Sunday, 21 July 2024


LAKEPORT, Calif. – The 31st annual Clear Lake Splash-In, the largest gathering of seaplanes west of the Mississippi, will be held in Lakeport on Friday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 26.

The public can get a closeup look at float planes on Saturday, talk with pilots, and witness a spectacle of aerial events including water-bombing contests, a parade of seaplanes, fly-bys and more.

Seaplanes and amphibians at the splash-in will include Grummans, Republics, Lakes, Cessnas, Pipers, deHavillands and a variety of experimental aircraft modified with floats.


For pilots, registration is from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 24, at the Skylark Shores Resort, 1120 N. Main St.

The Skylark Shores Resort docks will serve fixed-float planes and the ramp at the Natural High School field is available for amphibious seaplanes.

Land planes or aircraft unable to land on water more than once will be welcomed at Lampson Field, a few miles away. Shuttle service will be available Saturday and Sunday from Lampson Field to the seaplane venues.


For more information, visit

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A consensus is building among current and former military leaders and defense industry executives that rising military personnel costs threaten the viability of the all-volunteer force.

In July, two separate advisory groups reached the same general conclusions regarding what needs to be done to sustain the force. In the nearer term, they say, one step that must be taken is to make military retirees pay more out of pocket for their health care benefit.

“Unless retirees contribute more for their TRICARE insurance, medical costs will not be brought under control and the national defense they served, and for which they fought and sacrificed, will be harmed,” says the final report of the Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel.

The panel is co-chaired by former Defense Secretary William J. Perry from the Clinton administration and Stephen J. Hadley who was national security advisor through President George W. Bush’s second term.

Longer term, and for the future force, panelists say, work must begin on designing new retirement, compensation and promotion systems to replace inefficient and rigid systems adopted after World War II. The situation is so critical that the Hadley-Perry panel asks Congress to establish a new National Commission on Military Personnel to lead the reform effort.

Arnold Punaro, a defense industry executive and retired Marine Corps Reserve major general, chairs a task force for the Defense Business Board that will deliver its final report to Defense Secretary Robert Gates in October.

Task force “initial observations” for cutting defense costs through best business practices, briefed to the board July 22, reinforces the notion that personnel accounts must be brought under control by modernizing retirement, pay, health benefits and the “up-or-out” promotion systems.

Both studies deal with a far wider range of initiatives to restructure forces and streamline organizations. The Hadley-Perry report can be read online at and task force observations are at

What both conclude on the need to control health costs and modernize compensation systems, Punaro said, is consistent with findings of the 10th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation and the 2006 Defense Advisory Commission on Military Compensation. But now, with Defense Secretary Gates’ leadership and a new awareness among military leaders to the burden of mounting personnel costs, there’s a fresh groundswell for change, he said.

“I’ve heard a four-star military leader comment that DoD is turning into a benefits company that will occasionally kill a terrorist,” Punaro said in a phone interview Tuesday. The remark plays off a popular critique of General Motors before its recent bail out, that union contracts had transformed it into a health care company that occasionally built a car.

Both the business board task force and the Hadley-Perry panel agree that the current force must be protected from the changes to retirement, pay or promotion policies needed to create a more efficient future force.

“Updating military compensation and redesigning some benefits does not necessitate cuts in pay or benefits for current service members,” said the Hadley-Perry report.

“These are areas where any adjustment you make will take decades to change,” Punaro said. “With something like military retirement, you are not going to break faith with people who joined expecting a certain benefit, even though only 20 percent stay long enough to earn a retirement.”

But rapid expansion of military entitlements has become part of “the nation’s mandatory spending problems,” the task force found. Among “significant unsustainable trends” that the task force listed is paying military retirees and their families “for 60 years after they have served only 20.”

Another task force slide give details of how military entitlements have expanded “rapidly” over the last decade with Congress passing TRICARE for Life, a more robust pharmacy benefit, concurrent receipt for disabled retirees, extra-size active duty pay raises, an improved survivor benefit plan, sharp growth in housing allowances, a bigger death gratuity and more.

Punaro declined to criticize any specific initiative. But, he said, “nobody ever sat down and said, ‘What’s the cumulative effect of all this?’ ”

The effect, says the Hadley-Perry report, is personnel costs “have grown drastically on a per capita basis.”

As the economy recovers and the job market rebounds, Punaro said, the cost of sustaining the military will accelerate even more.

Punaro, who served as staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee for eight years, noted that much of the recent entitlement growth has helped only retirees and their families, a population that now outnumbers the active duty community.

“TRICARE for Life, the largest new benefit ever passed, was not subject to any kind of serious review or debate, as best as I can tell. Is that the way to pass something like that? And, okay, just because you passed it, does it have to be in existence for 100 years? Bob Gates makes a pretty compelling argument that ‘health care costs are eating us alive’.”

Punaro criticized military associations that, he said, push continually for benefits with little heed to more pressing defense priorities. Military leaders and lawmakers this decade have been complicit, he suggested.

“It doesn’t’ take a profile in courage to stand up and be for every benefit that anybody has ever dreamed up. That’s easy. It takes a lot of courage to be responsible….It looks to some of us that we’ve changed the slogan ‘Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition’ to ‘Praise the Lord and pass the benefit.’ I remember working with military associations when their number one goal was a strong national defense, not more benefits.”

Tom Philpott writes a weekly column on military issues. To comment, send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to Military Update, P.O. Box 231111, Centreville, VA, 20120-1111.

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MENDOCINO COUNTY – Another confrontation between law enforcement and illegal pot growers turned deadly this week when a man guarding a cultivation operation in Mendocino County was shot dead during a confrontation with a sheriff's deputy and a firefight took place between deputies and other suspects.

The incidents occurred during a series of pot eradications carried out early Wednesday morning in the 3000 block of Branscomb Road of Laytonville, according to Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

The name of the dead man was not released.

Smallcomb said the Mendocino County Sheriffs Office Marijuana Eradication Unit, along with patrol deputies and detectives, was assisted by the Major Crimes Task Force, Mendocino County Special Weapons and Tactics Team, Mendocino County Probation, Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Agents, Alcohol,Tobacco and Fireams agents and Forest Service agents in serving a search warrant at the Branscomb Road address just west of Laytonville.

The search warrant was for a large marijuana cultivation operation involving armed guards and ex-felons, he said.

On arrival law enforcement conducted several residential searches on the large parcel of property. Smallcomb said several marijuana plants were seized along with firearms and other narcotic paraphernalia.

At the residential site deputies arrested several suspects, Smallcomb said.

They included Laytonville residents 52-year-old Gerald Stephenson, arrested for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, and cultivation and sales of marijuana; David Higgs, 50, arrested for possession of a controlled substance, possession of an assault rifle and tampering with a firearm serial number; and 41-year-old Kelly Dutra, arrested for cultivation and sales of marijuana. Also arrested was 22-year-old transient Delfino Contreras on an immigration violation.

Smallcomb said the suspects were transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail.

Law enforcement then proceeded to two large marijuana grows which were identified as part of the same investigation, he said.

At the upper site officers encountered numerous armed suspects tending to the garden. A total of 426 growing marijuana plants were located and eradicated at this location. Smallcomb said several firearms and ammunition were further recovered.

It was at that location that the officer-involved shooting took place. Smallcomb said the Mendocino County District Attorney along with the California Department of Justice are investigating the incident.

Law enforcement also was investigating a lower site at approximately the same time as the upper site when the firefight ensued, Smallcomb said.

There was no evidence located which revealed anyone was shot or injured during the armed encounter, which Smallcomb said the Mendocino County District Attorney and the California Department of Justice are investigating.

At the site of the gun battle a total of 1980 marijuana plants were eradicated and a firearm and ammunition were recovered, Smallcomb said.

Smallcomb said the investigation is continuing.

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An organic heirloom Brandywine ripening on the vine at Leonardis Organics in Kelseyville, Calif. Photo by Esther Oertel.


I may be overdoing it with this moniker for one of my favorite foods, but that’s truly what their fresh-off-the-vine, locally grown goodness tastes like to me. Like Pavlov’s dogs, the pungent smell of tomato vines can make me salivate.

The midsummer heat brings long-awaited fulfillment of my craving for fresh tomato sandwiches, and there is nothing better with which to make them than the beautiful array of local, farm-grown tomatoes available this time of year.

My affection for vine-ripened tomatoes is so great that the term “heirloom tomato” may be one of my favorite culinary phrases.

I’m thinking of them now, nestled in farmers’ market stalls in all their colorful glory. They’re calling my name: red, charmingly creviced Brandywines with their classic sweet taste; yellow firm-fleshed Persimmons; earthy, smoky Cherokee purples; Marvel stripes with their red and green striations, and oh-so-many more. Together they make a rainbow of sweet, savory, subtle, intense tomato flavor.

I’ll never forget when my husband got inspired by a seed catalog and planted more than 40 varieties of tomatoes in our home garden. We seemed to have tomatoes in every conceivable color and shape that year, from an almost black Russian variety to tiny yellow ones the size of berries.

I’m thankful that our dehydrator endured all its use that summer and that our friends enjoyed their Christmas gifts of our dried tomato experiments.

Tomatoes, along with eggplants and squashes, are botanically classified as a fruit; however, for culinary purposes, they’re considered a vegetable since they don’t have the high sugar content of other fruits.

On an interesting, if unusual, side note, in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to rule on whether tomatoes should be treated vegetables or fruits. In that case regarding importation tariffs, the vegetable designation prevailed.

Supermarket tomatoes are no match for summer’s local crop. While the average American consumes almost 22 pounds of them each year (mostly in the form of ketchup and canned sauces), only 10 percent of us rate them as our favorite vegetable, largely due to the poor taste of those found in the produce departments of conventional markets.

Tomatoes are a fragile fruit, and do best when brought to the table from the vine in the shortest route possible.

Because supermarket tomatoes must endure shipping and cold storage, they’ve been bred for durability and a long shelf life, and that has done away with the complex mix of sugar, acid and chemicals that create good tomato flavor.

In addition, tomatoes that must be transported long distances are picked immature, before they’ve had the chance to develop their natural flavor, and are “ripened” later using ethylene gas, which gives them a red color.

When I buy a tomato from the supermarket in the off season, it’s the plum or cherry variety, which haven’t been as subject to the breeding that does away with flavor. In cooked dishes, canned Italian plum tomatoes often impart more flavor than fresh ones from the store.

Tomatoes are native to the western part of South America, including the Galapagos Islands, but were first cultivated in southern Mexico beginning in about 500 B.C.

They were brought to Europe by Spanish Conquistadors, and by the 16th century had spread throughout Europe.

They were not initially popular as a food, however, as they were thought to be poisonous. (While the leaves contain toxins common to members of the nightshade family, the fruit is – thankfully! – quite edible.)

Tomatoes are an absolute powerhouse of nutrition. They’re full of lycopene, an antioxidant which has been shown to be protective against a growing list of cancers, as well as a benefit to cardiovascular health.

If you’re interested in getting a healthy dose of lycopene, studies have revealed that organic tomato products have three times the amount than their conventionally grown counterparts.

Tomatoes abound in vitamins A and C, a range of B vitamins, potassium and fiber. They’re also high in vitamin K, which is essential for maintaining bone health.

I’m convinced that tomatoes are one of the healthiest things one can eat.

And, speaking of eating, what about that tomato sandwich I mentioned? My favorite way to create one is to layer slices of heirloom tomatoes of varying colors on sourdough French bread and top it with fresh basil leaves, real mayonnaise and a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper.

Sometimes I make a basil aioli to replace the fresh leaves and mayo, and I’ve shared that recipe below.

Modern-day aioli is a spin on the traditional sauce of garlic and olive oil that originated in the Provence region of France.

Aioli is often looked upon as a flavored mayonnaise, but a true aioli must contain garlic. If the garlic clove is eliminated from my recipe below (which is an option for its preparation), it would more appropriately be called basil mayonnaise.

Also shared below is my recipe for one of my favorite summer meals, a cooling tomato-based soup called gazpacho, which hails from the southern region of Andalusia in Spain. Chocked full of fresh summer veggies, you may be able to find most of its ingredients in your garden or local farmers’ market.

While some gazpacho recipes call for blending the entire batch of veggies into a puree, I prefer to puree only half of them to maintain an interesting texture and satisfying crunch.

Enjoy! Researchers have found that eating gazpacho helps guard against depression, so it’s guaranteed to make you happy.


3 large tomatoes, diced

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

2 bell peppers, chopped (combine red, green, yellow or other colors)

1 red onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 cups tomato juice

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Tabasco sauce and salt & pepper to taste

Combine vegetables in a large glass bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Add half the mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Combine puree with original mixture and chill for 4 hours before serving.

Garnish with diced avocado or cilantro, if desired.

Serves four.

Basil aioli

Combine one large egg, 1 clove crushed garlic, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a food processor. Process for a few seconds until mixture is emulsified.

Keep the motor running as you drizzle in just under a cup of extra virgin olive oil. Add 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh basil and pulse a bit until combined. Scrape the aioli into a container and refrigerate.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

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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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. — The fifth-annual Old Time Bluegrass Festival will be held at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park in Lower Lake on Saturday, Sept. 11.

The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., rain (under cover) or shine; gates open at 9:30 a.m.


This annual event brings together local and regional musicians for performances on two stages, as well as a full schedule of musician workshops led by pros Jim Williams, Andy Skelton, Don Coffin, and others throughout the day on such topics as banjo, fiddle, and flat-picking techniques for guitar.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their instruments for workshops and informal jam sessions behind the ranch house.


The Old Time Bluegrass Festival will feature demonstrations and vendors selling old-time handmade crafts, Art-in-the-Barn, beer and wine gardens with Lake County wines, food, children’s activities, and workshops that make this event fun for the entire family.


Entertainment during the festival will be provided by John Reischman & The Jaybirds, Bill Evans & Megan Lynch, Pat Ickes & Bound To Ride, the Anderson Family Band, Fur Dixon & Steve Werner, and Rita Hoskins.


Local favorites include the Konocti Fiddlers, the Clear Lake Clickers, the Cobb Stompers, Darrin Smith, and 3 Deep. Period attire is welcomed.

Sponsored by the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association, the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce and the Children's Museum of Art and Sciences, the event is a benefit for local educational programs and, this year, emergency first responder.


At the gate, tickets are $20; $15 in advance and available online. Children 12 and under are free and must be accompanied by an adult.

To get advance tickets online, go to and follow the bluegrass link to purchase tickets.

If ordering advance tickets by mail, be sure to include your mailing address and phone number and send your check made out to AMIA to PO Box 672, Lower Lake, CA 95457.

There is an additional $3 service charge (per total order) if tickets are purchased on-line or by mail.

Advanced tickets can be purchased from one of the following businesses or organizations: in Clearlake at Marie’s Lakeshore Feed, Bob’s Vacuum and Highlands Senior Center; in Lower Lake at 2 Goomba’s Deli; in Middletown at Earth Goods (formerly Moontide); in Lucerne at Lakeview Supermarket & Deli; in Lakeport at Strings & Things, The Band Box, Watershed Books and the Lakeport Senior Center; in Ukiah at Dig! Music; in Sebastopol at People’s Music; and in Santa Rosa at The Last Record Store.

Seniors (age 60 and older) can get 20 percent off ($12 for each ticket) if purchasing advance tickets from either the Lakeport Senior Center, Lakeport, the Highlands Senior Center, Clearlake or from the Lakeview Supermarket & Deli in Lucerne.

For more information about the bluegrass festival visit, call 707- 995-2658 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park is located at 8853 Highway 53, Lower Lake, telephone 707-995-2658.

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Lake County Sheriff's deputies arrested Roger Bart Gordon, 46, on Thursday, August 19, 2010, after he allegedly made statements about putting feces on his hands and touching produce at the Safeway in Lakeport, Calif. Lake County Jail booking photo.

LUCERNE, Calif. – A Lucerne man has been arrested after allegedly claiming that he contaminated food in the produce section at the Lakeport Safeway this week.

Roger Bart Gordon, 46, was arrested at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Lucerne for making malicious statements of mingling a harmful substance with food or drink, which is a felony, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

At the time of his arrest, Gordon also was found to be in possession of a nonprescribed controlled substance, another felony charge. Bauman said Gordon was booked on both charges at the Lake County Jail, where he remained in custody with bail set at $10,000.

Specifically, Gordon had made statements that he had intentionally put fecal matter on produce items at the store, Bauman said.

The Lakeport Safeway closed its produce session temporarily after it received a report about Gordon's allegations, corporate spokesperson Susan Houghton told Lake County News on Wednesday.

She said the company took any threats seriously, and accordingly the section was shut down for part of Wednesday for cleaning and replacement of food products.

Bauman said that the issues that led to Gordon's arrest began on Tuesday morning, when sheriff's deputies responded to the Lucerne Community Clinic on Highway 20 where Gordon allegedly was creating a disturbance.

Deputies contacted Gordon at the scene and told him not to return to the clinic, but later that afternoon he returned anyway, which Bauman said resulted in the deputies going back to the clinic and transporting Gordon to Sutter Lakeside Hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Bauman said the hospital subsequently discharged Gordon who, while at the hospital, told staff he was having irrational thoughts. Those thought included considering going to the Lakeport Safeway with feces on his hands and touching the produce.

Sheriff's deputies contacted the Lakeport Safeway management on Wednesday morning about Gordon. Bauman said that while the investigation didn't positively conclude that the produce had been contaminated, Safeway still purged and sanitized the produce section as a precaution.

The Sheriff’s Department reminded all consumers to be mindful of any food product that comes into contact with others. Fresh food products in particular, should always by thoroughly cleaned before consumption.

Bauman confirmed to Lake County News that the sheriff's office has had several previous contacts with Gordon.

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

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Discovery Mission patch. Courtesy image.


Let the countdown begin. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is less than one year away from giant asteroid Vesta.

“There's nothing more exciting than revealing an unexplored, alien world,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Vesta,” he predicted, “is going to amaze us.”

Dawn is slated to enter orbit around Vesta in late July 2011. As the first breathtaking images are beamed back to Earth, researchers will quickly combine them into a movie, allowing us all to ride along.

“It will look as though the spacecraft is hovering in one place while Vesta rotates beneath it,” said Rayman.

Previous missions have shown us a handful of asteroids, but none as large as this hulking relic of the early solar system. Measuring 350 miles across and containing almost 10 percent of the mass of the entire asteroid belt, Vesta is a world unto itself.

“It's a big, rocky, terrestrial type body – more likely similar to the moon and Mercury than to the little chips of rocks we've flown by in the past,” Rayman said. “For example, there's a large crater at Vesta's south pole, and inside the crater is a mountain bigger than asteroid Eros.”

Dawn will orbit Vesta for a year, conducting a detailed study and becoming the first spacecraft to ever orbit a body in the asteroid belt. Later, Dawn will leave Vesta and go on to orbit a second exotic world, dwarf planet Ceres – but that's another story.

Many scientists consider Vesta a protoplanet. The asteroid was in the process of forming into a full fledged planet when Jupiter interrupted its growth. The gas giant became so massive that its gravity stirred up the material in the asteroid belt so the objects there could no longer coalesce.

“Vesta can teach us a lot about how planets formed,” said Christopher Russell of UCLA, the mission's principal investigator. “There is a whole team of scientists sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for that first glimpse of Vesta.”

Dawn's official Vestian approach, which Rayman also calls the “oh man this is so cool phase” of the mission, begins next May. Unlike most orbital insertions, however, this one will be comparatively relaxing.

“This may be the first planetary mission that doesn't cause its mission team members to bite their nails while their spacecraft is getting into planetary orbit,” said Rayman.

A conventional spacecraft's entry into a flight path around a celestial body is accompanied by crucial periods during which maneuvers must be executed with pinpoint precision. If anything goes wrong, all can be lost. But Dawn, with its gentle ion propulsion, slowly spirals in to its target, getting closer and closer as it loops around.

“Dawn's entire thrust profile for its long interplanetary flight has been devoted largely to the gradual reshaping of its orbit around the Sun so that by the time the spacecraft is in the vicinity of Vesta, its orbit will be very much like Vesta's,” Rayman said.

With just a slight change in trajectory, the spacecraft will allow itself to be captured by Vesta's gravity.

“Even that gentle ion thrust will be quite sufficient to let the craft slip into orbit. It's like merging into traffic on an interstate – only gradual acceleration is needed,” Rayman said. “Dawn won't even notice the difference, but it will be in orbit around its first celestial target.”

Dawn's first survey orbits will be high and leisurely, taking days to loop around Vesta at altitudes of about 1,700 miles. After collecting a rich bounty of pictures and data from high altitude, Dawn will resume thrusting, spiraling down to lower and lower orbits, eventually settling in a little more than 100 miles high – lower than satellites orbiting Earth.

Parts of the surface may be reminiscent of features on Earth or the Moon with craters and perhaps even volcanoes.

“We don't expect to see active volcanoes,” noted Carol Raymond, the mission's deputy principal investigator at JPL, “but there could be ancient volcanic features still recognizable among the craters.”

Meanwhile, “other sights could be completely unlike anything we've imagined,” says Rayman. "It'll be pure excitement.”

To see a video about the Dawn visit

Dauna Coulter works for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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KELSEYVILLE, Calif. – The case against a Kelseyville man arrested last month after shooting a man who came onto his property has been dropped, according to the county's chief deputy district attorney.

Nickolas Leone, 48, was arrested on July 10 for felony discharging a firearm in a negligent manner for shooting John Allen Kniss, 32, of Kelseyville, as Lake County News has reported.

Leone later was investigated for an additional count of felony assault with a firearm, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff.

The sheriff's office reported that the confrontation allegedly resulted after Kniss – who had been making threats over a woman Leone was seeing who previously had dated Kniss – drove onto Leone's property at a high rate of speed and tried to force his way through a gate.

Leone got his shotgun, told Kniss to leave and fired a warning shot, which Kniss ignored. He then shot Kniss in the arm and shoulder at a distance of 80 to 100 feet before Kniss fled the property, according to the original report.

Kniss was picked up about a week later on a misdemeanor bench warrant for battery on a spouse, false imprisonment and vandalism. At that time he still had several pellet wounds in the left arm, shoulder and chest from the incident, and admitted to authorities that the incident had occurred, officials said.

However, after reviewing the case, Hinchcliff decided that he would not formally charge Leone in the case.

He said Thursday that the evidence showed that Kniss had made threats earlier in the day. “There was a prior history of violent or potentially violent conduct” between Kniss and his ex-girlfriend, who had more recently been dating Leone.

Ultimately, Hinchcliff decided he would not be able to convince a jury that Leone wasn't acting in reasonable self-defense.

“I'm not necessary saying that he acted in reasonable self-defense,” Hinchcliff was quick to add.

“The decision I made is based solely on the facts of this case and is in no way meant to imply that if someone comes on your property you can shoot at them,” he emphasized.

Hinchcliff said a felony case is pending against Kniss for felony evasion, driving under the influence and using force or violence against peace officers from an incident earlier this year.

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

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A woman accused of embezzling from her employer has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor grand theft in a deal that will require her to serve jail time, do community service and make restitution.

Michelle Lynn Davis, 25, reached the plea agreement with the Lake County District Attorney's Office late last month, according to Deputy District Attorney Rachel Abelson.

On July 21 she made the plea, with Judge Stephen Hedstrom sentencing her to three years probation, 45 days in jail, 360 hours of work and community service, a restitution fine of $100 and an agreement to repay her former employer, Shannon Ranches Inc., $50,000 in restitution, Abelson said.

Davis' attorney, Kristine Burk of Sebastopol, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Davis was arrested in January 2008 and originally charged with felony embezzlement and a special allegation for having allegedly taken more than $150,000 from the Clearlake Oaks-based Shannon Ranches, a vineyard management company where she had worked for five years, as Lake County News has reported.

Clay Shannon, who owns Shannon Ranches along with wife Margarita, said Wednesday that the amount Davis took was more like $240,000.

Abelson said the case against Davis alleged that between March 14, 2006, and Dec. 14, 2007, Davis had taken funds from the company.

Davis allegedly was using a company-issued credit card for shopping, vacations for herself and her boyfriend to Disneyland as well as out-of-country trips, and had also issued herself extra checks, Abelson said.

Abelson, who is familiar with forensic accounting and handles many of the embezzlement cases prosecuted through the District Attorney's Office, said Davis was smart at hiding the funds she allegedly was taking.

Eventually, however, the fact that money was missing came to light. “When their bills weren't getting paid, that's when it kind of came to a head,” Abelson said.

Abelson said a trial had been under way in the spring. “I was almost done with my evidence, we just had one more witness,” she said.

But that last witness, Margarita Shannon, became ill and Abelson said a mistrial resulted.

A new trial was set to start July 20 but the Shannons and their attorney, Peter Windrem, asked that the case be pleaded out as a misdemeanor so they wouldn't have to participate in a trial, Abelson said. They also came to an agreement with Davis and her attorney on the $50,000 restitution.

Clay Shannon said he's glad the matter is over with and behind he and his family, but added that Davis “got off easy.”

He said he was upset that the case took so long to come to a close.

However, Shannon said, “Margarita and I just have too many great things going on” in their business and here in the county.

“Times are tough in this economy and we have no time to spend goofing around in trial,” he said.

Abelson said Judge Hedstrom wants Davis monitored, and has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 13 to determine her restitution payments and keep track of her situation.

The hearing was set at that time to give Davis the opportunity to serve her 45 days in jail. Abelson said Davis is eligible to sign up for electronic home monitoring.

If Davis doesn't repay all of her restitution during her probation period, Abelson said a civil judgment can be issued for what's still owed.

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

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07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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