Friday, June 30, 2017

Press Conference Sheds Little Light on Lawson Case

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 5:28 PM

APD chief Tom Chapman addresses reporters on HSU quad. - LINDA STANSBERRY
  • Linda Stansberry
  • APD chief Tom Chapman addresses reporters on HSU quad.
Two months and two weeks after the April 15 death of David Josiah Lawson, a 20-year-old Humboldt State University student who was fatally stabbed at an off-campus party, little in the way of new information has been made public. Today a group of Lawson's family members and friends holding Justice for Josiah posters joined Arcata city officials on the HSU quad beside Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman as he updated media on the case.

The press conference, announced by Lawson's friend and fellow member of HSU cultural group Brothers United Elijah Chandler, was organized, according to the press release as "an opportunity for media to ask questions regarding progress of the investigation and Arcata Police Departments lack of transparency."

But Chapman was unable to to satisfy the questions of many present, saying, "its difficult to answer questions about an ongoing investigation."

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Sales of Estate Items to County Employees Under Investigation

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 5:11 PM

  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
  • Sheriff William Honsal
Humboldt County Sheriff William Honsal announced today that the sheriff's office has launched an investigation into possible improprieties involving the sale of estate assets managed by the public administrator’s office to county employees.

In a report by the Lost Coast Outpost’s Ryan Burns, Honsal says the situation came to his attention when the Outpost began making inquiries and filed a public records request after receiving a tip regarding the office’s handling of a particular estate. Read Burns’ story and his interview with Honsal here.

Falling under the auspices of the coroner’s office, which came under the sheriff’s oversight in February of 2015, the public administrator’s office takes over if a person dies without a will or anyone coming forward to oversee the settlement of the estate.

Honsal says no one has been placed on leave in connection with the investigation, which will be turned over to the district attorney’s office to determine if there was any “criminal intent.” He has hired an outside investigator to assist with the probe.

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UPDATE: McKinleyville Wreck Brings Vehicle Fatality Toll Up to 17

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 12:53 PM


The CHP announced that the vehicle found in the Trinity River did not have a body in it as previously believed.

From the CHP:

On 06/29/2017, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) Humboldt Area continued our investigation into a traffic collision which resulted in a vehicle submerged within the Trinity River off of Highway 96. At first it was believed that the vehicle was occupied and that there was a possible fatality as a result. With the assistance of Trinity County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Divers and Yurok Tribal Search and Rescue boat we were able to confirm that there was not a body within the vehicle. A search of the surrounding area was conducted and no one was found. Thank you to Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, Hoopa Tribal, and Yurok Tribal PD for your assistance.

The California Highway Patrol sent out two press releases this morning regarding a road death in Hoopa and another in McKinleyville.

The exact date of the Hoopa incident is unknown, as the CHP only received notice on Monday that a 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe was lodged in the Trinity River just north of Hoopa off of State Route 96 with an as-yet-unrecovered body trapped within. The vehicle apparently left the roadway sometime between Saturday June 23 and Monday, June 26, colliding with the hillside and falling into the water. The CHP will update once the recovery effort is completed.

Another death, of a Eureka man apparently driving his Toyota 4 Runner southbound on the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 101 at around 10:25 p.m. last night, is still under investigation for possible relation to drug or alcohol use. The driver, whose name has not yet been released, collided head-on with a pickup and trailer just south of Murray Road in McKinleyville.

Humboldt County has one of the nation's highest vehicle fatality rates. See the press releases below.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Judge Gives Attorney 30 Days to Refile Public Defender Lawsuit

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 4:02 PM

  • David Marcus
A judge today dismissed a lawsuit alleging the county’s public defender did not meet minimum qualifications required for the post, but gave local attorney Patrik Griego 30 days to refile, saying he should have more information about his contention after questioning David Marcus under oath during an upcoming deposition.

The lawsuit seeking to block Marcus’ controversial appointment centers on the California government code section that states public defender candidates must have "been a practicing attorney in all the courts of the state for at least the year preceding the date of his election or appointment."

While visiting Judge Marjorie Carter noted her “inclination” was to overrule the county’s move to dismiss the case and “get on with this,” she said there needs to be further clarification on the extent of Marcus’ legal work history before the lawsuit could proceed.

“You will probably know more after your deposition,” Carter said told Griego after hearing brief statements from attorneys in the case.

Griego argued that the state code requires more than just practicing law in the previous year, but also making appearances — either in person or via legal filings — in both the criminal and civil courts.

Marcus, he contends, did not meet that threshold, with questions being raised about whether the public defender practiced law at all during the year before his appointment while he was living in Florida working as an insurance adjuster.

Griego said the criteria was included by lawmakers to ensure the indigent defendants being served by the public defender’s office were afforded qualified counsel.

County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck asserted that the state simply requires a public defender to have been a practicing attorney — which could include giving legal advice or preparing documents — before taking office, adding there was no case law he found with a requirement to have “stepped foot in a courtroom.”

“It’s our position he was a practicing attorney,” Blanck told the judge.

Blanck said the statute boils down to the question: Have you done legal work in the past 12 months?

“If the answer is yes, I don’t think it needs to be quantified as to what is too much and what is too little,” Blanck told the judge.

Carter acknowledged an interpretation of the statute’s meaning would need to be sorted out but said that was not the issue before the court today.

Marcus last practiced criminal law when he served as Lassen County’s public defender from 2005 to 2011. According to the resume Marcus submitted to Humboldt County, he worked for the Walnut Creek law firm Cella, Lange and Cella from 2012 through 2016 as a contract attorney while living in Florida. What specific legal work he did for the firm during that time is unclear.

He has faced a bumpy road since being selected for the public defender’s job, from members of the local defense bar criticizing the county's hiring process to a pair of no-confidence letters from public defender's office employees.

Marcus attended the court hearing, but left quickly after the judge’s decision and was not immediately available for comment.

Blanck stated in an email to the Journal that the county agrees “with the Court’s ruling that the Petitioners had not stated sufficient facts to determine whether or not the practicing law standard was met.”

“We will wait and see what they put in their Second Amended Writ,” he wrote.
Griego said there’s zero evidence to show Marcus had done any legal work for Cella, Lange and Cella and he plans to refile the lawsuit after gathering more information, including Marcus’ testimony at Monday’s deposition.

“We feel pretty confident that this idea that he worked for a friend’s law firm was just made up,” Griego said after the hearing.
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Jury Convicts 1, Acquits Another in Marijuana Deal Shooting

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 3:55 PM

Arcata  police officers at the scene of the May 9, 2015, shooting of Trevor Mark Harrison. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Arcata police officers at the scene of the May 9, 2015, shooting of Trevor Mark Harrison.
Two years after a 38-year-old Arcata resident was shot to death in what officials say was a marijuana deal gone bad, a jury has found one man guilty of second degree murder but acquitted another on all charges.

Billy Joe Giddings was convicted in the death Trevor Mark Harrison, who was shot in his mother’s home on the 2000 block of Eastern Avenue, in Arcata, late on the evening of May 9, 2015. He died later at the hospital.

Giddings and his co-defendant Robert Louis Huntzinger, who had faced the same murder and weapons-related charges, were arrested separately a few days after Harrison’s death.
The two men had been engaged in a marijuana deal with Harrison’s mother when her son was shot.

The verdict was returned on Tuesday after more than two days of deliberations following a seven day trial covered extensively by the Lost Coast Outpost’s Rhonda Parker, whose coverage of the case can be found here.

Giddings now faces a sentence of life in prison.

Prosecutor Roger Rees said in an email to the Journal that Huntzinger still faces charges in three other felony cases and is due back in court July 6 for a preliminary hearing in those matters.
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Country Music Singer Tries to Mainstream Humboldt Cannabis

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Continuing his now decades-long attempt to strum along to the zeitgeist of popular culture, country music singer Toby Keith recently released a song titled "Wacky Tobaccy," and, guess what? Yeah, it mentions Humboldt County.

"You got your Mexican and Jamaican with those buds of blue/
Humboldt County and Hydroponic too/
Okeechobee Purple from down in the South and/
that ol' stuff your uncle smokes 'ill give you cotton mouth," Keith drawls, releasing a mouthful of illustrated smoke.

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Eureka Motorcyclist 16th Vehicle Fatality of 2017

Posted By on Tue, Jun 27, 2017 at 3:30 PM

A motorcyclist who collided with a car yesterday on Broadway is the 16th roadway fatality of 2017. The biker, a 39-year old man whose name has not yet been released, was riding southbound at around 6:20 p.m. yesterday when he collided with a northbound car near the intersection of Broadway and Sunset Road. The reason for the collision is still under investigation. DUI is not suspected to be a factor.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Sheriff's Office IDs Inmate Who Died in Custody

Posted By on Fri, Jun 23, 2017 at 3:11 PM

Humboldt County Sheriff's Office - FILE
  • FILE
  • Humboldt County Sheriff's Office
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Office has identified the woman who died in custody at around 3 a.m. this morning as Colleen Marie Branch, 36, of Eureka. Branch was in the jail's medical unit to detox off an undisclosed substance, according to Lt. Mike Fridley. She was discovered by a staff member at around 2:45 a.m. and appeared to not be breathing. She was transported to the hospital and declared dead at 3:20 a.m. Booking records indicate that Branch was booked into the jail Wednesday evening for parole violations. The Humboldt County Critical Incident Response Team is currently conducting an investigation.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Alleged Energy Scam Has Eureka Residents Up in Arms

Posted By on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 at 3:57 PM

  • Thinkstock
A video of a Humboldt Hill resident chasing two alleged scammers down the street while exchanging insults has generated more than 15,000 views on Facebook. The video, posted Tuesday evening by Bill Yeater and shared on several crime-oriented Facebook groups, shows a young man and woman walking rapidly away from Yeater, who is holding two pitbulls on leashes. Yeater says in his post that the people came to his door to do a "PG&E survey."

"I know what you guys are doing, you're trying to harvest our information," says Yeater.

"IGS Energy buddy, it's a real company," replies the woman.

"You're an ugly, nerdy dude with no pussy in your life," says the man, who pulls the young woman away from taking a photograph of Yeater.

Yeater tells the duo that he has "protection" along with his pitbulls.

"You'd better get out of this neighborhood," he adds, saying that the sheriff is on the way.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Huff Among Democrats Suing The Donald

Posted By on Tue, Jun 20, 2017 at 4:19 PM

Huffman - FILE
  • File
  • Huffman
Remember last week when 200 Congressional Democrats filed a federal lawsuit alleging that President Donald Trump has been profiting from business dealings with foreign governments in violation of the Constitution? Well, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman was one of them.

In a Facebook post, Huffman explained that the lawsuit stems in part from Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and “flouting basic standards of ethics and transparency.

“This lawsuit, in which I’m one of the plaintiffs, has a good chance of forcing disclosures that will reveal the extent of his financial obligations and conflicts of interest,” Huffman wrote. “It’s unfortunate that President Trump broke his promise to disclose his tax returns voluntarily, and also broke his promise to create a blind trust to prevent conflicts. Those broken promises, and the GOP Congress’ refusal to step up and do meaningful oversight, are why this lawsuit is necessary.”

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