Monday, July 24, 2017

AG Revives Program to Seize Assets Without Charges or Convictions

Posted By on Mon, Jul 24, 2017 at 3:27 PM

Marijuana and more than $11,000 in cash found during a traffic stop were seized for asset forfeiture proceedings. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EUREKA POLICE DEPARTMENT.
  • Photo courtesy of Eureka Police Department.
  • Marijuana and more than $11,000 in cash found during a traffic stop were seized for asset forfeiture proceedings.
Advocates of civil asset forfeiture reform had a few choice names for U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions — among them “drug warrior” and “forfeiture fanatic” — when interviewed for a Journal story “The Trump Card” back in March.

There were also predictions that forfeitures would skyrocket under the influence of the former Alabama senator and one-time state attorney general who famously said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”

Just last week, Sessions made the move to breathe new life into the controversial legal tool that allows the federal government to permanently seize money, property and possessions suspected of being obtained through criminal activity, even without a corresponding criminal charge, let alone a conviction.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Online Fortuna Fire Comments Spark Controversy

Posted By on Sat, Jul 22, 2017 at 10:49 AM

Capt. Lon Winburn - FORTUNA FIRE DEPARTMENT WEBSITE
  • Fortuna Fire Department Website
  • Capt. Lon Winburn
A local fire chief and reporter are in a bit of a standoff over comments left on a blog about the fatal fire that took the life of Martha Ann Robertson in the early hours of July 11. Robertson, 76, was a resident of Royal Crest Mobile Estates in Fortuna, CA and apparently perished due to smoke inhalation after firefighters were unable to rescue her from her mobile home, which was allegedly packed with belongings, making entry and exploration difficult. The cause of the fire is still under investigation but it is believed to have been accidental.

The comments on a local news blog, Redheaded Blackbelt, have caused a mini-controversy after Fortuna Fire Chief Lon Winburn asked that site’s owner, editor and reporter, Kym Kemp, to remove his press release regarding the fire. In an email sent July 13 (two days after the fire), Winburn wrote Kemp the following:

“Please remove our media release regarding the fire in Royal Crest from your site, we do not want any association with the comments that are being allowed to be posted.”

The comments Winburn referenced appear to be a collection of readers speculating on why the fire department was unable to save Robertson, questions as to why the crew did not have proper water pressure at the park and accusations of incompetence directed at Winburn. This kind of amateur sleuthing in comment forums is nothing new, of course, but Winburn took it to heart.

“I was not happy that she allows what was posted to be posted,” he told the Journal. “It’s because of the effect it has on my firefighters. My firefighters busted their butts to get into that house. When you have a fatality, it really hurts.”

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Friday, July 21, 2017

UPDATED: Two Killed in Fatal Wreck Near Miranda

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 10:02 AM

chp-patch.gif
2nd UPDATE: The city of Fortuna released a statement yesterday afternoon saying it is “deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic loss" of longtime residents Dennis Wendt and Roger Harwood and stating that the lives of all Fortuna residents “have been forever touched in some way by their generosity and community minded commitment to making our town a better place to live, work and play.”

See the full statement copied below.

UPDATE: The CHP has released the name of the two men killed in last night's wreck. Dennis Wendt, 69, was a prominent local contractor. Roger Harwood, 67, was a Vietnam veteran honored by the city of Fortuna in 2014.

PREVIOUSLY:

The deaths of two passengers early Friday morning has brought the year's vehicular fatality total up to 22 in Humboldt County. The California Highway Patrol reports that at 3:20 a.m. a GMC Yukon driven by Steven Murray of Fortuna left U.S. Highway 101 and struck a light pole and redwood tree. The vehicle overturned, killing two passengers. Murray was transported to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka with moderate injuries.

The wreck is still under investigation. Garberville CHP Special Duty Officer William Wunderlich said he had no information as to whether or not intoxication was a factor.

Humboldt County has one of the highest rates of vehicle fatalities in the nation, with fatal accident rates double the national average and nearly triple those of California. The number of fatalities in 2017 is on pace to rival numbers from the previous decades, the highest of which were 2009 and 2012, which saw 31 total road deaths, a combined number of vehicle and pedestrian fatalities. So far in 2017, 15 people have been killed as the result of collisions and seven pedestrians have died after being struck by vehicles, putting the county on pace to record 40 roadway fatalities by year's end.


From the September 3, 2015 cover story, "Crash." - FILE
  • FILE
  • From the September 3, 2015 cover story, "Crash."



From the Garberville CHP:
On July 21, 2017, at approximately 0320 hours, a 2002 GMC Yukon, driven by Steven Murray of Fortuna, CA, was traveling northbound on US-101 just north of French Road. For reasons still under investigation, Murray allowed the GMC to run off the east road edge and collide with a light pole and redwood tree. The collision with the redwood tree caused the GMC to overturn as it traveled down an embankment adjacent to US-101. The GMC eventually came to rest on its left side within the lanes of Maple Hills Road. Two of the passengers in the GMC sustained fatal injuries and were pronounced deceased at the scene. Murray was transported to St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, CA with moderate injuries and at this time is in stable condition. The names of the two passengers are being withheld pending notification to the next of kin.

Maple Hills Road was closed for scene investigation.

The California Highway Patrol, Humboldt County Sheriff's Department, Phillipsville Volunteer Fire Department, Miranda Volunteer Fire Department, Cal Fire, City Ambulance of Eureka, and Cal Trans all responded to the scene. This collision remains under investigation by the Garberville CHP.
From the city of Fortuna:

CITY OF FORTUNA MOURNS LOSS OF LOCAL LEGENDS

Fortuna, CA – The City of Fortuna is deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic loss of longtime residents Dennis Wendt and Roger Harwood. The lives of every citizen in the City of Fortuna have been forever touched in some way by their generosity and community minded commitment to making our town a better place to live, work and play. City staff joins the community in mourning the loss of these hard working devoted men and the enduring legacy they have made on our City. We send our deepest condolences to their families and friends. We shall miss them both.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Eureka Man, 70, Fatally Struck on Sidewalk

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 3:32 PM

epd.jpg
A 70-year-old Eureka man died yesterday after being struck by a truck that was turning into a shopping center off of Broadway Street as he drove his motorized scooter along the sidewalk.

The pedestrian, John Edward Williams, died after being taken to the hospital. The driver of the Chevrolet Silverado was not identified by the Eureka Police Department. DUI is not considered to be a factor in the collision, which remains under investigation, according to the department’s news release.

Williams’ death marks the 20th traffic-related fatality in Humboldt County in 2017.

Release from the EPD:
On July 18, 2017 at about 10:27 a.m., officers with the Eureka Police Department responded to the 3000 block of Broadway for the report of an injury traffic collision involving a vehicle and pedestrian on a motorized scooter. The pedestrian was transported by ambulance to the hospital, but ultimately succumbed to his injuries. Next of kin has been notified and the victim has been identified as 70 year old Eureka resident, John Edward Williams.
The preliminary investigation indicates that the driver of a Chevrolet Silverado had been traveling north on Broadway. The driver made a turn into a shopping center and collided with Williams who was on the sidewalk on his scooter.
DUI does not appear to be a factor in the collision. This is an ongoing investigation; any witnesses are asked to email Sergeant Gary Whitmer at gwhitmer@ci.eureka.ca.gov.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eureka Appoints Watson Interim Police Chief

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 4:40 PM

Capt. Steve Watson - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Capt. Steve Watson
The city of Eureka announced this afternoon that police Capt. Steve Watson will take over as interim chief upon Andrew Mills' departure on Friday.

Watson, born and raised in Fortuna, returned to Humboldt County in 2005 after serving in the U.S. Army, working as an elementary school teacher and serving as a deputy in Santa Cruz County. After joining EPD, he helped oversee the creation of the department's Problem Oriented Policing division and was often in headlines as the department struggled to address entrenched homeless encampments within his jurisdiction as a captain, the area of Eureka north of Seventh Street.

Reached for comment on the appointment, Watson struck an upbeat and determined note. He said he will focus on moving forward with "what needs to be done, both inside and outside the department." Immediate goals include completing deescalation training for officers and improving retention of the current force, a majority of which is comprised of officers with less than five years in the department. Watson says he has seen a lot of "ups and downs" during his 12 year tenure with EPD, a time which included a string of officer-involved shootings, a departmental insurrection against a controversial former chief and prolonged budget woes.

"The last four years under Mills have been very rapid paced with a lot of changes," said Watson. "He has also been a steady hand as a leader. I am obviously very pleased with his leadership but it's time to keep moving the department forward."

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EPD Retracts Plans for Homeless Meal Voucher System

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 3:17 PM

Capt. Steve Watson. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Capt. Steve Watson.
Eureka Police Department Capt. Steve Watson informed the Journal today that his team had scrapped plans for a controversial behavior-based voucher system that would have seen some homeless people have to exchange community service for meals at the St. Vincent de Paul cafeteria.

The voucher idea, one of many creative solutions proposed by EPD in order to address problems with crime and blight in the area around St. Vincent de Paul on West Third Street, would have been used as an alternative to sending homeless people found loitering, camping, littering or engaging in other low-level offenses through the criminal justice system. Instead, said offenders would be ticketed by officers and have their meal privileges suspended until they had done a certain amount of community service. Their service would be documented, at which point they could exchange this documentation for the reinstatement of meals.

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Scenes from the Folklife Fest

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 11:55 AM

Jenny Scheinman's performance was a highlight of the 39th annual Humboldt Folklife Festival. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Jenny Scheinman's performance was a highlight of the 39th annual Humboldt Folklife Festival.
The week-long Humboldt Folklife Festival in its 39th year drew large crowds to its events this year, according to Patrick Cleary, one of the many Humboldt Folklife Society members who organized the event. Cleary said this year's festival was dedicated to the memory of Susan Anderson, one of the original members of the Humboldt Folklife Society back in 1978 who died this past year.

Personal highlights for me included Thurday's Bluegrass and Beyond show that included Clean Livin', Jenny Scheinman and The Compost Mountain Boys at the Dell'Arte Amphitheatre. Scheinman's virtuoso skills on the fiddle and singing of her creative and sometimes very personal lyrics were outstanding.

Scheinman first played solo on tunes from her latest release Here On Earth (a tribute to fiddle tunes). John Wood then accompanied her on his keyboard for songs that she has written that were very personal, funny, sad and a few based on her memories of growing up in Petrolia behind the "redwood curtain."

The Folklife Festival came to a close on Saturday in Blue Lake with its All Day Free Fest of workshops and18 bands performing on two stages. Check out the full slideshow below.


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Monday, July 17, 2017

Clarke Museum May Make Room for Welcome Center

Posted By on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 2:20 PM

A digital rendition of the Clarke Museum's possible future. - HUMBOLDT MADE
  • Humboldt Made
  • A digital rendition of the Clarke Museum's possible future.
UPDATE: The Eureka City Council approved the proposal.

Previously:

The Eureka City Council is set to vote tomorrow night on whether to authorize City Manager Greg Sparks to negotiate with local nonprofit Humboldt Made to operate a visitor center that will take up the main room of the Clarke Museum, at Third and E streets.

Humboldt Made's proposal — which staff is recommending above several other contenders, including the Ink People Center for the Arts and Humboldt Bay Provisions (formerly the Humboldt Bay Tourism Center) — would see the Clarke's large main room turned into a gift shop, lounge and tasting room. The area where the museum's apothecary exhibit currently is would become a bar, and a historic boat may be suspended from the ceiling of the room, which formerly housed the Bank of Eureka. The building dates back to 1911 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Squireses Take G Street Neighbors Back to Court

Posted By on Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 9:53 AM

The now red-tagged home at 1635 G St. - PHOTO BY THADEUS GREENSON
  • Photo by Thadeus Greenson
  • The now red-tagged home at 1635 G St.
A few weeks after residents along a stretch of G Street in Eureka received letters in June announcing they had won their small claims case against the city’s most notorious landlords, another arrived in the mail.

The case was going back to court.

The landlords, Floyd and Betty Squires, had appealed Judge Timothy Cissna’s ruling that found the couple failed to properly manage two buildings on the street and awarded neighbors varying amounts in damages.

In his decision, Cissna said there was “substantial, credible evidence” to show the residences at 1625 and 1635 G St. qualified as “nuisances.”

But, under the small claims appeal process, all the Squireses needed to do was pay a fee and fill out a form to be granted what is called a "trial de novo" before a different judge in a bid to throw out the thousands of dollars in damages Cissna had distributed among the 20 neighbors.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Rodeo Bucks Along

Posted By on Sat, Jul 15, 2017 at 2:55 PM

Danny Fales, of Eureka. - THOMAS HARDY
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Danny Fales, of Eureka.
The Fortuna Rodeo is hitting full stride, with busy days planned today and tomorrow, when the adults will take center stage. But Thursday was all about the juniors, and local photographer Thomas Hardy was there to catch the little ones in action.

For a full schedule or rodeo festivities, including the famous rodeo BBQ hitting plates tomorrow, click here.


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