Excellent timing in light of Indigenous People's Day, Oct. 12.
An arraignment is a hearing to hear allegations, usually by police, and to decide whether there is sufficient cause to charge someone with a crime. It is not proof of a crime. The facts are later weighed at trial.
I spent a number of years reporting on controversial and complicated civil and criminal trials. In two of them, the Bear Lincoln murder trial in 1997 and the Judi Bari vs. FBI civil case in 2002, the jury concluded that the police had lied in their sworn statements. Allegations can not be cited as proof of facts. Is anybody shocked to learn that cops lie, especially in light of recent videos proving they lied to cover their asses after killing unarmed people?
Anon555, the court papers filed in Del Norte consisted of unproved allegations by the former DA, who was seeking to score political points. That DA has been removed from office and disbarred for abusing the power of his office in another case.
The case was taken over by the feds, as you know.
No wonder all of you anonymous know-it-alls are so negative about Ron. You don't know him, and what you do know is what you may have read a year or two ago in the Slimes-Substandard and what blogger T. Greenson has written about him in the NCJ. This latest missive from Mr. Greenson is permeated with a sneering, negative tone unworthy of a publication that purports to be a professional newspaper/magazine. No wonder they relegated Greenson to the blog section, which doesn't meet professional journalistic standards.
So, without knowledge of all the facts, you guys surmise and speculate about the case and then jump to unwarranted conclusions in line with your negative bias. No wildlife studies were done, no logging ensued, and no endangered wildlife was harmed. You can be sure that state and federal investigators looked thoroughly at everything Ron has done and filed whatever charges they thought the evidence supported.
I know Ron personally and have interacted with him on a weekly basis for several years as a member of a Mendocino coast photo coop. Ron received over 150 letters of testimonial citing his many good works and his generous character, and they were given to the sentencing judge. I attended Ron's sentencing hearing and witnessed the top officer of the Pacific Seabird group testify that a thorough audit of the books kept by Ron in his many years of serving as the group's unpaid treasurer found no problems at all. The Mad River Biologists books were also audited and found to be in order. MRB went out of business last year after several decades of existence. Ron's legal defense cost him tens of thousands of dollars that he didn't have, and he still owes.
The "prison" that Ron was in for 9 months is a federal minimum security satellite camp in the desert of eastern Lassen County. The counselor in charge of his case knew that he was cleared for release to home confinement after only a month or two there, but kept him there for many months more, despite his full cooperation and good behavior. I strongly suspect that the reason for that was to keep full employment for the prison guards. What an unnecessary waste of taxpayer money that was! Federal figures for 2012 show the daily cost of keeping one person in minimum security confinement was $59.27. That figures out to over $16,000 of taxpayer costs that benefited nobody but the employees of the federal prison system. The months of unnecessary confinement also further impoverished Ron by keeping him from earning a living as a wildlife photographer.
At Ron's sentencing hearing a year ago in San Francisco I heard the judge's reasoning for deciding to sentence him to 10 months rather than allow him probation based on a faulty or incomplete reading of the court records and the sentencing report from the federal probation officer. The record clearly showed, and it was admitted by Roland Raymond, the Yurok embezzler who duped Ron, that Raymond was the one submitting false MRB invoices to the tribe, generated on his own computer. Raymond then hand-carried the invoices to the Yurok tribal office and got them paid while he waited, then took the check to the bank and deposited them "less cash" to the MRB account.
Raymond took advantage or Ron's generous nature by saying he wanted Ron's help tapping into Federal grant funds to the Yurok tribe so that he could train Yurok tribal members to do the wildlife surveys and employ them to do the work. Ron agreed to that in order to benefit the tribe. The 20% MRB took off the top was primarily to pay the income tax due on the payments and secondarily a part of the business overhead of MRB. Ron did not make money personally off the deal.
Soon after the arrangement began, and for most of its duration, Ron had moved away to Mendocino County and was no longer closely involved in the operation of MRB. So he was not supervising Raymond's operation as he should have. Ron trusted Raymond that he was using the money routed back to him so as to employ his own team of Yurok wildlife surveyors to do the work. Ron knew it was technically a violation of the terms of the federal grant, but believed it was for a good purpose. He didn't know, until Raymond was busted, that Raymond was using the money entirely for his own personal enrichment and feeding his meth addiction.
The sentencing judge didn't believe Ron didn't know what Raymond was up to, or that Raymond had billed his own tribe for exorbitant amounts of work that was not done. The judge said Ron should have known since his company, MRB, was continuing to send invoices to the tribe right up until the end. But the court record clearly showed that wasn't true. After the initial period of the deal, Raymond started generating and printing the invoices on his own computer, not through MRB's office, and Raymond confessed to that. Ron was out of the loop.
So, based on an erroneous understanding of the facts of the case by the sentencing judge, who said he wanted to deter other potential embezzlers by making an example of Ron, he was sentenced to 10 months of custody instead of probation, which the sentencing report recommended.
Ron cooperated fully with county and federal investigators from day one, driving from Mendocino to Crescent City the same day he learned he was wanted. It was the same day he got home from an overseas birding conference. In contrast, Mr. Raymond did go on the lam and avoided capture for over a month. Raymond was the actual embezzler and he took all of the money for himself. That's why Raymond got a three year sentence. He had known Ron for several years through hiring MRB for wildlife surveys, and knew Ron was an easy mark and a soft touch when asked to help someone in need.
Ron paid a heavy price for his mistake, losing his business and professional license and reputation, as well as 9 months in confinement, loss of earnings, a heavy legal bill, and being held jointly liable along with Raymond for repaying the $800K-plus that Raymond stole from his tribe. Ron admitted he broke the law and pleaded guilty to "conspiracy" not to embezzlement. He did admit that he improperly helped Raymond to tap federal grant moneys (that the Yurok tribe could not touch), but he did so in the belief that the money was going to help the tribe by allowing it to employ its own tribal members, rather than an outside contractor, to do the work that the grant was earmarked for.
If Ron had been greedy instead of generous, he would have refused Raymond's request to turn the survey work over to Raymond so as to benefit the tribe (he thought) by training and employing tribal members. He trusted the wrong guy. He learned a hard lesson. He served his sentence. It's time to let him get on his feet again.
As of today, Ron is released from home confinement and is back at work at the cooperative photo gallery in Fort Bragg that he co-founded over eight years ago. He is required as a condition of release to work at least 30 hours per week, and that's what he is doing. Like the other coop members, Ron receives no pay for his work at the gallery, only a commission on the sale of his photos there, same as the other four members, including me.
For many years, Ron has generously shared thousands of his wildlife photos for free with his daily emails. His emailed announcement that he is finally home requests that some of his subscribers buy an 8x10 print from him to help him financially. Those prints have been and are being sold at the gallery for $15 each. Ron is a very good and well respected wildlife photographer.
I know Ron personally, and have found him completely trustworthy, generous with his time and talents, and a frequent volunteer for nonprofit groups.
Unlike you anonymous lynch mobsters, I'm not afraid to sign my real name to my comments.
Remember that Hurwitz believes in the Golden Rule, and he has proved it once again. As he told Pacific Lumber workers soon after seizing control of the company in 1986: “He who has the gold, rules.”
After sucking some $3.75 billion out of Humboldt County (according to Humboldt Watersheds Council) Hurwitz buys his way out of trouble for a mere $4 million and slithers back to Houston. Let’s see, a billion is a thousand million, so $4 mil is slightly more than 1/10 of 1% of Hurwitz’s haul.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers were afraid they wouldn’t get a unanimous jury verdict, based on their jury watching. They were worried that the judge’s ruling barring evidence from the PL bankruptcy filings that showed Hurwitz exercised active control of PL would make it harder to prove their case.
According to two of the jurors interviewed on KMUD News, the jury was going strongly for the plaintiffs, especially after two very strong witnesses on Monday. The evidence of malfeasance was clear and convincing.
If one or two jurors sided with the defendants it would have meant a hung jury and a mistrial. That would not necessarily have ended the case if the plaintiffs stuck with their case and went through a second trial. In the Humboldt Pepper Spray Q-Tip case, the first two trials ended in a hung jury, but the third time was the charm for the plaintiffs.
I’m disappointed that the plaintiffs and their legal team didn’t have the courage and stamina to play their very strong hand to the end, and not settle on such weak terms. Of course that’s said with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight.
I don’t know the circumstances, but maybe the plaintiffs’ legal team wasn’t willing to do it over in case of a hung jury, and was afraid of not getting paid. With this settlement the lawyers will get their $1 million fees and costs paid promptly. If they had won a jury verdict awarding tens or hundreds of millions in damages, Hurwitz would certainly have appealed, and it would have been another two or three years before the appeal would be decided. In the meantime, no money from the defendants, and the defendants might even get lucky at the appeals level and overturn the verdict.
The great majority of civil suits end in a settlement, not a verdict. I just wish they had held out long enough for Hurwitz to have been forced to answer questions under oath in front of the jury and the public, which has never happened before, and which was about to happen. And I wish the plaintiffs had held out a richer settlement that was more painful and humiliating for Mr. "Golden Rule" Hurwitz.
Even though the settlement was disappointing for many of us who have watched and battled Maxxam over the decades, there's no denying that the result vindicated Paul Gallegos, Tim Stoen, and the citizens who tipped them off to the fraud.
Remember that Hurwitz believes in the Golden Rule, and he has proved it once again. As he told Pacific Lumber workers soon after seizing control of the company in 1986: "He who has the gold, rules."
After sucking some $3.75 billion out of Humboldt County (according to Humboldt Watersheds Council) Hurwitz buys his way out of trouble for a mere $4 million and slithers back to Houston. Let's see, a billion is a thousand million, so $4 mil is slightly more than 1/10 of 1% of Hurwitz's haul.
The plaintiffs' lawyers were afraid they wouldn't get a unanimous jury verdict, based on their jury watching. They were worried that the judge's ruling barring evidence from the PL bankruptcy filings that showed Hurwitz exercised active control of PL would make it harder to prove their case.
According to two of the jurors interviewed on KMUD News, the jury was going strongly for the plaintiffs, especially after two very strong witnesses on Tuesday. The evidence of malfeasance was clear and convincing.
Even if one or two jurors sided with the defendants, that would not lose the case for the plaintiffs. A hung jury would simply mean a mistrial, followed by another trial. That happened in the Humboldt Pepper Spray Q-Tip case twice, followed by a victory the third time for the plaintiffs.
I'm disappointed that the plaintiffs didn't have the courage and stamina to play their very strong hand to the end, and not settle on such weak terms. Of course that's Monday morning quarterbacking.
I don't know all of the circumstances, and maybe the plaintiffs' legal team wasn't willing to do it over, and was afraid of not getting paid. With this settlement the lawyers get their $1 million fees and costs paid promptly. If they had won a jury verdict awarding tens or hundreds of millions in damages, Hurwitz would certainly have appealed, and it would have been another two or three years before the appeal would be decided. In the meantime, no money from the defendants, and the defendants might get lucky at the appeals level and overturn the verdict.
In any event, it's true that the great majority of civil suits end in a settlement, not a verdict. I just wish they had held out long enough for Hurwitz to have had to testify under oath in front of the jury and the public, which he was scheduled to do, and which has never happened before. And I wish they had demanded a richer settlement that was a more painful and embarassing for Hurwitz.
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In Print This Week:
Jan 19, 2017
vol XXVIII issue 3
The North Coast Journal Weekly
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