June 13, 2002
After 17 days of deliberation, the verdict is in: Darryl Cherney and the estate of Judi Bari have been awarded $4.4 million in their long-running legal battle against the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Oakland Police Department.
The jury, in a verdict announced Tuesday, found three FBI agents and three Oakland police officers guilty of violating the civil rights of Bari and Cheney, who were arrested and charged with illegally transporting an explosive device hours after a pipe bomb exploded in Bari's car as she was driving through Oakland in May 1990.
The law enforcement officers were found guilty of false arrest, conducting improper searches of the activists' homes and of slandering Earth First! in the press.
Cherney could not be reached for comment. But one of his lawyers, Ben Rosenfield, called the verdict "a resounding victory."
During the well-publicized trial at a federal courthouse in Oakland, attorneys representing the investigators tried to show that law enforcement authorities had good reason to be suspicious of Cherney and Bari because of their association with Earth First!, which at the time had a reputation for sabotage.
The activists' attorneys, in contrast, portrayed Cherney and Bari as non-violent and said they had renounced "tree-spiking," the practice of driving long nails into trees so that they can shatter a chainsaw.
In one of the trial's more memorable moments, Cherney, a folk singer, broke into song on the witness stand, at one point serenading the jury with a tune entitled "Spike a Tree for Jesus."
Cherney and Bari were arrested within hours of the explosion in Bari's car, but after six weeks Alameda County prosecutors decided not to mount a case and the charges were dropped. Ten months after that, Bari and Cherney filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the FBI and the Oakland police had falsely accused them. After years of delay -- due mainly to FBI attempts to have the case thrown out -- the lawsuit finally got a hearing this spring.
The suit did not pertain to the enduring mystery of who planted the bomb, which shattered Bari's pelvis. Bari died of cancer in 1997.
MEGHAN VOGEL FULMER
In the wake of the nationwide sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic church, the Santa Rosa diocese has decided that it will begin fingerprinting priests and other church employees to make it easier to determine if one of them is a sex offender.
All church employees involved with children and youth will be fingerprinted, and prospective employees and church volunteers will be required to fill out a background check, according to an announcement in late May. The fingerprints will be sent to the State Department of Justice for a criminal records check.
Essentially, church officials will be treated much like public school teachers in California and some sports coaches, who must also be fingerprinted.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Dallas, released a draft policy regarding the handling of sexual misconduct. The proposal calls for requiring every diocese to report all accusations of sexual misconduct to secular authorities. It also affirms the power of bishops to remove accused priests from public ministry or to defrock them. The 285 bishops gathered in Dallas are also expected to issue a formal church apology for abusive priests.
In recent months, the Santa Rosa Diocese, which includes the North Coast north to the Oregon border, has established an in-house panel, called the Sensitive Issues Committee, that will be charged with conducting an immediate and thorough investigation of an alleged sexual crime. Overturning the church's longstanding secrecy in the handling of sexual abuse cases, the diocese is also encouraging the public to report all sexual abuse allegations against clergy directly to the police.
The committee is currently investigating the Rev. Anthony Ross, accused by a Joliet, Ill., man of molestation in 1981 when the man was a teenager.
The Santa Rosa Diocese, which governs Catholic churches along the North Coast, has been rocked by its share of abuse allegations, not to mention lawsuits and criminal investigations. Beginning in 1994, it was revealed that priests had been molesting children from Eureka to Santa Rosa for more than 20 years. To settle sex abuse victims' claims the diocese has paid out $7.4 million over the past eight years.
Santa Rosa's last three bishops, and current bishop Daniel Walsh, have all been implicated in covering up cases of abuse. Walsh is a target in a civil lawsuit claiming he overlooked a priest's sexual abuse of nine teenagers in Nevada before becoming bishop of the diocese.
Bishop Mark Hurley, who ran the Santa Rosa diocese from 1969 to 1987, recently told The Press-Democrat, Santa Rosa's newspaper, that he never went to the police when informed of suspected molestations. He also said he destroyed all confidential personnel records before retiring.
Although repeatedly warned about the sexual misconduct of the Rev. Don Kimball, a Santa Rosa priest, Bishop John Steinbock, in charge of the diocese from 1987 to 1991, concluded Kimball was "not any present danger to God's people," and allowed him to continue with youth ministry. Kimball was sentenced last week to seven years in prison for molesting a 13-year-old girl in 1981. According to the Press Democrat report, Kimball had admitted to Steinbock that he had had sexual contact with six young girls, three in Santa Rosa and three in Eureka.
During Patrick Ziemann's seven-year tenure as bishop from 1992 to 1999, he removed three priests accused of sexual misconduct, including the Rev. Gary Timmons of St. Bernard's parish in Eureka. Timmons was convicted in 1994 of molesting young boys at Camp St. Michael, founded on the Eel River in northern Mendocino by Timmons in 1964.
Ziemann loaned Timmons $40,000 for legal defense, and was later embroiled in his own scandal after a complaint was lodged against him by a Ukiah priest alleging sexual abuse. In response to Timmons' case, the California legislature passed a law to become one of nineteen states that include clergy members on a list of professionals who must report child abuse.
Another sexual scandal involving Humboldt County clergy was revealed in 1995. The Rev. John Rogers, who was chaplain of the Newman Center at Humboldt State University, had been accused of molesting a boy at the St. Bernard Church rectory in 1976. The alleged victim said he first complained in 1989 and again in 1995 when he became aware that Rodgers was still working around children. Rogers was reassigned by the church to Belgium where he committed suicide.
LOOKING BACK: See story from Feb. 1996: "The Accusers of Father Timmons"
Five hundred community members showed up Saturday to celebrate the grand opening of the Humboldt Area Foundation's new building off Indianola Road. According to HAF Executive Director Peter Pennekamp, the new 6,400-square-foot community center offers an expanded Rooney Resource Library with information about non profits and grant writing and two new meeting rooms: a conference room that holds up to 65 people and a board room/training room that seats 25. [Pennekamp in front of new building at right]
"The rooms are available for any group in the community doing public-benefit work," said Pennekamp, "and that's not just non-profits. Anyone doing anything that improves the quality of life on the North Coast is welcome."
To learn more about the foundation's work go to www.hafoundation.org. For information about using the facility, call Karen Meynell at 442-2993 Ext. 307.
Although Sen. Wesley Chesbro voted on every other bill that came before the Health and Human Services Committee last week, he abstained from voting on a controversial proposal to place a 5-cent tax on every bullet sold in California.
The bullet tax has garnered wide support from his fellow Democrats, but Chesbro's non-vote has nothing to do with the validity of the bullet tax, according to a spokesman for his office. Chesbro is postponing deliberation on any new tax measures until after the state's budget crisis can be addressed.
Chesbro also refrained recently from voting on two other tax measures -- a soda tax of 21-cents per gallon on bottled soft drinks that would be used to offset the economic costs of obesity, and the Petroleum Pollution Cleanup Act, which would levy a 30-cent tax on each barrel of refined petroleum to be used to tackle water and air pollution. Both bills failed to meet legislative deadlines and are being reworked in committees.
The author of the bullet tax, Sen. Don Perata of Oakland, said the tax would raise around $21 million a year to partially cover uninsured gunshot wound victims who end up in the state's emergency rooms. The estimated total cost of covering such victims is around $400 million a year, according to Bill Durston, a member of the California Chapter of the American College of Emergency Room Physicians.
Chesbro has supported gun-control bills in the past, including a bill last year requiring handgun buyers to pass a written test and to apply for a permit from local law enforcement. Opponents of the bullet tax say that the bill would unfairly penalize hunters and sportsmen, and it is opposed by most Republicans.
Patty Berg, a resident of Eureka for the past 30 years and a candidate for the state Assembly's 1st District, announced June 10 that U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have endorsed her. Congressman Mike Thompson and state Sen. Wesley Chesbro are honorary co-chairs of Berg's campaign.
"I am confident Patty will be a powerful and effective representative for the North Coast," stated Boxer in a news release.
Berg faces Republican Rob Brown and Green Party Doug Thron.
In conjunction with the Third Annual Coast Guard City Celebration of Eureka, five Coast Guard vessels will be open for tours this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Alex Haley, a 282-foot cutter, will arrive in Humboldt Bay Thursday and will be docked at 990 W. Waterfront Drive. A buoy tender, Aspen, also arrives Thursday and will be stationed at the Commercial Street Dock.
The Bonnie Gool Dock at the Adorni Center will dock two local ships, Eureka's Barracuda and Crescent City's Dorado. Making her maiden voyage from Port Angeles, Wash., Wahoo docks at the Woodley Island Marina.
Fans of fast food will have to look outside of Arcata for more options.
The Arcata City Council finalized an ordinance limiting the number of chain restaurants in the area to nine last week. The new law amends the city's Land Use and Development Guide and takes effect July 5.
The ordinance limits chain eateries, allowing them into the city only to replace an existing "formula" restaurant, defined as having standardized food, ingredients, décor and uniforms shared by at least 11 other restaurants of the same name.
Passing by a 3-2 vote, the new law was opposed by Councilmembers Michael Machi and Robert Noble. Machi dissented on the grounds that he is not convinced of the harm these corporations would bring to Arcata, and Noble contended that the ordinance is not a proper means of limiting corporate power.
The proposal stems from the Committee on Democracy and Corporations, established in 1998 by voter-approved Measure F, which curtails the influence of corporations in Arcata. Committee Chairman Paul Cienfuegos said he hopes Arcata's cap on these types of restaurants will set an example for other cities to follow.
Chain eateries in the area currently include Subway in Northtown, Denny's on Janes Road and Carl's Jr., McDonalds, Round Table and Papa John's in Valley West.
The Senate Public Safety Committee approved a bill that would establish an optional cross-referencing system between animal control and social workers last week.
Initiated by Assemblywoman Virginia Strom-Martin, the bill would authorize and train county child and adult protective service workers to report suspected animal abuse or neglect. Studies have shown that the same dynamics of animal abuse often affect other vulnerable members of the household, including children and the elderly.
Although the bill originally called for mandatory cross reporting of suspected animal abuse between all agencies, special training on how to identify animal neglect and abuse would be too much of a strain on the state's already limited budget. If the bill passes, reporting suspected animal abuse would be encouraged.
Jerold Phelps Community Hospital and adjoining Southern Humboldt Community Clinic, suffering from years of undercompensation from insurance companies and Medi-Cal reimbursements, are in danger of closing if voters don't approve Measure V, a property tax initiative, on June 25.
Measure V would add $75 to the annual per-parcel tax paid by landowners in the southern Humboldt area. The initiative would amount to $6.25 per parcel per month, enough to guarantee the hospital $800,000 a year for operating expenses.
Currently the hospital is losing more than $30,000 a month. A significant contributing factor is Medi-Cal paying less than 30 cents on the dollar for services received. In January 1999 the hospital went into bankruptcy but had a debt repayment plan approved last June.
The high cost of health care and low reimbursement rates have hit rural hospitals throughout California especially hard. Many rural communities rely on Medi-Cal and don't have a large enough patient base to help defray the costs of necessary hospital departments such as a lab.
If the measure fails and the hospital closes an economic ripple effect would be felt throughout the entire community from loss of jobs and diminished property values. In life-threatening emergencies the nearest emergency room would be at least 40 minutes away.
The Eureka Police Department received four reports of purses stolen from shopping carts over the weekend. The purses were lifted from unattended grocery carts at Canned Foods and Winco in Eureka.
Within the recently passed $200 billion federal farm bill were some short-term gains for dairy farmers, however local producers are concerned about its long-term ramifications. The bill sets money aside for farming, conservation programs and disaster payments.
With more government money bolstering dairy production, producers are more likely to expand their herds. As herds increase and milk production rises, the price of milk will eventually fall. Although good for consumers, the decreased milk prices would be detrimental for dairy farmers already competing in a tight market.
Mike Brown, general manager of the National All-Jersey Inc., discussed the bill last month with a gathering of dairy producers and processors in Ferndale. He speculated that in 2006 when the farm bill ends, the market will be flooded with milk and inexpensive herds for sale.
"This is a program that just makes government a bigger part of agriculture," said Brown.
Blue Canoe Bodywear of Garberville will have a fashion spread in Women's Health & Fitness magazine's June/July issue.
The company, owned by Laurie Dunlop, specializes in healthy bodywear made from organic cotton. For its double-page "Fashion Trends" spread, Blue Canoe employed local art director Carolyn Lamont, photographer Arleen Olson and models, Gaea Woods and Mia Ribish.
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