For at least the last 10 months, controversial
political figure Richard Salzman has authored numerous letters
to local newspapers under fake names, the Journal has
learned. The letters, which were signed "R. Trent Williams"
and "Dick Wyatt," were published in the Journal
and the Eureka Reporter, the only two local newspapers
with extensive online archives. It is believed that they also
appeared in other publications.
Nearly every hot political topic to hit
Humboldt County in the past year is addressed in the letters
-- from the aftermath of the failed recall attempt on District
Attorney Paul Gallegos (during which Salzman was the DA's campaign
chairman) to the battle over the new county general plan, Eureka
City Councilman Chris Kerrigan's reelection, the threatened boycott
of Arcata and the backlash against Salzman himself.
Acting on a complaint from Fortuna resident
Rhonda Meehan (see sidebar), the Journal
contacted Salzman Friday afternoon to ask if he had, in fact,
written letters to the editor using phony names. He said that
he had not.
"The only letters I write are the
ones you see from me," he said. He added that he had never
heard of "R. Trent Williams," but that Fortuna resident
Dick Wyatt was a political colleague.
In a follow-up telephone conversation that
evening, Salzman at first sought to dismiss Meehan's claims,
saying that Meehan was "clearly a hard-core Dikeman supporter."
(Deputy District Attorney Worth Dikeman has announced that he
will challenge Gallegos for the post of district attorney next
However, on Monday, after being presented
with hard evidence collected by the Journal that supported
Meehan's allegations, Salzman recanted and issued a partial confession.
In a statement delivered to the Journal
Monday afternoon, Salzman confessed that he had submitted letters
to the editor under a "pen name."
"The use of pen names has been a common
practice throughout history," Salzman wrote. "It is
important to know I stand behind the substance of everything
contained in all the letters I submitted."
Salzman's change of story came after he
met with the Journal in our offices Monday morning to
review the information supporting Meehan's case that this newspaper
collected Friday afternoon and over the weekend.
After reading Meehan's complaint, the Journal
looked closely at identifying information in e-mails from Salzman
stored on our computers, then at similar information in the single
e-mail from "R. Trent Williams" that we retained. We
also looked at the e-mail purportedly sent by "Dick Wyatt"
that Meehan referenced, which we received but did not publish.
A careful read of the e-mail "headers"
-- addressing information at the top of the message that most
e-mail programs hide -- showed that both the "Williams"
and the "Wyatt" e-mails contained the IP address of
the computer that sent them (see sidebar).
These addresses matched addresses used by Salzman in the same
The "Williams" e-mail (sent May
23, 2005) and the "Wyatt" e-mail (July 9, 2005) both
originated from a computer using the IP address 126.96.36.199.
All the e-mails that we had received from Salzman between March
3, 2005, and July 5, 2005, were from a computer using the same
address. (The first e-mail we received from Salzman after the
"Wyatt" e-mail was dated early August, by which time
his IP lease of that address had apparently expired.)
Over the weekend, the Arcata Eye
provided this newspaper with copies of e-mails it had received
from "Williams" -- one dated Dec. 16, 2004, and one
dated Aug. 4, 2005. The Journal compared the IP address
information contained in the Eye e-mails to the same information
in e-mails known to be sent by Salzman at those times. In both
cases, the IP addresses matched. In mid-December, both Salzman
and "Williams" were using IP address 188.8.131.52;
in early August, both were using 184.108.40.206. The combination
of these three dates, during which Salzman and "Williams"
were using the same IP address, was conclusive.
In addition, the Journal discovered
that Salzman didn't employ much creativity in devising what appears
to be his principal pseudonym.
Though the Williams letters were signed
"R. Trent Williams," e-mails sent from "Williams'"
e-mail address appeared in inboxes as coming from "Rick
William." Salzman's full name is Richard William Salzman.
Reached Tuesday morning, Salzman declined
to comment on the matter any further. He said that he would not
provide a list of false names he has used.
In recent months, the Journal has
received two letters from a person claiming to be a Eureka resident
named "R. Johnson," one of which was published in July
(the other, sent a month earlier, was published in the McKinleyville
Press). Upon further examination, the letters have proven to
Even though the "R. Johnson"
letters were sent to the Journal electronically, they
cannot be definitively tied to Salzman or any other person as
they contain no IP address information. However, they both take
stances similar to ones Salzman has taken in the past: One thanks
former Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen for his service
to the county, the other excoriates the Humboldt Taxpayer's League
and auto dealer Harvey Harper.
The "R. Johnson" letters give
the address of a Eureka home that turns out to belong to 93-year-old
Ruth Johnson. On Monday afternoon, the Journal reached
Ruth Johnson's caregiver, who said that there was no way that
she could have written the letters.
"She can't even sign her own name,"
the caregiver replied.
Meehan, who is the sister of Fortuna City
Councilmember Debi August -- a vocal Gallegos opponent and former
target of a lawsuit prosecuted by the DA's office -- said Tuesday
that she sent her fax to local newspapers after the real Dick
Wyatt, a Fortuna resident, apologized to August for the content
of the Salzman letter that appeared under his name.
According to Meehan, Wyatt said that Salzman
had asked to write a letter to the editor using his name. He
later regretted that it had made reference to August's "mendacious
behavior," Meehan said. (Wyatt could not be reached for
this story. August declined to comment.)
Meehan said that she just took a guess
about the "R. Trent Williams" letters.
"That one -- I don't know," she
said. "Both letters just sounded so much alike that I threw
that one in there." l
-- Staff writer Helen Sanderson contributed
to this report.
-- -- --
The story of 'Jan
Recent editions of the Humboldt Advocate,
a small weekly newspaper published in Arcata, have dropped dark
hints about a vast conspiracy among other newspapers. Many supposedly
"independent" local newspapers, it is suggested, are
in fact owned by a single, shadowy "neo-conservative"
businessman who wishes to bend the public will to his ends.
The hints come both from the pen of Advocate
editor/publisher Shawn Warford and from one "Luke Morris,"
an alleged resident of Eureka whose letter praising Warford's
previous editorials on the subject appeared in the Aug. 10 issue.
There is no Luke Morris listed in the local
phone book, nor is there any such person registered to vote in
Humboldt County. When challenged on this point, Warford -- who
used to work for the Arcata Eye and the North Coast
Journal -- wrote that Morris' letter was delivered by hand
to the Advocate offices, slipped under the door with no
name or address given. Warford said that he decided to print
the letter anyway, contrary to his own stated policy.
A mystery. But for Kevin Hoover, editor/publisher
of the Eye, there was something familiar about both the
"Luke Morris" letter and Warford's own frequent invocations
of media corruption and conspiracy. It was all contained in a
series of anonymous e-mails he and other members of the Eye
staff began receiving last year -- e-mails that, over the course
of a few months, turned from bizarrely amusing to deeply abusive
Last fall, Hoover received a series of
e-mails from someone who identified herself as "Jan Johnson,"
an Arcata woman. The first few letters "Johnson" sent
to Hoover asked him to investigate Johnson's contention that
the North Coast Journal is secretly owned by Rob Arkley,
a Eureka financier and well-known donor to high-profile Republican
causes. (Editor's note: It is not.)
After several such e-mails, and another
suggesting a freelance writer that the Eye might consider
hiring, Hoover asked "Jan Johnson" to provide a phone
number in future letters. She declined.
The e-mails did not cease, but they started
to develop a threatening edge. Eye staff members started
receiving letters from "Jan Johnson" through their
personal e-mail addresses. One such letter was sent to the Eye's
advertising manager, Terrence McNally.
"You can run, but you can't hide,"
the letter said. "We have our sources at The Alibi. You're
on our list for crimes against humanity. We intend to bring you
to justice. December 9 will be just the beginning."
In the spring, the Eureka Reporter
(which is owned by Rob Arkley) printed a letter from Jan Johnson
that praised the Reporter and complained about the "awful
Arcata Eye." (Upon learning that the letter was fake,
Reporter editor Glenn Franco Simmons apologized for printing
The letters abated for a time, but on March
12, Hoover received another "Jan Johnson" letter that
caused him to take action.
It began fairly innocently, but it swiftly
degenerated into loathing and veiled threats. The letter stated
that the Eye, the North Coast Journal and the McKinleyville
Press were all financed by Robin Arkley, Sr. (Rob Arkley's
It then referenced an incident from a few
years back, when Hoover was suddenly (and apparently randomly)
attacked and beaten by a group of men on New Year's Eve.
"Wouldn't it be interesting if those
guys ran into you again?" the letter asked. "They know
where you work and live and the car that you drive... Am I getting
warmer? Yes, we are on to you."
Hoover notified the police, then got a
computer-savvy friend to compare the IP address information in
the "Jan Johnson" e-mails with other e-mails stored
on his computer. The friend found a hit: At least some of the
Johnson e-mails were sent from an IP address recently used by
the Arcata Chamber of Commerce.
The e-mails that appeared to come from
the Chamber's offices were sent on a Saturday. At the time, there
was only one employee working at the office on a Saturday: Shawn
Warford, who was a part-timer for the Chamber, in addition to
running the Advocate.
Arcata Chamber of Commerce President Ray
Geary said that while he could not discuss personnel matters
in detail, he did say that Warford was told that "his services
were no longer required" shortly after he spoke with Hoover
and his staff spoke with the Arcata Police Department.
Geary offered advice to any local business
that might find itself in similar circumstances.
"If situations like these are occurring,
there needs to be in-depth follow-up and follow-through with
those offended, in cooperation with appropriate authorities,"
Capt. Tom Chapman of the Arcata Police
Department confirmed Tuesday that there had been an investigation
of the matter. Though he said that "we're fairly certain
we know who it is," the department could not gather enough
definitive proof to bring a case against the suspect. (Chapman
declined to identify the suspect by name.)
Hoover said Sunday that after Warford left
the Chamber's employment, the Jan Johnson e-mails stopped. He
said Sunday that he didn't wish to write about the matter for
fear that it would rekindle the e-mailer's abuse.
"I was just glad the harassment of
my staff and me was over with," he said.
Warford did not return phone and e-mail
messages seeking comment for this story.
Letters from "R.
Trent Williams" printed by the Journal
The story of 'Jan Johnson'
Glossary of Terms
Rhonda Meehan's letter
Will the real R. Trent Williams, Dick Wyatt
and all the other Debi August and Palco bashers please stand
Oh, just as I thought! Could that be you,
The DA's chief financial guru must be getting
really desperate. I have factual information that Richard Salzman,
Paul Gallegos' fundraiser, better known as "Friends of Gallegos"
has been writing letters to the editor (signing someone else's
name) in support of Paul Gallegos and Tim Stoen and bashing Debi
August and Pacific Lumber.
It's pretty sad when someone like Richard
Salzman doesn't have the guts to sign his own name to his own
letters, but instead puts innocent people in the position of
being sued for libel. If you have to write a letter to the editor
and then sign someone else's name to it (with permission or not)
in order to try to convince the public that there are people
out there that believe the DA's office was right in doing what
it did, you have a serious problem.
Each of the above letter-writers needs
to be contacted and asked if they in fact wrote those letters.
And why didn't the Times-Standard and other newspapers verify
the authors of those letters?
Rhonda Meehan, Fortuna
"R. Trent Williams"
printed by the Journal
Hiding behind lawyers
Nov. 4, 2004
So it looks like Mr. Salzman was right
all along. I don't expect the North Coast Journal will
be running any apologies for its editorial that criticized him
for the (private) e-mails he sent out which warned against exactly
the type of tactics that were ultimately employed by Rex Bohn's
supporters. Of course, since they hide behind a Sacramento lawyer,
we will never know each of the names of the people who funded
the last minute attack ads against Councilman Chris Kerrigan,
but it is rumored that at least one of the funders owns a local
paper and wants to bring big box stores to Eureka. It is more
than a little bit absurd for this secret group to be blaming
Chris for the county's economic ills. First of all, Chris was
in the minority on votes like the retail ordinance, so the policy
he supported didn't prevail. Furthermore, if it had prevailed
it would have only served to protect small businesses that the
attack ads claim to be concerned about losing. The final irony
is that their ad featured Moon's Play and Learn, which did not
go out of business but rather expanded to a larger location in
the revitalized downtown that Chris has worked so hard to support.
R. Trent Williams, Eureka
Feb. 24, 2005
Mike Harvey is the spokesman for HELP,
which is funded by Rob Arkley. Arkley threatened a campaign to
smear Salzman's name in the press and his lapdog, Mike Harvey,
has started to do so. So Salzman is responsible for the destruction
of the fishing industry? Wow.
R. Trent Williams, Eureka
On Gallegos' critics
March 24, 2005
Rose Welsh, who produced Jill Geist's ad
campaign and is infamous for her conspiracy theories and for
co-hosting a radio show with fellow nut-case Stephen Lewis, is
now preaching about how the DA should be working harder ("Mailbox,"
March 17). Pay no mind to the fact that Paul has won every case
he has tried since taking office. That would be seven more cases
that [former DA] Terry [Farmer] tried in the last 10 years combined.
Let's not forget that during the recall,
Rose was one of the people running around to the media waving
e-mails stolen from the DA's office during the whole Flanigan
scandal. EPD investigations were inconclusive and no charges
were ever brought, but it still leaves a bad odor on the woman.
At the end of the day, as with the article in general ("One
year later," March 3), what we learn is that Paul's critics
are still critical of him. Sixty-one percent of the voters chose
to keep him in office.
His critics should give it a rest.
R. Trent Williams, Eureka
June 2, 2005
I keep hearing how Arcata's political positions
hurt local businesses and that city's economy. That's interesting
spin, as the commercial vacancy rate is at a 20-year low, new
commercial buildings on previously empty lots have been immediately
rented and property values in Arcata are about $100,000 greater
than in Humboldt County in general. On top of all that, sales
taxes collected are up 12.4 percent over last year, which is
50 percent higher than the increase in Eureka. The facts simply
don't prove the critics out.
Arcata's long history of progressive values
and liberal politics seems, in fact, to be good for business.
For every right-wing Fortuna resident who writes a letter saying
they now won't be shopping in Arcata (as if they ever did) there
are 10 people outside the Arcata city limits who enjoy going
into that town to do their shopping.
Local businesses in Arcata would be well
advised to stick to business and leave politics to the elected
officials. If they think that they are going to be punished by
a misguided few for the actions of their city government, for
which they are not responsible, wait until they feel the economic
effects of taking the political position of opposing the will
of the voters and their elected representatives. I'm sure they
will find that most Arcata shoppers like Arcata's politics and
don't appreciate the strong-arm tactics the Arcata Chamber of
Commerce is currently demonstrating.
R. Trent Williams, Eureka
Glossary of terms
Internet Protocol address:
A unique number assigned to each computer
connected to the Internet at any time. IP addresses are used
to route information -- e-mails, web pages, streaming audio,
etc. -- from one machine to another. They are written as a group
of four numbers, ranging from zero to 255, with a period or dash
between each (for example: "220.127.116.11").
There are over 4.2 billion possible IP
A system whereby Internet service providers
(ISPs) assign a temporary IP address to a computer at the moment
it logs on to the Internet.
In the early days of computing, each machine
on the Internet had a permanent (or "static") IP address.
As the network expanded, it became clear that the number of free
addresses would eventually run out.
ISPs began adopting a provisional solution
to this problem -- dynamic addressing -- in the early 1990s.
Under dynamic addressing, users are provided with an IP address
to use for a set period of time. When a user logs off, the IP
address he was using may be passed on to another of the ISP's
customers. Almost all home Internet accounts use dynamic addressing.
A new system, known as "IPv6,"
is slowly coming into play. Once IPv6 is fully adopted, the number
of possible IP addresses will increase exponentially, eliminating
the need for dynamic addressing.
Though dynamic addressing allows IP addresses
to pass from user to user, a computer may keep the same address
for a set period of time (ranging from days to weeks to months,
depending on the ISP) no matter how often the user logs on to
and off of the network. This period of time is known as a "lease."