Mar 21, 2014

What is the value of a human life? It is not just Paul that irks me

It is not just Paul that irks me so much.

I realize there are confidentiality issues but certain information and general policies should be available to the public. The Judges don't make decisions behind closed doors, yes certain trials and cases and information are sealed or confidential. Government meetings are subject to Brown Act rules.

Yet, certain offices such as the District Attorney's Office that deal with people's lives need to be more transparent and accessible.

Every court case I cover is because of my own journalist background, legal research and connections and on my own time. When other reporters are in the courtroom, we all help each other out. The media and the public and other organizations see the legitimacy and work; Paul and others do not. Paul has made it even more difficult and time consuming because if I don't have information in open court or I cannot hear the clerk due to disrespectful people who think court is their personal living room, I have to work harder to get the information and make sure it is accurate because that is the record of integrity I have as a journalist for 30 years.

I do not cover cases off press releases. The Cook case has been going on for a year, no one covered it, not even after I posted the first report. The Workman case, same thing. We do have a shortage of reporters but we seem to have article after article on the same polarizing issues and people show up at BOS and City Council meetings for the GPU or ridiculous stuff like raw milk yet cases like the Cook case that affect lives and generations go unnoticed.

It is not the reporters and editors who decide what gets covered or what gets newspapers sold. The audience and those who advertise determine the coverage.

When I was a journalist in Philadelphia and Atlanta, I worked for smaller newspapers. As 1 reporter, it was the trust and my connections and my being a part of the community that allowed me to scoop my bigger and better funded competition. In my heart, I am always be that neighborhood reporter. I have also always been a community advocate. 

Humboldt when you don't care about your neighbor and get swayed emotionally about issues that both political sides benefit from but not the foot soldiers of those sides; don't complain about the elected leaders and your quality of life.

What is the value of a human life? To me that brave 7 year old girl, a mother who stood up for her child against odds, a prosecutor dedicated to children and a well-qualified, caring Judge showed an arrogant man who thought his money would get him off the hook and saved future girls from the same fate.

All these years the businesses, the law enforcement, the community was silent. You let him get away with it because you are too busy being distracted by what is not important.

Some people in power and some with money on both sides of the political spectrum as well as bloggers and commenters who rant and rave attacking people, especially those who  hide behind anonymous blogs they create, what have you done that has changed the life of society in the way that 7 year old did?

Death Penalty in Warren case that may be dismissed but Tree gets a pass, what is Paul's thought process?

This is a link to an article by Thad Greenson. In it he says "With little attention or fanfare, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos is seeking the death penalty against Jason Anthony Warren in a case scheduled to go to trial in May. If a jury ultimately convicts and condemns Warren, it would be the first time Humboldt has sent someone to death row in nearly 25 years".

Channel 3 Lashay Wesley and myself were the only 2 in the courtroom this week when oral arguments were postponed on a 995 Motion in which the defense is seeking to dismiss 3 counts. Next week is when the oral arguments are scheduled to happen, and so when I read this, I wondered what is Paul thinking? And why the death penalty in this case now when he declined it in the double murder case of Bodhi Tree.

I thought Paul was releasing information to select media, just Thad,  and he was just quietly making this decision.  I would contact him but he and I have had a conversation on bloggers and journalists and who gets to be on the media list which would be an entertaining and enlightening post, but I digress.

I kinda called Thad and Paul out on a comment on Rose's blog which I asked Rose to remove after Thad contacted me via email. I like Thad and respect him as I do other local reporters. They also trust me. With Thad's permission, I am summarizing his email to me. I appreciate him reaching out to me privately and explaining he trusted me and also trusted I would share what is pertinent. This is information between him and me as a colleague, which by the way is a high compliment from a fellow reporter I admire. Some of it is just conversation between him and me not relevant to this post so I will not reprint the email.

Thad explained that the decision to seek the death penalty against Warren was not a recent one and that Paul made that call a while ago, Thad thinks possibly even before the preliminary hearing. There is a gag order in the case and Thad mentioned since not all reporters can show up for every hearing, not all of us may know about the gag order and because of that restriction no one knows when Paul made this decision. This is one of the reasons I go to every hearing in a case I cover. 

Thad wanted to stress Paul did not release this information to him. Thad explained to me how he obtained the information. I too have obtained that information in a similar manner. A reporter covering a court beat and one knowledgeable about court procedures and legal research can find this information in a proper way without talking to any attorney connected with the case. 

There is a death penalty policy that the Humboldt County District Attorney's office has and due to space, Thad could not include it in the story. While he shared it with me, I did not get it from Paul nor does it have a date so Paul how do you come to these decisions involving a person's life? 

See if Paul would bother talking to me when I am the only one covering the court case on a regular basis or be transparent to give me information that other reporters have, I would not need to wonder. In fact, if there are policies on Cruz Waivers and Death Penalty, post it on the District Attorney website instead of all those favorable press releases so the public has access to it, not just me.

Sharon LaTour, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me

When I spoke with Sharon LaTour before her announcement yesterday, she was very concerned about 
my post about her filing to run against Ryan Sundberg and me having a problem reaching her.

She said she had a lot of explaining to do. She gave me her home phone number and email. I had asked
 her a couple questions and told her I would email her some later. She assured me she would be available.

These are the questions I emailed her and asked for a response in writing:

1.Can you give me some specifics on how you plan to bring about these jobs and support local businesses?
2. How many building permits on an average do you think were issued in a year?
3. You were asked what if the GPU is passed before you take office, that is assuming new supervisors are elected?
4. What issues do you see as priority to be addressed in McKinleyville in your first term?

I gave a very objective report of her announcement. Have not heard back, not even I am busy, will get back to you.

Same thing with Chris Kerrigan, accessible one day, no contact the other. Whether Richard Salzman is involved with these two campaigns or not, he is the one bringing up the GPU in his LOCO column. There have been some members of the Local Democratic party, including some who lost last election who have a 
personal interest in defeating Ryan and Virginia.

So all this happy trail talk and loving the air and water is nice and touchy-feely, but mums the word on specifics.

If you are going to bring about change and prosperity and are so for the working class struggling, name concrete ideas. Unless of course, your handlers advise you to keep quiet or you don't have a clue.'

In fact, go ahead and answer these questions for LOCO, Times-Standard, NorthCoast Journal, if you want;
include me in that press release or not but avoiding them shows that you are not running for the right reason.

Two truck collision on 6th and H

Fire truck dispatched and left. No injuries. Police car on scene. Another police truck on scene. This is right on the corner of the Wells Fargo parking lot. I did not see it happen but I heard it from 6th and I and walked up to the scene.

PSO Brittany Kesterson confirmed no injuries. Officers are still on scene.

Mar 20, 2014

Ryan Burns and John Chiv have a temporary body switch

Not really and you knew that so why this silly post?. Reading my coverage of Sharon  Latour's formal announcement to run as 5th District Supervisor and then Ryan's coverage. It seems he asked questions I would and I asked questions he would.

Don't worry. We are both back to our senses and respective bodies. I have sent an email asking Sharon LaTour some questions about specifics and campaign platforms and GPU and this alleged development taking over open spaces.

If Ryan and Carrie did not get answers today, will I?

Local realtor Randy Cook sentenced to 270 days in County jail and led away in cuffs

It should have been a slam dunk and he could have gotten away but some justice did prevail today for Randall Miles Cook's present victim, his own 7 year old grandaughter.  And perhaps some closure for  the victims that never got their day in court. There have been allegations before and whispers in the community and many reasons other victims did not get to tell their story.

Randall Cook, his wife and other children (not parents of the victim) glared at me in the hallway for covering this case. They were completely insensitive to the fact that other cases were being heard in a packed courtroom and people had to scramble to find empty seats. When the victim's mother came into the courtroom with her family and support staff from agencies, there was no place to sit. It was so uncomfortable they went outside for a while.

This is the only time Randall Miles Cook has been in the courtroom since I started covering the case.

Deputy District Attorney Jackie Pizzo mentioned to the baliff on duty that when the courtroom is packed, people should be allowed to sit in the front row which is reserved for attorneys and court staff but that was ignored.

This case is being prosecuted by DDA Kelly Neel. The defendant is being represented by Michael Robinson and Judge Marilyn Miles presiding in Courtroom 2.

Judge Miles had both attorneys approach her to discuss certain matters before sentencing proceeded. She mentioned the probation report and attachments which included letters from Veronica Cook, the victim's mother; several Cook family members and Terry Cook, the victim's father. There was also a letter from a Ms. Silva, another alleged victim, a cousin of the family.

Due to the age of the victim, although her name was mentioned in court, I will not be using it in this post.

There was a letter from Mr. Robinson requesting that in addition to the plea, that the charge be reduced to a misdemeanor after 18 months. That was not a part of the plea and Judge Miles rejected that request.

The jail time Cook received was in addition to being on probation.

Before sentencing, Veronica Cook addressed the Court on behalf of her daughter. So did Terry Cook, the victim's father. And then the attorneys.

Veronica Cook was emotional during her testimony, at times crying as she spoke. "This has been the hardest year of my life, not just for me but for my children as well." What she read was a victim impact statement she had submitted to the court. "(child's name) went from a happy go-lucky kid to an introverted kid" who thinks she is bad and is sensitive so that she not hurt other people's feelings. "Her grandfather sexually molested her several times." She added that she felt betrayed by someone she trusted and respected and who she never thought would hurt her child.

"The original charges were felony counts, now plead down to 1 felony count of child endangerment," said Veronica. " She added that clearly her daughter was not his first victim. She mentioned the cousin. Veronica Cook said she was upset that as a part of the plea deal Randall Cook is not getting any jail time and that he did not have to register as a sex offender. "Mr. Cook has not acknowledged he has a problem." She asked that Cook not be allowed around young girls and her children (she also has 2 boys).

Terry Cook, the father says he believes his daughter but he wants a relationship with his family and father. The rest of the family does not believe the little girl and they blame Veronica. While Terry Cook got a little emotional in his testimony, he wants his children to have contact with his family. Instead of his daughter, Terry Cook went on and on about the benefits of counseling and people changing because of counseling.

Veronica and Terry Cook share joint custody of the children.

Ms. Neel started her statement by saying, "This was not a resolution taken without much input and discussion; separately and individually with Terry and Veronica Cook." She added, "I believe Mr. Cook did what  (child's name) said he did."

Ms. Neel explained that part of the case resolution and plea was "because 1108 evidence ( was shaky and much of that recollection was under hypnosis (this was the cousin's testimony)."  Again, referring to that incident, "There was no physical evidence, too many people around the minor when incidents occurred. I do believe he committed a crime against his niece but we cannot prove that beyond a reasonable doubt."

" Should the Court accept the plea, Mr. Cook should be required to surrender 1 year into custody," requested Ms. Neel. Then she went to explain that the way Mr. Cook turned himself in, he avoided jail time (completely) and got a lawyer (right away). "Mr. Cook believes he is getting away (with what he did) by avoiding jail time." Ms. Neel said that if the Court rejected the plea, "the People could live with that."

"I am astounded that at least one letter submitted on Mr. Cook's behalf blames Veronica Cook," said Ms. Neel. "She is trying to protect her child from people who were supposed to protect her child. Randall Cook's actions have fractured this family, he should be held accountable."

"He is telling Probation that he is medically unfit for jail," said Ms. Neel. "Jail is not good for anyone. If Mr. Cook is fine enough to travel the world, he is medically fit. It is because of his finances that he can get individual counseling." Ms. Neel said that Mr. Cook stipulated to sex offender treatment. "No one does that unless they have committed an offense." The People also requested a protective order for Veronica Cook and all her children.

Even before Court started, Mr. Robinson asked if Randall Cook could sit at the counsel table. Judge Miles said he can stand. Once Ms. Neel was done and halfway through Mr. Robinson's statement, Robinson asked again and Judge Miles said he could sit in the chairs in the courtroom. Randall Cook is in no way incapacitated where he could not stand for his own sentencing. Throughout the sentencing, he showed no emotion or remorse.

When Mr. Robinson spoke he brought up that most of the family was behind Randall Cook, he attacked the victims, again brought up the 1108 evidence code. At several points Judge Miles had to caution Mr. Robinson's personal interpretations and character assasinations of victims and  challenge certain insinuations that had no evidence. The defense said they were fine with protective order against the grandaughter and Veronica Cook but not the male grandchildren.

The Court agreed about the male grandchildren and that was only based on this case being about a female victim but granted the protective order for the granddaughter and Veronica Cook. Randall Cook is also not allowed to be with young girls without supervision. Randall Cook was sentenced to serve 270 days in County Jail and led away in cuffs.

With GPU as focus, Sharon LaTour announces candidacy for the 5th district in front of the courthouse

About 30 supporters which included Eureka Councilmember Linda Atkins, 4th District Supervisorial candidate Chris Kerrigan, HDCC member Pam Service, and former State Assembly candidate Hezekiah Allen gathered in front of the Humboldt County Courthouse to hear Sharon LaTour announce her candidacy.

Ms. LaTour provided the press with a copy of her speech and the General Plan Update was definitely a focal point of her remarks. "We have the opportunity to make a clear statement of our values and our vision of the future; of the Humboldt County that we want to pass on to our children, through the General Plan Update."

She goes on to give her timeline and interpretation of why the GPU has not passed. Regarding the current Board of Supervisors, Ms. La Tour has some strong words. "The vision is gone; any statement of values has been lost." Further in her statement, "Even simple but crucial goals such as orderly development and planning for the infrastructure and services have been gutted."

Unlike Chris Kerrigan, who no longer responds to any questions I ask; Ms. LaTour has given me her contact information and I will be contacting her for specifics on how she plans to bring the vision and prosperity she promises in her speech and campaign literature. I did tell her before we spoke that I have and am supporting current 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg but I was here today to cover her candidacy.

There were 2 questions I got to ask her before her speech and these are her responses

I asked her why she picked the Courthouse instead of McKinleyville, her district. "It is a more natural gathering place and each Supervisor has a responsibility for the entire county."

I asked her how she plans to run against an opponent who is well-funded and liked. "Walking, meeting and listening. I am going to walk as many days as I can and meet as many people as I can. I hope we would not be spending any more money now than we would have if we ran 3 months ago."

Elmy Workman sentencing postponed again.

This is the case Allison Jackson threw a legal "monkey wrench" in her own words on the day of sentencing. And once again Ms. Jackson prevailed. Court again in 2 weeks. All parties will be back in court on April 3rd at a special set time of 3 p.m.

Judge Feeney presiding in Courtroom1. Jason Sheets (instead of Luke Brownfield just today) for the People. Neal Sanders for the defendant, Elmy Workman. Allison Jackson, for the victim, Angela Pitts who she is representing pro-bono in this case.

This is a comment sent to me by Verda Pitts prior to court today:

I saw that you had written a small piece mentioning my sisters court appearance last week.  My sister Angel was stabbed by Elmy Workman who is being represented by Neal Sanders.  My family recently obtained Mrs. Allison Jackson to represent  Angel in this case.  Today in court tensions will be high as Mrs. Jackson plans to address  the court about the 'pre-sentencing report' she obtained at last weeks court appointment. The Distract Attorney's office wanted to agree to a plea deal (AGAINST MY SISTSERS WISHES) offered by Neal and Elmy. According to the plea deal Elmy would be pealing to assault resulting in GBI.(She stabbed her with a knife-it should be 'assault with a deadly weapon) She is offering to serve a mere 40 days in jail and comply with probation for three years in Humboldt County. This is appalling and like so many other cases locally and nationally alike, this case is not being heard by the public. We have court this afternoon at three o clock ( I believe in court room one)   My family would appreciate your presence in the court room, and would like to thank you again for writing about this case in the first place.  Please email me back if you have any questions. We feel like this story is one the public would find interesting, there is a very deep story here with much more than meets the eye.  This was in fact an attempt at a murder even though it will never and has never been called or tried as so. Thank you for your time.

       Verda W. N. Pitts

Another follow-up comment:

 My sister was left with multiple broken ribs and a lacerated liver. She was in ICU for 4 days. She also had a young nursing baby at the time who was also deprived of her mother during this time as a result of Elmy's actions. This was a very serious crime that could have ended much more devastating. I am thankful every day that this is not a murder case and that my sister didn't lose her life that day. I do however feel extremely passionate about this since it in fact almost was a murder case.  In my first email to you I said "According to the plea deal Elmy would be pealing to assault resulting in GBI.(She stabbed her with a knife-it should be 'assault with a deadly weapon) "  I should have said that since she stabbed her with a knife it should be assault with a deadly weapon resulting in G B I. Just to be specific.

Background info: Neal Sanders  represents Elmy Workman. Luke Brownfield prosecuting for the people. Workman  was supposed to be sentenced last week. The case had a plea bargain negotiated. Allison Jackson showed upto to representing the victim and the victim's family in this case. The family is objecting to the plea bargain and had previously not seen the pre-sentencing report until Ms. Jackson requested it last week. Ms. Jackson has sent a letter; a victim's statement to the Court. 

Today's court proceeding:

I will have a statement from Ms. Jackson about today's court proceedings and the other attorney's if possible.Basically, Elmy Workman's plea deal would have included no jail time, instead probation. Ms. Jackson provided case law and challenged that. Judge Feeney requested a supplementl report from Probation before he makes a decision. Ms. Jackson also had sent the court a victim impact statement.

Local realtor Randy Cook to be sentenced today

I am writing another post on today's court proceedings. I have received numerous emails and several phone calls on this case. The update is he was sentenced to 270 days in jail and a protective order was granted to the minor victim in this case, his own granddaughter; her mother, his daughter-in-law and he is not allowed to be near young girls without supervision.

Previous posts on this case:

I am supporting Elan Firpo for DA, and why you should too

I am supporting Elan Firpo for District Attorney. 

I cover the courtroom, I have been a juror, I have worked for attorneys, I am the only one who has seen her in the courtroom as well as other candidates. I know all 4 candidates and I know what their peers really think, what the person on the street really thinks and what funders and people in politics really think of all 4 candidates and their chances. Having an inside perspective on all 4 candidates does give me a more fuller perspective on their strengths and weaknesses.

In the first candidate debate, Elan said certain things that show what kind of human being she is and what kind of District Attorney she will be.  “We have to be mindful how the decisions we make affect lives”; “The DA’s office is not the prosecution arm of law enforcement, we are the system of checks and balances” and “People should not be able to buy their way out of crime.”

 Elan is the only candidate with no party affiliation. This means she gave up those guaranteed party endorsements and money and volunteer support that comes with the party approval. She is a DA for people, regardless of party affiliation, in a non-partisan race.

Other letters have mentioned that she has put together a diverse coalition. There are people supporting Elan that normally have different views and have never been in the same room. Elan brought these people together.

I have previously worked on campaigns for Paul's opponents; now I am endorsing a candidate who has Paul's support. Elan earned that endorsement. I had concerns, I got to know Elan, she gained my trust and respect. I had considered endorsing and supporting another candidate who I have known longer than Elan.

She is the only DA candidate who is presently an active prosecutor in the criminal justice system with a full caseload and full-time job. She is the only candidate that has worked under realignment and has given specific explanations to how re-alignment has affected sentences and prison time. She knows the reality and frustrations of being a prosecutor now and sentences today are not HER choice. Other candidates know this and yet they have chosen to take pot shots at her high profile cases.

She has handled that criticism with class. That kind of spotlight and how it is handled is important because a DA will not make everyone happy. Again, her opponents have reacted with defensiveness or denial in the same situation.

I have talked to several people who did not know I was supporting Elan. Some I have known for a long time. This included 2 jurors who were very impressed with her in the courtroom. Many have mentioned that she is the only one that has business and management experience. That is a crucial quality to fix an office that is understaffed, needs resources and Elan knows how to conduct herself around people professionally.

Elan did not leave the office, she was not let go, and she stayed when the going is tough and that shows she has the commitment and the fortitude to fix this office.

The District Attorney’s Office is one that affects the entire County. As Elan has correctly stated, Eureka’s issues are different than Garberville. We have polarized this community by making it about growers and those other businesses. Both are a part of this economy. Greed and criminal element can apply to anyone.

Lately crime and what to do about it and issues such as homelessness and mental illness and drugs have been the subject of many articles, forums, meetings. The DA cannot fix all of this but is a crucial office where we need someone who will not see people as black or white and someone who sees how the criminal justice system sometimes becomes the only place which forces someone to get help or a place where someone is finally  held responsible for repeat behavior.

Maybe the City Attorney should not be running the City and speaking on behalf of the City of Eureka and it's citizens

I posted the first draft of the letter. I did not post the second draft.

Mayor Jager should not apologize for releasing the first draft. The City Attorney is hired to protect the interests of the City and should advise on legal consequences but in this case, this liability argument went overboard.

The first letter was written by Frank, someone I know well. To put him in the position of defending an action which he did not vote on alone is wrong. To put him in the position when he showed leadership and actually made a decision that would make even his detractors commend him is wrong.

Are we going to allow liability or potential liability to be the topic on every action now before the city Council? Any one can find any reason to sue, whether there is a basis or not.

The first letter with the apology was a significant first step in healing years of atrocities. It does not mean the present people of Eureka are the same as those ignorant fools who participated in the Wiyot massacre in 1860. What it does, is acknowledge an inhumane evil act perpetrated by powerless people who deemed themselves superior culturally.

The roots of such superiority and racism still exist in Humboldt County. This is not about money or property, it is not about whether you or I individually have the same attitudes or actions as those in the 1960s, it is about a city that has hopefully evolved and realizes why today taking responsibility for the sins of the past may promote healing in the present.

It is something that the other cities should also consider, however the Wiyot massacre occurred in Eureka.

Is the City Attorney now running the City of Eureka and speaking for the City of Eureka? We elected a Mayor and City Councilmembers. The City Attorney is hired by the City with her salary paid for with money from taxpayers.

Maybe instead of City Council members, we the citizens,  should have sent the letter to the Wiyot Tribe. Anyone who did not want to sign it, could sit out. Just as those who sat and did nothing when the cowards carried out the brutal killings 153 years ago.

Words ring hollow, actions speak louder.

In world history, moments of silence have resulted in horrors and cultural and spiritual genocide.  The Eureka City Council needs to rethink this action.

Mar 19, 2014

Stargazer Barn, a new e-commerce website by Sun Valley Farms partners to promote smaller local Humboldt Based businesses

Did you know that McKinleyville’s  own Leslie Woodriff developed the Stargazer lily, which is now the most popular oriental lilly in the world.  According to the Sun Valley Farm website, the Stargazer Lily was hybridized on The Sun Valley Group's Arcata farm location. Since the introduction of the Stargazer, Sun Valley produces Stargazers with a more intensely colored red bloom.

Sun Valley, an established local company and a major employer in the area is launching a new e-commerce website that will feature quality, eco-conscious products nationally. In addition to flowers grown by Sun Valley Farms, wines created at the Sun Valley vineyard, other Humboldt based businesses such as Tulip Perfume, Kinetic Coffee, Desserts on Us (which makes the yummy Lacey's cookies) and Holly Yashi will be prepresented.

The Headwaters Fund assisted the initial stages of this project with a $3,000 grant, and Sun Valley invested significant resources in thee website. To defray some of the costs, another grant request was submitted for $10,000 to Headwaters.

This was just approved,according to Headwaters Executive Director Dawn Elsbree . The website will not be launched until May.

Paul Gallegos gets continuance in defense request to dismiss Warren case

There were supposed to be oral arguments in the Jason Warren case today. Defense filed a motion to dismiss certain counts. Judge John Feeney presiding in Courtroom 1, Kevin Robinson representing Jason Warren and District Attorney Paul Gallegos is prosecuting the case.

Today oral arguments were supposed to be heard on a 995 Motion. California Penal Code 995 motion is a request for the judge to dismiss one or more counts of the complaint. A motion to dismiss can be filed after a preliminary hearing on a felony case. 

The defense was requesting that counts 2, 3 and 4 be dismissed. Mr. Gallegos asked the court to review all exhibits in the case before the 995 hearing and making a decision. Judge Feeney agreed and granted Mr. Gallegos' request. The defense and Warren submitted on the continuance.

The oral arguments will be heard on March 27 at 3 p.m.

Another high-profile case, David Anderson with Luke Brownfield for the People and Ben McLaughlin for the defense. Anderson was arraigned on complaints filed on March 11, 2104. This case was re-filed.

There were special allegations of kidnapping enhancements added to the charges and sexual intercourse with a minor victim over the age of 14. Pleas of not guilty were entered. Pre Trial Conference on April 16, Trial Confirmation on April 30 and a jury trial date was also scheduled.

OR bail hearings were held for both Miller and Arriaga, and Judge Feeney denied both OR bail and supervisory release for both citing public safety concerns with Mr. Brownfield objecting due to the serious nature of charges. Miller's request to lower bail was also denied.

Judge Feeney is my favorite judge and if you have jury duty, you want him to be the presiding judge. I have been a juror on a high profile case with Judge Feeney. On a daily basis, he is very kind and polite to counsel, staff, jurors and even defendants.

Courtroom 1 was the happening courtroom to be in today with Paul Gallegos, Patrik Griego, Ben McLaughlin, Allan Dollison, Glenn Brown and  few others all in the same afternoon. Sort of a star-studded attorney line-up. The Littlefield case was also on calendar today, which is being prosecuted by Mr. Gallegos.

Mar 17, 2014

City of Eureka letter to Wiyot Tribe

I think it is an important first step towards healing.

March 18, 2014

Ted Hernandez, Tribal Chair
Wiyot Tribe
1000 Wiyot Drive
Loleta, CA  95551

Dear Members of the Wiyot Tribe:

In February 1860, 154 years ago, citizens from Eureka participated in what has been described as a massacre of unfathomable proportions.  On that winter night long ago, the Wiyot people of Humboldt Bay were attacked.  That incident resulted in the death of scores of mostly women and children on the tribal island in Humboldt Bay.  Worse yet, this attack occurred during the Wiyot Renewal Ceremony to bring healing to the Earth.  The ceremony was never finished.

Today the people of Eureka are pleased to see the World Renewal Ceremony, that was cut short in 1860, will at last be finished.  The ceremony will take place on island land deeded to the Wiyot people in 2004.

As Mayor of Eureka, on behalf of the City Council and the people of Eureka, we would like to offer a formal apology to the Wiyot people for the actions of our people in 1860.  Nothing we say or do can make up for what occurred on that night of infamy.  It will forever be a scar on our history.  We can, however, with our present and future actions of support for the Wiyot, work to remove the prejudice and bigotry that still exists in our society today.


Frank J. Jäger

CC: Councilmembers

Dean Glaser and Jaison Chand speak on Fortuna sign ordinance at today's City Council meeting to no avail Today's Agenda.

Fortuna City Council member Dean Glaser is supporting Allan Dollison. He tried to explain to the staff and city attorney that  at least 1 out of the other 4 people sitting on the dais with him, which includes Mayor Strehl and 3 other city council members need to step down because there is a conflict of interest from them to vote on this ordinance.

Mike Losey,  Sue Long, Tami Trent are all listed as supporters of Maggie Fleming. Mayor Strehl could be a supporter but since her list is partial on website who knows? He claimed he is not supporting anyone.

In a rare moment Mike Losey who is supporting Maggie Fleming, Allan Dollison and Elan Firpo's campaign manager Jaison Chand exchanged pleasantries before the meeting.

The ordinance was passed 4 to 1, Glaser dissenting.

The issue is not the ordinance but the lack of notification, the way it was handled. Watch today's meeting on Channel 10. Free speech and objectivity is well and alive in Fortuna, when convenient. Not to mention their website which is not user friendly and agendas and minutes are uploaded willy-nilly.

Item VI. Business Number C: Adopt Urgency Ordinance 2014-706, Suspending Section 17.05180 (D) (1) (b) of the Fortuna Municipal Code affecting Political Signs, for a period of six months.

From this point on, my reporting will include a personal perspective because I cannot stand bullying and I do not like people who abuse authority, so read with that disclosure. Fortuna City officials, take note, that is how you disclose your intent.

When the time came for this item to be discussed, Mayor Strehl commented, "I did not think it would be so controversial."

The City Attorney then said in addition to the correction from suspending to amending that Strehl mentioned, the line for a period of six months should be stricken.

The City Attorney said "a candidate has signs up". That candidate is Maggie Fleming but he did not mention her name.

The City attorney added that this ordinance was temporary, that the Planning Commission had to look into it and send back recommendations, and it was not about size, just no time frame when signs can go up.

"We don't usually adopt an urgency ordinance because it requires a 4/5th majority and does not require a second reading," said the City Attorney. "This is only valid for 45 days. I don't think the Planning Commission can receive and make recommendations (in this time frame), so in April we will ask you to adopt a 2nd ordinance."

Following so far. Very user friendly right? Logical? Also in front of the camera the City Attorney gave the background information on how this ordinance came about. If you want the real story, read my blog, read comments on other blogs, read Thad Greenson's article, do your own research and put together your own puzzle.

Fortuna City Attorney and Mayor and 3 council members and the City Manager have their version of truth; let us all play the "make it up as we go along game."

More convoluted explanations. This only applies to political signs, not all signs and "we are setting aside a time limit temporarily while we decide what time limit". Make sense? All this will really help the voters decide in a timely manner who they should vote for.

Now, somehow only Maggie Fleming knew of this supposed change, none of the other DA candidates, none of the other candidates running for office and  if you watch this entire item on TV, you will see those who voted in favor snap at Allan Dollison and Jaison Chand and say it is not the City of Fortuna's responsibility to inform the candidates, the candidates need to keep up with these things.

Yeah, in the middle of campaigning, candidates or their supporters should keep an eye on what happens in the City of Fortuna because they might do something of interest. Based on today's borefest meeting which would instantly cure insomnia, why would anyone care what Fortuna is passing. Even the items that did not involve the ordinance were a whole bunch of talk about nothing that only made sense to the inner clique.

I think I have disclosed more times that I am an Elan supporter than the City of Fortuna did about this ordinance change. Where is Peter Martin to cry alleged violation of Brown Act or free speech when you really need him.

Glaser got to speak and he said, "there is a potential conflict of interest of 4 members, sitting on both sides of me" referring to Long, Strehl, Losey and Trent.He pointed out why there was also financial gain. One example was "Mike has been a DA investigator, worked 20 years in the DA's office, could get a part-time or full-time job." He said they should recuse themselves.

Losey retorted, "This is absurd! I have no intention of going back full-time or part-time." Note made Mike, so if Maggie is elected, we will hold you to this public remark.

Strehl tried to spin voting patterns have changed. People vote early and Strehl adamantly said, "I have never endorsed a candidate!" Voting patterns suddenly became relevant this year? I did not know signs were such a crucial part of voter education. Throw away those brochures and buttons candidates, Fortuna has the winning formula.

The City Manager and Attorney piled onto the bully pulpit, all attacking Glaser, and later dissing Dollison and Chand; in fact Losey interrupted during public comment. After all, he did not have ample opportunity to speak.

At this point, they deigned to ask for public comment.

DA Candidate Allan Dollison spoke. One of the points he raised was that in a highly contested race, "Why now? Is it really an emergency?"

Jaison Chand, who is Elan Firpo's campaign manager spoke next. He said while he moved to Eureka a year ago, he is a lifelong resident and still has business interests in Fortuna .  "I am here to get clarification." He said "we only learned of this ordinance change 10 days ago." He said he just learned that is an amendment not a suspension.  And that his biggest concern was not the change but the process. Referring to the unnamed candidate, Chand said, "That candidate knew something we did not know." He said all candidates should have been notified and all 4 DA candidates should have been involved in this decision.

Arnie Klein and his campaign, as usual, were missing in action when it really matters.

Now conveniently, the ordinance defenders once again changed reasons mid-stream and said it was not just about the June election but all elections. And then knowing full well, they had a majority of 4, they passed the ordinance. Justice was indeed served in the democratic process tonight.

Maggie Fleming has elected officials on her partial list of endorsements, she has major law enforcement endorsers, she has County Counsel employees openly endorsing her; her supporters clearly think rules do not apply to her or them.

People accuse Paul of abusing his power. Imagine a candidate who has the backing of elected officials, labor unions, major organizations, law enforcement, County Counsel as your next DA and this behavior above is before the election. You really want 1 person being beholden to all those special interests?

Guess Maggie must really need those signs in Fortuna ahead of time, even though she has been crowned by many as the front runner in this race. This is one of many such actions by Maggie supporters that she has allowed time after time with excuses and why she did not get my endorsement for DA. We need someone who can be fair, not someone who will say and do anything to win.

Where are all the investigative reporters on this story? Ryan, Hank, Kevin, does it have to involve the GPU to be covered? Thad, will you do a follow-up that actually does not let them get away with semantics?

Old Dynamite located in a barn on Chezem Lane

 On 03-14-2014, at approximately 2:00 p .m., the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office was notified by a property owner on Chezem Lane, Redwood Valley that he located three cases of dynamite in a barn. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad responded to the scene and confirmed the three boxes contained dynamite.  The dynamite appeared to be very old, and the property owner told the deputies it had been in the barn approximately 40 years or more. The dynamite was wet in appearance and crystalized which indicated it was very unstable. The Bomb Squad Deputies cordoned off the area and called for fire and medical to stage. Over a two day period the deputies were able to render the dynamite safe and dispose of it.

  The Sheriff’s Office Bomb Squad gets two to four calls a year to deal with old dynamite.  According to Sheriff’s Bomb Squad Sergeant Ernie Stewart, “Any friction can cause detonation of old nitroglycerin based dynamite. You never want to touch it or move it. Call 911 immediately if you find it and clear the area. It can be extremely unstable.” 

 Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

Death penalty not sought in Bodhi Tree case, trial continued to April 7

Whether the death penalty will be sought or not in the Bodhi Tree case was expected to be revealed this afternoon. Judge Dale Reinholtsen presiding in Courtroom 4. Elan Firpo for the People. Public Defenders Casey Russo and Heidi Holmquist for the defendant.

District Attorney Paul Gallegos made the decision not to seek the death penalty in the Bodhi Tree case. The case is being continued to April 7 because the defense has to provide a report on an expert witness to Ms. Firpo.

The death penalty was one of the issues which was to be discussed today. The other was a jury questionnaire. The defense presented a Trial Readiness packet to the court. Both the defense and prosecution had agreed on the jury questionnaire.

Witness lists had been exchanged. Ms. Firpo told the Court that the Defense intended to have an expert witness and while she had a CD, she did not have the accompanying report. Therefore, Ms. Firpo requested the trial date be continued.

Ms. Holmquist said the report would be given to Ms. Firpo by the end of the week. Both sides agreed on the April 7 date. Judge Reinholtsen noted based on the list of witnesses, this could potentially be a long trial. There was discussion about questionnaires and jury selection.

April 2 is the Trial Readiness date to discuss any outstanding evidentiary issues.

Search for missing woman called in by Fortuna Police Department

On 3-13-2014, at approximately 7:30 p.m., the Fortuna Police Department forwarded a missing person report to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. The missing person is Sheila Franks, 37 years old known to live in Rio Dell and Loleta. Her mother called to report her missing, because her family had not heard from Sheila in the last month and a half. Sheila has been very consistent with communicating with her son, which has not occurred for over a month and is very out of character for Sheila. Shelia was last seen in Eureka on 01-11-14.

Sheila Franks is described as: White female, 37 years old, strawberry blond hair, blue eyes, 5’5” tall and approximately 120 lbs.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.

Miller and Arriaga appointed counsel, future dates set, Miller was suspect held for mental health evaluation

Misty Dawn Miller and Brian Anthony Arriaga  were in court today were appointed counsel. Judge John Feeney presiding in Courtroom 1. Luke Brownfield for the People.

Please see previous post "Attempted burglary arrest results in mental health evaluation" for background information.

Both looked cleaner and healthier and definitely appeared sober.  They sat apart, although that was probably on instruction by the baliff.  See them today, other than the prison garb, they are no different than people you encounter on the streets of Humboldt every day. 

I am not making light of their situation. It is hard to see the effects of drugs and mental health issues and people's lives and in Humboldt, these faces don't disappear in a crowd of people.

Conflict Counsel's office with Kaleb Cockrum representing Arriaga. Not guilty pleas. He was charged with Count 1 residential burglary, Count 2 grand theft, Count 3 public intoxication, Count 4 Misdemeanor vandalism. Today the court set bail of $60,000.

Misty Miller had 2 cases. Public Defender Heidi Holmquist representing her. As Ms. Holmquist got the complaint and was on her way to talk to her client, Ms. Miller attempted to address Judge Feeney about custody credits and Ms. Holmquist had to hush her so she didn't mess her own case up before talking to an attorney.

Miller charged with 1st degree residential burglary and misdemeanor vandalism. Bail in 1 case $60,000 and second case $55,000. 

Both requested a Bail OR hearing which is on March 19; Intervention on March 24 and Preliminary hearing on March 27. Same court dates for both.

As the justice slowly turns in Humboldt: Borgner court update

Today Lance Borgner had Kaleb Cockrum from Conflict Counsel appointed for two more cases with charges filed by District Attorney on March 11. Judge Feeney presiding in Courtroom 1. Luke Brownfield for the People.

We are upto 1/2 dozen cases with a few special allegations thrown in. Counsel appointments, arraignments, resolutions trying to be worked, court procedures, dates to consolidate all cases, not guilty pleas in a nutshell.

Borgner was a bit more serious and focused today , engaging with his attorney, more respectful. Might have to do with a few more days in custody and not being shackled to Shiloh Chase.

Next court date April 2. "As the justice slowly turns in Humboldt", we shall see if there are new developments on that date.

Please see previous posts on this blog for background.

Mar 16, 2014

Questions that were asked of DA Candidates in the Tea Party Debate on March 13

  1. Regarding infractions involving fines and no jail time versus misdemeanor violations being subject to both 6 months in jail and $1,000 fine, do you believe police officer discretion should be applied before citations, infractions, misdemeanor citations are issued?
  1. Violations involving non-human health and safety matters in California require use of misdemeanor citations and can include intimidating arraignment procedure (e.g., violations of California Department of Fish and Game regulations, forest practice laws, and County General Plan land use Ordinances). Do you feel the DA’s office should be involved as soon as the above type of misdemeanor is discovered to pursue an out of courtroom resolution to the matter as soon as possible to avoid costs to the taxpayers before arraignment and courtroom action?
  1. Would you support a fiscal amnesty program for innocent violations of the law not involving human heath and safety matters?
  1. What steps would you take to combat the increased robberies and home invasions?
  1. How do you feel about the potential legalization of Marijuana in the County and in any of the cities within the County? If you are in favor of it, what benefit do you think it would be?
  1. How do you feel about the current procedures used to release jail inmates in the middle of the night?  Do you think there should be instances where this practice should continue (e.g., to accommodate anticipated increase of jail inmates due to holiday celebrations)?
  1. What kind of relationship do you want to have with the police chiefs and sheriff?
  1. How do you feel about the arming of the DA investigators that took place via the Code Enforcement Unit not long ago?  Would you support elimination of those policies in the County?

  1. In your opinion, should the Sheriff be the chief law man in the County or the chief law enforcement officer in the County? 
  1. What do you think of the death penalty?  Why?

  1. Should the DA directly work on a portion of the trials scheduled or should he/she delegate trial workload to Deputy DA’s and focus on office administration? 
  1. How many attorneys, paralegals and investigators do you think the DA’s office should have to be a competent smooth running office? 
  1. How many hours on behalf of the DA does it take to both run the office and the trial calendars in an efficient, effective  manner?  How many hours are you used to working per week? 
  1. If elected, how many years do you see yourself in office? 
  1. What is your opinion of the Grand Jury?  Do you agree with County Counsel’s office controlling of which complaints are forwarded to the grand Jury?  Do you agree with County Counsel’s controlling which Grand jury investigation reports are published? What would you do if elected to correct the Grand Jury organization and reporting?

  1. What is your plan to discourage the current drug culture in Humboldt County?

I did take notes and it was an hour and half debate. I could try and summarize responses under the questions but in fairness to the candidates, if one can, you should watch it on Access Humboldt.

Reminder about Mad River Union debate this Thursday also presented by Arcata Police Association

Thanks to Richard Bergstresser for this information which he left as a comment on this blog:

This Thursday, 3/20, from 7:00pm to 8:30 pm the Arcata Police Association and Mad River Union are presenting a DA Candidates Forum. It will be at the Arcata Community Center and all 4 candidates will be there. It is open to the public and will be broadcast live on KHSU.

Why Jim Ferguson is supporting Allan Dollison and is his campaign manager, in his own words

For those who do not know Jim Ferguson, in his own words, a bit of background information on him:

"I’ve been a Democrat all my life, beginning with my parents taking me to the Ambassador Hotel in 1968, the night Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. I’ve been in Humboldt County for 25 years now and have worked on both campaigns and issues off and on for that entire time. I’ve held political office, Resort Improvement District Board of Directors, in addition to being Fire Chief of the Shelter Cove VFD. I build a radio station from scratch in Garberville, KBEY 104.7 FM, as well as being involved with the construction of over 35 homes in Shelter Cove. Before I moved to Shelter Cove, I worked for the movie studios in Los Angeles and was as well a freelance journalist and West Coast Editor of the international film magazine Fantastic Films."
 Why I was brought into the campaign:

“Allan realized that he needed a professional who had the experience of running a political campaign in Humboldt County and in addition also had a track record of winning.”

Why I agreed to join Allan's campaign:

“I looked at the candidates running for District Attorney and quickly realized Allan had both the leadership capabilities and experience the office needed and, in addition, was an honorable man, one who would uphold the law and not allow politics into the equation of whether or not to prosecute.”

Elan Firpo has requested Paul Gallegos reassign the Ferrer case; this and more at the Arcata Town Hall meeting today

From Elan Firpo:

"I have asked the District Attorney, Paul Gallegos, to reassign the People v. Juan Ferrer case.  

The recent exchanges in the media and misinformed, misguided grandstanding of some of my campaign opponents have mired a very serious and difficult case in politics.   

As a prosecutor, I take seriously both the obligation that all matters be handled based on the facts and the rule of law, and that even that appearance of impropriety from political influence be avoided.  Justice can only be served at this point if it is disentangled from the political campaign."

This is one of the things Elan will be mentioning to day at a Town Hall meeting today from 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm at the Arcata Community Center today. If you have not met Elan, this is a chance for you to talk with her in person, if you are an Elan supporter, go show her moral support. It is not uncommon for other candidates to send their supporters to other candidates' events to try and stack the deck.

This is an opportunity for the public to get to hear about what Elan offers as a candidate for this very important office.

Elan has shown great class and risen above the fray of actions by certain opponents and she is my choice for DA.

Since Access Humboldt is not airing the Tea Party Debate for a while and not everyone has access to that Channel, I will be reprinting the questions asked of all candidates and their responses in a post soon so those who could not attend get a chance to read all 4 candidates' positions on various issues.