TICKERTAPE: The Trinidad Police Department ended its investigation
of local leftie political consultant Richard Salzman last week,
forwarding the case to the state attorney general's office for
possible prosecution. (Such a case would normally be handled
by a district attorney, but Salzman was DA Paul Gallegos' campaign
manager.) TPD Chief Ken Thrailkill was investigating the possibility
that Salzman misappropriated other people's identities for use
in a fake letter-writing campaign to local newspapers (see "Web of Lies," Sept.
A car crash at the corner
of Buhne and Union streets in Eureka took the life of Joanne
Gummer, a Bay Area resident. Gummer was the passenger in a vehicle
being driven by 55-year-old Eureka resident James Linville, who
was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
An anti-war, anti-military
recruiting protest went off with relatively few hitches Friday,
at least in comparison with an earlier protest on Nov. 2. On
that occasion, four bicyclists associated with the group Critical
Mass, which staged a ride from Arcata to Eureka in support of
the downtown Eureka rally, were arrested by officers from the
Eureka Police Department and the California Highway Patrol. Critical
Mass rode again this time, but organizers said that the bicyclists
stayed to the shoulder of Highway 101, and no arrests were made.
Federal prosecutors in Sacramento
announced last Tuesday that a settlement had been reached in
the Redding Medical Center case, which stemmed from allegations
that heart surgeons for the center -- which was formerly allied
with Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata -- performed harmful
and unnecessary surgery on patients. Surgeons Chae Hyun Moon
and Fidel Realyvasquez Jr. each agreed to pay the federal government
$1.4 million in exchange for the dropped criminal charges. Several
Humboldt County residents were part of a class-action lawsuit
against Redding Medical that settled late last year. (See the
Journal's Nov. 20, 2003, cover story, "In Their Hands,"
for more background on the story.)
OLD TOWN SECURITY: Last week the Eureka City Council approved
a pilot project to put a couple of Pacific Coast Security guards
on patrol in Old Town, starting this week, from the bay to 4th
Street, and from Commercial to R streets. The idea, police chief
Dave Douglas told a community gathering Thursday night on the
west side of town, is for the guards -- who will not carry weapons
nor have police powers -- to be "the dedicated eyes and
ears for us. One thing we'll be able to do is identify people
who are moving into this area ... we'll be taking license numbers
and vehicle descriptions."
The council agreed to use
redevelopment funds to pay for the security service for eight
months. Charlotte McDonald, executive director of Eureka Mainstreet
-- a downtown revitalization program -- says it's "a great
idea." "We're real excited over the extended services,"
she says. It isn't that crime's been terribly rampant. "When
you look at the calls for service, we don't really have a lot
of problems." But it's a perception thing, McDonald says,
that will help make the people who live in Old Town feel safer
at night. The two guards will patrol from early evening till
the wee hours of the morning.
WHUP-WHOOPING: You probably don't want your baby to act like
a whooping crane: eating leeches and frogs, larvae and snakes
-- even small rodents -- and whooping that gaspy, can't-breathe
cry. Now, your baby's food choices you'll just have to monitor
yourself. But the whooping you can prevent easily by getting
the kid vaccinated by as early as six weeks of age -- which is
recommended, especially this year, says Mary McKenzie, a public
health nurse with the Humboldt County Department of Health and
Cases of pertussis -- whooping
cough -- have increased dramatically across the nation, including
in Humboldt County. While there were only two or three cases
in Humboldt last year, this year there've been 53 cases of whooping
cough since January, says McKenzie. Fifteen percent of those
cases were teenagers, she says, and nine were infants who required
hospitalization. "Fortunately, none of our infants died,"
says McKenzie. Pertussis is most dangerous -- even lethal --
to babies. "What pertussis does is the bacteria will secrete
a toxin that kills cells in our airways. So that affects how
we're able to cough, clear our lungs and breathe." Even
the proper antibiotics won't necessarily bring an infected baby
out of the woods, says McKenzie. They'll "knock the infection
out in five days, but then to stop the coughing takes longer
because the body has to heal the damage to the airway. And infants,
their bodies being so tiny, the injury is sometimes deadly to
She says the health department
recognizes that some parents choose not to immunize their infants.
Those parents, she says, should be "hyper-vigilant"
about keeping their babies away from anyone with cold symptoms
or a cough. The early stages of pertussis look like a cold, and
it might take two weeks before a person starts coughing. The
health department recommends that people with coughs and colds
avoid contact with infants, expectant mothers and immuno-compromised
individuals. By the way, pertussis is no fun for adults, either:
"You're miserable, you cough till you throw up and pee your
pants," says McKenzie.
TREESIT LIMBO: Over the past couple of weeks, the news releases
have sped with increasing frenzy over the Internet with the cry
that Pacific Lumber Co. has begun felling giant, ancient trees
in the Nanning Creek Grove, about a mile east of Palco's town
of Scotia. "Pacific Lumber recently got the nod to log a
virgin stand of old growth from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service," starts a Nov. 17 e-mail from the Old Growth Campaign's
Eric Hammond. The logging began Nov. 11. Hammond's e-mail urges
recipients to call, and gives numbers for Palco's president Robert
Manne, and also Chuck Center and Chris Manson (communications
and government relations staff) and ask them to stop the logging.
So far, no stopping, despite
pleas from Sierra Club members as well as from the Environmental
Protection Information Center. Susan Moloney, with the Campaign
for Old Growth, says she met with Palco's Center, Manne and Adrian
Miller just before the logging began on what they're calling
the "Bonanza harvest plan." She asked them to refrain
from logging the area "for one to three months" to
give the forest activists time to raise enough money to buy the
grove outright from Palco. They told her they'd "consider"
her request, but "they didn't specifically say they'd sell
it," Moloney says. "But I think they would."
She says she doesn't know
how much the grove is worth, but that Palco's top brass told
her they had 6.8 million board feet in there. Whatever the cost,
actually getting the money may prove tough. So far, the activists
have struck out with their cries for funds. "There's no
money yet," Moloney says. "We're approaching all the
usual suspects ... Save the Redwoods League, Sanctuary Forest.
It'd be great if Bill Gates would step forward." Meanwhile,
says Moloney, three people are sitting high up in the trees in
protest, and the company has logged at least "a hundred
In the wee hours of July
13, 2004, a Tuesday, Garberville resident Gary Abena was speeding
though the Great Plains on Interstate 80, westbound and headed
Three days out of Philadelphia,
Abena had just spent the night at a Super 8 Motel in Cheyenne,
Wyo. Now, at about 7:15 a.m., he was back on the road, doing
84 in a 75 m.p.h. zone through Albany County. He was driving
a rented 2004 Chevy Impala, maroon in color. In the trunk of
the car: Three bags of fireworks, presumably picked up at some
Midwestern roadside pyrotechnic emporium.
Under the passenger seat:
A padlocked duffel bag containing a cool $190,000 cash.
Three minutes later, Wyoming
State Trooper Dan Dyer, blasting classic rock from 101.9 KING-FM
in his patrol vehicle, pulled up to within range of Abena's rearview
mirror and flipped on his lights. Abena pulled over. Dyer got
out of his vehicle, walked up to the Impala's drivers' side window
and asked for Abena's license and registration.
The strange series of events
that followed -- the arrival of two other troopers, a federal
agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency and a drug-sniffing police
dog -- lasted over two hours, and eventually became the subject
of a year-long court case. The case was recently settled, and
in the process, Abena -- who in 1989 was convicted on six felony
counts relating to the trafficking of LSD -- earned some strong
praise from a federal district court judge for his willingness
to demand basic constitutional rights.
Abena did not return calls
seeking comment on this story. His attorney, Richard M. Barnett
of San Diego, was in Europe last week. Several messages left
at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cheyenne were not returned.
But Trooper Dyer recorded the whole incident on a dashboard-mounted
camera, and after audio specialists removed Dyer's radio music
from the recording, the transcript of the tape entered into the
According to these court
records, the initial confrontation between Dyer and Abena was
friendly. The officer asked for Abena's license and his car rental
agreement, and was satisfied that they were valid. They chitchatted
about "the small population, large size and natural beauty
of Wyoming." The officer seemed content to let Abena off
with a warning about his speeding.
Dyer stood up and bid Abena
farewell. "Yeah, well, have a good day," he said.
According to later court
documents, there was a very slight pause here. Then Dyer continued:
"And, uh, do you mind if I ask you a question?" Abena
said he didn't, and Dyer asked him if he was carrying anything
illegal in his vehicle. Abena said that he wasn't.
Dyer asked him what he was
carrying in the trunk, and Abena told him that he had some fireworks.
Dyer asked Abena to open the trunk, and he agreed. Then Dyer
began asking him what he was carrying in the cabin of the Impala
-- whether there was anything illegal in the cell phone bag he
was carrying, or in another bag on the floor of the back seat.
Abena said that there wasn't, and Dyer asked if he could search
the vehicle. This time, Abena did not agree, and asked to be
allowed to go.
Dyer continued to quiz him,
asking if he carried drugs, explosives or money. Abena again
denied carrying anything illegal, and invited Dyer to bring a
drug-sniffing dog to the scene if he wished. Dyer agreed to do
Several times throughout
the stop, Dyer would repeat the phrase "There's something
fishy here," both to Abena and his fellow officers, who
would arrive on the scene at about 8:15 a.m., bringing "Todd,"
the K-9 unit, with them. A DEA agent also arrived.
The dog sniffed around the
sides of the car, giving no indication that it detected anything
unusual. From there, the officers took turns asking Abena simply
to let them search his car, at which point he would be free to
leave. Abena continually refused to do so.
Finally, just before 9 a.m.,
the officers and the DEA agent held a conference near Dyer' patrol
vehicle. They had no probable cause to search Abena's vehicle,
they realized. But one trooper offered a suggestion: They did
not need probably cause to search the car if they had a "reasonable
suspicion" -- a lower legal standard -- that Abena might
be carrying a firearm. Dyer pounced on this suggestion.
"Come on over,"
Dyer beckoned to Abena. "We, uh, are afraid for the next
guy that might stop you."
"What do you mean by
that?" Abena asked.
"We're not going to
go through this again, and there's something fishy," Dyer
said. "You probably got a firearm and you're going to blast
somebody." The officers proceeded to search Abena's car.
They didn't find any guns or drugs, but they did find the money.
All told, the troopers took
$204,960 out of the Impala, from the bag under the seat and another,
smaller parcel in the cabin. They confiscated the money and deposited
it at a local bank. Shortly after, they found Abena's 1989 LSD
convictions in the state of Missouri, for which he was sentenced
to 144 months in prison. Also, they discovered that in 1986 the
California Bureau of Narcotics seized $22,000 of suspected drug
proceeds that were confiscated at his home.
To the troopers, Abena's
recent pattern of travel also seemed suspicious. Though he told
Dyer that he had decided to drive, rather than fly, back to California
at the last minute, because the Department of Homeland Security
had recently raised the terrorism threat level, troopers discovered
that in 2003 he had twice before made the same trip -- flying
to the East Coast, renting a car to drive back.
In December 2004, the U.S.
Attorney's Office in Cheyenne opened proceedings that would have
permanently impounded Abena's $204,960. Perhaps to their surprise,
Abena fought back. In legal briefs, Abena's attorney -- an expert
in forfeiture law -- argued that the search of Abena's car violated
his Fourth Amendment rights.
On Sept. 26 of this year,
District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson sided with Abena, saying
that because the search of his car was done on an illegal pretext.
He noted that before the officers came up with the idea of searching
the Impala for guns, they had not exhibited any suspicion that
Abena could have been armed. The ruling meant that evidence relating
to the search itself could not be brought up in any future trial
relating to the disposition of Abena's money.
"At one point during
his two-hour detention, Mr. Abena explained to the officers that
citizens `are supposed to have rights in the United States' and
that `[t]he Constitution is still supposed to work," Johnson
wrote in his ruling. "Perhaps to the officers' surprise,
Mr. Abena asserted his constitutional rights to a degree most
laypersons would not dare assay. On the other hand, perhaps this
traffic stop is but a brief example of the difficult work that
law enforcement entails.
"One fact, however,
remains clear: This case is a modern-day illustration of the
tension our founders created when drafting the Constitution --
the difficult and often times frustrating balance between liberty
and law. This tension is a reminder that the Constitution does
"On that early summer
morning in Wyoming, July 2004, Gary Abena recognized what this
Court does today: His Fourth Amendment rights were violated."
One month after this judgment
was entered, the federal prosecutors and Abena agreed to settle
the case, with the government keeping 60 percent of the confiscated
money and 40 percent returned to Abena and his attorney.
The troopers testified in
court that Abena told them that the money came from his business
as a dealer of turquoise. Local campaign finance disclosure forms
show that Abena listed himself as an owner of a turquoise mine
when he made a $100 donation to the Friends of Paul Gallegos