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Off the Record (Feb. 27, 2019)

TAI ABREU was in Judge Moorman's courtroom last Wednesday for a brief hearing. Abreu's attorney, Jessica Hoagland, who has been ill with pneumonia, requested time to file her argument demonstrating why Abreu's eligible for a sentence reduction under new felony-murder legislation. The 38-year-old petitioner, a native of Fort Bragg, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 2002 for the murder of David Perez of Santa Ana. Abreu's two confederates, Aaron Channel and August Stuckey, also of Fort Bragg, received reduced sentences of 20-to-life. The date for the determination if Abreu's appeal can proceed was set for Thursday February 28th at 9 o’clock. If the judge approves, the burden will shift to DA Eyster to show why Abreu's not eligible, which Eyster seems eager to do, and Ms. Hoagland will be given a chance to respond. She said this morning that the original probation report on judgment and sentencing was missing from her office and so she filed for a sealed copy of it, which will be made available to her. (Bruce McEwen) 

A LENGTHY ACCOUNT of the Perez murder, if it was a murder — no firm cause of death could be determined — can be found on our website. It is clear Abreu participated in the robbery part of the scheme that resulted in Perez's death, but there is no evidence he had anything to do with the presumed murder. 

Here is the link for the whole story:

A shorter version:

And here is a link to another shorter version (scroll down for the items on Tai Abreu):

I MET ABREU a week ago Monday night in the County Jail where, and shall the circle be unbroken!, we also encountered former Assistant DA Kevin Davenport. Davenport prosecuted Abreu, Channel and Stuckey and remains mystified as to why Abreu's public defender, Linda Thompson, did not take the same deal quickly agreed to by the two other defendants. All three were offered reduced sentences because it was, and remains, unclear exactly what happened. Abreu was convinced by Thompson to take a vague Miranda Warning complaint to a jury, which took about an hour to find Abreu guilty. Thompson called no witnesses on Abreu's behalf, yammering on solely during the one-day trial about the alleged failure of investigators to properly advise the 19-year-old of his rights to a lawyer. Judge Richard Henderson duly sentenced Abreu to life without. Co-defendant, Aaron Channel, has been out of prison for two years. He lives and works in Reno. Stuckey has proved to be a problem inmate. He's been in lots of trouble inside and is presently undergoing a male-to-female sex change and has yet to appear before the parole board where he is likely to have a difficult time persuading the board he’s ready to return to Fort Bragg.

ABREU has one minor violation in his 18 years in state prison, and that had to do with unapproved possession of a law book. He functions as a kind of trustee at High Desert State Prison in Susanville where, given his high-level math and language skills, he works in one of the prison offices. As a kid, Abreu was a computer wizard and intends to resume high tech work when he's out. Off my visit the other night, I came away impressed by a sensible, serious and still young man highly unlikely to re-offend. Abreu did his own appeal to get his case back to Mendocino County. He reads science fiction, naming two authors this non-science fiction-reading person had never heard of. I was surprised to learn from him that "I play Dungeons and Dragons with the other nerds at Susanville." He spends much of his off-work time reading and has taken all the classes available to inmates. A good friend of mine who did almost twenty years for murder of the crime of passion type — his wife was in bed with another man — often told me that only about twenty percent of the people in prison need to be there while the twenty percent who should be locked up are obvious to inmates and staff alike. Abreu did a murderously stupid thing when he was very young. He is not the same person today. I hope DA Eyster doesn’t think it’s up to him to keep people locked away who don’t need to be. Abreu’s case isn’t complicated. Three guys are found guilty of the same crime but one gets life without, the other two get a second chance. Public Defender Thompson, mercifully retired, has never offered Abreu so much as a statement that her counsel was ineffective, which it was to such an extent that Abreu had no counsel at all.

SB 1437 re-defines the California Murder Rule as applying only to the person who does the murder, not the people who happen to be present when it happens. In Abreu's case, there's no evidence there even was a murder, so this new and obviously just amendment to the old One Size Fits All approach to violent crimes is long overdue.

THE NEW VISITING regimen at the jail is by appointment. You call up to get a time that meets mutual approval. Jail staff, incidentally, in my experience, are unfailingly polite and helpful. There are six booths with metal stools and phones on either side of plexiglass. Monday night, there were two girlfriends and a grandmother visiting their three captives during my allotted 7 o'clock slot, with a mother and four young children waiting for an 8 o'clock visit with daddy. Unlike many European prisons, there is no art or any other visual diversion on any of the walls. Visiting is like stepping into a sensory deprivation tank. Although the jail itself is humanely managed, the visitor is imprisoned too. (Abreu said the food is better in Mendo than in the state system.) In the lobby there's an annoyingly slow and complicated rip-off machine into which the visitor can insert a credit card or cash to give money to the inmate so he can buy a variety of negative food value items. The vending machine takes a nice rake-off from each transaction, most of which of course come from people who can't afford it.

ATTENTION MR. WASHBURNE: What a wonderful description of a car wreck. Your continuing tale of personal and vehicle self-destruction is compelling. Some of the best crash stories I’ve ever read. You have the gift of intellect and words. However, you state: “I want to be clean.” Mr. Washburne, let’s face it, the chances of your ever being “clean” are not realistic. One in ten? Thus, have you considered a different drug? Meth is at the bottom of my list for drugs a writer might use. Bad teeth, paranoid intellect, death at an earlier age, perhaps from itching yourself to death. You know all of this better than I. Phillip Dick used amphetamines, but he was a science fiction writer, a genre I’m not interested in. Currently, my favorite writer is German (was) Hans Fallada: “Wolf Among Wolves”; “Alone in Berlin”; etc. Morphine was his choice. Charles Dickens was into opium; Coleridge was into laudanum; Sherlock Holmes, cocaine; Kesey, acid; Hemingway was a boozer, but not with pen in hand. Stephen King was or is into marijuana, which is, as you know, the most boring drug on the planet. Have you read any of Stephen King’s books, or endured the tedium of a Stephen King fan? Mr. Washburne, perhaps opium would be best for you. You could write straight all day and dream away your nights. But where to get it? Chinatown? Start a garden? I’d skip heroin and fentanyl. Strolling across our imperceptible border, the Mexican cartels have cornered that. It could be cut Ajax, it could be cut with what? And, you’ve already enriched these dangerous hombres with your current drug of choice. Yes, I’d say opium is a good choice. Or mushrooms. Aldous Huxley was into mushrooms. I can’t advise you on which ones you should pick, but they grow abundant and free in our woods. Jim Crumley, an old writer pal of mine, was into cocaine. He spent a fortune on that snow. However, he once was quoted (I forget where) that “Writing was the best drug of all.” You might exclusively fall back on that. Forgo your tedious and boring quest for meth (your readers are beginning to yawn) and switch to a better drug. (Mike Koepf)

HERE'S TEDDY ROOSEVELT talking in 1903 about the same problem grown exponentially worse in 2019: "It is our clear duty to see, in the interests of the people, that there is adequate supervision and control over the business use of the swollen fortunes of today, and also wisely to determine the conditions upon which these fortunes are to be transmitted and the percentage that they should pay to the Government whose protecting arm alone enables them to exist."  

TEDDY WAS NO LIBERAL, that's for sure, but he recognized that the disproportionate political power accumulated in the hands of the very rich was bad for everyday citizens, and here comes the cautiously liberal "socialist" Bernie Sanders with a timid proposal to tax Big Money at 30 percent and from the ensuing media hullabaloo you'd have thought Lenin was back. Then along comes Ocasio-Perez to out-Bernie Bernie with a 70 percent tariff on Bezos, Gates, and other enemies of the people, the fine-haired fatboys at Fox are beside themselves that not only is Lenin back he's come back as a woman!  

WHICH reminds me of Boonville's white proletariat, much of it anyway, most of it Trumpian unto Confederate flags, all of it with zero awareness that their political opinions are opposite their true interests. Mexican proles have a much firmer grip on economic and class realities, having drawn the correct conclusions from their working experiences, and have the intellectual advantage of coming from a country where there are real leftwing political parties that represent the interests of working people. A white Mendo prole, plunked down in, say, France or even England, would be laughed at as a person off his economic head. 

HELLO HISTORY? Get me re-write. Almost exactly one year after voting to remove the McKinley statue from the Arcata Plaza, the Arcata City Council has unanimously voted to relocate the statue to the city of Canton, Ohio, McKinley’s home town. Today's libs won't like to hear that McKinley wasn't all that bad a guy, not nearly as eager an imperialist as his contemporary Teddy Roosevelt. I think of him as a kind of late 19th, early 20th century version of Gerald Ford, or even Obama The Arab Slayer and Great Friend of Wall Street. Among McKinley's virtues count his great devotion to his wife, an epileptic, and his service on the correct side of the Civil War as a combatant, not safe in the rear with the gear. With the McKinley statue gone from the Plaza I nominate a likeness of Mickey Lima, born in Usal who went to work in an Arcata shoe factory as a 12-year-old, rising to become spokesman for the Communist Party, USA and, I think, jailed during the McCarthyite 1950s. Lima is probably a little too outre for HumCo libs but he is a true son of the Northcoast and, say what you will about American communists, if you take away their Stalinism, heck, they were perfect libs!

THE WILLITS POLICE DEPARTMENT is investigating an indoors cannon explosion that seriously injured the guy who was doing whatever he was doing with it. But even more interesting is this on-line comment: "I know of several dozen people in S. Humboldt/Northern Mendocino County that have homemade cannons. There are organized cannon shoots on Bell Springs roads several times a year. Before the Simpson gun range shut down, there were large cannon shoots every year. There were Civil War mortars (that shoot bowling balls), and cannons, French 75’s (WW1), these shot a round that was made by filling a beer can with concrete."

RE THE LATEST SHOOTING IN COVELO, an on-line comment: "Covelo. Damn. It’s the perfect storm. Sweet little isolated place. Over ran by the freaking cartel and 100 various meth, black and dust dealers. Beautiful, rich valley with all the resources of clean water, air, flat land for farming. Most of the youth seem hell bent on living loose and fast, shirking education, self-worth and hope. Freaking a crying shame! So much lives wasted before they even BEGIN. Starting young, living with addictions of some sort, never to sort “it” out! Bang bang put the gun away! This ain’t no mother fucking video game. It’s real life you can’t play. Let’s stop all the negativity. Yo Yo you know I’m saying? Wake up before it’s TOO LATE! Bang bang put the gun away!"

CONGRESSMAN HUFFMAN'S "Two-Basin Solution," or a version thereof, would keep Eel River water flowing from the Eel into Lake Mendocino and the Russian River  via the Potter Valley Diversion, a mile-long tunnel through which the Eel is sent south into the Russian.

PRELIMINARILY, Huff's idea seems like the most rational way to resolve PG&E's abandonment of the power machinery of the Diversion to keep the diverted Eel flowing south. The Diversion isn't needed for power anymore but, kinda like a local version of Brexit, removing upstream Eel River dams and returning the Eel to its natural state and diverting it no more, would mean dismantling a zillion downstream water relationships the Diversion makes possible. 

WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE the whole show revamped, especially the wildly irrational and dramatically unfair water arrangement via which Sonoma County owns almost all the diverted water. (Former supervisor Pinches was the only supervisor to ask for reconsideration of present arrangements, but he failed to even get a second to advance the discussion.)

AS IS, and if The Huff's Two Basin idea becomes reality, Sonoma County would still own almost all the diverted water stored in Lake Mendocino, an arrangement blindly agreed to by Mendocino County in the middle 1950s, long before Sonoma County's population exploded and even longer before the wine industry became as politically influential as it has become. (The wine industry, natch, owns Huffman as it owned Mike Thompson before Huff et al. It would take a brave elected person to even whisper that the present water arrangements are very, very unfair.)

ONE WAY or another, a portion of the Eel must continue to be diverted to the huge apparatus downstream that depends on it. Not many of us would mourn seeing the wine industry die of thirst, but whole towns depend on diverted water, including Cloverdale, much of Sonoma and Marin, too. Huff's idea of two basins is a good place to start the negotiations

AN ANON SOMEONE sent me an article from the New York Review of Books to which I subscribe and which I happened to have read. Not that I don't appreciate readers concerned with my continuing education, but this person also noted that he/she was an anti-vaxxer which, to my mind, is the same as a declaration of criminal insanity. But the enclosed story was not about the great crusade to return the globe to mass death by disease, it's called, "Our Twisted DNA" and is a review by Tim Flannery of "She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity," a book by Carl Zimmer unrelated to vaccination. My correspondent, I guess, is the same person who wrote me not long ago about gender bending after I said I didn't think little kids, or even big ones under the age of 18, ought to be encouraged to become the gender of the opposite sex, the opposite sex being opposite the reproductive organs you're born with.  It's not a burning issue with me, but ironically Flannery's article about DNA simply confirms "the multifariousness of inheritance," that a tiny minority of people are born with both sets of repro gear, that humans, like the occasional two-headed calves of the animal kingdom, can lose at genetic roulette. This article does not bolster the case for that relative handful of sexually obsessed screwballs who foist their obsessions onto their children, convincing 8-year-old Tommy that he really wants to be Tomasina. At least give the kid a chance to grow up before he decides to cut his nuts off, or she decides to sew them on.

SO, we're sitting around discussing Big Picture stuff like, Are Cats Smarter Than Dogs? and Does Kevin Durant Hurt the Warriors More Than He Helps Them? when a guy says, "How come there are so many nuts in Mendocino County?" After an hour's debate the consensus was that there aren't more nuts it just seems like there is because we come into contact with a lot of them, seeing as how the county population is relatively small and the nuts in any population draw attention to themselves but especially in small towns. Of course most places don't elect crazy people so Mendo departs from the national norm that way, but Mendo does seem unique in its toleration for aberrant behavior and unfounded opinions on subjects like vaccination, to take one opinion that can kill people and is ominously widespread in Mendocino County. It's not surprising that internet quacks have convinced the credulous to imperil not only their own children but the wider community. Even prior to the internet, wackos sought each other for delusional comfort — Republicans, for instance — but the internet has made dangerous ignorance much more dangerous because there are millions of people out there educated beyond their innate ability to fully understand the arguments, to do the simple math which, say, an understanding of the basic principles of immunology that makes you understand that vaccination prevents illness and death from communicable disease. If you keep dangerously stupid opinions to yourself, who cares? Hell, I already had a college diploma before I figured out I'd wasted four years getting it! But it's the militantly misinformed like the anti-vaxxers who are dangerous because they can harm the rest of us. PS. Children should not be encouraged, let alone permitted, to change the gender they were born to. Jeez, it's hard to believe that this stuff is even being debated, but things are coming apart so fast and furiously it's not really surprising.


[1] Yes I moved a good ways off the beaten path. That was 20 some odd years ago but with the gentrification (or marijuannafication) of Colorado I am not as far out as I once was. It seems everyone and their entire families are moving to Colorado at an unprecedented pace. Still I am at 7000 feet in the Rockies and around 50 miles from a decent size city. I’m here more as a lifestyle preference vs being worried about any SHTF scenario. Quite frankly there are no perfect hide aways left in the US. Wherever a person can drive too for their abode anyone else can drive to as well. Still being away from city life is more comfortable for me. That being said I agree with you and have not become too isolated. I can weather any social unrest better than most but I am more concerned with things such as forest fires and winter storms. As I type there is a storm bearing down on my world scheduled to hit here in a few hours. We’ll probably get between one and two feet of snow out of this one. But as I said the larder is full, the inside and outside firewood storage bins are loaded, and if the electricity goes (more than likely) there is my aforementioned library.

[2] I can’t agree that a de-facto coup is on balance beneficial. If you want to live in a rules-based system, in part based on precedence, and especially one that respects election results, what you do now has repercussions down the line.

The way they got rid of the Kennedy Bros was at least decisive. Boom, boom, gone. The way they subsequently painted things – deranged losers with guns – at least showed some regard for appearances and gave Mr and Mrs Middle America some comfort that the rule of law prevails. It wasn’t the Deep State, no, it wasn’t. You know, it was those hippy, radical, commies that were always squawking about conspiracies and so good, God-fearing Americans could ignore them. I mean, didn’t the Warren Commission settle matters? Didn’t they have trials for Jack Ruby and Sirhan Sirhan?

In the case of Trump there’s been no rifle shot to re-set the clock. If there had been, at least Pence would be in the Oval Office, a card-carrying member of the Establishment, someone who believes fervently in what Pelosi and Schumer and Schiff and Warner believe. And maybe things could move forward.

As it is the proceedings to get rid of Trump look and smell entirely discreditable, a shambles, a nonsensical charge of collusion driving the coup attempt, having no benefit of logic or weight of evidence behind it. Much more than those gunshots of long-ago, what this tells everyone is that election results need not be definitive, that you could concoct whatever story you wanted to upend the winner, that the courts are malleable, that law enforcement is a joke, that institutions of state are the ultimate deciders of elections.

Of course, if they manage to unseat Trump, what it says to people down the road is that his successors can also be unseated by dishonest and corrupt means. What the Democrats and Never Trump Republicans apparently forgot is that presidential elections happen every four years, congressional elections every two years and if you want to win those elections put forward credible candidates.

Trump may have stunk as a candidate, but to a lot of people Hillary stunk worse, and if you’re being fair, you have to grant that they had a point and that the winner in 2016 maybe was the one that smelled least worst.


  1. David McKeown March 1, 2019

    Been reading the AVA for the decade or so that we’ve been coming up with our dogs visiting from SF. Even though we come as relatively privileged outsiders (and stay at the beautiful, dog-friendly but expensive, Sheep Dung properties) I’ve been experiencing a kind of cognitive dissonance seeing Booneville detiorating into a place where well-heeled dilettantes pay $70 for a mediocre Prix-fixe meal while across the street a mother and her two kids are living out of a car…
    Finally got a subscription last year and tonight read your column online. I love your independent views and insights. And humor!!! Generally speaking, when it comes to news I’m into the international stuff. Don’t agree too much about Trump except that he certainly stunk less than Clinton… and the Deep State stuff. But his actions re. Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Israel make me believe he’s as good as in their pocket. Nowadays I get most of my (global) news from the NY and London Reviews of Books and online from the Intercept, Counterpunch and Truthdig (all excellent if a bit lefty).
    I also really enjoy the colorful stories and dramas from your other contributors. Keep up the good work!
    Sorry if I went on too long, I love getting the AVA in my letterbox.
    Yours sincerely,

  2. David McKeown March 4, 2019

    I’m a naturalized US citizen from Ireland and was delighted to read of your association and shared adventures with the legendary Irishman, Alexander Cockburn. Voices like the Cockburns (and your own) are more and more rare in today’s media.

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