Sunday, 14 July 2024


HOPLAND – Authorities have arrested a suspect in a bank robbery that took place Wednesday afternoon.

The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office reported that the incident occurred at Savings Bank of Mendocino County on Highway 101 in Hopland shortly before 3 p.m.

Authorities were alerted by a 911 call reporting the bank robbery.

When deputies arrived witnesses told them that the suspect – a white male adult – had fled in a vehicle, which witnesses described, according to the sheriff's report.

Deputies and Ukiah Police, along with the California Highway Patrol, searched the area for the vehicle, with CHP stopping a vehicle that matched the description at about 3:30 p.m.

Officials said the vehicle's single male occupant was detained and witnesses identified him as the person who allegedly robbed the bank. Evidence found in the car is alleged to have confirmed his involvement in the robbery.

The suspect, who was arrested at the scene, was not identified by officials on Wednesday.

Sheriff's officials said an investigation into the suspect's possible involvement in other robberies currently is under way.

LAKE COUNTY – On Wednesday, Lake County will mark the 148th year since its formation.

Local historian Donna J Howard reported that Lake County was formerly known as the Hot Springs sector of Napa County.

According to the “History of Napa and Lake County 1881,” Lake County was formed on May 20, 1861, by adding some land in the northwest from Mendocino County and some from the northeast of Colusa County.

The act organizing the county of Lake was approved by the Governor of California.

After the county government was organized, Lakeport was chosen as the county seat and a courthouse was erected, according to the 1881 history.

Lake County will celebrate its sesquicentennial – the 150th anniversary of its formation – in 2011.

LUCERNE – A Clearlake man is recovering after a Sunday vehicle crash sent him to the hospital.

Milton Grinstead, 65, of Clearlake suffered head trauma in the single-vehicle rollover crash, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay.

Tanguay said the crash occurred at 2:22 p.m. Sunday.

He said that Grinstead was driving his 1991 Ford Explorer eastbound on Highway 20 west of Bruner Drive when, for an unknown reason, he lost control of the vehicle.

The Explorer went off the roadway, where the front of the vehicle hit a boulder and subsequently rolled over, Tanguay said.

REACH Air Ambulance, which landed at Lucerne Elementary School, transported Grinstead to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital with head trauma, according to Tanguay.

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital spokesperson Katy Hillenmeyer said Monday that Grinstead was in “good” condition.

Hillenmeyer said Grinstead remained in the hospital Monday afternoon.

Tanguay said CHP Officer Brendan Bach is investigating the collision.

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MIDDLETOWN – A crash closed down Butts Canyon Road for several hours on Wednesday afternoon.

The Lake County Roads Department reported that the road was closed to all traffic at the Lake and Napa County lines.

The California Highway Patrol reported that a large dump truck went down an embankment and was blocking the westbound lane just after 2 p.m.

A subject believed to be the driver was reported to be walking around. Cal Fire stated that the driver needed to be transported.

Cal Fire advised that a big rig was needed to help clear the scene. Lake County Road Department crews were en route to the scene to assist with clearing the roads.

The road was later reopened.

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LAKEPORT – The trial date for a Carmichael man accused of vehicular manslaughter and boating under the influence in connection with a fatal 2006 sailboat crash has been moved.

Bismarck Dinius, 40, was scheduled to go on trial beginning on Tuesday, but visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne granted a delay in the trial date, which now is tentatively scheduled for June 30.

However, there's a possibility that the trial may not even take place then.

Deputy District Attorney John Langan told the court on Tuesday that he is concerned that his investigators may not be able to complete in-depth followup on new information in the case, as well as researching 911 calls regarding the crash that have since been purged.

He's asked for a June 12 setting date, at which time he said he might ask to dismiss the case.

“It's a possibility given the amount of investigation that we believe we would need to ethically do now before presenting a trial that would be fair to both sides,” said Langan.

“What I don't want to have happen is for us to try to rush this and do a sloppy job,” he said.

Dinius, who was present in court on Tuesday, is being tried for the April 29, 2006, crash in which Willows resident Lynn Thornton was mortally injured.

He was at the tiller of a sailboat owned by Thornton's fiancé, Mark Weber, when it was hit by a powerboat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Langan had requested a new trial date, telling the court that his investigators need to look into new information about Perdock's activities before the crash.

They're also looking into statements from former Lake County sheriff's sergeant and current deputy Mike Morshed regarding an order that he gave to former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland to not test Perdock with a breathalyzer at the crash scene.

Dinius' defense attorney, Victor Haltom of Sacramento, had pulled a time waiver on May 8, which means the trial couldn't start any later than July 7.

Byrne said he was concerned about continuing the case beyond that statutory limit, considering the age of the case.

The judge also granted a motion from Langan to release Beland's personnel records.

Judge looks first at motion seeking personnel records

The morning hearing took place in two parts, beginning with Langan presenting his Pitchess motion for Beland's records, since Byrne pointed out that Langan's motion to continue counted on the records request.

Pointing to differences in federal and state approaches to releasing peace officers' records, Langan said he recognized it was a difficult question for the court.

He said it was a “unique and interesting” position he was in, because he had a duty to try to get the records because of what they might mean for the case.

Part of Beland's records – a 35-page transcript from an internal affairs investigation interview last June – were released by his attorney, Scott Lewis of Santa Rosa, to Haltom, who in turn included them in his opposition to a gag order Langan had filed earlier this month, as Lake County News has reported.

In one of Langan's latest filings on the case, discussing his Pitchess motion, he also had attached the transcript, which detailed an interview with Beland before he was terminated last year. In it, he stated that he was ordered not to administer the breathalyzer test to Perdock.

Byrne asked Langan what specific parts of Beland's files he wanted. “Are we talking about his total records or are we talking about what led to the termination?”

Langan suggested he wanted records either from May 18, 2008 – the date Beland had a conversation with him, prior to testifying in the preliminary hearing, in which he stated he had been given the order – or from the date of the crash in April 2006 and forward.

Lewis, who called in to the hearing, said he didn't oppose an “in camera” review – which is conducted in private in the judge's chambers – of the records.

He explained that there are two different files – Beland's normal personnel file and a more extensive one connected to the discipline proceeding he's going through now. Throughout that entire investigatory file there are names of many other witnesses.

Byrne suggested he would do an initial in camera review to protect Beland's private rights and privileges.

Deputy County Counsel Ryan Lambert, representing the Lake County Sheriff's Office, said the agency filed its opposition to release the records last week.

Since then, Lambert said he has learned more about the case's records. “Knowing what I know now, Mr. Beland has turned over at least portions of his confidential files,” he said, noting that because of that there is a question of a waiver.

The sheriff's office policy is to respond to Pitchess motions with objections, but Lambert added, “How that comes together with an apparent disclosure by an employee, I'm not prepared to respond to.”

Lambert said he objected to Langan's assertion that he should be able to participate in the in camera review.

He suggested that, since Haltom had access to and is aware of exculpatory information in the case, they should have filed their own Pitchess motion for the material. “There's no reason the district attorney needs to conduct this investigation on their behalf,” Lambert said.

Haltom stated during the hearing that he believed Beland was fired because “he didn't tow the party line.”

“The file will show that, in our opinion, the allegations resulting in him being terminated were trumped up,” said Haltom, asserting that the real reason Beland was fired had more to do with providing information harmful to Perdock and helpful to Dinius.

Byrne said the situation didn't involve the usual principles protecting law enforcement officers' records.

“The credibility of Mr. Perdock is probably the core of the case,” said Byrne.

He said what took place on the lake, the breathalyzer test, Beland and the witnesses are all very important. Byrne said he didn't think there was relevance for personnel records previous to the crash, as he had no indication there was anything in Beland's background beforehand to justify those releases.

Saying he wasn't allowing a fishing expedition, Byrne took an hour to go into his chambers, where he reviewed an inch-thick manila envelope containing Beland's records. He was accompanied by a sheriff's staffer and a court reporter, and said he would have the records sealed afterward.

When court reconvened just after 10:30 a.m., Byrne said he had reviewed the documents and ordered that all the entire investigative reports and interviews by the sheriff's department pertaining to Beland's discipline action be released, with copies provided to both the prosecution and defense by day's end.

District attorney concerned about having enough time for investigation

In presenting his motion to change the trial date, Langan said he will need time to review and investigate Beland's documents.

He also reported that some important evidence – in this case, the 911 calls from April 29, 2006 – are “no longer in existence.”

“We're trying to create a record of the calls,” he said.

He said Beland also will need to be interviewed and new information on Perdock examined. With Haltom pulling the time waiver, the trial can start no later than July 7.

Langan said he wanted to talk to the judge in chambers about the motion to continue. However, Byrne responded, “I've always done this on the record. That's my practice.”

Haltom said that the request to delay the trial has to be based on the prosecution exercising due diligence. If the calls were germane, he asked, why weren't they examined three years ago?

The prosecution wanted to examine information both about Perdock and Beland, with all of that evidence being helpful only to the defense, said Haltom.

He objected to delaying the trial any longer. “We're ready to go.”

Haltom also questioned why, earlier on Tuesday, he had received 110 new pages of discovery material from the District Attorney's Office.

“I'm pretty troubled by it,” he said.

The evidence included a September 2008 report by the District Attorney's Office in which Perdock provided them with an investigative report from a Pleasanton-based private investigation firm, GAB Investigations. The documents included statements from witnesses saying they saw lights on the sailboat. Haltom said the prosecution's whole case is based on the lights not being on.

“Why on earth am I getting this on the day the trial is supposed to start from the DA's Office?” Haltom asked.

Byrne said he saw three factors coming into play regarding the trial date.

First, Lake is a small county and the case has generated a lot of publicity, which means the court will have to spend a lot of time getting a jury panel. They also have the revoking of Dinius' time waiver, which means they have a 60-day period within which to set the trial date. Then there's the new information from Beland's file that Byrne ordered released.

Based on his experience of the case, Byrne said he believed there is much to be revealed that's of interest to both sides, which justified moving the trial within the 60-day period. He said the 911 calls should have been investigated earlier.

“It is a very unusual case, with unusual circumstances, that continues to get unusual,” said Byrne.

Langan, noting that his investigators can't finish their inquiries by July 7, asked for a setting date at least two weeks out from the start of the trial so he make a decision about whether or not they'll be ready to proceed. Byrne gave him the June 12 date, in preparation for the June 30 trial.


Investigating the 911 calls

Langan, who took over prosecuting the case in February of 2008, told Lake County News Tuesday afternoon that he doesn't exactly know what happened to the 911 tapes from the day of the crash.

“I was told there was a significant number of calls that came in,” he said. “For whatever reason, those calls were not preserved.”

What they do have are the 911 calls Perdock made from his cell phone, reporting the crash.

Langan noted that not all of the day's calls pertained to the crash.

“What we are doing is to try to see if we can get records of the origins of those calls,” he said.

That involves tracking down numbers and who they were registered to, which involves a different process for land lines and cell phones. He said he provided some of that information to Haltom Tuesday, and will try to get the rest of the phone call information as soon as possible.

“We have to make the effort,” he said.

Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office said the law requires the sheriff's office to keep the audio recordings of 911 calls for six months.

The sheriff's office's actually keeps them twice that long, said Bauman. The sheriff's Mercom dispatch system automatically purges the audio recording on an ongoing basis every 365 days. So, as of Wednesday, the oldest voice recording in the system would be for May 21, 2008.

Bauman said the sheriff's incident reports will chronologically record comments and calls, but if they get numerous calls about the same incident – such as in the case of a wildland fire or other major situation – not every subsequent call will be logged once response has been dispatched.

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THE GEYSERS – The Geysers area experienced a minor earthquake early Monday morning.

The US Geological Survey reported that the quake, measuring 3.4 on the Richter scale, occurred at 4:40 a.m.

The quake was centered two miles north northwest of The Geysers, five miles west southwest of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs. The US Geological Survey showed that it occurred at a depth of 1.3 miles.

Residents from as far away as Hayward, Murphys and Redding reported feeling the quake.

The last quake of note was a 3.7-magnitude temblor that occurred in The Geysers area on April 17, as Lake County News has reported.

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LAKEPORT – Californians soundly defeated all but one of the propositions put before them in a special statewide ballot on Tuesday.

Voters rejected the financial package by wide margins. The only proposition to pass was 1F, which would prevent certain elected officials from receiving salary increases during years when the state has a deficit.

Lake County voters closely mirrored the overall state results. With all 27 precincts reporting, Lake County voters said no to Propositions 1A through 1E, but approved Proposition 1F.

Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley's office reported that of the 33,010 registered voters, 9,746 – or 29.5 percent – case votes in Tuesday's special election.

Of that total, 11 percent, or 3,626 ballots, were cast at precincts, with 6,120, or 18.5 percent, cast by absentee.

Absentee, or vote by mail, voters have grown to account for about half of the county's registered voters, as Lake County News has reported.

Fridley reported that her office started processing absentee ballots last Friday. The official canvass will begin Wednesday and will continue daily – with the exception of weekends and the holiday – until completed.

The local and state results for the special election ballot measures are as follows, according to the Registrar of Voters office and the office of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Proposition 1A: “Rainy Day” Stabilization Fund

Lake County

Yes  3,259  33.7%

No   6,399   66.3%


Yes   1,327,400   34.1 %

No    2,555,519    65.9 %

Proposition 1B: Education Fund Payment Plan

Lake County

Yes   3,586    37.2%

No     6,063   62.8%


Yes   1,452,535    37.4%

No     2,421,906   62.6%

Proposition 1C: Lottery Modernization Act

Lake County

Yes   3,384   35.0%

No    6,271   65.0%


Yes  1,368,222  35.4%

No   2,493,770   64.6%

Proposition 1D: Children's Services Funding

Lake County

Yes   3,121   32.4%

No    6,514    67.6%


Yes   1,324,252   34.2%

No    2,536,657   65.8%

Proposition 1E: Mental Health Fund Temporary Reallocation

Lake County

Yes     2,953    31.1%

No       6,557   68.9%


Yes   1,292,437  33.6%

No    2,549,361  66.4%

Prop 1F: Elected Officials' Salaries

Lake County

Yes     7,192    75.3%

No       2,358    24.7%


Yes     2,859,122   73.9%

No      1,010,457   26.1%

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

LAKEPORT – On Tuesday, the prosecution and defense will present arguments over whether or not to delay a Carmichael man's trial for a fatal 2006 sailboat crash, and at the heart of those arguments are new witness statements that could prove crucial to the case's outcome.

The District Attorney's Office is seeking to delay the trial date for 40-year-old Bismarck Dinius, who is being tried for vehicular manslaughter with a boat and boating under the influence.

At issue Tuesday will be new witness statements about the activities of an off-duty sheriff's deputy in the hours before the crash. Also, a sheriff's deputy has come forward to corroborate the statements of a former sheriff's sergeant who said he was ordered not to give a breathalyzer test at the scene

Dinius was at the tiller of the Beats Workin' II – owned by Willows resident Mark Weber – on April 29, 2006, when the boat was hit by a power boat driven by Russell Perdock, an off-duty chief deputy with the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Weber's fiancée, Lynn Thornton, 51, was mortally injured in the crash and died a few days later.

Perdock was not charged in the case after a blood test showed no alcohol was in his system; Dinius, who had a blood alcohol level of .12, was charged with boating under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, with the latter charge arising largely because he is accused of piloting the sailboat without lights.

However, new witness statements have placed Perdock at Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, where he was seen drinking and walking around some of the resort's bars.

Dinius' trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning, but visiting Judge J. Michael Byrne has scheduled a hearing on Deputy District Attorney John Langan's request to reschedule the trial.

Langan stated in court documents released last week that he needed additional time to investigate new information that he received during the last week in April. Some of that new information related to Perdock's whereabouts in the hours before the crash.

The discovery statements by witnesses were released in a notice of objection to the continuance Langan is seeking. That objection was filed by Victor Haltom, Dinius' defense attorney, who said he's ready to proceed to trial.

In his argument to the court, Haltom said the evidence “seriously damages the prosecution's case,” adding that “Perdock's recklessness was the proximate cause of Lynn Thornton's death, and his colleagues in local law enforcement have actively shielded his culpability.”

He added, “Evidence that Mr. Perdock was drinking alcohol shortly before the accident and that law enforcement officials did not subject him to prompt blood-alcohol level test (or breath-alcohol level test) serves only to bolster the defense position.”

While Haltom says that the new evidence justifies exploring prosecution of Perdock and his “enablers” for charges including perjury and obstruction of justice, he said it doesn't justify delaying the trial itself, because he said the prosecution has had more than enough time to examine the case, which began three years ago last month.

He then includes 27 pages of district attorney's investigation reports, submitted to the defense through discovery, that include new interviews with Perdock and several witnesses, some of whom place him at Konocti Harbor in the hours before the crash.

Witness statements give different picture

Perdock told Lake County News last Friday that he denied all of that new information, and insisted he was not on the Konocti Harbor grounds the day of the crash.

He made similar statements to district attorney's investigators on May 7. During that interview, he provided a detailed time line of his activities on April 29, 2006, which he created as a way of venting his frustration over the case, which he said Sheriff Rod Mitchell won't let him talk to anyone about.

When asked if he knew some of the people who claimed to have seen him at Konocti Harbor – including John Yashiki-Jansen, who stated he saw Perdock at Konocti Harbor's outside bar with a drink in his hand – Perdock denied knowing them and said they were lying about him.

In his statements to district attorney's investigators, Yashiki-Jansen said he knows Perdock through friends, and that the men raced their boats out on the lake between about 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. that night, at the time Perdock said he was still at home. Yashiki-Jansen also successfully pointed out Perdock in a photo lineup.

Richard Jones, a security supervisor at the resort, claimed to have seen Perdock that night, but did not see him drinking. He also stated that he could not be positive that he had seen Perdock there the same night as the crash, and that it may have been the night before. When presented with the photo lineup, Jones did not pick Perdock's picture.

Other witnesses investigators interviewed included Dennis Olson, currently in the Lake County Jail, who was arrested last July after he allegedly hit a young child with his pickup and fled the scene, as Lake County News has reported.

Olson, who was working as a security guard at the resort at the time of the crash, picked Perdock successfully in the photo lineup. He stated to investigators that he told two sheriff's deputies on the night of the crash that he saw Perdock at the resort that night sometime after 6 p.m. but before the collision, and that he saw him leave around 9 p.m.

That night, Olson – who said he has known Perdock for about five years – stated that he didn't see Perdock drinking.

Joseph Gliebe, Konocti Harbor's director of security, also told investigators he saw Perdock at the resort, although he was not 100 percent sure that it was the night of the crash. Gliebe further stated that he didn't see Perdock drinking, and he picked him out of the photo lineup.

Myra Martinelli, who worked at Konocti Harbor at the time of the crash as a part-time security officer, said she heard Olson and Gliebe talking the night of the crash, and that one of the men said they hoped Perdock wasn't drunk or hadn't drank too much prior to the crash.

New evidence supports former sheriff's sergeant

Langan also has made a Pitchess motion – a specific motion used to acquire peace officer records – to secure personnel records of former sheriff's Sgt. James Beland, which will be argued Tuesday.

Beland has come forward to state that he was ordered not to administer a breathalyzer test to Perdock at the scene, which contradicts testimony he gave last year at Dinius' preliminary hearing.

Haltom's objection filing includes an investigative report district attorney's investigators completed following an interview with another former sheriff's sergeant, Deputy Mike Morshed, who stated that he ordered Beland not to give the test breathalyzer test to Perdock.

Morshed told investigators that he didn't observe or smell alcohol on Perdock. He stated that he didn't want the preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) – or breathalyzer – used on Perdock because it “had not been calibrated for more than a year and would not be admissable in court and he felt blood would be much more accurate.”

Beland had said in an internal affairs investigation interview that Sgt. Dennis Ostini had told him not to administer the test, as Lake County News has reported.

In the interview with investigators, Morshed said he helped Boat Patrol Deputy Lloyd Wells tow the damaged sailboat later on the night of the crash. He said the area had a lot of light on the water.

“Deputy Morshed said he thought it strange because Russell Perdock had said it was so dark. Deputy Morshed said he thought it may have more light near the shore than out further in the water,” the report states.

Morshed also faxed investigators a letter identifying people who claimed to have seen Perdock drinking prior to the boat crash.

Tuesday's hearing begins at 9 a.m. in Lake County Superior Court in Lakeport.

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UPPER LAKE – A local man known for his medical marijuana activism has been sentenced to a 10-year federal prison sentence.

Charles “Eddy” Lepp, 56, was sentenced Monday morning by Judge Marilyn Hall Patel to two 10-year sentences, which will run concurrently, according to spokesman Jack Gillund of the US Attorney's Office. Patel said the sentences were the mandatory minimum required by law.

“It's tragic,” said Lepp's attorney, Michael Hinckley.

Last September a federal jury convicted Lepp of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute and cultivation of more than 1,000 marijuana plants, as Lake County News has reported.

The jury found that Lepp had grown 24,784 marijuana plants on his 20-acre property in Upper Lake, which is adjacent to Highway 20. He was indicted in 2004 in the case, which resulted from an investigation conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the sheriff's offices of Lake and Sonoma counties.

During his hour-long hearing, Lepp also was sentenced to five years of supervised release once his sentence ends.

Hinckley said that as she imposed the sentence, Patel herself stated that she believed the minimum sentence was “excessive.”

“It's way, way, way too much time,” Hinckley said.

Lepp was sentenced on the same day as the US Supreme Court declined to hear San Diego County v. San Diego NORML et al., according to California NORML. By not hearing the case, an appeals court ruling that holds that California law trumps federal law over medical marijuana will remain in place.

Patel commented during sentencing that Lepp seemed proud of what he was doing. Hinckley said Lepp did testify in the trial about being proud of the fields where the marijuana was grown, and he encouraged people to take advantage of the opportunity to grow there.

“I've never seen a man work harder to get time in prison than Mr. Lepp,” federal prosecutor David Hall is reported to have remarked during the sentencing.

Lepp must surrender himself to federal authorities on July 6.

He told Lake County News in a weekend interview, “At my time in life if all I get sentenced to is a 10-year minimum, that's a friggin' life sentence.”

Lepp was the first person in California to be acquitted in a Proposition 215 prosecution in 1996, as Lake County News has reported.

On Monday, Lepp pointed to other medical marijuana growers who have gotten deals with the government for far lesser prison terms. “I got 10 years and everybody else is getting virtually nothing.”

Hinckley said he's filing an appeal of both the sentence and the original conviction.

He said they had hoped to get underneath the mandatory minimum 10-year sentence through a “safety valve” provision, which has five elements that must be met.

Hinckley said the government argued that Lepp didn't meet two of the requirements. Those include being the leader or organizer of a criminal activity. “Our position was, that Eddy is the leader of the church,” said Hinckley. “The 'criminal activity' that they're talking about is the growing of the marijuana in the fields.”

The other requirement the government alleged Lepp didn't qualify for was that he didn't meet with the government and truthfully speak about the offense for which he's been convicted.

Hall had alleged that Lepp lied on the stand when he maintained he had not been active in running the marijuana garden, which was part of his Rastafarian religious ministry.

“He would need to admit he lied at trial,” said Hinckley.

Lepp said he met with Hall several weeks ago and was told he would need to say he lied on the stand in order to qualify for the government to drop the minimum sentence. “I went ballistic,” Lepp said.

He maintained that he had 200 volunteers that ran the garden. “I never had anything to do with it,” he said, noting that Hall accused him of being a criminal mastermind.

Lepp had been looking at a maximum sentence of life in prison on both counts, plus a $4 million fine.

“We asked that no fine be ordered because of his ability to pay,” said Hinckley.

The fine was waived, but a forfeiture action against the fields where the marijuana was being grown is still working its way through the courts, Lepp said.

An investigation conducted by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office last week resulted in Lepp's home being raided by officials, who detained him and four other people, while they searched the house and took hundreds of pictures. Lepp said no search warrant was issued and no one was arrested after being handcuffed and held.

Lepp alleges that the sheriff's deputies came to his home by mistake, but there were concerns that there was going to be an attempt to tie that case to his current situation.

Rachel Cohen, Lepp's personal assistant said the courtroom was filled for the hour-long sentencing, with people spilling out into the hallway.

She said people were carrying signs and picketing at the courthouse, with many people showing support for Lepp. Cohen said they also were passing out “Free Eddy Lepp” buttons.

Lepp said now that he has been sentenced, he has many friends and supporters who are working to get him a topnotch appellate lawyer.

While he prepares to enter prison, Lepp said he's concerned about his daughter, who has had benign polyps found on her thyroid. It's especially worrying because her mother and Lepp's late wife, Linda Senti, died from thyroid cancer that began with polyps being discovered in the same area.

“I'm just scared to death, she's barely in her 30s,” said Lepp.

He has remarried since Senti's death. His new wife, Linda, will remain on the Upper Lake property, where no medical marijuana garden has been grown since 2004, said Lepp.

As to his ability to use medical marijuana in prison for his own health issues, Lepp said Patel told him in court that she doesn't know if he'll be able to have access to the drug.

He said it's hard to know what will happen in the next six weeks, noting there have been rumors of pardons being possible.

Hinckley said there seems to be a move in the country toward greater acceptance of medical marijuana, something he suggests Lepp may have helped facilitate.

“As of today, it's not happening soon enough to help him,” Hinckley said.

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UKIAH – When Mendocino College holds its commencement ceremony this Friday, May 22, approximately 66 local graduates will receive associates of arts or sciences degrees.

The ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. in the gymnasium at the Ukiah campus.

The following is the list of Lake County graduates with the following notations: H1 – with Honors; H2 – Dean’s List; H3 – President’s List; H4 – Highest Honors; PTK – PTK membership.

Hidden Valley Lake:

Bradley Finley: AA, Liberal Arts; AA General Studies

Erica S. Park: AS, Registered Nurse

Chantal Stanton: AS, Registered Nurse



Letitia Garcia: AS, Child Development/ Family Relations


Adriana G. Arroyo: AA, Liberal Arts

Timothy Boyd: Cert, Business - Management

Btaka T. Brown: AS, Administration of Justice

Margaret Catterton: AA, General Studies

Diana R. Dixon: AS, Business - Management

Meagan Duncan: AA, General Studies

Johnie W. Finch: AS, Automotive Technology; Cert, Automotive Technician; Cert, Automotive Chassis Specialist; Cert, Automotive Tune-Up and Electronics Specialist

Jennifer J. Gentry: AS, Registered Nurse

Tammy L. Hamil: AA, Psychology

Mitchell Higley: AS, Administration of Justice

Jose O. Jimenez: AA, Liberal Arts

Hollie Johnson: AA, Liberal Arts

Michael A. Jonsen: PTK; AA, Psychology

Tracy Klein: AS, Business – Management; AS, Business - Accounting

Joshua Lauderdale: PTK; AA ,Liberal Arts

Andrea I. Lewis: AA, Liberal Arts

Monica Martinez: AS, Business - Administration

Maria Del Rosario Medina: AS, Child Development/ Family Relations

Raylene Morin: AA, General Studies

Carla Mottor: Cert, Child Development

Monique Redding: AS, LVN to RN Career Ladder

Megann Rubash: AA, Liberal Arts



Jenny Allen: AA, Liberal Arts

Lori Bacci: Cert, Business Office Technology - Medical Billing/ Coding

Jenean N. Ballard: AA, Liberal Arts

Melissa Borg: H1; AS, Child Development/ Family Relations

Quincey-Kaye J. Bourgeois-Butler: PTK; AA, Liberal Arts

Jennifer K. Carley: AS, Mathematics

Rebecca Combs: AA, General Studies

Maria Del Rosario Damas: PTK; AS, Mathematics

Carlos David De Luna: AS, Business – Management; AS, Business – Accounting; Cert, Business - Management

Nikol K. Deccanier: AA, Liberal Arts

Isaac F. Eaquinto: H2; PTK; AA, Liberal Arts

Susanna De Angelo Fraser: AA, General Studies

Georgina M. Guardado: AS, Administration of Justice

Linda J. King: PTK; AS, Registered Nurse AA General Studies

Mark Leon: AA, Liberal Arts

Daniel S. LoDolce: H1; AS, Business - Administration

Amanda Lyons: AA, General Studies

Patrick W. Mick: AA, Social Science

Nicole M. Reimers: H1; Cert, Business – Management; AS, Business – Management; AS, Business - Accounting

Refugio Rosas: AA, Liberal Arts

Molly C. Ryan: AA, Social Science

Pamela J. Salsedo: AS, Business – Management; AS, Business - Administration

Michael D. Swartz: AS; Computer and Information Sciences; AA, Liberal Arts

Ashton Vagnone: AA, Liberal Arts

Breanne Vanlanen: AA, General Studies

Lower Lake:


Axel R. Zijderveld: AS, Administration of Justice

Wynton C. Zijderveld: AS, Fire Science



Timothy Matlack: AS, Business Administration

Melody N. Shepherd: AA, Liberal Arts



Nicolas A. LaVelle: H1; AS, Administration of Justice


Debra A. Gardner: H2; AA, Liberal Arts AA Social Science

Luke Gardner: H3; AA, Social Science AA Liberal Arts

Megan M. Gardner: H3; AA, Social Science; AA, Liberal Arts

Jessica Lane: AS, Child Development/ Family Relations

Kimberly R. Marcks: AA, General Studies

Terri J. Rave: AS, Business - Management

Upper Lake:


Christina D. Birge: AS, LVN to RN Career Ladder

Robin L. Boke: AS, Child Development/ Family Relations

Roy McCutcheon: AS Computer and Information Applications

Cecil White: AA Liberal Arts

Lucerne Elementary student Arthur Wilkie, 11, at the California State Elementary Spelling Championship on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Wilkie finished fifth in the competition. Courtesy photo.




LUCERNE – An 11-year-old Lucerne student finished fifth in the California State Elementary Spelling Championship.

Lucerne Elementary sixth grader Arthur Wilkie was among 60 of the state's top spellers from 34 counties who showed off their spelling skills at the spelling bee, held Saturday at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.

Wilkie lasted through seven of the 20 rounds in the annual event, going out on the word “soiree.” He won a trophy and a $100 US savings bond.

Quinn Hensley, an 11-year-old sixth-grader from Washington Elementary School in Santa Barbara County, was the top speller this year.

Hensley won the top prize by correctly spelling “ichthyologist,” then “sacrosanct.” For his efforts he received a trophy and a $1,000 U.S Savings Bond, and his school will receive a wall clock commemorating his achievement.

“He got some really hard words,” Wilkie said of Hensley.

Other top finishers and their prizes included second place winner, Savitri Asokan, 10, a fifth grader from Excelsior School in Placer County, trophy and a $500 U.S. savings bond; third place winner, Carina Kan, 11, a sixth grader from Los Angeles County’s Palos Verdes Intermediate School, trophy and a $250 U.S. savings bond; fourth place winner, Elijah Armstrong, 11, a fifth grader from Marin County’s Manor Elementary School, trophy and a $100 U.S. savings bond; and in sixth place, Ameet Braganza, 12, a sixth-grader from Santa Barbara County’s Monte Vista Elementary School, trophy and a $100 U.S. savings bond.

Wilkie said the spelling bee lasted close to three hours, but was “really fun.”

His fifth-place finish was a substantial improvement over his performance at the state elementary spelling bee last year, when he placed 36th.

He prepared for this year's event by practicing with a teacher and a another student, and he also had support from his class.

Wilkie said he uses Webster's Third International Unabridged Dictionary; a few years ago he spent the summer selling candy to raise the $100 necessary to buy the book.

This will be his last year in the elementary spelling bee. Next year, he'll be aiming for the junior high event, which allows students to write their answers but limits them to 15 seconds. Wilkie said the elementary spelling bee allows students a reasonable amount of time to come up with their answer, which they must spell out loud.




Mark Rasmussen, Napa area captain of the California Highway Patrol, presents 11-year-old Arthur Wilkie of Lucerne with his fifth place award at the California State Elementary Spelling Championship on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Courtesy photo.



The rest of the field of spellers and their placement is listed below.

7. Miranda Velarde, 11, sixth grade, Jackson Street Elementary School, Siskiyou County

8. Emily Quinn, 12, sixth grade, Rio Del Mar Elementary School, Santa Cruz County

9. Quinn Camara, 12, fifth grade, Pioneer Middle School, Kings County

10. Jessica Brown, 11, sixth grade, San Jose Middle School, Marin County

11. Roopkiran Minhas, 11, sixth grade, Vacaville Christian School, Solano County

12. Leandra Evans, 11, sixth grade, Claudia Landeen School, San Joaquin County

13. Samantha Riviere, 9, sixth grade, Sutter Creek Elementary School, Amador County

14. Glenna Wardlaw, 11, fifth grade, Mammoth Elementary School, Mono County

15. Keo Jude Sarno, 11, sixth grade, Rolling Hills Elementary School, Solano County

16. Zachary Mah, 12, sixth grade, Richmond Elementary School, Lassen County

17. Katie Fisher, 11, sixth grade, Scotia School, Humboldt County

18. Matthew Spinetta, 11, sixth grade, Plymouth Elementary School, Amador County

19. Katie Doonan, 11, fifth grade, Pine Street School, Inyo County

20. Zane Harper, 10, fourth grade, C.O.R.E. Butte Charter, Butte County

21. Ashley Cain, 11, sixth grade, McCloud Elementary School, Siskiyou County

22. Karl Keck, 11, fifth grade, Anthony Chabot Elementary School, Alameda County

23. Danielle Zuppan, 10, fifth grade, Capay Elementary School, Glenn County

24. Nadia Tomaszewski, 11, sixth grade, Live Oak Charter School, Sonoma County

25. Yori Mai-Isa Hook, 11, sixth grade, Weaverville Elementary School, Trinity County

26. Martin Thompson, 11, fifth grade, Lee Vining Elementary School, Mono County

27. Jessica Burgess, 11, fifth grade, Clear Creek Elementary School, Nevada County

28. Andrew Miller, 11, fifth grade, Ocean Grove Charter School, Santa Cruz County

29. Jillian Strom, 11, sixth grade, Berrendos Middle School, Tehama County

30. Jade Holder, 11, sixth grade, Hooker Oak Elementary School, Butte County

31. Catherine Velardez, 12, sixth grade, Will Rogers Middle School, Los Angeles County

32. Gobind Puniani, 10, fifth grade, Valley Oak Elementary School, Fresno County

33. Hannah Cutter, 10, fourth grade, Arbuckle Elementary School, Colusa County

34. Gage Osborne, 11, fifth grade, Sonoma Charter School, Sonoma County

35. Alexander Chew, 11, sixth grade, Ridgeview School, Placer County

36. Lilyana DeArte, 10, fifth grade, Lincoln Elementary School, Sutter County

37. Ava Gruener, 10, fifth grade, Murwood Elementary School, Contra Costa County

38. Mashal Chhotani, 11, sixth grade, George Kelly Elementary School, San Joaquin County

39. Darius Rucker-McCarron, 10, fifth grade, Mary Covillaud Elementary School, Yuba County

40. Marsha Noeline, 11, sixth grade, Westside Elementary School, Merced County

41. Sarah Marsh, 10, fifth grade, Arbuckle Elementary School, Colusa County

42. Kathryn Moore, 12, sixth grade, Quail Lake Environmental Charter School, Fresno County

43. Zhang Vang, 10, fifth grade, Linda Elementary School, Yuba County

44. Zoe Tacderas, 11, sixth grade, Holy Rosary School, Contra Costa County

45. Kayleen Kemp, 12, sixth grade, Toddy Thomas Elementary School, Humboldt County

46. Jessica Khalili, 11, sixth grade, Susan B. Anthony Elementary School, Riverside County

47. Joe Williams, 10, fifth grade, Millville Elementary School, Shasta County

48. Brawley Parker, 10, fourth grade, Oak Manor Elementary School, Mendocino County

49. Christian Kontaxis, 9, fourth grade, St. Margaret’s Episcopal School, Riverside County

50. Glenn Duncan, 11, sixth grade, Pine Grove Elementary School, Del Norte County

51. Xiao Jin Jackson, 11, fifth grade, Mendocino K-8 School, Mendocino County

52. Simran Dulai, 11, fifth grade, Mark Twain Elementary School, Kings County

53. Hennessy McKenna, 12, sixth grade, Pacheco Elementary School, Shasta County

54. Emalee Kourani, 11, sixth grade, Lassen View School, Tehama County

55. Mahima Krishnamoorthi, 10, fifth grade, Lakewood Elementary School, Stanislaus County

56. Benjamin Harper, 11, fifth grade, Weaverville Elementary School, Trinity County

57. Noah Parham, 11, sixth grade, Willows Intermediate School, Glenn County

58. Bowoo Lee, 9, fourth grade, Fremont Open Plan School, Stanislaus County

59. Andrew Pearson, 9, fourth grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy at Calaveras, San Benito County

60. T.J. Bangle, 10, fifth grade, Charleston Elementary School, Merced County.

Students who did not attend were Emma Lauterbach, 10, fifth grade, Pleasant Valley Elementary School, Nevada County; and Emily Deluna, 12, sixth grade, Alliance Academy, Alameda County.

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

Stephen Cassel of Oroville was all smiles on Sunday, May 17, 2009, as he showed off his winning 28.10-pound catfish, which made him the adult winner of the 26th annual Catfish Derby. The catfish later was released back into Clear Lake. Courtesy photo.

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Clearlake Oaks' annual Catfish Derby marked 2009 with the best turnout in its history, with great weather and plenty of big fish.

The Clearlake Oaks/Glenhaven Business Association sponsors the event – billed as the largest catfish derby west of the Mississippi. It began on noon on Friday and ran through noon on Sunday.


Derby volunteers and participants agreed this year was the best derby ever, said Dennis Locke, one of the group of hardy derby volunteers.

There were 510 adult entries and 119 kids entries, which are both derby records by a “substantial” margin, Locke said.

Fifty-nine percent of this year's 629 entries came from outside of Lake County – including Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho and Hawaii.

The derby weighed 143 fish – 113 caught by adults, 30 caught by children – totaling more than 1,700 pounds this year, said Gail Jonas, who leads the event, which raises money each year for Clearlake Oaks' annual July 4 fireworks display.

“It's becoming more of a family event,” said Jonas, noting that whole families come and enter in the derby, which began Friday and ended Sunday.

Stephen Cassel of Oroville was this year's adult derby winner. He caught a 28.10-pound catfish just after 8 a.m. Sunday to capture the title and take home a new boat, motor and trailer.

Eight-year-old Dylan Armstrong of Nice was the winner of the kids' derby, catching an 18.40-pound catfish at 8:45 p.m. Friday and winning a new quad all-terrain vehicle.




Eight-year-old Dylan Armstrong of Nice caught an 18.40-pound catfish on Friday, May 15, 2009, and won the kids' derby. His prize was a new quad all-terrain vehicle. Courtesy photo.



The catfish that Cassel and Armstrong caught to win their respective divisions were released back into Clear Lake, according to organizers.

Locke said more than $3,000 cash was awarded to other adult participants and $75 to kids. In addition, community members donated many raffle prizes for those entering the derby, including several fish rods and reels a derby participant donated.

Donations also were made for the awards for the youngest child participating – 4 years old – and for the child catching the smallest fish, which was 3.24 pounds.

Locke said more than 75 volunteers worked four straight days, some as long as 16 hours each day, to make the derby a success. This year's event also featured the inaugural Catfish Derby Cook-Off.

The full derby results are published below.

2009 Catfish Derby adult rankings

1. Stephen Cassel, Oroville, 28.10 pounds, caught 8:04 a.m. Sunday

2. Edward Rainey, Clearlake Oaks, 27.13 pounds, caught 9:43 a.m. Sunday

3. Tom Wheeler, Sutter, 21.11 pounds, caught 8:02 a.m. Saturday

4. Kevin Heins, Grants Pass, Ore., 21.07 pounds, caught 7:18 a.m. Saturday

5. David Fernandes, Clearlake, 19.59 pounds, caught 3:02 p.m. Saturday

6. Colleen Adair, Clearlake, 19.13 pounds, 7:02 a.m. Sunday

7. Troy Morgan, Loch Lomond, 19.13 pounds, caught 8:03 a.m Sunday

8. Matthew Ross, Clearlake, 19.07 pounds, caught 9:59 a.m. Sunday

9. C. Ferguson, Riverside, 19.01 pounds, caught 9:09 a.m. Saturday

10. Jeff Griffith, Woodland, 18.78 pounds, caught 11:31 a.m. Sunday

11. Steve Johnson, Oceanside, 18.70 pounds, caught 6:12 p.m. Saturday

12. Gary Simpson Sr., Yuba City, 18.63 pounds, caught 10:36 a.m. Sunday

13. Jorge Curiel, Vallejo, 18.35 pounds, caught 3:02 p.m. Saturday

14. Jason Costello, Lower Lake, 18.24 pounds, caught 11:01 p.m. Friday

15. Zach Medeiros, Yuba City, 18.10 pounds, caught 7:08 p.m. Friday

16. Lee Sayasombath, Santa Rosa, 18.10 pounds, caught 7:18 a.m. Saturday

17. John Handcock, Roseville, 18.06 pounds, caught 3:02 p.m. Saturday

18. Wade Stafford, Clearlake, 17.69 pounds, caught 10:37 a.m. Sunday

19. Omar Mandujano Jr., Healdsburg, 17.68 pounds, caught 12:01 p.m. Saturday

20. Jonathan Ganey, Garberville, 17.53 pounds, caught 9:39 a.m. Sunday

21. Joshua Lane, Hood River, Ore., 17.31 pounds, caught 10:39 p.m. Friday

2009 Catfish Derby children's rankings

1. Dylan Armstrong, Nice, 18.40 pounds, caught 8:45 p.m. Friday

2. Renato Mandujano, Healdsburg, 17.29 pounds, caught 1:37 p.m. Friday

3. Mical Wood, Clearlake, 16.53 pounds, caught 11:01 a.m. Sunday

4. Jerry Nelson, Clearlake, 16.24 pounds, caught 7:25 a.m. Sunday

5. Dakota McWethy, Lucerne, 15.02 pounds, caught 9:54 a.m. Saturday

6. TJ McDonnell, Kelseyville, 13.09 pounds, caught 7:12 a.m. Sunday

7. Robert Costello, Lower Lake, 12.58 pounds, caught 5:23 p.m. Friday

8. Guy Boyd Jr., Clearlake, 12.51 pounds, caught 8:24 a.m. Saturday

9. Georgia Schmit, Upper Lake, 12.13 pounds, caught 8:27 a.m. Sunday

10. Kasey Brown, Lower Lake, 11.50 pounds, caught 4:11 p.m. Saturday

Fish statistics

Total fish caught (143): Friday, 29; Saturday, 77; Sunday, 37

Total fish released (109): Friday, 25; Saturday, 48; Sunday, 36

Total fish kept (34): Friday, 4; Saturday, 29; Sunday, 1

Total weight: Friday, 335.55 pounds; Saturday, 908.09 pounds; Sunday, 518.58 pounds

Total fish poundage for the derby: 1,762.22

Largest fish for each day of the derby: Friday, 18.40 pounds (caught by Dylan Armstrong, Nice, winner of children's division); Saturday, 21.11 pounds (caught by Tom Wheeler of Sutter, No. 3 in adult division); Sunday, 28.10 pounds (caught by Stephen Cassel of Oroville, adult derby winner).

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





Gail Jonas presents Oroville resident Stephen Cassel with his new boat, motor and trailer. Cassel won the adult division in the 26th annual Catfish Derby in Clearlake Oaks. Courtesy photo.




Kids' division winner Dylan Armstrong of Nice shows off his 18.40 pound catfish. Courtesy photo.

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