Friday, 12 July 2024


WASHINGTON – Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) last week joined a majority in the House of Representatives in support of bipartisan legislation to provide health care to 11 million children from working families.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2) was approved by a vote of 289-139.

The bill is very similar to the legislation that President Bush vetoed twice in the 110th Congress.

“Investing in children’s health care is one of the wisest choices our federal government can make,” Thompson said during a speech on the House of Representatives floor. “Children have to be healthy to get an education and achieve their full potential as adults. When kids see the doctor more regularly, they receive the preventive services that keep them healthier longer – and they are less likely to end up in the emergency room, which saves everyone money.”

Thompson said almost a million and a quarter children in California are uninsured, which he called “simply unacceptable.”

He said that, in contrast to President Bush’s multiple vetoes of similar bills, President-elect Obama gave his enthusiastic support to providing coverage for 4 million additional children. “That is truly change we can believe in,” Thompson said.

SCHIP was created in 1997 to provide health care coverage for children in families that earn too little to afford health insurance for their children but too much to qualify for Medicaid.

The bill passed last week by the House of Representatives reauthorizes SCHIP through 2013 and preserves the coverage for all 7.1 million children currently covered by SCHIP, including 1,538,416 children in California.

Thompson's office has previously estimated that 1,600 Lake County children will receive coverage under the legislation.

The bill also extends health care coverage to 4.1 million additional low-income children, who are currently uninsured. The bill is fully paid for.

This bipartisan bill has been endorsed by dozens of organizations, representing millions of Americans – ranging from business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses and Business Roundtable to the American Hospital Association, AARP and Families USA.


Members of the US Congress will be starting out the new year with a raise.

The 535 members of the Congress will receive a 2.8-percent cost of living adjustment – amounting to $4,700 per member – this month.

At the end of 2008, the salary for all senators and representatives was $169,300, according to Clerk of the House of Representatives Lorraine C. Miller. The salary for the speaker of the House is $217,400 and the salary for the majority and minority leaders is $188,100.

The 111th Congress, which was sworn in on Jan. 6, includes 435 members of the House of Representatives – 178 Republicans, 256 Democrats and one vacancy – Miller reported. There also are 100 members of the Senate.

The largest number of congressional delegates – 53 representatives and two senators – comes from California.

That new base salary now rises to $174,000. In all, the pay raises will amount to just over $2.5 million in the federal budget.

"All 2.7 million federal employees receive a cost of living adjustment most years, which this year has been set at 2.8 percent for members of Congress and other senior federal officials, and 3.9 percent for rank-and-file employees," said Congressman Mike Thompson.

Thompson added, "I did not run for Congress because of the pay. Serving the First District of California has been the highest honor of my career and I am excited to be back in Washington working for change for our district and our country."

The 1988 Ethics Reform Act grants members of Congress the pay raises on an annual basis, unless the House and Senate specifically vote to deny them, which they have done six times – in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2007, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

The year that bill was passed, members of Congress made $99,500.

In comparison, the president of the United States makes $400,000 annually. In 2001 the president's salary was raised to that amount from the $200,000 that it had been from 1969 to 2001, according to Congressional Quarterly's "Guide to the Presidency." From 1949 to 1969, the president made $100,000 a year.

In the wake of the current economic crisis, the raise hasn't been popular with some citizens groups, including the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

"Members of Congress don't deserve one additional dime of taxpayer money in 2009," said the group's president, Tom Schatz. "While thousands of Americans are facing layoffs and downsizing, Congress should be mortified to accept a raise. They failed to pass most of their appropriations bills, the deficit is on pace to reach an unprecedented $1 trillion, and the national debt stands at $10 trillion. In addition, this Congress has been ethically challenged, plagued with corruption allegations, convictions and sex scandals."

The group had urged lawmakers to start out the year by introducing legislation to freeze congressional salaries at the 2008 rate, a suggestion Congress apparently didn't take.

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


UKIAH – A Clearlake resident received a four-year prison sentence Monday for allegedly setting fire to forest land last summer.

Mendocino County Superior Court Judge sentenced Gerardo Soto-Gonzales, 33, to one felony count of arson to forest land for setting fires on Aug. 22, 2008, that burned more than 45 acres, according to a report from the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

Two additional, identical arson counts against Soto-Gonzalez were dropped, although the court was allowed to consider them, according to officials.

Soto-Gonzalez, a Mexican national who has a Clearlake address, was represented by attorney Philip De Jong, who did not return a call seeking comment on the case.

The prosecution, led by Deputy District Attorney Damon Gardner, alleged that on Aug. 22, 2008, Cal Fire helicopter pilots spotted Soto-Gonzalez setting the fires in the Mendocino National Forest, northwest of Lake Pillsbury near Big Signal Peak.

US Forest Service and Cal Fire responded to the area to fight a wildland blaze that became known as the “Island Fire,” located on private property within the forest, according to the prosecution.

Cal Fire helicopter pilots dropped off fire crew members and made trips to get water to fight the fire, officials reported.

As they were making trips for water, the pilots noticed a smaller fire upwind from the original fire. The district attorney's report said the pilots switched their priority to the second fire where, once over it, they spotted Soto-Gonzalez, who was wearing camoflage.

On another trip to fill the helicopter's bucket with water, pilots discovered three more fires were burning close to the second fire. The report noted that as the pilots flew over the westernmost fire they again saw Soto-Gonzalez.

He reportedly was running west from the last fire and then was seen kneeling down by a brush pile and setting it on fire, according to the district attorney.

Soto-Gonzalez was reportedly forced down by the helicopter's rotor wash and that allowed the pilots to positively identify him.

The situation resulted in the fire crew that the helicopter dropped off having to be removed from the area for their safety because the newly set fires began to surround them, according to the prosecution.

Gardner told Lake County News on Thursday that a Cal Fire officer arrested Soto-Gonzalez on a forest road adjacent to the fire area, a lighter in his possession. Once on custody Soto-Gonzalez confessed to starting the fires.

Soto-Gonzalez gave some reasons for his actions, “but it's only speculation” as to why he set the fires, said Gardner.

A marijuana growing operation was reportedly located nearby.

The fire investigation determined there were three spots where a lighter had been used to set the fires, which burned 45.2 acres at a suppression cost of more than $175,000.

Soto-Gonzalez has remained in jail since his August arrest, said Gardner. During the trial the defense mentioned that Soto-Gonzalez has an immigration hold against him.

Although his legal status in the country is a question, Gardner said Soto-Gonzalez will serve his prison time and then be processed by the federal government for the immigration issue as soon as he is released.

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


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I’m going to spend a few columns over the next few months describing Lake County’s American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) so people can learn a little bit about the different wine-growing regions and wines in our area.

We live in one of the world’s greatest wine-growing regions and most people don’t know just how great an area it is. There’s a lot of ground to cover (pardon the pun), so bear with me as I give a little background on what makes an AVA.

Local conditions create terroir (loosely translated as “the taste of a place”) and make a specified growing area, and factors include the composition of the soil, climate conditions and topography (including altitude), with the emphasis that the conditions are unique and not to be found anywhere else.

Called an appellation in some parts of the world, an American Viticultural Area (or AVA) is to grapes as clover or orange blossoms are to honey. The honey made with these blossoms tastes like honey but is kissed with the essence of the flowers the bees made it with.

In much the same way, wine tastes like the place where it is grown. The United States has its own designations set by the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau which authorizes official American Viticultural Areas. These viticultural areas are designated for grape growing but can and are called appellations almost interchangeably.

In the United States, AVA regions can be huge, like the Ohio River Valley (26,000 square miles), or extremely small, like Mendocino’s Cole Ranch AVA (about one-quarter square mile). One AVA can contain even smaller AVA regions within them.

The six counties north of San Francisco make up the “North Coast” AVA (Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma and Solano), which within it also has smaller AVAs.

Because of the strong French influence in winemaking and marketing, using the word “appellation” instead of AVA sometimes helps to clarify for the consumer the specific area their wine comes from. Whichever term you prefer, it’s like comparing apples to pommes. However the French are far more fastidious about what qualifies as an appellation than America is about establishing an AVA.

Interestingly, only vineyards that are located within one AVA use grapes grown within that same AVA, and make the wine inside the boundaries of that AVA can legitimately claim they are “Estate Bottled.”

This was an important factor to the Brassfield Estate which is the only estate bottled wine currently produced in the High Valley AVA. In most of the wine industry the word “estate” is thrown around loosely, kind of like “fine dining” on truck stop signs. However, the term “estate bottled” is carefully guarded by its practitioners.

In 1875 the Ogulin family settled in the High Valley and planted Muscat and Zinfandel vines on 400 acres. The Ogulin family still lives in the county and still owns about 100 acres of High Valley, including 15 of those original vines which are still alive and are said to be the second oldest grapevines in California. The oldest grapevines in California are currently living in Napa.

Established in 2005 in eastern Lake County, the High Valley AVA is three miles wide by nine miles long, with volcanic and alluvial (sandy soil once moved by water) soils. Ranging from 1600 feet to 3000 feet in altitude, High Valley is cooler than most of Lake County due to high-altitude sea air which is constantly blowing in.

The shape of the valley also helps create its unique climate. Imagine a bowl with one side just slightly lower than the other; cool sea air blows in on the lower side of the bowl, flows over the valley then hits the higher far side of the bowl (Round Mountain, on the eastern side of the valley) and then settles back down in the bottom of the bowl. The climate on the floor of the valley is best for white wines while the slopes are ideal for reds.

The High Valley AVA has the cooling qualities which come from both Clear Lake and from the Pacific Ocean. Not only does High Valley have its unique design, which scoops up the cool breezes coming in from the sea, but it has the geological oddity of being a valley that runs east-west while most of the world’s – yes I said most of the world’s – valleys run north-south.

High Valley was a lake itself many years ago, but nature decided through gravity, erosion and sedimentation that it would make better real estate if it were dry land.

There is graphic proof that the valley floor was once much lower than it currently is. When a well was being drilled for one of the vineyards, the drill bit reached 400 feet below the surface and the drill hit redwood, bringing chips of wood to the surface.

How did the redwood get down that far? Apparently at one time that was the level where redwoods were growing. Sometimes nature likes to rearrange the furniture.

Lake County has the cleanest air in all of California, an accolade it has claimed every year for as long as records of air quality have been kept in the state. This is due to the fact that cool, high altitude breezes from the Pacific Ocean pass over the lower altitude areas between the coast and the lake without being touched, but then are stopped by the plateau that both the lake and High Valley sit on, giving residents and vines alike the freshest air around.

The unique shape, altitude and isolation of the valley shelters it from being heavily affected by the warmth of the lake.

During the winter when it snows, I get very little snow in my yard and it sticks for little more than a few hours, while snow in High Valley can lasts for a couple of days although it is less than a mile away from where I live.

One of the reasons for this is that I am closer to the lake and the lake acts like a heat sump and melts the snow, while the mountains around High Valley protect the snow from the stabilizing effects and temperatures of the lake.

The unique topography also gives High Valley the benefit of being almost inaccessible. While there are several entries into the valley, only High Valley Road is public and easily found.

Following High Valley Road along its entire length, it eventually becomes a poorly maintained dirt road that only vehicles with big tires, good suspensions and alert drivers should attempt; but if you have the time, talent and desire to find a remote but gorgeous drive give it a try. The road empties out in Lucerne, and just remember to bring a camera, binoculars and a cell phone with a full battery. Hope you have service up there ...

Wineries within the AVA include Brassfield, High Valley Winery, Shannon Ridge and Monte Lago.

Jerry Brassfield purchased the old High Serenity Ranch and started his winery, although the original farmhouse and smokehouse from the ranch are still on the property. There also is a lake full of bass on the property that has been protected from my eternally hungry fishing equipment.

Brassfield owns 2,500 acres of High Valley, with only 367 acres planted with 19 grape varietals. Brassfield’s tasting room is on the estate three and a half miles up from the intersection of Highway 20 on High Valley road.

High Valley Winery has a new tasting room on Highway 20 and, although it is owned by Dustin Brassfield, the two wineries are completely separate and unrelated (no pun intended) companies.

High Valley Winery owns 80 acres with 28 of those planted with five varietals. Dustin and Bobbie Brassfield live on the property, and the wall and trees depicted on their wine label shows a part of an old wall that stretches over a mile through their property and the valley.

Shannon Ridge Vineyards and Winery owns more than 1,000 acres of the High Valley AVA with 450 planted with 15 varietals. Shannon Ridge has a pond with fish on its property that has also escaped my fishing equipment’s advances.

Clay Shannon was the first of the modern era of winemakers to see High Valley for the vineyard potential that it has. The vineyard also claims one of the steepest vineyards in California with a slope of 40 degrees. The Shannon Ridge tasting room is located in an old school house that the winery restored on Highway 20 in the Oaks.

The 600-acre Dharmapalan Estate is host to the Monte Lago vineyards, which grows 130 acres of grapes of six varietals. The remaining 370 acres is maintained as a wildlife preserve and they have no plans to expand the vineyard.

While they don’t have a public tasting room they do produce their own label of wines called Dharma wines. Dharma wine labels are a testimony to their Indian heritage by being collectable, numbered, silk labels depicting beautiful Indian women on them. Monte Lago has the honor of being the first wine produced out of High Valley.

Besides all sharing an AVA, another common factor I found in speaking to the owners of these wineries is they all have a commitment to the land, wildlife and ecology of the High Valley.

Much of High Valley has been set aside by the owners of the various properties as wildlife preserves. Reports of wildlife in High Valley include the typical deer, turkeys, hawks, owls, coyotes and small game, but also include bears, elk and cougars.

All the wineries have committed to laying aside land to stay natural and/or practice sustainable growing practices.

Also within the AVA are several private homes and ranches. High Valley Ranch and Conference Center owns about 1,700 acres of High Valley but doesn’t grow anything on them. They also have a working landing strip for small aircraft that sees occasional use.

Halden Ranch owns about 1,600 acres in the area and was once a working cattle ranch. It now acts as a nature reserve. Driving down High Valley Road at dusk, it is almost guaranteed that you will see plenty of deer.

High Valley AVA is already becoming nationally well known and noticed by wine enthusiasts throughout the United States through the various efforts of all the wineries in the valley. I will admit that I have personally purchased many cases of wine from almost all of the wineries in the valley and feel they are the very best quality.

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.


SAN FRANCISCO – California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s effort to overturn an eleventh hour move by the Bush Administration to gut provisions in the Endangered Species Act received a major boost this week when eight states – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island – signed on to his lawsuit.

“There is broad and deep opposition to the Bush Administration’s effort to gut the Endangered Species Act,” Attorney General Brown said. “It is my hope that the new Obama Administration will take a fresh look at these rules and restore the independent scientific review of projects affecting endangered species, which has been a hallmark of the ESA for 35 years.”

The new regulations, initially proposed by the Departments of the Interior and Commerce in August 2008, largely eliminate a requirement in the Endangered Species Act that mandates scientific review of federal agency decisions that might affect endangered and threatened species and their habitats.

The changes allow the Fish and Wildlife Service to permit mining, logging, and other commercial activities to take place on federal land and other areas subject to federal regulatory control without review or comment from federal wildlife biologists on the environmental effects of such activities on endangered and threatened species and their habitat.

The new regulations are the most significant changes to the Endangered Species Act and its implementing regulations in over 20 years.

Now that these regulations have been adopted, many decisions on whether to permit commercial activity on federal land or issue federal permits or licenses will be made at the sole discretion of federal agency project proponents, without input from biological experts at the federal wildlife agencies.

Federal project agencies generally lack adequate biological expertise and have incentives to conclude that their projects will not have adverse affects on endangered and threatened species and their habitat.

The changes also eliminate the requirement to consider the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on species and ecosystems from proposed federal projects.

Federal agencies now no longer need to consider the possible adverse impacts on species like the polar bear from commercial projects that require federal approval or funding such as highway construction and coal-fired power plants.

The lawsuit, which was filed last December in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that the Bush Administration:

• Violated the Endangered Species Act by adopting regulations that are inconsistent with that statute;

• Violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to consider the environmental ramifications of the proposed new regulations; and

• Violated the Administrative Procedures Act by not adequately considering public comments submitted by the Attorney General and numerous other organizations and concerned citizens.

The Attorney General’s lawsuit follows three similar lawsuits challenging the regulations filed earlier by environmental groups.

Attorney General Brown’s amended complaint challenging the regulations and comments on the proposed regulations are attached.


NICE – A group of Robinson Rancheria Band of Pomo tribal members plan to hold a protest at the tribe's casino on Saturday to draw attention to what they allege are the tribal council's violations of human and civil rights.

The protest, scheduled to being at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, will be held at the casino's entrance on Highway 20, between Nice and Upper Lake.

Community members of all ethnic backgrounds are invited to the event, which the organizers says is meant to highlight the need for civil and human rights protections for American Indians.

Last month, the Robinson Rancheria Citizens Business Council voted to disenroll several dozen tribal members, as Lake County News has reported. At least 60 people had been up for disenrollment, although not all of those individuals lost their membership.

Tribal Chair Tracey Avila previously told Lake County News that the people whose names were removed from the tribe's membership rolls had been in question for some time, and that the council was conducting a housekeeping effort to finally have those names removed.

Among those organizing the protest on behalf of disenrolled families are EJ Crandell, whose election as tribal chair last summer was decertified by the tribe's election committee, and Mark and Carla Maslin.

Carla Maslin's entire 76-member family was disenrolled from the Redding Rancheria in 2004. Her family, along with other disenrolled tribal members from around the state, founded the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization – AIRRO for short – of which Maslin is board chair.

The protest organizers issued a statement this week saying that the tribal council has “created an atmosphere that oppresses their people from expressing opposing viewpoints, disregarded tribal traditions and laws to deny members their tribal identity and inherent rights.”

Those up for disenrollment already have reportedly lost regular payments tribal members are entitled to from its casino, as well as access services such as health care and education.

The Quitiquit family, with about three dozen members who were notified they are being disenrolled, reported that several members also recently were terminated from jobs with the tribe in recent weeks following the disenrollment action.

Avila said previously that the tribe only dismissed people from jobs for performance-related issues.

The tribal council's disenrollment decision has to be approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which has jurisdiction over the matter because of clauses in the tribe's constitution.

Those who were notified of their disenrollment have appealed the decision to the bureau, which is reportedly still in the process of arriving at a decision.

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


T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.



It’s been a long, a long time coming

But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke, circa December 1964

The great Sam Cooke sang those poignant words to us, seemingly from the portals of heaven (or hell, depending on your perspective at the time). You see, the song was released by RCA Victor Records just mere weeks after “The Man Who Invented Soul” was tragically shot to death in a seedy motel in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. (The legacy of the life and death of Cooke is a great American mystery about which volumes have been written, none of which completely explain it. Perhaps we will discuss it in a later column.)

At the time of its release “Change” only became a moderate, posthumous hit for Cooke. As the Civil Rights Movement was propelled forward though, the song became an anthem for the movement. Indeed, President Elect Obama stated to his supporters in Chicago after winning the election, “It's been a long time coming, but tonight, change has come to America.”

As we begin this new era in the political evolution of humanity, I am reminded of some of the things I have seen in my lifetime.

I remember attending Washington Elementary School in Oakland when John F. Kennedy was slated to give the commencement address at the University Of California at Berkeley in the year 1962.

Our teachers at Washington found out that President Kennedy’s motorcade would be traveling on Shattuck Avenue past our school. We gleefully and dutifully prepared placards and signs in anxious anticipation of our beloved president seeing us seeing him.

When the big moment was upon us, the whole school stood at erect, rapt attention as we spied the flashing red lights of the motorcade approach, about a mile away. As the motorcade got closer, it became obvious that they were moving pretty fast. So fast in fact that all we got was a glimpse of a shadow in the limo that must’ve been our president. We were waving and cheering but he had his back to the window.

Those Oakland cops had that motorcade speeding at about 50 miles per hour in a school zone! It seemed to be out of the president’s hands. Some of us were disappointed yet, I imagine some of us were glad to be out of school.

Eight months later, I was in what was then called junior high school, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember walking home from school with my peers. We were really hoping that whoever did it wasn’t African-American. I guess our perception was that we were already in enough trouble by virtue of our race.

Then, in seeming rapid succession, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy all became victims of the assassin’s bullet. Malcolm X spoke of self-determination for the American negro before his pilgrimage to Mecca, yet became convinced after visiting the Holy Land that, yes, all races could live together.

Martin Luther King was a spokesman for all oppressed and poor people through nonviolent social change. Robert Kennedy, who visited East Oakland shortly before his untimely death, uncannily predicted a black president by 2008.

In the meantime the machinery that is American – no cross that out – global politics, has paralyzed the American – cross that word out again – global economy primarily along class lines. It seems to be afflicting the world, poor people under the wealthy, weighty boot of the rich. And the media hands us the narcotic, sleight of hand, smoke and mirrors of television and the over-stimulus of Hollywood.

Are we making sense of it yet? Or is it making cents out of us? Yeah, God bless America all right. Humph! God is also big enough to bless the whole world. That’s what I’m counting on.

As Jimi Hendrix stated to the faithful at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East on New Year’s Day 1970, shortly before he was vaporized,

“Yes, it has been a long time, hasn’t it?

Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!

* * * * *

Upcoming cool performances:

  • Mighty Mike Schermer at the Blue Wing Salon and Café’s Blue Monday on Monday Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m.

  • Morris Day and The Time at Cache Creek Casino on Saturday, Feb. 14, at 8 p.m.

* * * * *

Correction from last week’s blog

Yes, the CyberSoulMan will interview Teeny Tucker on Blue Monday at KPFZ 88.1 FM on Monday Jan. 26, at 8 a.m. The rebroadcast of the interview will be streamed over the Internet on Tuesday Feb. 3, at 3 p.m. on, In The Blues Spot.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at


LAKEPORT – A Lower Lake man's retrial for murder will enter its third week on Jan. 21, when testimony in the case resumes.

David Garlow Deason, 69, is accused of the December 2004 murder of his girlfriend, 48-year-old Marie Parlet.

His trial began before Superior Court Judge Arthur Mann in Department 3 on Jan. 6 following jury selection that began in mid-December, said Deputy District Attorney John Langan.

The prosecution alleges that Deason shot Parlet once in the chest and once in the chest from a distance of 18 inches while standing outside of their Lower Lake home. The two had reportedly argued earlier in the day, after which Deason left their residence and went drinking.

Deason was convicted of the murder in February 2006 and sentenced to 50 years to life in state prison, as Lake County News has reported.

But an appellate court threw out the conviction in December 2007, ruling that the court had erred in excluding evidence of Deason's alleged high level of intoxication – 0.27 blood alcohol content, more than three times the legal limit, according to court records.

On Wednesday, Langan called to the stand Burt Hirahara, a latent print supervisor with the California Department of Justice, who discussed examining the .38 pistol allegedly used in the murder.

Hirahara explained that “latent” prints are those which are left by a chance touch.

Langan handed him a white box containing the .38, which Hirahara confirmed was the handgun he had examined.

He said he had found no prints on the weapon. Langan asked if that could have been because the person using it was wearing gloves, wiped it down or had very dry hands, which are not conducive to leaving prints. Hirahara suggested any of those scenarios could be the case.

During cross examination, defense attorney Doug Rhoades asked Hirahara if he would expect to get a print off of a checked surface, such as that found on a handgun's handle. Not always, Hirahara replied.

What about the trigger? Rhoades asked. Hirahara said they could sometimes find partial prints in that location.

As to a conducive area for a print to be found, Rhoades asked Hirahara if the metal on the handgun frame would hold prints, and Hirahara said yes.

Rhoades argued that “everything is speculation” about why there is no print on the weapon – including the suggestions that it had been wiped down or that someone had used gloves.

He also asked if the gun was loaded or unloaded when Hirahara received it. Hirahara looked at his notes and indicated he had no information about ammunition.

Next on the stand was Terry Fickies, a retired senior criminologist with the California Department of Justice, who specialized in firearms and tool marks. He also did firearms examinations – commonly known as ballistics.

The .38 handgun in evidence was subjected to three test fires, he said, in order to look at the particular markings that the weapon left on the bullets it fired.

Fickies said in his examination of the test fires and the expended bullet casings from the crime scene, he was not able to find sufficient corresponding characteristics to make a conclusion about whether they came from the same weapon.

“Those bullets could have been fired from this weapon or any other weapon with similar class characteristics,” he said.

He added that the bullets in question were made of lead, and harder to match up when it comes to identifying markings.

Fickies added that certain types of weapons may not leave marks on bullets. “It's just the luck of the draw.”

After an hour-and-a-half-long break to allow for the next witness to arrive, court reconvened after 11 a.m.

The last witness of the morning was 31-year-old Charline Parlet, Marie Parlet's daughter.

Charline Parlet had been in a Santa Rosa treatment program and was released on Dec. 6, 2004, the day her mother was shot.

As Langan began questioning her about the events of that day, Charline Parlet began to weep, recalling how her mother was there at 6 a.m. that day to pick her up and take her home.

Remembering the day caused Parlet to break down, covering her face with her hands and saying, “I can't do this, you guys – I can't.”

Judge Mann called a 10-minute recess and had the jury removed from the courtroom. Parlet told the prosecution and her Victim-Witness advocate that she couldn't sit on the stand and look at Deason because she was so angry.

Deason – dressed casually in a pullover sweater and dark slacks – sat looking down at the defense table.

Mann excused Parlet and brought the jury back in to excuse them until Jan. 21. He informed the jury that a stipulation of Parlet's previous testimony will be prepared and read at that time, which will mean she will not have to return to the stand.

Langan told Lake County News that he expects to rest his case after reading the stipulation to the jury next week. At that point, Rhoades likely will begin presenting his defense of Deason.

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


MIDDLETOWN – A Sonoma County forensic medical examiner was arrested on drug and drunk driving charges on Tuesday evening after having testified earlier in the day in a local murder trial.

Dr. Kelly A. Arthur, 41, of Santa Rosa was pulled over by California Highway Patrol Officer Rob Hearn at approximately 5:20 p.m. Tuesday at Highway 29 and Armstrong Drive in Middletown, according to CHP Officer Josh Dye.

Arthur, who was traveling with a male companion, allegedly had driven her 2001 Mercedes through a crosswalk and nearly hit a pedestrian, which led to Hearn's stop, Dye said.

During the stop Hearn detected the odor of alcohol and conducted a field sobriety test on Arthur, arresting her shortly afterward for driving under the influence, said Dye. It's also alleged that Arthur had a small amount of marijuana in her possession.

Arthur was booked into the Lake County Jail shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday on felony charges of possession of narcotics, and misdemeanor DUI and use of a controlled substance.

An additional felony charge of bringing drugs into the jail was added after Hearn found her in possession of Vicodin without a prescription, Dye said.

Bail for all charges totaled $28,000, according to jail booking records.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said Arthur bailed out of jail just before 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Arthur was in court on Tuesday morning to give testimony in the murder trial of David Garlow Deason, 69, who is accused of shooting his girlfriend, 48-year-old Marie Parlet, to death in December of 2004.

Deason previously was convicted of the murder, but that conviction was overturned by an appellate court in December of 2007, as Lake County News has reported.

Arthur is a staff pathologist for the Fairfield-based Forensic Medical Group Inc., which performs autopsies for several Northern California counties, and serves Lake on an “as needed” basis, according to the company's Web site. The company provides autopsies and autopsies for the Kaiser system, and also provides medicolegal consulting for criminal and civil court cases.

Lake County News was unable to contact the company for comment before close of business Wednesday, but left messages for company principals.

Deputy District Attorney John Langan said Arthur gave testimony in the Deason case beginning at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and ending around 11 a.m.

Langan said Arthur had preformed the autopsy on Parlet in 2004. Because this is a retrial, Arthur essentially was repeating previous testimony, not coming to new conclusions, said Langan. He didn't indicate any ramifications for the Deason case arising from Arthur's arrest.

While Arthur is only facing charges at this point, the possible impact of the situation on her credibility as a professional witness is a concern for local attorneys.

Stephen Carter heads Lake Legal Defense Services, which holds the Lake County public defender's contract. He said Arthur regularly testifies in local criminal trials.

If Arthur were to be convicted, particularly of the felony charges, Carter said it likely wouldn't cause concerns for past testimony, but it could become a credibility issue going forward.

“It might be something that the prosecution then has to disclose for future cases,” he said.

The situation also could create a conflict of interest for local authorities, faced with prosecuting an individual who has been an important witness in numerous cases, he said. In that situation, the California Attorney General's Office could be called in to handle the case.

Arthur's booking sheet says she is due in court on the charges in March.

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


LAKE COUNTY – Several Lake County residents will attend the inauguration ceremonies for President-elect Barack Obama.

County Supervisors Denise Rushing and Anthony Farrington; Farrington's planning commissioner, Cliff Swetnam; local Democratic Party leader Wanda Harris; and Lucerne resident Megan Morgan are among those locals who will converge on Washington for the 44th president's swearing in and the accompanying celebration.

Millions of people are expected to converge on the nation's capitol for the historic ceremony. Attendance estimates range between one and four million visitors to the city of 600,000.

The Reuters news agency reported that officials are expecting that the attendance for Obama's ceremony will far surpass the record of 1.2 million people for Lyndon Johnson's 1965 inauguration.

The entire two-mile length of the National Mall – the area that stretches from the US Capitol to the Potomac River – is being opened in order to accommodate all of those who will witness the swearing in on the Capitol Building's West Portico. In past years most spectators have been confined to the Capitol Building grounds.

The demand for tickets the inauguration ceremonies has been high.

Congressman Mike Thompson's office reported that each member of Congress received 198 tickets – including those for the representative or senator's own use.

Thompson's tickets were quickly allocated, with 1,500 requests – far outstripping the number of tickets available.

Visitors to Washington also will be taking part in the many inaugural balls, 106 in all, according to a compilation provided by the Washington Post. However, there are only a small number of “official” balls, at which either the president or vice president are slated to make appearances.

A chance to see history firsthand

From experienced travelers to first-time Washington visitors, local residents attending the events were unanimous in their desire to take part in a history-making event.

Megan Morgan, 16, flew to Washington, DC on Friday morning. She spoke to Lake County News Friday evening, after having arrived flown into Dulles Airport and arrived at her hotel in Virginia.

The Upper Lake High School junior is traveling with the People to People Student Ambassador Program, a group which invites young people to take part in trips based on citizenship and school test scores.

She's been on previous trips with the group, but this is her first journey to Washington, DC, where she'll spend five days with the 40-member student delegation and another two days sightseeing before returning home Jan. 23.

It promises to be an engaging experience for the young woman, who is interested in the Air Force and foreign relations.

Among the activities that Morgan will take part in this week will include an inaugural ball and attending a special performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

She noted Friday that so far in her trip she had encountered a lot of large crowds in the airports and around the Washington area.

Morgan said she is really excited about the historic week ahead and “being able to witness a part of history firsthand.”

The youngest of four children – she has three older brothers – Morgan said her family is “proud – really proud” that she's making the trip.

For Wanda Harris of Hidden Valley Lake, a leader in Lake County's Democratic Party, this won't be either her first trip to Washington, DC or her first inauguration.

Harris, whose brother was president of a steelworkers organization, attended both inaugurations for President Bill Clinton.

In September, well before the election, Harris and some friends began planning their trip, which allowed them to get plane fare under $300 per person. They also found a condominium near the Pentagon which they rented from a couple, both retired colonels, for a reasonable price. Harris and three friends from Contra Costa County will be joined by in staying at the condo by Supervisor Denise Rushing and her partner.

Thompson's office provided them tickets to the inauguration ceremony, which will gain them entry to the US Capitol grounds and one of the standing areas.

“There's no one who hates crows more than me, but I would not miss this for anything,” Harris said. “I'm so excited.”

Harris said she's preparing for Washington's frigid January temperatures with lots of clothing layers and feet and hand warmers.

Harris leaves Saturday morning for Washington, and will stay until Jan. 24. The itinerary includes the California Ball on Sunday night, where the president-elect is expected to appear. Harris is determined to get a dance with him, and says to watch for a cobalt blue dress, which is what she'll be wearing at the event.

On inauguration day, Harris plans to have a “Lake County loves President Obama” poster in view of a television camera along the parade route.

Staying a full week will allow Harris and her friends some time to take in the sights.

“I'm going to do everything there is to do in Washington,” she said. Although she's been there before, there are some places that she wants to take a little extra time to explore, like the vast holdings of the Smithsonian Museum.

During the week she also plans to meet up with Farrington, as well as Martha McClure and Kendall Smith, supervisors for Del Norte and Mendocino counties, respectively.

Supervisors look forward to once-in-a-lifetime trip

Rushing leaves San Francisco on Saturday morning.

“I've not been to an inauguration before,” said the first-term supervisor from Upper Lake. “This is an historic event.”

She said she began rooting for Obama in the primaries, and is very excited that he was elected.

“I just felt I need to be there,” she said. “It just seems that important.”

Rushing said she believes the inauguration will be a once-in-a-lifetime event that will be very energizing experience for the nation, which she says will be important because in order to accomplish change, everyone will have to work together.

Although not planning to attend an inaugural ball, Rushing said she will take part in a Monday evening event held by Congressman Mike Thompson. Later in the week, she also wants to get in some sightseeing, including visiting the new Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian, before returning home Jan. 23.

On Sunday, Farrington and Swetnam leave San Francisco for Washington.

“I've been to Washington many times but this is my first inauguration,” Farrington said.

He was involved in the movement to recruit Obama to run for president and also helped campaign for Obama in Nevada. Farrington said he wanted to be part of the process for someone he believed in, and is eager to be part of the historic moment of Obama's swearing in.

Once Obama won the election, Obama spoke to friends, and Swetnam indicated his eagerness to go. Then it was a matter of getting tickets from Thompson's office and finding a place to stay. They've found accommodations in Gaithersburg, Maryland, about a half-hour drive from the capitol.

“I really don't know what to expect,” he said.

Like Rushing, they'll attend Thompson's Monday event, and Farrington also will take part in the Draft Obama inaugural event. But they don't plan any sightseeing and will return home on Wednesday. Farrington said he had too many obligations to stay longer.

“It's going to be pretty intense,” he said.

Celebrating the inauguration in Lake County

Here in Lake County, local inaugural celebrations are planned.

The Lake County Democratic Central Committee is holding a celebration at 6 p.m. Jan. 20 at the SawShop Gallery Bistro, 3825 Main St. in Kelseyville. However the event – which will feature live and recorded big screen TV broadcasts of the days events – has sold out.

However, there is still time to reserve a space at an informal gathering scheduled for the morning of Jan. 20 at the Konocti Vista Resort conference center on Mission Rancheria Road outside of Lakeport.

There is no cover charge for the event, where attendees will watch the inauguration ceremony on a big-screen television. Those who want to attend are urged to arrive by 8 a.m. at the latest to buy breakfast and be seated. RSVP to Deb Baumann, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 275-9234 no later than Monday.

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


CLEARLAKE OAKS – The Department of Fish and Game is seeking information on a possible elk poaching case.

Game Warden Loren Freeman said he received a report earlier this month of a bull elk that had been killed, possibly in the Clearlake Oaks area.

Freeman said a couple and their daughter were at a Clearlake Oaks gas station on a Sunday afternoon when the daughter spotted a large elk in the back of a Ford F-250 pickup, covered with a blue tarp.

The girl didn't mention the elk to her parents until some time later. Freeman said he got the report about five days after the alleged sighting.

So far, Freeman said he has been unable to substantiate the case.

According to Fish and Game hunting regulations for 2008-09, hunting in Lake County for tule elk in the Cache Creek area may only take place in October, with a limit of one elk per person. Only five tags total are allowed for that area. Elk in the Lake Pillsbury area are protected and may not be hunted.

The Cache Creek herd has been a target of poachers in recent years. In August 2007, three bull elk were found killed along Cache Creek in southern Lake County, as Lake County News has reported.

Freeman said he wants to pursue the investigation on this recent alleged poaching case if he can get more information from the public.

He asks that anyone who saw a Ford F-250 pickup with a blue tarp covering a large object, driven by a white male between the ages of 30 and 35 in the Clearlake Oaks area, call the toll-free CalTIP number, 888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258).

The number is used to report poaching and polluting cases, and is good 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Officials ask that those using the tip line give the fullest possible account of the incident including the name, address, age and description of the suspect, vehicle description, direction of travel, license number, type of violation and when and where it occurred.

Tips may be made anonymously, however, rewards of up to $1,000 have been paid to callers who supply information that leads to an arrest.

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


CLEARLAKE OAKS – A Pollack Pines man was arrested Wednesday morning after leading a California Highway Patrol officer on a high-speed, hour-long chase from Interstate 5 into Lake County.

Abram Louis Sassenberg, 27, was arrested following the chase, which ended about 10 miles inside the Lake County border, according to CHP Officer John Waggoner of the Williams area CHP office. Also arrested was a passenger in the vehicle, 29-year-old Joshua George Pine if Diamond Springs.

Waggoner said a CHP officer doing speed enforcement on I-5 near Williams saw Sassenberg's 1990 Plymouth Acclaim at about 8 a.m. traveling northbound at speeds the officer clocked at close to 90 miles per hour using radar.

The officer turned around in the center divide to pursue Sassenberg, who allegedly exited I-5 onto the Highway 20 offramp, where he ran a stop sign and continued west toward Lake County, said Waggoner.

Despite the pursuing officer putting on his lights and siren, Sassenberg allegedly continued on, driving at speeds of more than 90 miles per hour. Waggoner said Sassenberg was driving wrecklessly, passing other vehicles on blind curves and double yellow lines.

Sassenberg had three passengers with him in the car – two females and Pine, said Waggoner. “All three passengers were actually trying to get the driver to stop.”

As the pursuit continued into Lake County, it became clear something was wrong with Sassenberg's Plymouth. Waggoner said the vehicle began smoking and losing oil, and appeared to have lost the function of its transmission.

About 10 miles inside of Lake County Sassenberg pulled off onto a dirt road that led to a private residence, said Waggoner.

Sassenberg stopped the car and allegedly fled on foot, said Waggoner. The three passengers stayed with the car.

As the Williams CHP officer pulled up where Sassenberg had stopped his car, an unmarked Lake County Sheriff's vehicle driven by a sheriff's detective pulled up behind him, helping detain the three subjects in the car without incident, said Waggoner.

Capt. Jim Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office and Officer Josh Dye of the Clear Lake CHP office confirmed that their agencies assisted with the arrests, but that the Williams CHP office was the lead agency.

As additional local CHP and sheriff's units arrived, they conducted a search for Sassenberg. Waggoner said Sassenberg was found lying in the ground, hiding in some bushes not far from his car.

The two women, Sassenberg and Pine were taken back to the Williams CHP office. Waggoner said the two women eventually were released.

Currently is on parole, Sassenberg has a Department of Corrections warrant for failure to appear, “which is the reason he fled,” said Waggoner.

Sassenberg was arrested on a parole hold and a charge of evading arrest. Pine also is on parole and was arrested on a parole hold, Waggoner said.

Both Sassenberg and Pine remain in the Colusa County Jail without bail, Waggoner said.

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


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