1.11.2015

Fleming to make Humboldt DA history on Monday

Paul Gallegos prepares to leave office after 12 years as Humboldt County district attorney. - Juniper Rose, Eureka Times-Standard 01/03/15, 10:09 PM PST

Maggie Fleming handily won the June 2014 primary election for Humboldt County district attorney, and will be sworn in Monday, becoming the first woman in county history to hold the job. TIMES-STANDARD FILE PHOTO
Twelve years ago, District Attorney Paul Gallegos said he took on a responsibility that would put serving Humboldt County before everything else — including his children and his father’s funeral — but come this week, he won’t be on call anymore.

“It was a time to give back, and it seemed like the right way to do it,” Gallegos said. “I’ve done it.”

Taking over the position, District Attorney-elect Maggie Fleming will be sworn in Monday at noon.

The 55-year-old former deputy district attorney, who most recently served as deputy county counsel, said she is no stranger to strenuous time commitments that can push one’s personal life aside, and she is ready to put her more than 25 years of experience toward becoming a leader that both the attorneys in her new office and the people of Humboldt County can depend on.

“I think I have always understood how important the district attorney position is,” Fleming said. “So much of the decision-making process, and the confidence the public has in the decisions made, comes down to someone running the office who is knowledgeable, has integrity and who understands both the laws and the facts.”

REFLECTING ON AN ERA

Gallegos, 52, announced last November that he was not going to run for a fourth term. The decision was multifaceted, Gallegos said.

“I saw that the job as a district attorney is to make tough decisions all the time,” Gallegos said. “To make tough decisions on behalf of the community, and to protect the individual from the community and to protect the community from the individual.”

Over the years, Gallegos launched a controversial and ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Company, survived the resulting recall attempt, was re-elected twice, saw many of his experienced prosecutors leave, and was criticized for his office’s charging decisions in several cases, but along the way he persistently maintained that his No. 1 priority was equal access to government for all of the citizens of Humboldt County.

Gallegos said he prefers not to dwell on the past 12 years, and that it is time for him to move on.

This realization was spurred by his oldest son — who wasn’t even in elementary school when Gallegos took office — leaving for college.

“Because the community had entrusted me with this position, I felt that my priority needed to be the community,” he said. “Twelve years later, my kid is getting ready to go to college and I was confronted with all the things I wanted to do with him that I hadn’t done. I am not going to let that happen with my other kids, I won’t get to undo those things, but I’m going to be there for my kids.”

Gallegos also has a daughter in high school and a son who is 12.

He plans to return to working with his wife at the private law firm they started together and take the time to surf, hike and climb mountains with his kids. He said his wife tells him almost every day how happy she is about his decision.

LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE

According to Maggie Fleming, she hadn’t planned on seeking the office of district attorney. But then, about 18 months ago, she said people began asking her to consider it.

In June, defeating three other candidates, Fleming became the first woman in Humboldt County ever elected to the job.

Fleming said that while diving into politics was a hard step, she saw campaigning for the position as the right thing for her and the community.

“I really care about the district attorney’s office,” she said. “I went to law school to become a prosecutor, and that is really what I have done since then. Going back to the office as a district attorney really felt as though it was what I really wanted to do.”

Fleming, who said she was drawn to Humboldt County by the redwoods, ocean and mountains, moved to the region with her husband after working in several law offices during law school and spending seven years as a deputy district attorney in Contra Costa County. Then, after 17 years as a deputy district attorney in Humboldt County, Fleming moved to a position as deputy county counsel.

“My years of experience and my current position as county counsel really prepared me for the administrative role,” she said.

As district attorney, Fleming said she plans to spend less time in court and more time overseeing the cases being handled by her attorneys than her predecessor.

“I think helping mentor the attorneys is a critical task — currently the office is young career-wise as prosecutors,” she said.

Fleming said she also intends — with the hopes of additional funding from Measure Z, a countywide half-percent general sales tax passed by voters in November — to bring the number of attorneys from 10 back up to around 15, as some positions are currently empty and others are frozen.

There will also be new challenges, Fleming said.

Following the November passage of state Proposition 47, certain drug and property crime sentences have been reduced from felonies to misdemeanors.

“Traditionally, programs, treatment and resources for those with substance abuse issues have all focused on felons, and now we have eliminated the felony status with those crimes,” she said. “We really need to figure out how to address the substance abuse problem in a different way, so I think that is going to be a big transition.”

Fleming also plans to get involved as the county is confronted with how to move forward with the regulation of marijuana, as legalization is considered a likely event in California in 2016.

“It is the environmental degradation as well as water use and land use — it is a huge problem,” she said. “We have to really carefully address those pieces of the puzzle as we move forward toward legalization.”

Fleming said her priority is “to make sure that every case is handled professionally, ethically and that decisions are made on the facts and understanding the law.”

“I hope to be in office as long as I am able to make a difference in the daily operation of the district attorneys office,” she said.

Contact Juniper Rose at 707-441-0506.

1.02.2015

In The News: Case Closed - State prosecutor says he won't take the Salzman matter to court

Case Closed - by HELEN SANDERSON/North Coast Journal December 22, 2005

In a letter to the Trinidad Police Department, an attorney with the California Attorney General's Office wrote last week that while it seems Richard Salzman is guilty of using other people's names to write letters for publication in newspapers, any attempt to prosecute him would likely be unsuccessful.

The letter appears to bring the three-month-old investigation of Salzman to an end, with no charges filed against the political campaigner.

The word came down in a Dec. 12 letter from Deputy Attorney General Keith Lyon to Trinidad Police Chief Ken Thrailkill, who led the initial investigation against Salzman, a Trinidad resident.

Lyon wrote that Salzman "technically violated" and undermined the "spirit" of California Penal Code 538(a), the "False Personation and Cheats" section of the code. The section makes it is a misdemeanor for a person to sign "any letter addressed to a newspaper with the name of a person other than himself ... with intent to lead the newspaper to believe that such letter was written by the person whose name is signed thereto."

"However," Lyons wrote, "I do not believe that there is a reasonable probability of a unanimous conviction by a jury of 12 individuals." He went on to state that attempting to prosecute Salzman "would not be a wise use of resources." Thrailkill said the estimated cost for state lawyers to prosecute the case in Humboldt County would have been $30,000.

It was also Lyon's opinion that Salzman did not commit identity theft -- a felony charge -- because he "had, or arguably had, permission to sign for others [in his letters to editors]."

Lyon also notes that Salzman used the name of his dog, Sarah Salzman to submit one letter.

"This is not a crime because Sarah Salzman is not a person," he wrote.

When the Journal revealed Sept. 1 that Salzman used the name of Dick Wyatt, a Fortuna resident, as well as the names R. Trent Williams and R. Johnson to publish letters, a number of left-leaning local residents defended his actions. But defense later turned to public pillory at a Trinidad Town Hall meeting, where Chief Thrailkill said he was dubbed a "Gestapo" for pursuing the case.

"There's a thought out there, that [public criticism] is all part of the job," Thrailkill said. "It does not mean that when you are personally attacked it doesn't affect you. But as a professional department you have to move on and do what you are hired to do."

The criminal investigation began after Eureka Reporter Managing Editor Glenn Franco Simmons filed an official complaint against Salzman.

Salzman e-mailed area media outlets on Dec. 15, issuing the first press release this paper has received from him since Aug. 28, when he admitted to submitting letters to the editor using a "pen name."

"I'm pleased that the matter has been resolved and I look forward to returning my attention to the vital quality-of-life issues facing Humboldt County.

"As my lawyer explained to me, the refusal of the Attorney General's office to file any charges indicates that the allegation didn't even clear the first hurdle for entry into the criminal justice system."

Salzman's Arcata attorney, Russ Clanton, has handled local high-profile cases, including the 2000 win against the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department for illegally seizing the medical marijuana of Chris Giauque.

A Tuesday morning phone call to Clanton was not returned before deadline. Power was out at his Arcata office following a rainstorm.

Salzman's case was forwarded to the state Attorney General on Nov. 15, after the Humboldt County District Attorney's office declined to investigate, citing DA Paul Gallegos' potential conflict of interest in the matter.

Salzman, the coordinator of the Alliance for Ethical Business, was Gallegos' campaign manager, directing a successful battle against a Pacific Lumber Co.-sponsored attempt to recall the DA in 2004.

"I don't see Richard working on my [2006] campaign at this point," Gallegos said on Monday. "Richard is a great friend, he has been a great friend to me. I have great strong feelings for him but I don't think it would be appropriate."

Both Councilmember Chris Kerrigan and Fifth District Supervisor Jill Geist have since distanced themselves from the man who worked to get them into office. For the most part, Gallegos seems to be following suit, though he still considers Salzman a friend. Still, they have not spoken in recent months, save for a passing "hello" and "happy holidays" during a chance encounter in an Arcata restaurant.

"There's a sadness you feel when a bad thing happens to your friend, when you don't get to talk to your friend anymore because of what's going on in their lives," Gallegos said. "That was painful, in all candor. It was sad for me. It's like losing someone."

In recent months would-be campaign managers have offered to take over Gallegos' next run, but the DA mentioned no names.

"My campaign is next year, not this year," he said.

In The News: Gallegos talks pot, meth and PL

DA opines, gets feedback from McKinleyville Chamber - by KEITH EASTHOUSE/North Coast Journal Oct. 9, 2003

It wasn't an earthshaking meeting, just Humboldt County's DA out in the community keeping in touch with the people who elected him.

Or not.

The latter seemed most likely with this group, about 10 members of the McKinleyville Chamber of Commerce who spent an hour clustered around a table with Paul Gallegos at the Village Pantry restaurant on Central Avenue Monday afternoon. They were civil, even courteous, but the customary deference, even obsequiousness, normally accorded someone occupying Gallegos' powerful position was noticeably absent.

The elephant in the living room was the ongoing effort to force a recall election of Gallegos. Did the DA, as he talked with these folks and looked them in the eye, wonder how many of them want him ousted? Or has he compartmentalized things to such an extent that the issue never arose for him?

Regardless, he seemed his normal self: engaging, honest to a fault, combative when challenged. But still a little coltish, still a little unsure. Which would probably be the case even if there wasn't a recall movement afoot. Being elected DA is one thing; projecting the authority of the office takes time. Even Terry Farmer would admit that.

Marijuana was the first subject on the agenda; to be precise, the district attorney's new guidelines, which allow people who use pot for medical purposes to have up to three pounds. "Someone growing three pounds of pot is not a big problem compared to what we have in Humboldt County," Gallegos observed. "We have marijuana cultivation that's [on a scale of] thousands of pounds."

Gallegos said a long-term goal is greater uniformity in the medical pot guidelines that exist in California's counties. Right now, evidently, there's quite a bit of variation, although Gallegos said the guidelines in Humboldt, Del Norte and Sonoma are "identical."

Gallegos acknowledged that there has been resistance within the county to his guidelines. (He didn't specify from whom, but presumably he meant law enforcement.) "Some say their policy is still zero tolerance, but we are seeing some changes in some agencies, who say they are grateful for the clarity."

At this point, in what may have been the only time during the meeting when anyone directly praised the DA, one of the chamber members said they were "impressed" with the way Gallegos handled the medical marijuana issue.

The discussion turned next to meth. Artist Patricia Sennott wanted to know if Humboldt County was "making a dent" in tackling the drug problem. Gallegos didn't directly address the question, and instead talked about manpower limitations.

The testiest part of the meeting came when Ben Shepherd, who lost to Jill Geist in the 5th District supervisor's race last year, deftly used Gallegos' spiel about limited resources to challenge him about his fraud lawsuit against PL. "You said we have limited resources. Would putting one of our largest employers out of business help that?" Shepherd asked with an air of indignation.

Gallegos' initial response was, "I don't think we're going to put PL out of business." Then he added: "If as a result of their unlawful activities they are put in a position where they can't do business, that's a consequence they created themselves, not us."

A little later he asked, "Should I no longer prosecute marijuana cultivation because it may reduce jobs and money for this county?" To which Shepherd, clearly irritated, said, "I think you've carried that to an extreme far beyond my point."

The meeting soon broke up -- on a cordial note -- and everyone went his or her way. With, one suspects, their minds unchanged.

In The News: "I do solemnly swear"

"I do solemnly swear" North Coast Journal Jan. 9, 2003

TEN COUNTY OFFICIALS WERE SWORN IN AT A MASS ceremony at noon Monday with Judge Marilyn Miles doing the honors.

Most of the representatives and administrators are new to their jobs. With that in mind, the Journal asked: "What is the first thing on your agenda?"

Incoming D. A. Paul Gallegos' chief task: "Meet with the troops. Deal with the chaos of moving in." And then? Gallegos said rewriting the county's Proposition 215 medical marijuana policy is one of the first things he will work on.

Said Supervisor Jill Geist, "Learn about the dynamics of the organization and figure out its inner workings so I can see where I fit in and how I can best serve the 5th district. And I want to develop relationships with the community across a broad base." Big problems to tackle? "No. 1 is the budget crisis. And water issues with the Klamath, the Eel, the Trinity -- all the rivers -- that will be a top priority."

Superintendent Garry Eagles did not have to think long. His primary concern: "School survival in the face of the state's budget crisis. Then I want to be an advocate for rural education," he added.

Assessor Linda Hill was all business. "My main focus is on continuing to run the office in a professional, efficient manner," she said. Will budget troubles make her job harder? "The budget crisis will make it more difficult, but not too bad. We will have to learn to live with it."

Auditor-Controller Michael Giacone was thinking about mending fences. "First thing is to get together with the CAO [new County Administrative Officer Loretta Nickolaus] and begin reestablishing a good working relationship. In previous years we've had some tough times [with prior CAO John Murray]."

Sheriff Gary Philp was not looking at his first day on the job. He has already replaced former Sheriff Dennis Lewis who retired in September. On the top of Philp's mind: a campaign promise fulfilled. "We opened up the new McKinleyville office today with a sergeant, three deputies, a community service officer and a clerk on duty," he said. "They'll be there from 8-4:30, Monday through Friday." Will things be different with a new D.A.? ""Not really. We both have the same idea: provide the best law enforcement we can. We will work together to do that."

  

Above, Left to right:
Recorder-Clerk Carolyn Crnich, Treasurer-Tax Collector Steven Strawn,
4th District Supervisor Bonnie Neely, Sheriff Gary Philp, Assessor Linda Hill.

  

Above, Left to right:
5th District Supervisor Jill Geist, Coroner Frank Jager,
Superintendent of School Garry Eagles, District Attorney Paul Gallegos, Auditor-Controller Michael Giacone.

Fund for Gallegos' PL case

In The News

Rush to judgment? - by KEITH EASTHOUSE & ANDREW EDWARDS/North Coast Journal March 20, 2003

The DA's case against PL is getting slammed before it reaches court

AT ONE POINT DURING LAST WEEK'S STORMY of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, County Counsel Tamara Falor tried to get the five supervisors back on point.

The focus here, she said, should be on the liability that might arise should the board approve District Attorney Paul Gallegos' request to bring in a San Francisco Bay Area firm to help in his lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Co.

The reminder fell largely on deaf ears. Roger Rodoni had set the tone early on when he wondered whether the lead lawyer for the firm, Joe Cotchett, would want a park named after him after he put Pacific Lumber out of business. Bonnie Neely said flatly, almost impatiently, that she had serious doubts about the merits of Gallegos' case -- a sentiment that was echoed later on by Jimmy Smith. Throughout, the newest supervisor, Jill Geist, had a lot of questions, not all of them terribly relevant.

Only John Woolley seemed to recognize the obvious: that the emotional, overheated atmosphere that prevailed that day in the Supervisors' chambers -- packed as it was with agitated loggers and a much smaller number of environmentalists -- was not an ideal atmosphere in which to make a decision. The board, Woolley suggested, needed more time to chew on the proposal. He made a motion to reconsider it at the next meeting, March 25. It died for lack of a second.

Neely's motion to deny Gallegos' request, already on the table, was then voted on. It passed on a 4-1 vote, with Woolley the odd man out.

So ended one of the more contentious, and perhaps fateful, supervisors' meetings in memory. The upshot was that Gallegos and Assistant District Attorney Tim Stoen, the lawyer in charge of the case, are on their own. While Pacific Lumber has large legal resources at its disposal, the DA will have to rely on his own staff and whatever resources he can bring to bear with his $2.7 million budget.

As is well known by now, the DA is accusing Pacific Lumber of concealing critical information during the 1999 Headwaters negotiations. They say the deception enabled the company to log as many as 100,000 redwoods on unstable slopes that it otherwise wouldn't have been able to get at. They are seeking as much as $250 million in damages.

Gallegos and Stoen could come back before the Supervisors and try again to win their approval to enter into a contractual agreement with the Cotchett firm. But barring some unforeseen development that would enhance the case before it goes before a judge, there doesn't seem to be much point. Geist, perhaps, might vote differently, but Smith, Rodoni and Neely clearly have their minds made up.

While Gallegos and Stoen put a brave face on things last week, vowing to push ahead, the fact of the matter is that they lost the services of a firm that has extensive expertise in precisely the field of law they are litigating in the PL case: corporate fraud.

Referring to a high-profile savings and loan case in which Cotchett won a $1.7 billion settlement, Stoen said, not without a trace of bitterness: "That's the kind of legal talent turned down by the board."

An influential letter

To a large extent, Gallegos and Stoen were done in by a letter from the California Department of Fish and Game.

Addressed to Stoen, it arrived in the DA's office on March 10, the day before the supervisors' meeting. So late did it arrive that Stoen didn't even see it until the next morning, when he was about to go before the board. The supervisors also received copies.

When Stoen read it, and saw the assertion that "there are errors in the facts presented" in the DA's case, it didn't make his day, to put it mildly. "I felt blindsided," he said later.

The letter was a major reason the supervisors voted not to engage the services of Cotchett's firm -- despite the fact that the letter said nothing about the issue before the board, the hiring of outside counsel.

"In terms of hiring outside counsel, that's not our business," said Fish and Game Conservation Program Manager Mark Stopher, speaking from his Redding office a couple of days after the meeting. "We're not in a position to decide if the DA needs help or not."

Supervisor Smith said that in discussions with Fish and Game Regional Manager Don Koch and CDF Director Andrea Tuttle the weekend before the meeting, and through reading material forwarded by their attorneys, he had come to the conclusion that the county would be put at significant risk if the Cotchett firm was hired.

"[The California Departments of Forestry, and Fish and Game] said they were going to step up to the plate [to defend PL]," Smith said in an interview last Thursday. "I don't think it was ever perfectly clear what the cost could be to the county to take on the state and federal government, henceforth my vote was no."

It may sound like Smith was second guessing the DA on the merits of bringing a fraud case against PL. Not so, Smith said.

"If the DA chooses, and I believe him to be a man of good character, he can make that choice: that's his domain. I would never, ever second guess him on that."

Why did Fish and Game comment on pending litigation (in which its representatives might be called to testify) in the first place?

Stephanie Tom Coupe, senior staff counsel with Fish and Game and the author of the letter to Stoen, said the department wanted to make sure he knew that Fish and Game was already defending the Headwaters deal in a legal challenge brought by the Environmental Protection Information Center, a Garberville group that has long been a thorn in PL's side.

"We wanted him to understand that," Coupe said in a telephone interview from her Sacramento office. "We tried to communicate that we wanted to avoid a situation in which we would be testifying against Humboldt County."

According to Stopher, the department sent the letter because Stoen wasn't listening to reason in their first and only meeting on March 7, the Friday before the supervisors' meeting.

"We (Fish and Game) came away from that not sure whether or not they were interested in hearing what we had to say," Stopher said. "I thought maybe Mr. Stoen was already vested [in the case] and wouldn't adequately consider our comments if they were only put verbally."

A Fish and Game source said Stoen became hostile when factual errors in his 45-page legal complaint were spelled out at the meeting.

Two subsequent conference calls on the 13th and 18th were called off by the DA's office without any reason given.

"My sense is that he considers us now to be the enemy," Stopher said.

The target was Reid

The factual information recounted in the letter doesn't go to the heart of the case, alleged fraud committed by PL. But it does attack some important peripheral points.

The suit alleges that PL concealed information contained in a report on the Jordan Creek watershed, located above Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and as a result successfully persuaded then CDF Director Richard Wilson to approve a less stringent set of logging restrictions known as "Alternative 25."

That alternative, as well as the one Wilson originally chose, "Alternative 25a," are part of a key document in the Headwaters deal, the Sustained Yield Plan, which imposes limits on PL's logging rates over the next 100 years.

Coupe's letter stated that "The CDF director's decision to approve Alternative 25 did not provide additional access for PL to harvest timber on unstable areas. It did provide the ability to harvest additional timber from portions of the ownership which are not unstable."

If that's true, it cuts Gallegos' case off at the knees because he's alleging that PL's deception enabled it to access timber in areas prone to sliding.

But Coupe's statement conflicts with one contained in a letter signed by two high-ranking officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Dated Feb. 27, 1999, right at the time when Wilson was being pressured to approve Alternative 25, the letter said the following: "According to information received from PL, most of the difference in available harvest volume in the two alternatives is derived from the amount which can be harvested in mass wasting areas of concern." In other words, unstable areas.

Alternative 25, it turns out, does indeed allow for selective logging on unstable slopes if a geologist can figure out a way to make it work without producing undue amounts of sediment. Alternative 25a prohibits logging on unstable slopes, plain and simple.

So the DA's complaint has merit?

That would seem logical, were it not for another Headwaters document, the Habitat Conservation Plan -- designed to protect endangered species -- which trumps the Sustained Yield Plan. The HCP does not allow harvesting on slopes that have more than a high risk of producing excess sediment.

So the DA's case doesn't have merit?

That, too, would seem logical were it not for another possibility: the HCP itself is flawed. According to Ken Miller, a vehement PL critic, there is disagreement to this day, even with the restrictions imposed by the HCP, about what constitutes a stable area and what constitutes an unstable area. That uncertainty might have been avoided had the work of Leslie Reid, a leading expert on the cumulative impacts of logging, carried more weight. Reid, of the U.S. Forest Service's Redwood Sciences Laboratory in Arcata, studied the Bear Creek watershed immediately adjacent to the Jordan Creek basin in the late 1990s. She ended up recommending a methodology to determine sustainable logging levels that Pacific Lumber blanched at because it was too restrictive. It was to prevent Reid's "methodology" from being generalized to Jordan Creek and the rest of the 211,000 acres under PL ownership that PL carried out its deception.

That, at least, is what Stoen says in his complaint.

Public input thwarted

Stoen, for his part, essentially called the Fish and Game letter a red herring.

"Frankly, it doesn't address the fundamental issue," Stoen said.

Which is, he said, the apparent fact that when Wilson ditched Alternative 25a in favor of Alternative 25, he did so not knowing that Pacific Lumber had, at the eleventh hour, given correct data on Jordan Creek to a mid-level CDF official in Fortuna. Had Wilson known that, he would have recirculated a document called the Environmental Impact Report to various state and federal agencies and to the public for input. That input, in turn, could have led to stricter logging restrictions. But he didn't know about the new data (the official in Fortuna, according to Stoen's complaint, never passed it up the chain of command) and as a result, the report was never recirculated.

Therefore, according to Stoen, the report, which the Headwaters deal hinged on, was fraudulent.

"If the EIR was fraudulent, then there's no right to cut any trees," Stoen said.

Stoen said he was angry that Fish and Game chose to release its letter just before last week's supervisors meeting. And he doesn't think that was an accident.

"It was a clever ploy to get the supervisors nervous," he said.
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Tree-sitters taken down

by ANDREW EDWARDS

PACIFIC LUMBER CO. MADE GOOD ON ITS PROMISE TO TAKE DOWN TREE-SITTERS FROM their perches in Freshwater this week, launching an operation that's supposed to last several days.

On Monday long time tree-sitter Remedy and her neighbor Wren were hauled down in a day-long operation, involving six climbers, more than 15 Humboldt County Sheriffs (many working on their day off), seven correctional staff from the Humboldt County Jail to book prisoners, at least four California Highway Patrol officers and tens of activists.

Greenwood Heights Road, an offshoot of Kneeland Road that winds up a wooded mountainside just northeast of Eureka, was blocked off by Pacific Lumber personnel for several hours on Monday. The company's justification for the closure, which involved no public notification? An encroachment permit it had applied for last year.

The aim was apparently to prevent activists from gathering at the base of trees that tree-sitters occupied. But even residents were turned back. Only press, PL workers and law enforcement were allowed.

Humboldt County Supervisor John Woolley received about 30 angry calls from his constituents and looked into the matter. After consulting with Public Works (which manages county roads) Woolley concluded that the encroachment, which was solely for logging, didn't apply to tree-sitter extraction, and county attorneys notified PL that the barricades would have to come down.

"It's only there for commercial logging processes," Woolley said, adding that he was worried about lawsuits. "You could see the future, if you're dealing with an illegal encroachment permit."

County Counsel Tamara Falor said PL must give Public Works two-week notice of any road closure. Such notice was not given in this case, Falor said.

Sheriff's deputies, unaware of the wrangling behind the scene, went to work early enforcing the permit. They walked a group of activists that had gathered at the base of the tree down the road, until one of the more vocal ones, Alexander Carpenter, aka Four Winds, 26, laid down in the road and was arrested.

"I got so tired of being pushed down the hill by billy clubs I laid down and let them arrest me," Carpenter said. "I was a guilty man there."

Carpenter was back on the scene as soon as he got out of jail.

The climbers, led by the always cheerful Eric Schatz of Schatz Tree Service, threw ropes into the trees and went up after the tree-sitters, three climbers per tree. Hours passed and nothing happened. A cold wind blew.

After four o'clock the road was opened and activists began to stream back. They were herded past the tree-sits, contained by a wall of deputies.

Around 5 p.m., after hours of apparently pleasant, if fruitless, coaxing by Schatz, Remedy was brought down; they had cut the chains that anchored her in her lock box.

"If the chains had been shorter they wouldn't have been able to do that. It was kind of a faux pas on my part," Remedy said in an interview Tuesday.

The mood was emotional. People were crying. When Remedy appeared and was driven away in a cop car the crowd surged forward, blocking the road. Deputies forced them back. Finally they sat down on the road and chanted.

When Wren came down things got ugly. Activists were shoved back by batons and the crowd was pepper-sprayed. Several people were arrested.

That night, both trees were reoccupied, Remedy's by three women and Wren's as well. In the case of Wren's tree, activists reportedly climbed up PL's own rope, which had been left overnight.

The next day the climbers came to the heavily populated lower village but were only successful in removing one tree-sitter, Annapurna. She was unhurt. Her tree was immediately reoccupied by tree-sitters travelling high up on traverse lines.

In an apparent gesture of frustration at the end of the day, PL employees surrounded the tree, still occupied, and girdled it with a chainsaw, removing the bark from around the base of the tree to kill it.

Activists on the road rushed the workers screaming that the tree was occupied, almost as if in pain. Some scrambled to protect surrounding trees but the workers didn't do anything more.

After two days, three tree-sitters had been arrested, three trees reoccupied, one road reopened, one tree girdled, 11 ground-based activists arrested. Stay tuned. The battle is supposed to continue all week.
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Fund for Gallegos' PL case - North Coast Journal March 20, 2003

Stymied in his attempt to hire an outside law firm for his suit against the Pacific Lumber Co., District Attorney Paul Gallegos may get a bit of help from local residents.

A Redway man has started a fund to help defray the county's legal expenses in connection with the lawsuit. Jared Rossman, a landlord and property manager, sent out an e-mail urging people to "put your money where your mouth is" and donate to his "Citizens' Fund for Equal Justice."

"I was so upset by the way the Board of Supervisors handled this," he said. They could have shown support for "this independent DA." Instead, they missed an opportunity. "If the county officials are going to drop the ball then the citizens are going to have to pick it up," he said. "When the law is applied evenhandedly, the truth will win out, and that's what America was built on."

The fund was established at the Community Credit Union of Southern Humboldt in Garberville. It was unclear at press time whether it is legal for a citizens' group to earmark private donations for use by the county in a specific lawsuit.

Meanwhile, another local man has started a group called the Alliance for Ethical Business, a "citizens advocacy group concerned about corporate crime," said founder Richard Salzman. He said his group would support Gallegos' efforts to discover the truth in the Pacific Lumber case, and is organizing an event for April 9 at the Arcata Community Center in which Gallegos and Assistant DA Tim Stoen will answer questions about the lawsuit.
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NOTE: Gallegos' lawsuit never made it past demurrer, though he appealed it all the way to the California Supreme Court, where he was laughed out of the room, and they denied his appeal.

The suit was a case of activists succeeding in getting an elected official they had backed to publicly file their private lawsuit, a public prosecution. But they were armed only with bumper sticker rhetoric and a layman's understanding of the issue, activist pipe dreams, as it were.

Their attempts to bring in their big gun, Bob Cotchett, were thwarted, when the Board of Supervisors refused to allocate the funds to pay his high fees. The activists concocted all kinds of scenarios where the fines per tree would pay for the lawyer, and even devised a "Trust Fund' scheme, in which they plotted to solicit, accept and use special interest money to privately fund a public prosecution.

They failed. And failed, and failed again. It seems in the end, Mr. Easthouse should eat his words.

The media also failed in this entire debacle. Many reporters followed Gallegos around with their tongues hanging out, and their glowing, loving reports must embarrass them in hindsight.

It's time for the record to be corrected.

12.29.2014

Deputy Field Organizer for the West Side (OHIO)


the North Coast Journal - Web of Lies - Richard Salzman and other email phonies
From the Publisher: An apology
Rhonda Meehan's letter
Letters from "R. Trent Williams" printed by the Journal
Glossary of terms
Another Salzman alias?
Salzman exposed: Local newspapers reveal real names of letter writers
Supervisor Geist wants apology from Salzman
Police begin investigation into fake letters allegedly sent by Salzman
Editor files criminal complaint
Search warrant served in Salzman case
Salzman investigation forwarded on to state Office of the Attorney General
Trinidad police investigate Salzman
The final Salzman tally?
Consultant used others' names in letter-writing blitz to local newspaper

FROM THE PUBLISHER: An apology

An apology - by JUDY HODGSON

September 1, 2005

This is a long overdue apology to our readers.

As you will learn in this week's cover story, this newspaper and every other newspaper in the county we have researched so far have been victims of a letter-writing hoax. We printed a letter in June from a reader who had written before, whose letters had appeared in other newspapers, without calling to verify the letter's authenticity.

It was a fake name, one he used to influence public opinion in the best-read section of any paper -- the letters to the editor. This deception, we learned this past week, has been ongoing for months, much to our embarrassment, and we sincerely apologize.

The letter writer isn't just an ordinary reader. He is a political activist, and a volunteer and sometimes paid consultant for many liberal causes. He worked on the campaign to elect Jill Geist as county supervisor, Paul Gallegos' initial run for district attorney and Chris Kerrigan's bid for re-election to the Eureka City Council. He was a key player in the successful fight against Gallegos' recall attempt. And he has been an outspoken critic of Pacific Lumber Co. and Debi August, a Fortuna City Council member indicted by the grand jury for conflict of interest. (August's case was later dismissed.)

During our investigation, we learned he wrote frequently under several names, including, occasionally, his own -- Richard Salzman.

By perpetrating this hoax, Salzman betrayed the public, especially the people who have supported his causes. Citizens on the other side of these important issues will long remember his deception. There were many thoughtful, passionate, sincere letter writers during the same period of time who will now have their very existence called into question because of Salzman's deception.

Some readers may ask if our headline, "Web of lies," is too harsh. I don't think so. To write letters under an assumed name is a lie in itself. Then, when we confronted him with the evidence of his deceit last Friday, he initially denied it. It was only after a face-to-face confrontation Monday in our office, and a few more hours of private reflection, that he admitted his deception.

Salzman now claims he has some right to use a "pen name." Maybe in writing fiction, but not in the news business. Political careers and important causes are advanced or maimed based on how the news unfolds, and cynical attempts to twist the contents of newspapers to one's own end should be roundly condemned, whether the twister is Salzman or Karl Rove. Geist has long distanced herself from Salzman; Gallegos and Kerrigan should do the same.

We spent staff time this past week reviewing all letters published in the Journal in the last two and a half years. In addition to those originated by Salzman, we have published a few others whose authenticity we cannot yet verify, meaning we cannot find the authors in any of our databases nor can we contact them by phone or e-mail. Our promise to readers is to do our best to screen letters in the future, and to investigate any and all attempts to falsely and covertly manipulate public opinion.

-- -- --

We also learned this past week of what we hope will be the penultimate chapter in the pepper spray saga. The judge in the case, which found that Humboldt County and the city of Eureka police officers used excessive force in dealing with anti-logging demonstrators in 1997, ruled that the plaintiffs are entitled to recover legal fees. (The ultimate chapter will be when the attorneys actually get paid.)

As we have editorialized many times these past eight years, the county supervisors and the Eureka City Council should have condemned the actions of their officers -- under orders of then-Sheriff Dennis Lewis, who bears ultimate responsibility -- and they should have offered to settle with the victims. Fighting this case every step of the way has been a failure to accept responsibility all along the chain of command and has been extremely costly to taxpayers. The tab so far is in the millions.

-- -- --
-- -- --

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 year).

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 period.

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 68.230.244.48. 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 68.105.22.128; in early August, both were using 68.105.23.202. 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 be false.

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.

-- -- --

Rhonda Meehan's letter

Editor:

Will the real R. Trent Williams, Dick Wyatt and all the other Debi August and Palco bashers please stand up?

Oh, just as I thought! Could that be you, Richard Salzman?

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

Letters from
"R. Trent Williams"
printed by the Journal

Hiding behind lawyers
Nov. 4, 2004

Editor:

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


Defending Salzman
Feb. 24, 2005

Editor:

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

Editor:

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


Arcata politics
June 2, 2005

Editor:

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