest.”
“Stereotyping women as 'hoes' is what we've been fighting against for decades,” some friends were saying or posting on the developing Facebook site.
I stayed off Facebook and really had little to do with the organizing of the event. Mostly I tried to keep tabs on the crops which were drying up thanks to no rain in July and August. Well that and entertained Jetta and the growing number of musicians and moochers who were gathering at the Farmhouse to clean up, set up, and jam at night. Jetta took her role seriously as sort of the queen Hoer for HOeFest, gathering girlfriends for photo shoots and posters that we put up at the bars where she also danced on tables in high heels.
“It's a job,” I said coldly at about 3:30 in the morning, seated near the pool tables, when she and I and about fifty other folks were being somewhat held hostage by the sheriff's department thanks to a fight between a recent returnee from Afghanistan and another tough dude who'd just unfortunately lost his daughter to a drunk driver. One of the fellows had supposedly gone to his house to get a gun and was stalking the other one, which was why the stakeout, the flashing blue lights, the bar full of paranoid folks who were not even being served drinks anymore to take the edge off. I was irritated at Jetta because she'd gotten in the middle of the two fighting guys whose friends were clearly pulling them apart already, and she'd yelled a bunch of crap at one of them.
“I'm just trying to make a difference in the world,” she sobbed.
“Goddammit I've been trying to do that for 20 years.”
“But nobody listens to me!”
“Not when you yell at them. Look. Give me my cell phone. I'm going home. I'm tired of this shit.”
“You can't drive — there's cops everywhere.”
“They ain't lookin for me.”
“It's OUR phone, not yours.”
“To hell it is. I paid a hundred bucks on it today. Look, Jetta, I love you but you've got a job at this point. I ain't interested in getting married to anybody, ever. You're going around with me, that's a job. If you don't like it, I'll get some other girl. I'm sorry the world works this way, but it does.” I maybe didn't mean everything I said, but everybody in the damn place was pretty cranky on account of not being able to drink and not being able to leave with all the cops out there. “Just give me the damn phone. I'm goin home.”
She handed me the phone, and I walked out past the county deputies, nodding and saying hello to them. They all knew about the HOeFest, and in fact Jetta had given them one of the posters to put up in the office. I had no intention of driving home, but had simply remembered that I'd packed the cooler in the truck with beer, and could sip on one and go to sleep if — if Jetta didn't follow me out, mad as hell at me for abandoning her in there. That was really about it between her and I, though we ended up mud wrestling in the Main Event at HOeFest, where it was unanimous that she kicked my ass.
Although I have to say if I hadn't body-slammed her twice I might have had the energy at the end to prevent her from throwing me in the mud and standing above me with one foot on my chest, while I nearly drowned. You think she doesn't weigh that much but try pulling someone out of muck up to your knees sometime, and then have them on your shoulders wringing your neck and flailing scissor-like legs.