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Off the Record

CORRECTION: I mistakenly reversed dialysis mortality figures last week for Mendocino County's two centers. The Pear Tree Dialysis Center saw a mortality rate of 23% per 100 patient years from 2006-09 while Fort Bragg Dialysis (DCI) rate was 40% for the same period.

“WE ARE HAPPY to announce that the Douglas Roycroft Benefit Account is now open and accepting donations at all branches of the Savings Bank of Mendocino. Douglas survived an intense car crash on Rt. 128 near Gowan's in early December. He has a broken pelvis and 8 broken ribs. After 2 weeks in Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, he was very happy to be transferred here to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital in Fort Bragg and is in room 114. He likes having visitors and will likely be there for a month or more.” — Linda Leitner and Lynn Kiesewetter

DOUG HIMSELF WRITES: “It will be a month in hospital on the 5th. I'll be outta here soon. I'm looking for a place I can stay until I'm healed enough to get back in my rig. After January 19th I'll be able to start putting weight on that right leg. Currently, I hop on the left one...... A month in hospital is something I'd not wish on anyone.”

FRONTIERS OF FREE ENTERPRISE: The cheese & cracker sample table at Safeway, Ukiah, is now an ongoing “instructional tasting event” where a pleasant woman is available to “instruct” you on the diff between Velveeta and Smoked Gouda.

ASSEMBLY BILL 605, which took effect on January 1, “Allows free beer, wine and liquor tastings inside large supermarkets and large liquor outlets.” Which means that you can wash down your free cheese and crackers with some quality free booze as you linger at the cracker table. “An instructional tasting event on the subject of wine or distilled spirits shall be limited to not more than three tastings per person per day. A single tasting of distilled spirits shall not exceed one-fourth of one ounce and a single tasting of wine shall not exceed one ounce. An instructional tasting event on the subject of beer shall be limited to not more than the tasting of eight ounces of beer per person per day.”

CONTEMPORARY AMERICA, as critiqued by Ed Rendell, outgoing governor of Pennsylvania: “My biggest beef is that this is part of what’s happened in this country. We’ve become a nation of wusses. The Chinese are kicking our butts in everything.” The governor was upset that the Eagles-Vikes football game was moved inside because of a snowstorm. “If this was China, do you think the Chinese would have called off the game? People would have been marching down to the stadium; they would have walked and they would have been doing calculus on the way down.”

THE CHINESE probably do their calculus indoors when it's snowing. They're at least that smart. But, ultimately, the Chinese are even more dependent on the Big Ponzo than we are, seeing as how they've got to keep on propping up our currency so we can keep on propping up the stuff they sell us at WalMart.

FLESH THAT ONE out a little with a worm's eye view from Boonville as Governor Brown prepares to pare another $28 billion from state-funded services. The long slide down is picking up momentum. Because Mendocino County deputies don't patrol anymore they haven't made a DUI bust in months, and because they're not on duty from 4am to 8am the Covelo bank got robbed the old fashioned way just last week. The bandits cracked into the ATM safe with a blowtorch, helping themselves to several thousand dollars. This is what it's going to look like from now on, an accelerating disappearance of basic public services.

RHETORICAL OVERKILL honors for the New Year go to Judge Elliot Daum of the Sonoma County Superior Court. Judge Daum compared SoCo DA-elect Jill Ravitch to Jackie Robinson and Rosie the Riveter, neither of whom Ravitch in the least resembles in either historic or overblown contemporary terms. Daum was speaking at Ravitch's swearing-in at the Sonoma Country Day School where Jackie and Rosie's descendants probably can't afford the $20,000 annual tuition. Does it even need to be pointed out that Jackie Robinson was a very brave man who endured several years of death threats and torrents of racist abuse simply for being the first black major league ballplayer? And that Rosie went to work out of pure necessity during the labor shortages of World War Two? How do these experiences relate to a securely upper middleclass woman who went to college for a couple of extra years and now, as a prosecutor, shoots poor people for a living?

I SENT THE ABOVE to the Press Democrat as a letter-to-the-editor on Monday assuming they wouldn't print it. On Tuesday they did print it but ended the last sentence at “extra years.” As added irritation, the letter above mine was from Mike Sweeney, unindicted car bomber and a man I hope to see packed off to the federal pen before I turn up my toes. Walking proof that crime pays, Sweeney presently functions as Mendocino County's garbage boss, Mendocino County being the only place in the country where you are whatever you say you are and history starts all over again every day. Sweeney's letter is an irrelevant rant about Congressman Wine Cork's alleged interest in the Yurok's fantasy plan to assume control of 2,600 acres of the Redwood National Park. It will never happen but, of course, Congressman Pinot, rather than slam dunk the Yuroks directly, is waltzing the tribe around with a lot of vague hoo-rah about “looking into the possibility” and so on. A guy who spent his youth as a Maoist cult nut, Sweeney, since knocking off his wife in slow motion, is remaking himself as a conservative defender of things as they are, and what better place to do that than right here in Amnesia County? The Press Democrat, by the way, has at least one current staffer who tracks the Bari Bombing “Mystery” and who agrees right down the line with yours truly. If the PD had turned Mike Geniella loose on the mystery with a little back-up Geniella would have wrapped it up in 1990. Newspapers are supposed to do investigations, but don't tell that to the PD. I also think it's fair to say that the PD's “Ukiah Bureau,” staffed by Sweeney's girl friend, Glenda Anderson, is unlikely to re-visit the case. As it has turned out, the best work on the Bari Bombing has been done by Steve Talbot, lately of PBS's Frontline series, whose documentary film, Who Bombed Judi Bari? was not widely seen when it was released twenty years ago and, naturally, simply ignored locally. Talbot has said forthrightly on the KQED's This Week In Northern California, hosted by the venerable Belva Davis, that Bari herself told him Sweeney bombed her.

I KNOW SOME OF YOU, especially prosecutors, may resent the statement that district attorneys shoot poor people, but when was the last time you saw a DA anywhere on the Northcoast go after a Big Boy? Here at the AVA we're fully expecting DA-elect Eyster to prosecute Mr. Matson of Fort Bragg, a Big Boy by our standards, for Katlyn Long's murder, and Eyster has promised us he would at a minimum “review the matter.” But if he doesn't prosecute, we'll get the police reports and publish them so we can all determine if Eyster has made the correct decision. His predecessor, Meredith Lintott, said the case against Matson wasn't strong enough to prosecute. Strong enough for what? A slam-dunk win for the prosecution or the pursuit of justice, win or lose? I think she just ducked it.

VICTIM: Name: female adult, Age: 40, City/State: San Leandro, Ca. Suspect: Name: Samuel Campos, Age: 46, City/State: Oakland, Ca. SUPPLEMENTAL 01-04-2011 — On the afternoon of 1-3-2011 the Mendocino County Sheriffs Detectives and Deputies, with the assistance of Newly elected District Attorney David Eyster and personnel from his office, continued the investigation into the shooting death of the victim. Law Enforcement learned that during the late evening hours of 1-2-2011, The listed victim and suspect had been living together in a 40' camp trailer North of Willits, Ca. At some point during the evening, the suspect obtained a firearm and fired at least one round which struck the victim in the upper torso. On 1-3-2011 Mendocino County Sheriff's Detectives and district attorney personnel interviewed the suspect. The suspect advised during the day on 1-2-2011 he and the victim had been involved in a domestic verbal argument regarding their dog accidentally being injured while the suspect was playing with it. he told detectives on the evening of 1-2-2011 the victim was lying in bed while holding the small injured dog. The suspect decided to shoot and kill the dog and retrieved a handgun. While the victim was still holding the dog, the suspect fired one shot missing the animal. The suspect fired a second shot fatally striking the victim. The suspect was subsequently arrested for murder and transported to the Mendocino County Jail. His bail is set at $500,000. Mendocino County Sheriffs Detectives are continuing the investigation into the incident. The release of the victim's name is pending until notification of next of kin is completed. — MCSO Press Release

JONATHAN LEHAN, as reported here a month ago, has formally announced that he is retiring as judge of the Mendocino County Superior Court, riding out of office March 4th on a huge annual retirement, a platter of Safeway Grease Cake and the usual Mendo rhetorical wacky-doo. Lehan held the $120,000-a-year job for 20 years. The portly flasher (we'll get to that) was appointed to the sinecure in November of 1990 when Judge Heeb flamed out. (Heeb was madly in love with a criminal defendant he kept releasing to commit fresh crimes — which were not of the heart like the judge's — and which was too much even for Fort Bragg where only certain people are allowed to commit crimes.) Under the auspices of a superior court press release obviously drafted by Lehan himself especially for the Coast's craven media and KZYX, Lehan says, “It has been my unique privilege to have been able to serve the people of the coast and the county. I was fortunate as a young deputy district attorney in the early 70s to have been assigned to establish the DA's coastal office. My family moved with me to Fort Bragg, and we have enjoyed living here ever since and participating in so many community activities. I'm also grateful to have served with outstanding judges (names!) and staff members.” The judge then veers off into the pure solipsism characteristic of Mendocino County public service departures. “At 63, as I approach the youth of old age” — that's keeping your chin up, Johnny! — “the prospect of leisure time for family, music studies, books, and travel is simply irresistible to me at this point in my life,” (sic) and made possible by a publicly-funded retirement Louis The Sun King would have envied. “I leave with full confidence that our court will continue to be responsive to the needs of our community.” Har de har, judge but is that a threat?

LEHAN SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN the bounce years ago when he persistently exposed himself to a female court staffer. When she complained, the staffer was retaliated against by being forced to work at the Willits Courthouse as Lehan's black-robed colleagues wrapped their skirts protectively around their priapic comrade. Lehan was transferred to Ukiah while a complaint to the Commission on Judicial Qualifications “warned and advised” Lehan not to do it again. Lehan, presumably having mastered his exhibitionistic impulses, was returned to his post at Ten Mile. As a judge? Lehan could be depended on to rule for the well-connected over the unconnected, cf. the Skye Nickel case for the most flagrant of many travesties he presided over. GET THIS. There are two Lehan retirement press releases in circulation. The one printed in the Ukiah Daily Journal Tuesday morning virtually features Lehan's weenie wagging, but the press release you can be sure will be featured in the Coast newspapers and on its cringing radio newscasts will be the one written by Lehan. It will not mention this chaste version of events: “In 2003 Lehan was the subject of serious reprimand by the state's Commission on Judicial Performance, which issued a 'private admonishment' against him, a festure from fellow judges considered for serious behavior problems. That admonishment concluded that Lehan 'made sexually suggestive gestures and comments to a court reporter, an employee of the prosecutor's office and a courthouse visitor. The judge behaved offensively in front of court staff. The judge also failed to disclose when a friend and former law partner (Bart Kronfeld) appeared before the judge, under circumstances that required disclosure but not recusal. The judge also engaged in an ex parte contact with an attorney immediately prior to a hearing at which the attorney appeared before the judge.” This account of Lehan's behavior suggests that these were one-time occurrences. The sex stuff was repeated.

COAST READERS might also want to know that the AVA's small claims action against Supervisor Kendall Smith was reported only in the Ukiah Daily Journal, far from the Supervisor's Fort Bragg district and home.

POSSESSION of less than an ounce of cannabis is now a simple infraction. The 60,000 people annually popped for smoking a joint or holding a small baggie of devil weed will now merely pay a $100 ticket. The change was supported by the state District Attorneys Association and the California Judicial Council. They argued that it is a waste of court resources to try people for a crime that carries a maximum punishment of a $100 fine. The Stoner Community, however, is warning that the change in the rules will give smokers a false sense of security. Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said citations for simple possession could actually increase in the new year because police won't have to worry about the case being dismissed in court or about reporting those cases to the federal government every year. Misdemeanors and felony arrests must be chronicled, he said, but not infractions. “Here's the problem,” Gutwillig says. “Making simple, personal possession of marijuana an infraction will not by itself stop the waste of limited police resources or the pattern of racial profiling that typifies the war on marijuana. Gutwillig cited two recent studies that found that African American and Latino young men are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana possession, despite the fact that surveys consistently find that young white people use marijuana at higher rates. In general, the studies found, arrests for simple marijuana possession have increased in California over the past two decades from around 20,000 a year in 1990 to more than 60,000 a year in 2009. The good news, Gutwillig said, is that an infraction won't show up on a permanent arrest record, but infractions can still show up during some background checks. “Landlords, employers, banks, credit agencies are all still likely to be able to find that someone was cited for a marijuana crime,” he said. 

One Comment

  1. January 7, 2011

    I mentioned this in a reply to an earlier article, but didn’t ever see an answer.
    I am positive that California went through the exact same “misdemeanor to infraction” change in the ’80’s or ’90’s.
    For possession of less than an ounce, It was touted to be “not as serious as a jaywalking ticket.” Fines for jaywalking, etc. could be increased for later offenses, but pot possession could never be more than $100, although drug education could be ordered after a third offense..
    I think it would be instructive to know how this idea somehow went the “goundhog day” route.

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