May 30, 2014

"Russo seems very frustrated; Firpo defeating him at every turn"; general consensus among media covering case

The quote in the title is not mine but I agree. Those of us covering the case sometimes help each other out by comparing notes at the end of the day. Outside the courthouse, away from public, almost every day we have one general consensus that the defense, in general, during cross has failed, so far, to make a case for their theory.

We have some varying opinions on minor details but we agree Ms. Firpo is successful in redirect in getting witnesses to clarify and answer questions raised during cross. The defense has raised some points but Mr. Russo's frustration is clear and most evident during Rhett August's testimony and also Detective Peter Cress's testimony.

Witnesses correcting defense attorney on facts often is not a good sign. Asking questions with no purpose where objections by Ms. Firpo are sustained. If those of us in the audience are getting tired of a lengthy cross with questions being asked that have been addressed, that do not shed any additional light, what must the jury be feeling and thinking?

In my experience, in Humboldt County, a pound of marijuana would not get prosecuted in this era

Detective Cress explaining one of the reasons why he did not confiscate the marijuana in Rhett August's apartment. He also said when he saw the marijuana in the one, clear plastic bag, he was doing the initial sweep to secure the apartment for safety.

Today is the first day since opening that Christina's mom has been in the audience. The numbers of members of the public that attend has dropped off steadily. There has been one friend of Christina's that has been here every day.

Cress finally finished testimony. Mr. Russo was unsuccessful in discrediting Detective Cress' testimony.

In her re-direct, Ms. Firpo asked Detective Cress about the difference between a narrative and a report. Mr. Russo, the previous day had brought up the fact that not everything was in Detective Cress' report.

Detective showed his report on the case which was a binder "about 3 inches thick" and then he should his narrative which was a 1/4 inch. Detective Cress said that his narrative was a summary and responded with a "No" when Ms. Firpo asked, "Do you include everything in your narrative?"

Then questions were asked by Ms. Firpo and Detective Cress explained why the Melvin Matthews lead "dissipated." Detective Cress said that while a witness had seen someone, no one had specifically seen Melvin Matthews do the shooting. Detective Cress said he interviewed witnesses to substantiate Melvin Matthew's alibi. He mentioned the Christie Motel and gave other local addresses where he spoke to several people, some he was familiar with already as law enforcement interacts with them frequently. Detective Cress said that he could substantiate Melvin Matthews had been at those locations but not specific times.

Ms. Firpo showed photos of Melvin Matthew's face and hands. Detective Cress pointed out that there was no evidence of a physical altercation. This referred back to a fight Steve Upton had mentioned to the Detective that allegedly happened between Upton and Matthews. Detective Cress added that when he interviewed Sean Butler-Smith, he evaluated him in "sepcial way"  to determine his credibility  and that he was coherent and articulate and based on his interview with Smith, "Mr. Tree was a suspect" and again reiterated that in his investigation other leads had dissipated.

Detective Cress also explained that while it is ideal to record the entire statement while interviewing a witness, that parts of his interviews with Upton and John Buhne were not recorded because they were more forthcoming with names and details when they were not being recorded.

May 29, 2014

Ferrer defendants held to answer on all charges

Arraignment for jury trial on June 10 at 2 p.m. in Ctrm 4. Judge Christopher Wilson said counsel had good arguments and while he saw evidentiary issues and potential problems with jury instructions, he said Juan Ferrer's actions did meet implied malice and that  use of a knife in a physical altercation was similar to bringing a gun to a knife fight.

He said Sophie Rocheleau and Nicholas Stoiber continuing to attack a disabled opponent made him decide to hold them to answer to charges filed. He said he did think a lot about these two defendants before making a final decision.

Cress cross by Russo concludes in Bodhi Tree, Firpo still doing redirect

Cress will be testifying tomorrow since Ms. Firpo still needs to finish redirect. Since I am at the Ferrer preliminary hearing and so is TS and Channel 3, Paul Mann who is covering the Bodhi Tree trial for Mad River Union filled us in on the basics.

We have our little group that sits together, helps each other out when needed. In addition to the Bodhi Tree and Ferrer cases, there are other cases also of interest that will be going to trial soon.

Reavis and Okin get Sligh to admit testimony left out during prosecution cross in Ferrer case

Preliminary still going on. The APD should be called the "I dont recall" bureau. Especially when they are confronted with additional facts on cross.

 Parts of testimony that were left out when Sgt Ron Sligh was questioned by Ms. Neel are brought out by Mr. Reavis and Mr. Okin.

Jordet called the three defendants faggots and homeless and initiated verbal confrontation.

When Ms. Neel was questioning Sgt Ron Sligh, he said that Rocheleau was nervous when video surveilance was mentioned, initially indicated a different route home . According to Sligh, Stoiber gave the most honest answer of what occurred and that Ferrer denied all responsibility and was a hostile witness.

Possibility of other assailants and more heroin connections raised in Ferrer prelim day 2

On cross, Mr. Okin reminded Detective Dockweiler of a conversation Deputy Horton relayed to him in which Horton said he spoke with the Jordet family, and he learned from Daniel Jordet that the reason Douglas Anderson-Jordet moved to Arcata was because of several heroin deals gone bad.

Mr. Okin brought up the several layers of clothing Jordet was wearing that would have to be cut to get to the stab wound, the angle of the knife that was difficult to determine at the autopsy. He brought up the fact that Jordet was a chef at Abruzzi's and asked if the detective knew whether he was left or right handed.

Ms. Dixon on cross mentioned several knives were found but none was determined to be the weapon and none of those associated with her client.

Mr. Reavis brought up 3 areas of blood, one near 11th street which was mentioned for the first time and the fact that Jordet crossed over to where the three defendants and that when he was staggering on the video, it could be because he had been injured, not drunk and this could have happened before he encountered the three defendants.

May 28, 2014

Brief Bodhi Tree update from today

Ms. Firpo finished her questioning of Detective Peter Cress today, according to other media that was present at the Bodhi Tree trial.

Mr. Russo's cross was "all over the place", the same media told me. He seemed very confused and was wrong about dates and people.

Smith and Wesson pistol, stolen Honda, weed and meth in POP bust

On 05/27/14 at about 3:15 p.m. detectives from the Eureka Police Department Problem Oriented Policing Unit (POP) served a search warrant at a residence near the 200 block of Higgins St.  The search warrant was related to an ongoing investigation relating to narcotic sales.

During the warrant service, officers recovered a stolen Smith and Wesson 500 pistol reported out of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department and a stolen Honda 70 motorcycle reported out of the Eureka Police Department.  Approximately two pounds of marijuana and a usable amount of methamphetamine were also were located in the residence.

Fidel Contreras, 29 of Eureka was contacted at the residence and arrested for possession of stolen property, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance, felon in possession of a firearm, and probation violation.

Gunshots heard near Weitchpec elementary school, threats made to adult victim, armed suspect on the loose

On 05-27-2014 at about 3:15 pm the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Yurok Tribal Police Department and the California Highway Patrol responded to several gun shots being heard near the Jack Norton Elementary School off McKinnon Hill Road, Weitchpec. The Elementary school went into lockdown as a safety measure for their students. No students were injured by the gun fire near the school.

While on scene officers learned that a suspect, who was identified as George Richard Robbins III was the person responsible for discharging a rifle in the air near the school.  Officers at this time were unable to determine if Robbins was shooting at the school.

Officers located an adult male victim, who lives approximately 200 yards away from the Elementary school, who said that Robbins came onto his property holding a rifle and a handgun. The victim told the officers that Robbins fired a gun at his dogs. The dogs were not injured. The victim said that the suspect then pointed the rifle at him and said, I’m going to kill you. The victim said he turned around and walked away from the suspect.

Robbins was last seen on foot leaving the victim’s property. At this time Law Enforcement does not know why Robbins was firing him weapon at the victim’s dogs or why he pointed his rifle at the victim. Officers checked the area but were unable to locate Robbins.

Robbins is described as a male, 47 year old, Native American, 5’-6” in height, 185 pounds, brown hair with hazel eyes. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office issued an alert to other law enforcement agencies to arrest Robbins for discharging a firearm in a negligent manner, terrorist threats and assault with a deadly weapon.

The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office considers Robbins armed and dangerous and are advising the public to contact law enforcement immediately if they see Robbins or know of his location.

Two voices "Fuck you and your fat girlfriend" and "I am still following you"

Sarah Brody, a witness in Ferrer case describes what she heard when she was awakened by loud male voices that appeared to be in an argument. She heard two males voices. One saying, "Fuck you and your fat girlfriend," and one saying "I am still following you"

ADA Kelly Neel was representing the People today at the preliminary hearing which did not start until 2:30 p.m. today once Judge Christopher Wilson returned from court. Marek Reavis is representing Juan Joseph Ferrer, Benjamin Okin is the attorney for Sophie Buttercup Rocheleau  and Jennifer Dixon is the attorney for Nicholas Benjamin Stoiber. were present.

Stoiber and Rocheleau sat quietly next to their attorneys but Ferrer would whisper to Mr. Reavis during the detectives testimony, at one point becoming animated.

Ms. Neel's first witness was Arcata Police Department's Sergeant Todd Dockweiler. Sgt. Dockweiler's testimony was about how he arrived on the scene, how they found witnesses,  how they canvassed the area and description of Mr. Anderson-Jordet's initial injuries.

Mr. Reavis, started his  cross about a half an hour before the end of the day.

Through his cross, Mr. Reavis was able to raise doubts about cuts on Mr. Anderson-Jordet and if some had occurred when law enforcement tore his t shirt to attach medical apparatus. Mr. Reavis also got Detective Dockweiler to admit that several witnesses described Anderson-Jordet's  problems with alcohol; that the house manager was not going to renew his lease because of his beligerent interaction with other residents in the Crew house where he lived; that  his ex girlfriend did not want to be around "drunk Doug"; and that a few days ago he had spoken to a co-worker about purchasing black tar heroin and the fact that an incident happened earlier that made one of Anderson's Jordet's acquaintances uncomfortable. It had to do with this acquaintance and Anderson-Jordet being mistaken for being a gay couple by an unknown starnger.

Tomorrow, Mr. Okin and Ms. Dixon will start with their cross of Detective. The hearing will start at 9. a. and end at lunch and then resume at 2:30 in the afternoon.

Judge Wilson started the hearing by reading the charges against the three defendants.

Detective Dockweiler said he was called about a "possible homicide" around 1:30 a.m. on November 25, 2013. He met with Detective Ortega and evidence technician Lea Christian and assignments were given after a briefing. The crime scene was the intersection of "H street between 11th and 12th," said Detective Dockweiler. He said he did not recall when he arrived at the scene.

That refrain is something we heard over and over again when asked about certain details and he also had to refer several times to his report to "refresh his recollection."

When he got there, the area had already been cordoned off with tape and "the victim was no longer there, " he said. "There was some medical waste." Medical and fire personnel had left but patrol officers who first responded were still on the scene. He said the street lights and police vehicle lights provide "good illumination."

"Some blood droplets and a shoe and a pair of eyeglasses" were at the crime scene. There were two locations of the blood droplets. Detective Dockweiler said that the watch commander told him the body had been lying in the eastbound lane of H street with the victim on his back.

Dockweiler assisted the evidence technician in collecting and measuring evidence and then went to Mad River Hospital to view the victim's body. "The victim was lying in the emergency room. I observed a puncture wound to the center of the chest. At that time there were no injuries readily visible," said Detective Dockweiler. "At that time I did not notice injuries on the victim's hand. I did observe small amount of blood on one hand." Due to medical apparatus attached to conduct an autopsy, the detective said "it was hard to get a good inspection."

Then he coordinated with the Coroner and evidence techician to preserve evidence and that he did not recall when he "determined the identity of the victim."

Detective Dockweiler said he "examined the victim's cell phone and that there were a lot of text messages to what appeared to be a female." Later he contacted Virginia Jimenez at her residence, which is where Douglas Anderson-Jordet, the victim also lived. Detective Dockweiler said it was known as the Crew house, a boarding house in Arcata.

Jimenez told Detective Dockweiler that she had been formerly "romantically involved" with Anderson-Jordet but now they were just friends. "They both had been drinking and she left because she was concerned an incident might happen."

At some point that night Jimenez checked on Anderson-Jordet because his door was ajar but he was not home. There had been no contact between the two after 10 p.m. Jimenez had texted Anderson-Jordet but had no response from him.

Detective Dockweiler contacted the house manager of the Crew house. She indicated that she had seen Anderson-Jordet at Everett's, which is located at 9th and H, on the Arcata Plaza that night. She had seen Anderson-Jordet with "two men he knew"; Chris Smith and Ron Dale.

Detective Dockweiler talked with both of them and they told him that Anderson-Jordet was not "overly intoxicated or hostile"

The first call to dispatch was from a Matthew Mansur at 1:24 a.m. who said he saw a man passed out and "making noises that he interpreted as snoring" said Detective Dockweiler. Second call was from a Jeff Sellers who was out collecting recyclables and said he saw Anderson-Jordet lying in the roadway and was bleeding.

No one saw anyone fleeing from the scene. They canvassed the area and found an "ear witness", Sarah Brody. She lives on the southwest corner of 12th and H. The detective spoke with her, "a couple of days after the incident. She did not know anybody had been killed. She did know there had been an incident," he said.

"She was awakened, she heard people out on the street," said Detective Dockweiler. "She heard men involved in an argument. One voice that yelled, 'Fuck you and your fat girlfriend' and a voice say "I am still following you."

At the autopsy, the cause of death was a stab wound to the heart. The detective further described the wounds: a small puncture directly above and to the side of the stab wound in the chest, cut between the thumb and forefinger and a laceration on the upper lip, which was later surmised to be "where teeth penetrated lip."

An injury that the detective personally observed was a distortion to the nose.

The detective then described that the police department had obtained video from ReMax Realty and Humboldt Store and on a diagram he had previously drawn of the crime scene and surrounding areas, he indicated the locations.

In one of the videos, he said there were two white males and a a white female walking on one side of the street and Anderson-Jordet walking on the other side, shortly following the three. When pictures were shown, the female was identified as Rocheleau. Ferrer was identified from her facebook page.

Rocheleau was interviewed at her residence and then at the Arcata Police Department. Initially she denied any knowledge of Anderson-Jordet, said she was with Ferrer and Stoiber. When the detectives told her they had video surveilance, she "became uncomfortable and refused to talk further." Later on she contacted them and agreed to speak to them. That led to them contacting Stoiber and Ferrer.

Dockweiler said he was "in and out" and only watched parts of Rocheleau's interview with other detectives. He was not present for Stoiber and Ferrer's interview. No murder weapon was found.

On December 3, Dockweiler spoke with a Elizabeth Stavikygros at the Humboldt Brewery. She said she had seen Anderson-Jordet a week earlier at Everett's. Some man was "aggressive in approaching females" and she told the detective that Anderson-Jordet attempted to defend the women and "there was an altercation."

Mr. Reavis then cross-examined Detective Dockweiler. He asked him about the accuracy of the time-stamps on the video. He asked him about the time when the three defendants and Anderson-Jordet were walking on the video and if there was interaction between them and the Detective responded, "No."

Mr. Reavis raised the issue that when the t-shirt that had been cut off Anderson-Jordet to attach medical devices, did the officer use a knife or shears attempting and the Detective was unable to say what instrument was used to remove the shirt.

Mr. Reavis asked about other text messages on Anderson-Jordet's phone and specifically about texts relating to a conversation between Anderson-Jordet and a co-worker Dillon Davis in which Anderson-Jordet asked Davis about purchasing black tar heroin.

"Did you follow up on that?" Mr. Reavis asked and the detective answered, "No."

Mr. Reavis was able to get the detective to admit that he had been told Anderson-Jordet "drank heavily". On the day before the stabbing, when Jimenez and Anderson-Jordet had lunch at Goodman winery and then according to the detective parted company, that in fact, Jimenez had told him that Anderson-Jordet and she spent time at the Crew house until 8:30 and that Anderson-Jordet had consumed "5 to 6 beers."

Mr. Reavis asked Detective Dockweiler to describe how Anderson-Jordet seemed to be walking on the video, Detective Dockweiler said, "unsteady." Mr. Reavis then reminded Detective Dockweiler that APD Detective Ortega had described it as "staggering."

Mr. Reavis brought up testimony from a bartender at Everett's that Anderson-Jordet had "4 pints and 2 shots" and that the house manager was not going to renew Anderson-Jordet's lease because "he was belligerent when he drank and had altercations with residents." The detective did not challenge or deny these claims by Mr. Reavis.

Mr. Reavis then brought up an acquaintance of Anderson-Jordet's, Vance and said that Vance becamne uncomfortable and left the bar because a man came up to Anderson-Jordet and him and insinuated that they were a gay couple.

Mr. Reavis said that when Brody was awakened by male voices that at first the voices were angry and later she described them as "enraged."

3 year supervised probation for Rhett August, alleged first victim in the Bodhi Tree case

Today in Courtroom 1 this afternoon, Rhett August was in court to be sentenced for one case and to be arraigned for a petition to revoke probation.

August testified last week in the Bodhi Tree jury trial which is going on right now in Courtroom Four. He was in court accompanied by his mother.

Rhett August is the victim in the first shooting that Bodhi Tree is charged with; he has also been in court for another incident which has nothing to do with Bodhi Tree. Please check the blog for previous posts and background on both cases.

Russ Clanton is representing August and Luke Brownfield is prosecuting the case for the People. Judge Feeney said that in addition to the Probation report, an addendum to the Probation report, he received character reference letters provided by August's family.

His tentative decision was to grant three years of supervised probation to August and to reinstate probation for four older cases.

I had to leave for the Ferrer prelim so I will update this post with a few more details and final decision tomorrow.

Cress still testifying: explains how Bodhi Tree connection with Eureka and Arcata happened

Detective Peter Cress is still testifying and this is second day giving testimony in the Bodhi Tree trial, Ms. Firpo is still questioning Peter Cress on direct.

Testimony is about dates, how he got into contact with witnesses, how the case developed, how the connection was made between the Eureka attempted shooting of Rhett August and the Arcata murders of Sunshine and Christina; he is also describing the demeanor of witnesses.

Not a whole lot of new information. His testimony so far is affirming parts of the testimony of Crow and Smith. There are a few names of law enforcement mentioned and Karen August, the mother of Rhett August, who mentioned Bodhi Tree.

Ferrer preliminary scheduled for this morning

It is scheduled this morning depending on courtroom and Judge availability.

Mr. Benjamin Okin, attorney for Sophie Buttercup Rocheleau. Mr. Marek Reavis, attorney for Juan Joseph Ferrer and Ms. Jennifer Dixon, attorney for Nicholas Benjamin Stoiber were present. ADA Kelly Neel represented the People. Stoiber and Rocheleau were present with friends. Ferrer who is in custody was brought into court.

The Ferrer case has been moved to Courtroom 6 with Judge Christopher Wilson. Will start at 2:30 today and continue tomorrow at 8:30.

May 27, 2014

EPD Detective Peter Cress starts off testimony today in Bodhi Tree trial

Currently a civil attorney in Sacramento but on May 15 he was a detective with EPD, this morning Peter Cress was the first witness to testify in the Bodhi Tree trial. He said crime scene had been set, showed on exihibit where. Then he said after talking with officers on the scene, he made a decision to expand crime scene. Two city blocks from Huntoon to Del Norte were secured and blocked off. Sgt. Watson who was at hospital said someone was still in the apartment. Not knowing if it was a suspect or another victim, they checked the apartment.

They eventually had a conversation and hecwas identified by Cress as John Buhne. Testimony is him telling what hapoened since he arrived, how they entered apartment, about how the secure the scene.

Inside after they had checked apartment to make sure it was safe,  he noticed was two clusters of blood, one near kitchen closer to living room area, the other further into kitchen. Said only rings, outline. He while ascending stairs, there was a bullet in plain view on first ster.

Said it was significant once he learned what happened where the bullet was, where the shooting occurred, the location of the bullet was a" through and through" wound.

Cress is describing who they talked to, how they learned what happebed, how evidence was collected.

Today is the first time we learned why Melvin Matthews, another African-American male was a person of interest in this case. The address he lived at was 2122 Spring Street. It is after break and Ms. Firpo is still questioning Cress. At the end of today, Ms. Firpo was still questioning Cress.

In today's testimony, Cress explained why they eliminated Matthews as a suspect and focused on Bodhi Tree.

May 26, 2014

100,000 Bail for convicted felon who injures female victim "accidentally"

On 05/24/2014 at approximately 2:39 PM, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call regarding a female who had been shot by an unknown firearm. The incident occurred in the area of Highland Street in Alderpoint. Deputies responded to the scene and located the female who was being treated by medical personnel. Deputies contacted the Reporting Party, Harold Drummond age 42. During the course of the investigation, Drummond admitted to accidentally discharging a handgun which struck the female victim.

The handgun was recovered and Drummond was arrested on an unrelated warrant. Drummond was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on his warrant. The female victim was flown to an out of county hospital for treatment. The identity of the female will be kept confidential due to the ongoing investigation.

On 05/25/2014, charges were filed by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office against Harold Drummond. Drummond is currently being held on the following charges: Convicted Felon in Possession of a Firearm, Convicted Felon in Possession of Ammunition, and Negligent Discharge of a Firearm. Drummond’s bail amount is set at $100,000.

May 24, 2014

Covering the courts; an unexpected advantage; Russo questioning Rhett August making a mistake; why you should believe Firpo's redirect

In his cross of Rhett August, Mr. Russo said that Elan Firpo offered Rhett August the Cruz waiver. I just happened to be in the courtroom when the Rhett August case  was on calendar, a few times.

Luke Brownfield was the DDA the day the Cruz waiver was offered. Elan has also been the prosecutor on that case.

Ms. Firpo pointed out in her re-direct of Rhett August on May 23, the case has had several prosecutors.

 Rhett August corrected Mr. Russo several times on details and mistakes.

It makes me wonder how many other mistakes are there in the defense theory and allegations in the Bodhi Tree case. Or other cases?

Sometimes there are many cases in different courtrooms going on I want to cover, I have to chose where to be. I just stumbled on the Rhett August case.

I was updating my coverage on a couple of posts on the Bodhi Tree trial tonight when I caught this detail.

I like Casey and this is not about Casey or Elan or the Bodhi Tree trial.

It is about you, the public, not jumping to conclusions. Who in the media is providing you with selective coverage? Which candidate in the DA race is spinning the truth when it comes to high profile cases? Are you getting the facts ?

I chose to go cover the courts and the Board of Supervisors and City Council meetings because I like to get the facts myself. On my own time.

Kathleen Bryson scores two wins for Hoopa member Sherlette Colegrove; provides additional facts regarding 2011 case

On May 21, Judge John Feeney sentenced Sherlette Colegrove, a sixth generation member of the Hoopa Tribe to 5 years of formal supervised probation.

Colegrove’s attorney is Kathleen Bryson. Ms. Bryson has represented Colegrove on two cases now and has successfully resolved both cases in Colegrove’s favor.

The charge in the case was vehicular manslaughter and a special allegation of fleeing the crime scene. Ms. Bryson said Colegrove only pled to the manslaughter charge, not to any special allegation.

Deputy District Attorney Luke Brownfield prosecuted the case. He was not present in court that day as he was sick. DDA Roger Rees was handling Mr. Brownfield’s cases in Courtroom 1.

Ms. Bryson also brought up some other terms in the conditions by Probation that she had discussed with her client. She said regarding the no alcohol condition, Ms. Colegrove has no issue with alcohol. She mentioned a motion that had been previously filed for use of marijuana by Ms. Colegrove; she addressed another Probation condition regarding use of knives and instruments and said that for cultural reasons, Ms. Colegrove uses instruments to gather herbs related to tribal practices. Judge Feeney referred the matters regarding use of knives and medical marijuana to Probation. He granted the modifications for three other terms that Ms. Bryson requested on behalf of Colegrove.

Certain monetary fines were imposed. Ms. Colegrove had served 33 days in jail, with 33 days for good time credit. Bail bond was exonerated.

Mr. Brownfield did not respond to questions by deadline except to say that he had been out sick.
Previously, he had indicated to me that he would provide some input to the Court on sentencing on May 21. There were no notes for Mr. Rees in the file and so the People submitted to the Court’s decision. Mr. Rees did provide some input to the Court on May 21 regarding modification of terms recommended by Probation. Mr. Brownfield was also not in court on May 7, when Judge Feeney decided tentatively to grant probation. ADA Kelly Neel was present for the People on that day.

March 26 was when Mr. Brownfield was last in court for this case and Mr. Brownfield had objected to the sentencing being continued. Judge Feeney granted defense’s request to continue sentencing because Ms. Bryson had just received the Probation report and she said she needed time to prepare a formal written statement to advocate for her client.

On May 7, Judge Feeney had said he was leaning towards granting Colegrove formal supervised probation. Judge Feeney had referred the case back to Probation for terms and conditions. Judge Feeney said his decision was different before he received the statement of mitigation. He also reviewed toxicology results, letters from Joe Thompson, Andrew Issac, Colegrove, her mother, family and community members.

Ms. Neel's only input on May 7 was to ask that the police reports and toxicology results be sealed.

Ms. Bryson responded to my questions and also provided some facts so I have updated certain details from previous reports to include those changes.

I am really pleased with Judge Feeney's decision in Sherlette Colegrove's case.  The accident analysis conducted by Joe Thompson, a local expert, demonstrated that Ms. Colegrove only had a few seconds to react to Mr. Aguilar's presence on the narrow Hoopa road.  Mr. Aguilar walked with his back to the oncoming traffic and his blood contained six times a potential lethal dose of methamphetamine,” said Ms. Bryson. “ Ms. Colegrove's actions were clearly not deliberate.  She is a very good person who serves her family, her local church and her tribe with distinction."
This is the second time Ms. Bryson has secured a win for Colegrove. In December 2011, Colegrove was charged with Felony.  Assault with a Deadly weapon other than a firearm. She was held to answer on the charges in the Preliminary Hearing but the case was dismissed after the preliminary hearing.

DA Candidate Allan Dollison prosecuted that case. He said that at the preliminary hearing, the testimony of two witnesses was “shaky” and he could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. He requested that the case be dismissed  “in the interest of justice.”

According to community reports, Ms. Colegrove had assaulted someone in Willow Creek. The alleged victim was an undocumented Mexican immigrant who was the significant other of Colegrove's sister.

The case was dismissed by Judge Feeney.  Ms. Bryson said that Colegrove was “accused in a restraining order of having her sister threaten someone else with what Ms. Colegrove would do to them" and Ms. Bryson said that "Ms. Colegrove was not even there at the time the threat was made."

The undocumented immigrant in question, said Ms. Bryson, had been deported three times and came back to deal heroin to Ms. Colegrove’s sister.

Anderson, Ferrer, Bodhi Tree, Hillegeist, Littlefield and more; only so many Judges and Courtrooms

The Bodhi Tree case is currently in trial in Courtroom 4. The Ferrer case is scheduled for preliminary hearing next week. Whether the preliminary hearing will be presided over  Judge Reinholtsen remains to be seen.

The David Anderson case is currently in Courtroom 1 with pre-trial motions being heard and jury selection is expected to start soon; jury trial expected to start around mid-June.. Hillegeist and Balke are scheduled for preliminary hearing in Courtroom 1 for the first week of June. The Littlefield case is scheduled in Courtroom 1 for the second week of June.

Courtroom 2 has a jury trial going on right now; Courtroom 5 is not available because Judge Hinrichs recused herself from the Ferrer case.

This does not even include the many court cases that don't make the news. Will some of these cases be assigned to a civil courtroom, if available? Will some cases trail? Will some cases be rescheduled?

Lot of crime in Humboldt County, only so many Judges and Courtrooms.

Preliminary hearing for William Duane Hillegeist and Sara Balke set for June 4

On May 21, in Courtroom 1, dates were set for William Duane Hillegeist and Sara Balke for Intervention on June 2 at 3 p.m. and Preliminary hearing on June 4. This is Judge John Feeney's courtroom. ADA Kelly Neel was present for the People. Heidi Holmquist is representing Hillegeist and Kaleb Cockrum is Balke's attorney.

While the Judge and attorneys were busy with court matters, Hillegeist who is in custody was looking at Balke who was in the audience and trying to communicate with her. He was being creative with his looks and glances, since people in the courtroom are not allowed to communicate with prisoners.

The legal consequences of a fine or being taken into custody for him must be moot since he is already in jail.

Previous posts and background:

Mar 11, 2014

William Duane Hillegeist denied release by Judge Feeney due to public safety concerns

William Duane Hillegeist, half of the Freshwater duo arrested on 3/6/14 was in court for 4 cases resulting from the incident below. Judge John Feeney presiding, Jason Sheets for the People and Public Defender Meagan O'Connell for the defendant.

Judge Feeney denied the request by O'Connell for supervised release.  Probation reports were received by the 
Court today. They were handed out to Mr. Sheets and Ms. O'Connell in court. 

After Ms. O' Connell spoke with Hillegeist, she told the court that he was a permanent resident of Humboldt
County, and worked for Mad River Builders. Ms. O'Connell addressed Hillegeist's previous failures to appear 
and said they were because he was out of town for jobs. "He promises to make all future court dates," said
Ms. O'Connell.

She added that he has 2 children, that number of his family members have medical issues, including his fiancee 
and he assists them. Ms. O'Connell requested Court grant him supervised release.

People objected.

Judge Feeney said that while he acknowledges that Hillegeist is a permanent resident and is sorry to hear about 
medical hardships, that supervised release request and releasing Hillegeist on his own recognizance  was denied 
due to the following reasons.

Judge Feeney said that the new charges included possession of a controlled substance, new offenses were 
committed while Hillegeist was out on OR bail and that Judge Feeney had concerns for public safety.

Bail Bonds were exonerated in 2 cases and bail was set at $10,000 and $25,000 in 2 other cases. Next 2 court

dates are March 17 at 3 p.m. and March 20 at 8:30 a.m.

On 03-06-2014 the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a man and woman yelling at each other at Freshwater park. Around the same time the call came in, a second citizen called on 911 stating they heard two gunshots in the area of the park.  While Sheriff’s Deputies and  a California Highway Patrol officer were enroute to the park, a third caller told Sheriff’s Dispatch they saw a man with a shotgun walking around in Freshwater Park. 
Based on a description of the vehicle, law enforcement searched for a truck which was found with a man and woman on Kneeland Road.  The truck was searched by the deputies for a weapon. While the deputies were searching the truck, Sheriff’s Dispatch told the deputies a passing motorist driving by the scene before law enforcement arrived; saw the male suspect with a hand gun and it appeared he just fired it. The passing motorist returned to Freshwater Park and showed deputies the area where he saw the shots being fired. Deputies located three spent 9mm shell casings on the ground at the entrance of Freshwater Park.

 The deputies who searched the truck located a loaded 9 mm semi auto handgun under the hood of the truck, wrapped in a basketball type jersey. The loaded magazine of the handgun was missing three rounds. Deputies also located a lap top computer that had been reported stolen to Eureka Police, along with approximately two pounds of dried marijuana and a scale. Deputies were able to determine during their investigation there was no shotgun, only a handgun.

The man detained was identified as William Duane Hillegeist, 31 years old and the detained woman Sara Balke, 26 years old, both residents of Eureka. They were both arrested and transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where they were booked on charges of possession of marijuana, transportation of marijuana, possession of stolen property and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Their bail was set at $25,000.00 each. 

May 23, 2014

Sharon LaTour does not file Schedule E, and has no expenses? Are she and Hezekiah Allen roomies now with same address?

Just some questions for Sharon LaTour and her treasurer?

How does your total contributions received for the calendar year equal the ending cash balance on the most recent 460?

From the Times-Standard: Latour, raised $13,824 all in cash since Jan. 1. She raised $12,131 during the last period. Latour's ending cash balance is listed as $13,824. 

Yet, no expenses listed and unpaid bills in the recent 460.

How do you not have any expenses for this filing period? There is no schedule E filed.

There are discrepancies between the two 460s and the math does not add up.

Sharon, you ran an ad in Two Rivers Tribune. That is a small paper that depends on ad revenue and subscriptions to make ends meet. Kinda hard to imagine they would run an ad they were not paid for? Times-Printing does not send mailers out without at least postage being paid.

Sharon, you list unpaid bills as total expenditures made in the current 460.

Hezekiah Allen says he is from Arcata. But, he has the same address listed as Sharon on the recent 460. Where does Hezekiah live? Arcata or McKinleyville?

Sharon, I know you are new to politics but you have some experienced campaign supporters.

What I am saying applies to Sharon LaTour and  Maggie Fleming but Maggie's snafu was on the last 460.

In the big picture, maybe people can say, what is the big deal? Pay a fine to the FPPC. Fix the paperwork. A mistake was made.

When you are asking people to place your trust in them; mistakes involving millions of dollars are a big deal. Transparency is a big deal.

United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 5 gave Kerrigan $500 yet he shops at WINCO for a fundraiser?

Chris Kerrigan's new campaign slogan, "Vote as I say, Ignore what I do"?

Kerrigan raises more money than Virginia this filing period?

Chris raised $30, 131.50 this filing period. Virginia raised $24, 937.

With $100 per person fundraiser, Chris isn't exactly the candidate for the People. Since he raised more money than Virginia, is he the special interest candidate now?

After all, slinging accusations because someone has money is now the definition of special interest, positive accomplishments be damned.

Once again, Maggie outspends her opponents and raises almost twice as much as her opponents

For the last 460 filing period , in just two months, Maggie had 61,287  in contributions. This 460 filing period she has a total of 56, 735 in contributions and 118,022 YTD. Monetary was 37,993 and non-monetary 18,742.

Allan Dollison raised $10,850 and has spent $33,598.59  YTD.

Elan Firpo this filing period 460 raised 23,951 with $7336 in non-monetary contributions. Spent16, 018.76 YTD.

Arnie Klein did not have a 460 on file for this reporting period but may have mailed it in to the Elections Office.

Russo cross of Rhett August results in Russo smackdown

Rhett August was a very strong witness. Consistent testimony, good memory, not intimidated. He corrected Mr. Russo quite a few times with facts, names and more then held his own.

There were a few entertaining exchanges in the courtroom today when he elicited laughter and smiles from the audience. If this was a TV episode of Law and Order, I would simply have titled it, Smackdown.

So far, each witness that ties the events of the attempted murder of Rhett August and the murders of Christina and Sunshine :Crow, Smith and now Rhett himself, have held their own against Casey Russo on cross but Rhett August, by far, is the one in control.

In the last few days, Mr. Russo has tried to raise doubts, pointed out some inconsistencies in Crow and Smith's testimonies which they explained and further elaborated on redirect by Ms. Firpo. Mr. Russo has not managed to prove the defense theory, yet. Ms. Firpo has been great every day, in presenting her case, in addressing issues Mr. Russo raises in cross and during re-direct having witnesses answer and reaffirming their testimony. Today, she was brilliant as usual, but the star and the one in control was Rhett August.

It is hard to recreate the atmosphere in the courtroom,

At one point, Mr. Russo asked Rhett August if he paid rent at the apartment where the shooting took place.

Rhett: 625. He said he paid it with Social Security

Russo: What kind of Social Security?

Rhett: What kinds are there?

Russo: Disability...

Rhett: At this point he explained why he received disability and has been receiving it since a young age.

Mr. Russo, unable to get Rhett August to go with his line of questioning, which possibly seemed to point to drug sales, continued by asking Rhett August about the three full plastic bags of marijuana in his bedroom closet. Earlier this morning, Rhett August had already testified he smokes a lot of marijuana and shares with his friends.

Mr. Russo said there was about 5 or 6 pounds of marijuana. Rhett responded with, "I smoke about an ounce a day." Mr. Russo asked him how he paid for this marijuana when he only got $845 a month in Social Security.

Rhett: Who said I bought it?

Russo: Presented another option how Rhett may have obtained the marijuana.

Rhett: I didn't say that either.

Russo: Asked Rhett how he got it.

Rhett: Ok, I bought it.

At this point, he had the most of the courtroom smiling. Russo asked him how much he paid. Rhett said a "couple $100 a pound" from a friend.

Russo: You get a pound of marijuana for a couple of $100? The street value (of the marijuana in Rhett's apartment) is more like $10,000.

Rhett: Maybe in Texas.

There was laughter in the audience.

Mr. Russo asked for the name of the friend. Rhett August hesitated, "Do I have to state his name for the record?" Ms. Firpo objected. Judge Reinholtsen ruled that Rhett August could provide just the first name.

"Someone rang the doorbell, I remember it clear as day"

Rhett August was playing Call of Duty with two friends when he heard his doorbell rang. "Someone rang the doorbell, I remember it clear as day." This is minutes before he was shot on May 15.

Because of the wounds, 75% of his liver, lobe of his lung, and his diaphragm had to be reconstructed.

Rhett August purchased two 22 caliber pistols and a bullet proof vest he wore every where, even to sleep.

Rhett August stopped doing drugs when he went to East Coast to be with his family."Where I went, no one does drugs," he said. "I want to quit drugs, I want to get out of the lifestyle. I want to start a new life".

Today, Rhett August's testimony started with Ms. Firpo asking him about his level of intoxication. "Everyone was drinking, " he said. "I wasn't paying attention to what everyone was drinking."

Rhett August said Tyrell Brandon "had a little bit more." When Ms. Firpo asked why he thought so, Rhett August responded, "He was acting a bit crazier than anyone else."  Rhett August said that Bodhi Tree had three shots of the Patron, "like most other people" but that Bodhi Tree became "a little intoxicated during the course of the party."

Everyone but Bodhi Tree was smoking marijuana because "he was on probation."

Ms. Firpo showed Rhett August a photo of his apartment and the surrounding area. He pointed out where the first fight had occurred. He then described when people left and what he did after the party was over.

Responding to questions by Ms. Firpo, Rhett August said he had no contact with Bodhi Tree on May 13 and that he tried to take Bodhi Tree's cell phone back to the house on May 13 but that Bodhi Tree wasn't there and he left the cell-phone for him. No contact with Bodhi Tree on May 14.

He could not recall any contact with his friends Steve Upton and John Buhne but remembers them vaguely talking about the fight and what happened the night before.

Rhett August does not recall the morning of 5/15 but he still had no contact with Bodhi Tree. No call, no text. That evening, he was playing Call of Duty with Upton and Buhne.

"Someone rang the doorbell, I remember it clear as day," Rhett August said. "It was about 10 p.m. I went to the weight room and from the window, I looked out. No one was there but the motion sensor light was on, I called my pitbull and went downstairs. " Rhett August said he opened both doors to his apartment, one is a security door with a screen. When Ms. Firpo asked why he went outside, he said he wanted to see who was there.

"I said, 'Hello'. I could see someone in a crouching position." He said the person was crouching behind a neighboring building. "Right after I said hello, someone started shooting." Rhett said he could only see a silhouette, could not tell if the person was male or female. He told Ms. Firpo that the shooter was "about my height."

Rhett August said he thought he heard four shots. "One after the other. I could not do anything but stand there and get shot." After the shots, Rhett August said he heard "someone run on the gravel, the sound of the footsteps was quick and he heard a car door slam. I didn't chase because I did not want to bleed."

"At first I didn't realize I was shot. Then I lifted up my shirt and saw blood pouring."

He said he was not paying attention to the car leaving because "I was more worried about myself. I ran upstairs and told my buddies I was shot. My buddies were still playing video games. They said, 'you are just kidding, those were firecrackers.' When I lifted my shirt, Steven said, 'Oh my God, you got shot. Oh My God, you got shot'. "

Rhett August asked Buhne to stay with his dog and Upton took him to the hospital. Rhett August said when they left to go to the hospital, they were crouching as they approached Upton's Mercedes, "in case the shooter was still there."

"On the way to the hospital, Steven kept saying, "Don't fall asleep. I told him, don't worry, I've seen the movies."

Rhett August said once they arrived at the hospital, he asked Steven to leave because he did not want him involved in anything. When he showed his wounds at the hospital, they rushed to take care of him and he heard them say, "We need 5 pints of blood."

"I woke up 9 days later."

Ms. Firpo asked Rhett August if he remembers speaking to law enforcement.  "I was in a drug induced coma," he responded. "They had me on a drug 7 times more potent than morphine. Yeah, I remember talking to a Detective. I cannot remember if I told the Detective who shot me." When Ms. Firpo asked if he remembered law enforcement asking him about other people as potential suspects and mentioned a specific name. "I don't know who Melvin Matthews is," said Rhett.

Ms. Firpo showed Rhett August a photo of stairs leading up to his apartment. Asked him if he could see something on the screen. Without hesitating, he said, "I know what that is; a stab wound  in the middle of the screen door." Rhett August said that a neighbor of his was responsible for the damage to the door and that this happened six months before the shooting.

Rhett August said he was in the hospital for 19 days. "75 % of my liver, my diaphragm had to be reconstructed and they took a lobe of my lung. There were two different wounds."

Ms. Firpo asked Rhett August if he recalled talking to  Detective Kress a second time on May 28. She asked him if Detective Peter Kress asked him  about other people at his house and the fight on May 15.

"I think his name was Peter, pretty sure he recorded my statement," responded Rhett August. "I was trying to get the Detective out of my room. I was in excruciating pain. Talking was torture."

Ms. Firpo asked Rhett August if he had  seen Bodhi Tree on May 15. He said no. And then in answer to Ms. Firpo's question whether he was surprised when he was shot, Rhett August said, "I was pretty surprised." He said he had never seen Bodhi Tree with a firearm.

Ms. Firpo asked Rhett August if he was using other drugs on May 15. Rhett said, "I was, heroin. I used it, about once a week. It was an addiction. It left me feeling euphoric." He said he may have passed out when doing heroin, but he would not fall asleep.

Ms. Firpo asked Rhett August about the bags of marijuana found in his apartment. Rhett said he does not sell marijuana. "I smoke a lot and share it with my friends." He said he drank, "about once a week." regarding amount, "Depends on how much is there". He said yes when Ms. Firpo said he engaged in "binge drinking."

He said his friend Steve Upton and John Buhne "drank and smoked weed, no heroin." Rhett August said he quit both alcohol and marijuana but when he got out of the hospital, because of the drug they had prescribed for him to detox, he started using heroin again. "Every time I would breathe, I was in pain." He said that the hospital had given him pills for a month to help with the pain and that he finished the entire supply in 7 days.

"Instead of every week, I did heroin every day." After he got out of the hospital, he stayed with his mom in McKinleyville but he "would leave and go stay with friends for days, come back, shower and eat when he could."

Ms. Firpo asked him about his state of mind. "I was in a bad mental state, I could not work out any more, at least then I couldn't." Ms. Firpo asked him about his emotional state. "Shattered for a while. I have to feel good physically to feel good emotionally."

"I would think about being shot from time to time," said Rhett August and that he had a general paranoia of being shot again.

Ms. Firpo asked him about his temper. "I always had a short fuse, " he said. She then asked him about an incident on June 24 which resulted with law enforcement arresting him. Rhett said he did heroin that day. he was at 2122 Spring Street and he knew the guy whose house it was since 5th grade.

"I left my girlfriend (now ex) standing outside. She was banging on the door". Rhett came outside and they were arguing. "One of the neighbors called and reported a domestic disturbance. Law enforcement responded."

They asked Rhett August if there was any contraband in the house. "I told them 2.5 ounces of heroin and 1 ounce of crystal (meth) and two 22 caliber pistols and a bullet-proof vest. I wore the vest all the time, even when I was asleep."

"If I got shot again, they wouldn't kill me; I was prepared to shoot back," he said. He had acquired the firearms shortly after he left his mother's house. "I had hoped to sell some of the meth, maybe a bit of the heroin. I was hoping to use the heroin." Rhett August told Ms. Firpo that he had used meth before but it was not a habit.

He said his girlfriend drove him there but had no idea "I had this stuff on me."

Ms. Firpo asked Rhett, "You have not been sentenced yet for the June 24 incident."

Rhett said he was cited and released. He ended up in custody on Halloween because he of drugs. He said Bodhi Tree and his path never crossed in jail. When he was released in February 2014, he went to the East Coast ans stayed with family, uncles and cousins. "I worked on cars with my uncle; had pig roasts with my family." He said he does not drink or smoke, not even cigarettes anymore.

Then he said, "I smoked some weed in jail."

He is 25 years old now. "I smoked weed since I was 14. Alcohol when I was 19 or 20. And other drugs since 22." Rhett August said that these were all major factors for his past criminal history. "It was all liquor based. When I am drinking, my short fuse gets worse."

Ms. Firpo asked him, "Why did you stop?"

He responded, "Because I left Humboldt County. Where I went no one does drugs. I want to start a new life. I don't want to do drugs. I want to get out of the lifestyle."

Mr. Russo did his cross of Rhett August. He mentioned he was on felony probation. This was the assault case already mentioned when he was testifying earlier. Then he mentioned the June 24 incident, which was also discussed in detail earlier.

Rhett August corrected Mr. Russo's narration of the assault incident. Rhett August said to Mr. Russo, "You said I punched him but he punched me. I was blackout drunk." Then Mr. Russo said that Rhett August was pleading for a guarantee of probation in the June 24 incident for which he is to be sentenced next week. Mr. Russo told Rhett August that it could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony.

"I don't know about guarantee, I am hoping for probation." Mr. Russo said that the Cruz waiver was offered by Ms. Firpo.

Having covered that case that Mr. Russo is referring to, when the Cruz waiver was offered, Mr. Brownfield was in court that day not Ms. Firpo. So when Ms. Firpo brought up this point on re-direct, that several prosecutors had covered the case, I knew it was the truth.

There was one part of Rhett August's testimony where after thinking it over said, he tried to stop the first fight but encouraged the second one. Mr. Russo tried to make it sound as if he was inconsistent and referred to Rhett August's previous testimony. Rhett August said to him that when he was talking to the Detective, "he was high on painkillers."

As stated in the smackdown post, Mr. Russo was unsuccessful in shaking Rhett August and his frustration was obvious because he ended his cross by saying, "Ah, just leave it."

In her re-direct, Ms. Firpo asked Rhett August if anyone had given him transcripts or reports and he said no. He was testifying from memory. She pointed out that Rhett August had no legal knowledge and that when Mr. Russo was questioning him about misdemeanors and felonies and penal codes, he would not know what that meant in terms of his sentencing. Rhett August agreed. Ms. Firpo brought up the point that there had been several prosecutors on his case.

She asked Rhett August "has the fact that you have not been sentenced colored your testimony?" Rhett August said No." Ms. Firpo asked if anyone had promised him a better deal if he testified and he said, "No."

May 22, 2014

"No one wanted to be around me... What happened with this trial and where I was going with my life, I'd either end up dead or in prison. I got a chance to be clean and I like it"."

With approximately 60 plus potential witnesses scheduled, and only  8 having testified so far, the Bodhi Tree trial has just begun. Each day, you can see glimpses of the prosecution and defense theory.

Drugs are something many people read about, have no first-hand knowledge. People get upset about addicts, who to many, often are, those people. We see them in and out of the criminal justice system.

I sat through pre-trial motions and jury selection and like many, I read about the Bodhi Tree case in the media.

Now with the trial and watching the witnesses, most of whom, are just young adults, hearing their stories amidst the testimonies of the struggle, you cannot help but be affected. Besides the deaths, there are other tragedies in this case. The lives of the survivors, forever changed by a few moments.

This  is not fiction. The stories at this trial daily are : of poverty; of being at the wrong place at the wrong time; of being stuck in a culture that provides easy access to drugs; of young people from good families, of youth wanting to change their lives.

Sean Butler-Smith said it best, when he described why he had to change his life after the murder of his friend Sunshine and Christina and being at the scene of the attempted murder of Rhett August.

"No one wanted to be around me,"  said Smith. This was because of his drug addiction. "What happened with this trial and where I was going with my life, I'd either end up dead or in prison. I got a chance to be clean and I like it."

Ferrer intervention confirms preliminary hearing for May 28

This afternoon, in Courtroom 4, the Intervention hearing for the Ferrer case is happening now. Courtroom is closed with attorneys only. Will Houston from the Times-Standard is waiting with me in the hallway to speak to attorneys.

All parties came out within a few minutes. Preliminary hearing is confirmed for May 28 at 8:30 a.m., this was by Mr. Benjamin Okin, attorney for Sophie Buttercup Rocheleau. Mr. Marek Reavis, attorney for Juan Joseph Ferrer said to expect 2 full days of testimony. Ms. Jennifer Dixon, attorney for Nicholas Benjamin Stoiber was also present. ADA Kelly Neel represented the People.

My friends laughed, women said he deserved it, Rhett August testifies today

Rhett August, the victim of shooting on May 15 started his testimony today in the Bodhi Tree trial.

In addition to the quote above which Rhett August referred to right after he described Bodhi Tree leaving after being beaten by three of his friends, he also confirmed Rives account of the party and gave new details. "I felt like he deserved it," said Rhett August regarding his friends beating Bodhi Tree. "He kept groping Taraya and he wouldn't stop."

Rhett August added much needed levity at the end of today's court proceedings when he responded to Judge Reinholtsen's dismissal at noon. "So no more court today?"

It has been an intense two days of packed testimony starting with Sean Butler-Smith and followed by Rhett August with a volley between prosecution and defense.

Rhett August is a jovial, likable young man. Even as he testified about the man who is accused of allegedly shooting him, Rhett August's testimony showed a young man concerned about his girlfriend Sequoya Hurwitz, her best friend Taraya Rives and even Bodhi Tree.

Rhett August and Bodhi Tree's paths first crossed four years ago. "I met him in Arcata through a friend at a college party," said August. He said Bodhi Tree is more "like an acquaintance, we are not friends."

"I lived with him on 3rd and T street for two weeks," said August. This was about two and a half years ago. Then he asked Bodhi Tree to leave. August owed Tree $700 in back rent. He did not see Tree until a month before May 15 because Bodhi Tree was in prison. Then he ran into Tree who had moved to a clean and sober house near Rhett August's apartment.

Although they had not ended their acquaintance on good terms, the interaction when they met again was "fine" Rhett August testified. "Bodhi was not aggressive about asking for money" he said but he signed over a Buick LeSabre to Bodhi Tree to pay him back.

Between the transfer of the car and the party on May 13, Rhett August and Bodhi Tree ran into each other unexpectedly at "the river". Rhett August said have some common friends.

Rhett August said he invited Bodhi Tree to the party the morning of May 13. It was more of a casual get-together, few friends stopping by. He said that later that afternoon, he went with Bodhi Tree to Stop and Shop and got alcohol.  When Ms. Firpo asked him, what kind of alcohol. He said "Coffee flavored Patron" and then added, "It wasn't that good." That led to smiles around the courtroom.

Setting the scene for later that night, Rhett August said, Tyrell Brandon, Steven Upton and John Buhne came over and then my girlfriend, now ex-girlfriend, showed up."

The men were drinking the Patron when the women showed up. According to Rhett, there was no "conflict upstairs" in his apartment until Bodhi Tree sat next to Taraya Rives. "He tried to grab her leg and he put his arm around her. She pushed him away. She said stop, stop."

According to Rhett, Tyrell Brandon said to Bodhi Tree, that if he could not keep his hands to himself, "let's go outside." Then said Bodhi Tree and Tyrell Brandon went outside and every one else followed to watch what was happening.

Rhett August said at first, it was just Tyrell Brandon and Bodhi Tree, "They both put their hands up, Brandon punched him and then was kicking him. Bodhi balled up and said stop. Brandon stopped."

Rhett August continued, "Bodhi was drunk, he tried to come back to get his stuff. I told him to leave. I told him my friends were riled up, they don't want you here. He left for 15 minutes. Then came back asking for his cell-phone and sweater. I told him to get his stuff. He didn't even get his cellphone."

Rhett August said that Bodhi Tree would not leave. "Then my friends jumped him. I was worried about the cops coming. I felt like he deserved it. He kept groping Taraya , he wouldn't stop. My dog ran (out of the house) after him, I think I tried restraining him (the pitbull)."

Rhett August said the first fight was four punches and a kick to the head and facial area. The second fight was 30 seconds.  Rhett said Bodhi was trying to get away during the second , they were grabbing him, 20-30 blows to head and facial area, maybe a couple to the ribs. Bodhi saying stop, stop, stop, just balling up. Someone granned him and slammed him against a truck. I watched him walk away, he was walking in pain, limping kinda."

After Bodhi Tree left, Rhett August said, "My friends laughed, women said he deserved it." Rhett August said he told his girlfriend and Taraya Rives to leave because he thought the cops would arrive and that they left shortly after Bodhi Tree.

I wasn't lying, I remember better now, my mind is clear

Sean Butler Smith is being questioned by Mr. Russo. The above is a response when Mr. Russo brought up an inconsistency between preliminary hearing testimony and testimony now during jury trial.

Mr. Russo bringing up inconsistencies and Smith explained his responses. When Mr. Russo brought up his use of drugs and behavior to feed his addiction, Smith said, "There are many things I did in my addiction I am not proud of. "

Mr. Russo's questioning this morning was about statements Smith made to law enforcement and his testimony now. He also showed pictures of J street in Eureka and Smith's cousin Shane Goodrich's house in Sunnybrae to Smith and the jury.

After morning break, Ms. Firpo questioned Smith on redirect. Ms. Firpo through questions and Smith's answers was able to address inconsistencies and why. Smith has been in different stages of recovery during course of case.

Mr. Russo continued his cross of Smith by asking, "Are you currently on felony probation." Smith responded, "Yes." Asked him the date he pled and then Mr. Russo said he got a 51/2 year suspended sentence.

Smith said that he went to a clean and sober house on his own.

Mr. Russo said, "One of the APD officers said they would give you back your heroin, if you talk to them." Smith said, "No, he was high."  Mr. Russo tried to bring up some other criminal history but was unsuccessful. Smith stayed cool.

When Mr. Russo tried to challenge Smith's testimony, on small details bringing up differences between interviews with detectives or preliminary hearing and current testimony, Smith responded with saying that it had been a year since some of this happened. "I don't like being tripped up on my words."

Smith also responded to Mr. Russo's insinuations by saying, "I remember better now because my mind is clear."

Mr. Russo badgered Smith even after this and Smith responded, "I don't remember some of thi s stuff but you have it on paper," this was in reference to Mr. Russo handing him transcripts challenging his explaination of small inconstencies.

Mr. Russo ended his cross, when Smith said, "If you saw someone get shot, in front of you that image would be burned in your mind."

Ms. Firpo on re-direct got Smith to explain how he was in different stages of his recovery and the journey to his being clean and step by step through questions demonstrated why his mind was clearer now and memory more accurate than it would have been closer to the event.

Ms. Firpo's re-direct ended on a powerful note by showing how testifying has been a risk Smith chose. Smith had told Mr. Russo he did not want to be in jail and that staying clean and successfully completing his probation was important to him.

Ms. Firpo asked Smith why he did not want to go back to jail. Smith said because he would probably get "beaten up or stabbed for being a snitch."

"Has anyone provided you with a transcript or instructions on how to testify," Ms. Firpo asked Smith. He responded, "No."

"Which is more scary for you, going to jail for contempt or going to jail for testifying?" Ms. Firpo asked.
Smith responded that going to jail for testifying. This was to address one of Mr. Russo's attempt to discredit Smith.

Bodhi Tree's attempted murder victim Rhett August's sentencing postponed for a week

Rhett August, who was allegedly shot by Bodhi Tree last May 2014 had a bench warrant issued for not being in court. The post listed below is from April 16, 2014. There are other posts on the blog.

On May 21, 2014 Rhett August was in court with his attorney Russ Clanton and his mother. His mother who is not happy that her son's case is being covered, glared at me. Mr. Clanton has spoken to her after I spoke with him a couple of months ago, and he said he explained to Ms. August why information in an open court is public information.

Roger Rees was covering Courtroom 1 for Luke Brownfield. Mr. Clanton asked Judge John Feeney if counsel could approach. They had a private discussion, again, and then Judge Feeney said that the bench warrant was recalled and that sentencing was continued until May 28 at 2 p.m. and that the petition to revoke probation would also be addressed at the same time.

Rhett August looked healthier and seemed to be mentally in better spirits than when he was in custody.

Rhett August out on cruz waiver not in court for sentencing today, defense requested continuance 

Rhett August, who was released to his mother, and at the last court hearing was supposed to enter a dual diagnosis program was not in court for sentencing today.

This was to happen in Courtroom 1. August is being represented by Ben McLaughlin. Luke Brownfield is prosecuting the case.  Today Mr. Russ Clanton was Mr. August's new lawyer.  Mr. Clanton asked to approach and after that private discussion between the Judge and counsel, a request to continue was granted. Next court date is May 21 at 2 p.m.

May 21, 2014

Boom Boom Boom Boom, I saw muzzle flash

Second witness to testify today was Sean Butler Smith. His lawyer Kaleb Cockrum was in court today. Smith is also under immunity for testifying at this trial. His testimony is key because he is the individual who testimony ties the attempted murder in Eureka and the Arcata murders.

Smith said that he arranged for a ride for Bodhi Tree in exchange for the promise of heroin. While he was using heroin last year, he is clean now.

From doodling Mickey Mouse with uzis while Bodhi Tree went to Rhett's door to describing how police banged on his cousin's door after the Eye street shooting in Arcata, pulled guns on him and his cousin Shane, Sean Butler Smith testiminy took up most of this morning.

"He fired 4 times, boom boom, boom, boom, and I saw a muzzle flash," said Smith.

According to Sean Butler Smith, the revolver used was a "a sub nose 38 with a brown handle".

He talked candidly about his heroin addiction, becoming clean. Today is the first day we found out first hand of who, why and the events connecting the Eureka attempted murder and the Arcata murders of Christina and Sunshine.

Both Crow and Smith were given immunity for their testimony. Casey Russo, one of the two public defender's who is representing Bodhi Tree, is questioning all Eureka witnesses. When he cross examined Smith, he was able to get him to admit to some inconsistencies between his testimony today and what he said in the preliminary hearing as well as some testimony given to law enforcement.

Rives, Crow and Smith all have said to Mr. Russo at some point, these things happened a year ago and they cannot remember some details or they don't recall exactly in response to certain questions. Smith has been the most detailed and clear but towards the end of today's court proceedings when a couple of inconsistencies were pointed out, he finally said in exasperation, that he did not need to see the report to refresh his recollection, he would take Mr. Russo's word for it.

He was cool during the entire time Mr. Russo dragged his past criminal history but when it came to the reports and Mr. Russo repeatedly and aggressively asking him questions over and over again, even after he had said he did not recall some details, when Mr. Russo was able to get him to admit to a couple inconsistencies, he responded with, "I don't like being tripped up on my words."

Sean Butler-Smith's testimony started with him telling MS. Firpo that he knew Crow because he was his younger brother's friend. Smith said Crow was an acquaintance and that he knew him since the 6th grade.

He said he had just met Bodhi Tree in April 2013 and he knew him through his cousin Shane Goodrich, who at the time of the incidents lived in Sunnybrae. The incidents happened in May 2013 and Ms. Firpo said,"You had not known Bodhi for a long," and Smith said that was correct.

"Shane always had people hanging out in his house," said Smith. He said he had met Bodhi Tree two or three times.

Smith said that he had known Bodhi Tree's younger brother for a few years, "since 2005 or 2006".

On May 12, Smith saw Bodhi Tree around the Arcata Plaza. "We met up and went to a party." He said Bodhi Tree had no injuries at that time, said Smith. The next time he saw Bodhi Tree, Smith said "maybe two days" later, at Wildberries while he was getting a sandwich, "Bodhi had two black eyes. He said he got jumped."

"I kept trying to ditch him (Bodhi Tree) but he kept following me. I did not want to fight anybody." The latter comment Smith said was because Bodhi Tree told him he got jumped. "I finally ditched him." Smith saw Bodhi again the following day in Arcata. Smith said Bodhi Tree asked him for a ride to Eureka but did not tell him why.

Smith said he was walking and saw Charlie Crow parked by Subway at end of G Street and asked him to give them a ride. He did not offer Crow money but he said Crow was offered money. "I was promised drugs by Bodhi Tree so I helped him get a ride". They stopped at a Shell gas station, let a kid named Andrew out of the car, then stopped at a house on 14th Street in Eureka and Bodhi Tree got out of the car. Bodhi Tree was giving directions, because Smith and Crow were not familiar with Eureka and admitted he thinks it was 14th Street.

After Crow parked the car, Smith said Bodhi Tree got out of the car, knocked on a couple of doors and then said "I got one more spot to go to". Then he said they went to Sonoma Street, again Bodhi Tree gave directions. When the car was parked, Smith claims Bodhi Tree got out of the car and said that he was going to fight somebody and get dope. "I don't like Eureka, " said Smith. "I was trying to ditch him."

"Bodhi got out, looked around for a bit, knocked on the door walked down to the alley and hid." Smith showed Ms. Firpon the locations on People'saerial map. Smith said he had never been to this residence before and had heard about Rhett August from his cousin. "Charlie wanted to go home. I was drawing pictures of Mickey Mouse on a note pad and watching Bodhi. "

After the knock on the door, I heard someone say, "Who's there?"

"He fired four times, boom, boom, boom, boom. I saw muzzle flash. Bodhi ran to the car and said drive!"
Smith said he did not see anything in Bodhi's hand. He said Bodhi was saying, "Drive mother fucker, drive. I got that motherfucker for sure."  Smith said he saw the gun later that night.

In response to Ms. Firpo's question about how Crow and he were feeling at that time, Smith said, "We both were freaked out. What just happened?"

Smith identfied Bodhi Tree in court and said where he was sitting and what shirt he was wearing. Smith said he was using heroin then but is clean now. He said before going to Eureka, Bodhi Tree and he were at the Eye Street house in Arcata and after the shooting at Rhett August's house, they got dropped off at the Eye Street house. "Bodhi continued to stay with me. I wanted to get away from him."

Smith said at the Eye Street house, he and Bodhi Tree did ecstasy. "I was feeling, what did this guy do. I was fearful, I did not want to get shot." He said when Bodhi Tree got "argumentative with males" at the Eye Street house, he thought, "here we go again" and left the party without Bodhi. Smith said he was half awake, trying to sleep but had been woken up earlier by Shane and his friend Ian who had come to visit. Smith said Bodhi had "agressive body language and said, "I got 2 more."

Smith went home to Valley West and then then to his cousin's house with food and beer. His cousin was not home so he slept in the woods and went back to his cousin's house the next day. He said Bodhi Tree showed up "around 2:30 a.m." He put a gun on a table. Smith described it as a snub-nose, 38 with a brown handle." And told Ms. Firpo by snub nose, he meant it had a shorter barrel.  He said his grandfather was in the armed forced and since he was 10 years old, he learned about gun safety and firearms.

He said Bodhi Tree told them what happened but "I did not believe it." He said that Bodhi told them , he was at a party, in a room, some dude and his girlfriend were talking shit to him. He shot her and then him." At this point, Ms. Firpo showed him a report to refresh his recollection of events. He then continued and said Bodhi told them, "I drank my 40 and went back into the room and shot them." Bodhi then told Smith, Shane and Ian he heard sirens and he jumped the fence and came to Shane's house.

Smith said he did not believe Bodhi Tree until the next morning when he grabbed a cell phone and went to the APD bulletin website and learned of a double homicide. "Oh shit, the dude really did kill them," he testified. Smith said he realized that he was the one that took Bodhi Tree to the Eye Street house.

He then said his cousin has a closed circuit camera and "saw  police on the TV. Bodhi was on the couch,he hopped up, grabbed the gun, jumped the fence and went out the back door." Smith said that while this was going on, his cousin went to open the door because police were banging on the door. "They drew guns on Shane, told him to get down, they put guns on me, cuffed me and told me to get down on the floor."

He said APD took him outside the house and his cousin was inside the house and they gave separate statements and then Sgt. Martinez took him down to the station and he spoke with Sgt. Martinez in the interrogation room. When they were still at the house, he told police that Bodhi Tree had "hopped out back" and if they looked for him, they could probably find him.

In response to a question by Ms. Firpo, Smith said it was unusual for him to speak to the police. When Ms. Firpo asked him to explain why, Smith said he did it because two people were killed. IHe thought one of them was his friend and then found out from the police that it was his friend Sunshine Marcet. "I did not want to be involved," said Smith. "If I had not taken him to the house in the first place, he would never have been at the party to kill him."

In an effort to "not deal with what happened" Smith said his heroin addiction got worse. "To feed my addiction, I attempted a robbery of the Noodle House next to Los Bagels with a BB gun but the dude just chased me out with a butcher knife." Because of this incident, Smith was prosecuted and incarcerated and cleaned up from heroin while he was in jail. He remembered the exact dates he went into custody and when he was released and is living in a clean and sober house. He is on felony probation.

"I struggled with opiates most of my adult life, said Smith. "I have been on heroin since I was 24 years old."

When Ms. Firpo asked him what caused him to want to be "clean", Smith responded, "No one wanted to be around me. What happened with this trial and where I was going with my life, I was either going to end up dead or in prison. I got a chance to be clean and I like it."

Smith said he was served with a subpoena but he was testifying willingly.

He said on May 25, 2014 last year what led to him speaking with EPD was that he was arrested by APD for possession of heroin.

He was asked to draw a picture of Mickey Mouse. He often doodled this picture. In court, he just drew the face, usually he draws the body with Mickey Mouse holding two uzis. He said "like Savage Henry Magazine."

Bodhi Tree trial testimony today starts with a standoff between Crow and Russo

Casey Russo continued his cross examination of Crow today. Asked him details of events on May 15. Crow's demeanor was slightly better today. Mr. Russo's questioning was very aggressive but Crow was not intimidated.

Crow said he did not use heroin on May 15, but he had the night before.  Mr. Russo kept referring to Crow's testimony the day before. Crow admitted he struggled with his heroin addiction and has tried to stay clean. When he is in Trinidad, he has no access. It is when he gets to McKinleyville or south of Trinidad, that he gets in trouble.  Crow said heroin gets him to the point where he can function. Mr. Russo asked him to elaborate what he meant by that statement.

Crow said that a person gets physically dependent on heroin. And that one can consume just enough so they do not get sick or are at the point of feeling "well."

Today, Crow mentioned there was a third person in the car who got dropped off at the Shell gas station before going to Rhett's house. "Yesterday, after I testified, I went home and thought about it," he said. "I did not think it was important," is what he said when asked why he did not mention this before.

While Mr. Russo tried to suggest this was the first time Crow mentioned a third person, Ms. Firpo on redirect showed Crow a copy of the report to refresh his recollection and in that report, Crow said there were three people in car. Then, Crow said there were four in the car, altogether, including him. His testimony is all over the place.

Mr. Russo showed the jury a picture of the Landrover, which is Crow's mother's car that he borrows when he needs.

Mr. Russo questioned Crow on his motives about giving a ride to a person he did not like, Smith and people he did not know. Mr. Russo got Crow to admit he wanted the $20 for drugs. Crow admits to struggling with heroin use.

In his testimony, Crow said his gas gauge was broken. Mr. Russo questioned Crow about why he did not call the police, why he did not tell anyone else and why he told his parents a vague story and not the truth about what happened. During redirect, Ms. Firpo got Crow to say he did not want his parents to know because he had started to quit. He had never been arrested except for one incident when he was 17 and stealing a bottle of alcohol. "Just because of everything that happened" (referring to witnessing the shots in Eureka). He wanted to put the incident past him. His heroin use got worse  This is when he said he takes just a little bit of heroin so he does not get sick. It is like medicine, not substantial amount to get high. He also added that the May 15 incident happened "right after he had quit Teen Challenge." And he is not taking heroin now.

In his testimony to both Ms. Firpo and Ms. Russo, Crow admitted he did not like Sean Butler-Smith.  MS. Firpo asked him why did he gave a ride to someone he did not like. "Just because of how I was raised, common courtesy," said Crow. "I did not know if he needed help and because I was trying to get a fix."

Crow admitted on the stand he is under immunity for his testimony.