A jury is taking plenty of time thinking about a new law -- specifically about whether it should convict three people accused of defying county limits on courthouse protests.
Jurors went home at midday Tuesday with no verdict, and now have deliberated for longer than it took to try the three, who stood with lighted candles outside the courthouse after 9:30 p.m.
"I can't believe they're still deliberating. ... The jury is working very hard," said Deputy Public Defender Casey Russo.
"It's hard to tell what it means. They're asking a lot of questions," said Deputy District Attorney Jackie Pizzo.
The case is the first criminal trial stemming from Humboldt County's attempt to limit protests outside the courthouse in Eureka. (That law is also being challenged in a civil suit, and critics have contended that it is so broad it violates the Constitution.)
The three people being tried, Peter Camacho, Kimberly Starr (aka Verbena) and Amanda Tierney, are accused of violating a provision that prevents most people from being on the courthouse grounds after 9:30 p.m.
UPDATE #2: Natalynne DeLapp, development director for the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), said in a phone interview that the petitioners are disappointed in this ruling, though she stressed that the case is not over. (See the "reporting and monitoring order" referenced below.) More significantly, DeLapp said, is that the project remains on hold pending the remapping that was ordered by a federal judge last year.
"For us, I take solace and comfort in the fact that the grove is still protected because of the federal injunction," DeLapp said.
UPDATE: Here, in pdf form, is the ruling itself, which reads as a systematic repudiation of the major claims from the petitioners, including a trio of nonprofit environmental groups: the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the Center for Biological Diversity and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics.
In a nod to the high level of public interest in the case, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Dale Reinholtsen begins with a rather unorthodox message to the general public, warning against the kind of hyperbole that has surrounded the project thus far:
Caltrans is not going to cut down or otherwise remove any old-growth redwoods from Richardson Grove State Park. There is absolutely no basis is reality for believing that Caltrans "wants" to "destroy" old-growth redwoods. ... The evidence is quite obviously and overwhelmingly to the contrary. There is also no evidence that the project was undertaken to satisfy the needs of "big-box" retailers or "corporate giants." [Emphasis included in original.]
Judge Reinholtsen starts off diplomatically enough, saying both sides presented "thoughtful, well-researched arguments meriting serious consideration." But the even-handed compliments end there. From that point the decision goes into exasperated smack-down mode: The judge calls petitioners "less than forthcoming." He describes one argument as a red herring and lambasts another as "nothing more than an exercise in wordplay." Point by point, he dismantles their case.
For example, the judge dismisses the notion that Caltrans had a "secret agenda" to widen the roadway for STAA truck access by pointing out that Caltrans' made this justification clear from the jump, even going so far as to include EPIC on its mailing list.
As for the old growth redwoods in question, Judge Reinholtsen says their value stems mostly from their visibility and symbolic meaning, rather than any ecological importance. Statistically, he says, they're an insignificant portion of the state's remaining old growth stands (decimated though they are). He concludes that the project won't ruin the "profound aesthetic experience" provided by these trees.
Judge Reinholtsen even goes so far as to suggest that some of the petitioners' allegations may be disingenuous. The petitioners suggest that Caltrans essentially admitted some degree of guilt simply by preparing an Environmental Impact Report, which by definition addresses significant environmental impacts. On page 16 of the 30-page decision, Reinholtsen dismisses this canard with the tone of a disapproving schoolmarm:
"That is simply untrue, as Petitioners must know."
The level of detail that the petitioners would like to see in the environmental documents is "uncalled for in CEQA [the California Environmental Quality Act], and indeed possibly unlawful," Reinholtsen concludes.
The petitioners argue that Caltrans failed to consider the effects of increased STAA truck traffic through the grove. This, Reinholtsen says, is a "red herring." He says there's no reason to believe there will be an increase in STAA truck traffic. "Petitioners appear to simply assume that it would."
Caltrans suggests truck traffic would actually decrease thanks to the larger capacity of STAA trucks. Even if it didn't -- "even using assumptions that are extremely generous to Petitioners," Reinholtsen says -- the project's cumulative impacts on truck traffic would be insignificant, he concludes.
As if scolding naughty children, the judge then launches this rebuke:
We are simply not talking about effects that 'when taken in isolation, appear insignificant, but when viewed together, appear startling.' ... We are instead talking about effects that when taken in isolation, appear absolutely trivial (or even non-existent), and when viewed together appear a little less trivial.
The only potential impact of the suit on Caltrans is a requirement to adopt "a reporting or monitoring program ... designed to ensure compliance [with CEQA] during project implementation." The judge ordered the parties to meet up and work out an agreement on the particulars to ensure this happens.
Original post: A Humboldt County Superior Court judge today ruled that Caltrans' Environmental Impact Report for the Richardson Grove Improvement Project does not violate the California Environmental Quality Act, according to a press release issued by Caltrans.
The battle in federal court remains on hold pending mapping revisions.
History suggests that press releases from either side are to be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, here's Caltrans' latest:
Caltrans announced today that Judge Dale Reinholtsen of the Humboldt County Superior Court has issued a favorable decision for Caltrans in the case of Lotus v. Department of Transportation. In this case, the Petitioners, a group of individuals and organizations, challenged Caltrans' Environmental Impact Statement for the Richardson Grove Improvement Project. The Court stated at the beginning of today's decision:
"Caltrans is not going to cut down or otherwise remove any old-growth redwoods from Richardson Grove State Park... There is absolutely no basis in reality for believing that Caltrans ‘wants' to ‘destroy' old-growth redwoods. The evidence is quite obviously and overwhelmingly to the contrary."
The decision concludes that "[t]he Court has not found a violation of CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act] at this time." In its 30 page opinion, the Court addressed and rejected the allegations in the Petitioners' challenge to Caltrans' analysis in its Environmental Impact Report. The Court decided that it needed additional information regarding only one aspect of the project: it asked Caltrans to show that it has adopted a reporting or monitoring program that is designed to ensure that it will employ the impact minimization measures discussed in its environmental study. The parties were requested to meet and agree on the timing for Caltrans to present this additional information to the Court.
Today's ruling brings the challenges to the project a major step closer to resolution. Route 101 at Richardson Grove has been under study for more than ten years and Richardson Grove Improvement Project has been actively in development since 2006. Minor changes to the existing alignment will be made without removal of any old growth redwood trees in order to allow industry-standard sized truck access along this portion of Route 101. As the court emphasized in its decision, the project was planned and designed to avoid removing any old-growth trees, and many measures are in place to protect the surrounding trees throughout the area.
In light of the Court's ruling substantially rejecting the Petitioner's arguments, Caltrans will proceed as soon as possible to comply with the State Court's remaining request. In addition, Caltrans will be finalizing the re-survey of nearly 1,500 trees ordered by the federal court in its April 2012 decision. Caltrans will be able to provide an estimated completion date of both these aspects later this summer. ...
Caltrans maintains a web page with more information about the project at: www.dot.ca.gov/dist1/d1projects/richardson_grove/
Before the bell rings, can we have your attention, HumCo? Just want to make quadruply sure the NCJ's impending little photo contest/exercise is adequately hyped before the weekend when your eyes wander away from your beloved/retina-mangling computer screens.
Remember tomorrow on 7/7 at 7:07 -- a.m. or p.m., your choice -- snap us a little slice o' Humboldt with your lens of choice, whip up a little caption and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll award some prizes to the one(s?) we think are better than the ones that are not as good. Don't phone this in. (Unless your phone takes really good pics.)
'Cuz we don't like repeating things, check out our submission criteria in its entirety in this very "share"able (hint) Facebook event!
Sad news. That awesome carnival on the Eureka waterfront is packing up. Soon it'll be headed down the road, off to brighten the lives of people in some other lucky town.
I managed to pop four balloons and win this golden Easter egg of a shirt, which features a droopy-eyed Benji bragging about the resiliency of our local economy.
Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:
On 7-4-2012, approximately 11:00 a.m. Humboldt County Sheriff’s Community Response Unit (C.R.U.) deputies served a Humboldt County Superior Court Search Warrant on a residence in the 4000 block of Little Fairfield Street, Eureka. When deputies served the search warrant they located two people in the residence, Austin Taylor Koren, 24 years old and Melissa Nichole Elkin, 22 years old, both from Eureka. Deputies located and seized approximately 9 pounds of processed marijuana, packaging material and scales in the residence. Two bedrooms in the home were being utilized to grow the marijuana, along with a grow area in a detached shed in the backyard. In the bedrooms deputies located 147 growing marijuana plants ranging from 3” to 18” in height.
Deputies arrested Koren and Elkin for cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and conspiracy to commit a felony. They were transported booked into the Humboldt County Sheriff Correctional Facility. Their bail was set at $75.000.00 each.
Anyone with information for the Sheriffs Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539. Humboldt County Drug Task Force can be reached at 707-444-8095. If you live in the City Limits of Eureka the Eureka Police Problem Oriented Policing Unit can be reached at 707-441-4373.
Today's Other Bust: McKinleyville Bust: Lot's o' Weed, Guns, Cash
Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:
On 07-03-2012, approximately 5:00 p.m. Agents from the Humboldt County Drug Task Force ( H.C.D.T.F.) assisted by deputies from Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Community Response Unit (C.R.U.) served a Humboldt County Superior Court search warrant in the 3200 block of Halfway Avenue, McKinleyville.
When the search warrant was served, agents and deputies located approximately 65 pounds (individual packaged bags) of dried processed marijuana buds, six loaded semi-automatic pistols including two with laser sites, a shotgun, approximately six grams of heroin, over one hundred controlled prescription tablets, scales, packaging material, pay and owes, and $68,657.00 in United States Currency was located and seized. On the outside of the residence, agents located video surveillance cameras which were operating.
Arrested at the scene were Eric Daniel CULBERTSON age 41 the homeowner and Andrew PETRONE age 40 from New York were located in the residence. CULBERTSON was arrested for possession for sale of marijuana, conspiracy, maintaining a residence for sales, armed in commission of a felony, and possession on a controlled substance. PETRONE was arrested for possession for sale of marijuana and conspiracy. CULBERTSON and PETRONE were transported to Humboldt County Correctional Facility. Bail was set at $75,000.00.
Today's Other Bust: Fourth of July Eureka Grow Op Bust Uncovers 147 Plants
That's what the Humboldt marten does to the porcupine, supposedly. And it's what the Center for Biological Diversity does, too, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fails to do what the Center wants -- in this case, protect the minksy little triangle-eared critter, of which there are apparently only 20 left in California and 100 total in existence anywhere.
In a news release sent out today, the Center announced it was suing the Service for failing to act on a 2010 petition to protect the Humboldt marten under the Endangered Species Act. This January, the Service said that Martes americana humboldtensis' need for protection may be warranted. But then it failed to make a final decision by an April deadline. The Center announced it would sue, and now it has.
The Center claims that the Service's failure to make a final ruling could legally lead to a default, in which some protections "immediately go into effect for the marten."
With a little helpful nip on the nose, perhaps.
The Journal moved its offices to Old Town Eureka two years ago to be in the middle of the action, but this morning's events weren't exactly what we had in mind.
I'd just stepped outside our door to make a phone call when a group of young people sprinted past, hung a left at the corner and disappeared. Okay, whatever. It's Old Town. Then they reemerged, carrying a guy:
Now I was interested.
And here's the thing about Nikki Owen: Not only does she value properly fitting bling; she happens to be a cage fighter from Hoopa. Owen took off after him. Some friends, who'd been sitting in a van across the street waiting for her, saw the foot pursuit and opted to join in.
"I had to citizen's arrest this guy," she bragged to one of them later. "I chased him down and slammed him." One witness described the tackle as "sweet."
The friends carried the suspect back to the store, deposited him on his keister and stood watch until the cops arrived. Store owners Jay and Sung Joh pointed to the sign that the man had allegedly splintered with his kick.
Here's the shopkeepers' account of events: The man had tried to purchase a bag of tobacco, some rolling papers and a sports drink with a debit card, and when the card was twice declined he became angry and refused to relinquish the merchandise he'd gathered. He finally did hand it back, Jay Joh said, but then in a fit of pique started kicking stuff.
Cue chase, tackle and haul.
While waiting to be apprehended the guy decided, may as well have a smoke. I mean, why not, right?
And, in case there was any confusion, Sung Joh identified the suspect.
When officers from the Eureka Police Department arrived, everyone relaxed a bit.
EPD Officer Justin Winkle explained to the Johs that the man was a known transient who "tends to be a problem once in a while." Their options were to a) press charges or b) let the officers give him a warning for trespassing. They chose Option A.
And off he went.
Before hauling the supsect to jail, the officers took Owen's number and thanked her for her service. Owen and Co. piled back into their van and took off. And Old Town Eureka returned to abnormal.
The Los Angeles Times has decreed something up here in the far-north lonesome of California -- den of countryfolk and rabid foxes -- worthy of mention that has nothing whatsoever to do with quaintness, tall trees or medicinal wonders. No, it's not our covered bridges (though we have some). No, not Bigfoot -- such an old yarn. Here, LAT travel writer Christopher Smith will tell us:
"Let's call these MVPs—Must Visit Piers."
Smith lists the best piers in the state, from north to south, and they include such vision-launchers as the Coronado Ferry Landing in San Diego, Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara, San Simeon Pier in San Luis Obispo County (hark the Hearst Castle, shimmering on land) and of course Pier 41 in San Francisco. And, and:
"Trinidad Pier, Humboldt County: Come September, this will be the newest pier in the state. Engineers estimate that this $8.3-million rebuild should last for at least the next half century."
But there's yet one more north of us:
"B Street Pier, Crescent City: Standing on this isolated pier feels as though you've been transported to somewhere on the Maine coast."
Yeah, OK, whatever.
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