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Off the Record 8/05/2009

WE'LL GIVE CLINT SMITH next week's front page because, as we went to press Tuesday afternoon, Judge Brennan hadn't announced his likely finding that Smith be spared prison time for his months-long sexual relationship with one of his 15-year-old female students. Smith's supporters packed Brennan's Willits courtroom Tuesday, outnumbering the victim's family ten-to-one. At one point Smith's attorney, Mark Kalina, asked Smith's supporters to stand as if their sheer preponderance should free the defendant on the spot. And who are these people? Well, they include a big slug of Smith's and Smith's wife's teaching colleagues, and one more indication that your children are largely taught by moral idiots; a former Mendocino County Superior Court judge named Gustafson; pillars of the Mormon church; miscellaneous Mendo therapists (of course); and even Smith's father-in-law. The arguments for sparing Smith the prison time every other sexual predator in the county gets – my friend Mark Sprinkle got 45-to-life for 90 seconds of sexual touching, alleged sexual touching – ranged from “He's a nice person who wouldn't benefit from being in close proximity with not nice persons” to “He's such a swell guy he just can't say No, even to 15-year-olds” to “He's learned his lesson.” Brennan is almost certain to round out this travesty with a sentence of probation and more therapy from the same feebs who testified for him Tuesday.

SUPERIOR COURTS across the state are closing every third Wednesday, further inconveniencing the public they allegedly serve. Why they don't close on Thursdays to give themselves an even longer weekend than they now enjoy? Your honor's lavish pay, protected by law, isn’t necessarily negatively affected by the mid-week day off. Instead, judges get to decide for themselves if they want to take a 4.2%, the same reduction their much less well compensated staffs will take without getting the take it or leave it choice. (4.2% of the 179k annual take for judges amounts to about $7500.) So far, there’s no word out of the Mendocino County Courthouse if judges are taking their 4.2% cuts. (Note: other furloughed County employees are now working 36 hours a week, four 9 hour days), a 10% pay cut.

KC MEADOWS WRITES: “Last Thursday I was at having breakfast at Schat’s bakery in Ukiah in walked J. Tony Serra with his retinue and Pebbles Trippet. I thought, 'Well, whatever he's here for it should be interesting.' So I wandered over to the courthouse at 9:30 when he did and it was a pretty routine pot case, although it was about 20 pounds of hash found at a grow in Redwood Valley. The grow situation had apparently been worked out already and now they were doing a prelim on the hash. Serra made a motion to abandon the whole thing, claiming the deputies entered the property illegally by cutting a lock on a gate and coming through. The deputy on the stand kept saying, No, that didn't happen, that the gate was open and that there were three gates into the property and that later on, after a search warrant was issued, they cut a different gate in order to get a truck in to haul away the grow. Serra would look like he smelled something bad and then turn and almost shout: “In fact, YOU cut the lock on that gate, didn't you!” No, I didn't, the deputy would repeat. Finally, Judge Brown told Serra to cut it out. Unfortunately, the warrant affidavit differed with the facts in some parts, like the color of the truck the deputy was driving and whether he met the young woman grower at the front door or in a side yard. I am afraid it may have quashed the search and undermined the whole case. (I didn't stay the four or five hours estimated by the judge for the hearing.) Clearly the two young married pot growers (who no one argued had medical marijuana recommendations) were as healthy as a couple of 4-H goats the day of the fair and it struck me that no one was arguing that they didn't have hash or that they weren't growing a lot of pot. Serra was depending on getting the thing thrown out on the basis of shoddy work by the deputies. I'll be willing to bet that a lot of cases go this way. In fact, the DA in the case said they had offered to settle the hash thing with no charges against the husband if the wife would accept a misdemeanor charge and the couple turned it down. They are that sure of themselves. The deputies are so overwhelmed with the sheer number of cases that they can't remember one to the next on the stand and they are always in a rush to get search warrants and other evidence. No way they can keep up. The whole thing was, I'm sure, pretty routine pot lawyer stuff. Omar Figueroa was representing the husband, Serra the wife. Depressing.”

WHY THERE'S A LOT of petty crime, Exhibit A: On July 25, 2009 plain clothes San Francisco cops staked out a car at Middle Drive and Bowling Green Drive in Golden Gate Park. There were several items of value in the vehicle including a backpack, computer and an iPod, all of it visible. The officers knew a smash and grab thief would likely be along soon. Sure enough, he appeared, did his thing and was immediately arrested. A subsequent search of the suspect turned up hard drugs and items from a theft committed nearby earlier in the day. The suspect had been arrested forty-nine times, including thirty-one times for felonies. He was booked for burglary, possession of stolen property, theft and a narcotics violation. The cops figure this guy was committing “several robberies a day.”

UKIAH RESIDENT Deborah Schlosser, the wife of prominent Ukiah attorney Bert Schlosser, has asked for a trial on marijuana charges she faces after a Utah Highway Patrol officer stopped Mrs. Schlosser near Salt Lake City and found 162 pounds of marijuana in her car. Mrs. Schlosser says she was headed for Minnesota. Several weeks ago, Schlosser and her Salt Lake City attorney, Gil Athay, waived a preliminary hearing in the case. A trial has been set for October 27. Mrs. Schlosser was released on $15,000 bail after her arrest on Jan. 24. A preliminary hearing was waived on June 18 where a judge would have decided if there was enough probable cause to continue. Schlosser faces a second-degree felony charge for possession of a controlled substance and a misdemeanor traffic violation for improper lane travel.

BAD NEWS FOR MENDO PEDAGOGY. According to a recent study by the University of Buffalo, indiscriminate, undeserved compliments lead to serious reading and thinking problems. The study suggests that overconfidence lowers a student's ability to accurately assess and evaluate his or her reading level. Those who can accurately gauge their strengths and weaknesses are in a better position to identify realistic goals and achieve them. The research was the first large-scale international study of almost 160,000 students' overconfidence and reading levels. Needless to say, love bombing the young is an instructional way of life in Mendocino County where few high school graduates can read much beyond a 6th grade level and are unable to write so much as an error-free paragraph.

NEW YORK is in a major tiz caused by a 32 year old Willits man named Scott McGann. McGann appeared at LaGuardia Airport last Saturday with a fake bomb that caused the airport to close for several hours while the incident was sorted out. McGann's distraught mother, Margie Jones, a school psychologist in Willits, told the New York Daily News, “He's not a kook. He suffers from catatonic schizophrenia which leaves victims in a psychotic state where they're unable to speak, respond or even move.” Ms. Jones said she'd sent her son a plane ticket to return to Mendocino County. In June McGann was arrested inside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse after he ran up and down hallways screaming and grabbing papers out of lawyers’ hands. He also was arrested in New York in December 2006 on suspicion of disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration. Sometime after arriving in New York, McGann began selling puzzles at a stall in Union Square where he befriended jewelry designer Amy Gigante, who said in the eight months they knew each other, she could see McGann's decline. “I think he's pretty smart, he's into programming and stuff like that,” said the 31-year-old, who once invited McGann to her Brooklyn home where he helped her design her Web site. “I know he had trouble finding a place to stay, but he never seemed destructive or something like that. This is insane. When I first met him, he didn't seem mentally ill, but recently he was definitely having problems,” she added. “I tried to talk to him, and he wasn't speaking to me; he was acting like he was a mute.” McGann had apparently been living on the streets of Manhattan for the past year since driving cross-country with his cat from California three years ago. Described by one acquaintance as “super-intelligent but socially dysfunctional,” McGann grew up near Sacramento and lived briefly in Seattle before moving to Willits. A New York Daily News reader posted the following comment to their article on the Airport incident: “Having lived with a schizophrenic in my family, I know all the pitfalls in handling the mentally ill. The major problem is that you can hospitalize them and get it under control with antipsychotics and they are released because they start acting 'normal' again. In a lot of cases they don't stay on their meds and end up back in the same boat. The Government closed many state hospitals years ago and left these poor souls to wander the streets and live in the woods. As you can see here, even a loving family like his couldn't control the situation.”

TONY SERRA, the justly famed high ability defense attorney, will very likely argue for Marcos Escareno, the 17-year-old kid just declared by Judge Ron Brown as competent to stand trial for murder as an adult. Escareno, of the Manchester rez, was 15 when he was arrested for allegedly shooting his sister's adult boy friend to death. Brown's ruling in the face of contradictory testimony from psychological experts is inexplicable.

KOHL'S, the department store chain, had been assumed to be one of the anchor tenants of the monster mall, Mendocino Crossings, proposed for the old Masonite site north of Ukiah where Kohl would join mall monsters CostCo and Target. But Kohl announced this week that they planned to occupy the big empty existing box that used to house Mervyn's in Ukiah not far from the Pear Tree Center, and the City of Ukiah has itself bought land at the south end of existing big boxes WalMart and Friedman's. It looks might like the mega-mall planned for Masonite is, well, over.

SERIOUSLY, is Point Arena all the way ready for self-government? The beef presently raging in the fourth smallest incorporated city in the state ostensibly involves alleged misconduct by mayor Lauren Sinnott, who partly earns her way by the sales of the vagina-shaped purses she designs and hand stitches, and who has allegedly signed official documents another city employee should rightfully sign. And there are charges of nepotistic motives and on and on, all of it culminating at last week's meeting of the city council in some heated back and forth. What went unmentioned, of course, is that the whole mess is complicated by sex, with various officials spending hot nights with other officials before moving on to other officials and their spouses, and vice versa and every which way! Of course all of this unseemly sexual activity may be nothing more untoward than PA's city government trying to stay warm in the chill summer fogs engulfing the sea-perched little town, but petitions are circulating and everyone involved is stomping around town looking indignant as all heck.

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