The impact of Proposition 64 has been reverberating through the courtrooms these past two weeks and a number of cases have stalled to assess how things will shape up. On Wednesday Judge John Behnke announced that the judges were going to meet that afternoon and discuss some of the immediate concerns.
In the meantime, a number of cases scheduled for trial have been put over, including a prelim for Eugene ‘Bear’ Lincoln, charged with over 4000 plants on a Covelo property. Lincoln’s lawyer suggested the plants belonged to someone other than Mr. Lincoln, the implication being that many others were involved, and therefore only 25 plants belonged to each participant in the grow.
Law enforcement harbors an old grudge against Lincoln from back when he was acquitted of charges of shooting and killing Deputy Bob Davis in the mid-1990s. (The ava’s editor managed to get himself a week in an iso cell for contempt of court in the famous Lincoln case.) The week before the present case, during its early stages, DA David Eyster asked Judge Ann Moorman to remand Bear Lincoln’s wife into custody. This seemed a bit harsh, as these folks are not flight risks nor of the sprightly generation that can do a week in jail standing on their heads. But with the advent of Prop 64, the dynamics have changed and the Lincoln case had to be put over.
Another pending case was the mom and pop grow team of Frank and Patricia Thomas who were busted in June of 2015. This one was set to finally go to trial last week, having been put off until after the election. The Thomases’ legal team, featuring Keith Faulder, who is about to become a judge, and Ean Vizzi of Pier 5 (the Tony Serra lawyer collective), had filed a motion which DA Eyster had just opened. A heated discussion began as to how the late filing was unfair to the People and the trial would have to be postponed yet again.
This makes for an interesting turnaround. Whereas before it was the defense strategy to stall until legalization was voted in, now it is prosecution’s feet that are dragging, and the Thomases were visibly annoyed with not being able to put all this inconvenience behind them and get on with their lives.
“But there are certain elevators available to the People, here, judge, and I need time to look into the remedies,” Eyster said.
It’s open and shut,” Mr. Vizzi replied. “Proposition 64 has changed everything.”
Behnke said, “It has and maybe you’re right that it will be open and shut, but we’re going to be making a lot of new law in the next few weeks and we’ll have to just see how it goes. But I have to be fair to both sides, and the People have a right to examine their options before we proceed.”
The Franks had five greenhouses with 2,648 plants at their Red Mountain (Leggett) property when they were raided in the summer of 2015 during a three-county operation centered in the Island Mountain and Alderpoint pot zone where the first of the big-time grows colloquially termed “dozer grows” were busted — or would have been busted had not the KMUD radio and the “Redwood Telegraph” got the warning out in time for the growers to flee. The Franks also had 52 guns, and though the prelim was interrupted two summers ago, and never resumed, there seems to have been some irregularity with that, as well. The Franks’ case was put over, but only a week, as time is running short for defense attorney Keith Faulder who must make the transition to Judge Faulder after the first of the year.
In preparation, Mr. Faulder has grown a bushy gray beard, which makes him appear more sagacious, but he still can’t stifle his endearing sense of humor, and was quipping his famous puns right and left, during the proceedings, making it plain that as a judge, his court will be nothing if not entertaining.
Faulder’s new beard was attracting so much attention, that Vizzi was trying to win a supporting actor Oscar with Academy Award-worthy performances, but the judge [Behnke] has been no slouch when it comes to judicial humor, himself a widely celebrated legal wit, and his honor was showing 'em what for, amusing the gallery by mixing it up with the two newly graybearded lawyers.
All the changes going on now at the County Courthouse are difficult to assess, everything is in a Prop 64 state of flux, but perhaps needless to say, everyone has a clear vision of what they would like to see happen — whereas nobody has any idea what really will happen. The prophets springing up at the Courthouse are almost as prevalent as the ones online in the blogosphere predicting world events with President-elect Trump at the helm.
Anderson Valley pot and wine grower Kelly Boss was about to go to trial, but his case has petered out, so to speak, along with the others. Another famous bustee from the Anderson Valley, Anthony Junger Witt, was back in court last Friday, having been popped with more meth and more weed, but these charges, thanks to Prop. 47 and Prop 64 are likely to be reduced to misdemeanors.
The cops are just shaking their heads. Some have been overheard to grumble that it’s all over, and time to move on. And here’s another strange development — now that the heydays are over in the Emerald Triangle and the big corporations and wine moguls are poised to take over pot pharming for profit — the old hippies are sorry to see our cops go, especially with Prop. 57, which we haven’t heard much about yet, but which will shortly inundate the countryside with hordes of advanced criminal professionals, all the ones too dangerous to qualify for realignment and Prop. 47!
As we brace for these changes, it’s reassuring to see that a new (on-line) newspaper, the Mendo Voice, has been sending reporters to the Courthouse to help the public get a grip on what goes on there. There had been no coverage at all, outside the AVA, since Ukiah Daily Journal reporter Tiffany Revelle left three years ago — unless you count reprinting press releases verbatim as news reporting, which lately it seems many people do.
In Other Courthouse News
Billy Joe Rickman, 43 of Philo, was sentenced to eight years in state prison last Wednesday for intimidating a witness and assault with a deadly weapon. The sentence was arranged in a deal by Mr. Rickman’s public defender and DA’s office, so all we know is the bare bones from the Ukiah Police Department’s press release, reprinted in the Ukiah Daily Journal and Press Democrat.
Rickman, an old friend of my editor, has a history of meth abuse and in January of 2015 he reportedly pulled a knife on a man and two boys moving into a room at the Sunrise Inn on South State Street, across from Safeway. The Sunrise is the cheapest motel in town, so stingy you have to bring your own soap and toilet paper. This reporter has lodged there several times — having missed the bus to Boonville — and can attest to rumors that the place often serves as a crib for ladies of the morning, noon, night and all times in between, and a meeting place for drug dealers.
It’s not an ideal environment for kids, to put it mildly, but when you are faced with the exorbitant rents in Mendocino County, you go wherever you can afford shelter. The father in this case said Rickman took his cellphone and when his eight-year-old boy — the other boy was 12 and knew better than to provoke an armed man on meth — yelled at Rickman to give it back, Rickman threatened them all and punctured a tire of their car with the knife, to, ahem, punctuate the threat. At this point, he allegedly also threatened them with worse if they called the police (Penal Code 136) — which they eventually did, after he left, and Rickman was spotted four days later, on Wednesday, at Rite-Aide.
As the officer — it must have been the fleet-footed Kevin Murray, the fastest cop on the force — approached, Rickman ran.
The officer gave chase down Gobbi Street and the foot race ended when a customer coming out of Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op blocked Rickman and took him to the ground. Of course Rickman was “blazing” on meth, and in possession of the same, and had his “tools” (read paraphernalia).
Rickman had a strike prior, and so his sentences were all doubled. Judge John Behnke gave him three years for the 136 (it was the mid-term and would have been the lighter sentence, probably, if the victim’s two young kids hadn’t been threatened as well) attempting to dissuade or intimidate a witness, which because of the strike was doubled to six years; then for the 245(a), assault with a deadly weapon, an extra year added on, and doubled, for a total of eight years. He was given 180 days for violating his Post Release Community Supervision from his prison-prior (nothing was said of the vandalism, puncturing the car tire), but this ran concurrent with the other sentences.
Based on Rickman’s inability to pay, the $1800 fine was reduced to (the equally unaffordable) $1000, and restitution for the ruined tire was reserved, in case Rickman wins the Lottery sometime after he gets out sometime in 2025 (supposing such things as tires have any meaning in so distant a future).
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In Judge Moorman’s court, former judge candidate Patrick Pekin was at a loss as to how to proceed with his new client, the uncooperative Thessalonian Love. Mr. Love came to the area from San Bernardino to elope with a female Point Arena High School student and, according to testimony at his prelim, make her a “ho” (street slang for sex worker, and please note this is only considered abhorrent sexism when perpetrated by white men, but Mr. Love being black it is accepted as a part of a different culture and therefore part of the diversity we are all encouraged to accept). Since his arrest, Love has added to his criminal record by, among other things, assaulting his jailers, and spitting on his previous lawyer, Jan Cole-Wilson.
Ms. Cole-Wilson has been absent due to illness, and so Mr. Pekin was appointed to represent the would-be pimp, but after two weeks, Pekin discovered that his new client was too difficult to work with (nuts), so he asked for a psychological evaluation and this was granted.
Judge Ann Moorman suspended legal proceedings and advised Mr. Pekin that he should first send the psych doc a warning as to the violent and unpredictable nature of his client.
“I just want you to know that once when I was a lawyer I sent a client to Dr. Kevin Kelly and my client beat the crap out of him. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life and I still blush over it every time I see Dr. Kelly. So be sure you give Dr. [Albert] Kastl adequate warning, Mr. Pekin. He will probably want to be sure he doesn’t enter the same room or holding cell.”
“But the first step in psychotherapy is building trust between the doctor and the client, judge.”
“Mr. Pekin! Your client is not going to Dr. Kastl for treatment. He’s going for an evaluation, and I want him adequately warned as to the dangers your client poses.”
When Thessalonian Love was brought in, he was no longer wearing the spitting mask, which he’d worn to court on previous occasions. This reporter has since talked to a guy who had to wear a spitter’s mask in the Oakland jail and he told me how it works. It is basically a disposable diaper held in place with a mosquito net hood. But even with your hands cuffed and chained to your waist, my informant said, it is easy to get off a lunger. You simply wait until you are seated, then bend over at the waist, pinch the mask between your knees and throw back your head, having already filled your mouth with saliva — then let ‘er rip at the nearest target!
After this, the jailers use a Maxi-Pad Kotex, held in place with duct tape. This humiliation usually cures spitters, I was assured, and maybe this is what happened to Love, because he had no mask on this occasion. His hands were securely bound behind his back, however, which is a precaution that indicates he’s been doing things with his hands that preclude the more comfortable arrangement of having the hands cuffed to a chain belt around the prisoner’s waist.
It was a lot of trouble for the transport officers, but Love has had a right to be present when Judge Moorman ordered the psych eval, so he was brought in. Also, the staff at the jail had been driving all over the place it seemed, bringing in prisoners from the state prisons, two of whom, Simon Thornton and Marvin Johnson, are being granted new trials, resulting from appealing their convictions in the Bushay Campground murder in 2012. Thornton and Johnson were convicted for going along with two other mopes from Willits to rob a group of homeless people camped at Lake Mendocino, and two men were shot, one of whom died. The prosecutor in the case, Paul Sequiera, is no longer with the DA’s office and the new guy, Rick Welsh, apparently isn’t up to speed on the case yet, because DA Eyster is handling this one by himself.
A star witness who was also shot in the chest with a .45 — the other man took the second bullet and died — may not be available for the trial.
As a matter of increasing curiosity, Mr. Eyster seems to be handling any and all of the more important cases on the docket these days. Why is not clear. There are many good lawyers on his staff, among the more experienced are Beth Norman, Shannon Cox, Scott McMenomey and Josh Rosenfeld. These lawyers are kept busy enough — there’s plenty of crime to go around in spite of the recent get out of jail free cards — but Eyster seems to take the lion’s share of the high-profile cases, such as Steve Ryan, the guy who recently killed DeShaun Davis for collecting recyclables from a dumpster near Ryan’s rental just east of the Perkins Street freeway exit.
Mr. Ryan entered a plea of not guilty, a pro forma move at this early stage and waived time for a prelim, giving his public defender, Carly Dolan, time to prepare his defense. Like Eyster, Linda Thompson, Public Defender, has been in the habit of hogging all the high-profile cases that fall to her office, but for some reason she relented on this one and let Ms. Dolan take it. Dolan is already busy with another homicide case, Jewel Dyer, accused of murdering his father, and so now “Olive Oyl,” as she’s been nicknamed at the jail, has two murders in the first to defend. Also, the svelte Ms. Dolan has become more communicative with the press than she was formerly. She told me she even once dressed up as her namesake character from the Popeye cartoon one year for Halloween.
The Parents of DeShaun Davis were in court, in company with a reporter from Mendo Voice, the new online newspaper, and they will all no doubt be following this very high-profile case — tinged as it with its obvious racial overtones — closely when the prelim gets underway January 5th at 1:30 in Department H. Although it was all going down in Department B last week, subtle workings were afoot. The first time Mr. Ryan was brought in, he didn’t enter a plea, because it would have been problematic.
The usual judge in that court is the Honorable David Nelson, who will be gone by January 5th, and Nelson, had he taken Ryan’s plea, would have to do the sentencing, because of legal niceties after the trial’s all over and done with, and homicide cases take years. So Nelson’s presence being unlikely, the arraignment was postponed until Judge Behnke could take the plea.
As to the coming changes, Ryan’s case will be kicked upstairs to the top floor, Department H, and Judge Behnke will preside, having resumed felony cases after a year of doing misdemeanors. Judge Moorman will continue to handle felony trials, but she will move her court across the first floor hall to courtroom B. No word yet on what will become of Department A, but as Judge Faulder needs a bench and is more experienced with criminal than civil law, it could very likely fall to him.
To follow up on a recent story, the pot case against Kevin McAnallan was dropped last week. His trial ended with a hung jury and the implication was so heavy that his accusers — prominent Laytonville Deadheads James Taylor Jones and Fran Harris (now living in South Carolina) — had stolen the dope they accused McAnallan of stealing, that the DA had to let it go… perhaps. There is still the possibility that Jones and Harris could be brought back from their hideaway in South Carolina to face charges of lying to Sheriff Tom Allman and committing perjury on the stand. It was telling how often James Jones self-consciously said from the witness stand, “Huew-huew-huew, I guess I’m under oath, so yeah, I’m huew-huew, supposed to be, anyway, telling the truth.” He interjected this subliminal confession fairly often.
The locals this couple burned are no doubt the reason they so quickly sold out and relocated, especially because of the vividly named Razor Skinner, the guy whose pot they swiped, will now know that the story they told him was all a bunch of lies, and the specter that keeps them awake at nights — they both complained of being unable to sleep, despite the new Sleep-Number bed they bought with the proceeds and a prescription for a sleep aid called Ambien — Razor Skinner, the nightmare on Elm Street is all too real!
McAnallan’s defense attorney from the public defender’s office, a Mr. Anthony Adams, came to Mendocino County from the Bakersfield/Riverside area where he was a state assemblyman until he made the mistake of voting against his Republican Party orthodoxy to get some worthy legislation passed. These kinds of “log-rolling” efforts for the public good are never tolerated by partisan politicos, however, and so here we have this fine lawyer, and the Republicans east of San Diego and Anaheim have President-elect Trump.
The prosecutor, Barry Shapiro, did a fine job, given what he had to work with (liars) and was at least — against incredible odds and, to my mind, not credible victims — able to get the jury to hang-fire.
The Sheriff and District Attorney did nothing wrong in this case, nor were they fools. It’s part of the job that you have to take people at face value, and proceed from there. But if somebody tries to use the system to cover their own crimes, you must retaliate with a terrible and swift slash with the sword of justice.
Sleep well, my little Deadheads…!