Friday, 19 July 2024


CLEARLAKE – An Oroville man died Saturday when the boat he and two others were riding in sank.

The body of Steven Wade Smith, 45, was located Saturday afternoon after a search that lasted beginning early in the morning, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Early Saturday at about 4:30 a.m., sheriff’s deputies responded to the area of Redbud Park in the city of Clearlake to assist Clearlake Police with a reported sunken boat and recovery of its occupants, Bauman said.

He said that other agencies responding to the incident included the Lake County Fire Protection District, a dive team from the Northshore Fire Protection District, the Sheriff’s Marine Patrol and Lake County Search and Rescue.

Dive team resources from the Napa, Mendocino, and Sonoma County Sheriff’s Departments also were requested for what would later turn out to be the recovery of a drowning victim, he said.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived at Redbud Park, Clearlake Police officers were already on scene after responding to reports of shouting coming from somewhere on the water. Bauman said that two of the three occupants of what was described as an older 15-foot bass boat that had reportedly sunk had been rescued from the water by another fisherman involved in a catfish derby and taken to shore.

He said the two people pulled from the water were identified as 40-year-old Jennifer Christensen and 44-year-old Jeffrey Cruz, both of Oroville. Their rescuer was identified only as Johnny Stevenson.

While medics attended to Christensen and Cruz onshore, Bauman said a Clearlake officer boarded Stevenson’s boat and went back out to look for the third occupant, later identified as Smith.

Bauman said Stevenson and the Clearlake officer searched the area for more than a half hour but were unable to locate Smith but they did locate the sunken vessel submerged about 5 feet below the surface of the lake. The boat ultimately was recovered and towed in by a Northshore Fire Dive Team boat out of the Clearlake Oaks station.

As additional resources arrived at the scene throughout the morning, search and dive teams were deployed on the lake to look for Smith, Bauman said. By early afternoon, Smith had been located by a Napa County dive team by use of sonar equipment. He was submerged in about 20 feet of water, nearly a mile offshore. Smith’s body was ultimately recovered and brought to shore at 2:20 p.m. by the Napa County dive team.

According to the surviving occupants of the boat, Christensen, Cruz and Smith had launched Smith’s boat from Redbud Park the previous evening and they had been on the lake fishing the entire night for the catfish derby. Bauman said that t about 10 p.m. they docked at Clearlake Oaks to weigh their fish and noticed water had accumulated in the bilge area of the boat.

They pumped the water out and proceeded back out to continue fishing. Bauman said all three went to sleep while out on the lake and at some point, Christensen woke up and discovered more water in the boat.

Smith began motoring in slowly towards shore but as he did, the boat took more and more water on. When it was clear that the boat was sinking, all three occupants abandoned the vessel, Bauman said.

Smith was reportedly having trouble staying afloat and despite Cruz’s repeated efforts to help keep Smith on the surface, Smith kept pulling Cruz down with him and Cruz eventually had to let him go to preserve his own life. Bauman said Christensen and Cruz were in the water for 15 to 30 minutes before Stevenson rescued them.

Stevenson told deputies he was also out fishing for the catfish derby with a friend and relative. They also were sleeping on board their boat while anchored off of Redbud Park when, at about 4:30 a.m., they awoke to people yelling for help somewhere out on the water, according to Bauman's report.

Bauman said that Stevenson immediately proceeded toward the yelling and was able to locate and rescue both Christiansen and Cruz from the water. They continued searching for Smith but could not find him so he returned to shore with the two survivors.

Christensen and Cruz were both transported to St. Helena Hospital Clearlake where they were treated and released, Bauman said.

The cause of the sunken fishing boat is pending further investigation, according to Bauman, and the manner and exact cause of Smith’s death is pending autopsy results.

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THE GEYSERS – More than a dozen earthquakes were recorded at The Geysers on Monday, with four temblors recorded in less than 10 minutes.

By 6 p.m. Monday, 15 quakes were recorded for the day; the largest was a 3.1-magnitude temblor which was felt by residents at 5:19 p.m. and followed by three more in less than 10 minutes, according the to U.S. Geological Survey. Two more quakes were recorded by 6:30 p.m.

The US Geological Survey reported that it received shakes reports on the 3.1-magnitude quake from San Jacinto and Middletown.

Earthquakes also continued to rumble in Southern California and Baja California, where nearly four dozen temblors occurred on Monday, primarily on the Elsinore Fault Zone, with a 3.6 magnitude at 6:13 a.m., the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

Worldwide, the U.S. Geological Survey reported there have been 282 earthquakes in the last seven days, including quakes that measure 2.5 magnitude or larger in the United States and adjacent areas, and 4.5 magnitude and larger in the rest of the world.



The USGS lists almost 100 earthquakes in The Geysers area in the last seven days, which include magnitudes less than 2.5.

A 3.5-magnitude quake was reported in The Geysers April 27, as Lake County News has reported.

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CLEARLAKE – The county's SWAT and negotiation teams were called out late Saturday night to respond to a situation involving a Clearlake man who allegedly fired shots at an unoccupied vehicle and later barricaded himself in a residence.

Ameni Kawmen Crockett, 36, was arrested Sunday morning on several felony and misdemeanor charges – including assault with a firearm – after the SWAT team forced him out of a trailer, according to Sgt. Rodd Joseph of the Clearlake Police Department.

Joseph said that just after 10:30 p.m. Saturday police received a report of multiple shots fired in the area of Cass and Huron avenues, located off Old Highway 53.

One of witnesses to the incident followed Crockett back to a unit at Lakeland Resort on Old Highway 53, he said.

Joseph and another officer were the first on scene, and he said witnesses pointed them to the Lakeland Resort unit where Crockett had barricaded himself.

Clearlake Police – with the assistance of the Lake County Sheriff's Office – established a perimeter around the scene. Using the public address system in Joseph's car, authorities tried to call Crockett out, but he refused to comply, Joseph said.

Because they believed Crockett could be armed with a handgun, along with his refusal to come out, the Lake County SWAT Team and the hostage negotiation team were called at about 11 p.m. Saturday, according to Joseph.

Joseph said Old Highway 53 was closed to traffic and neighbors in the units next to that in which Crockett was barricaded were evacuated to Clearlake City Hall.

The SWAT team arrived about an hour and a half later after the group was called, Joseph said. As the SWAT team members were getting suited up, the Lake County District Attorney's Office was contacted and that agency sent out an investigator, who responded to the Clearlake Police Department to begin working on a search warrant.

When the SWAT team got on scene they tried unsuccessfully to get Crockett out of the residence. Joseph said that during the coming hours the hostage negotiation team established phone contact with Crockett and continued a dialogue with him.

Finally, at about 7 a.m. Sunday, Judge Stephen Hedstrom signed the search warrant prepared by the district attorney's investigator, Joseph said.

The SWAT team deployed a camera which determined Crockett still was inside the Lakeland Resort unit, Joseph said.

Once police had the search warrant and it became clear that Crockett wasn't going to come out on his own, Joseph said the SWAT team deployed chemicals into the trailer.

Within a few minutes, Crockett came out the back door and was taken into custody just after 7 a.m. Joseph said Crockett was treated for the teargas and arrested.

Clearlake Police officers then conducted a search of the trailer, finding no one else inside, Joseph said.

In the area where the shots originally were reported, police found two bullets in a vehicle and one in a parked boat near the intersection of Cass and Huron avenues, according to Joseph.

While the investigation is still pending, Joseph said Crockett – who has had numerous contacts with Clearlake Police – already has been charged with two counts of assault with a firearm on a person.

“There were two people standing near the car when the shots were fired,” he said.

Crockett, who is a convicted felon, also was charged with being a prohibited person in possession of ammunition, exhibiting a firearm, willful discharge of a firearm in a negligent manner, shooting at an unoccupied vehicle or dwelling, and obstructing or resisting a peace office, Joseph said.

Joseph said Crockett also allegedly was found in possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, which resulted in additional charges.

Crockett's bail has been set at $10,000, according to Lake County Jail records.

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A local census taker will work with you to complete the 2010 Census questionnaire for your household. It's easy and should take about 10 minutes. Photo courtesy of the US Census Bureau.



LAKE COUNTY – As census workers fan out into Northern California collecting 2010 Census information from households that did not mail back their form, the U.S. Census Bureau wants to remind people about how to avoid fraud and scams.

Starting May 1, the Census Bureau launched its door-knocking operation, where census takers personally visit households that didn't mail back a completed 2010 Census questionnaire.

The personnel-intensive operation – referred to as non-response follow-up (NRFU) – is part of the bureaus' wide-scale effort to count every person living in the United States.

Nationally, an estimated 48 million addresses will be visited through July 10. An estimated 1.8 million addresses will be visited in Northern California. The Census Bureau’s Northern California region stretches from Santa Cruz County, to the south, and the Oregon border, to the north.


About 635,000 census takers have been deployed around the nation for this operation, with more than 19,000 in Northern California.

All enumerators were hired locally, typically working in the neighborhoods where they live. As US Census employees, enumerators take an oath to not reveal any identifiable information with anyone. Violating the oath could result in a penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.

Opportunists and scammers may want to take advantage of this once-a-decade national effort.

If a 2010 Census worker knocks on your door, here are some ways to verify that person is a legitimate census taker:

  • Census takers wear an ID badge that contains a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark.

  • Census takers may carry a black and white canvas bag with a Census Bureau logo.

  • Census takers will NEVER ask to come into your home.

  • Census takers will present residents a notice titled “Your Answers Are Confidential,” which explains the U.S. Code, Title 13, guaranteeing the safeguarding and confidentiality of information collected by the Census Bureau.

  • Census workers will ask the same questions that appear on the 2010 Census form. It should take less than 10 minutes if people cooperate with census takers.

  • Census workers will NEVER ask for money or donations, Social Security number, credit card information, bank account numbers, immigration or citizenship status.

  • The Census Bureau NEVER requests for information via e-mail.

  • The Census Bureau does not conduct surveys or censuses on behalf of political parties or organizations.

In most cases, census workers will make initial visits during afternoons, early evenings and weekends.

Census workers will make up to six attempts at each housing unit address to count possible residents. This includes leaving notifications of the attempted visit at the house or apartment door, in addition to trying to reach the household by phone to conduct the interview or schedule an in-person interview.

The Census Bureau is urging cooperation and patience with the census takers, as this is the best way to ensure that everyone is counted properly.

If asked, the census taker will provide the supervisor’s contact information and/or the Local Census Office phone number for verification. If residents feel threatened, they should call local law enforcement or 911.

Mandated by the U.S. Constitution, the census takes place every 10 years. Census data determine boundaries for state and local legislative and congressional districts.

More than $400 billion in federal funds are distributed annually based on census data to pay for local programs and services, such as schools, highways, vocational training, emergency services, hospitals and much more.

Learn more about the 2010 Census at

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WILLITS – Several individuals were arrested late last week on a variety of charges following a residential burglary involving numerous stolen weapons that was reported in Willits.

On May 7, deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a residence on Hearst-Willits Road regarding a residential burglary, according to a report written by Liz Evangelatos, an administrative assistant with the sheriff's office. Upon arrival it was determined that numerous handguns and rifles were taken from the residence.

A subsequent investigation determined that 19-year-old Jesse Jewel of Willits had contacted the victims' granddaughter with knowledge of the burglary, prior to the incident being publicly reported, Evangelatos said.

As the investigation continued Jewel admitted to deputies that he and one other person entered the residence on Hearst-Willits Road and took at least five handguns, 11 rifles and two shotguns. Evangelatos said that Jewel also admitted to taking the firearms to an address located on Della Avenue in Willits, and claimed to have been under the influence of methamphetamine when burglarizing the home.

Following up on investigative leads, deputies responded to a residence on Ridgewood Road where Evangelatos said they obtained more investigative leads and arrested 22-year-old Willits resident Jessica Bauer, who had five outstanding arrest warrants.

Deputies, personnel from the Willits Police Department and Mendocino County Adult Probation then responded to an address located on Alameda Street in Willits. While at that location numerous persons were contacted, and subsequently arrested, for being under the influence of a controlled substance, Evangelatos said.

She said those subjects arrested included Jerry Alvarez, 49; Susan Casey, 40; Brian Wood, 38; and Kimberly Wood, 35, all of Willits.

Also located at the residence was 43-year-old Wesley Silva, who Evangelatos said admitted that many of the stolen weapons were located at his residence.

Deputies were led to a garage on the property where they located many of the stolen firearms hidden within the walls of the garage, according to Evangelatos' report.

Evangelatos said Silva was placed under arrest for possession of stolen property, being a felon in possession of firearms, being under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

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A sampling of the species of birds considered unique for Lake County. Photos by Brad Barnwell.

LAKE COUNTY – The annual Heron Festival has come and gone, but its goals continue around the year – to conserve, restore and educate people about the valuable natural resources and wildlife that Clearlake has to offer.

More concerned, Lake County-loving citizens are educating themselves about the land they live on, and how to keep it and its creatures healthy. Darlene Hecomovich of the Redbud Audubon Society reports that 1,871 people attended the joint event, which was the biggest turnout yet.

In 1994, the Redbud Audubon Society – formed in 1975 by a group of citizens – created the Heron Festival to celebrate the beauty of the springtime nesting period of one of Lake County’s signature bird species, the great blue heron.

Another important purpose of the festival is to showcase nature’s beauty and increase the appreciation and understanding of its value to all our lives, organizers said.

The goal of the National Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.

The Redbud Audubon Society, Lake County’s local chapter, reported 300 species of birds call this area home, with the following species being unique: the great blue heron, the double-crested cormorant, Western and Clark’s Grebes, the osprey and the famed bald eagle.

Event-goers had the opportunity to take guided pontoon boat rides during the Heron Festival which made it easier to see the local bird life, and their nests.

Floyd Hayes, pontoon boat guide and professor at Pacific Union College, said that 85 heron nests were counted in late March, so they seem to be doing well.

The National Audubon society designated Clear Lake, and the 50,000 acres surrounding it, as an Important Bird Area; the Important Bird Area Program aims to conserve areas that are vital to birds and other biodiversity. It was launched in California in 1996 but didn’t really take hold until 2000 when an IBA report was initiated.

The Heron Festival attracted many bird watchers and nature enthusiasts. Ever since the event joined forces with the Wildflower Brunch in 2004, a variety of other people also flock to show their support for Mother Nature.

“I think we’ve helped each other pretty equally,” said Madelene Lyon, president of the Clear Lake State Park Interpretive Association (CLSPIA). “The Heron Festival used to be held at Anderson Marsh National Park but it was nowhere near as conducive as the Clear Lake State Park.”

CLSPIA, a nonprofit organization, began the Wildflower Brunch to raise funds towards their goal, which is also to educate the public about the valuable and important natural and cultural resources located in the Clear Lake State Park and surrounding areas.

With so many groups having similar goals, Clear Lake is on the right track. Attitudes have drastically changed from the times when sulfur and mercury mines carved their way into the lake’s shores, embedding the lake with their runoff.

Clear Lake is labeled as an “impaired water body” by the state of California under the Clean Water Act, due to mainly the overload of nutrients, as Lake County News has reported.

In the 1870s, the newly discovered lush landscape and mineral-packed springs lured thousands of settlers to Clear Lake. But, according to a UC Davis study, the massive influx of settlers altered Clear Lake’s ecosystem and watershed beyond recognition.

The economic boom from the early swarm of settlers was too good to let go, so when tourists and residents began fleeing the area to escape a species of gnat, drastic and unfortunately detrimental measures were taken.

Dichloro Diphenyl Dichloroethane, or (DDD), was used in large amounts and is related to DDT, or Dichlorodiphenyl-Trichloroacetic Acid. The UC Davis study reported that three large doses of DDD were used spanning from 1949 to 1957.

Aside from controlling the gnat population, the pesticides also killed off other invertebrates, which were food sources for many species of birds. As a result, bird populations declined, died off and have made a very slow recovery.

According to the UC Davis study, Clear Lake is the first area where the negative effects from pesticides on bird populations were actually documented. But, wildlife populations is not the only this that has been in decline.

Over 85 percent of the area’s natural wetlands have dissipated due to both natural and anthropogenic stresses, according to the study. And now, 80 percent of the fish in Clear Lake are species that were introduced.

Five decades later, it seems Mother Nature has bounced back. At this year’s Heron Festival, event-goers were pleased to see many dwindling species of birds soaring these beautiful, clean skies once again.

Regarding when the DDT was sprayed, Hayes mentioned several species of birds that were affected most.

“The main problem with high level predators like the bald eagle and osprey is that they were really hard hit,” he said, explaining that those birds rely mainly on the kind of fish that the DDT killed.

He also attributed a decline in bird populations to low water levels, which generally means a low food source.

“When winter gets really cold, fish like the shad – a main food source for the grebes – die off and as a result of the colder temperature in the low water levels,” he said.

Having wildlife population data is crucial in the efforts of the groups to conserve, restore and showcase the natural beauty. Community members can pitch in and help collect data during the Christmas Bird Count and the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Hecomovich said that both counts monitor the population and movement in the winter time. The Christmas Bird Count takes place on one day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 4, the Great Backyard Bird Count is over a four-day weekend in mid February

Christmas Bird Count participants “are more apt to be hard-core birders although many novice and mid-level birders participate and are encouraged to do so,” Hecomovich said.

She said that many of those same people participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, which is more geared to birders with all levels of interest. Many of them – as the county's name suggests – are just interested in the birds in their backyard, Hecomovich said.

To find out how to become involved in the local bird counts, or to get more information on birding in general, visit

“The Christmas Bird Count is a time-honored tradition that has gone on for 110 years and is the longest-running bird census in the nation and provides scientists with valuable data of bird populations. The GBBC is a four-day event that just completed its 13th year,” she said. “In the Great Backyard Bird Count, either an individual or a team/family submits a checklist for the birds seen each day of the count. Then, Audubon uses this data to determine how many and where the various species are located.”

For more information on this topic, please visit:

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Fr. John Boettcher portrayed Jesus Christ during the 30th annual Lake County Passion Play, which took place Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16, 2010, near Lakeport, Calif. Boettcher said that he receives some new insight about the passion play story each time he takes part in the production. Photo by Tera DeVroede.





LAKEPORT – This past weekend the annual Lake County Passion Play once again returned with its unique portrayal of the last days of Jesus Christ.

Hundreds of people arranged themselves in the audience area of the field with their own lawn chairs and blankets to watch the reenactment of some of the most important moments in Christian scripture.

Beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery complemented this year’s Passion Play; the weather proved perfect for an outdoor play.

“The setting makes the play,” said the play’s co-founder, Father Philip J. Ryan.

The Passion Play, celebrating its 30th anniversary, is extra special this year because Jesus began his public ministry when he was 30 years old, according to event organizers.

The play required no entrance fee but donations are always accepted. Bumper stickers, license plate covers and T-shirts were some new items offered for donations, aside from the bottled water.

Ryan said that all of the money raised always goes back into the Passion Play grounds, which are located in the north Lakeport area off of Highway 29.

In 2001 the Passion Play Board of Directors purchased the 85-acre Beltramo Ranch property that makes up the grounds for $399,500 after owners Armondo and Catherine Beltramo offered it for sale, organizers reported.

Ryan said the production usually costs somewhere around $3,000 to produce each year.

All three stages underwent renovations in the past four years and were redone with a much more durable material called Trex.

The massive production attracts people from across the nation and the globe each year. Ryan said he knew of people who came from Scotland, Australia and many other countries, just to see this play.

Many local people attended as well, as there are audience members who have been there nearly every year, he said.




Juan Erquiaga portrayed a Roman charioteer during the 30th annual Lake County Passion Play, which took place Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16, 2010, near Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Tera DeVroede.



Bonnie Edwards of Ukiah attended, and she was in a Passion Play production that took place in Ukiah several years ago. It was her first time attending Lake County’s.

“I was in tears,” she said. “It was so well done. This brought reality to such an incredible moment in time.”

She is excited about volunteering in the Lake County Passion Play in the future.

This year Jesus was played by Fr. John Boettcher. He has volunteered to act in that role for 13 years during the play's history.

At times he comes all the way from Rome and Jerusalem for the play. If that is not dedicated enough, he also truly carries a heavy wooden cross, weighing 120 pounds, up the hillside to the crucifixion scene.

“Every time I’ve been in the play, I’ve experienced some new insight,” said Boettcher. “It’s always something different for me.”

Nearly 150 people volunteered to act in the play, as the entire production is possible through volunteerism, Ryan said.

If anyone is interested in volunteering, please call 707-279-0349.

Visit for more information.



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The liturgical dancers perform at the base of the three crosses during the 30th annual Lake County Passion Play, which took place Saturday, May 15, and Sunday, May 16, 2010, near Lakeport, Calif. Photo by Tera DeVroede.

LAKEPORT – Sheriff's officials are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of an inmate found hanging in his cell early Monday morning.

Jimmy Ray Hatfield, 38, of Clearlake, was discovered by jail staff at around 6 a.m. Monday, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Lake County Jail custody staff were conducting their formal count in one of the maximum security units when they observed that one of the cells had a blanket draped from the upper bunk, concealing Hatfield, the cell’s sole occupant, Bauman said.

Bauman reported that Hatfield had last been observed acting normally in his cell about 40 minutes prior during an hourly cell check.

The housing officer directed Hatfield to show himself for the count and when he failed to respond, the officer entered the cell and discovered him unconscious and suspended by a ligature made from a bed sheet, which Bauman said was tied to the upper bunk behind the blanket.

When Hatfield was discovered additional officers and jail medical staff immediately responded for assistance while rescue personnel from the Lakeport Fire Department were dispatched to the jail, according to Bauman.

While Lakeport Fire personnel were en route, custody staff quickly released Hatfield from the upper bunk and commenced life-saving efforts, Bauman said. Rescue personnel arrived and took over attempts to save Hatfield while transporting him to Sutter Lakeside Hospital.

However, shortly after his arrival at the emergency room, Hatfield was declared deceased, Bauman said.

Sheriff’s detectives were dispatched to the jail to process the apparent suicide scene and Bauman said that, pursuant to sheriff’s department policy, the Lake County District Attorney’s Office also was called in to conduct an independent investigation of the death.

Hatfield was booked at the jail last Saturday evening by the Clearlake Police Department following an incident in that city, Bauman said.

Hatfield – whose occupation on his booking sheet was listed as “student” – was awaiting arraignment on felony charges of threatening a peace officer, resisting arrest, battery on a peace officer, and two other related misdemeanor charges, Bauman said. Jail records show Hatfield was being held on a $50,000 bail.

The manner and cause of Hatfield’s death is pending further investigation and autopsy results, and Bauman declined to release any further details.

Bauman told Lake County News that the last time the jail had an incident similar to Hatfield's was July of 2008.

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LAKE COUNTY – A series of televised debates held for the sheriff, district attorney, superintendent of schools and District 2 supervisor races are all now available online.

The debates can be found online at (which offers very high quality resolution), or at TV8's Web site,

Specific links for the debates are listed below.

First district attorney candidates' debate (held March 30, Lakeport):

Second district attorney candidates' debate (held April 15, Middletown):

County superintendent of schools candidates' debate (held April 19, Lakeport):

District 2 supervisor candidates' debate (held April 27, Clearlake):

First sheriff candidates' debate (held April 28, Lakeport):

Second sheriff candidates' debate (held May 5, Middletown):

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LAKE COUNTY – The State Bar of California has concluded that it will take no action on a complaint against the county's district attorney regarding an open letter to the community he released prior to a trial last summer.

District Attorney Jon Hopkins received a letter from State Bar Deputy Trial Counsel Robert Henderson dated May 13 that notified him of the decision.

“The State Bar has completed the investigation of the allegations of professional misconduct reported by Victor Haltom and determined that this matter does not warrant further action,” Henderson's letter stated. “Therefore, the matter is closed.”

Haltom is the Sacramento attorney who represented Carmichael resident Bismarck Dinius in a felony boating under the influence trial last summer.

Dinius was prosecuted in connection with a fatal April 2006 boat crash in which he was sitting at the tiller of a sailboat that was hit from behind on a dark night by an off-duty sheriff's chief deputy, Russell Perdock.

Both of Hopkins' opponents in this year's district attorney race, defense attorneys Don Anderson and Doug Rhoades, said they felt that releasing the open letter was not a good idea.

“It may not have been a technical ethical violation, it may not have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct, but I thought it was improper,” Rhoades said Monday.

Anderson said he didn't think it was morally right.

On July 17, 2009, about a week and a half before the trial began, Hopkins released an open letter in which he announced he would drop a manslaughter charge against Dinius.

At that time Hopkins also addressed several key questions in the case, including whether or not the sailboat's running lights were on, when blood alcohol tests were done, the motorboat's speed, the charges and conflict of interest allegations. See the letter here:

Hopkins' letter angered Haltom and some community members because it made statements about “drunken sailors” in reference to Dinius.

“I thought the 'open letter' plainly violated governing ethical standards,” Haltom said Monday. “That is why I submitted the complaint to the State Bar. I've been practicing for nearly two decades now. This is the only complaint I have submitted to the State Bar.”

Dinius would go on to be acquitted of the felony boating under the influence causing great bodily injury charge and a misdemeanor count of boating under the influence, with the jury deadlocking on a misdemeanor count of boating with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.08, which later was dismissed, as Lake County News has reported.

Hopkins said the State Bar notified him last year that a complaint had been made against him regarding the letter by an individual named Brent Vordross.

In response, Hopkins wrote a letter explaining his decision to release the statement to the community, and pointed out that Judge J. Michael Byrne had found no ethical violation because of the letter.

Shortly before the Dinius trial started last summer, Haltom filed a motion accusing Hopkins of prosecutorial misconduct because of the letter, which Byrne heard on July 21, 2009. During the arguments on the motion, Haltom called the letter “a remarkable, unprecedented event.”

Byrne held that there was a constitutional right guaranteeing press access to court matters, but told Hopkins, “I don't think it was a good idea to issue a press release at this time.” However, Byrne added that he was satisfied that Hopkins wasn't guilty of misconduct, as Lake County News has reported.

Hopkins said the open letter was meant to combat a “barrage of defense publicity,” which he said he has a right to do under the California Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 5-120.

Section C of that rule, Hopkins said, “allows me to make a statement that I would reasonably believe is required to protect my client – the people of Lake County – from substantial undue prejudicial effect of recent publicity not initiated by me.”

He added, “That's built into the Rules of Professional Conduct specifically.”

Hopkins received a letter dated Nov. 17, 2009, from Manya B. Lewis, a complaint analyst with the State Bar's Los Angeles office, who notified him that the complaint had been reviewed and evaluated.

“The determination has been made that there are insufficient grounds for disciplinary action,” Lewis wrote. “Therefore, we are closing our files at this time.”

Then, in April, Hopkins received a letter from the San Francisco State Bar office, notifying him of the second complaint, this one by Haltom, in which it was alleged Hopkins was attempting to use the open letter to taint the jury pool.

Hopkins said he responded with a three-page letter. “In this one they got an investigator and an attorney involved in reviewing it,” he said.

There was no danger of tampering the jury pool, Hopkins asserted, noting that the jury already had been admonished not to read media reports about the case. Those who did violate that admonishment during the jury selection process were excused for cause.

While Haltom was critical of Hopkins for the letter, Hopkins in turn was critical of many of Haltom's media disclosures.

In one case, on the first morning of jury selection last summer, Hopkins said he, Haltom and Byrne were still finalizing the jury questionnaire. Before they were finished that morning, he said Haltom had released the questionnaire to a Bay Area TV station, which posted it on its Web site.

Haltom told Lake County News that he also received a letter from the State Bar notifying him of its decision.

That letter, which he said was written by State Bar counsel, stated, “After review, I have concluded that there is insufficient proof to obtain a culpability finding. Therefore, I am closing this matter for lack of sufficient proof. Clearly the State Bar is concerned about the issue of pre-trial publicity in this matter. Unfortunately, it does not appear as if the matter could be proved by clear and convincing evidence.”

Haltom said he has no experience regarding State Bar prosecutions, so he doesn't know the standards the State Bar applies in such cases.

“So, I cannot intelligently comment on what exactly the State Bar would need to prove that Mr. Hopkins violated ethical standards by writing and publishing his 'open letter' during jury selection in the Dinius trial,” Haltom said.

In response to questions about whether or not either of them had ever been the subject of a complaint to the State Bar, Anderson said he once received a letter from the State Bar about an insufficient funds issue regarding a check being deposited into his trust account in a personal injury case. But no formal complaint resulted.

Rhoades said a complaint was filed against him previously, but nothing came of it.

He said complaints are made all the time, but very few are sustained.

“I think almost any attorney who has been in business for more than 10 years has had at least one,” he said.

Hopkins said he had gone 37 years as an attorney before the first complaint was lodged against him last year.

None of the three men have any public record of discipline or administrative actions against them, according to the State Bar.

Anderson, attended San Jose State University, where he received his undergraduate degree, and attended Empire College School of Law in Santa Rosa. He was admitted to the State Bar on Dec. 11, 1989.

Hopkins was admitted to the State Bar on June 2, 1972. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, and studied law at California Western School of Law in San Diego.

Rhoades received his undergraduate degree from California State University, Sonoma in Rohnert Park and, like Anderson, studied for his law degree at Empire College School of Law in Santa Rosa. Rhoades was admitted to the bar on Dec. 6, 1996.

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Gary Moore of Clearlake, Calif., shows off his winning, 24.55-pound Catfish at the 27th annual Catfish Derby on Saturday, May 15, 2010. Photo courtesy of Dennis Locke.


CLEARLAKE OAKS – This weekend's annual Catfish Derby in Clearlake Oaks had another record turnout, with participants coming from six states to take part in the family event.

The 27th annual event – known as “the largest catfish derby west of the Mississippi” – began Friday and ended on Sunday.

“We had one heck of a derby,” said event chair Gail Jonas.

There were 518 adult fishermen – eight more than last year – and 117 children, four more than the 2009 event, event officials reported.

Over the three days of competition, event organizers said approximately 124 fish were caught with a total weight of 1,515 pounds.

Gary Moore of Clearlake won the grand prize in the adult division with a 24.55-pound catfish, according to Dennis Locke of the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association. Moore won a new fishing boat, motor and trailer.

In the children's division, Christopher Lombardo of Sacramento took home the top prize with a 14.61-pound catfish, which won him a Nintendo Wii system, Locke said.




Christopher Lombardo of Sacramento reeled in a 14.6-pound catfish shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday, May 16, 2010, which won him first place in the children's division of the annual Catfish Derby in Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Lombardo won a Nintendo Wii system. Photo courtesy of Dennis Locke.



More than $3,000 in cash prizes were awarded to other adult and kid participants, said Locke, and there also were numerous raffle prizes, most donated by community merchants and residents. He said food and entertainment at derby headquarters on Saturday and Sunday topped it all off.

Casting a shadow over the fun event was a boat sinking that reportedly occurred near Clearlake early Saturday morning and claimed one life, Jonas said.

She said Search and Rescue and the Northshore Fire boat from the Clearlake Oaks station were among those responding to the incident, and the derby organizers made an announcement about the accident during the event.

It wasn't clear if the people involved were taking part in the derby, and the Lake County Sheriff's Marine Patrol, when contacted Sunday, deferred statements to the sheriff's press officer, who will not be available for comment until Monday.

Jonas called the accident “very tragic.”

Locke said that, of the 633 entries this year, more than 64 percent – or 402 – were from outside Lake County. Participants traveled from locations around California and from Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii.

“Our goal is to make our event a premier visitor experience,” Locke said.

He added, “Fishing was a little slower than normal this year, and the fish a little smaller. But we had great weather, perfect conditions on the lake, and everyone had a grand time.”




Winner of the 2010 Catfish Derby, Gary Moore of Clearlake, Calif., shows off the boat he won with his 24.55-pound catfish, which he caught just after 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, 2010. Photo courtesy of Dennis Locke.



Once again this year there were many families taking part, Jonas said. “Everybody had such a good time.”

Now in its second year, the annual Catfish Cook-Off took place Saturday at the Clearlake Oaks Plaza, said organizer Ross Christensen.

Glenn Marks won first place for the second year with his catfish over pasta, Christensen reported. In addition to the trophies and cash awards a generous wine award was donated by local wineries and community members.




Glenn Marks' dish, catfish over pasta, won the second annual Catfish Derby Cook-off, held Saturday, May 15, 2010, in The Plaza in Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Photo by Linda Richmond.



Miss Lake County Scholarship Program and Pageant members judged the competition, and Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley provided cooking supplies and soy-based biodegradable serving utensils, Christensen said.

Locke said that more than 50 community volunteers worked four straight days – some as long at 16 hours each day – to help make the derby a success.

The proceeds from the event go to the annual Clearlake Oaks fireworks display. Jonas said that they usually bring in about $15,000 to $16,000 with the derby, but they won't know the final tally for awhile.

Through its donations the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association also supports local schools, parks, senior and youth services, nonprofit organizations and a graduating senior scholarship program, Locke said.




Miss Lake County Scholarship Program and Pageant members judged the second annual Catfish Derby Cook-off competition, held Saturday, May 15, 2010, in The Plaza in Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Photo by Linda Richmond.



The event's full rankings follow.

Catfish Derby adult rankings

1. Gary Moore, Clearlake; 24.5 pounds

2. Keith Roddy, West Hills; 24 pounds

3. Owen Sunke, Forestville; 22.6 pounds

4. Jerry Bybee, Yuba City; 21.3 pounds

5. Zachary Becker, Carmichael; 20.1 pounds

6. Dow Walton, Clearlake Oaks; 19.6 pounds

7. Harold Dodson, Live Oak; 19.5 pounds

8. David Stewart Jr., Reedsport; 19.4 pounds

9. Joe McAtee, Winters; 19.2 pounds

10. Jared Lane, Hood River, Ore.; 18.2 pounds

11. James Hale, Kelseyville; 18 pounds

12. Carissa Beauchamp, Newcastle; 17.3 pounds

13. Mark Luevano, Clearlake; 17 pounds

14. Scott Enck, Sutter; 16.8 pounds

15. John Bybee, Yuba City; 16.690 pounds

16. Brian Lucas, Clovis; 16.660 pounds

17. Herman Gold, Napa; 16 pounds

18. Justin Lane, Hood River, Ore.; 15.8 pounds

19. Tom Wheeler, Sutter; 15.8 pounds

20. Howard Watts, Vallejo; 15.575 pounds

21. Casey Spencer, Arcadia; 15.530 pounds

Catfish Derby children's rankings

1. Christopher Lombardo, Sacramento; 14.6 pounds

2. Guy Boyd Jr., Clearlake; 14.3 pounds

3. Damien Bryant, Kelseyville; 13.6 pounds

4. Noah Lane, Hood River, Ore.; 13.1 pounds

5. Kevin Freeman, Grants Pass, Ore.; 12.8 pounds

6. Ryan Martin, Modesto; 12.2 pounds

7. Spencer Parker, Napa; 12.2 pounds

8. Christopher Lane, Hood River, Ore.; 12.1 pounds

9. Dylan Sanders, Clearlake Oaks; 11.4 pounds

10. Bradley Dale, Kelseyville; 11.1 pounds

More information and pictures will be available on Monday at

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at and on Facebook at .

"Veggie Girl" columnist Esther Oertel looks at local produce and how to use it in creative, delicious and healthy ways. Courtesy photo.



It’s not often that I refer to a vegetable as “mighty,” but it’s hard to resist calling kale anything else.

First of all, its sheer hardiness is unmatched by any other vegetable.

It’s rarely ravaged by pests or diseases, even those that strike other members of its family. It’s in the species Brassica oleracea, which contains a wide array of vegetables, including cabbage, broccoli and collard greens.

Kale, a spring crop, thrives in cool temperatures and shuns the warmer days of summer. Northern Europeans love it for its tolerance to cold winters; there it’s valued for providing an early supply of greens. Expose it to frost and its flavor becomes deeper and sweeter.

Kale’s cabbage-like, loosely arranged leaves are beautiful for landscaping, especially because its colors range from shades of green to rich purple. Some have ruffled leaves and the endearingly named dinosaur kale has leaves that resemble reptilian skin.

Kale is one of the oldest vegetables, having been grown in its present form by the Greeks over 2,000 years ago. Up until the middle ages, it was the most common green vegetable in Europe.

It’s also one of the most nutritious veggies on the planet. Full of vitamins K, C and A, a variety of minerals and an arsenal of cancer-fighting agents, it packs more nutrients into each calorie than anything we consume. In fact, it’s so full of Vitamin K (1,327.6 per cent of our daily requirement, to be exact), that folks on prescription blood thinners should stay away from its deep green goodness.

Kale is a powerful antioxidant. As well, it contains sulforaphane, a chemical released when kale is chopped that is believed to have potent anti-cancer properties.

There are so many culinary uses for this earthy, bittersweet vegetable that I was hard-pressed to pick just one recipe to share.

It can be sautéed, braised, boiled, stir-fried, steamed and roasted, added to pots of soups, stews and beans, and used in a variety of cuisines, including Northern European, Mediterranean, Asian, Caribbean and the Southern U.S. It can be made into pesto or thrown into a fruit smoothie to make a healthy green shake (but be sure to remove the tough center rib first).

It goes particularly well with white beans, sausages or tomatoes in a soup. When served on its own, a squeeze of lemon or a bit of red wine vinegar is nice as a seasoning. Kale does not work well when used raw in a salad, unless tender baby kale is used.

My favorite way of preparing it is simple: sautéed in a skillet with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and garlic. Water droplets on the leaves left from washing the kale provide enough liquid for the cooking process; however, if it becomes dry, add a bit of vegetable broth or some more water. After it’s had a nice sauté, finish the dish by covering the pan and steaming the kale until tender and sweet.

Keep in mind that kale takes longer to become tender than other greens such as chard or collards. Cooking it to a tender state removes some of the bitterness that may be present otherwise.

For an added treat, I combine the cooked kale with caramelized onions to use as a topping for polenta, to accompany roasted sweet potatoes or as a green bed on which to rest grilled salmon or chicken.

As our weather grows warmer, less kale will be available at local farmers’ markets. Judith Biggs, self-described “growing artist” of Bio Farm in Kelseyville, had plenty of organically-grown kale at her booth Saturday at the Steele Winery farmers’ market. Her supply will wane as our summer nears, so buy quickly! In addition to mature kale, she has baby kale available.

The recipe I’d like to share with you is unusual but tasty. Once you try it, it may become addictive. It’s a healthier alternative to potato or corn chips, so guilt is not necessary when indulging in this culinary treat.

Kale crisps with sea salt

For about three servings, use:

6 cups of firmly-packed kale, washed and trimmed

1-1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1-1/2 teaspoon good quality sea salt

Toss kale with the olive oil and roast on a baking pan in a preheated 375 degree oven. Turn kale over and roast another 7 to 10 minutes until kale turns brown and becomes paper thin and brittle. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Best when served immediately.

Note: To trim kale, cut stems off and strip the leaves off the tough inner rib.

Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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