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Dredges From A Reporter’s Notebook

Slow week at the County Courthouse last week. In recent years we’ve had some riveting murder trials in the summertime, but this year, so far, the most sensational murder, that of a prominent physician’s wife, has gone un-prosecuted. Odd thing about Dr. Keegan's bludgeoning of his wife, Susan, is that the cops and everyone in the DA's office are agreed that Mr. Do-No-Harm did it, not that any of them are going to say so on the record. So why no prosecution? Here at America's Last Newspaper we assume social class is a large consideration. Ukiah's family doctor, medico to the Nice People for 30 years — how could he possibly be a murderer? Second, we get told a lot off the record that the Keegan case is “only circumstantial.”

Only?

Let's see you kill someone and arrange a hundred circumstances pointing straight at someone else. If Keegan were Tommy Tweeker he'd have been packed off a month after he did it.

The Keegan “circumstances”? First off, the death certificate says “Homicide.” The doctor was the only other person in the home when his wife died of head injuries impossible to sustain in an allegedly drunken fall. The doctor is no gentleman. He immediately told the cops his wife was a drunk and a dopehead, although Mrs. Keegan, unlike serious drunks and dopeheads, got up every morning and did things. She was daily active in her community right up until the night her husband of 30 years smashed the mother of his two children on the top of her head in her bathroom.

Did Doctor Keegan tell the police that he thought he heard someone else in the house? Did he have any explanation for the wounds to the top of his wife's head other than the implausible one that she was drunk, fell, and hit her head and died? The wounds, plural, could not have happened from a fall.

How's this for another circumstance? The doctor had Mrs. Keegan cremated almost immediately and just as immediately he hired a criminal defense attorney. You need a criminal defense if your wife dies in an accident?

There is no excuse for not trying Peter Keegan for murder. None. A cold case from the early 1970s, an alleged patricide, was supposed to go to trial, but the defendant attacked his psychiatrist at the Napa mental institution and hospitalized the good doctor. The patricider was supposed to testify but he's obviously way too nuts to appear. The trial was postponed. Perhaps it will take another 40 years to bring the defendant, Robert Schmidt, to trial.

Last week a Ukiah Police patrol vehicle ran over a tweeker fleeing the cop on a bicycle. The incident was deemed an accident, even though the District Attorney recently established that a motor vehicle can be used as a deadly weapon. The DA did just that in the case of The People vs. Joan Rainville. Ms. Rainville was found guilty although she was so thoroughly drunk she couldn't possibly have formed anything like weaponized intent when she managed to drive her mother's vehicle off the street and into a Westside Ukiah patio party.

Here at America's Last Newspaper we're wholeheartedly for Joan, a smart, funny, lady we knew for several years when she worked at the Mendocino Book Company. Like everyone else who knows her, we're simply mystified that she can't manage to stay at home when she has a drink or twenty. We don't want to see Joan sent off to the state pen, but maybe that's what it will take to persuade her away from inebriated locomotion. Sentencing for Ms. Rainville has been postponed to August 5th at the request of Rainville’s attorney, public defender Andrew Higgins. Higgins is trying to come up with a plan to stave off a prison sentence, which, apparently, probation is recommending.

In response to comments by Tommy Wayne Kramer’s recent column in the Ukiah Daily Journal that this reporter “derided” public defender Andrew Higgins, I would like to point out that the comment I made, to wit, that Higgins should have stipulated to the defendant’s priors in order to keep them from becoming an issue in Joan Rainville's trial, which allowed the prosecution to focus on the claim that the vehicle was used as a deadly weapon because she had so many priors. At least one lawyer tried to point this out to Higgins, but the PD's office, under the arrogant and marginally competent Linda Thompson, is insulated to the point of delusion. They think they're Clarence Darrow reincarnated.

Not surprisingly, the public defenders regard America's Last Newspaper as walking kryptonite. Several of the recently hired lawyers in that office will not even give me their names. “Don’t answer any of his questions,” senior staffer Carly Dolan told one of the new hires last week when I asked him his name.

Hey! We just report what we see and hear in court. But if I were one of the doomed defendants “represented” by this office I'd move mountains to have my public defender get my side of the story to the press. This kind of selfish vindictiveness also operates against the defendants that the Thompson Gang allegedly claims to be so devoted to. (See theava.com archive for Thompson herself at work in The People vs. Tai Abreu. Abreu, one of three defendants in a Fort Bragg murder, Thompson got Abreu life without the possibility while Abreu's co-defendants, represented by the Alternate Public Defender's Office, got versions of roughly 20-to-life for their guilty defendants. The Alternate defenders persuaded their two clients to do the sensible thing and plead out. Which they did. Thompson persuaded Abreu, 19 at the time, that he had a case. Which he clearly didn't. Thompson took Abreu's non-case to a jury. It was a one-day case. The jury came right back, and off Abreu went for the rest of his days. Thompson's performance was so egregiously bad that even the cops were pissed off.)

At the end of Kramer’s column, he said he knew Dr. Peter Keegan and had worked with Keegan’s murdered wife, Susan — in reference to the failure of the DA’s Office to prosecute Dr. Keegan as the most obvious suspect in the death of Mrs. Keegan. But what he didn’t divulge in his “full disclosure” was the more pertinent confession that he worked as an investigator for the Office of the Alternate Public Defender, an office of capable lawyers. As for the charge that I derided Mr. Higgins, I rather intended it the other way around, and thought I had made a fairly amusing parody of Chief Prosecutor Paul Sequiera’s style as Sequiera pounded Rainville and her stumbling defender. But such is the beleaguered sense of oppression with the public defenders that they will take offense at anything short of gushing praise and sentimental sympathy.

Having said that, I would like to add that I was not offended by Kramer’s criticism of myself and my report. In fact I would encourage him to be less cautious in his views. Why it is that the author of such mild commentary needs to present his opinions under an assumed name has never made sense to me, inasmuch as his views are not particularly censorious. But perhaps he feels we are all as cringing and insecure as the public defenders. Let me take this opportunity to assure everyone that here at America's Last Newspaper there's nothing we like better than a good fight, although I hasten to add we're now too old and too decrepit for the kind of hand to hand combat the Editor used to be identified with.

Last Tuesday, an 1144 (report of a dead body) at Low Gap Park came over the scanner. The EMTs were seated for lunch at Romi’s Brew & BBQ and their order had just been served up when they got the call. When they returned to eat their food (which the staff had kept warm for them) they confirmed that an old man, still not identified, had hung himself at the frisbie park. Ukiah Citizens for Safety v. City of Ukiah stalled out in civil court for a couple of reasons. Department E was being refurbished with new carpeting while Judge Richard Henderson was vacationing, so the case was sent to Judge Jeanine Nadel in Department G, the traffic court. The lawyers for the city, Mannon & Marston, apparently felt it was beneath their dignity to appear in traffic court, so Nadel’s clerk called them on the speaker phone. It appears that their majesties wanted to submit a 40-page “brief”; Judge Nadel wanted to know why they shouldn’t comply with the 15-page limit. Both lawyers tried to justify their written prolixity with spoken verbosity, redundantly repeating in a variety of not very original ways that they only wanted to do their client justice. What part of the word “brief” is it that you don’t understand, counsel? (Mannon also happens to have inherited the Savings Bank of Mendocino. He takes a monarchical stance in local matters, assuming that whatever he wants he's entitled to get.)

Judge Nadel, bless her, told the two windbags that they would have to come up with something better than that and they were granted more time to do so. At the rate these two characters are billing the City, Ukiah would have saved a lot of money by settling with Citizens for Safety, no matter what the complaint was. An attorney named Copper was listed as counsel for Citizens for Safety, and as I couldn’t find any attorney by that name in the book, I don’t know the nature of the lawsuit.

Of course, the courts were not idle all week. The routine business of the usual suspects went on as usual. Defendants were arraigned, pleas were taken, and deals were made. But the three scheduled preliminary hearings -- all featuring Special Agent Peter Hoyle, who is always good for a dramatic day in court – evaporated into plea deals.

We've got The People vs. Will Parrish on Thursday morning (17 July, Restitution Hearing, Courtroom B, 9:30am). That should be a good one.

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