CLINT SMITH appeared in court last Thursday, the Honorable Clay Brennan presiding, presiding in the Willits branch of the Mendocino County Superior Court over what's shaping up as an Only In Mendo Classic. Smith is the Willits teacher who, for months, had regular intercourse with a 15-year-old female student, downing Viagra for daylight sessions with the girl in the backseat of his car and in his Brooktrails home while his wife was at work. Several of these furtive interludes occurred at lunch time to the rear of the romantic macadam of the Bank of America parking lot. Smith also performed nude dances for the child which he electronically communicated to her at her home where her much younger sister also viewed them.
WHEN THE RELATIONSHIP was discovered, Smith was arrested and charged, bail set at the standard fifty thou, but… But the Honorable Clay Brennan released Smith from jail on Smith's own recognizance.
(READERS ARE REMINDED that a Ukiah truck driver named Mark Sprinkle got 45 years in the state pen, an essential life sentence, for a wholly alleged "sexual touching" of three junior bimbos who had voluntarily taken their clothes off in his car. Please bear the Sprinkle case in mind as we compare its disposition to the way Judge Brennan is handling the Smith matter.)
SMITH IS MARRIED. He and Mrs. Smith have two daughters, one of whom was a good friend of dad's 15-year-old inamorata. Smith couldn't do much but plead guilty. Which he did, months ago, as a parade of solid Willits citizens, Mormon elders prominent among them, testified as to what a swell guy he is. Judge Brennan told Smith to go home, keep his pecker in his pocket, and come back for sentencing on July 16th. The judge might as well have climbed down from his dais and clapped Smith on the back. "Don't worry, Bucko. You think I'm going to send you to prison in front of Mendocino County's most important Mormons and school teachers? Hell, these people vote!"
SO, LAST THURSDAY, SMITH arrives in Superior Court, Willits, for sentencing. The Honorable Clay Brennan explains to the crowd that he'd just come back from vacation so he hadn't read "all the letters yet," that he'd need at least two weeks to read a hundred or so identical testimonials to the Mormon's lapsed lamb, who may have strayed this one time but is otherwise tried and true.
THE MOTHER of Smith's victim writes: "....When he was called to the stand he made a demonstration of making out with his wife while glaring at my daughter. It was outrageous. When the judge asked if I was available for court on August 4th, I asked if I really had any choice in the matter, and when I walked out muttering I was shushed....."
LETTING SMITH off with anything less than the minimum two years in the state pen that even the County's most prominent pervs get would be, as the local libs say, "inappropriate." (Dan Garcia, also of Willits, was the officious chief clerk of the Superior Court, a connected guy. Even he got two reluctant years for his preying on his foster child.) But Judge Brennan is poised to give Smith zero time on August 4th, 8:30am, Superior Court, Willits.
SOME OF THE BEST 13-15 year old baseball players in America will be in Ukiah the weekend of August 6th for the regional Babe Ruth League tournament. Teams from Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California, plus Ukiah's all-star team. "Best" in this context really is best. Las Vegas, Southern California and Arizona are hotbeds of youth baseball. You'll see some future major leaguers at Anton Stadium, a beautiful little ballpark on Ukiah's west side. Info at 468-9140.
INDOOR SPORTS FANS will certainly want to know that Sis Yaz will be doing her thing on Saturday night at the Sign of the Whale, Point Arena. She says "lots of cool people are coming out and having a great time" at the Whale's dance parties, and when I asked her if all us uncool people were supposed to shiver outside in the fog, our noses pressed wistfully to the glass at the merriment inside, Yaz, with the magnanimity of the true Rastafarian, said uncool people were welcome, too.
BUT WHILE WE'RE LINGERING inland at Ukiah, waiting for the ballgames, drinking in the inspiring vistas of State Street in great, greedy gulps, we learn that Mike Sweeney, of all people, has been named Ukiah Rotary's "Environmentalist of the Year." Well, Sweeney did try to recycle his ex-wife, the late Judi Bari, but Ukiah Rotary is hardly likely to reward the former Maoist for that. Rotary's special recognition for Sweeney is, however, one more example of Mendocino County's unique mass amnesia: Where else does history start all over again every day and you are whatever you say you are, no questions asked? (Mystified by the occasional reference to Mendocino County's chief garbage bureaucrat as a car bomber? Check the discussion at the AVA's website: theava.com)
WHY IS UKIAH so ugly? And Willits even uglier? Come, take my hand as we journey back through time when Ukiah and Willits, and tens of thousands of attractive little American towns like them were still coherent, with their tree lined streets, thriving city centers, town squares, and local ruling classes that took pride in what their communities looked like, when the local bankers knew the difference between a nice building and an eyesore. This is what happened: Following World War Two, the outback pillars of the community began to crumble. Well, not crumble exactly, but withdraw into their bank accounts. Charley Mannon and ten thousand outback Babbitts like him no longer cared. Er, check that: Babbitt did care. He had his limitations, but he cared. Babbitt wanted Zenith to look better and be better. Today's Babbitts take the money and run. There's lots of money in Ukiah. Willits, too, not that you'd know it to look at these two primo examples of zero planning and less community pride. But both places became the hellish, lard-scented sprawls they've become because the local big boys at the Savings Bank and the Bank of Willits gave up, withdrew into that weird little gated community in Ukiah where Charley Mannon lives, he and the rest of the self-beleaguered white boys, hunkered down with their autographed photos of Nixon and Reagan, checking their burglar alarms every few hours, the cops on speed dial. The only areas of the two towns that remain attractive are the areas that pre-date World War Two. Everything afterwards is, well, what it is, abominations large and small, and Charley Mannon is the man responsible, he and that acquisitive old coot at the Bank of Willits.
ON THE MOONLESS NIGHT of April 29th 2006, Bismarck Dinius, 40, of Carmichael, was drifting along on the placid waters of Clearlake in a 27-foot sailboat. His running lights may or may not have been on, and Dinius's own running lights were dimmed by alcohol. As Dinius sat topside with three friends, including his betrothed, Lynn Thornton, 51, of Willows, an off-duty Lake County deputy sheriff named Russell Perdock was hurtling around on the lake in his 24-foot Baja Outlaw powerboat at speeds later estimated at somewhere between 40 and 60 mph. The deputy had also been drinking, by all accounts, when his water borne projectile struck Dinius's sailboat with such force that it cut the boat's mast in half, and almost cleared the vessel entirely; it was only the severed mast that arrested the powerboat's trajectory. Ms. Thornton died of her injuries and Dinius was charged with vehicular manslaughter while deputy Perdock wasn't charged with anything. The cops and the Lake County DA magically concluded that Dinius had caused the accident. Although the manslaughter charges against Dinius have been dropped, lesser charges have not, and what's left of the case against the victim limps into Lake County Superior Court on July 28th with Dinius the sole defendant.
BRUNO, a reel short movie review. I thought Sasha Cohen's first movie, Borat, was funny. I think there's lots of funny stuff in Bruno, but the funny is too often dragged down by the unfunny, the excruciatingly unfunny, the painfully unfunny. Bruno the movie consists of a series of encounters between Cohen's flamboyantly gay character, Bruno, and guileless patsies, can't miss targets who include a couple of fundamentalist preachers, an astrologer, the audience at an Arkansas cage fight, a uniquely unattractive group of wife swappers, Paula Abdul and, of all people, Ron Paul, the last reacting with zero grace to Cohen's see-through gay schtick. Most readers of this newspaper know that many of our fellow citizens are almost primordially primitive. We don't need to go to a cage fight or an astrologer for confirmation. Put two faux gay men making out in the center of the ring and what do you suppose the cage fight audience reaction will be? (One guy is so dismayed he looks like he's going to cry, the rest of the spectators want to kill them.) The movie's idea, I guess, is to parody homophobia, but it's so crude, its targets so defenseless, it never rises to parody. I saw it with my daughter in the middle of the day at the Kabuki on Fillmore. Of the dozen people in the audience the women laughed the hardest; I have no idea what that means, or if that gender trend would hold up with a larger sampling. My daughter said afterwards, "If I'd known it was going to be this gross I wouldn't have brought my father." But if I'd known it was going to be so extremely incorrect, I'd have brought KZYX and the Pacifica Network.
THIS FORLORN E-MAIL from KZYX's Mary Aigner was forwarded to us. Mary laments: "The San Francisco Mime Troupe event in Fort Bragg's Cotton Auditorium is ten days away — July 26th. We've taken on the promotion of this event as a fund-raiser for KZYX&Z. Last year, 351 tickets were sold, about half that in advance. We're hoping to sell at least as many in total as last year but to date have only sold about 50 advance tickets. And we need to sell 200 tickets just to break even on the expenses. Whatever you can do to help us make this a successful fundraising event will be greatly appreciated."
HMMMM, MARY. You think maybe if the station hadn't just alienated those very listeners most likely to pay their way in to have their political impulses confirmed that the show would already be sold out? We hear a lot of PC types, audio division, plan to catch the Troupe when it plays the Arena Theater in August, partly to protest the highhanded dismissal of the station's highly regarded reporter, Christina Aanestad, partly to make it clear to the station's blundering management that they're not as immune from public opinion as they seem to think they are.
THE MIME TROUPE. I remember seeing them in Washington Square in, I dunno, 1967? Always enjoyed their shows, which were performed free in public places, performed when there was still a serious left in America, when the serious left took it into the streets in all kinds of ways. The Mime Troupe, in those days, would catch lots of uninvolved passersby, forcing the uninvolved to confront the issues of the day. Now, of course, the left, having become a jobs program for spiritual Stalinists and otherwise non-existent when it isn't lying down for Obama, talks exclusively to itself and rouses itself only to hound deviationists.
SEVEN YEARS ago a friend of mine built me a bicycle out of spare parts, a bike perfectly designed to transport my bulk over all kinds of terrain. I rode it through sleet, rode it down to the Bay to watch the Giants from the free view area out in right field, pushed it up Nob Hill, coasted down Russian Hill. It got me to every part of San Francisco and back again. The bike guy down on the Embarcadero near the ball park — the authority on bikes — congratulated me on it. "Your bike is way cool," he said. I loved that bike. But in the same week the computer with Book Three of the Mendocino Papers was ripped off by a Senior Citizen burglar, I rode my bike through the drunks and the dope dealers at Stanyan and Haight to BookSmith on Haight where I leaned my bike against a telephone pole outside while I browsed the stacks inside for maybe twenty minutes. I didn't lock it. Why would I? It had no value. Except to me. When I came out of the book store my bike was gone. Which is my own fault in a neighborhood where street people steal urine samples and sell them to French tourists as Frisco chardonnay. But you couldn't give that bike away at a garage sale. It's too decrepit. Functional, though, and that's why it's gone. I walked through the bums looking for it, but most of the suspects were too impaired to walk let alone ride a bike. It was gone, as is Volume Three of the Mendo Papers. Volume Three can be reworked. Someone probably smoked my bike.
IT WAS A SLOW news week until, as it happened, the Kenny Rogers verdict came in and Ukiah began burning late Monday afternoon. But it was still slow when I started writing about Mark Yudof, chancellor of the University California's sprawling system of higher education. Yudof's annual compensation is around $800,000 a year plus a big house in the Berkeley hills and who knows what all else. A snappish, round little fellow who looks like an ambulatory potato, Yudof's a lawyer by training whose specialty, his website says, is "free speech." He somehow seems like the perfect guy to preside over the dismantling of the university system, which he and his comparably blessed regents are in the process of doing, helped along by the governor and the state legislature. The television clips of Yudof and the regents at a recent meeting are dead-on duplicates of your local school board in suits and ties, power blue for the women. When some impertinent someone asked Yudof about knocking a few bucks off his annual haul, he got quite huffy. "If you were looking for a surgeon would you go into the emergency room and ask which one was the cheapest?" As a matter of fact I would. So long as they're licensed and sober, what's the diff? But Yudof followed up that one, the one implying lawyer blah-blah is equivalent to the real skill of medical surgery with, "Should Tom Cruise work for $200 an hour?" Tom Cruise, in a sane world, would be delivering pizzas. Whatever Cruise is paid to "act" is wayyyyy too much. But the top guy in a university system invoking Tom Cruise as any kind of gold standard? Well, your local school board is now running the world and the rest of us better be stockpiling rice and making sure we have access to potable water.
A FRIEND sends along a copy of a notarized affidavit filed by a man named Erik Anthony Slye, of Gallatin County, Montana: "I Erik Anthony Slye, being first duly sworn upon oath, depose and say that jury service would entail undue hardship on me and that I request to be excused for the following reasons: Apparently you morons didn't understand me the first time. I cannot take time off from work. I'm not putting my family's well-being at stake to participate in this crap. I don't believe in our 'justice' system and I don't want to have a goddam thing to do with it. Jury duty is a complete waste of time. I would rather count the wrinkles on my dog's balls than sit on a jury. Get it through your thick skulls. Leave me the fuck alone."
THE MENDOCINO National Forest on three sides of Covelo for those of you needing geo-orientation, is now totally occupied by drug cartels which have converted our public lands into a vast series of pot plantations. It's so blatant that the Forest Service has mapped the plantations relative to road milemarkers.
LAW ENFORCEMENT personnel privately admit that it's unsafe for the public to go to the Forest at any time of the year. Meanwhile, Mendocino National Forest supervisor Tom Contreras says there's no problemo — the public should just “be cautious” but still enjoy the forest for recreation and relaxation. (Fershure — lock and load, R&R with flak jackets.)
MENDO NATIONAL Forest’s traditional users — hunters, fishermen, horse packers, hikers, backpackers, and day trippers — have reluctantly concluded that the Forest should be closed to the public and occupied by federal troops, preferably combat-hardened commando units, until the forest is cleared of thugs.
THERE ARE MORE THAN 1000 abandoned pot plantations in the forest, many of them filled with huge piles of trash and toxic garbage that need to be cleaned up while more plantations sprout every year, further compounding the growing mess. Local law enforcement is badly outnumbered, outgunned and outsmarted.
MANY of the larger pot plantations on the Mendocino National Forest are in areas recently designated as wilderness under Congressman Mike Thompson’s California Wild Heritage act. So far, Congressman Thompson has been AWOL on the pot issue.
IT'S LOOKING like Sheriff Allman may have solved two problems at once. Among the cost cutting measures in the Sheriff’s Department summarized by Willits News reporter Linda Williams last week is this item: "The deputy coroner position [has been] eliminated and Sgt. Shannon Barney has been reassigned as the County's emergency coordinator."
BARNEY is the cop who was in charge of Covelo when the big wife-swapping suicide scandal developed a few years ago. That spectacular series of episodes has since led to deputy Jason Cox's federal lawsuit against Allman and the Sheriff's Department for wrongful termination and sexual harassment. With this latest "cost cutting" measure, Allman has moved Barney all the way out of his Sheriff's budget; the emergency coordinator job, such as it is, is funded out of the CEO's budget.
THE SHERIFF himself has voluntarily taken a 10% pay cut and the 14 members of the Mendocino County Law Enforcement Managers Association (MCLEMA) have agreed to defer pay raises and vacation pay out amounting to more than $120,000 in savings. Not all that savings is in the Sheriff's department, however. MCLEMA includes managers in the sheriff's office, the district attorney's office and welfare fraud division of Social Services.