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Off the Record (Aug 6, 2014)

THE BERRY FAMILY MATTER has been the subject of several court sessions presided over by Judge Cindee Mayfield. We hope to have a report on what happened tomorrow, and will post it pronto.

COMPLICATING CHILD CUSTODY cases in Mendocino County is the absence of identifiable authority at the County's children's protective services unit. All decisions are now agency decisions, not individual social worker decisions. Mendo Social Services has murked-up the lines of responsibility “to protect social workers from being torn apart on the witness stand,” as a former social worker explained the shift from the specific to the general.

OF COURSE social workers wouldn't be “torn up” on the witness stand if they could plausibly defend their decisions. Besides which, whomever CPS shoves into the breech is still going to get an occasional grilling. Someone will wind up on the stand. It comes with the job.

CPS is represented by the County Counsel's office, which means two people getting “torn up,” the CPS person and some shuffling legal drone from County Counsel.

AS IS INEVITABLE in Mendocino County, where secrecy in all matters covers up all manner of official crimes and misdemeanors, all four Berrys will now have to fight to remain a family unit.

IF YOU CAME in late on this particular Mendo atrocity, Sgt. Berry is a disabled Marine — totally disabled at a hundred percent from combat injuries he suffered in Afghanistan. He is the married father of two girls, ages two and one. Mrs. Berry is Sgt. Berry's live-in caregiver. He's pretty much lost without her.

LAST WEEK, Sgt. Berry started screaming in his sleep. Mrs. Berry was calming him when the police arrived. Somehow the cops determined that Mrs. Berry had committed an assault on Sgt. Berry. She was arrested and spent the night in the County Jail, leaving the heavily medicated Sgt. Berry, who was soon back asleep, home alone with his two infant daughters.

MRS. BERRY bailed out and came home. Two Mendocino County social workers were soon standing in her livingroom. Falsely arrested for domestic assault, Mrs. Berry now faced the confiscation of her two daughters. The two social workers, with a nod from their boss back at the office, wanted Sgt. Berry out of his house and the two toddler girls in a foster home. The social workers said they'd work up a plan for the Berrys to get their girls and their family back. They might as well have rolled couple of grenades through the front door.

THING IS, the Berrys had been doing well given the circumstances of Sgt. Berry's severe post traumatic stress disorder, which is piled on top of his physical problems caused by combat wounds. The Marine's wife and babies are his life, and without the remarkable Mrs. Berry the family falls apart. She has kept her home together as she and her family await placement in a Palo Alto home specially designed to care for and rehab disabled vets and their families.

THE ATTORNEYS and the judge have warned Mrs. Berry that the proceedings are absolutely confidential and things could go bad for her if she talked to the media, meaning the AVA — especially the AVA. We don't have a high opinion of either CPS or most Mendocino County lawyers, public and private, and the feeling seems to be mutual.

THE “CONFIDENTIALITY” of child custody cases is necessary “for the welfare of the children.” That's what we're told. In fact, it's even more necessary, as in the Berry case, to cover up gross incompetence and sanctioned cruelty.

FOR THEIR SAKE, I hope the Berrys get their daughters back and get the hell outtahere and into the Palo Alto program before Mendocino County destroys them.

SPEAKING of Fort Bragg, there are only rumors about Chief Scott Mayberry's and Lt. John Naulty's stress leaves, the most prevalent of which say that Mayberry, who has more than the required twenty years in as an active cop, may retire. Naulty, the logical guy to succeed Mayberry as chief, can't return to work until he undergoes trauma counseling, counseling he is apparently resisting, but counseling the town's leadership thinks is necessary. Naulty, of course, played a heroic role in shooting the marauding Oregon tweeker who'd shot and killed Mendocino County Sheriff's deputy, Ricky DelFiorentino, preventing the rampaging gunman from harming more people.

GIVEN THAT NAULTY is a much better judge of his own mental functioning than any therapist that official Fort Bragg might come up with, getting Naulty back on the job as chief would be in the greater interest of the town than a dubious psycho-clearance, and certainly better than paying an interim chief large amounts of money out of all proportion to the demands of the job, which Fort Bragg is presently doing.

BUT DON'T BE SURPRISED if Fort Bragg's police chief, Scott Mayberry, soon announces that he's going to work for the DA as an investigator. And that right there is Rumor of the Week. Last week's rumor was that Mayberry was retiring, having racked up the necessary twenty years as an active policeman. And while you're not being surprised about Mayberry moving east over the Coast Range's mini-mountains to the dry, blasted plains of the Ukiah Valley, Mayberry's second in command, Lt. John Naulty, just might become Fort Bragg's permanent police chief.

JEFF AYLEN, 62, of Fort Bragg was southbound on Highway One Wednesday evening about 7 when he lost control of his 1999 Lexus and plunged 80 feet down a hillside. The car landed on its roof, but Aylen, miraculously uninjured, managed to crawl from the wreckage and back up to the roadbed where he reported the accident. He did not require emergency treatment or any treatment at all.

AYLEN'S 80 FOOT PLUNGE remains short of the Fort Bragg record, however. Al Dompeling remains the over-the-side champ. As we reported in September of 2002:

“Al Dompeling is still confined to Memorial Hospital in Santa Rosa but his family says he's doing a lot better. Dompeling, 51 at the time, was the driver of the Roach Brother's log truck that skidded off the east side of the Albion Bridge early the afternoon of August 19th. As horrified fishermen and campers watched from the Albion Flats, Dompeling's double-trailer rig fell cab-first in what witnesses described as ‘slow-motion’ 125 feet to the river bank. Dompeling was trapped in his cab until he was freed by Mendocino-based rescue workers who had to be ferried across the river to reach him. The valiant Dompeling was conscious throughout his terrifying fall and was said to be alert and helpful all during the painful ordeal of his rescue.

“THE APPALLING accident was apparently caused when a Toyota Celica driven by Neil Wood, 53, of Fort Bragg, driving drunk, crossed the centerline and hit Dompeling's southbound truck head-on, causing Dompeling's truck to veer over the side, taking out five yards of wood rail as neatly as if intentionally removed. Wood also remained hospitalized in Santa Rosa but directed Memorial Hospital not to release any information about him other than his presence there.”

“A BENEFIT for Dompeling was held at the Albion River Flats Cafe last Saturday. Organized by the Cafe's spirited Gloria Vantassel, some 250 locals contributed more than $5,000 to a fund that will help pay some of the medical costs of Dompeling's prolonged hospitalization.” We understand that Dompeling recovered and went back behind the wheel of his truck.

HEADLINE from Thursday's on-line edition of the Press Democrat: “Democrats stake out fundraising lead in local legislative races.”

GOSH, WONDER WHY? Could an overwhelming Democratic registration have something to do with Demo fundraising success on the Northcoast? Maybe the abdication of the Republicans, who rightly (sic) figure that it's dumb to put a lot of money into races they'll lose, and double dumb when Northcoast Democrats, on key issues, are interchangeable with Republicans.

SPEAKING of the party of Lincoln, 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.

THE KENNY ROGERS matter is 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 Fort Bragg.

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. But the jurors probably thought anybody associated with these guys had to be guilty of something. We think the Peacock 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 ordered the respondent (in this case the Solano Prison Warden, in behalf of the State of California) to respond by October 3, 2014.

THE ENTIRE ROGERS saga, and it's a fascinating saga for a fact, is posted on our website at

Audet & Jordan
Audet & Jordan

SO FAR AS WE KNOW, the young woman we called Goldilocks, is no longer in Mendocino County. We'd rather not know which sordid venue she now inhabits but wherever it is we hope she is well. While she lived in Mendocino County, Goldie's prospects weren't 24-carat. But the last we heard she'd met Mr. Wonderful, another outdoor drinker, much older, and the two of them were headed east.

GOLDIE was repeatedly arrested for drunk in public, mostly in Fort Bragg. Blue Meanie types won't be edified to know that the Fort Bragg Police Department always went to the extra trouble of making sure Goldie's dogs were looked after while Goldie was sobering up in the County Jail. And innumerable enabling Mendo people gave her money, which kept her drunk and out of doors.

SHE OWNED two huge beasts that she must have needed to keep her fellow gypsies off her. Romantics say that street people make up a “community,” that they take care of one another, as if totally screwed-up people can do that.

GOLDIE'S CASE seemed especially horrifying — a hundred pound, twenty-year-old girl living and drinking with a bunch of male bums on the banks of the Noyo? She managed, though, and she managed to get loaded every day, too, and she kept her dogs fed and healthy. Goldie was about 25% together.

I'D JUST READ a Chronicle story about how the public works people hose down certain downtown Frisco alleys every morning because these alleys are used as open air toilets. There was an accompanying picture of a guy covered head to toe in protective gear as he wielded his high-powered hose. I was thinking about how far civic standards in all areas of public life had sunk in this very rich city when out of the corner of my eye I caught a guy dropping his pants in the alley next door to the Indian Consul's office near Geary and Arguello. We're often told that “quality of life issues” are everyone's responsibility. I suppose I could have rushed at the defecator with my backpack, yelling, “Hey! Wait! Use this!” But, hell, even good citizenship has its limits.

A COUPLE OF MILES to the east, San Francisco's social strategy becomes obvious. Aberrant behavior is tolerated so long as it stays within the area called the Tenderloin, whose boundaries are O'Farrell on the north, Mission on the south, Powell on the east, Van Ness on the west. Criminal activity is discouraged every place else in the city, although 16th and Mission and 24th and Mission seem to be public crime set asides. The City's “liberal” mayor and supervisors occasionally issue these grand proclamations that the free fire criminal neighborhoods are going to be cleaned up as soon as the Gizmo entrepreneurs really get rolling with the City's big tax breaks. No sign on Market Street from Powell to Van Ness that anything is changing; it's the same old gauntlet of grime, goons, drugs, drunks, and all-the-way gone mental casualties. Overall, and speaking as a person who has lived here off and on all my life, having sailed through the Golden Gate on a troop ship evacuating Honolulu in 1941, San Francisco is in its worse shape ever.

BUT FRISCO'S STILL the best show on earth on foot or on the bus. Took the 33 the other day to SF General to visit a patient who, by the way, was hard to find in that humming medical labyrinth because the hospital code-names patients, and I didn't have the code. Turned out the magic word was “Zebra” in this case, but I'm still wondering how I was supposed to know that, and I wouldn't have known if a passing nurse hadn't happened to know the name of the person I was looking for. The idea of code names, in these, The Last Days, is to hide people from street assassins, especially the young people caught up in the gang life.

PARENTHETICALLY, SF General is a truly great hospital. The person I was visiting is very difficult and would get short shrift lots of places — has gotten short shrift at the Adventist complex in Ukiah. But at SF General, staff, hustling from one catastrophe to the next, never seem to lose professional calm. They manage to stay on task and helpful and mannerly all at the same time, the very pictures of grace under pressure. This hospital is one thing that the City That Used To Know How still knows how to do.

ON THE TRIP from the Richmond up and over the hill to the Mission District, an old man apparently suffering from a kind of Tourette's, rhythmically repeated the same question, “Where the goddam is he?” He shouted every tenth question (I counted them), startling the new passengers and prompting a crusty old lady to finally shout back, “He's over there, for chrissakes.” The old guy trudged on into SF General for whatever kind of outpatient mission he was on.

THE NEXT DAY, on the normally sedate 1 California line, I got on an eastbound bus at Laurel Village where an elderly Chinese woman grabbed my arm just as I was about to sit down. Laughing, she and the old ladies sitting around her, pointed to a puddle of mystery liquid on the seat. I'd been spared! I asked the driver if she had a rag to mop it up. “Nope,” the driver said with a grimness out of all proportion to the question. All the way to Stockton Street where the mostly Asian riders get off, the old ladies took turns saving new riders from the puddled seat.

WESTBOUND on the 1 a few hours later, I was seated to the rear of the bus when a spectacular trio got on at Van Ness. Well, two of the three were startling. The guy merely sported a noteworthy retro 50s look. The two young women were shrink-wrapped in form-fitting red minis, their spectacular forms spilling provocatively out as they exaggeratedly sashayed down the aisle towards the back seats. A young man commented to his companion, “No underwear.” The companion exclaimed, “Wow!” The two girls laughed louder than they'd been laughing as they climbed aboard. The young man with them looked like an on-leave soldier, circa 1958. He was that straight-looking, from his haircut to his shiny wingtips. They were all loudly yukking it up at every remark one or another of the three uttered.

MUNI passengers are not known for their jollity. Most of the people riding the 1 California are Chinese going to and from Chinatown on shopping missions. Unless they're traveling with people they know, the Chinese travel strictly alone, no signs of emotion. Excuse the ethnic stereotype, but no matter how weird it might get on the bus, the Chinese Zen it right out of existence.

ANOTHER rider-bloc on the 1 California (and the 2 Clement) are the babushkas, elderly Russians. When the two living tributes to The Loose Life lit up the bus, the Chinese looked straight ahead — no reaction — while the babushkas, there were four of them seated close together, ostentatiously condemned the two girls, swiveling all the way around in their seats to make sure everyone on the bus was aware of their disapproval. (San Francisco is a high-stress venue for the disapproving.)

OF COURSE the blonde sat down next to me. “Hi,” she began, “how are you today?” I'm fine, I said, as my prostate moaned. I'm old, wayyyyy past these kinds of provocations. “And your name, sir?” she asked. “Sir.” Spare me. All I wanted to do is get home from the ballpark, not fight off some kind of bimbo hustle. “I'm John Coate,” I said, and she came right back with, “What do you do, John?” The straight guy and the other flooze, seated opposite us, were laughing even before I answered. I felt like the straight man in a joke that had no comic potential. “I manage a radio station in Mendocino County called KZYX. Next time you're up that way please stop in,” I said. That seemed to give Blondie pause. “So you're in show biz, too, huh?” she said. They ignored me from then on, talking about going on out to Baker Beach. I was tempted to stay on the bus to watch them shake it on past the babushkas and off the bus to see if they got off as flamboyantly as they'd gotten on.


All I remember is four years of

Pabst Blue Ribbon beer,

A novel or two, and the myth of

Dylan Thomas —

Americans lay be, the academic

chapel and parking lot.

O yes, and my laundry number, 597.

What does it say about me that

what I recall best

Is a laundry number —

that only reality endures?

— Charles Wright

HED FROM SUNDAY'S PD: “Russian River project eases travel for fish” — “A $12 million project along the Russian River near Forestville will allow migrating fish to travel more safely and efficiently past the seasonal Mirabel Dam, officials say.” Maybe if the fish grow legs to dash upstream in the waterless Russian, the lower half of which already serves as a leach field for Santa Rosa. The once fish-lush Russian River might have seen its last salmon.

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