Last week we met Kendall Kice who had her bank account ripped off by Bobby Roston.
This week we meet Clifford Hampton who had his bank account ripped off by Larry Wolfe.
Both cases share a reluctance of the law to do anything about it, and the question is why?
The answer is Proposition 47, along with other measures to reduce the incarcerated populations of the jails and prisons. It appears that there simply isn’t room for criminals who steal without seriously injuring or killing their victims.
Keep in mind that these crimes were both committed against working-class people and therefore the amounts of money taken were, to the comfortable class, negligible. If anyone could figure out a way to steal from the comfortable class, room in the prisons could be made for them, to be sure.
Now, as we will recall from last week, Ms. Kice had to do the foot-work in her case by herself. She solved her own case.
Mr. Hampton took his cancelled checks paid to someone he didn’t even know to the Sheriff’s office and turned them over to Deputy Craig Walker who has been on light duty following an operation for injuries sustained in the line of duty. Deputy Walker got a search warrant signed by a judge and about a month later he got the bank account and video footage of Larry Wolfe depositing the checks at Mendo-Lake Credit Union on State Street in Ukiah. The checks, one for $433 and the other for $825, were deposited last August 26th and 27th, respectively. If Deputy Walker could be cloned, crime of all kinds would be reduced.
Ten months (!) later we get to the preliminary hearing.
Attorney Jan Cole-Wilson, who now works for the Office of the Alternate Public Defender, was assigned Mr. Wolfe’s case and she had no trouble shuffling him along through the system — child’s play, actually, since the criminals are all just big kids, anyway — to a new kind of remote-control day-care operated by Mendo’s ever-expanding probation department.
Ms. Cole-Wilson started out by questioning Deputy Walker’s veracity in much the same offended tone that a schoolmarm would use towards the class bully.
“So, it’s your testimony he deposited the checks at the ATM?”
“Well, did it appear that he’d just opened the account?”
“No, it had been in use for some period of time.”
“So they knew him as an established and valued customer?”
“I don’t know if I can answer to that. He was a customer there.”
“And on the videos you were able to recognize him easily?”
“So he wasn’t trying to hide, was he?”
“No, he didn’t hide his face.”
“And he signed his name?”
“And this all happened under regular business hours?”
“They were deposits, yes.”
“And they were processed and deposited in his account?”
“And did you see what happened when the checks were reversed?”
“I did not.”
Ms. Cole-Wilson showed Deputy Walker some photographs, stills from the video, which showed her client, Mr. Wolfe, with someone else.
“Did you identify who this person was?”
“But is it fair to say it appears someone was there with him, either to encourage or help him with the deposit?”
“Yes. During the first time he — this other individual — came over to help with something.”
“Was Mr. Wolfe having difficulty with the second deposit?”
“I didn’t notice anything in particular.”
“And he didn’t make any attempt to hide or disguise himself?”
“And he was alone the second time?”
“And this account was opened in 2?”
“I don’t recall.”
Cole-Wilson showed him the date on the documents and said, “So he was an established customer?”
“Evidently for three years.”
Deputy DA Luke Oakley said, “This other person — how did he attempt to hide?”
“He approached Mr. Wolfe at first, briefly, and made no effort to obscure his face, but when called back again he put his tee-shirt up in front of his face.”
The People rested.
Ms. Cole-Wilson said she thought the two cases should be severed, which would make the crime of stealing over $1250 from Mr. Hampton merely misdemeanors, since Prop. 47 has increased the amount for felony theft to $950. Cole-Wilson also thought the People had not shown that her client had tried to defraud Mr. Hampton of his money.
“I’m not sure that’s been shown. He [Wolfe] put it into his own account and knew there would be a paper trail. The photographs clearly show that obviously someone else was there, and there’s no evidence to defraud, so I would submit that there’s insufficient evidence for a holding order.”
Prosecutor Oakley said, “He used Mr. Hampton’s name and address on the checks to obtain money for himself, which went into his own account, so that in itself is sufficient for a holding order.”
It was hack work, ordinary, boring, rote. The defendant was in no danger of punishment. Nothing was at stake for either side. And perhaps that is why Judge Clayton Brennan was presiding.
Judge Brennan said, “Can I see those pictures, Ms. Cole-Wilson? This second guy, the one with his shirt over his face looks scary, kinda like a gang member with all those tattoos, and he’s there to assist Mr. Wolfe. I can only speculate, but it looks like they’re working together. The evidence is slight, but I think there’s enough for a holding order.”
Larry Wolfe signed the checks and deposited them into his own account on camera, and the evidence is “slight”?
“As to splitting the case and making it two misdemeanors, I’m going to deny that at this time, and hold Mr. Wolfe to answer on the felony counts.”
June 28th was set for arraignment, by which time a disposition will likely result in plea for a term of probation.