Wednesday, 24 July 2024


LAKEPORT – A local man was arrested over the weekend on charges that he was responsible for several Mendocino County burglaries.

Elliott Thomas Brackett, 52, a transient from Upper Lake, was arrested on Saturday after he allegedly was found in possession of stolen property.

A report from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said the agency has been investigating a series of burglaries occurring at the Carousel Industrial Park storage sheds on N. State Street in Ukiah.

On June 6, Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies received information that Brackett had sold to a Ukiah music store some stolen property related to those burglaries, according to a report from Lt. Kurt Smallcomb.

Deputy Tom Davis reopened some unsolved cases and coordinated with Lake County law enforcement agencies in locating Brackett, Smallcomb reported.

Early on Saturday, Lakeport Police and Lake County Sheriff's deputies found Brackett in a tent on 11th Street, according to Smallcomb.

Davis responded to the location and a subsequent search of the tent found that Brackett allegedly was in possession of stolen property that is believed to be connected to the Carousel Industrial Park burglaries, the report stated.

Mendocino deputies arrested Brackett for two counts of possession stolen property and two counts of burglary, and is being held on $15,000 bail, according to booking records.

Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke said his department has had a few contacts with Brackett, including an arrest for possession of marijuana and another for having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

Last July Mendocino County deputies arrested Brackett and another man on suspicion of trying to sell methamphetamine in the parking lot at Hopland Sho-Kah-Wa Casino, as Lake County News has reported.

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Lake County Skies on June 15, 2008 at 9 p.m.


LAKE COUNTY – June is the month when the relatively sedate stars of spring slowly give way to the brilliance of the summer skies. But we still have several weeks to wait before summer is upon us. In the meantime, we can enjoy what’s left of spring including the celestial show.


Directly overhead is a constellation named Bootes someone tried to write a song about this constellation and wanted to name it “Shake Your Bootes,” until she learned that wasn’t the correct pronunciation. Bootes is pronounced “Boo-aw-tis.”

In Greek and Roman mythology, Bootes is associated with agriculture, and is most commonly referred to as a herdsman. But there is a lesser known, but somewhat amusing story that has him cast as a grape grower and winemaker.

Bacchus, the god of wine and parties, introduced Bootes to the art of winemaking. So impressed was Bootes with the taste of wine that he invited his friends over for a taste of his new discovery.

Unfortunately, his friends drank far too much, and woke up the following morning with terrible hangovers. They were so sick they thought Bootes had tried to poison them!



Bootes courtesy of


Bootes is shaped like a kite, with the bright star Arcturus at its base. Arcturus is the third brightest star in the sky, and compared to our sun, it is huge!



Arcturus courtesy of Wikipedia.




Accompanying our celestial winemaker to the east is the strongman Hercules. Hercules is a faint constellation that requires clear, dark skies to see – and we have an abundance of skies like that in Lake County!

In Greek and Roman mythology, Hercules was the son of Zeus, king of all the gods. Hercules was born with tremendous strength. He managed to get himself into some serious trouble, and to exonerate himself, had to perform 12 labors.

One of these labors was to subdue Hydra, a nine-headed, dog-like monster that had breath that could kill (no dog-breath jokes, please!).



Hercules subduing Hydra by Antonio Del Pollaiolo.


Hercules has one of the most beautiful objects in the night sky – an object that can only be seen through a telescope. This object is a cluster of stars called “The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules.” It is also labeled “M13” in the Messier catalog of deep sky objects. This is a cluster of several hundred thousand stars. Through a telescope, it looks like a miniature Christmas ornament.



M13 courtesy of Michael Richmann.



For more information about astronomy and local astronomy-related events, visit the Taylor Observatory website at

John Zimmerman has been an amateur astronomer for 50 years. He is a member of the Taylor Observatory staff, where, among his many duties, he helps create planetarium shows.


LOWER LAKE – A day after a stabbing claimed the life of one of its students and resulted in the arrest of another, Carlé High School's students and staff gathered to show support for the girls' families and each other, and begin the long healing process. {sidebar id=85}

Heather Valdez, 17, died Thursday afternoon after she was stabbed near her home in the area of Austin Drive near Mullen Avenue in Clearlake.

A short time later, Clearlake Police arrested 18-year-old Gabrielle Rachel Varney, who is being held in the Lake County Jail on a murder charge.

Both girls were juniors, completing their first year at Carlé High School in Lower Lake, a model continuation school which Principal Bill MacDougall called “a place of absolute peace.”

But that peace was shattered by Valdez's death Thursday.

“There's apparently been some type of feud between them for a couple of months,” said Lt. Mike Hermann of the Clearlake Police Department said of Valdez and Varney.

Both of the teens lived in the area where the incident is alleged to have taken place, said Hermann.

Hermann said Valdez and Varney got into an altercation. Varney allegedly had a knife on her and she pulled it out during the fight. She allegedly admitted to police that she stabbed Valdez.

People in the area saw bits and pieces of the incident, said Hermann. He said no one so far has claimed to have seen Valdez being stabbed, but they saw the fight and then saw her bleeding.

More students were interviewed Friday, and Hermann estimated the investigation shouldn't take long to complete.

Konocti Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Louise Nan said a four-member district grief crisis response team was deployed on Friday morning to work with students.

“We're working through the day,” said Nan, who added that it will be “quite a process” ahead for students and staff.

MacDougall, who next month will succeed Nan as the district's superintendent, said, “This is a tragedy not only for Carlé, our school district and our community, but it's absolutely devastated two families.”


Valdez and Varney had been friends, he said. “They were girlfriends, so there was that young girl tension that came on and off, but there was nothing that was way out of the ordinary that we could see.”

He added, “If there was anything physical, I never saw it.”

Students, however, have been bringing up incidents that they say took place between the girls as they open up to teachers and peers, he said.

MacDougall said many of his 10 staffers were on their way home when they got the news Thursday afternoon. The stabbing, according to police, took place just after 2 p.m.

All of the teachers came back to the school, where they assembled in MacDougall's office. He said at 6 p.m. he put out an automated call to notify students and their families of the tragedy. The staff remained together until about 7 p.m.

He said the first focus was to stop the rumors and get out the truth to students; the next step was to facilitate healing.

The school's annual field day had been planned for Friday, but that was canceled, MacDougall said.

Instead, when students arrived for school, they filled the school's central quad area with rose petals from the school rose bushes, and the 80 students, 10 staffers and the school's custodian came together – as a family – in a big circle, instinctively holding hands, to begin the healing process, MacDougall.

They shared stories of Valdez, who was a talented artist, said MacDougall.

Varney also is a good artist, and a member of the school's cadre of designers, said MacDougall.

They then shared a prayer by St. Francis of Assisi – which includes the words, “Make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon ...”

The school then moved into the rest of its day, said MacDougall, with the school psychologist taking some of the teens to the county park, and other students doing “the usual Carlé thing” – playing music and moving about their activities, but the air was much more somber.

MacDougall had to go to district negotiations, and when he came back after lunch, he could see the students had begun the process of healing and working through their understanding of what happened. But they still must move through the long grieving process.

The tragedy comes less than a week before Carlé High's graduation is scheduled to take place. MacDougall said commencement ceremonies will be held as scheduled beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 11.

As a community, the imperative is to bring happiness into the lives of its children, he explained.

The sense from the Carlé community, he added, is that “we have to make sure this never happens again.”

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COBB – An overturned water truck resulted in no injuries and a minor traffic slowdown on Monday morning.

The Epidendio water truck was reported overturned on Highway 175 heading westbound toward Cobb at about 8:30 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol and an eyewitness, Cobb resident Roger Kinney.

CHP Officer Adam Garcia said the truck had a flat tire. The driver pulled over, getting too close to the ditch, and the truck tipped over.

There was no injuries, said Garcia.

Kinney said as he passed through the area at around 10:15 a.m., traffic control was in effect, with about 10-minute delays, and the truck was being uprighted.

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On Saturday, as Sen. Hillary Clinton announced she would concede in the race for the Democratic Party's nomination for president and endorse Sen. Barack Obama, North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson reported he would give Obama his support.

In January, Thompson told Lake County News he was endorsing Clinton's historic presidential bid, citing her strength on issues important to the First Congressional District, such as agriculture and the environment.

However, he had said at the time that he felt either Clinton or Obama would make “a great president.”

A statement issued from Thompson's Washington, D.C. office Saturday afternoon said the congressman was giving his support to the presumptive Democratic nominee.

“Sen. Obama’s nomination is an historic achievement for our country,” Thompson said in the written statement. “As I said from the beginning, this process would be finished long before the convention. I will do everything in my power to help make him our nation’s next president.”

Thompson called Obama “an electrifying candidate who ran a flawless campaign.”

“He has struck a vibrant chord with the American people and motivated millions of new voters to make their voices heard,” Thompson said. “From improving access to health care to protecting our environment to rebuilding our economy to ending the war in Iraq, I strongly support Senator Obama’s vision for America and believe it is directly aligned with the needs of our Congressional District.”

Thompson has had occasion to work with Obama; the two of them partnered to present legislation in both the House and Senate last year to bring home US troops from Iraq and institute an international diplomatic strategy for peace, as Lake County News reported last year.

“I look forward to working on many more important initiatives once he’s elected president of the United States,” Thompson said.

Thompson praised Clinton, who he called “a powerful leader who also energizes and inspires voters.”

He added, “I know she’ll continue her tireless efforts and help us elect Sen. Obama, change the direction of our nation, end the war, and restore our standing around the world.”

Thompson is one of more than 60 superdelegates representing California, about half of which had declared their support for Clinton this spring.

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Bob Bartley of Lakeport cuts a dramatic silhouette at the Friday ceremony. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LAKEPORT – Cutting an imposing figure in his World War II-era Army uniform, Lakeport resident Bob Bartley was more than 5,000 miles and 64 years away from the beaches at Normandy, but looking at him gave a sense of what it might have been like on that frightening morning decades ago.

Bartley was at the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association's memorial mast in Library Park on Friday morning to pay respect to the soldiers who took part in the D-Day invasion.

Beginning on June 6, 1944, the invasion saw an estimated 160,000 Allied soldiers fight to gain a foothold in a Europe overwhelmed by Hitler's forces.

Bartley's green wool uniform included an ammunition belt and haversack which was many pounds short of the supply-laden, 90-pound packs US soldiers carried on their backs as they scrambled onto Omaha Beach.

The military's amphibious vehicles landed too far out in some cases, so men jumping into the sea found themselves up to their necks – or over their heads – with the packs on their backs and bullets whizzing by.

Many men drowned struggling under their packs. Accounts by survivors recount soldiers having to swim through corpses to get to land.

Bartley was a poignant figure in the short morning ceremony, meant to honor that day and what would turn out to be a masterstroke in the war – against overwhelming odds, mercurial weather and two months after hundreds of men died in Exercise Tiger, a practice run for the invasion carried out off the south coast of England near Slapton Sands.

“We're not here to celebrate it, we're here to commemorate it,” Ronnie Bogner, the master of ceremonies, explained of the D-Day anniversary event, held each year overlooking Clear Lake.

Pastor Mike Suski of Lakeport Christian Center led a prayer to bless the gathering. A native of Poland, the day had special meaning for Suski, who told the crowd that he was born in “Old Europe.”

During the ceremony, Bogner said that US casualties were highest among the US troops who landed at Normandy, because of Omaha and Utah beaches' treacherous conditions.

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America were on hand, and the colors of the US military branches were on display, as was the POW/MIA flag. On the memorial mast flew the “First Jack” (often called the “snake flag,” said Bogner, for its portrait of a snake and the words, “Don't tread on me”), the US flag and the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association flag.





Special guests seated in the audience's front row included Jim Harris of Lucerne, who was at Pearl Harbor and then D-Day three years later, aboard the destroyer USS McCook (DD 496), which helped destroy German positions used for firing on the soldiers landing on the beach. He was joined by fellow Pearl Harbor Survivor Walt Urmann, who served aboard the USS Blue; and Alice Darrow, widow of Dean Darrow, who was at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS West Virginia.



The real deal: Jim Harris of Lucerne was at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and D-Day in 1944. Photo by Ginny Craven.


California Highway Patrol Commander Dane Hayward once again attended the ceremony, bringing with him several CHP officers, and Lakeport Police Chief Kevin Burke attended in full uniform.

Newly re-elected District 5 Supervisor Rob Brown was the guest speaker. Brown said he was born 16 years after the invasion, but was fortunate to be raised in Lake County, where veterans are valued.

He said he hopes future generations will learn to value their veterans.

Brown pointed to differences in the media coverage of World War II and the current war in Iraq. He quoted a World War II-era headline that asked, “Why doesn't Hitler quit?” Brown contrasted that with sentiment in today's media, which he said asks instead why the US doesn't quit.

“It's dependent on us to continue to support our troops,” Brown said.

He recognized efforts like Operation Tango Mike, founded by Ginny Craven – who was in attendance – for working to keep up soldiers' morale.

A bugler from the United Veterans Council's Military Funeral Honors Team played “Taps” as the US flag was lowered to half-staff for the remainder of the day in remembrance of the invasion.

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Bob Bartley sported an authentic World War II-era military uniform. Photo by Ginny Craven.



From right to left, Rose Lynch, MegAnn Brierly, Krystina Riccio, Jennifer Harte, Cheyanne Horvath, Rachel Sutton, Jamie Ridgeay, Karen Castellanos, Raphael Roy-Labelle, Jacob Gill, Maddie Kucer and Nika Gibbs at the Hidden Valley Lake Country Club for a fundraising dinner and silent auction on Saturday, May 17. Photo by Terre Logsdon.



HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – The first stamp in their new US passports may be from Japan, but for many of these Middletown Middle School students, this will be the first of many worldwide adventures.

Twelve Middletown Middle School students will leave in August as part of an ongoing exchange program with their sister city, Naka-cho – which means “Middletown” – and fly to Japan for eight days to gain a better understanding of a very different culture.

"The benefits of this program are numerous," said former Middletown Middle School Principal JoAnn Rodriguez. “This trip will open up their horizons … and whet their appetites for learning about other cultures.”

Rodriguez, now retired, received written correspondence from Naka-cho asking for a cultural exchange. After several years of writing back and forth, in 1994, the first delegation from Middletown Middle School was sent to Japan.

The next year, students and parents from Naka-cho came to Middletown – and they have alternated every year since.

“It gives the students a desire to learn and appreciate other cultures,” Rodriguez said, who explained that some students host a family from Japan one year – then stay with that same family the following year when they go.

In May, the Japan Club at Middletown Middle School hosted a dinner and silent auction at the Hidden Valley Lake Country Club to raise money for the trip.

Dan Morgan, Middletown Middle School current principal, explained that each of the students go through a very rigorous screening process in order to participate in the program. In the process they must demonstrate citizenship, and show they are maintaining a high grade point average and receiving recommendations from their teachers.

“This is an amazing group of kids and parents,” said Morgan. “They're all working very hard to make this happen.”

If you would like to assist the students in the Japan Club, please contact Kris Davis at 987-4160.

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


I’ve been trying to create a unique spaghetti sauce for my Italian wife. During the process I wondered, “What is the difference between all these spaghetti sauces that you see on the grocery store shelves, and what does it mean?”

Marinara started out being the most confusing sauce. There are so many versions, all with different lists of ingredients, which made it hard for me to figure out what made marinara, well, marinara.

After a bit of studying I found that, literally translated, a marinara is a tomato-based sauce that contains seafood, sometimes clams but more typically anchovies. The “Mari” in Marinara means marine, but its history can be traced to a light sauce created by fisherman that could be made on board a boat quickly, since the availability of wood at sea was scarce and fires on a ship were hazardous so the fisherman would want them burning long.

Characteristically, in addition to the anchovies, a marinara also contains tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil and spices. It’s only in America that we have distorted marinara into a nondescript, one-size-fits-all spaghetti sauce.

Ragu essentially means “Italian meat sauce,” so almost all spaghetti sauces in America are ragus. Tucco is the Tuscan name for a ragu, and Sugo, loosely translated to “sauce” or “juice”, is typically called a “light” tomato sauce with onions, garlic, and basil.

The problem with finding the true name of Italian sauces is that every Italian immigrant family called sauces something different, depending on the region they came from or just their own family influences.

It’s like asking an American, “What are the ingredients in barbecue?” Texans will start with “Beef with a tomato-based sauce,” while North Carolinians will begin with, “Pork and a vinegar-based sauce.”

Kansas City residents will just confuse the issue more. So many recipes may say “Ragu ala Bolognese,” but “Sugo ala Bolognese” or “Salsa ala Bolognese” would still be correct.

A Bolognese sauce originates from the landlocked Bologne (pronounced bo-LOHN) region of Italy which is not far from Parma (where the cheese Parmesan comes from). Their recipes favor beef or veal as the meat in their ragu, with the inclusion of tomatoes and wine. So a meat sauce from this area would be called “Ragu ala bolognese” (Rah-GOO AH-la bo-lohn-AYHS).

Naples is a seaside city of Italy, and they are credited for being the first Italians to actually eat and cook with tomatoes. Originally in Europe, tomatoes were grown only for ornamental value and as a curiosity, since they are related to the deadly nightshade plant and they were considered poisonous. A famine in the seventeenth century was enough to push people over the edge and attempt to eat the deadly tomato. That was the birth of the tomato into Italian cuisine.

The people of Naples tend to prefer pear-shaped tomato varieties because they are sweeter and less acidic. “Neapolitan gravy” is a basic tomato sauce from Naples that they use as a base to build on. They tend to favor pork in their ragus. On the other hand, brains, chicken, duck, duck liver, kidneys, sweetbreads (culinary code for “thyroid glands”), and rabbit can all found in various sauces throughout Italy.

Pasta ala Puttanesca is a dish with an intense tomato sauce that allegedly originated with the prostitutes of Naples. The name translates to “Harlots’ pasta” or “Pasta in the style of whores.” Wow! Who thought a food column could turn so blue? Many stories claim the origin of the sauce but the two most believable go like this ...

Brothels were called “closed houses” because by law the shutters were required to stay closed at all times to keep from offending the neighbors but the strong smell of the sauce was the lure for customers to enter their establishment. Now I may not be Italian but luring a potential customer with tomato sauce and feeding him pasta doesn’t sound like a brothel priority so the story that I find more believable is ...

At the end of the evening as the restaurants were shutting down, local streetwalkers would go begging for any leftovers before the restaurant was locked up for the night. The restaurant owners would throw any remaining tomato sauce, olives, capers, anchovies and hot peppers (the five classic ingredients that signify it as a puttanesca sauce) into a pot, pour it over some pasta and serve it to the unfortunate girls before going home. That story sounds a little more plausible to me. (My wife just told me that she, understanding Italian men better than I do, thinks the first version is more likely. “The way to a man’s heart, or wallet, is through his stomach.” OK, we agree to disagree.)

Arrabbiata sauce is traditionally served over penne pasta but spaghetti is sometimes also used “All’arrabbiata” translates to “angry style” since it is a very piquant and spicy sauce. The unique thing about Arrabbiata is that it is classically NOT served with meat in it.

Vodka sauce is also reserved for penne pasta and short cut pastas. A number of stories have it being created in 1970s Bologne, but some say it was invented by Frank Sinatra. What we do know is that it first appeared publicly during the 1980s and is considered part of nuova cucina, or Italian “New cuisine.”

It usually contains vodka, tomatoes, heavy cream, onions, garlic, prosciutto or ham, olives and parmesan cheese. Some early recipes contained rice, caviar, sour cream and strawberries. The meat preferred with this sauce is most frequently salmon.

Why make a sauce with vodka? Many ingredients, including tomatoes, contain flavor compounds that can only be released in the presence of alcohol. Vodka, being a “flavorless and colorless” alcohol, won’t clash with cream like wine in a sauce would.

Finally, sauce “All’Amatriciana,” or “Lovers sauce,” originates in the town of Amatrice, an agricultural area near Rome. The people from the area are so well renowned as good cooks that the Vatican prefers their cooks to come from Amatrice. With a name like Lovers Sauce, everybody wants to claim the recipe for their own, which makes the ingredients list difficult to nail down.

The known origins are that the sauce was adapted from a recipe made by shepherds, was first called La Gricia, and is always based on pork. The common components are tomatoes, guanciale (salt cured pork cheek, but pancetta is a frequent substitute), and chili peppers. Cooks in Rome include onions, but cooks in Amatrice don’t. Amatrice serves it on bucatini (spaghetti with a hole down the middle), while Rome uses rigatoni.

Now this brings me back to the sauce I am trying to create for my wife. How do I classify it? It doesn’t include anchovies so technically it’s not a marinara; no pork so it's not “All Amatriciana”; no capers or olives, so it’s not a Puttanesca; no vodka, but a hint of sour and spicy so maybe its an Arrabbiata ... That would make sense, she’s frequently angry at me! But it has meat in it so ... aw crud, this is going to take a while... Well anyway, here is the sauce recipe I created for my wife.

Salsa Arriabbiata della moglie (angry wife sauce)

Since my wife loves lavender, I wanted to create a sauce for her based around Herbs de Provence (an herb mixture that includes lavender). Sure, using fresh tomatoes and herbs is great, but for this sauce I wanted something that could be created in no time with items straight from the pantry. It can be made with your favorite ground meat (beef, pork, Italian sausage, or turkey), or the meat can be left out for a hearty vegan sauce.

1 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes

1 6 oz. can of tomato paste

1 large onion diced

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

½ cup white wine

½ cup olive oil

1/8 cup sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Pinch red pepper flakes

Dash nutmeg

Blend everything except onions in a blender until smooth. Pour mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in oil until browned. Stir caramelized onions into sauce and leave on the heat for at least half an hour until sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Add browned, cooked meat at this point if desired and serve over pasta of your choice.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


LAKE COUNTY – With jury selection completed, the trial of a San Francisco man accused of the murders of two friends is set to begin next week.

Renato Hughes, 23, will go on trial beginning Wednesday, June 11, in Martinez, District Attorney Jon Hopkins reported.

Jury selection wrapped up Friday, said Hopkins.

The minute the jury was selected, a young woman raised her hand and asked to be excused because a medical condition she has was being exacerbated by the proceedings, said Hopkins.

The judge granted the request, said Hopkins, which required he and defense attorney Stuart Hanlon to choose a new juror from among four alternates.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning, said Hopkins.

He anticipates the trial wrapping up in the latter part of July.

Hughes is being tried for the murders of his two friends, Christian Foster and Rashad Williams, who were shot to death after allegedly breaking into Shannon Edmonds' Clearlake Park home on the morning of Dec. 7, 2005.

The case against Hughes alleges he and his two companions beat Edmonds, his girlfriend and her son severely as they tried to steal marijuana Edmonds claimed to have a medical prescription to use.

Edmonds reportedly shot Foster and Williams as they ran from the home, but Hughes is being tried for their deaths under the provocative act legal theory because he allegedly took part in a crime that could result in a lethal response – the shooting of his two companions.

The jury seated Friday actually is the second jury to be selected in the Hughes case.

Last Nov. 15, after a three-week jury selection in Lake County was completed and the jury seated, Judge William McKinstry, a retired Alameda County judge assigned to the case, granted Hanlon's change of venue motion. In his decision McKinstry cited the number of jurors excused for various reasons.

In January, Lake County Superior Court Judge Arthur Mann ruled the trial would move to Contra Costa after Hanlon and Hopkins mutually agreed to the venue.

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LAKE COUNTY – A bill signed Friday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger officially makes home winemaking competitions legal.

With the governor's signature, SB 607, an urgency measure introduced in May by North Coast Sen. Patricia Wiggins, goes into immediate effect.

Thanks to SB 607, individuals may now manufacture up to 200 gallons per household per calendar year for personal or family use without the need for a license or permit.

Wiggins introduced the bill after a state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control official said a provision in the state's business and professions code made it illegal for home winemakers to share their products with others – even at county fairs or at similar events that been held for decades, according to a statement from her office.

“Even though the provision banning home winemaker competitions had not been widely enforced in practice, the growing legions of home winemakers did not deserve to have an arcane section of state law hanging over them,” Wiggins, who chairs the Senate Select Committee on California’s Wine Industry, said in a written statement.

The bill's signing resolves the issue in time for the peak season of county fairs, Wiggins said, and in advance of what she called the “big daddy of home winemaker competitions,” the California State Fair.

Lake County is home to its own home winemakers festival, which will return for his sixth year this June 28 in downtown Kelseyville. The annual event is a benefit for Clear Lake Performing Arts.

Organizers had indicated they were continuing forward with plans for this year's festival, hoping Wiggins' bill would be in force before the event, which in fact came true.

Connel Murray of CLPA said the home winemakers festival is his group's largest annual fundraiser, attracting participants and visitors from all over Northern California.

The Lake County Fair, he said, also has a home winemaking competition, with no public tasting component, as the CLPA event does.

The event has grown each year, he said. Last year's event netted about $7,000, and they're hoping that this year's will break the $10,000 mark.

Proceeds go to such CLPA efforts as supporting its symphony orchestra.

Before Wiggins' bill adjusted the law to make the festivals legal, state law had defined a “winegrower” as “any person who has the facilities and equipment for the conversion of fruit into wine and is engaged in the production of wine, except for those persons who produce less than 200 gallons of wine per year for their personal consumption.” SB 607 expands the definition of a winegrower by removing that exception, her office reported.

The law also had allowed homemade beer to be entered into competitions without the need for a licesen or permit, according to Wiggins' office.

Stephen Chambers, executive director of the Western Fairs Association, said in a written statement that more than 50 fairs host home winemaker competitions.

“We realize that amateur wine competitions are a small piece of the puzzle, but they are, nonetheless, a piece that completes the picture for many fairs throughout the state,” Chambers said.

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MIDDLETOWN – The sixth-annual EcoArts: Lake County Sculpture Walk, a five-month exhibit of sculptures "in dialog with nature," will hold an opening reception for the 2008 installation on Sunday, June 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

EcoArts: Lake County Sculpture Walk, is a five-month exhibit of sculptures at the 107-acre Middletown Trailside Nature Preserve County Park, 21435 Dry Creek Cutoff/Hwy 175, in Middletown.

Works of art by local, Bay Area, and national artists, who have given their time and material to create a public art installation, will be on display from June through October.

The park is open from dawn to dusk every day and admission is free. EcoArts of Lake County also offers free docent-guided tours of the art installation to schools and youth organizations by reservation.

EcoArts of Lake County is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting visual art, visual art education, and ecologic stewardship to the public and visitors of Lake County.

Karen Turcotte, executive director of EcoArts of Lake County said that since the program's inception in 2003, the exhibit has developed a reputation among curators, sculptors and art lovers throughout Lake County and the Bay Area as an impressive cultural event.

Nationally renowned fiber artist Sheila O'Hara is participating in the program this year. According to Turcotte, O'Hara and her students have created a work that is both beautiful and poignant. Lake County educational groups and schools participating this year include Middletown High School, Coyote Valley Elementary, and Redwood Children's Services.

The central trail at Middletown Trailside Nature Preserve County Park has been designated for EcoArts: Lake County Sculpture Walk. This trail is approximately 3/8th mile long and meanders to a picnic area with large oaks shading half a dozen tables. Temperatures can be quite warm in the summer, so visitors are advised to dress accordingly and pack water as no water is available at the preserve. Tall, comfortable walking shoes are recommended.

For visitor information, contact the Lake County Visitor Information Center at (800) 525-3743 or


LAKEPORT – A Tracy man has filed a civil lawsuit against the Diocese of Santa Rosa and a local priest, seeking millions of dollars for damages he alleges he suffered due to sexual abuse.

Christopher Griego, 31, of Tracy filed a lawsuit in Sonoma County Superior Court on Jan. 2 in which he alleged he was sexually abused as a child. However, in that initial filing he did not specifically name anyone, referring only to a “John Doe,” according to court documents.

On May 5, his attorney – Richard Simons of Hayward – filed an amended complaint naming the diocese and Lakeport priest Father Ted Oswald.

The diocese's attorney, Dan Galvin of Santa Rosa, said Griego is seeking just over $2.5 million in total damages – from psychological and emotional damages, to current and future medical expenses and earnings losses.

Galvin said the complaint was just recently served on the diocese, which plans to file a response.

Griego's suit alleges he was the victim of sexual abuse from 1988 to 1995 – during which time he was a Lakeport parishioner and an altar boy – and that the diocese failed to protect him.

The amended complaint states that in 2006 Griego discovered that his “psychological injuries and illnesses” resulted from childhood sexual abuse, but his allegations do not include specific incidents.

A number listed in the phone book for Griego was not in service. Simons didn't return a call seeking comment on Thursday.

Court records show the case is set to have a hearing on Aug. 14.

On Sunday, at the end of morning mass at Saint Mary Immaculate Church in Lakeport, Oswald told his parish about the accusations and said he would be taking a leave of absence, as Lake County News has reported.

Dierdre Frontczak, the diocese's spokesperson, said Oswald was placed on administrative leave as of Monday, which is standard procedure when such an allegation is made.

Oswald requested, and was granted, administrative leaves of absence from his chaplain posts at the Lakeport Police Department and the Lake County Sheriff's Office, officials in those agencies confirmed.

Saint Mary Immaculate's priest since 1988, Oswald told Lake County News this week that he is innocent and that he wants his day in civil court to resolve the matter. He said he hopes to return to his parish and go back to work.

Oswald also has reported that parishioners and friends continue to offer their support and encouragement.

Galvin said cases such as this typically come down to the alleged victim's word versus that of the alleged perpetrator.

“In this situation, the plaintiff claims he was sexually abused,” said Galvin. “The priest denies vehemently it ever happened.”

He added, “Credibility is, typically, the key in these cases.”

How long the case could take to resolve is hard to say, said Galvin. Civil discovery will look into the background of the individuals involved, and depositions could take months to complete.

Many such cases end up in mediation before they get to trial, Galvin said.

It's also not guaranteed that the case will make it through. “We have had several of these cases thrown out by the trial court based on statute of limitations defenses,” Galvin said.

However, Galvin will be up against a tough opponent in Simons.

The biography listed for him on the Web site for his firm – Furtado, Jaspovice and Simons – reports he has extensive experience representing clients who bring sexual abuse cases. He was co-counsel for more than 125 victims in Northern California cases where child sex abuse was alleged against priests or other clergy, and assisted in bringing in more than $150 million in settlements and awards.

Griego never reported his abuse allegations to the Lakeport Police Department, officials there confirmed this week. Lakeport Police has asked the District Attorney's Office to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations, which is in progress.

David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, based in St. Louis, said he didn't consider it unusual for Griego's case to have begun in the civil courts and not the criminal system.

People alleged to have been abused by an authority figure are likely to distrust other authority figures – such as police and other law enforcement, according to Clohessy, who said he is an abuse victim.

When cases such as this go through the civil process, Galvin asserted that the plaintiffs are looking for money.

Clohessy acknowledged that there have been some false accusations made against clergy members – with money a motivation for some – but said if a person's goal is to scam the court system, sexual abuse is the wrong claim to make, because church officials hire defense attorneys who “fight brutally and ruthlessly” to beat the cases in court.

Frontczak said Oswald went before the diocese's review board, where he maintained his innocence and denied Griego's allegations.

The review board assists in investigating initial reports and accusations against clergy, said Frontczak.

Griego also has been invited to the board, but Frontczak said she doesn't know if he will appear. Very often individuals bringing abuse allegations don't want to meet with the board, she added.

Clohessy said his group urges people making abuse allegations to think “long and hard” before going to church authorities, because the group believes the church will not act in the victims' best interest.

He said he finds it troubling that, in cases like Oswald's, people rally to a clergy member's cause rather than waiting to see what will be determined in court.

That reaction by church and community members, he maintained, will discourage other alleged abuse victims from coming forward.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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