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Dec. 25, 2003

The Weekly Wrap

Recall movement splitting?

Two camps may form behind Dikeman, Albin Sheets


SON OF MURDER SUSPECT KILLED: Kevin Leonard Lunsford, 25, the son of accused killer Marcella Lunsford, was shot to death Dec. 15 in Cut and Shoot, Texas, by a Houston police lieutenant he had been stalking, the Houston Chronicle reported. According to the newspaper, Lunsford had driven to the home of Lt. Eric. D. Hillman, disregarded a "no trespassing sign," and was shot by the officer when he reached for his glove compartment. He was not armed. Lunsford had reportedly been stalking Hillman after the officer, who is also a lawyer, had given Lunsford's wife advice about ending their marriage. Marcella Lunsford, along with her husband, Douglas Lunsford, Kevin's stepfather, and another son, Charles Lunsford, were arrested in Tennessee in August and charged with the killing of Nathan Dannemiller in Eureka last year. Dannemiller was married to Marcella Lunsford's daughter, Chastity, who was reportedly involved in a custody fight with Dannemiller.

MONEY BACK TO CITIES; HIGHER ED CUT: Arnold Schwarzenegger's announcement last week that he would restore $2.65 billion that local governments lost when he cut the vehicle license fee was greeted with cheers from city and county officials around the state. But the governor said the same day that his finance director would cut $150 million from higher education and other programs on her own authority. "This additional cut is painful and will further reduce enrollment growth by 4,000 students," CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said. HSU's Jane Rogers said the good news is that the university will not have a mid-year cut this year, as it had feared. "We're spared for now, but we're very, very, very concerned about the budget that starts July 1," Rogers said. "It's going to be a rough ride next year."

GOT SANDBAGS? The National Weather Service is encouraging individuals to plan ahead to avoid flooding, reminding North Coast residents that any year can be a flood year. "The question is not `if' but `when,'" said John Lovegrove of the NWS's Eureka office. Information packets on sandbagging -- how to do it effectively and without breaking your back -- can be picked up at the Humboldt County Department of Public Works office in Eureka and the National Weather Service on Woodley Island. Next week, they will also be available at all Humboldt County Sheriff's Department stations, local fire stations, and California Department of Forestry fire stations. The NWS will also provide hands-on training in sandbagging for small groups. Call Troy Nicolini at 443-6484 for information.

PROFESSOR WINS NATIONAL INDIAN ART PRIZE: Lyn Risling, tutorial coordinator for HSU's Service Learning Center, has been awarded one of five $5,000 national Community Spirit Awards from the First People's Fund. The fund, based in South Dakota, gives five prizes each year to American Indian artists from throughout the United States for their commitment to sustaining the artistic and cultural traditions in their communities. Risling, a Yurok, Karuk and Hupa Indian from McKinleyville, was honored for her ceremonial regalia and painting.

Recall movement splitting?
Two camps may form behind Dikeman, Albin Sheets


The entry of Deputy District Attorney Worth Dikeman [ photo at left] into the race to replace DA Paul Gallegos may present a photo of Worth Dikemandilemma for the biggest backers of the recall. How can you simultaneously agitate for the removal of a DA for being "soft on crime" while not supporting the most experienced and decorated criminal prosecutor in the county to take his place?

Indeed, early buzz from the anti-Gallegos camp indicates that there will be an attempt to move support away from Dikeman -- who last week said that he will not vote for the recall -- in favor of Gloria Albin Sheets, a Republican and former deputy DA with considerably less prosecutorial experience.

Why? Perhaps, as recall committee spokesman Rick Brazeau told the Times-Standard last week, because Dikeman has defended Gallegos' record on several counts -- while he's undoubtedly "tough on crime," then, he may be unacceptably "soft on Gallegos."

The other likely reason: Although it is difficult to say with certainty, it appears that opponents of the DA office's fraud suit against the Pacific Lumber Co. will have a much better chance of having the case thrown out under Albin Sheets.

At a press conference last week, Albin Sheets said that if elected, she would sit down with Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen, head of the office's white-collar crimes unit, and discuss the case with other prosecutors to see if it has merit.

"If the lawsuit is valid, I will prosecute it," she said, leaving open the possibility of dropping the suit.

Dikeman, on the other hand, took a much stronger line last week.

"That suit was filed by Tim Stoen, who is a seasoned prosecutor," he said. "I'm not going to do or say anything that would jeopardize the success of that suit. We should be content to try it in the courts, on its merits. The case is pending. It's there."

In short, a split in the recall movement could be developing, with timber interests opting for Albin Sheets and the law enforcement and legal communities for Dikeman, a Democrat, former California Prosecutor of the Year and an 18-year veteran of the county's DA's office.

Jim Kucharek, head of the county's Child Support Services department, was an early pick to run as a Gallegos replacement before bowing out at the beginning of the month. Last week, immediately after Dikeman announced his candidacy, Kucharek called the Journal to say that he supports Dikeman "without reservation."

"I think I'd have to say Worth is the best prosecutor that I've ever known, and I wouldn't even qualify that," he says. "If there is a hard case in the office, a difficult case, Worth is the guy that everybody turns to."

Unlike Kucharek, though, Dikeman's criticism of the Gallegos regime was muted. He said that he probably would never have considered running for the office's top spot -- he enjoys his present work too much, he said -- were it not for fear that the recall would succeed, and a less-than-qualified candidate would replace Gallegos.

Despite his credentials, Dikeman has never displayed any inclination to enter the political fray -- perhaps because he was long a stalwart supporter of his former boss, Terry Farmer, whom Gallegos beat in an election last year.

Rumors flew last week about what happened when Dikeman told Gallegos that he would be running, but both parties have since said that their relationship has been cordial and professional, and would continue to be so.

Last week, Dikeman actively defended Gallegos against some of the criticisms leveled by supporters of the recall -- in particular, that former defense attorney Gallegos has not been a vigorous prosecutor.

"I think [Gallegos] has embraced the prosecutorial role, and I think he's becoming increasingly familiar with the challenges and roles associated with that," he said.

He added that if the recall succeeds and he is elected as a replacement, he does not believe that the office would change "all that much." He did say, though, that his longstanding relationship with local police departments might be a plus for the office. He also said that he might consider reviewing Gallegos' medical marijuana guidelines.

"Our standard does differ significantly from that set by the state, and I think there is some validity in thinking that we shouldn't deviate too much from that standard," he said.

Albin Sheets worked in the DA's office for seven years before being released in May. The precise circumstances of her dismissal are unclear: She said that she was fired after filing a workers' compensation claim for a back injury received on the job, while the county's personnel office says that her job title was de-funded due to budget cuts and the loss of a grant. She has filed two complaints with state agencies relating to her dismissal, which she said occurred on the same day she filed the claim.

However, Albin Sheets emphasized that her campaign is not a "vendetta." Rather, she said, she was disturbed by several prosecutorial choices made by Gallegos' office -- particularly in the Eureka drive-by shootings case -- and concerned about the well-being of her former colleagues.

"I'm running against him because in my opinion the office has declined since he took it over," she said. "I keep seeing the office being on the front page of the newspaper for something other than prosecuting crimes."

At the press conference, she said that prosecutors have been overworked since Gallegos took office, and that she had heard that several deputy DAs were unhappy about having Gallegos as their chief.

"It's my understanding -- and it's common knowledge in the courthouse -- that morale in the office is rock-bottom," she said.

Dikeman disputed that claim, saying that Albin Sheets may be blaming Gallegos for problems brought on by the statewide budget crisis.

"Right now, the county is going through some very difficult times," he said "We're one attorney down, which means that everybody has to pick up slack. The extra workload contributes to the atmosphere. But I wouldn't say morale is low, and I certainly wouldn't attribute it to Paul."

Albin Sheets said that though she has only been an attorney since 1994, she has almost 30 years of experience working in law offices, starting as a receptionist and later becoming a law clerk and paralegal before getting her degree at night school in Santa Rosa.

The third candidate in the race, Arcata attorney Steven Schectman, is best known as a civil attorney, and has represented several claimants in lawsuits against the Pacific Lumber Co. Schectman, a Democrat, who was out of town this week, has said that he is running to support Gallegos' policies.

Staff writer Emily Gurnon contributed to this report.



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