- Timber Fire
- Ukiah Shelter
- Rural Broadband
- James Larsen
- Library Politics
- Crimes of the Week
- PA Field Station
- Insider Money
- Credit Debt
- Last Evening
- Catch of the Day
- Republicans Meet
- Budget Tour
- AIPAC Congress
- Rogers Rehash
AS OF FRIDAY NIGHT at 7pm, the “Lodge Complex” lightning strike fire outside of Branscomb, to the west of Laytonville had consumed 750 acres and was 20% contained. One structure was declared threatened, but not burned. No injuries. CalFire has deployed 21 engines, 20 fire crews, 6 bulldozers, 7 helicopters, 8 water tenders and 656 total people to the large burn. According to CalFire, the current situation is: “Fire is burning in heavy timber. Firefighters are challenged working in steep rugged terrain, with difficult access in the remote Elkhorn Ridge Wilderness area. Firefighters will continue to pursue aggressive air and ground strategies. Dry fuel conditions, above normal temperatures and low daytime relative humidity will continue to be a challenge for firefighters. Also participating in the response are the Laytonville Fire Department, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation & California National Guard.”
SATURDAY MORNING'S UPDATE (8am) upped some of the numbers: 902 acres, involving 33 engines, 23 crews, and 7 dozers. Two numbers went down: 4 helicopters and 654 total personnel. Containment was still listed at 20%, and the "current situation" description remained the same.
AT THE JULY 8 MEETING OF THE SUPERVISORS, Fort Bragg area Supervisor Dan Gjerde told his colleagues that the closure of the Buddy Eller homeless shelter in Ukiah last May had driven the displaced homeless to Fort Bragg. Gjerde, as all liberals these days, went deep for a euphemism to describe this population, calling them people with "significant problems." As he knows, "significant problems" means drop-fall drunks, free-range tweekers and the mentally ill who just happen to drink heavily and take any drug they can get their hands on. The thinking is that it's somehow unkind to refer to drunks as drunks, drug addicts as drug addicts, crazy people as crazy people.
“As you know,” Gjerde said, “the city of Fort Bragg sent a letter to the Board expressing their concern about the closure of the Buddy Eller Center in Ukiah. It has in fact closed. In the month of June they were not taking in any new patients, or customers. The city of Fort Bragg has the only remaining homeless shelter in Mendocino County and it has 22 beds. … During the month of June that facility has seen a significant increase in the number of people coming to it because of the closure of the Buddy Eller Center which was not taking in new customers throughout the month of June. Some of these people have some significant behavioral problems. … With the only facility now in the county being on the Coast — it is really not equipped to handle all people that were at the Buddy Eller Center — they had 64 beds at the Buddy Eller Center.”
At that July 8 meeting, Gjerde went on to describe the problem in more detail, adding, “The Fort Bragg area and the Mendocino area combined are about 25% of the county population but they are not really equipped to absorb 90% of all the homeless in the county on the Coast. Social Services has contracts with the Buddy Eller Center. There is a plethora of services in Ukiah that don't even exist on the Coast. It's kind of baffling that there is no functional facility in Ukiah. We have been told that the Buddy Eller Center will be operating again, but not until November. So that leaves the entire summer — we are already seeing a significant increase in the number of people showing up from here in Ukiah over there on the Coast. There is a significant amount of frustration and anxiety about what's going to happen this summer on the Coast. This is a festering issue. I sent an email to the Social Services department recapping what happened at the meeting the other day. I really hope the Social Services department steps up and gets a temporary facility over here in Ukiah until the Buddy Eller Center reopens in November. It's just not really acceptable to have so many services here in Ukiah and not have a homeless shelter of any kind during the summer.”
* * *
LAST WEEK an item appeared on the Supes July 21 meeting consent calendar titled, “Approval of Agreement with Ford Street Project in the Amount of $145,275 to Provide for the Provision of the Food Bank, Community Resource Services, and Homeless Shelter Services in Ukiah in Fiscal Year 2014-15 from October 2014 through June 2015.” … “The County has been contracting with local non-profit agencies for emergency shelter services for Mendocino County indigents since 1982. Ford Street Project provides emergency shelter, drug and alcohol testing and treatment, and resource services to address the needs of the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) General Assistance clients and other inland county persons who are at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness.” … “The term of this Agreement shall be from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015. The compensation payable to CONTRACTOR hereunder shall not exceed $145,275 for the term of this Agreement.”
GJERDE asked that this item be pulled from the consent calendar for discussion and vote.
GJERDE: The Buddy Eller Shelter in Ukiah stopped taking in new clients at the beginning of June and completely shut down at the end of June. Here we have a contract partly in this fiscal year to take effect from October through June of next year. So we have a contract for part of the fiscal year and as a result they only intend to open up on November 1. I spoke to the director of the Ukiah shelter and it's clear that they are scaling down their shelter from 64 to 32 beds, but they could reopen with 32 beds prior to November 1 if only they had some more money. I don't question giving them the contract, I question why the County is not providing some leadership here to get the shelter opened prior to November 1? I'm concerned that we are just drifting hear and policy is being set by staff and not by this board. I think it should be the policy of this board to get the shelter open in Ukiah prior to November 1.
SUPERVISOR JOHN McCOWEN: That's a discussion that probably the board should have or could have had earlier when the announcement was made that Ford Street would be shutting down the Buddy Eller Center. That conversation is happening now at the Homeless Services Planning Group which met yesterday and they voted to appoint an ad hoc committee and maybe members of that group or members of the public who are interested in the issue will be meeting to determine what happens next and what can be done to get a shelter open in Ukiah. I would fully expect that the Health and Human Services participates in those meetings. I also think it would be appropriate for the board to have this issue on our agenda for discussion by this board to determine what resources we may wish to direct to this effort. Again, we could have had this item on our agenda earlier to try to get out in front of the issue but, but, you know, the issue is here before us now, this particular contract. As supervisor Gjerde said he is not objecting to this particular contract which is focused on providing services to those who are eligible for general assistance. It is a contract for services and by itself is not really setting policy. The decision to close the Buddy Eller Center was made by Ford Street based on their financial condition and they basically had been telling the community for two years after they lost a federal grant that supported the shelter that they could not continue indefinitely subsidizing the shelter to the tune of approximately $9000 a month. Now we are at the point where it is closed and again I agree there should be a discussion about what steps to take next to try discuss steps to get a shelter open in Ukiah as soon as possible because when Ford Street opens in November they will have a much different focus than the Buddy Eller shelter did. So there will be individuals who will not be eligible for the new shelter including some people who are at risk, who are vulnerable because of their age or medical condition and other factors. But I do not see where this contract before us is the vehicle to the have full-blown discussion on what we should be doing about the shelter closing.
STACEY CRYER, Director of Health and Human Services: I believe that Supervisor McCowen said everything really well. This contract is part of our overall general assistance plan where we offer cash assistance, voucher assistance and services assistance. This satisfies that portion of the plan that offers services. There are capacity building services, there are drug and alcohol services, there is intake and screening services, all sorts of services built into this contract to serve the general assistance population. I agree that there needs to be a bigger discussion about what to do about a shelter and that needs to be a full board discussion. This does not fund the Buddy Eller shelter or attempt to keep that shelter open. That was their decision. It funds and services we are required to deliver under the general assistance plan which is funded through the general fund.
[IT WOULD be interesting if Ms. Cryer or someone, anyone, from the County leadership, would give us some stats on the success or non-success of these alleged drug and alcohol rehab services. It's obvious they aren't working, as a daily reading of the County Jail intake reveals. You can be sure the "therapists" allegedly providing the rehab are well-connected libs. — Ed]
GJERDE: Clearly, those services that are being provided will only be provided starting November 1.
CRYER: That is incorrect. There are still services being provided through this contract prior to November 1.
GJERDE: But the homeless shelter services will only resume November 1 in Ukiah. So there will be a gap. There are no new customers in June 1 until they reopen on November 1. So for the entire summer that portion of services will not be provided in Ukiah.
BECKY EMORY, Deputy Director of Adult Services: You are right. At this point we don't have shelter services in Ukiah. However, there are other services that they are providing through Ford Street such as alcohol and other drugs, drug screening, General Assistance, community showers, and services they are still providing which are covered under this contract, the food bank, other support services for our homeless and general assistance services.
GJERDE: At the Homeless Services meeting we all heard several providers pointing out that lacking a shelter for those who want to get those services will hinder the ability of the service providers to keep these people sober and moving forward with their lives. The big concept is Shelter First. But in Ukiah now it’s Shelter Last. It’s services, but no shelter.
CRYER: I agree that the issue of not having a shelter in Ukiah is a community issue and an issue countywide. I agree with Supervisor McCowen that this contract is not the vehicle to have that discussion. I think it's a discussion that needs to take place. It's a full board discussion. But this general assistance contract service is to service clients as part of our GA plan. We are not reimbursing the shelter for shelter services during the time they're not providing shelter services. We only are reimbursing them for the components that they are doing. I'm not sure this is the right vehicle to have this discussion although I do agree it's a discussion that needs to take place.
GJERDE: Clearly we should have this discussion soon. In fact we should have had it months ago. It should have been brought to us by your department months ago since you knew that they were going to shut down. The CEO’s office should have brought it to this board. This board does not manage contracts. Staff manages contracts. And when the contract was going to end and we were going to have a new contract, staff should have brought this to the board for discussion at that point. I understand that there’s an ad hoc, but I believe that the ad hoc committee is also looking at long-term issues such as a second shelter in Ukiah that would deal with the clients who would no longer be served by the Ford Street Center in its scaled back configuration. We cannot wait for an ad hoc committee which can only give advice two or three months down the road. By the time they generate recommendations and give them to staff it might not end up on this board’s agenda for three or four months! I think it needs to be on our next agenda.
CRYER: I hear what you're saying that perhaps we could have brought it forward earlier. I do want to remind the board that the county is not mandated provide any shelter. The county is not funded to provide shelter. HHSA does not get funded to provide the shelter. We do some services through the general assistance plan which is County general fund. In my opinion as Director of Social Services this is a bigger issue. It is an issue that needs to be resolved with others besides HHSA — the cities, the different entities, and folks, it is not just an HHSA issue to bring forth. I believe it's a community issue. I accept the comments that maybe I should have brought it forth sooner but I just want to remind the board that it's not a mandate that we have to do that.
PINCHES: Board members have any opportunity to bring any item forward that they see fit and bring it forward themselves without waiting for staff or any department to do that.
McCOWEN: We all got the same notice the same time. Any of us could have brought the item forward. So I don't think it's productive to try and single out staff when we all have the opportunity to bring things forward. What's important now is we all recognize that there is a larger discussion that should take place. Yes, it should have taken place sooner. But we will be having that discussion. Whether it's on the next agenda or right after that, I don't know. It might be appropriate to let the homeless services planning group ad hoc committee have at least one meeting and possibly even make some recommendations to the board. I'm willing to let staff work on that issue and bring it forward as soon as we are ready to have a productive discussion on it based on what our options are.
PINCHES: We need to move forward with this contract.
SUPERVISOR DAN HAMBURG: I move the recommended item. (McCowen seconds.)
GJERDE: The shelter that will be reopening, the new downsized shelter that will reopen in Ukiah, will provide less services than the prior one, and will not serve certain clients. But at least it will be serving some clients. That shelter can reopen prior to November 1, it's just a matter of money. This County has money. This County has access to state and federal grants. It has money in general assistance. The money that is going to the shelter for the 18 beds as I understand it are for single people, not for families. The other beds are for families. Why not just release additional money for the single beds sooner so they can open up sooner? This is not an overwhelming problem. It's just a matter of HHSA letting loose a little bit of money to open it up two or three months sooner.
CEO CARMEL ANGELO: I just want to remind this board that we do have these services, general assistance and Health and Human Services — this is general fund. This is not HHSA money. The $145,000 is under this board to give to Ford Street. I respectfully request that we remember that this is general fund. The board makes the decision. I think it's unfair to continue to point the finger at HHSA for this! Thank you.
GJERDE: And I think the blame lies directly with staff on this.
CRYER: I appreciate CEO Angelo’s remarks and I agree with them.
The Board voted 5-0 to approve the $145,000 grant to Ford Street as proposed.
AS FAR BACK as the 1990s attempts have been made to improve internet access in rural areas. Since we are a rural area that could use high speed broadband, the subject comes up here every so often.
CYBER-UPGRADES have typically involved haphazard attempts to “inventory” or “survey” the kinds of e-connections rural people and communities presently have and what they'd like to have. The arguments in favor of the rural upgrade range from improving rural commerce and tourism to the argument that handy internet access is a federal obligation similar to what rural electrification was in the 1930s.
NOTHING practical has come of these efforts to expand high speed internet access to rural areas because the Big Telecoms — ATT, Verizon, Comcast — don’t see any money to be made bringing a small number of rural citizens into the global village. And, of course, Big Telecom doesn't want the government regulating their monopolies, which are becoming ever more monopolistic as the public pays more and more for the Big Three's services.
NO SURPRISE that the California legislature and the California Public Utilities Commission have sided with Big Telecom as bought off elected officials and toothless public watchdogs protect Big Business at the expense of the public interest.
BIG TELECOM argues that if the government gets involved in their business by ordering them to provide services to rural areas, government would be obstructing their business.
LOCALLY, Fifth District Supervisor Dan Hamburg positioned himself early in his term as a big champion of the rural broadband upgrade efforts. Sonoma County liberal Supervisor Efren Carrillo has done much the same. Both have correctly painted Big Telecom as keeping their constituents technologically deprived.
SUPERVISOR HAMBURG responded indignantly a couple of years ago when I simply pointed out that an attempt to get a broadband funding bill through the California legislature had suffered setbacks due to resistance from Big Telecom, a statement of obvious fact. Hamburg said I had somehow underestimated the grass-roots broadband effort’s legislative momentum. (Which turned out to be minimal and ineffective.)
BUT THE WELL-MEANING attempts by the Hamburg-Carrillo people, most recently calling themselves the now defunct Golden Bear Broadband Alliance, have taken years and years of time surveying, lobbying, holding meetings, drafting legislation, making presentations — all of which has gone nowhere. The legislature refused to allocate PUC money to the effort and the PUC itself has refused to take the issue seriously. What few digital upgrades have occurred have been done by Big Telecom, albeit fragmented and unpredictable.
THIS WEEK another smaller grouping of the same Hamburg-Carrillo types from Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Mendocino counties announced that they are going to try again. With $250k in seed money from the same PUC that has so far refused to fund the actual broadband cable upgrades, the new Four County Broadband grouping now says they’re going to spend the next two years doing yet another survey of internet service levels, then create another report, do another round of lobbying, hold more meetings, draft legislation, make presentations.
IT’S HARD to avoid seeing this entire exercise as yet another pointless liberal exercise to fund themselves; to make it look like they’re doing something for the little guy out in the sticks by taking a snapshot of broadband service that will be obsolete by the time it’s finished. Pretending that the $250k in PUC money is something more than a cheap way to make them go away for two more years borders on the cynical. While the PUC and Big Telecom continue at their own slow pace.
GRANTS AND BLAH-BLAH is a formula that the area’s Democratic Party Axis has honed to science, pretending to be doing something for the public while establishing themselves to the inattentive as champions of the little guy. (Mark Scaramella)
JAMES K. LARSEN (1937 — 2014)
The straightforward name, The Restaurant, says a lot about the man — a man whose simple pleasures sustained him for decades: golf, his dogs, women, dancing at the Caspar Inn, the Giants, cooking daily for the multitudes. He could stand at the grill for hours turning out perfectly seasoned and sautéed steaks, salmon, chicken — you name it — and then retire upstairs with a few Miller Lite beers and a bucket of salted peanuts, or overly buttered popcorn.
Women adored him, men were inspired by him. He was both loved and envied for his boundless energy, irrepressible nature, off-color jokes and unfettered sense of humor. On more than one occasion, he took a whole salmon into the dining room to show to a customer who asked if the fish was fresh. He could be grumpy or irritable when necessary, but never with those closest to him. Unpretentious in work and play, he favored the same style of clothes for years on end, to the dismay of his wives and children.
His decades-long friendship with artist Olaf Palm was legendary. Dozens of Palm's paintings hang in The Restaurant, and Jim supported the career of Palm in untold ways. A painting titled "Jim Slays the Devil, Daily" is Olaf's view of the realities of the restaurant business and the tenacity and strength of Jim. In the foreground, the Devil's head is on a plate with a shot to the forehead. Jim is seated, with his 22 rifle, on the alert, ready for the next challenge.
Known as the "Traffic Czar" for an incident that resulted in his arrest, it was midnight when he spray-painted "cross here" and "don't cross here" at Main and Laurel. Eight police cars converged at the scene and he was taken away in handcuffs and booked. "Free Jim Larsen" became a rallying cry, and a large, unruly crowd assembled at the courthouse. Naturally, he was found not guilty. The safe, updated intersection, known locally as "Larsen's Crossing," is a testament to his perseverance.
His civic pride was a natural part of his soul — if you see something that needs to be done, just do it. He took responsibility for keeping the entire Glass Beach Road free of litter, and wore out three weed-trimmers edging the sidewalk along the field where he ran the dogs; he badgered the city and State Parks to install a toilet and proper trash bins at Glass Beach, and then took responsibility for the twice daily cleaning of the restrooms. He carried home bags full of trash from the area on busy weekends.
He left us so suddenly on a sunny June afternoon, with only the faithful dogs attending the departure. The night before he died he was in full "Jim" mode: He entertained a group of Japanese tourists in the dining room, singing something from his massive repertoire and reportedly showing them his rippling abs; he showed a guy around the whole building, up and downstairs; and then later in the evening he danced with his granddaughter, Ella.
Before he left us for the great gleaming kitchen in the sky, he made sure we were all well-trained and ready to continue the 41-year legacy of The Restaurant, which we are doing.
More than anything, he loved and valued his family. He is survived by his wife, Susan; son, Peter (Joan Wulf-Larsen); daughter, Kristan (Paul Hebert); Susan's daughter, Cayo Alba (Michael Frick); siblings, David Larsen and Judy Edwards; grandchildren, Ella Ruth and Clare Marie Wulf-Larsen, Soraya Anne and Navarro Rene James Alba de Frick; nieces, Lael Robertson, Berit Larsen and Inga Larsen; and grand-nieces and nephews. He was pre-deceased by wife, Barbara Marie Larsen.
Donations can be made to your favorite organization but you could honor him in another way: Channel your "Inner Jim" and go out and pick up some trash.
There will be a Celebration of the Life of Jim Larsen for family and friends on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, from noon to four, at the Caspar Community Center. For more info, call 707-813-9284 and leave a message.
LIBRARY BE- & RE-HEADING
Supervisors – I tease ours while knowing that theirs are not always happy jobs (well paid, though). They’re more likely to hear from aggrieved citizens than from contented ones. Here’s my 3-dot opinion of their current handling of Library matters: 1) Mr. Chairman Pinches – his expressed concern is financial: Measure A money hides the fact of flat property tax revenue, which is the only other public source of Library funds; Measure A not a blank check; too many new hires. 2) Ms. Brown: supports Library; now communicates well with her Library Advisory Board nominee (me), whom the BoS unanimously, if pro formally, endorsed. 3) Mr. McCowen: committed to the Othello principle (see below). 4) Mr. Hamburg: in the most gentle fashion, expressed mild irritation (7/22) with CEO Angelo, for publishing her responses to the Grand Jury report before the B. of S. (her boss) has had a chance to formulate its own response. 5) Mr. Gjerde: entirely graceful in thanking all volunteers for each Mendocino County advisory board. He favors an ad hoc committee of Supervisors to follow up on GJ report. Unemphatically, Supes did not concur with CEO’s responses, as reported in UDJ.
The Othello Principle – Othello’s 1st words in the staged snakepit of Venetian society: “ ‘Tis better as it is.” If stability’s the prime value (don’t rock the good old boat), Othello was of course correct: go along to get along. End of story. Or rather, in Othello’s case, no tragic story of ambition, sex, backstabbing, outsiderness, good old boyishness, inertia. Supes McCowen & Pinches operate on this Othello principle in current Library matters. With those matters stably under the rug of blanditry, they want to “let the dust settle.” When the dee has essed, their interim guy, an exhaustingly enthusiastic, go-along-get-along person, will be permanent Librarian. For whatever reasons our Supes do not want to risk putting him through a national job competition which he might well win. Victory would give him credibility he’ll lack, without the national search.
Binary trap – The Grand Jury and the CEO: On its side, the GJ has citation of California library law, detailed questioning of County fiscal practices, strong objection to CEO’s micro-management style. In her perhaps premature response, the CEO makes the claim (citation-based) that the Library is not a special district (free of her direct control) and she makes a series of assertions which boil down to “I (we) wholly disagree” on basis of not having access to information, and ‘not my department’ (the first assertion is blandly illogical, the second is just odd, since she’s the Chief E. O. If she doesn’t have access to info, who does?) – Supervisor Gjerde’s comments (and Mr. Hamburg’s) (BoS, 7/22), have me hoping that our BoS will avoid the binary trap of simply siding with one party or the other. The GJ’s report gives the BoS chances – perhaps with Gjerde’s ad hoc committee – to investigate both claim & denial and to correct decades of murky practice and mis- (if not mal-) feasance. Happy the supervisor running for re-election, supporting such investigation!
Nit & Grit– Where some of our tax money goes. A vaguely mysterious CEO contract underling played an important role in last April’s Library be- and re-heading. Back then, Acting County Counsel and I had a phone conversation in which he straight-voicedly said that revealing Contract Underling’s professional qualifications for the job would “constitute an unwarranted invasion” of C. Underling’s personal privacy. Best I could do on CU’s qualification line was find out (not from ACC) that CU is a “life coach.” L. Coach’s contract shows s/he’s based in San Diego, was paid $4800, by the Library, for April services, plus $1723.52 for travel. (Hand-written note on invoice, “Separate Check Plz.”) LC’s May services cost us $4300, plus $2,334.86 travel costs. – Whatever happened to localization? Al says you can’t shake a coyote bush around here without a credentialed shrink falls to the ground. Is our county cash-strapped? We don’t have any Mendocino County life coaches able to interview & report to CEO Angelo for $9100 + local mileage?
BTW– There’s an amendment (6/13/2014) to L.Coach’s contract, to “increase the total compensation payable . . . not to exceed $35,000.”—Probably coincidentally, on 7/17 the BoS passed updated County Policy 1, covering such contracts. I believe previous top amount not requiring BoS approval was $25,000 a year. It’s now $50,000. When the Supes passed the increase, the GSA Dept. head exited the meeting with a fist pump and cry of triumph. Pretty soon we’ll be talking our real money at the discretion of unelected people with friends.
CRIMES OF THE WEEK
ON JULY 25th at about 3:55 PM Ukiah Police responded to the MTA bus stop in the 200 block of North Orchard Avenue for an assault. Officers learned 54 year old Pablo Benitez Mora was near the bus stop where the two victims were waiting for a bus, and Mora was playing music from a radio very loudly. One of the victims, a 74 year old visually impaired and partially disabled male, asked Mora to turn the music down so he could talk on the phone. Mora continued to play the music loudly and was asked by the other victim to turn the music down. Mora became enraged, yelling at the victims, and threw soda onto the victims. Mora then began approaching the victims, and one of the victims used his crutch to try and keep Mora away. Mora obtained the crutch and threw it at the victim, causing him to fall off the bench. The victim stated he’d told Mora he was physically disabled and requested Mora leave him alone, to which Mora responded he didn’t care. Mora had left the scene and was located behind the Pear Tree Center. Mora was arrested for elder abuse, battery, and for violating probation.
* * *
ON JULY 25th at about 7:15 PM Ukiah Police responded to the Alex Thomas Plaza, at 309 South School Street, for an intoxicated subject.
Officers located 34 year old Joshua Adam Shaw passed out after he had vomited several times. Officers were able to awaken Shaw, who nearly fell over after standing up and stated he’d drank “two beers.”
Officers arrested Shaw for public intoxication.
* * *
ON JULY 28th at about 12:30 PM Ukiah Police responded to Safeway, at 653 South State Street, for a shoplifter. Officers learned 32 year old Jennifer Louise Tinsley had been observed exiting the store with a shopping cart full of soda, ice cream, and sandwiches which she hadn’t paid for. Tinsley was detained by store employees. Tinsely explained to the officers she’d stolen the food for her four children, whom she identified by names and ages, the youngest being 2 and the oldest 9 years old. Tinsley claimed she had left her children near-by, and instructed them to walk to a parking lot in the 600 block of South State Street after 15 minutes. Tinsley was arrested for burglary, and all available Ukiah Police Officers and Community Services Officers responded to the area to search for the children. Child Protective Services was also asked to respond. As the officer spoke with Tinsely attempting to get more information about her children, she finally admitted she’d lied and did not have children and said she did hoping the police would “go easy” on her for stealing food. Officers had been searching the area for over 15 minutes, and Tinsley was additionally charged with interfering with law enforcement and for violating probation.
DON’T SELL THE STATION
After 30 years as caretaker, Mendocino College earned clear title to the Point Arena Field Station. The public recently learned that the Superintendent of the College has signed an Intent to Sell to the BLM this unique and valuable fifteen acres, with research and educational facilities. The Board of Trustees, who has the authority to approve or deny the sale, considered the matter at their July board meeting and is scheduled to review the matter again at their August 6 meeting.
A recently-formed group, Friends of the Point Arena Field Station, believes this hurried intention to sell is wrong and must be stopped. We are convinced that our community must work together with Mendocino College administrators, faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees in order to find other collaborative educational institutions to use and help maintain the Field Station. We also intend to explore and find new ways to properly fund the Field Station permanently.
Our group feels that our efforts have so far fallen on deaf ears of the trustees — well before our intentions, and concerns have been heard. Furthermore, under Title 5 of the California Code, an important policy of 'shared governance' with the college faculty seems to have been sadly ignored as well.
We are gathering a list of citizens, who favor keeping this facility. We welcome questions readers may have, and invite names for the growing list of those who support saving this unique and unspoiled site. You may contact any of us for questions, but names of those wishing to add their support should be emailed to email@example.com as soon as possible.
Bonnie and Jared Carter, Bill and Billie Smith, Julie and Jim Bawcom, Wade Koeninger, Paul Poulos, Barry Vogel and Janet Mendell.
THE 90-DEGREE PLAYING FIELD
Anyone who wants to comprehend how wealthy some people are compared to most of us should read the Insider Trading Report in the Chronicle every Monday. This week, for example, one insider at SanDisk cashed in $6 million; three at Facebook, $24 million; five at Intel, $39 million; and one person at Google went home with $78 million! One person! One week! Why would anyone need that much money? More importantly, what do they do with it?
Richard Sanborn, Bayside
HOW IT WORKS
My father once told me about the first colleague he ever know to go to jail. This was in the fifties, in Calcutta, where Dad was his bank's accountant, a rank equivalent to deputy. A junior banker was found to have been stealing. He did it not to be rich but to fund a life style that was slightly more lavish than he could afford, so that he could have parties at which he served imported spirits and cigarettes, and slapped his guests on the back and said, "Only the best for my friends, not of that Indian rubbish."
"Every case I've known of people stealing from the bank has been like that," my father said. "People wanting the thing they can't quite have — that causes more trouble than anything else." I think he'd have said that this phenomenon was now operating across entire societies, as people tried to cure rising income equality by taking on debt. That life you can't quite have? Borrow, and it shall be yours. My father, who had his generation's horror of debt, would have shaken his head at that. He would have pointed out that when the finance industry says "credit," what it really means is "debt." If you don't know that, you are likely to get into trouble.
The language of money is a powerful tool, and it is also a tool of power. Incomprehension is a form on consent. If we allow ourselves not to understand this language, we are signing off on the way the world works today — in particular, we are signing off on the prospect of an ever-widening gap between the rich and everyone else, a world in which everything about your life is determined by the accident of who your parents are…
— John Lanchester
WHAT THE LAST EVENING WILL BE LIKE
You're sitting at a small bay window
in an empty café by the sea.
It's nightfall, and the owner is locking up,
though you're still hunched over the radiator,
which is slowly losing warmth.
Now you're walking down to the shore
to watch the last blues fading on the waves.
You've lived in small houses, tight spaces—
the walls around you kept closing in—
but the sea and the sky were also yours.
No one else is around to drink with you
from the watery fog, shadowy depths.
You're alone with the whirling cosmos.
Goodbye, love, far away, in a warm place.
Night is endless here, silence infinite.
— Edward Hirsch
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 1, 2014
WILLIAM BARRY, Ukiah. One Guess. (Frequent Flyer)
CHRISTOPHER BIORD, Ukiah. One Guess. (Frequent Flyer)
CASEY CALDER, Santa Rosa. Failure to appear.
ZEBULON COUTHREN, Court order violation, resisting arrest.
BARRY KIRKLAND, Fort Bragg. One Guess. (Frequent Flyer)
ROY LINCOLN, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
JODY McCOY, Covelo. Burglary.
FABIAN ROSALES-REYES, (Frequent Flyer)
SHANNON WHITTINGSLOW, Potter Valley. Probation violation.
ANTHONY WILBURN, Covelo. Violation of County parole.
REPUBLICANS TO MEET IN WILLITS
The Mendocino County Republican Central Committee will meet Saturday, August 16, 2014, 10:00 AM — 12:00 Noon at the Willits City Hall Conference Room, 111 E. Commercial St., Willits, CA 95490. For further information contact: Stan Anderson, 707-321-2592.
LET AUGUST BE ACTION TIME FOR PALESTINE
Confronting Your Member of Congress
by Jeffrey Blankfort
In Italy, France, Spain, and much of Western Europe, August is vacation time. That is one of the few customs that members of the US Congress might admit sharing with what they see as “dead and dying Europe.”
It also provides an unparalleled opportunity for those justifiably frustrated by the limited effects of protests in front of Israeli consulates and marching down city streets to show their opposition to the latest bloody chapter in Israel’s efforts to eliminate its “Palestinian problem.”
In every Congressional district across the United States, members of the House and Senate are expected to use this month as an opportunity to meet and glad hand their putative constituents and shore up their votes in November’s mid-term elections.
Since every member, repeat, every member of the House and Senate, without a single dissenting voice, participated in approving, by unanimous votes, resolutions supporting Israel in its war on Gaza, all of them should be considered fair targets for protesters who should, ideally, show up in numbers with flyers and placards at every event on their public calendar and in front of their district offices on days that no events are scheduled.
There should be no exceptions made for the representative’s positions on other issues, no more than an exception would have made for a member of Congress who was “good” on every other issue but supported racist, apartheid South Africa. Moreover, there should be no exceptions made for the politician’s color, gender, or sexual orientation. They have all taken a stand, and not for the first time, that places US support for Israel at the top of America’s foreign policy and domestic agenda.
There will be those who will tell you that is better to try and arrange an appointment with the more liberal members of Congress, to explain to them the situation facing the Palestinians in a cordial rather than a confrontational setting. Don’t fall for it. Over the years, these meetings have had the same rate of success as the equally phony “peace process.”
These members of Congress know the address of their real constituents, the people they really need to please and it is not in their district. It is 251 H Street, NW, the Washington DC headquarters of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee or AIPAC, the only lobbying organization for a foreign government that is not required to register as a foreign agent. That, too, is an example of its power over the federal government.
On Thursday, former Congressional staff member as well as editor of AIPAC’s Near East Report, Blogger M J Rosenberg provided examples of AIPAC power:
I worked in the House and Senate for 15 years and personally experienced the pressure tactics that terrorize any Congressman who even thinks of criticizing Israel. I watched AIPAC write the foreign aid package and then simply hand it to the chairman of the Appropriations Committees for immediate passage; and then I watched AIPAC micromanage its implementation, for instance, literally holding up humanitarian assistance because a playground in Ramallah was named after someone AIPAC deemed a terrorist….
I have seen it all first hand and I can tell you this. AIPAC and its satellites constitute the sole reason this war goes on. Otherwise, the images of the dead children would prevail and America would use its clout to negotiate the simultaneous end of the bombing and the lifting of the blockade of Gaza (monitored by the United States to ensure no weapons get in.)
For those who think the Congressional Black Caucus may offer a bit of hope, Black Agenda Report’s Bruce Dixon, spelled out their role on Wednesday:
Only two of over 40 Congressional Black Caucus members voted against legitimizing the 2009 Israeli massacre of 1400 mostly civilians in Gaza, with seven CBC members abstaining.
Last week, with the Gaza death toll climbing toward 1,000 not a single CBC member could be bothered to lift a voice against Israel’s genocidal assault of the moment or its ongoing apartheid state in general. Black America should hang our collective heads in shame.
In fact, when it comes to votes on Israel, with civil rights struggle hero, Georgia’s John Lewis, being the most flagrant example, the CBC has long acted as if it was AIPAC’s “invisible plantation,” refusing to even speak out or take action against Israel’s arms sales to apartheid South Africa. Even, Berkeley’s Ron Dellums, another hero to the American Left, disgracefully capitulated to AIPAC and Israel when, as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee under Bill Clinton, he pulled a plank out of the anti-apartheid resolution for 1989 that someone had snuck in there that would have deducted from US aid to Israel the amount Tel Aviv gained in sales to the apartheid regime.
Dellums did so, he later admitted at an anti-apartheid conference at UC Berkeley, in response to demands by fellow Democrats who told him if the plank punishing Israel was not removed from the legislation, that they would withdraw their co-sponsorship.
His successor, Barbara Lee, has been no better. Being the lone vote opposing the US invasion of Iraq apparently took less courage than speaking out on the floor or voting against Israel.
Already, people in her district are planning to distribute flyers they have made calling attention to Congress having provided in its aid package to Israel, a particularly pernicious anti-personnel weapon manufactured by Boeing, the “Dense Inert Metal Explosive,” referred to in the military by the acronym, DIME.
As the flyer notes,
In September, 2008 the US Congress approved the sale of 1000 Boeing GBU-39 DIME bombs to Israel. The Pentagon said the sale was vital to Israel’s self-defense. In 2006, according to Boeing, the first 4.2 billion dollar production contract for 24 thousand DIMEs was authorized, probably protecting many American Boeing jobs. At what price?
Below a photo of a Palestinian girl, victimized by DIME, the flyer explains:
The DIME bomb was designed to produce a higher kill ratio than other conventional bombs. It is smaller (5.9 feet), lighter weight (285 pounds), and lower cost. Many more bombs can be loaded onto any aircraft. Instead of shrapnel it disperses small particles of tungsten metal at such a rapid velocity that it cuts and shreds everything in its path, including bone.
Congress has not only provided Israel with its major instruments of death, the F-16s and Apache helicopters and the missiles that both fire, but it has also assured Israel of a way to guard against retaliation by those it has chosen to kill. That, everyone knows by now, is the US-financed Iron Dome which has proven capable of shooting down most of the relatively unsophisticated rockets that have been fired from Gaza. To celebrate its success, like applying icing to the cake, Congress has since appropriated another $621 million for the project.
At the same time, the White House, has approved Israel reaching into stocks of US weapons stored in Israel for “emergency use by US forces” (we are told) to replenish the bombs and rocket propelled grenades that they have expended in destroying much of Gaza and killing over 1300 Palestinians.
Indeed, there is a lot to confront our representatives in Congress about and August is the month to do it.
(Jeffrey Blankfort is a journalist and radio host and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
WHAT FOLLOWS is a long re-hash of one of Mendocino County's most memorable criminal cases, and certainly the most spectacular to arise out of sleepy Westport, an ocean front hamlet north of Westport.
WE'VE THOUGHT a lot about the Kenny Rogers case, and have come to believe that he was a victim of an extremely odd set of circumstances. Maybe not all the way innocent, but probably not as guilty as his 25-to-life sentence warranted.
BOILED DOWN, Rogers' trial attorney failed to distance Rogers from a pair of Sacramento tough guys, the Peacock Brothers, who scared hell out of the jury. There was zero evidence that Rogers had hired one of them to murder the man who'd gotten Rogers removed from Westport's volunteer fire department and water board. We think the guy who did the shooting simply thought he was doing Rogers a favor because Rogers had been good to him. In Tough Guy Land, loyalty still means something.
ROGERS may be getting a break. A federal district judge, Edward Chen, as described in the following notice, has agreed with Rogers that he was majorly misrepresented by his own attorneys at both the Mendo and State Appellate levels:
“Petitioner claims that he was denied counsel at a critical stage of the proceedings when his retained counsel was allowed to withdraw in a hearing at which Petitioner was not represented by counsel. Second, he contends that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel when counsel failed to object under Crawford v Washington, 541U.S. 36 (2004), to Michael Peacock's testimony regarding Richard Peacock's statements. Third, he claims that he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel in that counsel failed to argue that (a) the denial of legal counsel was the complete denial of counsel and (b) trial counsel was ineffective in not making the Crawford objection. Liberally construed, the claims appear to be cognizable as a federal habeas action.”
Judge Chen then orders the respondent (in this case the Solano Prison Warden, in behalf of the State of California) to respond by October 3, 2014.
* * *
BELOW is a story that appeared in the AVA while the Rogers matter was playing out in Mendocino County:
* * *
Waterboarded: The Kenny Rogers Saga
Rogers Found Guilty
by Tim Stelloh
The village of Westport is the last outpost before Mendocino County’s northern coast disappears into a roadless swath of rugged shoreline and redwood-carpeted hills. It is spread across roughly one mile by one-half mile of coast, and has one store, two gas pumps and 47 registered voters. Retirees are Westport’s dominant demographic, and 15 miles of coiling coastal highway separate it from the closest town.
In this very small village, there is one political entity — the five-member Westport County Water District, which oversees the local volunteer fire department and provides sewage treatment and water to several dozen homes. In this very small district, there have been many fiery debates over the years between board members: Sheriff’s deputies were called to intervene at a meeting. Recalls have been organized. And in one now infamous case in 2005, Alan Simon, the board chairman at the time, was nearly killed in the doorway of his home by nine shots from a semi-automatic .22 Ruger pistol.
Shortly after the shooting, Kenneth “Kenny” Rogers, Simon’s water board rival, was arrested for soliciting Simon’s murder. At the time, Rogers was the chairman of the Mendocino County Republican Central Committee; he had also recently been fired from his post as Westport’s assistant fire chief and replaced in a recall by Simon as the water board’s chairman.
The district attorney’s case against Rogers meandered through the courts for years, with continuances and a near no-prison plea deal. But last week, after a two-and-a-half week trial at the Ukiah Superior Court, Rogers, a lanky 51 year old who never failed to greet jurors with a beaming smile and who seemed to own an endless supply of pastel short-sleeve button-ups, was convicted of conspiracy and attempted murder. The former charge carries a sentence of up to 25 to life; the latter carries a life sentence. Sentencing is set for August 14, and Rogers’ attorney, J. David Markham, says he’s planning an appeal.
As told by Tim Stoen, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case, the story of Kenny Rogers was as salacious as they come — a story without parallel outside the Emerald Triangle: It was a story of a vengeful, pot-growing Republican official who hired a hit man to murder a political enemy — and offered to pay for the deed with marijuana. It was a story of an ambitious politician with a lethal style of small-town politics who by day was one of the North Coast’s few proud conservatives and by night waded in a criminal cesspool.
Defense attorney Markham’s strategy was to offer up a more one-sided version of the defendant — a Kenny Rogers who was ambitious but law-abiding; a Kenny Rogers who was indeed furious about the loss of his jobs, but was reasonable and respectable, a man who filed lawsuits when he felt he’d been wronged. Markham described a man of values, a man who wouldn’t in a thousand years ask a friend who’d spent much of his life in prison to fire nine bullets into the front door of a political nemesis.
* * *
It was about 10:30 pm on the evening of June 17, 2005, when Alan Simon heard something at the front door of his gray, two-story home on Hillcrest Terrace, one of Westport’s few residential streets.
“I was getting ready for bed and brushing my teeth when someone loudly and aggressively started banging on the door, saying ‘Kathy — where’s Kathy?’” Simon, 53, recently testified, adding a low, guttural cadence to his impression of the voice coming from the other side of his door. “The hairs on the back of my neck went up. I knew something was wrong.”
Simon said he told the man that no Kathy lived there. Then he called the police. The man, Simon told the dispatcher, was a white man with a fu-manchu mustache wearing a baseball cap and a blue windbreaker. “I opened the door and he wasn’t there, so I stepped on the threshold and saw a man leaning up against a white sports car with his arms crossed. I held up the phone and said ‘The police are on the way.’ He walked toward the yard and said, ‘Hey man, I don’t want any trouble,” Simon said. “Then his right arm came up. He had a gun and he fired it. I ran in, shut the door and hit the deck…My front door was exploding around me.”
Police would later find eight shell casings from a .22 around Simon’s house and nine bullet perforations in his front door. Simon had been grazed in the head and wrist; he was subsequently taken to the hospital. Police searched for the white convertible that night but found nothing. Stoen would later argue the shooter had hid out that night in Rogers’ 320-acre property outside Westport.
The following day, a CHP officer who was on duty around Laytonville — about 25 miles from Westport — spotted the white car driving east on Branscomb Road. The officer, Mark McNelly, flicked on his lights and pulled a U-turn; a minor chase followed. While in pursuit, McNelly said he saw the driver — a man from Citrus Heights named Richard Dean Peacock — throw a white plastic bag out of the passenger side window.
Inside the bag, police would later learn, was the .22 Ruger used to shoot up Simon’s house. Police would learn that Peacock, who would be convicted in 2006 of attempting to kill Simon and sentenced to 71 years in prison, knew Rogers.
Shortly after Peacock’s arrest, cops started asking Rogers questions. So Rogers — in a preemptive effort to clear the air — visited his buddy, then-sheriff Tony Craver, in Ukiah, who referred him to a detective.
In a videotaped interview from three days after the shooting, Rogers was the charismatic gladhander Stoen would later describe him as — even while detailing his loathing for Alan Simon. Rogers called Simon a “Hollywood guy,” part of the “new blood” in town who didn’t respect him. He called Simon a jerk. He called him arrogant. He called him an asshole. Rogers said he was an old body builder and that he’d love to punch Simon out.
Their beef, he said, could be traced back to politics and the apparently deep cultural divide that permeated his small coastal village: The fact of George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election and his own unflinching embrace of Republican politics — he told detective Andy Alvarado it was his “religion” — had made Rogers anathema to local liberals. He told the detective that he and Simon had had “harsh words” on the local water board, and that he’d recently called Simon up and told him that if he didn’t get water to the district’s storage tanks, he’d “hang him — politically.” Simon would later testify that Rogers never used the word “politically” to end the sentence, so at the time, he took the call as a death threat and called the sheriff’s office.
Now, a few words on the Westport water board.
Kenny Rogers was appointed to the village board soon after he moved his family from Sacramento to Westport in the late 1990s; he was appointed chairman not long after. Other board members would soon accuse Rogers of running a good ol’ boy club — a system where he’d give favorable water rates to friends and where district money seemed to disappear (a grand jury investigation from 1999 found a number of problems with the district, but didn’t mention the above criticisms). At a meeting in 2004, Rogers and Keith Grier, the only black man in Westport at the time, got in an argument at a board meeting; Rogers accused Grier that night of injuring Rogers’ wife. Deputies were summoned and Grier was arrested — though Grier would later tell the DA’s office he’d been “falsely accused” by Rogers. (Stoen said nothing ever became of the charges.)
Nevertheless, the seeds of the 2005 recall had been planted.
An anti-Kenny Rogers coalition formed and decided to nominate Grier to take over as water board director. He declined, so Simon, then a recently retired film scout and relative newcomer to Westport, offered himself as the candidate.
Simon would later testify that once the recall papers had been filed by Velma Bowen, who’d also been a board member, Rogers began making house calls. He pleaded with the signatories to contact the county registrar and have their names removed. When Rogers visited Simon, and Simon refused, saying the recall was part of the democratic process, Rogers got furious.
In a strange courtroom exchange, Rogers’ lawyer asked Simon what happened next. “You want me to tell you what happened next?” Simon asked, visibly uncomfortable with the question. “Yes, that’s what I asked,” Markham replied. After several moments of silence, Simon responded. “[Rogers] said, ‘You want to have a nigger run this town? You want to have a woman — Velma Bowen — who’s sucked the cock of every man in this town’” run the water board? Simon said he then told Rogers to leave.
As Simon spoke, Rogers shook his head; but at the time, his attorney didn’t challenge Simon’s testimony. It wasn’t until the next day that Markham chalked up the exchange to an error on his part — he said he shouldn’t have asked the question — and asked Judge Ron Brown to strike the testimony, which the judge agreed to do on the grounds that it wasn’t relevant to the case. (Outside the courtroom, Markham declined to discuss the details of the exchange, except to say that Rogers never made the remarks about Bowen or Grier.)
On August 31, following Rogers’ alleged unsuccessful effort to quash the recall, 50 of Westport’s 68 registered voters at the time cast ballots. Twenty-nine voted to recall Ken Rogers; 19 voted against. Twenty-eight voters elected Alan Simon.
Rogers had lost, but in a letter to the county registrar, he denied all the allegations of misconduct: He said he’d spent countless volunteer hours working for the district; he said he’d obtained grants for improvements and studies, overseen equipment maintenance, handled complaints from dissatisfied customers and only spent funds approved by the board.
The following January, charging gross neglect, the board relieved Rogers from his assistant fire chief post. Rogers told the board the move was illegal — and that he’d see them in court. Soon after, feces was smeared on the door handle of the Westport firehouse and appeared on the front doors of the hotel Grier owned at the time. A note was posted outside the Westport store that referred to Simon as “Lord” and fearfully predicted a fascist takeover of the water district. It ended with a slur of particular insult to Simon, who is Jewish: Heil, Simon, the note.
None of these incidents would ever be connected to Rogers. But the bitter, small-town politics of Westport’s water district were about to get a good deal more bitter.
* * *
Six months later, in the sheriff’s interview room, Rogers complained to detective Alvarado about his illegal firing. And he told the detective that even though he couldn’t stand Simon, he was dealing with the water board fallout with a lawsuit that demanded he be reinstated (which eventually happened, though Rogers retired as soon as he got his job back).
Rogers explained to Alvarado how he’d met Peacock — along with Peacock’s little brother, Michael — years earlier in Sacramento through his auto shop, Once Again New. He described both brothers as convicts with long criminal records and “bad cards” who he was afraid of, but whom he’d tried to help out. He said he’d gotten Richard a landscaping job in Sacramento, and that he’d seen him there not long before the shooting. He’d later tell police it was the other way around — that Peacock had driven out to the coast with a girlfriend to visit him. (Stoen, of course, would seize on this seeming about-face as evidence of Rogers’ guilt.) Rogers also told the detective that he’d hired Michael to keep people from illegally growing pot on a remote part of his large property.
“I needed a thug out there . . . to keep the Mexican guys from doing a big marijuana grow,” he said.
Yet the fact that “three carloads” of cops had shown up to Rogers’ property after the shooting seemed front and center in the Republican chairman’s mind. Rogers was, after all, on an upward trajectory within the party and angling for Sacramento. The last thing Rogers wanted was bunch of sheriff’s deputies lumbering around his property, especially when he’d failed to tell his Republican pals he was growing pot there. So when he visited detective Alvarado that June day, Rogers made sure to tell him he had 54 plants that belonged to his wife and partner — along with the requisite medical cards. Cops would later discover he had nearly three times that many mature pot plants along with clones and garbage cans filled with shake.
“I’m just a bit paranoid because I don’t want it to get out media-wise — it could jeopardize my position within the party,” he said, not knowing then that within days he’d be arrested for attempted murder, conspiracy, solicitation and cultivation of marijuana; that within months he’d resign his chairmanship; and that he’d soon leave Mendocino County altogether for neighboring Lake County.
Toward the end of the interview, in another statement Stoen would offer as evidence against Rogers, Rogers offered his own hypothesis of the shooting. “I think Al [Simon] would set shit up like this,” he said. “I wouldn’t put it past him.”
This theory gained traction among a small cadre of Rogers supporters, including George Lancaster, Westport’s former fire chief who was also canned by the water board, and Fort Bragg attorney Tim O’Laughlin. O’Laughlin, who represented Rogers against the water board and who, for a time, represented Rogers in his criminal case, says he has forensic evidence that raises questions about Simon’s story from the night of the shooting — though Markham presented none of that evidence in the most recent case. (He said there may have been inconsistencies in Simon’s testimony, but those questions were relevant to Richard Peacock’s trial — not Rogers’.)
The district attorney’s office, of course, has offered a very different storyline since the case was first brought to trial in 2006: the DA has claimed all along that Rogers hired Peacock to off a political foe.
Following Richard Peacock’s arrest, Peacock’s brother, Michael, would contact police and tell them that just before the shooting, Richard had told him about his plan to go to Simon’s house. He would tell police that Rogers had offered Richard payment of three to four pounds of marijuana to hurt Simon. Michael Peacock would tell police that Rogers had tried to hire him to beat up Keith Grier after the alleged assault incident — and that Peacock had told Rogers he’d ask a skinhead acquaintance if he was interested (nothing ever became of the request).
Police would discover that the pistol used to shoot up Alan Simon’s house had been reported missing by Velma Bowen, the water board member with whom Kenny Rogers and his family had stayed during the summer of 1999. Rogers, Bowen would tell police, was the only one who’d known where she kept the gun — though Rogers had denied taking it when she asked him about it after discovering it was missing.
On Rogers’ digital camera, police would find a photo of the façade of Alan Simon’s house. In phone calls between Richard Peacock and Rogers after Peacock’s arrest, law enforcement found what they considered incriminating statements. For instance, they found that Rogers promised Peacock money while he was in prison, and that he’d promised to “take care of all the business on the outside” until Peacock was released. “Bottom line brother — I’m looking out for you,” Rogers told Peacock. And in a phone call Rogers made from the county jail to Once Again New, he told the man on the other end of the line to “clean things up” at his shop.
But one of the prosecution’s strangest pieces of evidence against Rogers wouldn’t turn up until later — until Richard Peacock had begun his journey through the courts and back to the institution where he’ll likely spend the rest of his life.
* * *
Shortly before Richard Peacock’s August 4, 2005 preliminary hearing for the attempted murder of Alan Simon, he received a letter at the Mendocino County Jail. It was handwritten, postmarked Yuba City and signed by a woman named Kate.
“Dear Richard, Hope all’s going well for you,” the letter read. “I heard about Michael’s B.S. and can’t believe he’s related to you. Anyway, I will get the ‘Red Dog’ to your kid with some school clothes, money and will keep an eye out for her. Hope to see you soon, but it’s tough. I’m sending $40 for your books, more to come. Miss you, your friend Kate. P.S. Who is this Keith guy calling for Michael? I’m not returning his calls. I think he has $ for…?”
On the face of it, the letter seems harmless, and Peacock didn’t know what to make of it; he didn’t know anyone named Kate in Yuba City. That changed once the hearing began. Rogers was leaving the witness box — where he’d invoked his right to remain silent — when, according to sheriff’s Lt. J.D. Bushnell, who was guarding Peacock that day in court, Rogers looked at Peacock, flashed a smirk and winked. (Peacock would later tell Bushnell he also saw Rogers pat his side, as if he had a gun.) Shortly after, Rogers’ then-attorney, Donald Masuda, delivered a message to Peacock’s public defender, Wes Hamilton. Rogers’ wife was going to “take care” of Peacock’s 13-year-old daughter, Bobbi, said Masuda, who would eventually be ordered off the case for serving as the unwitting courier of a potential threat.
Hamilton passed along the message, and Peacock put these seemingly innocuous events together — the letter, the smirk, the gun pat and the message from Masuda. Then he freaked out.
In open court, even as his lawyer was telling him to zip it, he announced the message was a threat against his daughter. The “red dog” mentioned in the letter referred to the pistol grip of a .45 caliber owned by Rogers — a pistol grip colored red and adorned with the image of a dog that Rogers had shown Peacock. He told Bushnell during a recess that Rogers made the threat because “he could be the one to put [Rogers] away.”
It was, in other words, a classic intimidation move. If Peacock talked, something bad would happen to his family.
When Peacock was called to testify in the most recent trial, he kept his mouth shut — about the “red dog letter,” as it’s come to be called, along with most everything else.
Peacock, 59, looked as if he’d aged a decade in the four years since his arrest. In photos taken shortly after the shooting, he looked thick and broad shouldered. He had a shaved head and was clean-shaven — minus the fu-manchu. Now, wearing black and white striped jail garb, he appeared shrunken, gaunt and unshaven, and most days he was brought to court in a wheelchair — the product, he said, of a knife fight in Pelican Bay in which his spine was injured.
He was by turns forthright, angry and entertaining — but always gregarious. While the court was in recess, for instance, he gave a tutorial on the peckerwood prison gang. “You’re a peckerwood,” he said, looking at Tim Stoen. “I’m a peckerwood. That cop over there — he’s a peckerwood. You’re a white man.”
While his court appointed lawyer, Donald Lipmanson, was out moving his car to avoid a ticket, Peacock began offering his thoughts on the case to anyone who would listen — without the jury present, of course. Without prompting, Peacock, who pleaded not guilty in his 2006 trial and has maintained his innocence since, looked at Kevin Cline, the case’s lead detective, and said, “You guys should have solved the crime just like that.” Then, echoing some of O’Laughlin’s theories on the case, he said that Simon’s injuries didn’t come from the .22 — they came from glass. And he said that police had never checked the DNA from three drops of blood found outside Simon’s front door. (In an October 2005 letter from jail, he said that he’d never touched the .22 Ruger thrown from his car window, and that police never found his prints on it.)
His refusal to testify stemmed from his apparent belief that he got screwed by his court-appointed lawyer Jan Cole-Wilson during his attempted murder trial. He’s filed a state habeas corpus suit — which was denied — along with an appeal, which was also denied, and he said he’s in the process of filing suit in federal district court. (When the judge learned Peacock had a habeas suit and appointed Jan Cole-Wilson to represent him again, he replied: “I’m not talking to that broad for all the tea in China.”) The judge didn’t find Peacock’s claim compelling enough to keep him from testifying — as there was no evidence he’d filed anything yet — so he ordered him to talk. When Peacock didn’t, Brown, in a somewhat feeble reproach, found Peacock in contempt, then sent him on his to way finishing what is essentially a life sentence.
Rogers’ answer to the red dog letter was simple. His wife, Christine, testified that the red dog was exactly that — a massive stuffed Clifford toy that her husband had won in the mid-90s at Marine World in Vallejo (the dog, about three feet tall, was lugged into court as evidence). Her husband, she said, had already discussed giving the dog to Peacock’s daughter before he was arrested.
As for the letter, O’Laughlin said it did indeed come from the Rogers family — and that it had been signed “Kate” because Rogers didn’t want to jeopardize his political future. “He was a big deal in the Republican Party. [The central committee] was grooming him for state senate,” he said. “But here’s the other thing: they didn’t know what the fuck was going on…So he was trying to keep out of it.”
* * *
The trial that ended this week was the third time the district attorney’s office had attempted to prosecute Kenny Rogers. In 2006, the judge granted a continuance after two key witnesses, Richard Peacock and Velma Bowen, were hospitalized. In 2007, during another round of court proceedings, the DA’s office offered Rogers a deal: If he pleaded guilty to harboring a fugitive, they’d let him off with a few years in the state pen. At first, Rogers accepted, thinking he’d get away with an ankle bracelet and some quality home time, O’Laughlin said. In response, an angry group of Westport residents began a letter-writing campaign and held a press conference outside the Ukiah Superior Court. When the judge subsequently said Rogers deserved three years in state prison, Rogers withdrew his plea. In the most recent trial, he faced conspiracy and attempted murder charges; Stoen said he dropped the other charges for “strategic” reasons.
“Proof problems” were the key reason the DA’s office offered Rogers the deal in 2007. Chief among those problems was Michael Peacock: He was nowhere to be seen the day he’d been subpoenaed to testify about the conversation he said he’d had with his brother. This time, it seemed there might be a repeat.
Like his brother, Michael Peacock has a fu-manchu and fully tattooed arms. He’d shown up to court on a Monday with his sister and brother-in-law — but he wasn’t called to testify. When that time came, the following day, he was gone, back to Sacramento, (“We boogied,” said Ed Harke, his brother-in-law, adding that no one had told them to stick around.) Peacock finally did return, but his testimony was hardly the smoking gun the DA’s office might have expected it to be.
For starters, Michael Peacock, who’s a long-time drug user and the baby in a family of nine, according to his sister, was hardly able to articulate himself without stammering into a nerve-wracked stupor (at least when being questioned by Stoen). He was slippery on nearly everything except how much time he’d spent in prison (“over a lifetime”), though after much repetition and rephrasing, Stoen was able to pin him down on some of the statements he’d made to the cops after the shooting. After much parsing, for instance, he confirmed that Rogers had offered him marijuana to beat up a black guy, and had offered the same — one pound up front, three to four pounds total — if his brother “put hands” on the guy who’d gotten him kicked off the water board.
Yet most of his confirmations were undermined with a few simple questions from Markham. For whatever reason, Peacock responded far better to him than Stoen — particularly when Markham began pressing him on his statements to the cops. In one exchange, he got Peacock to say basically he’d made much of his story up.
Markham: “Did the police tell you they could get a deal from the DA [for your brother]?”
Peacock: “I think so.”
Markham: “Did they tell you they needed you to testify to help your brother?”
Peacock: “…I’d do anything to help my brother.”
Markham: “Did they tell you what they needed from you?”
Peacock: “…They said Kenny Rogers is gonna’ walk and your brother’s gonna’ go down.”
Markham: “Did you tell them what they wanted to hear?”
Peacock: “I don’t know how much of it was true and how much of it was false…It was a bunch of getbacks [at Kenny Rogers].”
Markham: “Were you mad at Kenny?”
Richard Peacock was, as you might expect, furious with his brother after he learned he had, in Richard’s words, told a “sermon” of “half-truths and lies” to the police. But in a series of letters he wrote from jail to friends and family after his arrest, his sentiments were more complex than simple anger. Take the following passage from a letter he wrote to his brother in October 2005:
“I must admit Michael, you really fuck-up [sic]. Not just [with] me but for you as well,” he wrote. “I can’t even guess why you did this and said those nasty lies about me. I understand you’re mad because of what happened at my trailer with that piece of garbage bitch. My God Michael, that gave you no cause [to] . . . cause so much trouble and pain for so many. But fuck that. You’re still my kid brother and my mother’s son, we have the same blood in our vain [sic]. We all make mistakes, including me as well, I made a lot of them. I wish I could turn the clock back and undo some of the things I did that cause not only me trouble and pain but you as well and other loved ones. I can only say I’m sorry so many times.”
* * *
The courtroom was packed as the attorneys prepared their closing arguments last Monday. On one side, more than a dozen people from Westport had made the slog down the coast and over the hill. On the other side was Rogers’ family. Outside, someone was handing out a flyer — called Snoopy’s Spotlight Street Sheet — which contained, along with verse about pedophiles and the CIA’s once secret MK Ultra program, vague, convoluted references to the case, including a mention of Tim Stoen’s previous life at the People’s Temple.
* * *
Stoen, who has an understated style — and a habit of closing his eyes and bowing his head slightly whenever jurors enter the room, making him look a bit monkish — appeared to have guzzled a few Red Bulls during a break in his three hour-plus closing statement; in its highly caffeinated final hour, Stoen referred to his witnesses with alternating superlatives: they were “first-rate,” “class acts,” “terrific,” “upright” — or, in the case of Wes Hamilton, “good and folksy.” And, of course, he lobbed a few hyperbole bombs at Rogers, who was “grandiose, brazen,” and a “legend in his own mind.” Stoen emphasized his evidence and played for the first time the dramatic 911 call Simon made to the police the night of the shooting. Then he turned the theatrics up a notch with a quote from famous author and Christian scholar CS Lewis.
“The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint,” Stoen said. “It is not done even in concentration and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered …in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.”
Kenny Rogers, Stoen said, was that quiet man with the white collar — “he was the office man who sat in the office and ordered a street criminal to his bidding.”
Markham didn’t bother trying to top Stoen’s presentation. He plodded through a power point presentation, offered an unmemorable quote from Buddha and recapped the weaknesses in Stoen’s entirely circumstantial case. He stressed that the red dog was really the giant stuffed Clifford toy plopped in the corner next to the judge’s clerk; that the cops had never found a gun with a red handle on it when they searched Rogers’ properties; that not a word from the Brothers Peacock could be trusted. And the gun that Rogers allegedly stole from Velma Bowen? It was, in fact, in the Rogers’ home, buried in a tool box — never mind that Rogers had denied taking the gun in the first place. It had gotten from the Rogers’ home to Richard via Michael, Markham said, reminding jurors that Michael had been seen with the gun at Rogers’ property “while keeping the Mexicans out.” The photo of the house found in Rogers’ camera was for a friend from Sacramento, a man named Eric Beren, who was house shopping at the time and who testified that Rogers occasionally sent him photos from Westport (Simon’s house was up for sale at the time the photo was taken). And the jailhouse phone call between Rogers and Peacock? They were just good buddies, and Peacock was checking in on his pal. Lastly, the call Rogers made to his shop was strictly pot-related — it was a phone call from an ambitious politician anxious about the media malaise just over the horizon.
Peacock, Markham argued, had been a loyal, loose cannon of a friend, a man whose values had been crystallized not by the principles that informed reasonable, respectable Kenny Rogers, but by the many, many years he’d spent in prison. And when Peacock heard his pal was ticked off at Simon — well, he did what any man who’d spent his whole life in prison would do.
“He wanted to surprise a friend,” Markham said. “But Ken Rogers had no idea what he’d planned.”
The verdict, which came after nearly two days of deliberation, was met with sobs from the Rogers family and hugs from Westport folk. As soon as the first guilty charge was announced, Rogers’ head dropped to the defense table. A few moments later, he looked sternly at the jury, shook his head and mouthed the words, “I didn’t do it.”
Then the bailiff escorted him out.
Outside the courtroom, with tears streaming down his face, Rogers’ son Norman repeatedly told detective Kevin Cline he was a “sick motherfucker.” For Simon, that post-trial exchange with Cline was just as frank — but profoundly different.
“I shook hands with Kevin Cline and he said just one word to me,” Simon said. “Justice.”