Tag Archive | "Humboldt County Superior Court"

‘What the Hell Did You Do With All That Money?’

 

California Administrative Office of the Courts Bleeding Counties and Courts Dry

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

“What the hell did you do with all that money?” a California
legislator asked.

That’s a good question.  It vanished.

California legislators laid into the administrative bureaucracy of California’s courts at a hearing in the capitol on Wednesday, where State Auditor Elaine Howle presented a highly critical audit documenting the bureaucracy’s waste of hundreds of millions of dollars that should have gone to keeping the courts running during the state’s long-running budget crisis.

“There’s probably close to $2 billion that have been pushed into the courts.  So the real question is, ‘What the hell did you do with that money?’” Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer said, the audit’s legislative sponsor.

At the hearing’s outset, Jones-Sawyer said that when he joined the State Assembly two years ago, the Legislature and the governor had already begun to pour a cumulative total of $2 billion back into the judiciary’s coffers as the California economy began to turn around, and he has not seen any fundamental change in the judicial bureaucracy.

 ”I’m not comfortable that there’s been any accountability,” said Jones-Sawyer.  ”There seems to be relatively no oversight, and there’s no transparency.”

The hearing is the result of years of criticism from judges and legislators over the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) spendthrift ways during a period of severe cuts to the courts, as California’s economy and its budget constricted.  Thousands of trial court employees were laid off and courthouses shuttered up and down the state, while the massive bureaucracy at the top of the court system cut little from its budget while pouring $500 million into a failed controversial statewide IT project.

Legislators, judges and union members hoped that things would change.  Service Employees International Union representative Michelle Castro said the bloated court bureaucracy has “a very entrenched culture of poor decision-making and hubris.”

Howle’s audit, released in January, pointed to an excessive $30 million spent over a four-year period on salaries for employees of the judicial bureaucracy, the Administrative Office of the Courts, as well as $386 million spent by the AOC over four years on statewide services that nearly half of California’s 58 trial courts don’t use, including $186 million on private contractors and consultants.

“Despite budget shortfalls and budget cuts, the AOC continued to provide its employees with unreasonably high salaries and generous benefits.  There is a disconnect about what the AOC is doing and what the courts need,” Howle said, testifying Wednesday before a panel of state lawmakers.  She added, “There has not been much progress in key areas.  Reforms never got off the ground.”

“Here we are in March 2015, almost 3 years later,” she continued.  “There needs to be fundamental change at the AOC.  There’s some cultural change that needs to happen at the executive level.  They talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk.”

Jones-Sawyer’s budget committee is set to hold its own hearing on the audit.  On Wednesday, he hinted at increased legislative control, saying, “Maybe we can even do some budget language to institutionalize this so we can ensure accountability and access to justice and transparency, all of those things.”

Nonetheless, the AOC keeps wantonly bleeding the taxpayer’s money, the courts, and the counties dry. 

In a searing report on California’s court bureaucracy in January, the state auditor singled out the financial accountability committee for failing in its mission.  Last month, the same committee approved another multi-million-dollar request for a statewide technology project, inviting a fresh blast of criticism from trial judges who said it looked to be yet another waste of money.

The new tech project would cost $5.6 million to build data exchanges between the courts, law enforcement agencies and the Judicial Branch Statistical Information System.  The project would rely almost entirely on private contractors making up the bulk of the cost, requiring eight new contract workers and costing $3.2 million of the total.

The idea has a poor track record behind it.  It’s the same type of exchange that was a heavily-promoted feature of the earlier statewide tech project, the Court Case Management System, which also relied heavily on outside contractors and spending $500 million– before it was abandoned altogether as a total waste.

“The AOC’s use of contractors, temporary workers, and consultants has resulted in significantly higher costs than the AOC would have incurred had it hired state employees to perform this work,” auditor Howle said.  She estimated that if state employees were used rather than contractors, the savings over three years would total $21 million.

“It’s an awful lot of money when they couldn’t spare $72,000 for Siskiyou County,” said Judge Greg Dohi of Los Angeles.

Dohi was referring to the hat-in-hand visit to San Francisco by judges from Siskiyou Superior Court in the far north of California.  In addition to rejecting their very modest request, the council voted unanimously against $82,000 for Mono County and $300,000 for Del Norte County, all courts trying to avoid firing their employees.

In the end, the committee regardless voted 11-2 to approve the additional and controversial $5.6 million funding request. 

Before casting her vote, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Joyce Hinrichs said, “In how the money will be spent, there are multiple committees specialized in this that will be better able to direct staff about what needs to happen.  We may not even get the money in the first place.”

 

 

 

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Medical Marijuana Not Immune From Seizure

 

California Appeals Court Rules on Humboldt County Cannabis Case

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

SAN FRANCISCO (Courthouse News)The mere presence of users’ medical marijuana recommendations
at a grow site did not immunize the crop from seizure, nor
did it require police to prove the growers were guilty of a
crime before they could destroy the harvest, a California
appeals court ruled last week.

 The case stems from a 2008 open field eradication project by Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies and agents from the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) task force.

 ”The facts are largely undisputed,” P.J. McGuiness and J. Jenkins wrote for the appellate court.

Officers “entered a garden that contained 118 marijuana plants ranging from three to eight feet tall with an average diameter of six to seven feet,” according to the ruling.  

Four medical marijuana recommendations were posted on the gate, for Sylvia, Timothy and Roscoe Littlefield, specifying conditions that included degenerative joint disease, low back pain, anxiety and glaucoma and indicating “the use of up to two ounces of cannabis per day, the equivalent of 45.6 pounds per year,” the court noted.  A fourth recommendation, for Jeffrey Libertini, did not specify a condition or dose.

Officers found a second plot on the property with “an additional 96 flowering marijuana plants from three to eight feet tall and averaging four to six feet wide.  Medical marijuana recommendations for Richard Littlefield and Summer Brown, each of which indicated up to two ounces daily for degenerative joint disease and low back pain, were posted in this garden,” the appellate court wrote.

The Sheriff’s Department “believed the recommendations were invalid and the marijuana should be seized.”  The appellate court noted the quantity was “enough of a supply for two ounces of cannabis daily for six people for five and one-half years.”

An affidavit by Deputy Cyrus Silva stated that destroying the marijuana complied with Health and Safety Code requirements and that it was not reasonably possible to store it elsewhere.

“Humboldt County does not have adequate storage facilities, or sufficient personnel to guard the marijuana.  In addition, recently harvested marijuana gives off great volumes of heat and may erupt into fire,” he wrote.  Most of the two large crops were destroyed, though some samples were kept for evidence, and a few other plots on the property were left undisturbed.

The Littlefield family sued Humboldt County for “the replacement value of the confiscated cannabis, physical and mental suffering, emotional distress, and medical expenses,” the appellate court wrote, but Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Christopher Wilson did not find their arguments compelling.

Wilson ruled that the quantity of marijuana would lead “a person of ordinary caution or prudence to believe, and conscientiously entertain a strong suspicion of the guilt of the accused,” that the requirements of probable cause had been met, and that the Littlefields did not lawfully possess the marijuana.  He did not buy into statements by an expert witness for the Littlefields, who failed to convince him that he had specific knowledge of the plaintiffs’ medical needs.

 California’s First Appellate District reviewed the facts of the case and examined each of the Littlefields’ arguments, agreeing with Wilson that the seizure and destruction of the marijuana was neither unconstitutional nor illegal.

 The appellate court agreed that the seizure was supported by probable cause and cited case law on the limits of medical marijuana legalization.

 ”The most salient fact here is the vast quantity of marijuana found,” the ruling states.  ”The CUA [Compassionate Care Act, California's medical marijuana statute] protects the possession of marijuana only in an amount reasonably related to the user’s current medical needs.”

 The appellate court agreed that the seizure was supported by probable cause and cited case law on the limits of medical marijuana legalization. “The most salient fact here is the vast quantity of marijuana found,” the ruling states.

The court also expressed skepticism about the recommendations themselves. “Each purports to authorize the use of up to two ounces per person per day, or 45.6 pounds of cannabis per year – 15 times the three pounds per year deemed reasonable under the County’s Ordinance,” the court wrote (emphasis in original).

The Littlefields claimed the County unlawfully destroyed their stash, but the appeals court agreed with Deputy Silva’s affidavit, quoted above, that the destruction complied with the Health and Safety Code.

The appeals court backed the trial court’s ruling that the Littlefields did not bring admissible evidence showing their possession was lawful, and ultimately concluded the trial court’s ruling was sound.

Kym Kemp, a writer who has followed medical marijuana issues in Humboldt County, told Courthouse News that the ruling could influence the dynamics of marijuana policing.

Referring to California’s Proposition 215, the 1996 ballot initiative that legalized marijuana use with a doctor’s recommendation, Kemp said, “An officer in the field now can feel more comfortable pulling out plants even with 215 recommendations, without having to worry about being sued or having to reimburse the growers.  It could be a game changer for growers and for law enforcement.”

Khurshid Khoja of Greenbridge Corporate Counsel, former general counsel for the Emerald Growers Association, told Courthouse News, “Given the number of plants that were seized and destroyed and the nature of the recommendations, it seems like a reasonable decision by the court.”

He added that there are some medical marijuana preparations on the market today, such as highly concentrated oils, which might require the use of up to two ounces a day to produce, but that the Littlefields had not brought a credible medical witness to testify during
summary judgment proceedings that they needed that much.

* * * * * * * *

Article courtesy of Barbara Wallace and the Courthouse News Service 
Images by the Humboldt Sentinel

Thadeus Greenson’s article in the Times-Standard news has more details of the case.

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Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

 

Humboldt’s Crime Reports Keep on Coming

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

McKinleyville Murder:  Suspect Arrested (UPDATED)

On Wednesday June 19, at about 1:30 pm, information was
provided to Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office detectives of a
possible murder victim, with the body still in a wooded area
north of C Avenue in McKinleyville, an area commonly referred
to as the “Baldy” area.

Witnesses provided information to detectives that led them to a deceased 33-year old male, whose body was found adjacent to a foot trail at 3:00 pm.  Based on statements from witnesses and the condition of the deceased male, the death is being investigated as a homicide by the HCSO.

Based on the evidence obtained and from witness statements, detectives arrested Michael Raymond Youravish, 21, around 5:00 in the afternoon.

A resident of the McKinleyville and Eureka areas, Mr. Youravish was arrested and taken into custody at a home in the 1400 block of Highland Avenue in Eureka.

He was booked into the Humboldt County Correctional Pokey on suspicion of PC 187, Murder.

The identity of the victim is not being released until a positive identification can be made and family members are notified.  The cause of death is not being released at this time.

UPDATE:  On Saturday June 22, 2013 an autopsy was performed on the victim of this suspected homicide.  At the conclusion of the autopsy the cause of death was determined to be as a result of multiple stab wounds to the neck, chest and abdomen of the victim.

The identity of the victim has been determined to be Forrest Croft Lovejoy (DOB: 07-02-1979), a resident of McKinleyville, California.  The suspect, Michael Raymond Youravish, remains in custody at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility and had an arraignment on Friday June 21 for the charge of Homicide.

HCSO Detective Todd Fulton is requesting that any additional witnesses with information about Michael Youravish or information about this investigation to telephone him at 707-268-3646.

 

Crystal Meth and Heroin Seizure

methOn June 19, a Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant received a citizen tip before noon that a vehicle belonging to Neil Eugene Kemp was parked in the parking lot at 409 K Street in Eureka containing drugs.  The citizen told the Sheriff’s Sergeant the vehicle make and color.

The Sheriff’s Sergeant checked the parking lot and located the vehicle matching the description described by the citizen.  The Sheriff’s Sergeant ran a California DMV registration check on the license plate and it came back registered to Kemp.

A Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Detective and his trained narcotics dog were called to the scene with the dog alerting on the vehicle.  The Sheriffs Sergeant also learned that Kemp was in Humboldt County Superior Court dealing with unrelated narcotics charges from a California Highway Patrol Arrest on March 20.

While the Sheriff’s Sergeant was at the vehicle, Mr. Kemp showed up and asked why law enforcement was there.  The Sergeant explained what was occurring and requested consent to search Kemp’s vehicle for narcotics.  Mr. Kemp refused the request.

The Sergeant allowed Kemp to leave on foot while he obtained a Superior Court search warrant for his vehicle.  When the warrant was served on the vehicle, the Sergeant located approximately:

  • 25 grams of suspected crystal methamphetamine
  • 17 grams of suspected heroin
  • Syringes
  • and $247.00 in cash

Mr. Kemp never returned and is wanted by law enforcement for possession of narcotics, possession of illicit drugs and possession of syringes.  He is described as: White male adult, 50 years old, 6’ tall, approx 155 lbs, brown eyes, blond hair.

Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriff’s Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.  We hope Mr. Kemp gets some help and himself into rehab soon.

 

Inmate Walkaway Surrenders Self

Shoes IIIOn June 19 at about 2:15 pm, a SWAP inmate work crew was clearing brush near the wooded area of the Humboldt Botanical Gardens on the College of the Redwoods campus. 

A Correctional Officer supervising the work crew noticed an inmate, Lance D. Henry, 24-years old of Fortuna, had not returned from using the restroom.  The officer found a blue jail issued shirt on the ground and determined that Henry had walked away from the work crew. 

Mr. Henry was serving 364 days in jail for a violation of probation.  He was due to be released in four months; his release date was scheduled for October 25, 2013.

On the same day about 7 hours later, Henry Lance had a change of heart and turned himself and his fast feet into the jail.

It’s unknown why Lance walked away from the inmate work crew at College of the Redwoods, but nonetheless, additional charges were being sought against him for escape from custody and being a few Cheerios and bananas short of a bowl and a bunch.

 

Early Morning Arcata High Speed Motorcycle Pursuit

bigfoot 2On June 20 shortly after 1:00 in the morning, Arcata Police officers attempted a traffic stop on a motorcycle with an expired registration.

The motorcyclist fled from officers, leading them in a pursuit that began on Alliance Road at Westwood Court and ended on northbound Highway 101 just north of Giuntoli Lane without further incident.  

The pursuit reached speeds of 70 miles per hour.  It ended when Arcata Police officers boxed in the motorcyclist, identified as Ronald Allen Reike, age 32, of Manila, and forced him to a stop on the east shoulder of northbound Highway 101.

Mr. Reike was arrested for felony evasion, driving with a suspended license, and violation of probation.  He was booked into the Humboldt County Jail.

No persons were injured in this pursuit and no damage occurred to any vehicles or other property.  Intoxication was not determined to be a factor, APD said.

We suspect a lack of probation supervision, however, was a factor with Mr. Reike being a clown without a circus in need of a ringmaster.

* * * * * * * *

bigfoot f  bigfoot 5

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‘Droopy’ Goes Down. Again

 

–And Jonas Semore, Too.  Again.

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

We hope someone gets the memo.

On April 3rd, just around lunch time, a Eureka Police
Department officer on uniformed patrol observed a suspicious vehicle up to no good stopped in an alley between O and P streets, and north of the 1400 block of 6th Street, in Eureka.

The officer saw a female suddenly exit the 4-door sedan and quickly walk into the fenced backyard of a nearby known drug house.  It appeared the female was attempting to avoid contact with the officer, EPD said in their release.

The officer approached the vehicle and contacted the driver whom he immediately recognized as 40-year-old Jonas Randall Semore of Eureka.  The officer knew Semore to be on felony searchable probation for possession of a controlled substance for sale and also a documented local gang member.

campbell

Mr. Campbell

The officer then recognized Semore’s rear passenger as Scott Ryan Campbell, age 36, of Eureka. Campbell was also on searchable probation and a documented local gang member going by the moniker of ‘Droopy’.

Officers detained both subjects.  A records check on Campbell revealed a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest for possession of drug use paraphernalia.  During a subsequent search of Campbell pursuant to his probation terms, officers located a large baggy of crystal methamphetamine (approximately 17 ½ grams or over ½ ounce).  Droopy went down, getting busted again.

Semore’s driver’s license was confirmed suspended for DUI. Officers also found Semore to be in possession of $4,590 cash although he is unemployed.  The cash was seized as suspected drug sales proceeds due to the circumstances and additional evidence uncovered at the scene.

Semore

Mr. Semore

Mr. Campbell was arrested and transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where he was booked on his warrant and for fresh charges of possession and transportation of a controlled substance for sale and probation violation.

Mr. Semore was arrested and transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where he was busted for driving with a suspended license and probation violation.  Again.

Mr. Semore got popped only a month ago with 18 pounds of weed.  Even though he was on felony probation at the time and in violation of his terms, Semore was let out of jail in short order.

Officers found items in the suspects’ car identifying the female passenger who walked away as Dawn Shonea McElroy, age 23, of Eureka.  Records checked revealed McElroy has a felony warrant for her arrest, but alas, like a little bird that’s flown, she got away.

She remains outstanding as of the time of this report, EPD noted.  Well, there’s always tomorrow.

We beg the question in regards to Mr. Campbell and Mr. Semore:  Both are on probation, both are well-known to law enforcement, and both are gangbanging felons with lengthy histories.

Both were recently busted and then released by a too-permissive District Attorney and judge.  Both supposedly were under supervision by their local probation officers with drug and search clauses.

AWOL2 JPEGOur question?  If they’re going to be released into the wild blue yonder, why aren’t they being supervised appropriately under their court-ordered conditions at the very least?

In what’s becoming the new normal lately, the Sentinel has uncovered more than two dozen examples of this very same AWOL behavior happening repeatedly– again and again– in the past year.

We hope someone at the office wakes up and gets the memo to do their job.

The good news?  They didn’t kill anyone like Jason Warren allegedly did when he, too,  was prematurely sprung without supervision.

* * * * * * *

(Posted by Skippy Massey)

Posted in Crime, LocalComments (2)


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