5.31.2010

Eye - Political ‘Harassment’ Claim Refuted

Don't miss the comments:

Political ‘Harassment’ Claim Refuted
– May 29, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Daniel Mintz
Eye Correspondent

HUMBOLDT – A DA candidate’s belief that Eureka humanitarian Betty Chinn was the target of politically-related “harassment” has been refuted by Chinn.

Chinn had been listed as one of DA candidate Allison Jackson’s endorsers on her campaign website but Chinn’s name was recently removed from the list. Asked why, Jackson e-mailed a statement explaining that Chinn’s “public support was impacting her personally” and so her name was removed.

“I am deeply troubled that she has had to endure any type of harassment due to her support of me in this election,” said Jackson.

But Chinn said that she asked that her name be removed because she didn’t intend to be an endorser. “I stay out of politics,” she said. “It’s not my area, my area is helping the poor.”

Chinn also wants to clarify that she hasn’t had to deal with any harassment. “This is a loving community and to come out and say that I’ve been harassed is not true,” she said. “I came here from communist China, I’ve never felt that I’ve been mistreated by anyone here.”

The first and only time Chinn met Jackson was at an event last February, Chinn continued. “I never said I support her, I did say that I admire her and what she’s doing,” she said, adding that the feedback she got after being listed on Jackson’s website was benign.

“Some people did tell me, ‘Betty, I know you never get involved in politics,’” Chinn said.

How did the supposed endorsement emerge and what constituted the perception of harassment? Jackson said that Chinn was with Rex Bohn, one of her friends, when they met last February. “I asked Rex to contact her to ask if I could use her name and was told that she supports me,” Jackson continued.

She said that in mid-May, Chinn left a phone message indicating she wanted her name removed. When Jackson asked Bohn about it, “All I was told was that she’d received numerous contacts who told her it could jeopardize her work,” Jackson said.

She said she wrote Chinn a letter thanking her and explaining that “I felt ill that anything from this could affect her work because I care about her so deeply,” Jackson continued.

Attributing the situation to miscommunication, Jackson emphasized that she truly believed Chinn had endorsed her and that after hearing she’d gotten numerous phone calls about it, she was concerned for her.

“I am deeply saddened by all of this and the way it’s been spun,” said Jackson.

Tags: election, Jackson

This entry was posted on Saturday, May 29th, 2010 at 2:34 pm and is filed under Election 2010, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

8 Responses to “Political ‘Harassment’ Claim Refuted – May 29, 2010”

Richard
May 29, 2010 at 5:12 pm
The only “spin” here has been by Ms. Jackson herself.

#2999
Richard
May 30, 2010 at 9:54 am
Here is the original story copied from the printed page of the Arcata Eye:

CHINN CHASED AWAY FROM JACKSON CAMP

(photo of Betty here, with the word: HARRASSED printed below her name)

The removal of the name of one of DA candidate Allison Jackson’s endorsers from her website has sparked speculation and Jackson has said it was done to spare the endorser from politically-related “harassment.”

Political observers have noticed that Betty Chinn’s name has been removed from Jackson’s endorsement list. Chinn’s efforts on Eureka-based free food programs and a new shower facility have gained widespread attention and she’s one of Jackson’s more well-known supporters.

But when her name was removed, it seemed as if her support was withdrawn. Contacted about it, Jackson said the removal of Chinn’s name was done to shield her from reactions to the endorsement.
“While I am honored to have Betty’s support, when I became aware that her public support was impacting her personally and may have impact on her work for those who need our compassion in this community, I removed her name as a formal supporter so as not to have it impact either her or her work,” said Jackson.

She added, “I am deeply troubled that she has had to endure any type of harassment due to her support of me in this election. I have thanked her privately and will continue to thank her for her private support.”

Attempts to contact Chinn were unsuccessful.

#3030
kevpod
May 30, 2010 at 10:14 am
Mr. Nice, er, Richard, why did you edit the byline and dateline out of the story? And why don’t you post some of our lovely correspondence from the last few days? I mean, if you want to provide a complete picture.

#3031
Terrence McNally
May 30, 2010 at 10:30 am
At least he put his name on a post this time…

#3033
kevpod
May 30, 2010 at 10:32 am
In Richard’s defense, he signs his writing. Don’t you remember R. Trent Williams?

#3034
Terrence McNally
May 30, 2010 at 10:45 am
That was classic. Turd blossom politics at its finest.
You think Williams typeset that print story for him?

#3036
kevpod
May 30, 2010 at 10:52 am
Either R. Trent or another in his stable of handy-dandy sock puppets. Maybe the argyle one with the button nose.

#3038
Terrence McNally
May 30, 2010 at 10:57 am
Probably the idealistic rainbow-colored sock that wants to work for change… until becoming desperately cynical watching Richard make the sausage.

TS (WillitsNews) - Humboldt County DA candidates talk administration

Humboldt County DA candidates talk administration

Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part series looking at the primary issues that have been raised in the district attorney's race:

It's arguably the most powerful position in the county.

The Humboldt County district attorney is tasked with running a team of trial attorneys and a unit of armed investigators, all of whom exercise a lot of discretion and wield a great deal of power. The district attorney is also ultimately tasked with deciding who gets charged with a crime and who doesn't. They have the power to defend the weak, stand up for victims, protect the innocent and punish the guilty. They also have the power to destroy lives, as false charges often leave stains that don't wash away.

The amount of responsibility the office holds is evident even in its basic job description, as the National District Attorneys Association lists the primary responsibility of a top prosecutor as seeing “that justice is accomplished.”

The nature of the position also leaves much of a district attorney's work shielded out of view from the public, which generally doesn't get to see the intricacies of a charging decision, sit through a trial or even spend a day watching a deputy district attorney work his or her way through a court calendar.

So, any time a district attorney's chair is up for election, the stakes are high and the race is likely to get contentious. This year's race is no different, with challengers Allison Jackson and Paul Hagen looking to unseat two-term incumbent Paul Gallegos.

This is the first in a three-part series looking at the primary issues that have been raised in the race. This story will focus on administering the district attorney's office, the second story will focus on marijuana policy and the final installment will take a look at plea bargains and their role in the justice system.

When it comes to Gallegos' ability to administer and run his office, Hagen and Jackson have no shortage of criticism. They contend he has failed to hire and retain quality prosecutors, that he spends too much time in the courtroom and not enough managing and mentoring staff, and that disorganization in the office repeatedly leads to dropped charges and ill-conceived plea agreements.

Gallegos denies all of that. First, he said he has some major administrative accomplishments under his belt, including bringing the office into the 21st century by introducing case management software to replace the index cards the office previously used to keep track of cases. Further, he said he's made sure every employee of the office uses e-mail and outfitted all investigators and attorneys with Blackberry cell phones, ensuring they're more accessible.

He also says he has a great team of talented, capable and hard-working prosecutors underneath him, that his office works well as a team with structures in place to mentor and nurture young attorneys and that his job is to try cases in the courtroom just as much as it is to administer the office.

When it comes to running the office, Hagen's primary charge is that Gallegos is simply not there enough to do the job because he spends too much time at trial.

”If your top priority is to be in trial, then everything else gets short shrift,” Hagen said. “Who's minding the store?”

While Hagen went so far as to say that a district attorney should only try a case from time to time to keep a finger on the pulse of local juries, Jackson criticized the amount of attention Gallegos puts on trials. She said it contributes to the “utter lack of supervision and guidance” she sees in the office, and Hagen said he simply believes Gallegos doesn't train or mentor staff well.

For his part, Gallegos is adamant that no administrative duties are left undone because of the time he spends in the courtroom. Further, with a small staff and a huge workload, Gallegos said he owes it to the office to lead from the front and take on as much as possible.

He chuckled at the notion that Hagen and Jackson say they will spend less time in court if elected.

”It really amazes me that both of them are essentially promising to do less work,” he said, adding that trials in the county only run until noon, leaving him the rest of the day to take care of things in the office. “If trials were all day or if I only worked a 40-hour work week, then maybe there would be some truth to (the criticism). But, a 40-hour work week is not a luxury I have.”

Further, Gallegos said he tries to promote leadership within his office, pointing directly to Assistant District Attorney Wes Keat and Chief Investigator Mike Hislop. Part of administering and part of leading, Gallegos said, is delegating. Even with his deputy district attorneys, Gallegos said he promotes people with leadership ability, which he said leaves the office with “multiple layers” of teachers.

Having said that, Gallegos quickly added that he also spends plenty of time working with his attorneys. Saying he simply loves trials and cases, he said he can't help but talk to all his prosecutors about the cases they are working on. He said he makes a point of going to court with new lawyers, or making sure another prosecutor does the same. But, Gallegos said he also hires competent attorneys and expects them to make competent decisions.

Jackson disputes the last notion, saying the office has a dearth of experienced, top-flight prosecutors. She said the office experienced an exodus of upper-level attorneys in the years after Gallegos was elected, and again after he was re-elected in 2006.

Further, Jackson said the office has a well-earned reputation for not having a stable, professional environment -- a reputation that has extended far enough that it has become difficult for the office to hire good attorneys from outside the area. She even went so far as to say that help-wanted advertisements from the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office have an “imaginary skull and crossbones” on them in attorney circles throughout the state.

”A law office rises and falls in how its staff is put together,” Jackson said, adding that Humboldt's top law office is in a free fall, in part, because of its staffing situation.

Gallegos vehemently denies this. First, he says that his office is fully staffed -- a notion that is buttressed by the county's job application web page, which lists no vacant positions in the office. Second, he said he would put his team of attorneys up against that of any like-sized office in the state.

”At every level here we have outstanding attorneys,” he said, pointing to the likes of deputy district attorneys Max Cardoza, Arnie Klein, Maggie Flemming, Ben McLaughlin, Allan Dollison, Kelly Neel and others, describing each of them in glowing terms. “You have a great collective brain trust here.”

If that's true, it's not always evident in court, according to Jackson. She said she's seen attorneys bring cases to preliminary hearing unprepared to prove the essential elements of a charge or meet the minimum burden of proof, she's seen cases dropped on the eve of trial and generally gets the impression that cases “languish” from the conclusion of a preliminary hearing until the time of trial.

According to statistics from the California Department of Justice, Gallegos' administration has seen more of its adult felony cases dismissed than that of his predecessor, Terry Farmer, the 20-year incumbent who Gallegos ousted in a surprise 2002 election victory. However, the statistics also indicate that Gallegos' office has filed more of that type of cases per year, and gotten more convictions.

According to the statistics, which only cover the last four years of Farmer's tenure and the first six of Gallegos', Farmer's office received about 1,836 adult felony cases a year and filed about 1,415 adult felony complaints a year. Farmer saw about 64.5 percent of his adult felony cases result in convictions annually, and about 11.75 percent result in charges being dismissed.

Gallegos, according to the stats, has seen his office receive about 2,221 adult felony case referrals a year, and file about 1,690 adult felony criminal complaints a year. Of those, Gallegos has seen about 63 percent result in convictions and about 12.66 percent result in charges being dismissed annually.

If elected in November, Jackson said her first order of business would be to review the entire office's staff in order to assess each individual's strengths and weaknesses. She said she would then review all the office's pending cases, starting with the most serious. Then, Jackson said she would re-assign cases vertically, ensuring that the most egregious charges are in the hands of the most skilled attorneys.

For his part, Hagen said, if elected, he will also immediately begin to meet with staff to assess abilities and strengths. Hagen said he would also likely review and change some office policies and procedures but, more importantly, would set a new standard for the office, letting staff know he expects their best and won't accept less.

Gallegos said he feels good about what he has accomplished in the office over the last eight years, but believes there is more work to be done.

All three firmly believe they are the best candidate for the job, and will be best able to manage what is arguably the county's most powerful office.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or tgreenson@times-standard.com.

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/31/2010 01:30:18 AM PDT

5.30.2010

TS - My Word: Questioning Gallegos' public safety priorities

My Word: Questioning Gallegos' public safety priorities

Kenneth Quigley/For the Times-Standard
Posted: 05/30/2010 01:24:22 AM PDT

Articles keep popping up in all of the Humboldt County newspapers with Mr. Gallegos telling us how public safety is his top priority. If this wasn't so sad, it would be funny.

I received a certified letter from Folsom Prison recently letting me and my family know that Anthony Flores, the coward that ran from the scene when he and Jason Whitmill -- a three-time felon -- killed my daughter on Oct. 6, 2008, will be released from prison on Jan. 12, 2011.

Only in Humboldt County, Calif., can you race down the freeway at 103 mph with a car full of drugs playing chicken with a drunk on meth who is a convicted felon and was released from prison 12 days prior, no insurance, hit an innocent family killing one little girl and almost killing her mother, run from the scene of the accident to be found days later, paint your car to cover the evidence and spend one year in prison for it.

Mr. Gallegos, you and you alone were responsible for the prosecution of Anthony Flores, you and you alone failed miserably, and Flores will be back on the streets of Humboldt County next year while Nicole Lynn Quigley is nothing but a sweet memory to her family and friends.

The last time I felt as sick to my stomach as when I read the letter from Folsom Prison this morning was when the Arcata Police chaplain gave me the information that shattered mine and my family's lives on that evening of Oct. 6, 2008.

Some, including Mr. Gallegos, say I am just a grieving father; well, I am, this is true, but for Mr. Gallegos to keep telling our community that public safety is his top priority and then allowing repeat felons and their accomplices back on our streets after they kill our children with a slap on the wrist somehow makes me think that this could upset people other than the victims of his total incompetence. We will find out on June 8, 2010.

Kenneth Quigley resides in McKinleyville.

5.29.2010

TS - No jail for horse-hoarder

Felony charges pled out to one misdemeanor

No jail for horse-hoarder
Sean Garmire/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/30/2008 01:15:13 AM PDT

Former horse owner Elsie Smith, whose 40 malnourished horses were seized by law enforcement from her Myers Flat property in April, offered a new plea of “no contest” to the charge of animal cruelty Wednesday.

Facing a maximum two-year prison sentence, the 69-year-old Smith accepted a plea deal.


According to court documents, she will now be required to compensate the city for costs of stabling the animals, relinquish all the seized animals and forfeit her rights to care for horses or other equines over the next three years.

The sentence requires Smith to attend counseling classes and perform community service.

After initially signing 30 of her horses over to the county, Smith refused to give up the remaining 10, opting to have them stay with friends and relatives. Smith lost the right to have input on those horses when she signed the agreement, and the horses have since been transferred to the county's care.

According to court documents, the Humboldt County district attorney estimated that the cost incurred for upkeep of the horses was $11,675 as of May 9.

Animal Control Division Lt. Steve Knight said his department is still calculating the costs of keeping the horses.

”We're still putting together those fees and submitting the total package to Elsie and the courts,” Knight said. “It'll be done, hopefully, in a week.”

The total updated estimate will be given to Smith in court during her June 23 supplemental report.

Smith's attorney, Neal Sanders, could not be reached for comment.

A second misdemeanor charge of obstructing a public officer was dropped in the agreement. The charge stemmed from early in the investigation, when the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office first seized 39 horses on her 25-acre property. Officials said Smith hid a horse in a wooded area on her property during the raid. It was found and seized three days later.

The county's Animal Control Division reported Smith was keeping the horses -- studs, mares and colts -- standing knee-deep in manure on deformed and infected hooves. Their coats were matted with mud and lice, and they were said to be malnourished.

Since then, Knight said the animals' coats have been treated for lice and their hooves trimmed. They are even gaining weight, he said.

”Their overall health has improved dramatically,” he said. “It's obvious; you can see it.”

The animals were relocated to the Humboldt County Fairgrounds, the Sheriff's Office farm in Rohnerville and the Fortuna Rodeo Grounds, and many were offered at auction.

Veterinarians had to euthanize two of the horses that would not have recovered, Knight said.

Of the total 24 horses that went up for auction, 20 were purchased. The auction ended with no bids placed on four horses, at least one of which will be given to Heart of the Redwoods Horse Rescue for rehabilitation.

Officials still don't know what to do with the 10 additional horses turned over Wednesday to the county. Knight said they may go up for auction in June, but that is not certain.

”We're getting the 24 horses dealt with now,” Knight said. “We will be looking at placement of the other 10 within the next week or two.”

Sean Garmire can be reached at 441-0514 or sgarmire@times-standard.com.

JN - Nightmare on Erie Street



Nightmare on Erie Street

by ANDREW EDWARDS

TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND POUNDS OF RAT-INFESTED TRASH have been removed from the driveway of 2504 Erie St., Eureka, the building that used to be known as the Band of Mercy Animal Rescue. The animals are gone but the yard and the inside of the house are still filled to the brim with refuse (earlier this week, junk could be seen literally spilling out of one window).

The owner, John Martin, is considering tearing down a wall of the house so that he can go in with heavy equipment to clear the house out or possibly just demolish the building altogether. His ex-wife, Linda Sue Martin, and Larry Lawson Decker, who together ran the Band of Mercy, are out on bail, living in Eureka. But only now is the story behind the degradation coming out: how an animal shelter went bad and managed to slip through the cracks in county law enforcement for years.

Eight years ago Myra Mintey and her husband moved into the house across the street from Band of Mercy. According to her it was bad back then and steadily got worse until she felt she had to report it to the authorities.

"I would call animal control every single day for months at a time," Mintey said. "It was like pounding your head against a brick wall."

At times, the county responded -- most notably when a videotape made by a neighbor of rats exiting the house through an upstairs window led to the first of several trash cleanups on the property. But the county did nothing to address the real problem: the deplorable living conditions inside the shelter itself.

The most obvious issue was the stench.

"The smell on a warm night got so bad that it was just overpowering," Mintey said. "You couldn't even walk down the street."

According to Richard Hutchison, whose accounting office shares an alley with the Band of Mercy, one tenant refused to move into the apartment above his office because she couldn't handle the smell.

Then there were the animals.

"I never saw animals abused, but I saw sick animals," Mintey said. "The cats always had diarrhea. They always had sores all over them."

The Band of Mercy also had dogs and other animals, including a pig, chained in the front yard. The dogs, which Mintey described as pitbull mixes, would bark at passers-by, causing neighbors to worry they would get out.

"I used to carry a little pipe in my purse, but what would that do against a dog?" Mintey said. "I ended up carrying a can of Mace."

In addition to everything else, automobiles were abandoned in front of the house on numerous occasions.

Neighbors repeatedly asked the county to do something about the shelter, but the answer always came back the same: "Our hands are tied." That answer was reiterated by officials interviewed for this article.

"To go into a private residence we need warrants, court orders," said John Falkenstrom, Humboldt County's agricultural commissioner and head of Animal Control. "My staff are not peace officers, they're public officers. We have to follow a procedure called due process. It's slow, it's cumbersome, and to the public it can be incomprehensible, but it has to be followed."

Head of County Environmental Health Brian Cox echoed that thought.

"There were definite concerns, the rat population for instance, but it's like I said, we weren't invited into the house," Cox said.

Cox and Falkenstrom's claims do not completely jibe with the law. A section of the state penal code titled "Animals in specified places without proper care or attention" empowers animal control officers -- not just police officers -- to go onto private property to seize animals they believe are being abused or neglected. It reads: "When the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that very prompt action is required to protect the health or safety of the animal, the officer shall immediately seize the animal." The statute says nothing about warrants or court orders.

The county's arguments are similar to those made by Eureka animal control after a young female dog was found near death last spring after being forced to spend all of its life in an outdoor cage. Complaints about that property were also made, but to no avail. The dog, named "Phoenix" by those who tried to save its life, later died.

According to Falkenstrom the reason the situation on Erie Street couldn't be dealt with was that Humboldt County doesn't have a "humane officer" -- a specialized animal abuse investigator who would be empowered, much like sheriff's deputies, to enter a building based on probable cause and fully investigate any suspected violations.

The county hasn't had a humane officer for over 10 years. To make matters worse, it couldn't hire one if it wanted to since only humane societies and nonprofit organizations are allowed to employ them.

"To me it's ridiculous," said County Supervisor John Woolley. "We have to examine why that law was written and try to find some group that can combine law enforcement and animal control."

Joan Biordy, an attorney who participated in the Band of Mercy rescue, was critical of the county. "It's a sad commentary that this county's leadership has such disregard for the pain and suffering of innocent animals. My pleas and others went unheeded. Many of those animals had to suffer more than if [the county] had done its job."

Falkenstrom said that nuisance complaints are the lowest priority at animal control.

"Our priorities are bite complaints, dogs on school grounds, dogs harassing individuals. Way down, further down and probably last are noise problems, odor problems," Falkenstrom said, adding there are 640 dog bite complaints in the county each year and only three animal control officers.

One thing appears indisputable: The violations at the Band of Mercy shelter were "egregious," as Falkenstrom put it.

Inside the house and the fenced back yard, human and animal feces were piled up with layers of newspaper reaching as high as six feet in some places, totally covering the floor, burying the sink. The one piece of furniture in the house, a bed, was surrounded by piles almost up to the level of the sleeping surface.

In the back yard, hemmed by massive blackberry hedges, dogs were kept in ramshackle kennels overflowing with filth.

Twenty-five dogs, 45 cats, three turkeys, a rabbit and eight chickens were rescued from the residence, and so far the clean up crews have trapped more than 84 rats.

Of the 25 dogs, only five survive. The rest, beyond hope, were killed by euthanasia.

"The dogs weren't euthanized just because of mange," Miranda said. "They had medical problems, open sores and aggression. As they (Martin and Decker) brought them out they bit at them. I don't know what they were doing to them in there, but it wasn't just neglect."

He said that some of the dogs were so mangy that they had almost no hair at all, and that they were so covered with fleas that it looked like their skins were crawling.

Of the cats, 14 had to be put down, mostly because of the presence of feline AIDS and other illnesses, as well as general bad health.

How could it have gotten like that?

Over the years Band of Mercy Animal Rescue deteriorated into the stuff that an animal lover's nightmares are made of, but it wasn't always like that.

"Linda and those guys (at the Band of Mercy) worked their fingers to the bone and nobody was helping them," said Patricia Shear, formally of For Pets' Sake, a Eureka charity that promoted spaying and neutering pets and worked with Band of Mercy.

Harriet Willard, who was also involved with animal charities in Eureka, said that she knew of times where Martin and Decker had gone without food in order to provide for their animals.

There is a general consensus that Martin always had a soft spot for animals and was compelled to take them in.

"Up until the day she was arrested she probably thought she was doing good," Falkenstrom said.

Mintey spoke of a time when a neighbor's cat had a litter of kittens under their porch and Martin went around the neighborhood trying to collect them and take them to Band of Mercy.

She would also, according to Miranda and others, take in cats she found in Dumpsters behind supermarkets and dogs that she found on the street. No creature was refused, and eventually it got out of control.

"I think they just got senile. They were overwhelmed and there were no contributions. I know it was disgusting, but how many years did she do this before it went bad?" Shear said.

That doesn't seem to hold much water with other members of the animal rescue community, however, or with the neighbors.

"You can chain a child to a bed and feed it too, but what good is that, what kind of quality of life?" Mintey said.

Miranda stressed that whatever Martin and Decker had done in the past, they had broken the law and should pay the price.

"People say `Why get mad at her (Martin), she tried,' but it was not a [shelter], it was an animal dungeon," Miranda said. "It's criminal what they did in there."



© Copyright 2002, North Coast Journal, Inc.

Linda Sue Martin & Donald Decker Lawson - Hoarding, ~100 animals seized, 60 euthanized

link

The rescue of sick and decrepit animals from a home on Erie Street that was operating as the Band of Mercy Animal Rescue is continuing, with only a few cats remaining.

Martin, 56, and Lawson, 66, were arrested on suspicion of felony animal abuse after officials were able to view the horrible conditions the animals were living in.

Since July 15 Shannon Miranda of Miranda's Rescue in Fortuna has retrieved 75 animals from the now condemned home. More than 40 of them had to be euthanized. Miranda said he suspects that more than 80 animals will be removed from the home by the time he's done.

Miranda was accompanied back to the home by Deputy Doug Pool of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department and county Animal Control officials. Pool said that, when he saw the conditions of the animals and the home, he had sufficient cause to arrest Lawson and Martin.

Both Pool and Miranda said that conditions in the house were appalling. They described piles of feces mixed with urine-soaked newspapers as much as 6 feet high in some places. Both said they were almost sick at the sight.

"There was no bathroom," Miranda said. "The toilet, sink and shower were all covered by those newspapers."

Miranda said the cats that remain are becoming hard to catch in his humane traps, because the traps are often set off by rats.

Miranda first started removing animals from the home when he was contacted by Martin, who said she was being evicted. "Over the phone I told her I only had room for eight dogs," Miranda said of a conversation with Martin before he visited the house. When Miranda saw stacks of newspapers soaked with urine and mixed with feces, 6 feet high in some places, he contacted the sheriff's department. Miranda said there was no bathroom in the home and Martin & Lawson were living in the same conditions as the animals.

Animals removed from the home are taken to Ferndale Veterinary and examined by veterinarian Kevin Silver. Of the animals euthanized, the cats all had either feline leukemia or feline AIDS, and the dogs all had extreme mange.

Miranda is billed for the veterinary work on the Band of Mercy animals under a separate account at Ferndale Veterinary, and he is attempting to find if the county is obligated to pay for any portion of it.

Reports that the Band of Mercy was at least partly funded by the Humboldt Area Foundation are true, but Barbara O'Neal, director of programs for the foundation, said the money the foundation gave to the rescue was at the request of donors' wills.

The $3,350 dollars given to the rescue last year was distributed by the foundation outside of its normal process for awarding grants -- a process which includes checking out a grant recipient.

But because the money was a direct donation tied to conditions stated in a will, no check on the recipient was required or made, she said.

Update 7/31/02:

Martin & Lawson plead not guilty at their first court appearance. They will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on August 9th.

1 of the dogs named Barney, rescued from the home was adopted.

Update 8/24/02:

The preliminary hearing for Marin & Lawson has been rescheduled for August 29th. Both face charges of felony animal abuse after Humboldt County sheriff's deputies witnessed the condition that nearly 100 animals, mostly dogs and cats, were living in at their home. Off the nearly 100 animals taken from the home, more than 60 had to be euthanized for aggression and/or medical conditions.

Update 9/14/02:

A shouting match between Bill Cater, Lawson's lawyer and Prosecutor Allison Jackson got the attention of all in the courtroom before the 2nd day of preliminary hearings official began over evidence. Superior Court Judge Timothy Cissna quickly brought order to the court.

Prosecutor Jackson called Shannon Miranda to the stand to describe the condition of each dog he removed from the home a week before Martin & Lawson were arrested. Miranda was able to recall the condition of 14 of the 19 dogs he removed. Each of the dogs suffered from mange and fleas and some had more severe medical conditions such as ear hematomas. After objections from the defense questioning Miranda's veterinary expertise, Jackson had him explain his vast, lifetime experience with helping animals.

Jackson then asked Miranda to describe the condition of the house when he was removing the initial 19 dogs.

"The front (yard) wasn't that bad, it was fairly clean," Miranda said. "But there was a stench you can't imagine." Miranda said from the front yard he could see a trail of newspapers and feces everywhere as Lawson was bringing caged dogs out of the house.

"I was just blown away," Miranda said. "Feces was everywhere, I wouldn't go in." Miranda said along with the dogs he took nine chickens and a rabbit.

Jackson provided Miranda with 101 pictures and photocopies of pictures and asked him to describe what he saw in each one. The pictures were of animals before they were taken to Miranda's Rescue, animals that were brought to the rescue, the Erie Street home and even some of bags full of animals that had already been euthanized.

Miranda said he didn't immediately report the condition the animals were living in to authorities because he was in a state of shock.

Cater was the first defense lawyer to begin questioning Miranda but was only able to squeeze in a few questions before court adjourned for the weekend. Cater asked what determined if an animal was to be euthanized and Miranda told him age, aggression, health, physical and emotional problems were all taken into consideration.

Miranda said he tried to save each animal, even going against veterinarian suggestions in some cases. He said that when the decision to euthanize a dog was made he would hold it, pet it and talk to it until it died.

Unless a plea bargain is struck, Martin & Lawson charged with 2 counts of felony animal abuse each will go to trial.

The next court appearance is scheduled for October 16th. Martin and Lawson remain free on their own recognizance.

Update 1/7/03:

Martin and Lawson were given a re-arraignment hearing on September 16th because additional charges have been brought against the couple. But the 2 did not attend a pretrial hearing on November 7th in which a possible plea agreement was discussed.

Judge Cissna handed down a $25,00 bench warrant for both Lawson & Marin that will be issued if the 2 don't show up for the next pretrial set for November 13th.

Judge Cissna stated the arrangement was that both Lawson and Martin will be charged with 1 felony count of animal abuse each and will see no immediate jail time. A new trial date of February 18th was tentatively set.

Of the 15 surviving animals taken to Miranda's Animal Rescue and nursed back to health all but one remains in his care. The rest have been adopted.

Update 2/20/03:

Martin & Lawson pleaded guilty in Superior Court to one count of felony animal abuse each.

The case against Lawson and Martin went to the Humboldt County Probation Department for a pre sentence report.

They're both due back in court March 19 for possible sentencing. Deputy District Attorney Allison Jackson said both will see no less than five years on felony probation. Martin and Lawson will also undergo psychological evaluations and must comply with whatever counseling is recommended by the evaluator. Prison time is possible but Jackson thinks that it is unlikely. Jail time or community service work is also a possibility.

The couple has been free on their own recognizance since just after their arrest.

Reference:

The Times Standard

JN - Animal abuse trial

Animal abuse trial

Animal abuse trial

The operators of the Band of Mercy animal shelter will have their day in court.

On Monday, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Timothy Cissna declared that the case against Linda Sue Martin and Larry Decker Lawson was sufficient to justify a trial.

Martin and Lawson are charged with felony animal abuse for mismanaging the Band of Mercy Animal Rescue. In July, it was discovered that nearly 100 animals -- mostly dogs and cats -- were being kept in filthy conditions.

The decision came after testimony from Shannon Miranda of Miranda Rescue in Fortuna, and Deputy Doug Pool of the Humboldt County Sheriff's office, both of whom assisted in clearing out the Eureka house that Band of Mercy operated in.

The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 25. Meanwhile Martin and Lawson remain free on their own recognizance.

How the system failed to protect a dog that was never given a chance -- until it was too late

Above photos: A dog known as Phoenix, inset; and in the backgroung her mother and brother.
Photos courtesy of Friends For Life Canine Rescue.

Story & photos by MEGHAN VOGEL FULMER

JACKIE SIMPSON DIDN'T THINK MUCH ABOUT the call left on her answering machine that Friday afternoon in late March. Stopping by her office after a day spent in the field, Eureka's sole animal control officer was just checking the last of her messages before leaving work for the weekend. It wasn't until almost 6 p.m. that Simpson had a chance to return Cindy Bowser's call about a possible case of animal abuse in Myrtletown. She informed Bowser that the matter would have to wait until Monday.

Two days later, a dog that had been living at that location would be named "Phoenix" by veterinarians engaged in a desperate and ultimately futile battle to save its life; not long afterward, the dog's owner, Susan Tatro, would be arrested and charged with a felony and two misdemeanors in what has become one of Humboldt County's most widely publicized animal cruelty cases in recent memory. And now, for the first time, animal rights advocates are publicly questioning the role played by Eureka animal control -- not just about Simpson's decision to put off Bowser for the weekend, but also about the fact that she did not take aggressive action when she first received a complaint last December about "screaming" and "crying" dogs living in an outdoor pen at 1307 West Ave.

Simpson is not the only one who failed to take effective action. A Eureka police officer went out to the site the day before Phoenix was rescued, viewed the moribund animal, and was told by his supervisor to do nothing. Two days later, with Phoenix dead, animal rights advocates frantically tried to persuade the authorities to go onto the property and seize two other animals that had been trapped in the same pen. A search warrant was not obtained until the following day, by which time the two animals -- who were in better condition than Phoenix -- were gone.

When told that animal control knew about possible problems at the property last year, Kathleen Kistler, executive director of the Sequoia Humane Society, said that an on-site inspection of the pen should have been done then; either that, Kistler said, or animal control should have posted a notice on the property requiring the dogs' owner to come down to City Hall with the dogs so that their condition could have been assessed.

Tamara McFarland, co-founder of Friends for Life Canine Rescue, a local organization focused on finding homes for stray and abandoned dogs, accused animal control of abrogating its responsibilities: "There are laws in place that are meant to protect animals from these situations, and the fact that law enforcement didn't implement those laws resulted in this dog's death."

Simpson said anyone criticizing animal control in this case simply doesn't understand the law; absent an emergency situation in which an animal is in jeopardy of dying in a matter of minutes -- perhaps from heat stroke if locked in a car left out in the sun -- an animal control officer cannot trespass on private property without a search warrant. To obtain a warrant, an officer needs tangible evidence of abuse; that was lacking in this case, Simpson said, for the simple reason that the pen was too deep on the property to be seen clearly from the street.

NO SENSE OF URGENCY

"At the time I had no concrete evidence, there was no sense of urgency," said Simpson of her telephone conversation with Bowser on Friday, March 22. "All I knew was that she was telling me there was a dog that appeared to be unkempt and that it smelled bad. I couldn't enter onto the property without a search warrant."

Bowser said she expressed strong concern to Simpson about poor living conditions. Walking by the property earlier in the day, "it smelled like a broken sewer pipe and I really believed the smell was coming from the pen," Bowser recalled. "I was concerned about the dogs in the pen, about their well-being."

During the conversation, Simpson realized she had received a previous complaint about the same Myrtletown property before. It was in December, when another neighbor -- not Bowser -- had called complaining of dogs "screaming or crying in the night." Simpson went down to the West Avenue property to investigate. She knocked on the door, got no answer, then walked and drove the perimeter. She saw dogs in a pen, but the pen appeared to be fairly good sized and the dogs were quiet. Seeing no reason to investigate the matter further, she left.

Knowing that she had inspected the property over three months before did not raise a red flag in Simpson's mind that Friday evening in March. Instead, it merely strengthened her decision not to take any action. She said Bowser told her that the pen was small, "but I remembered that it had seemed O.K." As for the complaint about a foul smell emanating from the property, Simpson said "I had not noticed the smell before."

"I knew it was going to be one of those debatable situations," Simpson added. She said another factor in her thinking was that going out that late in the day on Friday would have involved requesting overtime pay.

Phoenix, a female kelpie about a year old, was eventually taken from the mud and feces-encrusted pen she was locked in on Sunday, March 24, by Eureka Police Officer Cindy Manos. Although McKinleyville veterinarian Cynthia Macune did all she could to save the animal, its emaciated state had brought on a severe case of hypothermia; the dog's starvation was so advanced that it had no body fat or muscle to insulate itself from the cold.

"A day would have possibly made a difference," said Macune of the dog's survival. "It's quite possible. It would have been nice to be able to work on her Friday evening."

"No, not really," said Simpson when asked if she regretted not going out that Friday night. "Because there was nothing I could've done anyway except stand on the edge of the property and look in."

Of course, had Simpson obtained a warrant after her December visit and inspected the pen then, she might very well have realized that the animals were being severely neglected; after all by March they were knee-deep in excrement, an indication that they were trapped for a very long time. But Simpson said it's possible that at that time Phoenix may not have been in bad enough shape to justify seizing her.



`A SHRIVELED-UP LITTLE THING'

Bowser [photo at left] had been concerned since late last summer about the crying puppy noises she had been hearing so frequently on her walks past a neighbor's fenced-in backyard. On a few occasions she and some fellow neighbors had even tried to contact the owner of the dogs.

"It was hard to tell who really lived in the house. People were always coming and going," said Bowser. "Sometimes there would be no lights on for days, but you could still hear puppies crying in the backyard. We didn't know who the owner was. Every time we went to speak with residents at the home it was a different person who didn't really know what was going on except that the dogs were not wanted. We wanted to offer help, but we didn't know who to talk to. I never did see the puppies, but it sounded like they were being hurt."

Bowser offered to find the puppies a home, explaining to whomever answered the door at Tatro's home that there were several options available to the dogs' owner, such as taking them to a shelter or an animal rescue organization. Since no one at the home would take responsibility of ownership however, the dogs remained in the backyard's 8-foot by 8-foot wire pen.

"If someone needs help with their animals, there are so many places and animal rescue organizations to call," added Bowser. "You just don't stick them in a box and allow them to starve to death."

The day after she called Simpson, Bowser went for another walk past Tatro's home to check on the dogs. This time she heard crying. And this time she decided to take matters in her own hands by entering the property to look into the pen herself.

"What I found was horrifying. I had no idea it was that bad," said Bowser who described the dogs' pen as being 5 inches thick with feces, reaching up to the middle of the dogs' legs. [photo below depicts empty food and water dishes, dried feces and footprints of the three dogs kept in an 8-foot by 8-foot pen.]

"You had to have something over your nose the smell was so bad," Bowser continued. "I was talking to two dogs trying to comfort them, and then all of a sudden I said, `My God!' Out of the corner of my eye I saw something moving just a shriveled up little thing lying there in the mud and feces. The dog could barely move. At that point I literally went screaming to my neighbor's for help and left a hysterical message with animal control."

She also called the Eureka Police Department. A young officer, fresh on the force, came out to assess the situation.

According to Bowser the officer was "horrified," and immediately called his supervisor to find out what sort of action he could take. He was told that nothing could be done. Officer Manos, who rescued the dog the next day, said the young officer "feels terrible," and requested that his name not appear in print. It is not clear who the supervisor was.

On Sunday, March 24, Bowser attended a meeting of Friends for Life, of which she is a member. Bowser notified McFarland of the dogs' situation. McFarland then contacted Manos, a friend.

"Thank God Tamara knew Cindy (Officer Manos)," said Bowser. "I wouldn't have known what to do otherwise, and if Tamara hadn't known Cindy, then probably nothing would've gotten done."


Susan Tatro


When Manos arrived to investigate shortly before 11 a.m., she found no one at home at the Tatro residence. To get a better look inside the pen, she threw in some pigs' ears as treats for the dogs so they'd stop jumping up on the pen's walls. Manos noted that the bigger of the two was dominant and took both treats. Although the dogs' living conditions were squalid, and two metal bowls in the pen were caked with dried mud indicating they had not been fed or watered in some time, they appeared not to be in any immediate danger. Manos called McFarland, telling her she had only seen two dogs that seemed to be in fairly good shape. McFarland, alarmed that the sick dog could possibly already be dead, insisted that there were three dogs, and both women went back to take a second look.

"I thought it was dead," said Manos when she went back to the property with McFarland and found the dog around 12:30 p.m. "There was small movement, but she didn't do anything only emitted little shivers that was her only response. She was cold to the touch."

"She was nothing but bones," Manos said, shaking her head at a loss for words.

Manos met Macune, the emergency on-call veterinarian that day, at the McKinleyville Animal Care Center at approximately 1:30 p.m. The dog's temperature had dropped so low that it didn't even register on Macune's thermometer, and it had no detectable blood pressure. According to Manos there was also a "maggoty area" on the dog's body. Macune guessed that the dog was around a year old, and said it weighed half of its normal weight according to its size and breed.

"I can't ever remember seeing a neglect case this bad. The degree of emaciation was amazing," said Macune. "This was a long-term situation that had been going on for weeks, if not months."

When the dog arrived at the office, all the doors and windows of the building had to be opened because of the overpowering stench.

"She was soaked in her own excrement covering her entire body. The wetness was just sucking out her heat even more," explained Macune. "At that point she had lost the ability to shiver. The ability to shiver is a basic mechanical body reflex, and once shivering stops and hypothermia sets in death happens usually within 24 hours."

The dog, named Phoenix in the hopes it would make a miraculous recovery, died later that night.

"At least she didn't have to spend another night out in the cold," Macune said. "At least she died warm and clean."



HOW MUCH POWER?

Manos went onto the property only after she knew that a dog was in dire condition. According to Simpson, Manos had greater freedom to act for another reason: because she's a full-fledged police officer while Simpson is not. "I'm essentially a civilian in uniform. Police officers have a lot more power than I do," she said. She said when she does need to write a warrant she has to track down a detective in the department to help her with the technicalities.

Simpson, who's been an animal control officer for 21 years, said that she used to more aggressively enforce animal cruelty laws but that the legal system tended to not back her up. She said she learned a hard lesson with one case in particular a few years ago when, without first obtaining a warrant, she seized animals that she believed were being neglected. "The district attorney's office refused to file charges and the person got all the animals back for free," Simpson recalled. Not only that, Simpson said, but the city was out about $1,000 in sheltering costs for the time the animals were impounded.

Simpson said animal control used to have greater powers to inspect properties for possible animal abuse, but that the law has changed over the years in favor of protecting people's property and privacy rights.

"Animal control's powers have been taken away from them," agreed Manos. "They are not allowed to go onto private property without a warrant. I could get on the property because I'm a police officer and I had reason to believe a crime was being committed. I could take Phoenix then without a warrant because of her appalling condition."

McFarland and Kistler say California law expressly gives animal control officers -- not just police officers -- the power to go onto private property to seize animals they believe are being abused. They pointed to a section of the California penal code titled "Animals in specified places without proper care or attention" that specifically applies to "any peace officer, humane society officer or animal control officer." The section reads: "When the officer has reasonable grounds to believe that very prompt action is required to protect the health or safety of the animal, the officer shall immediately seize the animal." The section says nothing about a search warrant or that the officer can only act in an emergency.

"If you get serious complaints from credible people, I think it's clear that you can investigate more thoroughly without having to go get a search warrant, which is not that easy to get," Kistler said.

Simpson, for her part, said "the way the laws read and how they play in court are two very different things."

Bradley Woodall of the Animal Legal Defense Fund in Portland, Ore., said that of all the cases that have come across his desk lately, Phoenix's has been bothering him considerably. "The suffering is extremely dire in this particular case. I've seen photos. It's tragic," said Woodall in a telephone interview from Portland. "Neglect like this case is one of the easier crimes to correct if the situation had been discovered sooner."

But Woodall refused to second-guess the way Simpson handled the case. "Unfortunately, an animal control officer has to see the animal in a public place before they can seek a search warrant. Most animal cruelty cases are well hidden on private property.

"Mrs. Tatro should have fed her dogs and I'm not going to point a finger at anyone other than Mrs. Tatro," Woodall said.


THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO

The worst-case scenario for animal rights advocates is that the case against Tatro might somehow get dismissed or the felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. It's happened before -- most recently last year, when felony charges against Dan Ray Evans, a Eureka man accused of poisoning five neighborhood cats (and represented by District Attorney-elect Paul Gallegos), were all reduced to misdemeanors.

Woodall said he had concerns that the case might get thrown out because Manos went onto the property to rescue Phoenix without a search warrant and on the basis of information obtained by someone who trespassed -- namely Bowser. "The case may not be able to go forward because of that," Woodall said.

Kistler expressed incredulity at that possibility: "If you hear a neighbor stabbing his wife, anyone can go to into the house because that's a criminal act being performed. And it's a criminal act to not take proper care of an animal. If something that's defined as a crime takes place in your house, does that make it OK?"

Few Legal Protections

WHILE EUREKA ANIMAL CONTROL has come under fire for not doing more to investigate the conditions that led to the death of the 1-year-old female dog Phoenix, the fact remains that legally speaking animals are considered private property -- and hence can only be taken from their owners in extreme cases of abuse and neglect.

"You can't just go and take animals -- only in exigent circumstances when their life is in danger. Animals are personal property. You have to understand that principle," said Bob Timoni, director of the Haven Humane Society in Redding and a retired member of the Humane Society's state board of directors.

Bradley Woodall of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a Portland, Ore., organization, said that "animals are considered property in every state in the country. Relinquishing property before being found guilty is an idea that is just now being proposed. To challenge property issues is futile to take someone's property is a really hard thing to do."

Woodall said that of all the animal cruelty cases being investigated in the nation, less than 10 percent are actually strong enough to be prosecuted in court. Of the 14,000 reports of abuse and/or neglect his office received last year, less than 5 percent made it to court, he said.

When asked if animals could be better protected if their legal status was changed from property to sentient creatures, Woodall responded, "Ideally that would be the case, but there's a lot of resistance (from people who) would rather not see those protective rights extended to animals. Take factory farming and research animals, for instance. These rights do extend more to dogs and cats because of their intricate relationships with human beings, but it's a slippery slope when discussing the value of one species over another."

To which Kathleen Kistler, executive director of the Sequoia Humane Society in Eureka, retorted: "For centuries children and women were considered property and weren't legally protected either."

Cruelty unchecked

FOR EVIDENCE OF A SICK SOCIETY, PAY A VISIT to Eureka's Sequoia Humane Society.

"We see so many animals at the shelter who are on the verge of starvation, they're dying or at death's door," said Executive Director Kathleen Kistler. "There's mange, scars, broken tails totally obvious abuse cases. Sometimes owners just bring their animals in to be put to sleep. These are nice animals that have been obviously neglected. Most of the time it's a lack of respect or caring, but sometimes it's just ignorance."

"People need to stand up and say this will not to be tolerated in their communities," said Bob Timoni, who heads the Haven Humane Society in Redding. "Whether you win or lose an animal abuse case is irrelevant. What does count is the message saying that we're not going to tolerate letting animals be treated this way."

If Kistler had to point the finger of blame somewhere, she'd single out "the entire society because animals, children, the elderly and women aren't thought of as important, and until people understand the interconnectedness of all these things and start to care a little bit more nothing is going to get done."

One sign of the low priority given to protecting animals from abusive people -- and, for that matter, to protecting people from dangerous animals -- is that there is only one animal control officer for the entire city of Eureka, and only three for all of Humboldt County.

Tamara McFarland of Friends for Life Canine Rescue, a local organization, said more vigorous prosecution of animal cruelty cases could end up providing better protections to people. Why? Because many hardened criminals start out victimizing animals.

"It's impossible to separate cruelty to people and cruelty to animals. Study upon study has shown that people who abuse animals are far more likely to abuse children or spouses or to become serial murderers."

5.27.2010

JN - DA Trials - Gallegos, Hagen and Jackson make their case for the job of top prosecutor



DA Trials - Gallegos, Hagen and Jackson make their case for the job of top prosecutor

(MAY 27, 2010) When handsome, young defense lawyer Paul Gallegos upset 20-year incumbent District Attorney Terry Farmer in 2002, many saw it as a watershed moment for Humboldt County politics — a landmark cultural shift away from the good ol’ boy conservativism that had dominated local government for generations in favor of stricter environmental accountability, a healthy respect for civil liberties and just general coolness (he surfs!). During his first few months in office, Gallegos made good on his campaign promise to shake things up by loosening medical marijuana guidelines and filing a massive fraud lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Co.

Nearly eight years later, the DA’s office — and the politics surrounding it — have indeed changed profoundly. But if there’s a defining event from the Gallegos era thus far, it’s not his election but rather the failed recall attempt launched just three months into his first term. Funded by unscrupulous Palco CEO (hence defendant) Charles Hurwitz, the recall effort drove a wedge deep into existing fissures, both in the community — already polarized by the timber wars — and within the DA’s office, where staff remained bitter about Farmer’s ousting.

Allison Jackson



For supporters, the recall attempt turned Gallegos into a martyr. They viewed him as a courageous prosecutor being persecuted for standing up to corruption. Critics, meanwhile, charged that he was overreaching with the Palco suit at the expense of violent crime prosecutions. Though Gallegos handily defeated the recall effort, his detractors continued to accumulate cannon fodder: The Palco case was thrown out before reaching trial; the DA’s office suffered an exodus of experienced prosecutors, some leaving voluntary, others being canned; and in 2005, a Grand Jury report lambasted Gallegos for ineffectual leadership. Yet supporters stood by him, and in 2006, Gallegos defeated challenger Worth Dikeman (a Farmer loyalist who’d offered himself as a potential replacement during the recall try), thus marking his third election victory in four years.

In some circles, the discord of Gallegos’ first term has quietly festered during his second. Fault-finders have assiduously noted every plea bargain and loss — the Palco suit in particular, and also the case against two Eureka police officers for the shooting death of Cheri Lyn Moore. (The officers were acquitted after the judge ruled that Gallegos had misinformed the Grand Jury.) Supporters cite these same cases as evidence of Gallegos’ integrity; win or lose, they say, his decisions to prosecute reflect a refusal to be cowed by money or power. And they point to notable convictions, like that of corrupt Blue Lake Police Chief David Gundersen, as well as successes like the Curtis Huntzinger case, in which DA investigators garnered a full confession of child murder, 18 years after the fact.

Gallegos is now in the midst of a tough reelection campaign against two challengers, both of whom carry wounds from the battles of the past eight years: Allison Jackson, 50, a former Humboldt County Deputy DA now with Eureka’s Harland Law Firm, and Paul Hagen, 55, a former environmental circuit prosecutor now with Eureka firm Bragg, Perlman, Russ, Stunich and Eads. (A third challenger, former Deputy DA Kathleen Bryson, dropped out of the race last month citing family obligations.) In preparation for the June 8 primary election, each of these three lawyers sat down with the Journal to argue his or her case, looking to win over the jury of undecided voters.

Allison Jackson spent 10 years at the Humboldt County DA’s Office, earning a reputation as a tough-as-nails trial attorney specializing in child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence cases. Gallegos fired her in 2004, shortly after the recall attempt. He was (and is) legally prevented from explaining why, but Jackson suggested, in the heat of the 2006 election, that she’d been fired in order to protect a defense attorney who presented forged evidence in court. Gallegos vehemently denied this. (“Forged Documents and Six Pounds of Weed,” May 18, 2006).

She’s now one of four partners at the Harland Law Firm, a 62-year-old civil firm housed in a handsomely renovated mechanics garage in Eureka. At the far end of the main hall, past bookshelves and ficus trees reaching from the parquet floor toward the steel crossbeams in the vaulted ceiling, lies Jackson’s office. Sitting behind her large mahogany desk on a recent Wednesday morning, Jackson said her decision to run for DA was not easy.

“I love my work here,” she said. “This building is beautiful. My partners are wonderful. My clients are wonderful. I absolutely adore my staff.” But she said she’s been approached by literally hundreds of people in recent years — in restaurants, banks, the post office — all asking her to please run for DA. Jackson herself has been one of Gallegos’ fiercest critics, questioning his knowledge of the law, challenging his office- and case-management abilities and condemning what she calls a revolving door of plea bargains. In the end, she said, her decision came down to “whether I could sleep in my skin at night.”

One of Jackson’s main passions as a litigator is protecting victims’ rights, a motive she traces back to the tragic and sudden death of her mother and stepfather at the hands of a drunk driver when she was 21. This occurred shortly before the Victims’ Bill of Rights was passed in 1982, so Jackson was not allowed to testify at the sentencing of the killer — an experience that firmly established her sympathy for victims. With her parents gone, she decided to abandon her dreams of becoming an anthropologist and wildlife photographer and instead became a lawyer, as her grandmother had been.

The Victims’ Bill of Rights not only expanded victims’ involvement in criminal trials, it also set limits on plea bargains. Therein lies Jackson’s most significant criticism of Gallegos. She believes that many of the deals he’s struck not only shortchanged victims and the public of justice, they were in fact illegal. She cites California Penal Code 1192.7, which prohibits plea bargaining in cases involving serious felonies unless a) the evidence is insufficient to prove the case, b) a witness disappears or c) the plea deal won’t substantially change the sentence.

Gallegos, she charged, has violated this statute countless times, most recently in the cases of Robert Bradshaw and Tracey Williams, both of whom were allowed to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter rather than murder, and James Stanko, who pleaded to murder but not the string of armed robberies that preceded it. “It’s not any DA’s role in a serious or violent felony to usurp the jury function,” Jackson said. “If you have the evidence and the witnesses, you have to go forward.” As to how such allegedly unlawful pleas are allowed to occur, Jackson said, “I think there’s a fundamental lack of knowledge on [Gallegos’] part. I just can’t explain it any other way.”

She also criticized Gallegos’ “dismantling” of his senior-level deputy staff, saying she’s personally had to counsel inexperienced prosecutors from his office — and once even drafted a motion for one. There’s clearly a personal element to this gripe, since Jackson herself was among the deputy DA casualties. But she said the true tragedy of these departures (when combined with the time-consuming Palco case) was the effect they had on victims’ advocacy programs like the Child Abuse Services Team and domestic violence prosecutions.

The latter, Jackson said in another serious accusation, took a major step backward recently thanks to Gallegos’ handling of the Gundersen case, in which the Blue Lake police chief’s wife claimed she’d been repeatedly drugged and raped, only to recant her testimony in court. Jackson believes this change of heart stemmed from her treatment as a witness. “The DA’s office threatened this woman with arrest if she didn’t testify,” Jackson said. “They were engaging in the same type of abusive, harsh tactics the abuser was.” The fears of every rape victim — reprisal, badgering, public humiliation — were all realized in that case, Jackson said. And she’s convinced the subsequent county-wide drop in reported rapes is not coincidence.

“I intend to win this election,” she said, “and I intend to change all of that.”

Paul Hagen doesn’t drink coffee. Or alcohol, soda … not even tea. The human body is mostly water, he reasons, so drinking anything else pollutes it. Nevertheless, he agreed to meet outside Arcata’s Cafe Brio on a recent overcast morning, having skipped his weekly dawn swim through Stone Lagoon. One-on-one conversations with Hagen can be intense. When answering questions, he often looks off to the side, eyes darting as if tractor beams within them are retrieving data from the nearby sidewalk. He measures his words carefully, until, with his full thought more or less reeled in, he’ll turn, stare you straight in the eye and finish his point with articulate precision.

This no-nonsense disposition has served him well in court. From 1998 to 2006 he worked as an environmental circuit prosecutor for the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA). Deputized in Humboldt, Del Norte, Lake and, for a time, Mendocino counties, Hagen became the region’s top environmental prosecutor, investigating corporations large and small for such crimes as air and water pollution, archaeological looting and soil erosion. He won cases against Lockheed Martin, Louisiana Pacific and Pacific Lumber — twice.

In July 2006, however, he too was fired under politically charged circumstances. Hagen is convinced that his termination was retribution for questioning the endorsement process of the Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee, which ultimately backed Gallegos for reelection. Gallegos later acknowledged that he’d written two letters regarding Hagen’s work performance to the CDAA — at their request — but he told the Arcata Eye that Hagen’s theory was “way off the deep end.”

Hagen comes from Midwestern, blue-collar roots. He attended Northern Illinois University, where he served in student government and later interned for Congressman John B. Anderson. After graduating from the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Hagen moved with his wife to California, where he worked in construction, law clerking and various other jobs before being hired as an environmental analyst at Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro, then the state’s largest law firm. Prior to his work with the CDAA, Hagen taught environmental law at Cal State Hayward, San Francisco State University and S.F. City College and worked for the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office. He now serves as Trinidad’s city attorney and handles a number of other clients, including the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District and the California Teachers Association.

Hagen spoke of his track record in environmental prosecution with pride: “I did things nobody had done, went places nobody had gone, had successes nobody had tried.” He recalled a case against Lockheed Martin for hazardous waste remediation violations. “I filed a very unique motion asserting that corporations have no Fifth Amendment rights under the Constitution,” he said. “They fought it and lost.”

In Hagen’s quest to become DA, some have pointed to his lack of experience prosecuting serious violent felonies. Hagen counters that the same criticism could have been leveled at Gallegos before he got the job. Besides, he said, the rules of criminal jury trials are always the same, as is the goal: Get out the truth. And there he feels confident. “I learned early on that if you’re going to be a prosecutor, you have to be fearless in the face of the enemy,” he said.

Regarding Gallegos, Hagen questioned his judgment and competence in the Cheri Lyn Moore and Palco cases, pointing out that in both, a judge ruled that he’d failed to meet minimum standards to justify a trial. “You can say whatever you want about courage and willingness to take on corporations,” Hagen said. “I’ve taken on Palco and beat them — criminally and civilly.” He also questioned (as did Jackson) Gallegos’ decision to arm his investigators with AR-15 assault rifles. “It boggles my mind why they need them,” he said.

While serving on the Arcata Planning Commission, Hagen helped to rework the city’s marijuana ordinance so officials can combat grow houses based on land use code violations. He suggested this approach can be used elsewhere — including at the county level — and added that, if weed is legalized in November, it will allow local jurisdictions even greater leeway to regulate the industry. The only appropriate role for the District Attorney in that process, Hagen said, is to ensure that language in each ordinance provides a clear path for enforcement.

In closing, Hagen argued that being in tune with community priorities — having your finger on the pulse of the jury pool — is key to success as a DA. “I think I fit the county well and could do a very good job as DA,” he said.

In any election, the incumbent is subject to criticism of his tenure, an analysis that can be particularly thankless for district attorneys since, as Gallegos has said, the courts rarely produce satisfied customers. “People can criticize me for everything in this job,” he said last week during an interview in the DA’s office library, on the fourth floor of the county courthouse. “That’s the way it works. There isn’t a decision I make that doesn’t get criticized by every participant — because to the defendant I’m being too harsh. To law enforcement victims, too soft. The defense attorney, too harsh.”

What’s important, he argued, is that under his administration violent crime has been reduced despite drastic cuts to the office budget. In debates and on his campaign Web site he has pointed to statistics showing the rate of violent crimes — including homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — between 1999 and 2008, the most recent year for which the state Department of Justice has compiled statistics. In 2003, Gallegos’ first year in office, the rate dropped a whopping 23 percent. By 2008 it remained 12 percent lower than in Farmer’s final year.

The significance and interpretation of these stats have been questioned by Gallegos’ challengers who argue that, first of all, violent crime has actuallyrisen 13.5 percent since 2003’s big drop. More importantly, they say, the factors that influence crime rates are far too nebulous and complex to justify any one person claiming responsibility. But Gallegos, who was called a “lightweight” when he first ran for the office, stuck to his guns. “People didn’t think we could bring down crime. I tell you, and I’ve told everyone, we can.” The stats, he said, are “an indication that my office continues to work well with law enforcement, despite all this hyperbole out there to the contrary.”

Gallegos dismissed Jackson’s allegations of unlawful plea deals as patently false, saying the court maintains a system of checks and balances to ensure such deals are appropriate. Furthermore, he said, with about 10,000 cases coming through the office each year and only five courtrooms in which to try them, plea deals are not only a logistical necessity, they’re often the best way to reach a swift conviction. “This is what plea bargains are,” he said. “They’re a bargain for the state [and] they’re a bargain for the people.”

Over the course of the interview, Gallegos was asked if, in retrospect, he would have done anything differently in the Palco, Gundersen or Cheri Lyn Moore cases. Each time he paused to consider before saying no. The charges were justified, he said, even if the court found otherwise. “We often disagree with the rulings, but we respect them.”

Gallegos defended his marijuana prosecution guidelines, saying the debate has been polluted by falsehoods and red herrings. So-called “home invasions,” for example, are actually robberies conducted during illegal business transactions, he said. Grow house vandalism is also a separate crime, he argued, one that shouldn’t infringe on the rights of legitimate medical marijuana users.

When his opponents’ objections to AR-15s came up, Gallegos simply said, “Crazy.” He then popped out of his chair and said, “Come talk to Billy [Honsal, one of the DA investigators].” Swinging open the library door, Gallegos led the way through the office toward the investigation unit, arguing while he walked. “I’m elected here in the county, but I’m a state officer,” he said. By extension, his investigative unit has authority above that of local law enforcement. “These guys are the only law enforcement officers who have jurisdiction everywhere in Humboldt County,” he said. “They literally — they’re the top cops.”

Rounding a corner, a group of men came into view: DA investigators gathered inside Investigator Wayne Cox’s office, chatting and laughing while watching a video on the computer. When asked to justify their need for the AR-15s, the response was emphatic and unanimous. The unit has become more proactive under Gallegos and Chief Investigator Mike Hislop, Cox said. Several of the investigators recalled being shot at from long distances while in the field. The AR-15 may have a fierce reputation thanks to its association with the military, but the fact is, they said, it’s the perfect tool for the job. “It’s a superior weapon for our environment,” said Investigator James Dawson.

When the Gundersen case came up again, Gallegos said, “We’ll give you a show and tell.” He, Honsal and Cox then proceeded to wheel out a library cart weighed down with heavy weaponry — a partial take from the investigation of the former Blue Lake chief, who in addition to battering his wife had amassed a huge, illegal personal arsenal. Onto a table in the corner of the building they spread out the guns, covering its surface with Sig Sauer and Ruger handguns, AR-15s, a Heckler and Koch UMP submachine gun and more. The men took obvious delight in assembling this display, which was odd considering that just moments earlier they’d attested that their assault rifles were merely practical implements. They may well be, but there’s obviously more to the allure.

Afterward, Gallegos continued with a tour through the office, bantering playfully with staff and showing off new technological upgrades. If there’s any residual tension or bitterness here, it’s not visible to the untrained eye. Among his personnel, Gallegos seemed happy and relaxed. Campaigning, by comparison, is just a hassle. “It’s frustrating,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s just like a jury. You do your job, put in the evidence and let a jury decide.”

For more information on the candidates, visit their Web sites:

Allison Jackson: aj4da.com

Paul Hagen: www.hagenforda.com

Paul Gallegos: votepaul.org

***

Several questions come to mind -
1. When Gallegos' bio gets mentioned, no one mentions that he came out of an unaccredited law school, and that is something that matters to attorneys. They will tell you.

2. When did DA investigators get shot at? Wouldn't that have made the paper? Made it onto posts on this blog?

HBeacon - The race for Humboldt County District Attorney Candidates answer last-minute questions

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The race for Humboldt County District Attorney Candidates answer last-minute questions
Franklin Stover, Humboldt Beacon

On Tuesday, June 8, Humboldt County voters have three choices for Humboldt County District Attorney: Paul Gallegos, Paul Hagen, and Allison Jackson.

Briefly, Gallegos is currently Humboldt County District Attorney. He earned a BS in Economics from the University of Southern California. Later, he attended LaVerne College of Law and was admitted to the California Bar Association. Gallegos opened a law office in Eureka under the name, Gallegos and Gallegos. He ran for Humboldt County District Attorney in 2002, unseating 20-year incumbent, Terry Farmer. In 2006, he was re-elected. Gallegos is now nearing the end of his second term.

Briefly, on candidate Paul Hagen, he served as a Deputy District Attorney in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, and Lake counties for more than 11-years. During that time, Hagen led a multi-agency task force investigating and prosecuting public health and safety violations and crimes against the environment. Hagen has organized and presented a series of State Bar conferences on environmental and land use law and volunteers his time as a mentor for the Humboldt Teen Court. Hagen was County of Mendocino Deputy District Attorney from 1995 to 1999.

Briefly, on candidate Allison Jackson, she has been with the Harland Law Firm in Eureka since 2004 and has a background in civil litigation representing clients in diverse State and Federal civil matters. From 1994 to 2004, Jackson was Deputy District Attorney for Humboldt County and Chairperson of the Humboldt County Sexual Assault Response Team from 1999 to 2004. In addition, she has been a participant member of the Humboldt County Child Death Review Team. She is an experienced Senior Trial Prosecutor in serious felony cases from arraignment, bail hearing and preliminary hearing through trial and sentencing.

Like the race for county Sheriff, the Humboldt Beacon posed two last minute questions to candidates seeking office in the June 8 election. The questions were of a general nature and asked:

What special skill or attribute will you bring to the office you are seeking? and, If elected, what would be your first priority on day one?

Beginning with Paul Gallegos' response, the incumbent D.A. said,

”I remain steadfastly committed to American values. When I took office 7-years ago I promised to do what's right, not just what's popular. A District Attorney must remain independent in order to serve justice for all. That is just the way I was brought up and the way I have always lived life. In office as District Attorney, I hold my staff to the same standard, retaining and hiring only those attorneys and investigators who could make the same pledge. I am proud to report that we now have an award-winning staff who work well together as a team unified by the values we hold dear. We owe our success to the fact that we seek justice and truth, not vengeance and victory. Knowing the truth sets one free to do the best work possible for the people who rely on us to do just that.”

Gallegos' chief priorities for day-one are as follows: “Public Safety. That has been the priority from day-one and will continue to be my priority throughout my term. For instance, by prioritizing cases we take to trial, we concentrate our efforts on taking the most violent and dangerous criminals out of society. It works: The conviction rate is high, crime is down and prison commitments are up. We not only prosecute crime. We prevent crime. Recently our investigators and attorneys prevented a convicted rapist from murdering a girl who was to testify against him. We have also sent child abusers to prison for hundreds of years each. They will no longer threaten public safety. Our Victim/Witness Division recently won federal recognition for their compassionate service to victims and witnesses of crime, ensuring the safety of people in their homes and on the streets.”

Moving over to candidate Paul Hagen, the Eureka attorney said that his set of skills and attributes will come in to play because he feels deeply about people.

”I am a person who believes deeply that life is about other people. All my decisions and actions are governed by my overarching belief that we are here in this brief life to help other people. In America, the people are the government, a revolutionary idea underpinning our Constitution. Public service, to me, is the highest form of helping as many people as possible.

The special skill or attribute I will bring to the District Attorney's Office lies in two, complementary, parts. First, my dedication to do all that is within my power to make life better for everyone in the society in which I live. In the District Attorney's Office, this means the people of Humboldt County. Second, my ability to inspire and lead people to perform to standards of excellence. These things then come together in service to the people, which here, is delivering justice.”

Hagen's main concern for day-one on the job was expressed this way: “The job of the District Attorney is to ensure that justice is delivered in a fair, even-handed and common sense manner. The day-to-day work of the DA is to run the office to accomplish this end. After all, it is the people who work in the office that deliver results in the courts.

My first priority on day-one would be to introduce myself to the DA office staff. A new administration brings new policies, priorities and standards. Of these, standards of excellence are paramount. Staff members need reassurance that they will be respected, and that the office will be a desirable place to work. They must know what is expected of them, and that they will be supported in all they do so long as they strive for and consistently achieve high levels of community service. This immutable priority will be with them until the day I leave office."

Finally moving to Allison Jackson, the veteran attorney summed up her skills and experience this way: “I have a 20 year history of fighting for my community, protecting the most vulnerable and standing up for the victims of crime. I've handled thousands of serious and violent felonies throughout the course of my career and demonstrated excellence in all areas of criminal law. I have keen administrative skills, and real experience in actually running a law office. I have trained young lawyers and police officers, teaching classes for the State. I was instrumental in building the Child Abuse Services Team Program, was past chairperson of the SART Board, and have trained other counties in establishing their own child abuse teams. I have served as an expert witness on the topic of prosecutorial ethics, and I am the only candidate who can effectively rebuild our District Attorney's Office, which is why I need your vote on June 8.”

Jackson explained that her main priorities for her first day on the job include, “bringing staff together, assess high priority cases to vertically assign them to individual deputies according to their strengths; begin evaluation to make sure cases are properly charged, and built so that they can successfully be brought to trial, thereby shutting down the revolving door of plea bargains, which have become commonplace with the incumbent; reach out to reestablish communication with law enforcement agencies to let them know that when they bust them, we won't let them go.”

Jackson added, “Scrap any idea that the DA's Office will be setting up its own SWAT Team, start rebuilding the Victim Witness Program, and reestablish Special Victims programs, such as Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Child Abuse, Elder/Dependent Adult crimes. Victims and witnesses will have full access to the DA's Office regarding their cases - you'll no longer get a phone tree and a full mailbox - your questions will be answered in a timely manner.”

submitted photos
1. Candidate Paul Gallegos.
2. Candidate Paul Hagen.
3. Candidate Allison Jackson.

5.22.2010

TS - Three candidates vie for Humboldt County District Attorney

Three candidates vie for Humboldt County District Attorney
Editor's note: A series of stories examining the district attorney candidates' views on issues including plea bargains, marijuana and the administration of the office will begin next week.
_______________________
Paul Gallegos sees unfinished business

District Attorney Paul Gallegos never really dreamed of becoming a lawyer.

In fact, if not for a seemingly random suggestion from his sister-in-law, he may never have even gone to law school.

Having grown up in Northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C., Gallegos graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in economics, and was poised to return to school to get his doctorate when his sister-in-law stepped in, suggesting he take the Law School Admissions Test. Gallegos said he took the test, not thinking much of it, and wound up scoring really well.

”At that point, I thought 'why not?' and applied to law school,” he said.

Gallegos said he started law school on the East Coast, but felt something was amiss, didn't like it and eventually came out to Southern California's LaVerne College of Law. Still, Gallegos said nothing about law school grabbed him.

”I was just really unimpressed with the law school environment,” he said.

Having grown up as the ninth of 11 children, Gallegos said he was instilled with a strong sense of public service. His great-great-grandfather fought in the Battle of Bull Run near the house Gallegos grew up in. His father, uncle and grandfather are all buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

But Gallegos said he found a sense of public service, or even of morality, to be lacking in law school and -- just as he'd felt with economics -- he believed discussions too often boiled down to rules and equations. Things changed, Gallegos said, when he began clerking in the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, got out of the classroom and got a taste of the courtroom.

”Once I did that, it clicked and I loved it,” Gallegos said, adding that he incorporated two of his favorite things: talking and arguing, all with an underlying value judgment about society. “That was the debate that was missing in economics.”

Once he started arguing cases at hearings, Gallegos said, he was absolutely hooked, likening the feeling to surfing in big water, feeling the surge of adrenaline and not knowing quite how things will play out.

”Once it was no longer a classroom discussion -- once I got to go to court -- the die was cast,” Gallegos said. “I loved it.”

After law school, Gallegos said, he spent some time as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles before venturing out to start a private practice. After several years, he and his new wife, Joan, whom he'd met at law school, started getting restless. Joan, who is from back East, longed to live somewhere again where she could experience the seasons, Gallegos said, describing her as a mountains-and-lakes person. Joan wanted out of Los Angeles, Gallegos said.

The couple came to Humboldt County to visit one weekend, and Joan was hooked, saying “let's move,” Gallegos recalled, adding that the place reminded him of an episode of the television program “Northern Exposure.”

The two arrived in Humboldt County for good on New Year's Eve 1994, wanting to start the new year in their new surroundings. For about two years, Gallegos said the couple kept afloat with work that would trickle in from Southern California and other parts of the state. He said he was constantly traveling to pick up cases until their local law practices gained a foothold.
Gallegos said his path changed drastically -- as many others did -- on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists brought down the World Trade Center in New York City. He said he immediately started to look differently at his life, and reflect on his family lineage in public service.
”I used to think I was just lucky, and I am,” Gallegos said, noting that he was born as a part of the baby boom generation and enjoyed privileges that many in the country -- and the world -- didn't.

But Gallegos said he also started to realize there was something more to his success than luck, and that he felt he had a natural knack for arguing cases.

”At some point, I came to the conclusion that if it's luck, it's a gift. If I didn't earn it, then it's a gift and I'd better give it back,” Gallegos said, adding that he also feared some civil liberties would be lost in a post-9/11 world and soon turned his attention to the district attorney's office.

”As a defense attorney, I had to defend bad people -- you had to stand with your clients because it was the right thing to do,” Gallegos said. “As district attorney, you make sure the protections in our laws will apply to everyone.”

In 2002, Gallegos unseated five-term incumbent Terry Farmer in the primary election. Little more than one year later, a movement was under way to recall the new district attorney.
Gallegos said he feels like much of his first term was spent changing the direction of the district attorney's office and bringing it in line with 21st century practices. Much of his energy, he said, was also spent fighting off challenges from inside and outside the office -- most notably the attempted recall, which 61 percent of county voters rejected in March 2004.
Now, Gallegos said, he feels he still has unfinished business.

”We've accomplished a lot, but there's a long way to go,” Gallegos said.

For more information on Gallegos and his campaign, visit www.votepaul.org.
_______________________

Paul Hagen's challenge: A new direction

Even while attending law school, district attorney candidate Paul Hagen never really envisioned being an attorney.

”I did not go to law school to be a lawyer,” said Hagen, who studied political science as an undergraduate. “I just came to the realization that a law degree is the most flexible of advanced degrees.”

In fact, it wasn't until about a decade after law school that Hagen said he started viewing practicing law as a profession.

Born and raised in Rockford, Ill., Hagen grew up with an older sister and two younger brothers. His father was an electrician and his mother a registered nurse -- both the children of Scandinavian immigrants.

While Hagen said his background is distinctly blue collar, he said he always knew a white collar profession lay in his future.

When he attended Northern Illinois University, Hagen said he was drawn to politics, studying political science, interning in Congress and serving in student government, which he notes was a paid position with paid staff. During his time at the university, Hagen said he also traveled to Washington twice to lobby Congress on behalf of student governments.

After school, Hagen said, he spent a year driving a garbage truck before heading to the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis in 1979. After earning his law degree, Hagen said he decided to leave Illinois to head to California, which he'd visited several times.

”I was always enamored with the West,” Hagen said. “So, I loaded up my 1975 Honda Civic station wagon and headed for San Francisco.”

After arriving in the big city in March 1985, in a period Hagen deems the “B.C. years” -- before children and before career -- Hagen said he spent a handful of years in the city working odd construction and temporary jobs, living in the Mission District and enjoying life.

”I think life is an adventure,” Hagen said, adding that he's always felt the more experiences someone has, the better.

After stints working with an open space district and a water board, Hagen said, he got the opportunity to work as an environmental analyst at Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro, which at the time was the biggest law firm in California. During that time, Hagen said he taught environmental law classes at night and was ultimately admitted to the California State Bar in 1993.

In January 1995, Hagen put on his first environmental law conference and found his passion. After watching the lawyers at his firm, Hagen decided that he wanted to be a practicing attorney.

A short time later, Hagen applied for an environmental prosecutor job in the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office. He worked in the office for about four years prosecuting cases when he was contacted by the Environmental Circuit Prosecutor Project of the California District Attorneys Association, which was designed to bring environmental prosecutors -- generally a niche field -- to rural areas of California. Hagen was hired to work environmental cases in a number of North Coast counties, including Humboldt.

Hagen said he soon moved his home-base to Humboldt County at the invitation of then-District Attorney Terry Farmer and became a full-time circuit prosecutor for Humboldt, Del Norte and Lake counties.

In the following years, Hagen said he put on training for law enforcement officers on how to build environmental law cases, facilitated environmental law conferences and tried a wide variety of cases in the three counties.

In talking with Hagen, one quickly notices that his passion lies with environmental law. He talks excitedly about his law conferences on the subject, and often becomes animated when discussing his environmental prosecutions.

When speaking about a case he tried in Del Norte County in which two men tore up a protected wildlife area with a pickup truck before demolishing the truck and lighting it on fire, Hagen's voice rose as he gestured adamantly with his hands. When discussing another Del Norte case in which someone was caught smuggling animals into the state, Hagen went so far as to get on the floor to mimic one of the bear cubs found in a small crate in the man's truck.

After being let go from his post with the California District Attorneys Association, Hagen signed on with the local firm of Bragg, Perlman, Russ, Stunich and Eads, where he's done a wide variety of work. He said his clients have included the city of Trinidad, the Shelter Cove Resort Improvement District and the California Teachers Association.

In the last few years, Hagen said, he's started to feel a pull back to public service. Seeing a growing discord with the local district attorney's office, Hagen said he started thinking about running, believing he can make the changes he thinks are necessary to win back the public trust he feels has been lost.

Going door to door in this campaign, Hagen said he's repeatedly heard from people who feel the current administration is mishandling plea bargains, that the office isn't well run and that medical marijuana -- and its impacts -- have grown completely out of control. Hagen said he thinks he can make a difference.

”Government is all of us,” he said. “If you really want to help everyone, government is the way to do it.”

For more information on Hagen and his campaign, visit www.hagenforda.com.
_______________________

Allison Jackson: Fight for victims' rights

For district attorney candidate Allison Jackson, law is something that's in her blood.

”I come from a really long line of pretty incredible women,” Jackson said recently, sitting in her office of Eureka's Harland Law Firm, where she is a partner.

Jackson said her grandmother was the first woman admitted to her law school but, after graduating first in her class, was not allowed to join the state bar association. So, Jackson said, her grandmother worked primarily doing legal research and that, as a girl, she often spent summers in her grandmother's office, reading through her reports.

Jackson said she also accompanied her grandmother to meetings of the Queens Bench Bar Association, which was formed by a group of female lawyers who were frustrated at the reluctance of their male counterparts to welcome them into the legal fold.

It was these summers with her grandmother, Jackson said, that laid the foundation for her legal career, but she wouldn't know it for some time.

When Jackson was 21, intent on becoming an anthropologist, she traveled to Africa to study. While she was away, tragedy struck when her mother and stepfather were killed in a car accident after a drunken driver racing down the street careened into their vehicle, Jackson said.
Jackson said she was shocked when she was frozen out of the legal process and wasn't even allowed to speak at the sentencing of the man who had killed her parents. The experience, she said, cemented what would be a life-long interest and passion for victims' rights.

While working toward a master's degree in social sciences, Jackson said she started avidly studying victims' rights issues and soon set her sights on becoming a prosecutor, believing it was the one place where she could work to uphold state law, uphold defendants' rights and protect victims' rights all at once.

After stints working in the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco, interning at the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office and working at the Santa Cruz District Attorney's Office, Jackson said she got a call from then-Humboldt County District Attorney Terry Farmer offering her a job.

Jackson said she liked the idea of working for a small office and loved the area, as she had a passion for horses, vegetable gardens and, perhaps most of all, fishing. She decided to come give the place a try, with the ultimate plan of moving back down south after she got six years of work experience under her belt.

She never left, ultimately hooked on the good people of the area, the work she was doing and wonderful outdoor experiences, like drift fishing on the pristine Smith River.

Jackson said she also soon fell into a niche in Farmer's office prosecuting what she calls special victims crimes -- cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and crimes against the elderly.

”I found that particularly satisfying -- to take on the good battle and also protect our most vulnerable,” she said, adding that she also loved the challenge of taking on the cases.

“They're exceptionally hard to prove. There are no bodies and few witnesses. You have to work very hard to put together a good case.”

Jackson said she found the role tremendously rewarding, but was ultimately let go by the district attorney's office in June 2004 by incumbent Paul Gallegos, who beat out Farmer in the 2002 election.

A short time after hanging up her prosecutor hat, Jackson joined the Harland Law Firm, where she remains to this day, litigating civil cases representing child victims, nonprofit groups and victim advocate groups.

Her proudest moment, she said, came when she defended an elderly couple in a civil case brought against them by a man who had been accused of neglecting their daughter in a dependent-adult abuse case. After an appellate court's decision resulted in the man's acquittal, he turned around and sued the deceased woman's parents.

”So, I picked up my sword and my shield and represented them,” Jackson said, pointing to a framed letter on the wall from the parents thanking Jackson and telling her “your parents would be proud.”

”I don't put many of those on my wall,” Jackson said, “but that's one.”

Jackson said she finds her practice wonderfully rewarding. She said she loves her beautiful Eureka office and is well compensated for the work she does. In short, she said she wasn't looking to make any drastic changes.

But she said she kept running into people telling her they needed her to be the county's next district attorney. In court, at restaurants and in the line at the grocery store, Jackson said she kept running into people she'd never met, urging her to run. She said people kept telling her that the system is broken and that victims' voices aren't being heard.

”I would not be doing this if I hadn't been asked by so many people,” she said. “It got to the point where it's so much bigger than you.”

For more information on Jackson and her campaign, visit www.ajforda.com.

Thadeus Greenson can be reached at 441-0509 or
tgreenson@times-standard.com.

Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
Posted: 05/22/2010 01:21:21 AM PDT