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Deputy Massey’s Last Patrol

After 20 years as a Deputy Sheriff in Mendocino County, Orell Massey has retired, although we understand he may return as a jail transportation officer for a while.

Here’s a look at his last arrest.

The case of Tomas Ortega-Reyes came to court last week. Mr. Ortega-Reyes arrived in Ukiah via Florida and Virginia where he’d worn out his welcome, if his rap sheet was any indication. Having no marketable skills, Ortega-Reyes made his living in Ukiah scrounging for cash-in recyclables. What else he did to pay the rent is not known.

The competition for Ukiah’s cans and bottles in Ukiah can be fierce, so Ortega Reyes armed himself with a homemade machete, not that his improvised weapon kept him from falling behind on his rent and getting evicted.

A sympathetic soul named Sherrie Jones helped Reyes move out and, since he had no place to keep all his stuff, she ended up with some of it stored in her car. Time passed and Sherrie lost track of the homeless man — she never really knew him all that well to begin with, she said, and was only trying to help.

Sherrie said she’d assisted Reyes, now known as Defendant Reyes, move from Ukiah’s Norgard Lane to the Motel 6 on State Street. Sherrie said she then lost track of him, whatever he was called. She said she never did know his name.

A year went whistling past, until Saturday, September 10 of this year when Ms. Jones and her boyfriend, Oscar Maldonado, were parked under the Talmage bridge. Reyes happened by and recognized Ms. Jones. He demanded his stored belongings back and, well, she didn’t have them with her anymore and wasn’t sure offhand where and what this sudden demand all amounted to. Reyes, shouting obscenities, started swinging his machete at her,  mostly missing Sherrie but severely wounding her car. Sherrie suffered cuts and bruises but apparently not enough of them to warrant an ambulance to the hospital.

Reyes, Jones, Maldonado
Reyes, Jones, Maldonado

Oscar Maldonado had called 911. Deputy Massey was dispatched to assist Ukiah Police officers already en-route. It was about 6pm. Reyes had been disarmed and had disappeared by the time Massey arrived. In court, however, events do not unfold in real time.

The prosecution, in the form of Deputy DA Josh Rosenfeld, put his first witness on the stand, Deputy Gregory Clegg, who had arrived on the scene four hours after the mayhem,  to find Sherrie Jones sitting calmly in a folding lawn chair, patiently bleeding from her machete wounds, awaiting Deputy Clegg’s interview.

Deputy Clegg testified that Ms. Jones told him she and her boyfriend were parked under the Talmage bridge when “a Hispanic individual” attacked them, demanding his personal belongings and striking her vehicle several times with the machete. Mr. Maldonado then got out from the passenger side and, seizing a nearby 2x4,  struck Reyes in the shoulder with it. But the wood being old and rotten, it broke in two and was ineffective against the rampaging Reyes.

Mr. Reyes’s lawyer, Jonathan Opet from the Office of the Public Defender, objected that the testimony about the condition of the wood called for an expert opinion, and was therefore inadmissible speculation on the part of the witness.

Judge David Nelson for some reason found Opet’s silly objection sustainable. Apparently it takes a journeyman carpenter, at the very least, to tell a rotten 2x4 from a good one. Maybe Opet should have called in somebody from Friedman’s Home Improvement, or maybe the County Building Inspector to provide expert testimony.

Although the blow from the 2x4 did no harm, it distracted Reyes long enough for Ms. Jones to get out of the vehicle, only to be immediately struck in the hand, shoulder and head with the machete. She then she fell to the ground. At this point, Sherrie Jones told Clegg, the “Hispanic individual” fled.

Opet cross-examined Deputy Clegg.

“Ms. Jones told you that Oscar Maldonado picked up a piece of wood and struck my client?”

Clegg: “In self-defense, yes.”

Opet: “But he had not been attacked!”

Clegg: “He didn’t want to get struck.”

Opet: “Did my client say anything about intending to strike him?”

Clegg: “Not that I recall.”

Opet: “Why did she get out of the car?”

Clegg: “I didn’t ask.”

Opet: “Was she armed?”

Clegg: “No.”

Opet: “Did Ms. Jones say she attacked the man with the machete?”

Clegg: “No, she did not tell me that.”

Opet: “But she walked over to him, it seems, and they were all talking?”

Clegg: “Yes, after Mr. Maldonado struck him with the 2x4.”

OPet: “Was the vehicle operable?”

Clegg: “Yes.”

Opet: “Well, why, then, didn’t they just drive away?”

Clegg: “She did, later, after the incident.”

Opet: “To where you found her?”

Clegg: “Yes.”

Opet: “Sitting in the chair?”

Clegg: “Yes.”

It was hard to tell whether Sherrie and Maldonado had driven to the recycling center near the corner of Rupe and Perry, or the other way around, but Oscar Maldonado told Deputy Massey that he had been attacked by Reyes who came at him swinging a belt after the incident with the machete. Maldonado said Reyes took off his belt and was swinging the end with the buckle on it at him.

Massey described the machete as a homemade job, pieces of wood for a handle taped to a blade fashioned from a scrap of metal. He said there was blood on it from the attack on Ms. Jones. Opet wanted to know about the belt buckle, and Massey described it as about four to six inches square, and “as I recall, it was sorta heavy.”

Opet: “How thick was it?”

Massey: “I thought it fit the criteria for a 245 a.1 [a deadly weapon].”

As an ex-Marine master sergeant, Massey would know: After World War II the dress uniform belt, which until then had been leather with a heavy brass buckle, was changed to a cloth belt with a light, ornamental keeper instead of a buckle. Prior to that change, Marines had been killing and maiming allied soldiers and sailors in bar fights by using their belts in the way Reyes used his to attack Maldonado.

Opet: “Now, when my client was swinging the belt, how close was he to Mr. Maldonado?”

Massey: “Mr. Maldonado said he moved back when he [Reyes] pulled the belt off. Which of course you would for the leverage of the swing if they’d been at close quarters — that is, grappling.”

Opet: “He never told you how far?”

Massey: “He said he moved back is all.”

Opet: “Is that when Maldonado started throwing bottles from his can-collecting cache at him?”

Massey: “Yes.”

Opet: “Was my client struck with any of the bottles?”

Massey: “Yes, he said one struck Reyes on the left side of his body, and another on the arm."

Opet: “Did Ortega Reyes know him [Oscar Maldonado]?”

Massey: “Sherrie Jones told me they both had known him for about one year.”

Opet: “So Mr. Maldonado knew my client?”

Massey: “Yes.”

Opet: “Did he elaborate on how?”

Massey: “He did not.”

Opet: “Did Ms. Jones?”

Massey: “She did. She said she’d known him a year or so and that she ran into him now and again.”

The inconsistencies in Jones’s and Maldonado’s statements detracted from their credibility, but the injuries to Jones were convincing enough, so Mr. Opet submitted on the attack with the machete; as for the belt buckle attack, he argued the evidence was insufficient, that the buckle didn’t qualify as a weapon capable of causing death or great bodily injury.

Opet: “It will cause some injury, I’ll give you that. But then, too, there’s the question of proximity — how close was he when swinging the belt? So the application of force test has failed. Also, your honor, why get out of the vehicle when somebody’s out there waving a machete around? This is all very questionable behavior, and why isn’t Mr. Maldonado here to tell us what happened? Something under the Talmage Bridge doesn’t add up, and I’ll submit it on that.”

Rosenfeld: “Judge, Mr. Maldonado isn’t here because he is injured. He got out of the vehicle and used the weapons available to him, the 2x4 and the bottles, to defend himself and his girlfriend from this maniac with a machete, and I think the buckle in question here was very definitely capable of inflicting serious injury.”

Judge Nelson: “There’s sufficient evidence for all three counts, two assaults with the machete and one with the belt buckle. It seemed pretty heavy to Deputy Massey, and with those dimensions, the way I visualize the situation, it was very dangerous, even though the machete was of a somewhat funky manufacture. Let’s set this out two weeks for arraignment on the information.”

Massey and Nelson are both retiring. All the old law enforcement faces are fading away. It’s sometimes sobering to look around the bailiwick and see lawyers and police officers my grandkids’ age. Yes, it’s sobering, but there’s always a cure for that at Happy Hour.

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