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When Hill Muffins Fall Out

Last Tuesday (election day), a pot trial got underway featuring some of the area’s most noted growers, activists and Deadhead celebrities were mentioned in open court — names like Wavy Gravy, Steve Parrish, David Nelson and Moon Alice — all in reference to a case where the growers, James Taylor Jones and Fran Harris, lately of Spyrock Road and the Tie-Dye 2 store in Laytonville, were the victims, and another couple of Deadheads, Kevin McAnallan and Maggie Henley, were accused of backstabbing them in a pot deal gone sour (sic).

Jones & Harris
Jones & Harris

After three long days of Jones and Harris telling their side of the story — how they were ripped-off for a 100 pounds of “your average high-grade Mendo product,” prosecution rested and defense put on defendant McAnallan, who said he was shown the weed, found it to be of inferior quality, not at all up to the Sour Diesel standards that he had ordered, and so he passed on the deal, leaving an angry and vindictive James Jones and “[his] average high-grade Mendo product” behind.

And leaving the jury to decide who ripped off whom?

The trial will resume after the paper has gone to press, so we will have to update the results next week, but this trial, falling as it did on the day pot was voted legal, has some absolutely fascinating overtones as to the end of an era that made Mendocino County world famous, and how in the last year before legalization, the writing was already on the proverbial wall and the end in sight, causing old-time growers to commit outrageously venal acts against longtime friends.

McAnallan
McAnallan

In previous deals with Jones, McAnallan had helped package the product, and knew exactly the quality of what he was brokering for his Chicago-based buyers. But this time, last March 26th, the product was already packaged-up and sealed, so McAnallan, probably smelling the rat standing next to him, randomly opened about 20 sample pounds and was not impressed, he said.

“The Sour Diesel commonly grown in the Spyrock area is very popular back East, and after opening a few random samples I knew this stuff just wasn’t going to work, so I passed on it. James [Jones] is a cantankerous guy and he was pretty upset when I left, but I wasn’t about to commit $140,000 on a product Mark [the Chicago-based buyer] would never pay $1400 a pound for.”

What Jones and Harris did, after McAnallan left, and during the considerable time that passed afterward — about a month — was contact Sheriff Tom Allman, who they knew quite well from years of activism in establishing local medical marijuana policy.

Jones and Harris told the cops that McAnallan had pulled off a one-man home invasion robbery — a robbery only Jones witnessed, with a gun only Jones saw, in a house with his wife Fran in the next room who saw and heard nothing but a disappointed groan from Jones, and then McAnallan’s vehicle leaving.

James Taylor Jones was called to testify first. He and his wife, Fran Harris, had been flown in from South Carolina, where they recently relocated after living at 1520 Spyrock Road for the past 16 years. Mr. Jones proved an exceedingly garrulous witness with a supercilious awareness of his own celebrity and a nerve-grating habit of chuckling dismissively at things that weren’t the least bit funny. Even though Deputy DA Barry Shapiro promised immunity for his testimony lied and lied some more — as was later shown by his own wife’s testimony. In his mind, Jones was just another selfless humanitarian tilling the good Earth for the pure benefit of the afflicted.

Deputy DA Shapiro: “So you lived on Spyrock Road…. what did you do for a living?”

Mr. Jones: “Well, I was a carpenter, you see. I’d learned carpentry in Santa Cruz, huew-huew-huew… and of course we had the tie-dye shop in Laytonville. We were very well known at all the David Nelson Band concerts, ran the shows, really, sold our tie-dye clothing and had access to backstage—”

Shapiro: “Yes, but didn’t you also grow marijuana?”

Jones: “Well — huew-huew-huew — yes, yes, I guess you could say we did, huew-huew, a few plants, nothing more, for people in need, mostly. We sold some, not much, huew-huew, to Davy Jones Enterprises in San Francisco, but gave most of it away to friends who couldn’t afford to buy it. We grew only a few plants, huew-huew-huew, we were not really that good at it, huew-huew, but we wanted to help others and I have a letter from President Obama here with me, just to show you how much we—”

Anthony Adams (of the Office of the Public Defender): “I’m going to object, Your Honor.”

Judge Ann Moorman: “Let’s have a sidebar.”

While everyone in the room wondered how a guy like McAnallan with his two BMWs — a guy who admittedly engaged often in pot deals worth upwards of a quarter-million dollars — could qualify for a public defender, the judge and lawyers hashed out a legal question as to the admissibility of a letter from, of all people, the President of the United States!

The letter was deemed irrelevant.

Jones and Harris had met McAnallan and Ms. Henley at concerts of the David Nelson Band. Jones and Harris, as hippy royalty, got into the shows early and had backstage privileges because they ran things for the band — to hear Jones tell it, huew-huew — and sold their tie-dye t-shirts to concert-goers — along with lots of pot, according to Henley.

The case was based entirely on what James Taylor Jones said happened, with some of it corroborated by his wife, Fran Harris. Supposedly, she was in the kitchen getting the money counter ready to count out all the cash for the pot and was told to stay there by her husband, James. This testimony caused some trouble because James said his wife was “huew-huew-huew, well, you just don’t tell her to stay in the kitchen, huew-huew…”

“Do you mean she’s strong-willed?” Judge Moorman asked.

“Yes, huew-huew, she is very strong-willed.”

On cross-examination, public defender Anthony Adams made a pretty job of debunking  Jones’ joke about who really wears the pants in the family. Judge Moorman put a stop to Adams’ domestic yucks strategy and thereafter had little patience with Mr. Adams, while indulging seemingly petty objections from Shapiro almost automatically.

So Ms. Harris stayed in the kitchen until she heard the vehicle leave, and when she came out Jones told her he’d been robbed at gunpoint. Their immediate problem was — get this — the supposed thief had only taken the 90 pounds that had been fronted to James by a guy he knew only by the moniker ‘Razor’. The 10 pounds Jones and Harris had supplied was left behind.

Hmmm. Jones was saying that he could get a casual acquaintance like ‘Razor’ to front him $126,000 worth of a readily marketable product, but then Ms. Harris testified that this same someone with such an intimidating nickname, this Razor character, was not enraged when informed his 90 pounds was gone and there was no money to show for it.

“He was disappointed enough, but not angry, not until later,” said Harris.

Ms. Harris inadvertently made a liar out of her husband many times over on the amounts of pot they sold, and on this question as well, for she knew Razor’s last name, and where he lived, whereas Jones had said no, they didn’t know any more about Razor.

But freshly robbed at gun point, what did Jones and his Missus do? Did they call the cops? Noooooooo. They called their friend Jim Shields, editor of the Mendocino Observer, and not a guy involved ever in the Laytonville area’s thriving dope business. Then they called a roadie for the Grateful Dead, Steve Parrish. Then they called the ultimate hippy authority, Wavy Gravy and some other friends and neighbors. Last, they called Maggie Henley. This call was ostensibly out of concern for Ms. Henley’s safety, but also couched carefully in terminology intended to see if she was involved in the rip-off — according to Harris and Jones. But it could just as easily have been used to set up the frame-job on McAnallan, as defense contended. Ms. Henley, it seems, was a slick one.

In the many weeks that passed before they finally called law enforcement, Jones and Harris either put together a frame-up on their old friend Kevin McAnallan for refusing their weed — and remember, pot sales were off, prices down, the market glutted, and the end of an era nigh — or, as they said, it began to dawn on them that they’d been set up.

The impoverished defendant, Two Beemer McAnallan, they now remembered, had wanted them to lock up their dogs when he arrived so they wouldn’t jump on his BMW and scratch the paint. McAnallan also wanted the surveillance cameras turned off (which were broken anyway); and he wanted to be shown how to open the gate (which wasn’t locked); and he wanted everybody to use cheap, untraceable trac phones from WalMart.

At the time this all seemed merely paranoid to Jones and Harris, but in retrospect, they saw McAnallan’s crafty designs to rip them off.

Defense denied all of this, except the request to put the dogs up. They were mastiffs that McAnallan was afraid of, and they had scratched his car once before. As to McAnallan’s BMW, Jones said it was black and Harris was sure it was white. The cops said McAnallan had two nice cars, one dark and the other light, but he only came to the house once in his car, and had supposedly returned for the rip-off in a pickup truck.

Weeks later, they (Jones & Harris) discovered a box he (McAnallan) had brought into their (Jones & Harris’s) house. It contained some old clothes and a pair of dishwashing gloves. These items, McAnallan said, he brought because he was under the impression they (Jones & Harris) would be packaging the product up, like they’d done before, and it’s a messy job. But when he (McAnallan) got there the packaging had been done already, and when he left he forgot his box of work clothes and the gloves he used to examine the sample packages left behind.

McAnallan had bought 200 pounds from them before — Jones said it was “maybe about 10 pounds, huew-huew” and Harris said “more like 30 or 40 — maybe even 50 pounds.” At any rate, tables with scales and packaging equipment had been set up, and the industrious trio had worked to package it and then loaded it into a rented box truck hidden in a stack of Styrofoam insulation that had been hollowed out for the purpose. Jones gave McAnallan a solar panel to complete the disguise; it went along with magnetic signs on the truck’s doors advertising a solar energy installation business.

Jones and Harris said McAnallan had brought in the box of clothes when he came the second time in the truck, and they thought it must be full of cash for the weed. How the box of clothes sat on the dining room table for three weeks unnoticed was explained away by the comment that Jones and Harris were so upset at having been robbed they had too much else to worry about.

An afternoon of testimony was taken up with a DNA expert who linked McAnallan to the gloves. This fact was uncontested — he’d used ‘em to check the quality of the weed, he freely admitted.

A sergeant from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office took the stand to testify that back in 2006 Kevin McAnallan had led them to an indoor grow which was later busted, and the sergeant said McAnallan told him he had gone there with a plan to “rip it.” Why McAnallan had turned these growers in instead of stealing the weed wasn’t asked. Indeed, all the evidence brought by prosecution seemed to raise more questions than it answered.

What we had at the end of the week, on Thursday, was a picture of the sun setting on not only an era of untold pot glories and fortunes made in the growing of the world’s most coveted harvests, money literally and figuratively growing on weeds — but the retirement, the stepping down, the closing of the book, as it were, on the personalities who were there through it all to the end, in this case, the bitter end.

No matter how this case comes out next week, it will have to go into the archive as one of the classics, and I only wish I could have had more time to do it more justice.

* * *

Just in late Monday afternoon: 

Just finished closing arguments and it looks really, really bad for the prosecution's case against McAnallan.  If the jury comes back with not guilty -- and it would be more astounding than Trump's win if they don't -- then I hope the DA files charges against Jones and Harris for numerous perjuries. along with committing the theft from Razor. Extradite 'em back or just lock 'em up now -- either way Jones and Harris took a big gamble and probably lost.

6 Comments

  1. Bruce McEwen Post author | November 17, 2016

    The jury came back hung 10 to two in favor of acquittal. That doesn’t necessarily mean two of the jurors bought the State’s contention that Kevin McAnallan ripped off the weed (which was fronted by a neighbor named Razor Skinner) from James Jones and Fran Harris; it could mean that the jury (who were in deliberation for close to eight hours and sent a flurry of notes to the judge for clarification) couldn’t clear Kevin without putting James and Fran in peril of being skinned alive by the vividly named Razor Skinner – because to acquit McAnallan was to indict Jones and Harris who had already fled for their lives to South Carolina; which wasn’t far enough, it seems. So they came back to pin the rip-off on their old buddy, Kevin.

    The jury may have drawn straws to see which two would vote for conviction and give the hill muffins a chance to get away.

    As the case wound down, prosecutor Shapiro and investigator Kendall appeared to realize they’d been bamboozled – if not so much by the tediously glib Jones – but by the far more credible Harris, who made the story at least plausible. In closing Mr. Shapiro was reduced to repeating umpteen times a chorus of “why would Fran and James lie?” Mr. Adams gave the jury not only 126,000 very good reasons why they would lie, but added to that the further impetus to uttering falsehoods that comes with the treat of retaliation from Razor Skinner. This also went a long ways to explain why James and Fran had moved in such short notice so far away from a community they professed to greatly love and had worked so many years to make their home – not to mention why they were both having such difficulty, to this day, sleeping at night. And it wasn’t because Kevin McAnallan waved an imaginary gun in James Taylor Jones’s face!

    In any case, Jones and Harris have left Mendocino County and are perhaps relocating to a place more distant and obscure than South Carolina, since their efforts to frame McAnallan failed so miserably. If they get out of this alive, they can thank those two jurors who voted to convict.

  2. George Hollister November 17, 2016

    At times it is necessary to state the obvious, what a complete waste of county resources.

    • Bruce McEwen Post author | November 17, 2016

      I’m sure the county bought round-trip tickets to bring the victim witnesses across the country and lodge them under tight security. Now it will cost them a (perhaps one-way) ticket back to face the worst kind of perjury, what criminal psychologists call id transference…

      Tell me George, how much do these transference windbags cost the tax assessor’s office?

      If you know…

  3. Jeff Costello November 19, 2016

    Trying to picture them in South Carolina, tie-dye and all. Maybe they change their appearance accordingly depending on location.

    • Bruce McEwen Post author | November 20, 2016

      They sure did. “hippy w/a haircut,” Jones looked like a southern redneck — right down to the affected ya’alls — and Harris was groomed for a bureaucrat’s post at the FBI! (tie-dye and hair left far behind, back where they burned their — get this, they were really into group huggsie-wuggsies — friends and neighbors. Adorable hill muffins, eh?

  4. Greg Whalen January 26, 2018

    I lived and worked with these two clowns, and could add to the story ‼️

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