The question isn’t who’s going to let me, it’s who’s going to stop me.
— Ayn Rand
The Bronwen Hanes sentencing early last week proved to be a textbook exhibit of perp denial. All evidence to the contrary, Ms. Hanes, and her volatile boy friend, Tommy Lemons Jr., placed blame for their difficulties everywhere but where they belong — on themselves.
In the latest chapter of what began as Ms. Hanes arrest for stealing a large sum of money from the Anderson Valley PTA embezzlement scandal, Ms. Hanes was packed off to the County Jail for a year.
There were a number of letters submitted on Ms. Hanes’ behalf that often ignored the basic fact that the attractive Boonville mother of two filched more than $27,000 from the Anderson Valley PTA and photoshopped receipts to defend herself.
Ms. Hanes was convicted in 2013 for the PTA embezzlement and put on probation, after a stint of weekends in jail, with a stiffer sentence hanging over her head if she even so much as tampered in the slightest with any monies other than her own. Judge Moorman was strict as starch on this point. Pay all the money back, and if you do it again, off to jail you go.
Ms. Hanes boy friend, Tommy Lemons Jr. paid the PTA money back for his new love interest, but Ms. Hanes, in the face of exasperated warnings from Judge Moorman to abide strictly by the conditions of her probation, did it again, not a large sum but appropriation of so much as a dollar of money not hers was enough to send her back to jail.
Ms. Hanes served her initial jail time on weekends so she could keep her job. She says that her home was robbed on one of these weekends away while someone she identifies as “the victim” tried to get her fired at Elipsis/Wine Direct. That was in 2013. She was laid off in 2014 – shortly before moving in with Mr. Lemons – and went to work at H&A in 2015.
The unnamed “victim” again interfered in Ms. Hanes gainful employment to get her fired from this new job.
Unemployed, but as always serving as a volunteer with the school-related activities of her children, Ms. Hanes was helped along by Mr. Lemons, with whom she and her children now lived. She says she has raised her two boys “to help whenever possible, because not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and that helping within your community is important and commendable.”
Things were going pretty good, Ms. Hanes said, until she and Lemons had “a domestic altercation at a friend’s house, where he freaked out and attacked me and my two friends, attempting to choke one of them until she actually passed out. I called 911… Tom was taken to jail … sent to rehab…”
And right here is where Ms. Hanes attempts to slip-slide away from responsibility for her subsequent legal difficulties. She says that somehow the unhappy event involving her new boyfriend, Mr. Lemons, caused the Lemons family to blame her for the police being called to arrest Mr. Lemons.
Ms. Hanes wrote “…. his family retaliated by contacting Luis Espinoza and Craig Walker that I was operating a concession stand. I was told repeatedly by Tom’s father and his brother that calling 911 was forbidden in their family … Even today, Tom says if I had never called 911 we would not be in this position.”
The couple stayed together, however, and appeared in court last week as allies against their many persecutors
Hanes goes on to assure the judge she wasn’t trying to line her pockets when some money from the concession went missing, but only help her son, and anyway no one in authority cared that she was helping out in the concession stand, that AV High School’s Athletic Director Robert Pinoli and Superintendent Michelle Hutchins didn’t object until she herself called the cops on Tom for strangling her friend.
“I should have known better than to forge Tom’s name on the check that went to the school, but I didn’t know what else to do. Tom had taken the money from me and backed me into a corner, leaving me, as I felt, without a choice… Tom had routinely told me I was not allowed any money for food or clothes or anything without some degradation or humiliation or abuse.”
Mr. Lemons presented his view in a letter to the court:
“Bronwen Hanes and her two sons have lived with me since April of 2014. Bronwen is a loving mother and great partner to me. She spends all her time taking care of her family, including me. She sacrifices her own time and needs to see that the rest of her family is taken care of [this part, though still legible, has been scratched out:] including me.”
Lemons, a commercial fisherman, writes of the “high stress” life of a fisherman before he denounced the fathers of Bronwen’s two boys, Scott Carlin and Ward Hanes. Carlin is dismissed out of hand as a deadbeat dad “missing for near 9-1/2 years” and “owes her 15 years of child support.”
As to Hanes, descendant of a prominent Anderson Valley family, we are informed by Lemons that he [Hanes] “abused Bronwen and [Carlin’s son, the older boy, JT], manipulated Bronwen into selling her home in Santa Rosa, investing her money into a home on Hanes Ranch. When she could stand no more abuse of herself and son she divorced Ward Hanes.” Lemons added that “Ward Hanes shot [the older boy] with blowgun darts.”
“I’m an alcoholic and commercial fisherman,” Lemons wrote. “It’s a high stress lifestyle that I live. My life and work comes home with me. Bronwen left that relationship [Hanes] with nothing but debt, and Ward Hanes attempted to get alimony from Bronwen.”
Ex-husbands, ex-wives are routinely vilified in today’s courtrooms. That Hanes is an abusive father is simply not credible in the Anderson Valley.
Lemons also denounced deputies Walker and Espinoza, who he accuses of “stalking” Bronwen before he rips into his own family, although to everyone who know them they are fine people who enjoy a strong reputation as honest and hard working.
“This current situation that Bronwen is in,” Lemons continues, “is nothing more than retaliation from my family [again, the word is heavily lined out but still legible, and replaced with:] brother and Deputy Walker for calling 911 on me. Resulting in my arrest for 3 counts of battery. There was no money stolen from the concession stand fundraiser and what I believe was entirely my own money used to purchase all of the inventory for the events in question. All the witnesses called to the stand by DA David Eyster committed perjury in your court. They all testified that Bronwen ran a concession stand on March 18, 2016 and stole the money. Which in fact Bronwen Hanes and I were in the town of Groveland, near Yosemite on that date.”
In other words, everyone involved conspired against my lady whose friend I choked after kicking a door down and who, in her own letter to the court, said I forced to degrade herself before I would give her any money for her support.
Alibis: Rule No. 1: An alibi from any spouse, cohabitant or other close family member is automatically suspect
Lemons wraps up with, “The only theft in all of this was performed by Deputy Walker who illegally seized my check from Michelle Hutchins without a warrant…”
Dr. Jessica McIninch, of the Anderson Valley Health Center, weighed in.
“In my clinical opinion,” she wrote, “Ms. Hanes demonstrates genuine remorse and a strong conviction to abide by the law. Her most recent legal issues appear to be more a matter of confusion with regard to when her probation had been terminated rather than a premeditated attempt to disregard limitations regarding processing money while on probation. It is important to note that Bronwen is establishing new patterns of behavior that bolster her confidence and sense of self….” Etc.
The judge is then invited to make an appointment with Dr. McIninch for guidance in the matter. (!)
Victoria Shanahan, Bronwen’s lawyer, savored the comment by Dr. McIninch about her client’s current “legal issues” appearing to be “a matter of confusion.”
“And I’m still confused myself,” Shanahan said. “She [Hanes] sold these things from money she’d supplied herself, in the few instances she worked the booth – and she didn’t work the Spring Carnival… My client’s not married, your honor, and it would be a burden on Mr. Lemons to take care of her son….” confirming that the previously condemned Hanes will re-assume custody of his son.
Defense attorney Shanahan finally conceded that, “We acknowledge some of the more egregious evidence against my client, your honor, as it makes the Court’s frustration clear and understandable. Moreover, the community in Anderson Valley is very angry with Bronwen, and [it] vilifies her in every aspect of encounter she suffers as she goes, or tries to go, about her business. Yet she remains there, and perseveres, somehow, through it all, for the love of her sons. If you won’t give her the minimum we are asking for, the 16 months, the mitigated term [which is really only eight months], then we would be asking for the mandatory supervision, in light of the impact jail or prison would have on the children. More jail time won’t meet society’s interests, and I’ll submit it on that.”
DA Eyster wasn’t buying any of it.
“Judge,” objected, “She’s using the children as human shields. The court has to say at some point, enough is enough. We have Mr. Lemons over here” – Eyster rotated gracefully on the balls of his feet to point directly at Lemons — “smirking and blaming everyone else and telling the court it’s a all a big conspiracy; and then we have this psychologist saying it all resulted from confusion about the terms of probation. Well, judge, that shows me the good doctor doesn’t know what’s going on any more than a newspaper reporter does; they both only know what the defendant has told them.
Eyster peered over his glasses at the press box containing, as usual, only me.
“Now, Mr. Lemons took the cash and Ms. Hanes had no way to pay the money back, so she forged a check, nothing new to her; she has a former felony conviction for forgery, in fact, it’s a theme with her. My suggestion is we give her three years, and split it, with one and a half on mandatory supervision, and the same provisions as before; namely, that she keep her hands off other people’s money.”
“She took early responsibility, your honor,” Shanahan said. “And she was very remorseful.”
“Well,” Judge Moorman sighed. “She has paid the restitution [for the theft from the PTA] and I will say Ms. Hanes that was my paramount concern, and you’ve done that. But at the same time you openly defied me, going about your business just as you please. And I have to wonder how could I have been more clear that you were not, under any circumstances, to handle anyone else’s money? Openly and without regard for that directive, you violated it!”
The judge gave Bronwen Hanes a hard, steady look as Bronwen hung her head, the very picture of contrition.
“I cut you a break, a big break. I let you serve out your time on the weekends, a kindness that has resulted in my being extremely disappointed. I worried about your son having to get on the stand and defend you, which he did to his credit, and that’s more than I can say for the son of a woman* I remanded earlier who had her son get up here and lie for her – but, never mind that, I’ve reached the end of my leniency!”
Moorman picked up the voluminous Bronwen file and tamped it on the bench like a deck of cards until the pages were all neatly of a piece, then said in a quieter, more formal voice, “I’m going to give her the two years, and I’m not going to split it. That’ll be the order. She’s remanded at this time. Ms. Hanes, you have 60 days to appeal.”
*Judge Moorman had sent two other mothers to jail earlier that same day, Jodi Dutra and Melanie Hargis, both on pot for profit cases. Ms. Dutra had sent a text message, intercepted by the DA, threatening to jump her $175K bail, so she was remanded (a scene resulted as Dutra's daughter started screaming "Don't take my Mother, please don't take my mother" and tried to bolt through the gate, but the bailiff restrained her, and Jodi's mother started yelling at Eyster, "You're nothing but a damned liar, Dave, a liar, you hear me?) Ms. Hargis was the one who had put her teenage son on the stand to lie for Mom, that his bedroom was not being used to dry marijuana, and the judge rewarded her maternal treachery by giving her 180 days (i.e., 90).