Six black rappers in Covelo?
On Chicken Ridge?
It's kind of complicated.
You've got Darvel Blackwell, Clifton Jacobs, and Marquis Walker on one side of the beef, with Troy 'T' Sims, Jackie Slade, and Robert 'Pete' Long on the other.
Robert Long was the easiest for the cops to identify because he had a bullet in his head, conveniently placed for I.D. purposes between his eyes.
For the sake of clarity we'll call the alleged perps –Blackwell, Jacobs and Walker – the LA Three, although one of them is from Las Vegas.
The LA Three knew Slade from venues far from Covelo, not that the Three seemed particularly attached to Slade when they cranked off at least four shots at him that day, propelling Slade down Chicken Ridge so rapidly that he ran out of one of his shoes by the time he told the white motorist he’d flagged down after running for his life that some dudes just shot his brother up at his "uncle’s" house.
In fact, Slade says he hardly knew his “brother,” Robert Long — who everybody calls “Pete”– and his “uncle,” Troy Sims (aka “T”) is merely a friend.
Jackie Slade maintains a recording studio in Sacramento, which is where Troy Sims, aka ‘Uncle T,’ knows him from.
The rap and hip-hop CDs that Slade produces don't cover the very large family dependent on him to varying degrees.
Slade says he needed money so badly that just after Thanksgiving he took a job picking up trash at Sims’ rural retreat in the Chicken Ridge subdivision outside of Covelo. Among other tidying up chores Sims said he needed doing was cleaning up after a marauding bear. The beast had gotten into the turkey dinner scraps and had made such a mess the neighbors were complaining. Slade, then, was coming over from Sacramento to clean up after the bear, too.
At some point Slade told Sims that Robert Long knew some guys who wanted to buy a large quantity of marijuana, which, after all, seemed to be the point of Sims' rented rural redoubt.
The guys who wanted to buy the dope were the LA Three.
“Where were you staying in Sacramento? At a hotel?”
The question to Sims came from the Deputy DA Matt Hubley. It had been established that Sims was a marijuana trafficker, the assumption was that Sims' rental on Chicken Ridge was a pot farm.
Sims was now a witness testifying to the dramatic events at his Chicken Ridge place.
Sims indignantly replied that he had no need to rent a room in Sacramento. He had 11 kids in the state capitol, he said, by six different women. With 11 kids and six wives in one smallish city he could certainly find shelter without paying for it.
But as a high overhead family guy, it’s easy to understand why Sims went along with a plan his nephew, Jackie Slade, apparently came up with. Jackie Slade, you see, knew “this dude,” Robert Long — aka “Pete” – who knew these three other dudes who wanted to buy some weed.
“How much marijuana were they hoping to purchase?” Hubley asked.
Sims, perhaps amused at the lawyer’s diction — ‘marijuana’ and ‘purchase’ – smiled and said, “The dudes wanted to buy 20 pounds.”
“What kind of marijuana did they want?”
“They want the purple bud, man. Just like anybody would.”
“Did you have any marijuana?”
“No, man. I’d just got ripped off. I didn’t have nothing but shake. But I knew where to get it. And these dudes was ready to pay $3200 a pound.”
One of the defense attorneys asked, “Did you see any money?”
“No, man, I didn’t see no money.”
“Well then why did you trust these people?” asked the incredulous defense lawyer.
In the county where a couple of alcoholic mopes were just in the news for murdering a third drunk for $70 in beer money it would be foolish, if not suicidal, to arrive on Chicken Ridge or any other place in Covelo, including the Sheriff's sub-station, with $64,000 in cash.
“Did you know the defendants? Mr. Blackwell? Mr. Jacobs? Mr. Walker?”
“No, I didn’t know the dudes.”
“Did you know Robert Long?
“You mean Pete? No, not really. But Jackie said he was solid.”
“So you didn’t ask to see the money.”
“Hell no, I didn’t ax to see no money. It ain’t none of my business to ax about no damn money. If they ain’t got no money, they won’t get the weed. Anybody knows that. If you ain’t got no money, take your broke ass home."
“But a price had been discussed?”
“Yeah. Between me and Jackie.”
“And your fee, was that discussed?”
Again, Sims seemed incredulous at the lawyer’s presumption that his “fee” would be a matter for negotiation.
“My price was $3200. I was gonna take ‘bout $300 off the top, per pound. Depending on what I could get it for.”
“What about Long and Slade?”
“Man, I don’t know nothing ‘bout that. They can do whatever they want.”
It took all of the first day of the hearing to get the scenario of the deal figured out — and to get the parties from Sacramento to Covelo.
After a full day of testimony, it was finally established that Jackie Slade and Troy Sims had driven to Covelo in one vehicle, and Robert Long, Darvel Blackwell, Marquis Walker, and Clifton Jacobs had followed them in a blue KIA minivan. They arrived at about five in the morning and went to the Wagon Wheel Motel where the LA Three would wait until Sims put the deal together. Being the Thanksgiving weekend, the motel was full.
“So you took them to your house on Chicken Ridge?”
“Against my better judgment, yeah,” replied Sims.
“Then what did you do?”
“I went in to look for my gun.”
“What kind of gun?”
“A .40 Glock.”
“Did you find it?”
“Do you recall being convicted of a felony in ’04?”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Ever been to prison?”
“But you had a gun?”
“Yeah, there was one there, at the house. At least it had been there.”
“But now it was gone?”
“Did you have the gun registered?”
Sims looked at Blackwell’s lawyer, Carly Dolan, like she must be joking.
“Did you report it stolen?”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Sims guffawed, “like I’m gonna report a gun to the police I ain’t even supposed to have!”
A quarrel erupted, the lawyer and witness talking over one another…
“STOP!” The court reporter shouted, throwing up her hands in frustration, unable to get it all down.
Judge Henderson got everybody calmed down and the testimony resumed.
Sims had left he said, shortly after sun-up. All his contacts were still asleep, he said, and he couldn’t put the deal together, so he left. He wanted to get a truck to clean up after the bear. Slade, in the mean time, went to get some breakfast at a café in Covelo.
The café, like the motel, was full and, Sims said, it took him more than an hour to get served.
He was still there when he learned from a friend that there had been a shooting up on Chicken Ridge.
Marquis Walker’s lawyer, Tom Mason, had a go at Mr. Sims. Walker is one of the LA Three, a defendant.
Mason asked Sims, “So you first heard from a friend that there had been a shooting. How did you know it involved you?”
“Well, the dude said some black people got shot up on Chicken Ridge, and I’m the only black person that lives on Chicken Ridge, so…!”
“When did you contact the police?”
“I didn’t. They contacted me.”
“How many officers did you talk to?”
“One or two.”
“And this was on January 13th?”
“But you talked to Slade on the day of the shooting, on November 29th?”
“Yeah. He called me and I picked him up at the Willits Police Department.”
“You didn’t go in and tell the police you knew about what was going on up there?”
Sims was again astounded at the unworldly nature of the interrogatory.
“Oh, yeah,” he said, “I’m gonna tell the cops I’m in a big weed deal!”
“Did any law enforcement officers ever tell you they wouldn’t prosecute you?”
“No. I was never told that.”
“So you went back to the house [in Covelo] after you picked up Slade?”
“What did you find?”
“There was yellow crime-scene tape and a property receipt.”
“Did you go inside?”
“Any sign of a scuffle?”
“No. Not really. There was blood on the bed, and the bed had been moved.”
“My shake was gone.”
“But everybody understood that you, personally, didn’t have the weed. And they were comfortable with that?”
Deputy DA Hubley asked Sims, “Has our office promised you any leniency?”
Has any police officer promised you leniency?”
Jackie Slade was called to testify.
I used to work security at the Mateel Community Center in Redway, a popular venue for rap artists, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard Jackie Slade perform. I’m a pretty hip dude, for an old honker. I dig rap and hip-hop. Crimeny, I couldn’t even talk to my grandkids if I didn’t have at least a nodding appreciation for the artform.
Jackie Slade could craft a pretty exciting rap song from his Thanksgiving adventures on Chicken Ridge.
Deputy DA Hubley took Slade through all the previous testimony, the trip from Sims' studio in Sacramento to Sims' rental in the hills of Covelo.
“So Troy [Sims] got out first?”
“Yeah. He jumped through a window. He was in there quite a while and it was cold outside, so after a while I went up and knocked on the window.”
At this juncture Slade knocked loudly on the witness stand. “…And said, Hey, man, what you doin’? It’s cold out here. He (Sims) said – Oh, man, I can’t find my piece, my gun.”
“So what did you do?”
“I went in and helped him look for it.”
“Did you find it?”
“No. Only the bullets.”
“Then Troy [Sims] left?”
“Yeah. He was going to get a truck to put the trash in.”
“What did you do?”
“After a while, after it warmed up, I started picking up trash.”
“Where was Robert Long?”
“Pete? He was inside, sitting on the bed, blowing in his hands, trying to warm up.”
“Where was Walker?”
“Sitting in the van. He’d had to move it to let Troy out, then he backed it in.”
“Where was Blackwell?”
“He was inside. With Pete.”
“Where was Jacobs?”
“On the balcony, above me; and when I looked up to see what he was doing, he had a gun, like that…” Slade held his hand out sideways, ghetto style, his forefinger pointed, thumb cocked. “Then POW, in rapid succession, he started popping off rounds at me.”
“What did you do?”
“Man, I was flying. I ran. I flew outta there.”
“How many shots did he fire?”
“Four — I don’t know, maybe four. I heard another gun, too. Little biddy gun.”
“Did you hear anything else?”
“Yeah. I heard Pete saying, Man, it ain’t gotta be like this!”
“So you ran down to the bottom of the ridge, flagged down a car, the driver called 911 and gave you the phone?”
“Yeah. I told ’em my brother had been shot.”
Robert 'Pete' Long had been shot between the eyes at point blank range.
“And you went to the substation in Willits to ID the defendants?”
“Yeah. But they kept getting me mixed up with Blackwell. They’d arrest me, then turn me loose, then cuff me again and turn him loose.”
Judge Henderson called for a recess and, having to catch my bus back to Boonville, I missed the cross-examination by the defense attorneys.
Next morning I came through the metal detector in front of one of defendant Walker’s “associates.” As I was putting my belt back on, a dispute between this man and the security personnel erupted. The security staff all know me and one of ’em said, “Bruce, get a bailiff — quick!”
I stepped into Judge Henderson’s court and summoned his bailiff. As the bailiff sorted things out, I chatted with another deputy. I told him I’d heard Robert ‘Pete’ Long had been shot right between the eyes and lived through it.
“That’s right,” the deputy said. “And he’s going to testify.”
I was astounded.
“Yeah,” the deputy said, “the bullet went under his scalp, up over his skull and out the back.”
He started telling me about a similar instance, years ago, but the hearing was getting underway and I had to beg off.
As I entered the courtroom, I heard a deputy say that somebody drove past the previous day, when they were loading up the LA Three, and shouted at Walker, “We gonna pop a cap in your sister’s ass!”
Walker’s sister — the woman I took to be his sister -- had been in the courtroom the two previous days as a spectator, but she was absent this morning.
On this day a witness, a defense witness, was being called out of witness sequence. He was a young white man named Joshua Ceto. The investigator for Alternate Public Defender Berry Robinson (Jacobs' lawyer) Tom Hine, had interviewed this witness at the jail. I didn’t understand Josh Ceto’s legal difficulties in Mendocino County, but he was about to be extradited to Oregon to face sexual assault charges. It was vital to get his testimony before the People of Oregon got his scrotum in their legal vise-grips. That’s why he was called early to testify.
Attorney Justin Petersen, Josh Ceto’s lawyer, sat next to him on the witness stand. Ceto, it turned out, knows Jackie Slade, had heard his music, but only “sorta” knew Troy Sims. He only knew Sims by his initial, “T”.
“Ever see ’em together?” Robinson asked.
“You ever seen Jackie Slade carrying a gun?”
“Yeah, sure. He was packing the day before I was arrested, December 4th of ‘09”
“How did you know he was packing?”
“I can always tell,” Ceto said.
“Well, you know, by the way he was acting.”
“How was he acting?”
“He was like all sketched-out.”
I’ve heard other people say they can tell when a man is carrying a concealed weapon by the way they deport themselves, but ‘all sketched-out’ was a new one on me.
“Nervous, you mean?” Robinson said.
“Yeah,” Ceto said.
“Did you see the gun?”
“Yeah, I saw part of it. A little bit of the handle.”
“Was it a pistol or a revolver?”
“A pistol, an automatic.”
“Notice anything else?”
“Yeah. He pulled out a crisp $100 bill to pay a white woman.”
“Anything unusual about that?”
“Yeah, for that time of year. There ain’t a whole lot of jobs in Covelo. So I said, ‘Where’d you get all that?’ And he said, ‘It got took’.”
“Now, after you talked to Mr. Hine, you also talked to Detective Bailey, didn’t you?”
“And why did you lie to Detective Bailey?”
“Well, he was pretty unprofessional, in my book. I didn’t know who he was, and he didn’t identify himself. There was some other guy with him.”
“Did they threaten you?”
“Yeah. They said, If you want to get out of this, now’s your chance.”
“And how did you take that?”
“As a threat.”
Hubley asked Ceto to explain why he took Detective Bailey’s remark as a threat.
“By his tone of voice,” Ceto said.
“Now, in jail,” Hubley said, you’re housed in C Module, aren’t you?”
Ceto snorted contemptuously at the prosecutor.
“Duh! I’m like wearing orange and they’re in stripes.”
Judge Henderson sternly advised Ceto to answer yes or no.
“But you were in C mod. With the defendants, weren’t you?”
“Were you aware that Blackwell and Jacobs were hiring inmates for their testimony?”
“And when Detective Bailey came to talk to you…”
“Who’s Detective Bailey?” Ceto asked.
“I have nothing further for this witness,” Hubley said.
The rappers will all be back in court this week.
* * *
Two Gun Terry Cohen, the Laytonville man who invited Sean Piper to drop by with a six-pack and $10,000 for the purchase of weed, and then shot Piper to pieces when he arrived, was back in court after convalescing from his third drug overdose, all of them described as attempts at suicide. Cohen looked good as new — which isn’t saying much, considering he looked like Mr. Death Comes A Knockin' to begin with.
Two Gun was in court on a motion aimed at determining if he’s too brain damaged from his recent overdoses to stand trial again for Piper’s murder. First time around, Two Gun miraculously got himself a hung jury.
Cohen’s lawyer wanted to discuss, ah, getting paid, basically. It seems Two Gun's Laytonville property is tied up in a bail bond of about half a million bucks, and Two Gun can’t pay his lawyer bills if he can't get some of that money. If he doesn't get the money for the ace mouthpiece who hung his jury for him, Two Gun will be going back to trial with a public defender.
(I recommend Attilla Panczel to T.G. because one of Panczel's recent clients – the guy with money in one pocket, heroin in the other, also got a hung jury, as a gloating Panczel recently informed me. Unfortunately for Panczel, when the DA re-filed the charges against Mr. Two Pockets, he immediately plead guilty.)
Marie Steinisch, the woman suing the Ukiah Valley Medical Center for negligence and damages, won on the negligence but lost on the damages. The jury said the negligence was not a substantial factor in harming Ms. Steinisch. She certainly looked harmed — stunned — devastated, even.
* * *
On my way back to the AVA office high atop the Farrer Building in beautiful downtown Boonville, I noticed some goings-on at Lauren’s Restaurant. Attorney Ann Moorman, candidate for judge, was throwing a Meet The Candidate bash. There was a big tub of wine bottles and lots of tasty treats. “Just a chance for people to come by and meet me,” Ms. Moorman explained when I asked if it were some kind of fund-raiser for her campaign.
Ann Moorman is hardly a pauper. But she does need votes, and voters were in short supply at her party. She hadn’t advertised her event so nobody knew what was going on. I was practically dragged inside just so all the food and drink wouldn't go to waste. The kind of frumpy-looking woman of about 60 who'd invited me in immediately seemed to regret having extended the kind hand of random hospitality.
This turned out to be a Willits woman named Alison Glassey who was once sued by the AVA for using her position as County Social Services Director to retaliate against this fine publication for the paper's criticism of her and her Department of Social Services by advertising in all the other papers in the County except the AVA.
Editor Anderson easily won that case in a Ukiah jury trial but the verdict was subsequently overturned by the state appellate court in San Francisco. In Anderson's opinion, his own attorney sabbed his appeal with the gratuitous inclusion of a Mary Miles cartoon protesting an abortion decision; that cartoon depicted the Supreme Court as straining penises.
"The little lycra-headed, politically-appointed yuppies sitting in their lavish fortress in San Francisco were shocked to their tiny toes, I guess, " Anderson began as he got up out of his chair and began pacing the office floor, growing more indignant with each step. "Clearly, the drawing offended them although it had nothing to do with the argument and shouldn't have been there in the first goddam place. Anyway, I lost in an answer from these dwarves that bordered on the moronic. By then I'd maxed out my credit cards so I had to drop it. The Ukiah jury had been out less than an hour to find in my favor. It was that obvious. The jury knew Glassey had lied, then lied some more, not that anyone's ever gone to jail in this county for lying on the stand, not in this century anyway." The Editor was still muttering to himself about lycra and yuppies when I'd left the office.
I'd dropped a rate sheet and other advertising materials by Moorman's cool-o Victorian office suite in Ukiah just the other day which, of course, she'd ignored. But now I had her face to face, in a big empty room in Boonville! The moment was far more delicious than her food, more intoxicating than her wine.
I asked her about her platform, but she hid behind “judicial ethics,” archly saying that as a candidate for judge she couldn’t take a position. Faux neutrality notwithstanding, I know what her platform was and is. She’d made it clear a few weeks ago at a memorial service for Susan Jordan: She is going to throw the book at men who hurt women — a laudable stance to take, if it were not merely a lot of posturing aimed directly at the Ukiah liberals and the County's over-large contingent of judges who've signed Moorman's election ads. They all seem to think she should be appointed by acclamation. After all, she's their pal so by definition she's beyond all possible reproach.
I asked Ms. Moorman if she remembered the time she’d gotten fellow Ukiah lawyer Phil Vannucci off lightly, very lightly, on irrefutable charges that Vannucci had smashed his wife in the face and kicked her out the door, half-naked, into the cold and rain. But when the battered Mrs. Vannucci had realized her husband would be disbarred and lose his handsome lawyerly living if he was convicted of felony assault, Mrs. V changed her story and said something like battered women always say, that it had all been an accident, that she really loved the oaf. Which was completely at odds with what she'd told the Ukiah police and what the evidence clearly showed. Ann Moorman was brought in to make sure that a felony conviction got reduced to a misdemeanor, even though the evidence was clear that it was a felony assault, and what we have here with the candidate is just one more example of Mendocino County's always flexible "liberalism," cash and carry division.
Uhhmmm…Yes, she did remember the Vannucci matter, but ethically, she said, she couldn’t talk about the particulars of the case, even though they are a matter of public record, available to reporters and anyone else who might be interested. So the would-be judge talked about the law instead. The Vannucci case had been a wobbler she explained, a very rare bird, a 17b wobbler in fact. I took my sunglasses off and studied her eyes while she explained at length the B-17 Wobbler. “But that’s a lot for you to remember,” she said, sympathizing with us simple folk who get lost in the law when we aren't getting screwed by it.
“It is,” I agreed. “But I think I’ve got the gist of it. … Well, good luck with your campaign,” I said.
“Judicial Ethics” has always seemed to me just another one of those laugh outloud oxymorons, like “Military Intelligence.” But you be the judge.