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Jan. 22, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

Church refuses to name names
New suit against Humboldt priest

Just say no
Educators and cops tell supes to
reject Gallegos' pot guidelines

Terry Farmer was "soft on crime," too



SINGING FOR PAUL: SThe latest salvo in the battle against the recall of District Attorney Paul Gallegos is a CD with two "hit singles" by a group of local musicians calling themselves "Tammy Faye and the Fictitious Mountain Boys." The lyrics to the bluegrass-style songs, which have been getting airplay on area radio stations, were written by Arcata watercolor artist Alan Sanborn. Rewritten, actually, as the songs themselves are old stand-bys: The famous ballad, "The Wreck of the Old 97," became "He Won't Be Recalled"; and Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd" is "Paul the DA." "He rewrote the lyrics the way Weird Al Yankovic might do it," said Tim Gray, an engineer at the recording session. This is not the first effort by musicians on behalf of the pro-Gallegos campaign. "Democracy Rocks!," a benefit concert in southern Humboldt last August, was followed by a double-disc set by the same name and an associated concert in Bayside last November. Still to come, a Friends of Paul Gallegos rock concert at the Mateel Community Center Feb. 6 with young SoHum rockers N.P.K and Eureka-based Spudgun.

SEARCH FOR KAREN CONTINUES: Eureka police said they tentatively plan to hold a news conference this Thursday to update the public on the search for Karen Mitchell, the Eureka teen who disappeared near Bayshore Mall in 1997 just days short of her 17th birthday. Over the weekend, investigators combed the foot of Hilfiker Lane and a home in Eureka looking for Mitchell's body. Pursuing what they have said is a new lead, which they have not described, police organized a search team that included the Sheriff's Department and their volunteer rescue team, as well as cadaver-sniffing dogs from the California Rescue Dog Association. The dogs honed in on two areas at the end of Hilfiker, one of which they were not able to search fully because of a rising tide. Police hoped to get back there with a backhoe Wednesday, said spokeswoman Suzie Owsley.

HIGH DEMAND FOR BANK STOCK: Redwood Capital Bank closed its initial public offering of stock on Friday, having received subscriptions for 1.2 million shares of stock -- 200,000 more than the number of shares offered, at $10 per share. The bank was subsequently allowed to accept a total of 1.1 million shares, for a total capitalization of $11 million. Most of the money came from the Humboldt County area, said Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Fred Moore. "The vast majority of the subscriptions received were from investors in the local community, which makes us feel really, really good." The bank is scheduled to open in March at the site of the old Daly's Department Store.

ONWARD AND UPWARD: Mainstay Business Solutions is growing. The statewide staffing company, owned by the Blue Lake Rancheria, has been making headlines (including in the Journal -- see "Turf Battle," Dec. 18) for its novel and legally ambiguous solution to the workers' comp crisis. Representatives from the company and the rancheria say that they do not have to insure their employees under workers' comp because the business is owned by a sovereign tribal government; state regulatory agencies disagree, and the two sides will soon be battling it out in court. Last week the Sacramento Business Journal reported that Onvoi Business Solutions -- a Sacramento firm that had close ties to Mainstay -- shifted its workforce over to the tribal concern on Jan. 1.

DO SOMETHING: Last week the county's Workforce Investment Board fired off letters to state legislators decrying the state's workers' compensation crisis and demanding relief. The letters follow the publication of a survey of local businesses and government agencies, undertaken by the Economic Development Department, which showed that spiraling rates are having serious repercussions on Humboldt County's business climate. Randall Hansen, the board's chair, wrote that several of the "industry clusters" identified as key growth areas for the county -- manufacturing, information technology, education and research, and value-added forest products -- were particularly imperiled by the crisis. "These industries have a competitive advantage to locate in our rural county; they supply innovative products to world markets and the wages they pay are above average," Hansen wrote. "The crisis in workers' compensation is destroying all of these jobs."

HOME INVASION IN ARCATA: Police responded Jan. 13 to a report of shots fired at a residence in the 700 block of Park Avenue in Arcata. Two men who lived at the house said they had been robbed at gunpoint by several men, and that six 3-week-old pit bull puppies, unlikely to survive without their mother, were also taken. Police are not naming the victims, but said that -- surprise! -- they discovered a sophisticated marijuana operation in one section of the house. They also discovered that an adult dog had been shot; it is now recovering. Anyone with information is urged to call Arcata Police at 822-2428.

BUSTED: Indoor marijuana growers put out product all year `round, and last week the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office proved that they can be busted just as often. Two large-scale operations in Southern Humboldt's Island Mountain area were broken up last week. On Thursday, deputies bearing a search warrant found 27 pounds of processed buds and 429 plants in a building off Island Mountain's `A' Road. The next day, armed with a different warrant, they found 927 plants in a "sophisticated" indoor grow. The diesel generator powering the operations was seized, and an investigation aimed at identifying the growers is underway.

MAN STABBED: Eureka police are still looking for a suspect who stabbed a Eureka man in the 1400 block of Fifth Street early Saturday morning. The victim, whose name was not released by police, was found around 7:45 a.m. in a nearby parking lot at Sixth and M streets with stab wounds in the upper back. He was taken to St. Joseph Hospital after a passerby alerted police. The suspect is described as a white male, about 25, with black hair, wearing white sweatpants and a black "beanie" style knit cap. Anyone with information is urged to call Eureka police at 441-4060.

EX-REPORTER HEADED TO PRISON: Jacob Lehman, a former reporter for the Arcata Eye and the Times-Standard, is scheduled to start serving a six-month term in federal prison on Feb. 2, after pleading guilty to possessing an unregistered firearm, the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco said Tuesday. Lehman, 25, admitted to creating a Molotov cocktail to use in a San Francisco anti-war demonstration last March, but said he later changed his mind. He was sentenced to six months in prison, three years supervised release, $100 in a special assessment, and 200 hours of community service. Lehman's parents are Peter and Carolyn Lehman of Arcata.

FIGHTING BACK: In anticipation of upcoming budget cuts, supporters of Humboldt State's track and field program have started a fund-raising drive in cooperation with the Humboldt Area Foundation. Scott Pesch, an HSU alumnus and owner of the Jogg'n Shoppe, said the goal is to raise $50,000 in 2004, with an eye toward saving what's left of the program after last summer's cutbacks. "We want to preserve the track and field program as it is," Pesch said. "If we survive that, we want to reinstate what we lost." Anyone interested in making a donation should call 444-3269.

AND WHAT OF STOUT? Paul and Adam Curtright, the brothers who pleaded guilty in the puppy-slaughter case last week, will be sentenced on Monday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. At the same time, Judge Christopher Wilson will decide the fate of Stout, the puppies' mother. Paul Curtright wants Stout back, while some concerned members of the community want to see her go to someone else. "The owner of the dog pleaded guilty to animal neglect," said Eva Janson, who has adopted the one puppy that survived the killings. "I don't see why we should jeopardize the animal by putting it back in those hands." Janson asks concerned citizens to write Wilson at the Humboldt County Superior Court, 825 Fifth St., Eureka, 95501. Writers must put the number of the case (CR033513S) on the envelope, and should get their letter to Wilson as soon as possible.

PLAYING CATCH-UP -- LAMELY: It's an old trick in the news biz. The competition beats you on a story, so you go into damage control mode. A typical tactic is to downplay the story's significance by burying it in the next day's paper -- say on page 14. Some stories, though, are of such import that that's not an option. The Times-Standard was faced with that unpleasant reality last Wednesday when this newspaper revealed that a Humboldt icon -- the Eureka Inn -- is set to go up on the auction block next month. ("Inn trouble," Jan. 15.) Rather than swallowing their pride and immediately running a front-page story of their own, the T-S's editors waited. Local television didn't hesitate. Nor did the Los Angeles Times, which picked up on the story over the weekend; an outside publication had now scooped the local newspaper of record. On Monday, the sale was formally announced in the paper's classified ad section. Here at last was a way out: The "news" would be the notice. Hence, Tuesday's lead story, the first three paragraphs of which pertain to the announcement. And you thought newspapers gave top priority to informing their readers in a timely manner.

Church refuses to name names
New suit against Humboldt priest


Catholic officials are refusing to name four additional priests involved in sexual misconduct with children in the Santa Rosa Diocese, which stretches from Petaluma to the Oregon border and includes Humboldt County.

The diocese published a report in its November-December newsletter, sent to all church members, which described the molestation scandal as being wider than previously reported.

In response to a national survey by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York, the local diocese tallied its statistics on "misconduct" by priests: Since 1962, out of 410 priests who have worked in the diocese, 16 were "involved in misconduct" -- four more than had previously been reported. The cases involved 59 known victims, and the diocese paid $8.6 million from insurance and its own funds to settle claims brought by victims.

Deirdre Frontczak, spokeswoman for the diocese, said this week that Bishop Daniel Walsh, who authored the newsletter report, was not releasing the names of the four additional priests.

"None of them are serving, they haven't been serving for many years, and the bishop doesn't see what the point would be," Frontczak said. She added that one of the priests had died, one was cleared of charges by a civil investigation and the other two have left the priesthood.

Frontczak said she did not know whether any of the four had worked in Humboldt County.

There are also an additional 12 pending cases from the past not included in the diocese's count but added because of a state law, authored by Sen. John Burton, that gave sex-abuse victims a one-year window to file civil suits in cases that were too old for criminal charges. The one-year period ended Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, a former Humboldt County priest previously convicted in cases involving sex with young boys was named in a new lawsuit by a 37-year-old San Francisco man, filed as a result of the Burton law. Joseph Canada alleged that Father Gary Timmons molested him at a youth retreat, on a camping trip at Camp St. Michael in Leggett, and at a church rectory in Rohnert Park.

Timmons, 63, worked at the Newman Center in Arcata, at St. Bernard's Catholic Parish in Eureka, and at St. Joseph Parish in Fortuna, and faced criminal and civil charges for molesting as many as 18 children. He was convicted on two counts of sexual molestation in 1996, served four years in state prison, and was released in 2000. He is now a registered sex offender; his current location was unavailable at press time.

Among the charges detailed in Canada's suit was an incident at Camp St. Michael, which Timmons had founded in 1963. Canada alleges that he attended the camp with Timmons in 1977, when he was 11. He said Timmons told him to sleep next to him and that the priest fondled him during the night. Canada said he felt "horrified and embarrassed," but thought he would be punished for reporting the molestation. Instead, he kept silent for many years.

Canada's lawsuit was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court in late November by Walnut Creek attorney Michael Meadows, who called Timmons "a classic predatory child molester."

"I don't have one doubt that he founded this camp so that he could have a place to have easy access to these boys while they were away from their families," Meadows said. "He would pick the most vulnerable children."

In a separate lawsuit filed in July, an unnamed 43-year-old Eureka man alleged that when he was between the ages of 9 and 14 he was molested by Timmons .

See also Feb.1996 North Coast Journal cover story:
"The Accusers of Father Timmons"

Just say no
Educators and cops tell supes to reject Gallegos' pot guidelines


Humboldt County educators turned out in force at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, arguing that a proposed medical marijuana ordinance based on the guidelines set by District Attorney Paul Gallegos was not restrictive enough.

Their protestations evidently had an impact, as the board chose not to vote on the ordinance, put forward by Supervisor Roger Rodoni, and instead appointed a task force to study the matter further. As a result, a potentially potent political issue -- the board's judgement on Gallegos' pot guidelines -- is unlikely to be resolved prior to the March 2 recall election.

With the board's chambers filled nearly to capacity, the educators, supported by law enforcement representatives, engaged in a sometimes raucous debate with proponents of the ordinance.

"The thing that disturbs me is the permissive message we are sending to the community," said Kent Bradshaw, a member of the Fortuna Police Department. "I would encourage [the board] not to be swayed by the discussion I'm hearing here."

Rodoni, for his part, emphasized pot's medicinal value. "This is not a hill that most politicians want to die on," he said. "But, as we've heard, it involves people that are, in fact, dying."

Late last year, the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 420, which set a statewide minimum for the amount of marijuana registered patients are allowed to have at any time -- eight ounces and 12 plants. The law allows cities and counties to set more generous limits.

Under the Rodoni proposal, Humboldt County would allow up to 99 plants, a maximum 100 square feet of growing area and 3 pounds of dried marijuana per patient. The limits are identical to guidelines set forth by Gallegos earlier this year.

Educators raised several concerns about the proposed limits, saying they would send "the wrong message" to children and would allow for cultivation and use of marijuana in homes near schools. They also questioned the need for liberal regulations when SB 420 allows doctors to prescribe amounts that exceed local guidelines if specific patients require it.

"I'd recommend standing firm on the state's guidelines," said Kenny Richards, superintendent of the Northern Humboldt Unified High School District.

Medical marijuana advocate Chris Conrad said that while underage drug abuse was a concern, it did not directly pertain to the medicinal use of marijuana.

"I'm sure that they are worried about kids getting into marijuana -- we're not talking about that today," he said. Other advocates said that shifting the onus of increased limits to doctors would mean that those doctors would more likely draw the attention of federal law enforcement.

When the public finished speaking, Rodoni spoke not just of medical marijuana patients, but of other casualties in the drug war. He brought up the case of Sean Akselsen, the Southern Humboldt teenager killed in a drug deal gone bad, and said that most older people he knew favored the complete decriminalization of marijuana.

"They remember prohibition," he said. "They remember prohibition brought us Al Capone."

The proposal to appoint a task force was made by Jon Sapper, assistant superintendent of the Humboldt County Office of Education. The task force, to be led by Rodoni and Supervisor John Woolley, will be composed of representatives of education, law enforcement, doctors and patients.

The board is expected to formally approve appointees to the task force at its next meeting, with the goal of formulating a county medical marijuana policy within the next 90 days.

Terry Farmer was "soft on crime," too


A county troubled by a recent spate of gang violence. Criminal prosecution hobbled by budget cuts. A district attorney under fire for being soft on crime.
Humboldt 2004, right? Wrong. Humboldt 1994.

The DA, of course, was Terry Farmer. The controversy he was enmeshed in -- it was an election year -- had nothing to do with a lawsuit against a timber company; it was about his alleged fondness for plea bargains, notably a deal he cut with one of the teenagers involved in the execution-style slaying of 14-year-old Amber Slaughter.

Local attorney David Prendergast, who would lose his bid to take Farmer's job, said Farmer's plea bargains, particularly for violent crimes and child abuse and molestation cases, made him "sick."

"The No. 1 problem here is a lack of public confidence," Prendergast told the Journal.
Farmer said the plea bargain in the Slaughter case was necessary "to hold those responsible."

As for the larger charge that he was a weak crime fighter, the DA said: "I'm not just a blind advocate for punishment. We convict the guilty. But justice must also be tempered with mercy."

Paul Gallegos couldn't have said it better.



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