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A Day in Court at the End of the Year

December 29, 2018 — Friday morning began with Kenneth Hall admitting he’d consumed alcohol during the holidays, in violation of his parole, and his mandatory supervision was revoked and he was sentenced to 90 days for the offense.

“You’ll get half-time and maybe an early-kick [release],” Judge John Behnke said.  “But I want you to go to your probation officer as soon as you are released, understood?”

Kelly Coan, accused of murdering her landlord, 57-year old Jamie Shipman of Mendocino, last May, was called next, and Ms. Coan’s new lawyer, Ms. Sullivan, said that she’d just got the case and was waiting for a call from the state hospital to see what had been decided about Coan’s mental competency.  Judge Behnke suggested they call the State Hospital, and when they got the shrinks on the speaker phone a Ms. Lynette Magana told the judge that she needed a copy of the arrest report before they could go forward with the evaluation of Ms. Coan.

“We’ll get that sent out to you today,” Judge Behnke promised.

Oscar Alvarez Carrillo was called. He had recently been found guilty of stabbing Salvador Hernandez dozens of times, killing him, at the Toplak Apartments in April of 2016. He was waiting for a prelim on trailing burglary charges in one case, and vandalism in another.  He too had just been appointed a new lawyer, Anthony Adams, who asked for more time to prepare. This was granted over the prosecutor’s objections.  Mr. Adams asked why the previous lawyers had quit, but nobody seemed to know.

Joseph Joshua Hoaglen of Covelo was refusing to come out of his cell, and he needed a new lawyer as well. He was incarcerated for violating his parole which was imposed after he was previously found guilty of assault and other charges. Mr. Adams called Angelina Potter on his cellphone, and Ms. Potter agreed to take the case, and said she would go to the jail and try to coax Hoagland out, so that the judge wouldn’t have to order his appearance, and have him brought against his will – a collective sigh of relief seemed to emanate from the correctional officers, at this news.

Ethan Bauer, of Crescent City, who said he was living in Ukiah and taking care of his grandmother, wanted to be released on his own recognizance, but the prosecution objected because Mr. Bower had been caught recently with a gun and drugs, had a long history of such offenses, and was accused of stealing mail, had been arrested with a check in someone else’s name for over $1500, numerous checkbooks in other people’s names, and a wallet that didn’t belong to him. Judge Behnke denied the own recognizance request.

Seth Smart and Joshua Denny were arraigned on similar charges, guns and meth. The two had been apprehended in the Walmart parking lot, Mr. Smart behind the wheel of a stolen car, and Mr. Denny rifling through the personal property of the owner in the back seat. Mr. Smart’s bail was set at $70,000 – he had the loaded gun and the meth – and Mr. Denny was released on his own recognizance.

Judge Behnke asked, “Has Harley Patton been found competent?”

Last June Patton was charged with attempted murder and elder abuse with great bodily injury.

“Well, he’s been returned to us from the state hospital,” his lawyer Daniel Moss answered.  A copy of Mr. Patton’s psychiatric evaluation was found and copies made for both parties, and a date of January 9th set for a prelim.

Dustin Golyer was on for a confirmation of his jury trial for burglary but his lawyer, Patrick Kingsley, was absent due to a leg injury and wasn’t expected back until the trial date, which meant the pre-trial motions would have to be done the same morning, instead of the week before.

The case of Stephanie Wyle was called, and attorney Daniel Moss asked for her OR, saying she wouldn’t be going near the party she had allegedly assaulted, but instead, was staying with her fiancée, and Ms. Lyle wouldn’t object to a criminal protective order in the battery case. Judge Behnke pointed out that Ms. Lyle already had a couple of stay-away orders in place, including a peaceful-contact only order in the case of the fiancée; and Deputy DA Guzman said that the fiancée was roommates with the other protected party.

Judge Behnke said, “She pled to a 243 and a criminal trespass, and then we have a threat with a knife within a couple of weeks of that, so there’s definitely and overtone of violence in this and I’m not inclined to release her on OR.”

Austin Shealor was on for sentencing.   Mr. Shealor is a meth addict – yes, I know, “meth is not addictive.” I hear it all the time, and the only time users ever admit they need help getting off the stuff is when they’re about to be sentenced to prison for repeat offenses – especially doing violent things when under the influence. Then they want to go instead to a rehab program. Which is fine. Everybody deserves a second chance. Even a third shot at redemption. But Mr. Shealor had violated his probation and gone back to the meth 15 times. And the underlying offense was not getting high — it was cracking someone over the head with a bow while he was high, a violent assault, not a testy reprimand.

Deputy DA Joe Guzman said, “Mr. Shealor is good at saying he wants to go to programs but he doesn’t follow through. Probation has exhausted their options and there’s nothing more they can do for him.”

The Probation memo was recommending four years in the state prison because of the 15 VOPs (violation of probation), numerous FTAs (failures to appear), along with new violations of the law. Shealor had been evaluated for Drug Court and found “unsuitable,” because he had “washed out” too many times.

Shealor’s public defender lawyer, Lewis Finch, professionally optimistic, defended Shealor. “I think Austin would do well in a six-month residential treatment program and he’s been accepted. He has a lot of credits [for time served in jail] and would be willing to waive them all for a chance to go into this program.”

Shealor, who is 25, and theoretically salvageable, said that in the past he’d been immature, but that now he was more mature and ready to make a change. “I don’t want to end up like my father [in prison],” he said.

Timothy King of the Probation Office noted that the Salvation Army rehab program was faith-based, and that if Austin got there and decided he didn’t like it, he could just walk away. King seemed to be implying that that was most likely just what would happen. “I don’t see that anything’s changed, and if he’s given another chance he’ll be right back here where we are today.”

Shealor’s mother was present and she spoke on his behalf, saying that she was in Drug Court herself, doing really good, and hoped soon to graduate; and that her son was a lot like her and needed the chance to change.

Judge John Behnke called a recess in order to think about it for a few minutes.

The mock epics of Reynard the Fox are very like this (look at Kley’s paintings) with the Lion sitting in judgment, the other animals assembled in the background, the leopard stands by as bailiff, the wolf has a noose around the fox’s neck, and the bear is holding the ladder, ready to pull it away at the lion’s signal, and let the fox hang… But the fox is sly, amoral and cynical. He has a black humor, a silver tongue, and an engaging argument. The fox cares nothing about right or wrong – there’s no quaint moral in Reynard’s tales, like in Aesop’s fables, nor any satire on venal politics, and there’s never any surprises, as we all know from the start that Reynard will talk himself out of the noose, like he has every other tight corner he’s painted himself into, with his astoundingly glib sense of detachment and stylish flair. Life’s a game, and he’s too smart to lose.

When the judge came back His Honor said, “He’s [Austin has, not Reynard] been given every possible chance and nothing has changed. When we keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result – it’s one of the definitions of insanity – and I’m not willing to do it again. There is something I can do, I think, short of sending him to prison for four years and that is to order a 90-day observation period in the state prison, for two reasons. One, to get a report back and see if he’s amenable to change; and, two, for him to see what it’s like in prison, where I hope he will be able to make a positive, constructive decision that he doesn’t want to go there. Nothing else we’ve done up to this point has made any difference, so we’ll suspend proceedings in this case for 90 days.” 

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