ER - Recall Proponent Makes More Accusations

“Tim’s a stud,” he said. “He really is; anyone would be stoked to have him.”

☛ ER Recall Proponent Makes More Accusations 1/29/04
by Christine Bensen

Tom Cookman, a vocal member of Recall Paul, the committee to recall Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos, and regular commentator on KINS News and Information’s Community Comment, made on-air accusations against Gallegos, Jan. 13.

Cookman, who publicly identifies himself as a “concerned citizen,” is also the co-owner of Mendes Supply in Eureka. Mendes specializes in the sale of janitorial and packaging supplies, fine paper and lumber-packaging materials, including lumber-wrapping materials as well as steel-and plastic-strapping tools.

According to Cookman’s commentary, “… Gallegos, the leading law-enforcement agent in our county, changed the parameters on medical marijuana growing. (A) person with a 215 card (can) now grow 99 plants instead of 10 plants.”

After much debate from community residents during the Jan. 20 meeting of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, the board created a task force to further examine the issue. Headed by 2nd District Supervisor Roger Rodoni and 3rd District Supervisor John Woolley and made up of school and law-enforcement officials, the task force must report back to the board within 90 days.

Pending this report, the board will decide if it wants to keep the medical marijuana growing guidelines set by Gallegos or set new guidelines.

The guidelines currently in effect allow 215 cardholders or their caregivers to grow 99 plants in a 100-square-foot space, under 1,500 watts of light and possess up to 3 pounds of dried cannabis.

In May 2001, Sonoma County District Attorney J. Michael Mullins and Sonoma County law-enforcement Chiefs’ Association adopted the identical guidelines Gallegos adopted in January 2003.

“(Gallegos) hired Tim Stoen as our assistant district attorney. This position was vacant for 13 years. This position costs taxpayers over $100,000 per year,” Cookman said.

Mike Robinson served as assistant district attorney under former Humboldt County District Attorney Terry Farmer from 1986 through 1993.

He said he chose to leave in 1993 because he wanted to pursue a private practice and is now a defense attorney in Eureka.

Gallegos said the position remained vacant for 11 years and when he decided to hire Tim Stoen he had to have it approved by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors.

“The position has been budgeted since Mike was gone,” Gallegos said.

In fact, Gallegos said the board voted unanimously to hire Stoen.

“Tim’s a stud,” he said. “He really is; anyone would be stoked to have him.”

Gallegos said Humboldt County employs a district attorney, an assistant district attorney and 13 deputy district attorneys. The 2000 U.S. Census lists Humboldt County’s population at 126,518.

In Mendocino County, which has a population of 86,265, the district attorney’s office employs two deputy district attorneys in its Willits office, two in its Fort Bragg office and a district attorney, one assistant and 14 deputies in its Ukiah office, which is 20 employees compared to Humboldt County’s 15.

“…Stoen filed a lawsuit against PALCO (The Pacific Lumber Co.) shortly after taking office. This lawsuit is loaded with the same information as an EPIC lawsuit that was dismissed in court,” Cookman alleged.

Gallegos said the lawsuit does not have the same information as the lawsuit filed by the Garberville-based Environmental Protection Information Center. He said if it had the same information, under the rule of “resjudicada” the same case cannot be tried again.

“(We are) bound by that rule,” he said.

In an interview with The Eureka Reporter, Cookman said he has read both of the lawsuits and said that parts of the lawsuit filed by the District Attorney’s Office are “verbatim” to the EPIC lawsuit.

“It legally could not be (the same) nor is it,” Gallegos said.

He said if it were the same lawsuit the defendants would have mentioned that in a demurrer, which is a claim by a defendant in a legal action that the plaintiff does not have sufficient grounds to proceed.

“Nothing in the PL lawsuit is taken from the EPIC lawsuit,” Stoen said.

He said this lawsuit is against The Pacific Lumber Co. for its alleged wrongdoing, while the EPIC lawsuit was focused on the state and federal government’s wrongdoing.

“He lied to his office about going home sick (and went surfing instead),” Cookman alleged.

In a previous interview with The Eureka Reporter, Gallegos said he had appointments later that day and would have made them if he hadn’t had his surfing accident.

“I’m an elected official; I have no vacation time or holiday time,” he said. “I squeeze time in when I get it. I don’t have a 40-hour work week. I don’t get overtime either.”

As for the accusation of telling his staff he was sick, Gallegos said he does not have to make excuses to his staff when he leaves the office.

“Who would I tell? That’s ridiculous,” he said.

“Well I’d like to know if the relationship between our DA and his surfing partner, an EPIC attorney, is personal or professional,” Cookman said.

“(The) rumor mill is that it is his (alleged) girlfriend,” Cookman told The Eureka Reporter.

He said although he has not been able to confirm that Gallegos’ surfing partner was a female, he intentionally puts “digs” in his commentary about Gallegos.

“I put that in there on purpose,” Cookman said.

“I was surfing with a friend who is a male,” Gallegos said, adding that his friend was the one who called 911.

Officers from the Trinidad Police Department were some of the first to arrive on the scene after Gallegos’ accident in April. Trinidad Chief of Police Ken Thrailkill told The Eureka Reporter Gallegos was surfing with a male at the time.

“How do you fine a tree-sitter only $10 for their crime?”

In a previous interview with The Eureka Reporter, Gallegos said that is the fine allowed by law. He said this fine has been in place since former Humboldt County District Attorney Terry Farmer was in office.

“…Gallegos has a strained relationship with our law-enforcement personnel,” Cookman alleges.

“I don’t know that I would call it a strained relationship,” said Fortuna Police Chief Kent Bradshaw. “It’s a working relationship.”

Bradshaw said he and Gallegos do not always see eye-to-eye on all issues, including the marijuana guidelines, which he said is no secret. He said Gallegos has always been receptive to his phone calls and pleasant to deal with.

“We have a working relationship,” said Humboldt County Sheriff Gary Philp.

Philp said he would not describe the relationship as “strained.” He said they do not necessarily agree on everything: “We agree to disagree.”

“My issues are one-on-one with the district attorney, as they were with Mr. Farmer,” said Eureka Police Chief David Douglas.

He said some of his officers and personnel may have different opinions, but he deals with Gallegos issue by issue.

Arcata Police Chief Randy Mendosa said he has had no problems working with Gallegos.

“He certainly has no strained relations with me,” Mendosa said.

“He set up a meeting with the heads of our local law-enforcement officials and he missed the meeting … because he had a tree-climber help him climb a tree to see what it was like to be a tree-sitter,” Cookman alleges.

Gallegos said the meeting “simply had not been (written on his calendar).”

He said the meeting attendees, including Bradshaw, Mendosa and Steve Pudinski, captain of the Arcata branch of the California Highway Patrol.

“They were not upset and understood the oversight,” Gallegos said.

Eric Schatz, owner of Schatz Tree Service, is hired by PALCO to remove trespassing tree-sitters from trees on PALCO property.

“I was with Eric Schatz climbing trees because he wanted me to understand how dangerous it is for him to climb up and pull trespassers out of the trees, so we could understand how their resistance to his efforts puts him and the trespasser in danger,” Gallegos said. “He offered and I accepted. It was all done with PALCO’s permission and with them present.”

He said he climbed one tree, and according to Schatz went a little more than 200 feet up.

“It gave me a better understanding on the risks inherent in pulling trespassers out of trees and how even minor acts of resistance can result in catastrophic injury to the climber and the trespasser,” Gallegos said.

“After his tree-climbing experience our district attorney called the tree-climber (hired by PALCO) at home on two separate occasions and told this law-abiding citizen that if any of the tree-sitters were hurt when he took them out of the tree that he would be prosecuted. Our DA threatened a citizen doing his job,” Cookman alleged.

“I told him if he broke the law he would be prosecuted,” Gallegos said.

Attempts by The Eureka Reporter to contact Schatz were unsuccessful.

“A deputy sheriff had his nose busted by an individual who was arrested on several felony charges. This person was arrested with six ounces of meth; he forged thousands of dollars in false checks. He vandalized the police car. He was on probation during the altercation and he only received a few months in jail,” Cookman alleged.

Cookman said the case he was referring to was prosecuted against Troy Miller.

The minutes of the case show that Miller pled guilty to misdemeanor violations of resisting an executive officer, false representation of self to a peace officer, vandalism, possession of methamphetamine as well as admitting to three violations of felony probation.

In what is called an “open plea,” no sentence was negotiated between the two sides, so it was up to the judge after hearing the arguments from both sides and reviewing the probation report.

One ounce is equal to approximately 28.34 grams and Miller was in possession of 5.9 grams gross weight of methamphetamine, meaning the total weight included the packaging it was contained in.

The fraudulent checks he wrote were his parents’ and they did not press charges.

Miller was sentenced by Judge Christopher Wilson on Aug. 13. He was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months in the California Rehabilitation Center which is part of the state prison system, but specifically designed for people who are considered to be in immediate danger of becoming addicted to drugs.

When Stoen talks about the PL suit, his complete confidence in its success is disarming. "I will win this case," he says. "If Paul's not recalled, I am guaranteeing you that we will win this case. I don't know what the penalties will be, but this case is as solid as a rock."