Thursday, 13 June 2024

REGIONAL: Man convicted of timber felony sentenced to $200,000 restitution, jail time

FORT BRAGG – An Oregon man has been sentenced to jail time and restitution of $200,000 for a timber theft.


On Thursday, Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Richard Henderson ordered Edward Colombi Jr., 60, of Salem to pay $200,000 in restitution and serve 180 days in county jail for the theft of timber belonging to David McCutcheon.


“Justice for our citizens requires that property crimes be treated seriously,” said Mendocino County District Attorney Meredith Lintott. “These crimes include timber thefts, and our office remains committed to prosecuting them. I am grateful for the just resolution of this case against Mr. Colombi.”


Colombi had entered a no contest plea to felony grand theft of timber. He has been ordered to appear on Oct. 12 to make sure he has paid the full $200,000 and to turn himself into the Mendocino County Jail, according to Lintott's office.


In 1998 McCutcheon, a commercial fisherman residing in Elk, began storing sinker logs and cut lumber on property in Fort Bragg rented from Edward Colombi Sr., according to Lintott's report.


On March 26, 2006, McCutcheon visited the property and saw that all of his logs and lumber were present. On May 26 he telephoned the new owner, Edward Colombi Jr., and informed him he would pick up the logs and lumber between June 13 and 15.


On June 15, when McCutcheon returned to the property to pick up the logs and lumber, he discovered that “all my wood was gone,” Lintott's office reported. McCutcheon then undertook his own investigation, and discovered a small portion of the sinker logs in the possession of a Fort Bragg resident that had been sold to him for $3,200 by Robert Russell.


Russell later plead to petty theft, was ordered to pay $3,200 in restitution to McCutcheon and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office reported.


Officials said that except for a couple logs he found in Westport, McCutcheon he was unable to find what had happened to the remainder of his wood.


On Sept. 14, 2007, prosecutor Tim Stoen filed felony grand theft charges against Colombi and Russell. On March 17, 2008, Mr. Stoen presented evidence at a preliminary hearing before Judge Clay Brennan, who held both Colombi and Russell to stand trial.


Lintott's office said the case was then transferred to Ukiah because of the number of witnesses. After the defense filed a “995” motion to set aside the Judge Brennan's holding order, Deputy District Attorney Heidi Larson successfully defended the ruling.


This past Jan. 7, Colombi entered a no contest plea based on a promise of probation, with “no state prison at the outset.” Lintott's office said the main issue then became restitution, because the prosecution and defense counsel were "miles apart" on the number of logs, the amount of board footage, and the fair market value of the sinker logs.


Beginning on June 11, Judge Henderson held a restitution hearing that took place on five separate days. Stoen presented evidence, by testimony or declarations, through David McCutcheon, Stuart Beck, Lloyd Livingston, Fred Struthers and Darlene Letner.


Defense attorneys Richard Petersen and Justin Petersen called 10 witnesses, including a timber mill owner, and also a botanist who analyzed the “growth rings” of weeds on the issue of the size of the two sinker log piles claimed by McCutcheon.


After the evidence Judge Henderson made a tentative ruling in which he found that McCutcheon was “generally credible,” and that there was a theft of 65 to 70 logs at a fair market value of $4 per board foot. Following his ruling, Judge Henderson encouraged the prosecution and the defense to try to negotiate a restitution amount.


Based on Judge Henderson's ruling the prosecution and the defense entered a series of negotiations leading to a stipulation for Colombi's sentence that included $200,000 as restitution payable to McCutcheon, with $150,000 within 30 days, and the remaining $50,000 within 60 days thereafter, along with three years probation and a jail term of 180 days, or 90 days actual as a condition of probation.


Judge Henderson then approved the sentence stipulation, and gave Colombi time to return to his home in Oregon to get his affairs in order before turning himself in.


“I want to thank Judge Henderson for his careful attention to the conflicting evidence in this case, and for his ability to penetrate to the truth,” said Stoen. “Without his tentative ruling and analysis of the evidence, the prosecution and the defense would not have had a sufficient framework for a meeting of the minds as to a fair sentence. I am hopeful that Mr. McCutcheon will use this restitution money to fulfill his dream of building a custom house on the Mendocino Coast."


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