- Alton Sterling
- Mendo GJ Summary Report
- McEwen's Influence
- Advocacy Journalism
- Catch of the Day
- Alpha Dog
- Troubled Garbage Hauler
- Love Someone
- Eugene McDonald Interview
- Whitey on the Moon
- Oust Wasserman Schultz
Here’s Alton Sterling, A Felon With An Illegal Gun!
- 9/09/96 aggravated battery
- 10/31/97 2nd degree battery
- 1/06/98 simple battery
- 5/04/00 public intimidation
- 9/20/00 carnal knowledge of a juvenile
- 9/04/01 domestic violence
- 5/24/05 burglary of an inhabited dwelling place
- 7/11/05 receiving stolen things
- 9/12/05 burglary of inhabited dwelling place
- 3/17/06 simple criminal damage to property, simple robbery, simple theft, drug possession, misrepresentation during booking, simple battery, aggravated battery
- 4/12/06 aggravated battery, simple criminal damage to property, disturbing the peace, unauthorized entry
- 4/04/08 domestic abuse battery
- 6/03/09 resisting an officer, drug possession, receiving stolen things, possession of stolen firearm, illegal carrying of a weapon with CDs, sound reproduct without consent
- 10/12/09 illegal carrying of weapon, marijuana possession
- 8/13/15 failure to register as a sex offender
- 4/08/16 failure to register as a sex offender
- 6/14/16 ecstacy and marijuana possession
ED NOTE: I couldn't find any independent verification of the criminal history alleged here. Maybe someone more internet savvy than me can find it. Besides which, a criminal history is not grounds for summary execution by the police, although it is fair to say that almost all the people of whatever color killed recently are people who mostly get frequent attention from law enforcement. Which is also not grounds for summary execution but makes it much more likely, doesn't it?
THE MAJOR ADDS: Snopes.com says Sterling did indeed have an criminal record as reported by several credible news sources. They note, however, that there’s no evidence that he was a member of a criminal street gang and that there’s no evidence that the Baton Rouge cops who killed him knew about his criminal record.
Snopes: “Sterling did indeed have a criminal record. The East Baton Rouge Parish's Sheriff's Office listed Sterling as a "Tier 1" offender due to a 2000 conviction for carnal knowledge of a juvenile. This conviction, as well as arrests for domestic violence and weapons charges, were noted in reports about his death by mainstream media publications such as CNN and the New York Daily News:
“Sterling was a registered sex offender, after a 2000 conviction for carnal knowledge of a juvenile, records show. The circumstances of the case were not immediately clear. Records say he was released for his offense in October 2004. He was previously arrested for aggravated battery, criminal damage to property, unauthorized entry and domestic abuse battery, records show. In 2009, he was sentenced to five years in prison for marijuana possession and for carrying an illegal weapon with a controlled dangerous substance.”
Also, according to Snopes:
“Allen B. West concluded his article by stating that while Sterling's death was indeed tragic, it would be ‘dishonest to portray this story as just another man living his life who was gunned down by the police for no reason, which is what many on the left, including Black Lives Matter, will do.’ As such, it seems appropriate to note that some media outlets have pointed to a history of racism within the Baton Rouge Police Department as a factor in Sterling's death:
“The Baton Rouge Police Department — like so many other departments across the country — is notorious for its brutal treatment of black people. And the confrontation that ensued between Sterling and Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II should be discussed within its proper context. The Baton Rouge Police Department has a history of brutality against black people.”
MENDO GRAND JURY SUMMARIZES THEIR 2016 WORK
To: The Honorable Judge J. Nadel, Mendocino County Courts, 100 North State Street, Room 303, Ukiah, CA 95482
Dear Judge Nadel,
It is my privilege to present you with the 2015-16 Consolidated Mendocino County Grand Jury (GJ) Report, in fulfillment of the Jury’s oath and charge. This report contains the results of investigations required by law, suggested by submitted complaints or generated by the jury itself. The topics included in this report are, by order of public release, Proposition 172 Budget Transparency, County Records Retention, Point Arena Code Enforcement, Marijuana Restitution and County Policy 22 use of Email.
The Bronzan-McCorquodale Act of 1991 specifically assigns the role of identifying problems with Mental Health Services to the Mendocino County Behavioral Health Board. The 2015-16 Mendocino County GJ also closely monitored the events surrounding Mental Health Delivery via the Mental Health Services contracts let by the County of Mendocino during this term of service. Specifically the Grand Jury examined the policies and procedures for delivery of 5150 services in the County Jail - a mental health service outside the scope of the recently contracted Kemper Report Mental Health Services Analysis. GJ members attended Board of Supervisors’ meetings, Behavioral Health Advisory Board Meetings, and toured the Mendocino County jail facilities. Various County Department Heads and staff members, County Supervisors, local physicians and nurses, the Director of California Forensic Medical Group, and members of the public were interviewed. Although a report was not issued, the GJ will continue to monitor Mental Health Services in Mendocino County.
The GJ conducted inspections of the locked facilities in the county including the Mendocino County Jail, Mendocino County Juvenile Hall, Willits Police Department holding cells, Parlin Fork Conservation Camp, and Chamberlain Creek Conservation Camp. The GJ determined that all of the facilities are in adequate working condition and are able to achieve their stated goals and requirements. It should be noted, however, that the County Jail is frequently at capacity, and occasionally must incorporate additional temporary beds to accommodate inmates. Additionally, a lack of corrections staff in the County Jail forces officers to work mandatory overtime and extended shifts that may lead to personnel fatigue. During the course of inspections the GJ learned that the Mendocino County Juvenile Hall was in the process of finalizing an agreement with Lake County to house the Lake County Juvenile Hall youths. The novelty of the merger did not allow the GJ to draw accurate conclusions about the impact of the merger on the county. The financial aspect at the time of the investigation was unclear because Mendocino County had not yet billed Lake County for costs and expenses for services as defined in the Memorandum of Understanding between the counties. The subsequent GJ may wish to examine the juvenile hall merger agreement and how it has impacted the county financially, as well as the impact on both Mendocino and Lake County youth housed in the facility.
The GJ studied the policies and procedures of the Ukiah Valley Sanitation District (UVSD) and the City of Ukiah Water District. It should be noted that UVSD has filed suit against the City of Ukiah, in Sonoma County Superior court. Each party has set aside significant funds in their respective budgets for Legal Costs. Ultimately if this case is County of Mendocino Post Office Box 939 Grand Jury Ukiah, CA 95482 firstname.lastname@example.org (707) 463-4320 http://cgja.blogspot.com/ °Ë http://www.co.mendocino.ca.us/grandjury/ not resolved in an amicable manner, the Ukiah Rate Payers will be responsible for the cost of the judgment regardless of which party prevails in court. No report was issued on this topic due to ongoing litigation.
In addition to Proposition 172 funding for County Fire Departments, the GJ studied the extra burdens placed on Coastal Fire Departments, due to increased tourism. These small rural fire departments originally created to protect their neighbors in the community are now faced with a much larger responsibility for the welfare and safety of the coastal tourists. A future GJ may wish to explore additional County funding sources such as the promotional tourism funding and Transient Occupancy Tax revenues to supplement Coastal Fire Department budgets for these rescues.
State law requires K-12 schools to have comprehensive school safety plans for natural disasters and criminal activity. The plans include evacuation routes, emergency supply plans, and other protocols to keep students and staff safe. The plans are to be updated yearly, be readily available to the public at each school and be forwarded to each district office or the County Office of Education. The Mendocino County Grand Jury conducted school site visits at Laytonville, Fort Bragg, Ukiah and Willits to inspect their safety plans and policies. The GJ found these school sites to have the proper safety plan documentation readily available.
The GJ examined the outdated County Emergency Services Plan and update process. Because of mid-year Emergency Services departmental staffing changes, the GJ did not issue a report on this topic.
This report is presented to the Court and to the public in Memory of Al “Crusty” Robinson, who served many terms on the Mendocino County Grand Jury. It has been an honor and my pleasure to serve with the members of this Year’s GJ. Individual members dedicated hundreds of hours of their time and expertise in examining the various topics presented to the GJ. On behalf of the GJ, I would like to thank the dedicated employees, Court Staff and other County residents who assisted the GJ in their investigations this year.
Katharine (Kathy) Wylie, MS Ed
DID BRUCE McEWEN win the judge election for Keith Faulder? He most certainly did. Any election in Mendocino County that's won by less than 200 votes like Faulder's was, and with the mighty ava strong for Faulder, means we were the diff. Way back, back before the techno-revolution, back before everyone got their own newspaper on Facebook or blogs, experts told us we not only enjoyed "total market penetration" in the Anderson Valley but probably influenced the votes of everyone in our circulation area, which is primarily Mendocino County. We still have a kind of diminished electoral influence, but in the case of Faulder vs. Pekin we knew that the MCN shut-ins, and Mendolib generally, would vote as directed by the local lib lab herd bulls, people like Steve Antler and Tom Wodetski, who put it out on their recommendations that the Nice People, the Hillary-brained, the white wine and cheese brigade, Mendo branch, should support Pekin, a new guy, a guy without anywhere like the legal experience Faulder has. To Mendolib it didn't matter who was likely to make the better judge, it was simply a matter of the herd, to belong or not belong. But I'd suppose almost all our readers went for Faulder, and we were the difference, especially McEwen who wrote the most for Faulder, though all of us here at the ava were strong for Faulder. Soon as we all get together we're going to array ourselves in a circle for simultaneous handshakes and pats on the back.
I GET a lot of people wanting me to do what I guess you'd call advocacy writing, which I do a lot of on my own from my own long list of grievances. Sometimes people have an honest beef that deserves public attention, sometimes not. If someone says they are getting railroaded, we'll get the police reports and make our own judgments which, of course, are resoundingly fallible.
IT'S VERY, VERY RARE that a person is arrested and charged for no reason at all, but the disposition can be hugely disproportionate to the crime alleged. Take, for example, the case of Mark Sprinkle, the Ukiah truck driver who got 45-to-life for 90 seconds of sexual touching. The touchees were three girls, the oldest of whom was 14, a lass reminiscent of the voluptuous Oakland girl who recently brought down numerous police officers from at least three Bay Area police departments and now makes her way as a street prostitute. She started boffing cops when she was 14.
IT'S LAUGHABLE that in a sex-drenched society like this one we get these purse-lipped press conferences from people like the priggish mayor of Oakland who feigns shock at male sexuality which, as any mature woman, or any woman who grew up with brothers, can tell you, is more dog-like than most dogs. Any man who goes all righteous and says he would never even consider touching an underage girl even if the underage girl is shaped like the Venus de Milo with both her arms is lying. He'd at least weigh the consequences. The Bay Area cops simply couldn't control their canine impulses. They're supposed to control themselves, of course, and are now paying a price for their joyous moments at the STD roulette tables, a price few men would not at least consider paying.
WHERE THE PURSED LIPS went way wrong, seems to me, is their indignant huffing and puffing at the black Oakland cops who were telling each other Klan jokes. That's already funny! The least the Mayor could do was let us all in on the merriment.
GETTING BACK to my friend Sprink's case, the girl vic, er ringleader, was a Daisy Mae physical type who hung out at the truck stop on North State Street. No, she was not selling late-night Girl Scout Cookies. And she would later testify, she suddenly and voluntarily took her clothes off in Sprink's car as a joke, thus inspiring Sprink's frenzied 90 seconds that cost him 45 years of his life. No force, no penetration, nothing but a breast check and a pube pat. Sprink might as well have raped and murdered the young lust bunnies, and left them out on the old Masonite Road where this unconsummated affair took place. The judge, James Luther, claimed he had no sentencing discretion, which is not true; judges have god-like discretionary authority, but it's a rare judge who risks his fat pay check and life tenure job to do the right thing.
THE SPRINKLE back story is of a guy who was both regularly employed and regularly in low-level trouble, a guy who ran with tweekers, would taunt the Ukiah cops, set dumpsters on fire — stuff that put him in and out of the County Jail and also put him right at the top of local authority's Get This Guy list. There were probably high-fives all around the Courthouse when the cops, summoned by Sprink's tweeked-out flooz of an ex, in obvious Gotcha Mode, knew she could get her revenge on Sprink for not marrying her and the cops would get Sprink out of Ukiah for a while. Rather than take the 3-5 molesto deal offered by the DA, Sprink went to trial.
THE JURY was not of Sprink's peers. The only peers most criminal defendants have are other criminals. The jury members were respectable Mendo people who wore the shocked looks we inevitably see on the faces of all juries hearing criminal cases in Mendocino County. "These people live in my community? Good lord. Don't stop at the defendant. Lock up all the witnesses, too." And off Sprink went for the rest of his life. He's old and tired now. Let him out tomorrow and he'd go back to driving truck, and be highly unlikely to re-offend. But there's no mercy in this justice system once it’s got you. None.
DEFENSE LAWYERS always tell their "clients" not to talk to the "media." Which in Mendocino County is us, because we're the only media likely to tell a story from the alleged perp's perspective. We always tell the perps and miscellaneous mopes who call for help that "public attention never hurts, especially in this county. The more people aware of your plight, the more likely the system will be to play by recognizable rules. Outside publicity may irritate the black robes and public defenders — especially the boss public defender, Ms. Dump Truck, who brings her office in under budget every year. For a public defender to always be under budget means that public defender is not going all out for the "client." She's watching the bottom line to keep her cush job. With the Mendo Public Defender, justice is a secondary consideration. The bottom line is the bottom line.
ANY PUBLIC DEFENDER who goes all out for a "client" quickly becomes even more of an enemy of the Robes and the rest of the County Court House apparatus than the perp, er, the presumed innocent. The late DA, Norm Vroman, described a public defender named Garry Prenetta as "evil." In reality, Prenetta was a great attorney. He was an all-outter. He'd demand tests, subpoena records, hire private investigators — the works. And he was smart. And totally committed to whomever he was defending, even if the guy was a total scumbag cosmically deserving of a quick bullet to the back of his head. But Prenetta was the way the system is supposed to work.
THE MAJOR said he remembers the time Preneta got an obvious criminal named Poe off by cleverly “proving” that his “client” was in jail at the time of the alleged offense.
“Oh yeah,” said the Major, “I remember that one. The ‘wife’ of Mr. Poe, a criminal Indian from the Point Arena area, was about twice his age and she called us to say that her ‘husband’ was being persecuted by the DA. Mr. Poe was accused of molesting a nine-year old Willits girl by luring the girl into his house with kittens and then sexually abusing her. Preneta told me he thought his client was probably guilty, but when the girl testified in chambers that she remembered the day she was molested because she was wearing a nice sundress her mother gave her at the time because she had just been treated for a rash at Howard Memorial hospital and her mother wanted her to wear that dress until the rash cleared up. Preneta subpoena’d the girl’s medical records from Howard Memorial and showed the court that his client was in jail during the period when the nine-year old said the molestation had occurred. The prosecution responded that she was just a nine-year old and she must have got the date wrong, because everything else about her story held up. But members of the jury said that based on the evidence presented about when the crime occurred, Mr. Poe could not have done it and they acquitted him. Preneta was actually proud that he’d found that hole in the prosecution’s case. The DA was livid that the girl had been sort of tricked into confusing the dates. Can you imagine any public defender today going to that much trouble?”
PRENETTA was hated much more intensely than the alleged criminals the justice system lives off. He cost the system a lot of money, taking up hours of court time on matters that should — heh-heh — be bargained by reasonable people. Prenetta took his job as “defense attorney” very seriously and he took the whole show way into Miller Time, and a Courthouse is wholly a 9-5 operation. Yeah, yeah. They all go home with the files and toss and turn all night about what to do. That may happen in individual cases but I doubt many local attorneys are Ambien-dependent.
ANYWAY, and apologies for my old coot-like garrulousness here today, it has been inspired by a case that has caused me some consternation simply because it's so sad and because the kid's mother thought I might write it up in a way that would somehow helpful to the federal case she has pending. And her own peace of mind, I would imagine. But I read the file, and absorbed the known facts, and all I could feel was sadness at a situation where, it seems very clear, the alleged victim was a victim of his own weakness, his own love of the drugs that killed him. He wasn't killed by the cops, and he wasn't killed by his jailers. I'd be lying to myself if I wrote it up otherwise.
CATCH OF THE DAY, July 10, 2016
JEFFREY CHENIER, Ukiah. Under influence, unlawful display of registration, community supervision violation, probation revocation.
JOY DAVIDSON, Ukiah. Probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
AMANDA DAVIS, Ukiah. Burglary, receiving stolen property, probation revocation.
JOHN DOYLE, Ukiah. DUI-drugs, under influence.
HERSEL HARWOOD, Branscomb. DUI.
BOBBY KAMBEITZ, Ukiah. Dirk-dagger.
KATE KUMMER, Ukiah. Unspecified misdemeanor.
RYAN LILE, Fort Bragg. Fugitive from justice.
GEORGE MANSFIELD SR., Ukiah. Drunk in public.
JASON NEWMAN, Versailles, Indiana/Willits. Concealed weapon, loaded firearm in public.
MICHAEL PARKER, Ukiah. Possession of controlled substance in area where prisoners are kept, under influence, failure to appear.
SHEENA REBOCA, Covelo. Drunk in public.
TEODORO ROSALES, Covelo. Domestic battery.
JORGE VALENCIA, Redwood Valley. Meth possession for sale, battery of peace officer, under influence, probation revocation.
RATTO, THE ENDLESS RATTO
Long-time Santa Rosa Garbage Magnate Resigns
Rick Downey was hired to turn The Ratto Group around, but walked away days before the Santa Rosa City Council scheduled to take up a scathing audit.
GROW OLD. Buy a house. Have a baby. Love someone.
Sometimes there are substitutions. An historical torque pulls us away.
A dearest beloved — in a harbor, trench, or house — lies begging for morphine (just fucking do it, the best place is in the neck!).
Fight the power?
“Oh, she was a good girl.”
“His daddy was enlisted. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
After operations south, the soldiers are sleeping now, in various postures of weariness, on an oriental carpet — knees tucked into their chests, arms touching one another — everything all interwoven, like something abstract deep within us — a soul, maybe — bare-knuckled, but delicate, too, like a scissored-out black camo held up to the light before it is cut deeper.
— Henri Cole
The Man Who Should Have Been Judge
Interviewed by Bruce Anderson
(As we consider the narrow victory by judge-elect Keith Faulder for Superior Court Judge, we might want to recall one of the very few times a lawyer ran against a sitting judge in recent memory back in 2000. Besides Mr. McDonald interviewed below, the only other time a lawyer ran against a sitting judge was when Coast attorney (and then-deputy DA for the Ten Mile Court) Mark Kalina boldly ran against Judge Jonathan Lehan on the slogan that Lehan ran a “catch-and-release court.” Needless to say, Kalina lost and so did McDonald — Mendo then as now is loathe to elect an opponent to a sitting judge because nobody but the AVA follows what judges do or don’t do.)
* * *
AVA: I believe you are that rare local candidate who was born and raised in Mendocino County. Other than Judge Cox, and I’m not sure about him, the rest of our judicial cadre is from somewhere else.
McDonald: I was born in Ukiah, raised here, went to the schools here. I’m a bona fide old-timer. Ron Combest (of Covelo) says he’s been here about 20 years. I hear he showed up and ran unopposed for the Covelo justice court. I don’t know if that’s true. I don’t have any idea. Then I’m told that was the only election he stood for. From then on the legislature made the justice court judges superior court judges, so he’s only had that one election. He claims 18 years of service here.
AVA: You hear right. But you sir? Your affiliations, please?
McDonald: I have none. I’m not a joiner. I’m not a regular churchgoer. I have no arguments with religion but I’m not associated with any denomination. Also, I find that philosophically I don’t much agree with what are called ‘service organizations.’ So I’m not a member of anything. I’ve been offered the opportunity to be on boards of directors, but I’ve declined. I don’t know how to explain that other than that I have no political ambitions. I’m a very unconnected individual.
AVA: Will we be spared those truly awful family photos candidates bombard us with as if they’re the only people in the country with blood relations?
McDonald: Yes. I’m not doing that. I wouldn’t do that.
McDonald: I attended City College in San Francisco and then the University of California. I was married at the time so we moved back to Mendocino County. We had two children. After the divorce, I decided I would go back to school — law school. Prior to that I had worked in the chemical industry in the Bay Area. When we moved back here, I went into business for myself buying and remodeling older homes which came to me with a lot of deferred maintenance. I’d fix them up and sell them, which I really enjoyed. I thought that was a fairly rewarding way to earn a living.
AVA: So unlike most lawyers, you actually have some skills?
McDonald: Well, I can hang a door. (Laughs) I still have my tools. I still do carpentry. I just love it.
AVA: We like the fact that you are outside the Mendocino County legal club. Our judges are not only joined at the hip to existing power blocs, they brag about it. But are you some kind of anchorite, a social isolate, a weirdo?
McDonald: (Laughs.) I hope not. I have an office in Ukiah and so there’s a lot of friendly talk over coffee with lots of different kinds of people and that kind of thing. I’ll also take a local case occasionally, but not very often. However, I know a lot of the lawyers and judges. I’m not a hermit. I admit I’m new at this. I guess candidates are supposed to crash other people’s parties and be more aggressive but I feel very awkward doing that. I don’t plan to have any receptions for myself or send out any mailers. I’ve never liked expensive attempts to manipulate me when I was a voter.
AVA: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t resent slick campaigns run by so-called consultants, but they all do it.
McDonald: I’m on a minimal vote-gain track here, I’m afraid.
AVA: We hope not.
McDonald: And you’re probably the only vote I’ll get. [Laughs]
AVA: Actually, I can promise you six votes right here from hell’s half-acre. Any candidate outside the club gets our support. So, what kind of law do you practice?
McDonald: Administrative. People are by law entitled to certain benefits. It’s not uncommon for people who medically qualify for Social Security benefits to be denied them by the state agency which administers the law for the federal government. The person wrongfully denied benefits would then go before a federal administrative law judge and allege that a mistake had been made by the state and that they should correct it. At which point there’s a hearing and, hopefully, the judge agrees with my argument that my client has been deprived of the protections or benefits of the law. If the judge does not agree then we go to the appeals council in Virginia where we usually win. If we lose in Virginia, then we go on up the line to the various appeals courts. Invariably, my work consists of making a paper case rather than appearances before judges or panels of judges. It’s a matter of drafting an argument that the person for whom I’m working meets the requirements of the law.
AVA: Bad back and nobody believes him….?
McDonald: Exactly. Understand it’s not just a bad back. The person has to be unable to hold any job available in the national economy that’s out there in substantial number. That’s a tough standard to meet Everyone thinks you can just claim a bad back or a mental condition and the check is in the mail. It’s not that way at all.
AVA: How was the announcement of your candidacy received?
McDonald: There wasn’t really a formal announcement. I waited until the last day to sign up to run. I’d done my level damnedest to talk other lawyers into running for judge. I’ve had some success in getting other people to run, and I’ve had some success getting other people to run for office when there’s been an open seat and the person didn’t have to run against an incumbent. But this time I decided I’m the only guy who’s independent and can remain independent because of the nature of my practice. I decided somebody’s got to run or nobody gets to vote on the incumbent.
AVA: The local bar is a tight, clubby group.
McDonald: Yes it is. Here again, I don’t even go to the bar outings.
AVA: Those are bar outings all right. They all get drunk together out at Lake Mendocino and then drunk drive together.
McDonald: (Laughs) Actually there are plenty of stories you’ve never heard about it. But I think they go up to Emmendal up around Willits these days. It’s a little more private, a little more remote. Most of them stay overnight. It’s very clubby.
AVA: As an outsider candidate, it’s a tough club to break into and, I think, not a particularly honorable club at that.
McDonald: I have never really tried to join. I don’t drink — by choice. Every time I do I get sick as a dog. I was raised around a bunch of drunks, so I don’t really care to be around a bunch of drunks. No fun in it for me.
AVA: Any particular cases you object to the disposition of?
McDonald: No, I can’t say that there are. I have not audited any of the judges. All I really have is what I’m told. When I was new here I was assigned cases and I felt obligated to take them. But in court I never felt there was a real interest in getting to the truth of things — the search for truth the process is supposed to be and out of which justice is supposed to arise. It always struck me that what I was was seeing in court was merely a process; they would touch all the bases of the process but get around them as quickly as possible. Lately, I understand from people who handle a lot of family law cases, there are two lies right out of the box. The first one is the woman says, ‘He molested our children.’ And the guy says, ‘She’s living with a drug dealer.’ These kinds of awful charges aren’t assigned much, or any, credibility, but how has it that people now feel free to lie in court? But lying seems more and more prevalent. People go to court, take the oath to tell the truth, and then begin to tell the most outrageous stories in the world! How does anyone, a court or a jury, reach an intelligent, just decision when people are allowed to lie on the stand? The process is supposed to be a search for truth within the protections of the law.
AVA: I’ve often been in court where I’ve heard people on the stand tell obvious lies, and the judge sits there without intervening.
McDonald: Yes, and it’s a disheartening experience. I think judges should be in a position to certify the record containing glaring inconsistencies of testimony and an investigation commenced of provable untruths and the teller of the untruths prosecuted. In a criminal case where a guy tells outrageous lies but the jury acquits him, if they are provable lies I think he should be charged with perjury.
AVA: Amen. However, I can’t remember a perjury case ever having been brought in Mendocino County. Ever.
McDonald: (Laughs.) We have a sizable population of truth tellers here I guess. I just find the courts less and less honorable. I grew up during the Second World War. I remember Pearl Harbor. I remember V.J. Day. I remember V.E. Day. I remember when Douglas MacArthur gave that retirement speech to the Congress and to the people. The themes were Duty, Honor, Country. Those were mainstream thoughts at that time. That was before a lot of the social revolution came along.
AVA: Now it’s Me First and Dishonor. The present group of judges, many of them products of looser schools of ethical standards, shall we say, aren’t likely to be confused with Solomon.
McDonald: I think of it as industrial justice. What really affects me is what I call ‘designer truths.’ I think designer truths are a greater risk to our judicial system than drugs or any of the outside influences. It just seems to me that judges are willing to say things and do things that really are not honorable. A classic example would be that judge from the Coast.
AVA: Oh, Lechowick.
McDonald: Yes. He clearly benefitted from good old boy time.
AVA: Is that like Miller Time for people who make more than a hundred thou a year?
McDonald: (Laughs.) You have to be a go-along, get-along type to function as a judge in this county. But the club is so opposed to anyone with a different background that the opportunity for a new approach to old problems, or a possible change in the lackadaisical way things are done, isn’t welcome. Resistance to change isn’t new, but....
AVA: And it’s almost impossible for ordinary citizens to complain. The Grand Jury is vetted by the judges to exclude “troublemakers” and....
McDonald: I’ve heard that. I’ve heard that certain names have not been submitted for the drawing. I’ve heard there’s been some editing of the names. I don’t know that to be true. But it depends on the presiding judge at the time. But it seems to me that grand juries don’t have the clout they should. The way they’re controlled is financially. There’s not enough money to take the testimonial evidence under oath and have it recorded by a certified recorder. You can’t investigate even a civil matter adequately, in my opinion, unless what’s said to the grand jury is said under oath. Then you have some real authority. Without testimony in a formal setting one might as well walk down the street and ask people at random what they think. But, grand jurors have really been very conscientious and they have tried to do their jobs, but they get beaten up for it.
AVA: The last grand jury report was the best I’ve seen yet, but all they got back was a lot of bushwah from the criticised bureaucracies and comments like, “You aren’t qualified to understand what you’re looking at.” As if penny ante corruption in the Fort Bragg School District is like the American College of Surgeons.
McDonald: The most recent grand jury?
McDonald: They really got punched around.
AVA: They were denounced by every agency they’d criticized; that they were unprofessional, that they didn’t know or understand what they were looking at…
McDonald: … That they didn’t get the facts straight. Right. I agree. Very unfair.
AVA: But the matters I was personally acquainted with, the Grand Jury had its facts exactly straight; the people criticized never get criticized and didn’t like it.
McDonald: That’s it. That’s another designer truth. You get somebody with access to the Daily Journal and the facts get changed from what’s important to what’s not important. One apparently under-investigated case was that shooting of that black guy, the psychiatric patient. I mean he was sitting in a restaurant, waiting for his lunch, drinking a lemonade; not much of a threat to anybody as I see it.
AVA: His name was Marvin Noble. But he hadn’t shown up to take his meds and he was executed for that offense. I don’t blame the Ukiah cops so much as I do the county’s famously incompetent Mental Health Department. Then, in the aftermath of what was the lethal disposition of a troublesome person, officialdom pulls its wagons in a circle and it’s Say Hello To Everyone On The Other Side, Marv.
McDonald: I don’t disagree.
AVA: Sorry. I’m supposed to be interviewing you, but a lot of outrageous things go do in this county simply because dishonorable people tend to be at the power levers.
McDonald: That one started in DA Massini’s office. They claimed that everything they did, everything that happened was justified. You hear these stories all the time. I understand that the injured dog was sent to a vet in the first ambulance to arrive and they had to call a second one for the victim.
AVA: That’s true.
McDonald: Is it?
AVA: The way they justified that, and there may be some truth to their justification, but since no one is allowed to see the reports we aren’t likely to know, they said that the EMTs were still working on Noble because he was still alive so Rover got the first ambulance. In fact, and what we reported, Marv was dead almost immediately after he was shot at his apartment door. Marv, the cops say, stabbed the dog when it was unleased on him. Marv’s shooting was justified, they say, because Marv had attacked Officer Dog.
McDonald: They seem to have treated the dog as a full police officer.
AVA: Yep. Anthropomorphism gone berserk. And that case never even went to the local grand jury.
McDonald: Grand Juries are never funded to do the job that’s asked of them. It is expensive to have a certified court reporter present for the testimony, but absent that a grand jury is just listening to somebody talking.
AVA: Political affilliations?
McDonald: I’m a registered Democrat, have been for years. I follow local elections well enough to cast an informed vote. But as far as getting involved, I haven’t been politically involved in years and years. But an interesting thing I’ve learned as a candidate is I could have been endorsed by the Republican Party or endorsed by the Democratic Party. I could also have been endorsed by the non-partisan Candidate Evaluation Council. And these endorsements cost money, anywhere from $400 to $600.
AVA: No! I didn’t know that.
McDonald: It’s an outrage. I cannot imagine an honorable judicial candidate doing it. It seems that the whole purpose of going for these cash-for-endorsements is to deceive the voters. I’m told they do it though.
AVA: Have you been invited to candidate forums?
McDonald: Yes. One in Mendocino, one in Ukiah. There’s another one in Fort Bragg. There’s a radio interview with me coming up. I’m going to start speaking out more. There are things that I’ve wanted to say, but I feel that I should say them when my opponent is present. I don’t like to talk behind their backs.
AVA: You can be sure they’re talking about you behind your back. Anyway, Combest is touting drug court as one of his accomplishments. With a population of dopers the size of Mendocino County’s there isn’t room in the County Jail for everyone popped for drugs.
McDonald: I understand that Combest does a pretty fair job in drug court. But of course for openers you have to plead guilty and put yourself at the mercy of the court to get into drug court. But I do think he deserves some credit for doing that, although it’s not really a judicial undertaking in my opinion. It’s more of an administrative dispatch of drug-dependent persons. He’s starting another one in Fort Bragg.
AVA: It’s also a cost-saver, right?
McDonald: Oh yes. I think it is. I think it also ought to be a standard option for mental health cases. People who go through our judicial system time after time are often mentally impaired. They’re not criminals, they’re… I just talked to Sonya Nesch here yesterday. She said there’s one case of a disturbed young lady who was arrested 28 times! But now that she’s on medication her life is improving. It just seems to me that judges should say, ‘Wait a minute. Is there a mental health issue here? Would we be better off having this person evaluated from the standpoint of mental health rather than tried on a criminal count?’ It seems we’re doing not just the individual a favor, we’re doing society a favor. And we’re saving money besides. I also think domestic abuse is a mental health issue, and a serious one, as well as an economic issue, because it increases in hard economic times. We’re so busy doing what we do in the courts that we’re not looking up and asking the right questions.
AVA: Anyone who sits in on a court session for a day knows that most of the people coming through the system are simply not competent. They are often child-like, little kids in big bodies.
McDonald: I don’t disagree.
AVA: It’s not that most criminal defendants are evil. Only a tiny minority of people passing through the Mendocino County Courthouse are real criminals.
McDonald: There are a lot of otherwise decent people who simply lack impulse control who wind up in court. We have an enormous array of helpful medications in the pharmacopoeia right now. It’s really grown a great deal. And if counseling and medication helps people function, it’s in the interest of society to deal with them as mental health cases rather than as criminals.
AVA: DA Vroman recently caught a lot of flak from an array of demogogues because he wanted to send an habitually drunk drunk and drunk driver to an alcohol rehab program instead of state prison. A bunch of people demanded state prison where there is no longer much in the way of drug and alcohol counseling.
McDonald: That’s absolutely mainstream thought — beat the hell out of him, punish him, put him in prison. And yet that doesn’t work. I don’t know anyone who’s come out of prison better able to deal with their problems than when they went in! But I’m no expert on what it takes to modify behavior by any stretch of the imagination. But it seems to me a lot more of the behavioral problems now are being recognized as chemical imbalances, as medical problems.
AVA: The average person’s diet, lack of exercise isn’t the path to robust mental health.
McDonald: There’s a definite connection between physical and mental health.
AVA: What do you do for fun?
McDonald: We travel. We do a lot of camping and bird-watching. Bird watchers are the nicest group of people you could ever hope to meet. They all are very interested in the natural world. They know trees. They know grasses. They know birds. They’re just a joy to be around.
AVA: Read any good books lately?
McDonald: The Steven Ambrose book about Lewis and Clark, Undaunted Courage. And I have Tom Brokaw’s book, on deck, The Greatest Generation.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
I remember watching Walter Cronkite broadcasting the moon landing live on July 20, 1969. It was around 1 or 2am when Armstrong stepped on the surface. I was positively ecstatic; I was in awe; I knew I was living through a once-in–a-lifetime historic event.
I think it was the next day and tv news began doing man-in-the-street interviews. Everyone was so amazed. Then they interviewed a Black man and asked how he was feeing about the moon landing. He said it didn’t mean a thing to him — he wasn’t interested. He was more concerned about what was happening in the Black community. I was shocked — I was just a naive, young adult. I remember feeling deflated. It was in that instant that I realized we were not one society; there were separate cultures in America.
* * *
‘WHITEY ON THE MOON’
A rat done bit my sister Nell
With Whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And Whitey's on the moon
I can't pay no doctor bills
But Whitey's on the moon
Ten years from now I'll be paying still
While Whitey's on the moon
You know, the man just upped my rent last night
Cause Whitey's on the moon
No hot water, no toilets, no lights
But Whitey's on the moon.
I wonder why he's uppin' me?
Cause Whitey's on the moon?
Well i was already given him fifty a week
And now Whitey's on the moon
Taxes takin' my whole damn check
The junkies make me a nervous wreck
The price of food is goin up
And if all that crap wasn't enough
A rat done bit my sister nell
With Whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And Whitey's on the moon
With all that money i made last year
For Whitey on the moon
How come I ain't got no money here?
Hmm, Whitey's on the moon
You know I just about had my fill
Of Whitey on the moon
I think I'll send these doctor bills
(To Whitey on the moon)
— Gil Scott Heron
AND TODAY'S "WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD" AWARD GOES TO...DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ
Earlier today, Democratic Party establishment hack, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Florida's 23rd District) -- the ultimate insider, if ever there was one -- showed up at the final Democratic platform meeting before the DNC convention...and it was just in time to watch her hand-picked committee members vote down another resolution opposing the disastrous and job-killing trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Here’s the truth: An overwhelming majority of Democrats oppose the TPP — including Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton — because it will outsource jobs, harm our environment, undermine our national sovereignty, and increase the cost of prescription drugs.
More or less, the main supporters of this trade deal are the multi-national corporations who stand to benefit from it and corruptible politicians, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who have taken huge campaign contributions from corporate special interests.
Once again, Wasserman Schultz has rigged the process to ensure that her donors, not working Americans, get exactly what they want from the Democratic Party. This is an outrage. We cannot allow it to go unnoticed. Wasserman Schultz must be removed from both from Congress and the DNC.
— John Sakowicz, Ukiah