Dec 20, 2013

City Attorney and D.A's office offer no comment on Laird Case and political overtones?

After this Tuesday's Council hearing, I contacted the City Attorney's office for a comment. No response. Deputy DA Roger Rees, declined comment on an ongoing case.

I appreciate Patrik's fairness in talking to any one covering this case.

Patrik is a brilliant lawyer, been recognized and honored by his peers. In his defense of Sgt. Laird, he is alleging selective prosecution. Larry Glass has been there for every hearing. Garr Nielsen already did a My Word and the case has not even gone to trial. Not strange given the defense theory. But interesting given the political tones.

I have a positive view of the EPD. I have no issue with the City. I don't know Sgt. Laird. I look forward to hearing the evidence if this case goes to trial. Rumor is that there may be a settlement.

 I do find it very interesting that Paul (who has been alleged to have covered up for Larry Glass's indiscretions although this was never proven had the same people him who also supported Garr and Larry) assigns a rookie DA to a case against a lawyer of Patrik's calibre.


Patrik Griego responds to Judge Miles ruling

From Patrik Griego, Adam Laird's attorney:

In the motion to dismiss for witness interference, we asked the judge to either dismiss the case or at least order the District Attorney’s Office and EPD management to inform all witnesses that they are expressly permitted to meet with Sgt. Laird’s representative and that they are authorized to answer all questions regarding the case in the same manner they did with the prosecution investigators.

We are pleased that Judge Miles ordered the DA’s office and EPD to stop telling witnesses not to speak to the defense and told the DA’s office to encourage witnesses to speak with the defense and make them available.  As Judge Miles stated, a trial is a quest for the truth and witnesses do not belong to either side.   

We also respect Judge Miles denial of the demurrer.  Judge Miles correctly noted that because Sgt. Laird did not author the report at issue, the proper vehicle would be to have the case dismissed on other grounds.

The most important ruling of the day, however, was the granting of the Murgia motion for discovery of evidence showing discriminatory prosecution.  Judge Miles has now expressly ordered the EPD to produce the very documents the City of Eureka was trying to destroy at the last Council meeting.

Judge Miles rules on remaining 3 motions in Adam Laird case

This afternoon, Judge Marilyn Miles gave her ruling  on the remaining 3 motions in the Adam Laird case. The three motions were a motion to dismiss, a Demurrer and a motion to compel discovery. Motion to dismiss and Demurrer denied. Motion to compel discovery granted.

Next court date is January 3.


Supervisor Bass asks community's help for long term solution to end predatory lawsuits

Supervisor Virginia Bass, Supervisor Rex Bohn and Chris Kerrigan were present outside the courthouse along with other concerned citizens and business owners in a protest against Jason Singleton organized by a local citizen. Virginia took this opportunity to pass out a handout in which she is asking the community to contact her if they are interested in being a part of long term solutions to benefit both people with disabilities and business owner.

After the first of the year, she will be convening a group and her plan is to include representatives of local businesses, the legal profession, contractors, people with disabilities, local government and interested citizens.

In her handout, she did not single out Mr. Singleton or lawyers, she simply raised some questions and expressed some thoughts.

One concept Virginia wants to pursue is a concept of a revolving loan fund to help small businesses accomplish ADA upgrades and also work with State Representatives to improve existing legislation. For the entire handout or Virginia's thoughts on this, pleas email her at vbass@co.humboldt.ca.us.

Maggie's experience and strengths

Summary of experience and strengths:

Graduated Santa Clara University Law School in 1985.

Internships with the Santa Clara County Public Defender and District Attorney. At the Santa Clara Public Defender’s office, Maggie served as the person who interviewed those accused of committing crimes in preparation for the person’s appearance in court. In the District Attorney’s office, she worked on the prosecution of environmental crimes.

Seven and a half years as a Deputy District Attorney for Contra Costa County. Tried numerous jury cases beginning with a misdemeanor driving under the influence cases and then a variety of felonies. For 21/2 years, assigned to the unit that handles all abuse cases (elder, child , adult/child sexual abuse). Also handled the review and charging of felony cases for a year.

Joined Humboldt County District Attorney’s office in 1994 and worked there for 17 years. For the privacy and out of respect for the family (Maggie and I have decided not to name the following case on the blog). Maggie had only been in the office a couple of weeks when a teenager was murdered and she was assigned the case. There was gang related activity. She tried the case in Humboldt to a dual jury and also handled the change of venue trial that ultimately led to the conviction of the 2 defendants for 1st and 2nd degree murder. She continued to handle all levels of felonies and in 2005, Paul Gallegos appointed Maggie as the director of the Child Abuse Services TEAM (CAST).  In this capacity, Maggie has worked with social services, law enforcement, and other community agencies (Rape Crisis, Sexual Assault Response Team).  Part of her duties included working on budget issues, grant applications and preparing agreements to partner with Tribal organizations.

In 2007, Paul reassigned Maggie from CAST to the Drug Task Force where she worked for 4 years. During that time she was required to review all drug cases in the County and make recommendations regarding charges  to the District Attorney and possible sentencing options. At the direction of Paul, she prosecuted major drug cases such as People vs. Jose Hernandez Lopez. As part of this assignment she answered questions from DTF regarding legal issues and reviewed search warrants as needed 24 hours/7 days a week.

From 2001-2011, Maggie handled all the asset forfeiture cases for the County. Maggie has prosecuted over 100 jury trials including a number of homicide cases (Maher Suarez gang murder trial and Johnny Lindel Lewis case). According to Maggie, these cases required a broad mastery of criminal law and knowledge of a variety of technical subjects such as medical research on brain trauma, DNA, firearms and bullet trajectories. She has also presented cases to the Grand Jury.

In November 2011, Maggie joined the Humboldt County Counsel office. Her particular assignment focuses on personnel matters, review of grant applications, contracts and issues involving environmental health, probation and Public Guardian.

In the 20 years she has lived in Humboldt County, she has volunteered for many civic groups, her church and schools. Is currently on the KEET Board and her daughter’s high school board.


Maggie's profile: in Maggie's own words Part I

Why I am different from the other candidates:

I am the most experienced prosecutor among the candidates, with an extensive successful background in a broad range of the most serious cases-murder, sexual assault and other violent felonies. The job of District Attorney includes the responsibility to review ongoing investigations as well as to ultimately determine if a criminal charge will be filed and what should be the appropriate outcome. Frequently, the D.A. must make critical decisions in a very short time frame, decisions with serious consequences for individuals and public safety. My knowledge and experience make me the best person to handle those responsibilities. I will make sure that each and every case submitted to the District Attorney is handled completely and ethically, with fairness, promptness and dedication to justice.

Changes I will bring to the office:

Attorneys:

In choosing staff members the District Attorney must consider not only the individual but how the individual will interact with the rest of the staff, the public, and other agencies. I will recruit qualified attorneys and create a working environment that helps to retain them. Mentoring is a critical in District Attorney offices. Particularly, early on, my career benefitted greatly from the experience and insights of colleagues; I have now mentored many young lawyers. I will continue to do so as District Attorney, and create an environment that affords young opportunities to gain from the experience of others.

Consistency and Balance:

The community deserves a legal process that is fair, consistent, reliable and timely. To achieve this I will personally review police reports and evaluate the cases being filed  in order to create consistency in how cases are handled.

Crime and Prevention:

The best approach to criminal justice is to minimize the number of crimes committed. I will work with other county agencies on crime prevention. For example, I will work with the Office of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to solve issues that prevent teenagers from completing school. I plan to work with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Probation Department to encourage alternatives to jail for those in the street who have addiction issues or mental health issues.

DA Investigators:

I will request that law enforcement agencies call in a D.A. investigator to assist with homicides and other major crimes. My experience has been that it is very helpful for the for the prosecution of cases to have the D.A's office involved from the outset: when the investigation is completed and the case is transferred to the D.A's office for prosecution, the office has someone who already knows the case well. Working with law enforcement agencies from the outset maximizes efficiency.

Office Personnel:

The Humboldt County District Attorney's office connects to the community, the courts and other agencies. It cannot function effectively unless those connections are well understood and treated with respect. Internal office connections are just as important. The District Attorney's office under my leadership will be characterized by professionalism and mutual respect among all the staff.

Part II will focus on background info and Maggie's summary of experience and her strengths.

Dec 18, 2013

Recycled and recyclable signs for Maggie Fleming

Instead of spending too much time on facebook or a website, Maggie's focus is on work and putting in the effort towards campaign priorities in her free time. I like that. Her  yard signs will be made of recycled material and be recyclable. That is a first that I know of in Humboldt. Bonus points to Maggie. Green is her favorite color and that is what you will see in her campaign materials.

She has set up a facebook page and there will be a website up soon. Her kick-off will be sometime in January.

Randy Cook, local realtor plead guilty to a felony

Randall Miles Cook, of Cookhouse Realty, who is also a member of Humboldt Association of Realtors plead guilty to a felony on 12/17. The charge is child endangerment. PC 273 (a). This was a change in plea. Two charges of PC 288 (a) were dismissed.

Sentencing is on February 4. Judge Miles was the judge who was at the hearing for this plea; case prosecuted by Kelly Neel and defendant's attorney is Michael Robinson.

The plea he entered was conditional.

From the Central California Apellate Program, Guilty Plea Resource Page, the following is information on a conditional plea.

There are two types of guilty or no contest pleas in California: (1) a
Conditional plea, where the plea is conditioned upon receipt of a particular
disposition; and (2) an unconditional or open plea.

When taking a conditional plea of guilty or nolo contendere to an accusatory pleading charging a felony requires a trial court to “cause an inquiry to be made of the defendant to satisfy itself that the plea is freely and voluntarily made, and that there is a factual basis for the plea.”

From the web page of Roberts and Elliott : The legal effect of such a plea, to a crime punishable as a felony, shall be the same as that of a plea of guilty for all purposes.

Dec 17, 2013

Eureka Excessive Residential Electricity Use Tax

Eureka City Council received a report and was asked by staff to provide direction regarding development of an Excessive Residential Electricity Use Tax for the 2014 ballot. The County is looking into a tax similar to the one already passed by Arcata. Allison Talbot from PG & E made remarks at the City Council meeting which were the same  she made earlier in the day to the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.

One comment which Talbot made at the Humboldt County Board of Supervisor meeting not included in that post was that "PG & E does not make money off high-energy users." PG & E does not make money from this tax and "profits are decoupled from energy use."

One remark that she made at the Eureka City Council meeting that was additional information was that "if the tax was not paid after a robust collection process, that individual's information would be given to the City."

Eureka Council unanimously voted to enter into an agreement with PG & E to gather data and look at the information in January.

Updated: Patrik Griego serves City Police Chief and Attorney

An item on the consent calendar regarding destruction of police records was requested to be pulled by Adam Laird's attorney Patrik Griego. He served the City Attorney and Police Chief with a long list of what records he wanted preserved minutes before the regular session, according to the City Attorney. Griego did show up few minutes before the meeting. When this item was discussed, Police Chief Mills said many of the records  from 2007 or before had been purged. A motion was made by Councilmember Atkins to hold over these items until the January meeting. When asked for advice by the Council, the City Attorney advised them that waiting until January "would not do any harm" and in a motion that passed unanimously, this item was held over.

Griego had the following to say after the City Council meeting: "I am pleased that the council did not vote to destroy records that are relevant to Sgt. Laird's case.  I am concerned that the City has not yet agreed to preserve the records. The law is clear that these records need to be preserved until the conclusion of any potential litigation involving Sgt. Laird".  

Chet Albin appointed to 5th Ward in Eureka

In one motion, Chet Albin was unanimously voted in to   fill Lance Madsen's seat for Eureka 's Fifth Ward and the Council accepted Madsen's resignation. Mike Jones said of Albin, "You wont be disappointed in the effort Mr. Albin will put forward. This is not a yes man..." Lance got standing ovation as he concluded his goodbye remarks.

Santa visits Humboldt Board of Supervisors meeting and Legislative item about frivolous lawsuits

Santa (Rex) surprised the audience and Supervisor Ryan Sundberg this morning by a surprise visit at this morning's Board of Supervisor's meeting. Santa wished everyone a Merry Christmas on behalf of the Board of Supervisors and Supervisor Sundberg was presented by a locally made plaque thanking him for his service as the Board Chair.

As a part of the item on 2014 State and Federal legislative platforms, language was added that addresses the frivolous lawsuits closing down small businesses, and those using  ADA legislation to extort money from these businesses. No name was mentioned but references were made to the recent closure of Porter Street barbecue in Arcata.

Comments were made by all Supervisors. Supervisor Lovelace made the clarification that the intent of the law was to make businesses built before the legislation passed accessible to all customers and that the business owner make reasonable efforts to achieve that purpose, not for an attorney to extort money from business owners. Other comments made were to the effect that the law should be making things better for access not making money for an attorney, businesses need to be spending money to upgrade and not paying an attorney to go away, the legislative language is to address frivolous lawsuits not weaken the ADA. Discussions were had with local organizations like Tri-Independent living, businesses and attorneys and they all were in agreement that no one should be making money off this law.

It would be best to see the video to hear the exact comments because all the Supervisors were very careful and sensitive in their remarks.

Board of Supervisors approves high energy data agreement with PG & E

During the morning session of the December 17 meeting, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors directed the CAO to sign an agreement with PG & E to provide data regarding a potential high energy use tax  in unincorporated areas of county. The Board also directed the CAO to research the best fundingsource and bring the item back to the Board at a future meeting.

The estimated cost for PG & E provided this data would be anywhere from $500 to $1,000. This item was put on the agenda by Supervisor Sundberg.

Alison Talbot, the representative from PG & E for Government Relations was at the meeting. The following is a summary of some of the remarks she made in response to questions by the Supervisors at the meeting. She wanted to emphasize that the data provided would be aggregate and no individual data would be given out. The data is about users who use energy in excess of the 600% baseline.

If the Board decided to implement this high energy tax, "PG & E is willing to partner with the board"  in implementing the program. The program would be an exact mirror of the program in Arcata. In response to Supervisor Fennell's question if shops would be included, Talbot said no because the Arcata program is designed only for residential use.

Supervisor Sundberg said that he had received feedback to the effect from a constituent that this tax would "be picking on CARE consumers." Talbot clarified CARE guidelines were changed by the PUC. CARE customers who exceed use beyond 400 % of the baseline could be affected by this change, not by the proposed high energy tax .