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Jan. 15, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

Dikeman v. Schectman
The deputy DA is accused of duplicity

Supes set to act on Gallegos' pot guidelines



FOLLOW THE MONEY: The latest financial disclosure records filed with the County election office reveal that in recent months the Pacific Lumber Co. has by far been the major financial backer of the effort to recall District Attorney Paul Gallegos. The company, which is being sued by Gallegos for fraud, shelled out $70,000 in the last three months of 2003, the records show -- that's about 90 percent of the money raised for the pro-recall campaign during that time period. More than $40,000 was paid to US Petitions, the firm that conducted the successful signature gathering drive last fall; the remainder took the form of monetary contributions to the recall campaign. The only other major contribution was $3,000 from Steve Willis Trucking & Logging, based in Fortuna. The rest, about $1,900, came from small donors. The pro-Gallegos camp, in comparison, raised $44,000 during the last quarter of last year -- $29,000 from 78 individual contributors who put up sums ranging from $100 to $5,000; and $15,000 in small donations from 365 individuals. "It took us over 400 people to raise our $40,000; the other side only needed one [contributor]," commented Gallegos political advisor Richard Salzman.

IT'S PALCO, DAMMIT! Erin Dunn, Pacific Lumber's communications manager, fired off a letter to company employees last week telling them, in effect, to get with the program. Last August, she reminded workers, the company launched "a new branding campaign [that] included new stated goals, new governance principals and a new corporate mark and name -- PALCO." The acronym, Dunn continued, symbolizes "our commitment to sustainability, the environment, community and business." The PALCO logo is now on company logging trucks, company envelopes and stationery, and is being placed on company signs. It's imprinted everywhere, it seems, but in the minds of workers, many of whom continue to refer to the company by the old name, PL, and who haven't changed their office and cell phone voice mail messages to reflect the new order. Such changes must be made immediately, Dunn said in her letter. Moreover, when speaking to each other, employees "need to remind each other to say PALCO at all times. Change your habit of saying PL," Dunn exhorted. "If you hear a fellow employee refer to the company by another name or abbreviation, correct them." Or rat on them to the thought police.

LOCAL MAN RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT: A Humboldt County man has joined five other candidates in seeking the Green Party nomination for the presidency. David Cobb, 41, of Eureka, has served as the national Green Party's attorney since 1999, managed Ralph Nader's campaign in Texas and ran for Attorney General of that state in 2002. He moved to Humboldt County just last month -- "the short answer is that there was a woman involved," namely Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap of Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt, he says -- and he has fallen in love with the area. "It's physically gorgeous and the culture here is really inspiring. It's a wonderful combination of rugged individualism and a sense of collective community, and any place you see bumper stickers that say `U.S. Out of Humboldt County' is my kind of place." Cobb, who also works for Democracy Unlimited, says he's the only one of the Green Party candidates who is actively campaigning and raising money. He's visited 17 states and plans another trip in the coming weeks. He is active in local and national projects to assert citizen authority over corporations.

Nader announced last month that he will not seek the Green Party nomination for this year's campaign.

BAGGING IT: Humboldt State University is calling off its effort to fill three high-level academic positions with new hires. In a Jan. 12 e-mail to the "campus community," Provost Richard Vrem cited "our current budget situation" as the reason for the decision, which has resulted in the disbanding of search committees that had been charged with reviewing applicants. As a stopgap measure, Karen Carlton, dean for arts, humanities and social sciences, has agreed to remain in that position through the end of the 2004 fall semester. Val Phillips, interim dean for undergraduate studies, will stay on the job through May of next year. Phillips is also assuming some of the responsibilities that would have been assumed by a new dean for enrollment management.

STUDENT FOUND DEAD: A UC Berkeley student who was reported missing by his friends after a night of partying at Clam Beach was found dead Saturday. Humboldt County Coroner Frank Jager identified the body of 19-year-old Robinson Martin of West Los Angeles, who was found floating in the ocean near Luffenholtz Beach in Trinidad, about 2 miles from where he and friends had been camping at Clam Beach. Martin went missing on Thursday morning, Jan. 8. The cause of death was freshwater drowning, Jager said, and authorities are surmising that he fell into Little River, just north of Clam Beach, and was then washed out to sea. Though Martin had a bruise on the side of his face, Jager said he doesn't believe foul play was involved. "The most likely scenario was that he fell and hit his head," he said. "We haven't found any evidence that he was in a fight with anybody or involved in some sort of altercation."

COPPING PLEAS: Two of the three men accused of killing Larry Amsterdam during a botched marijuana robbery near Honeydew in 1999 entered into plea agreements last week. Brett Ownbey, 28, of Riverside, agreed to plead guilty to attempted murder and is facing a 35-year prison term. Craig Allen Huntzinger, also 28, of Blue Lake, will receive a 12-year prison term for manslaughter. The third defendant, 28-year-old Jeff Patrick McNeil of Eureka, will stand trial for murder beginning in March

CHILD MOLESTER SENTENCED: A Eureka man responsible for raping three boys every night for more than four years was sentenced Monday in Superior Court to 165 years to life in prison. Mike Hiscox, 42, was convicted in November of 11 counts of child molestation involving his former girlfriend's sons, who ranged in age at the time of the crimes from 7 to 12. Hiscox tearfully asked Judge John Feeney for leniency, saying that he was sorry for the trauma he'd inflicted on the boys but that he no longer engages in "aberrant behavior."

BURGLARY VICTIM FIGHTS BACK: An attempted burglary of a Eureka home on Albee near Russ Street was quashed Saturday night when one of the occupants fought off the intruder with a pocketknife, police reported. Patrick Hunter Brown, 20, was standing near the open door of his attached garage about 11:15 p.m. when an intruder tried to force his way into the house, Eureka police spokeswoman Suzie Owsley reported. Brown yelled to his father, Patrick Gerald Brown, 49, to call 911. When the suspect, identified as 51-year-old parolee George W. Bartlett, tried to hit the father with a pole, the son stabbed Bartlett in the chest with a pocketknife. The men reportedly did not know each other. Bartlett's wounds were superficial, and after a trip to the hospital he made another to the county jail.

DEPUTIES FIND POT, NOW WANT GROWER: Humboldt County Sheriff's deputies seized 192 marijuana plants, ranging in size from 18 to 24 inches, inside a home off Perry Meadow Road in Briceland around 5 p.m. on Jan. 8, but the grower was nowhere to be found, the Sheriff's office said. Officials are preparing an arrest warrant for the suspect.

DA GETS NEW COMPUTER SYSTEM: The county Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of a new computerized case management system for the District Attorney's office on Tuesday. The $50,000 system, purchased from San Bernardino County, will enable county workers to look up case information on their computers rather than retrieving hard copies of files; managers will more easily track employee performance and decide how to assign cases; and staff will be able to find and use crime data more quickly and easily. The current system, according to DA Paul Gallegos, is inadequate and will soon be obsolete.

PLANNING COMMISSION VACANCY: Applications are being accepted for an open position on the city of Eureka's Planning Commission, a five-member board that determines land-use policy. Eligible applicants must be registered voters of the city of Eureka, the Humboldt Community Services District, or the Humboldt County Service Area No. 3, or be the owner of a business located within the city limits. Application forms are due Jan. 30 and are available from the Mayor's office, 441-4172, or may be downloaded from the City Clerk's Web site. And no, the position is not paid.



Dikeman v. Schectman
The deputy DA is accused of duplicity


With six-and-a-half weeks left before the March 2 election, the race to replace District Attorney Paul Gallegos in the event that he is recalled is heating up -- and the current front-runner, Deputy District Attorney Worth Dikeman, is emerging as a savvy politician.

Dikeman, an 18-year veteran of the office, has picked up endorsements from the county's two biggest law enforcement associations -- those representing Eureka police officers and county sheriff's deputies. Both came out early in favor of the recall.

With the tough-on-crime vote sewn up, Dikeman -- cannily -- is seeking to appeal to both critics and supporters of Gallegos by offering only weak defenses of the DA, and by refusing to offer any specifics of what he would do if elected.

At a press conference last week, Arcata attorney Steve Schectman -- who is running a fiercely pro-Gallegos, anti-recall campaign -- charged Dikeman with speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Specifically, Schectman said that although Dikeman has said that he will not vote for the recall, he has been acting like a pro-recall candidate by "energizing the base" of pro-recall supporters.

"I'm trying to ensure that Mr. Dikeman knows he can't have it both ways," Schectman said. "I'm honest about my position. I believe [pro-recall candidate Gloria Albin] Sheets is honest about her position."

Schectman invited Dikeman to "stand with him" and actively support Gallegos. If Dikeman did so, he said, the recall would be certain to fail.

At his own press conference later the same day, Dikeman, citing lessons taught him by his father, said only that he would remain "loyal" to his boss. He declined to elaborate. When asked whether Gallegos has been a good DA, he sloughed off the question.

Dikeman's reticence has led some to wonder whether his true allegiance lies with the regime of longtime incumbent DA Terry Farmer, whom Gallegos beat in March 2002. Dikeman was one of many in the office who signed a strongly worded letter in support of Farmer right before that election.

"Terry's opponent has no prosecutorial or administrative background," the letter reads. "Despite this, he aspires to go from being one-half of a two-person office to head of the largest law firm in Humboldt County supervising those whose experience dwarfs his own. The enforcement of our criminal law is a serious business. Platitudes and sound bites are no substitute for results."

If Dikeman's view has been modified by experience since Gallegos took office, he is not telling. Neither is he saying what sort of administrative changes he would consider making in the event he is elected, or what plans he might have for the office's multimillion dollar fraud suit against the Pacific Lumber Co.

He has also declined to say whether he would retain the position of the assistant district attorney, held by Tim Stoen, who is trying the case against Pacific Lumber. Stoen is second in authority to Gallegos. In the last years of Farmer's administration there was no assistant DA. Instead, according to Dikeman, an informal committee of senior deputies advised Farmer.

As to the PL case, Dikeman has said only that it is before the court, and that he did not wish to jeopardize its chances by speaking about it. But as Schectman noted, that would not prevent Dikeman from saying unequivocally that he would continue to prosecute the case -- just as "loyalty" to Gallegos would not prevent him from actively defending his boss against criticism from his political opponents.

If it is Dikeman's intention to prosecute the case, to say so publicly would undoubtedly lose him many votes in the timber community -- presumably to Albin Sheets, a former Terry Farmer prosecutor whose position was eliminated under Gallegos. If he wants to withdraw the suit, to say so publicly would solidify the opposition to his candidacy -- and make his current job difficult if the recall fails.

The PL suit is unquestionably the central issue of the election. The recall drive was announced immediately after Gallegos's office filed the suit, and the recall would almost certainly not have made the ballot if the company itself had not provided $40,000 to organizers at the last minute to fund an expensive signature drive.

Schectman said that the political attack on Gallegos -- funded in large part by a defendant in a case filed by his office -- amounted to a breach of democratic principles, and charged that Dikeman, by not speaking out, was attempting to capitalize on it.

"This is an unfair, undemocratic process we're involved in now, and he should not be taking advantage of it for his own self-aggrandizement," Schectman said.

Supes set to act on Gallegos' pot guidelines


New medical marijuana guidelines for the county could soon be in place if the Board of Supervisors takes action Tuesday on a proposal brought by Supervisor Roger Rodoni.

If supporters get their way, the new ordinance would set in stone the guidelines established by District Attorney Paul Gallegos. Or it could create new, more restrictive guidelines.

The DA's office announced last year that it would not prosecute medical marijuana cases if the amounts were below a certain threshold: 99 plants, provided they fit into a 100 square foot area, yielding about 3 pounds of processed pot.

One problem, medical pot advocates say, is the Gallegos guidelines only go so far.

"That doesn't mean the police can't come into your house and take you away. That just means that Paul won't prosecute anybody," said Jason Fishbain of McKinleyville, a medical marijuana patient and local coordinator for the activist group Safe Access Now.

The proposed ordinance would direct sheriff's deputies to make arrests based on Gallegos' guidelines -- or whatever limits the board sets.

The push for a local law also comes from SB 420, a new state law intended to clarify the uncertainties of Proposition 215, the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in 1996. SB 420 establishes a statewide voluntary ID card system to protect patients and their caregivers from arrest for possession, cultivation and transportation of medical pot.

The problem with SB 420 is that its guidelines for the amount of pot patients can have are significantly lower than Gallegos': only six mature or 12 immature plants, plus a half-pound of processed weed. But the state law says that local jurisdictions can set higher or lower limits.

Sheriff Gary Philp said he was meeting with other local law enforcement officials this week to get their input on Rodoni's proposal. He said he's concerned that a county law will not impact other police agencies; a medical marijuana patient could be arrested in Fortuna for an amount of pot that would not get him arrested in unincorporated parts of the county, for instance.

"That's what I'd like to see us avoid," Philp said. "I wanted to see if perhaps I could speak to everybody and get something that everybody was going to agree to."

And there may be another hitch in the state legislation: Late last month, the state Department of Health Services, which was charged with implementing SB 420, said it did not have the money to issue the identification cards.

State Sen. John Vasconcellos, who authored the bill, said Tuesday that he is talking with state officials to come up with a solution. "My impression is that they are not unsympathetic," he said. "I'm cautiously optimistic."




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