Saturday, 13 July 2024


LAKE COUNTY – A man convicted nearly a quarter-century ago of a brutal murder is due to return to court next spring for a hearing in which the case will be made to retry the issue of his mental competency.

Gerald Stanley, 63, was sentenced to death in February 1984 for the August 1980 shooting death of his wife, Cynthia, as Lake County News has reported.

In March, federal court Judge Frank C. Damrell, citing juror misconduct, ruled that a new hearing was needed to determine whether or not Stanley had been mentally competent to stand trial. A female juror in that original case, according to Damrell's finding, may have been a victim of domestic abuse but had not disclosed it to the court.

On Tuesday District Attorney Jon Hopkins returned to Butte County, where the trial was held in 1983 and early 1984 due to a change of venue, to set a date for a hearing to argue whether or not a new competency trial should be held.

Stanley, citing ill health, waived his right to appear in Butte County Superior Court, said Hopkins.

A hearing on the feasibility of a new competency trial is scheduled for March 2, 2009, in Butte County Superior Court, said Hopkins. He estimated the hearing could take one to four days to complete.

A readiness conference for that hearing will take place on Feb. 19, 2009, he added.

“We have all the issues framed and ready,” he said.

On Tuesday, Stanley – through his court-appointed attorney, Dennis Hoptowit – asked to be allowed to represent himself at the hearing, said Hopkins, a request the court denied without prejudice, meaning he can make the request again.

At the March hearing, Hopkins will argue that it is possible to have a trial on Stanley's mental competence, even after more than 25 years.

“In some cases it's extremely difficult to reconstruct the mental state of a person,” said Hopkins.

But in Stanley's instance, Hopkins believes he can show that Stanley was competent, just as the original 1983 competency trial found.

While not all of the witnesses who gave testimony at the 1983 trial are still alive, Hopkins said their testimony is available in transcript form. And those court transcripts, which featured the testimony of two psychiatrists and civilian witnesses, can help prove the case, said Hopkins.

He added that Stanley himself at the time insisted that he had no mental issues, but that it was Stanley's lawyer who had wanted him tested.

“This was a disagreement between his lawyer and Mr. Stanley over strategy and practices in the penalty phase,” Hopkins said.

No one ever diagnosed Stanley – who had previously been convicted of killing his first wife and was believed to have been involved in the death of another – as having a mental disability, said Hopkins.

“It doesn't have the same challenges that it would have if there had been evidence of mental disorder,” he said.

However, because Stanley's original attorney raised the issue, it stopped the criminal proceedings. Hopkins said he also could argue that, because there was no mental disability diagnosis, the court shouldn't have entertained the attorney's concerns at all.

“I believe that current-day mental health experts can examine him and review the medical histories and determine whether there is evidence that he had a mental disorder at the time,” said Hopkins.

While the court has upheld Stanley's guilt in the murder case “that phase of the trial was found to have no problems” the federal court has put of its determination of whether or not the death penalty stands until the competency issue has been resolved, Hopkins said.

If the competency is resolved, it will be sent back to the federal court. “The next thing they'll do is review our competency proceedings and then turn to the death penalty proceedings,” said Hopkins.

He said he's not sure how long it would take to make that death penalty determination.

After so much time, it appears increasingly unlikely that Stanley will be executed.

The California Department of Corrections reports that there currently are 677 inmates on San Quentin State Prison's Death Row, 64 of whom have been on death row longer than Stanley.

Lake County's only other death row inmate is Jerrold Johnson, sentenced to death in November of 2000.

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LAKE COUNTY – North Coast Congressman Mike Thompson won reelection handily on Tuesday, while Wes Chesbro, a former state senator, won election to the state Assembly.

Thompson, first elected in 1998, represents the First Congressional District, which includes Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, and portions of Yolo and Sonoma counties.

One of the biggest fundraisers among the California congressional delegation, Thompson was elected to his sixth term over challengers Zane Starkewolf, a Republican from Davis, and Green Party candidate Carol Wolman of Mendocino County.

Thompson's margin of victory this time around was decisive, as it has been in previous elections.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office reported that Thompson received 143,513 votes, or 68.2 percent of the vote, with 94.7 percent of precincts reporting shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday. Starkewolf received 49,798 votes (23.6 percent), and Wolman took 17,272 votes (8.2 percent).

In Lake County, Thompson received 13,397 votes, or 66.2 percent of the vote. Starkewolf received 5,328 votes, or 26.3 percent, and Wolman had 1,508 votes, representing 7.5 percent.

Districtwide, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Chesbro received 106,766 votes, or 70.5 percent of the vote, topping rival Jim Pell, who took 44,822, or 29.5 percent. In Lake County the margin was 12,866 votes (64.7 percent) for Chesbro, 7,028 votes (35.3 percent) for Pell.

Thompson thanked First District voters “for putting their faith in me once again to be their voice in Washington.”

During a visit to Lake County late last month Thompson predicted Sen. Barack Obama would be the next president of the United States, and he heralded Obama's victory Tuesday.

“I look forward to working with President-elect Obama to rebuild our economy, end the war in Iraq, reform health care, and put in place sustainable, affordable energy policies,” Thompson said in a written statement.

"Today we affirmed the strength of our democracy by voting for leadership based on the power of ideas, rather than the power of fear,” Thompson said. “In record numbers, Americans made history and created a better future for our great nation.

"Our country's strength also comes from our diversity, and today we have made our country stronger by putting Barack Obama in the White House,” Thompson continued. “He has the tools to be one of our greatest presidents, and in the face of such enormous challenges his vision and leadership will help bring the change our country so desperately needs and wants.”

During his Oct. 23 visit to Lake County, Thompson met in Lucerne with local chapters of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.

Thompson said at the time that health care is now on the top of everyone's agenda in Washington.

“We're going to get into health care reform in a big way in January,” he said.

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COBB – Representatives of a geothermal power plant on Cobb on Thursday got a loud message from area residents, who made it clear that they were tired of what they felt was a clear pattern of poor management and practices, and were determined that it should change.

The two-and-a-half-hour meeting, held at Cobb's Little Red Schoolhouse, brought a representative from Bottle Rock Power Plant face-to-face with nearly three dozen annoyed neighbors, who said they've been putting up with noise, speeding trucks, accumulated garbage, impacted water wells and other environmental issues for years, well before the plant reopened in March of 2007.

The plant is being operated under a use permit first granted in 1980 and valid until 2013.

Supervisor Rob Brown, who was first contacted by neighbors last year regarding noise issues, coordinated the meeting. He said he got involved last month, as complaints began to escalate.

Earlier in the day, he and a group toured the facility, which is owned by a partnership between US Renewables Group and Carlyle/Riverstone Renewable Energy Infrastructure Fund I.

Also at the Thursday meeting was Supervisor Ed Robey, who Brown invited because Robey has dealt with similar issues between Calpine and the Anderson Springs community; Community Development Director Rick Coel; Ron Yoder, the county's only associate resource planner; Ray Ruminski of Environmental Health; and Air Pollution Control Officer Doug Gearhart of the Lake County Air Quality Management District.

Larry Bandt, vice president of engineering for Oski Energy – which manages the plant for its owners – said another group, Integral Energy Management (IEM), runs the plant and its steamfield. Yet another company, ThermaSource of Santa Rosa – which is partially owned by US Renewables Group and Riverstone – does the operation's drilling.

“A lot of the issues started long before IEM took over steamfield operations,” said Bandt.

He added, “We don't really care who caused the problem,” and committed to working on solutions.

During the Thursday plant tour, Bandt said it became clear to him that concerns about what is in the sump ponds that collect materials from the plant's drills is one of the big issues. He said they plan to move those materials, test them and if they're hazardous to have them taken to an appropriate disposal facility.

Those sump materials already are tested, said Bandt, with samples collected by a plant staffer and sent to a lab.

“The first thing on these sumps is we need to clean them out,” he said. The plant is working on getting a permit to begin that process, which involves both state and local agencies.

Bandt admitted that the plant's staff also was responsible for some streambed disturbance, which was done with heavy equipment. He said they contacted the Department of Fish and Game to come up with a plan to repair the damage.

The agency instructed them to “button it up for the winter” to try to protect the area from erosion, and to conduct the creek restoration in the spring. “We're going to do that for sure, no question,” said Bandt.

Drill cuttings, which were spread in a meadow to dry, have been removed and the meadow revegetated, although some metal and other materials are still there. Bandt said they're committing to doing additional testing to make sure no hazardous materials are there.

As part of plant operations, Bandt said there was no grading plan because they only cleared brush from the roads that were there already. Roads that aren't needed won't be used.

He also conceded that there has been damage to High Valley Road, which runs past the plant, due to truck traffic. An outside contractor has been contacted to work on repairing the road, but the plant's operators don't want to start repairs until after some heavy equipment has been moved out.

Radar signs are being posted and plant employees will get one warning if they're caught speeding and will be terminated if caught a second time. Bandt said a company employee will monitor for speeding.

There also is an unpermitted pad by the steamfield, which the plant operator needs to either get a permit for or remove next spring, said Bandt.

The operation's sound has been one particularly vexing and unresolved issue according to residents, some of them reporting that said the sound travels down to Loch Lomond.

Bandt the company has an individual who will be a contact for residents regarding their complaints.

“Our residents have just lost all trust and faith in your promises,” said Gerri Finn, a High Valley Road resident since 1997.

That's why area residents contacted Brown and other county officials, Finn said. The person Bandt named “is not going to be our contact person,” she said. “We're well beyond working with Bottle Rock Power just because it's taken so long.”

The county, she added, would now be the contact for the community's complaints.

Bandt replied by telling the residents that one of the drill rigs was being dismantled and removed, which should reduce noise, and said he would work to get other measures implemented, agreeing to contact Brown with an update.

At Brown's suggestion, Bandt also agreed to allow a third party to take the sump samples in order to raise the residents' confidence in the testing.

Community member Robert Stark questioned Bandt about plans to expand the plant's current operations. Bandt said the plant is currently producing 11 megawatts of power, with a 55 megawatt capacity, and they only intend to drill two more wells.

“Aren't there plans to expand geothermal power further up into High Valley towards Mendocino?” asked Stark, to which Bandt said yes, but he noted those plans would take time to develop.

Stark suggested that the county needed to have a plan for dealing with geothermal expansion and a point person to monitor the associated issues.

Hamilton Hess, chair of the Friends of Cobb Mountain, agreed with the county appointing a single person for monitoring and coordination, and said Lake County Special Districts Administrator Mark Dellinger had done a good job at such a task in previous years.

Brown said he and Coel plan to sit down and discuss how to deal with geothermal operations, and he agreed with Stark that the county needs to get ready for more geothermal power generation.

Regarding the county's interaction with Bottle Rock Power, “The first priority has been to work with them to get the biggest problems resolved immediately,”said Coel. Those larger issues are grading, erosion control and the creek restoration.

He said Yoder has been up to the site as many as 10 times, and it was Yoder who brought in other agencies such as Fish and Game and the state water quality control board. “Those guys have a lot bigger hammer than us in terms of levying fines,” said Coel.

Community member Ron Fidge alleged that chromium six, a heavy metal compound, is leaking into the ground in the area due to the plant. “It needs to be dealt with, that's all I'm saying.”

Yoder said the chromium tested “right at the borderline for toxicity.”

Ruminski explained that the chromium wasn't brought to the site, but is comes out with the drilling materials. When a neighbor asked if it could pose a danger to his children, Ruminski replied, “It can be a hazard.”

Brown asked Ruminski if he had seen anything on the tour that day that posed a threat. “The simple answer to your question is, it depends,” Ruminski said.

Stark said it wasn't a fair question. Pointing to a picture of a pile of drilling materials Yoder showed in a slide presentation, Stark said the constant contamination of soil won't kill people tomorrow. “Your children's children will be affected.”

Yoder said he believed the answer to the neighbors' problems was the plant's compliance with its use permit.

“We all want compliance,” said Finn, but she said the pattern of noncompliance established so far doesn't leave them hopeful.

Yoder said he doesn't believe past practices always predict the future.

David Coleman, whose property is located directly east of the plant, showed his own slides of the area around the plant, and noted some spots have now been cleaned up where previously garbage had been piled. The use permit, he said, called for the property to be kept clean and neat.

Neighbors said one of their most serious concerns involved a virgin meadow with large oaks trees where some of the materials had been stored.

Another meeting will be held on Nov. 20 to follow up on the progress in resolving residents' complaints.

Coleman said afterward that he felt the meeting was productive, and had gotten the point across to the plant's operators that the neighbors were serious about finally getting resolution to their issues.

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Lyle and Deanna Madeson's photo of a sailboat on Clear Lake will be featured in the raffle. Courtesy photo.



LAKEPORT – Artwork being offered in the latest fundraiser auction and raffle for the Barbara LaForge Memorial Fund will be shown at the Lake County Arts Council's Main Street Gallery during the First Friday Fling.

The event will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the gallery, 325 N. Main St., Lakeport.

The Lake County Arts Council has become a supporter of the fundraiser, begun earlier this year by artist Gail Salituri of Inspirations Gallery. Salituri was a friend of LaForge, who was murdered in her downtown frame shop in October 2002.

Salituri is raising funds to donate in her friend's memory to the Lake Family Resource Center for its domestic violence shelter project.

“Our financial goal is slightly under $2,000 and we hope to have those funds by this month to make our first donation to the Lake Family Resource Center by Christmas time,” said Salituri.

On display this Friday night will be a framed lithograph of a San Francisco cable car by noted local watercolor artist John Clarke. The 16-inch by 20-inch lithograph, which retails for $300, is a raffle item, with tickets selling for $5 each or five for $20.

Clarke's “Golden Gate Bridge” lithograph will be featured in the silent auction, with the opening bid set at $110.

New to the auction will be the work of photographers Lyle and Deanna Madeson. Their framed photograph of a sailboat on Clear Lake, valued at $125, will be a raffle item.

Salituri's original oil, “Springers Pond,” will be included in the silent auction, with the opening bid at $300. The painting, valued at $1,650, measures 18 inches by 24 inches.

Main Street Pizza has donated a gift certificate for merchandise in their new restaurant which will be raffled on Friday.

All custom frames are donated by Sheri Salituri, director of Inspirations Gallery and Frame Shop.

Winners in the raffle and silent auction will be announced Nov. 15.

Donations can be made to the Barbara LaForge Memorial Fund at 165 Main St., Lakeport, or to any Westamerica Bank.



John Clarke's lithograph of a cable car is part of the raffle.



LAKE COUNTY – School board races for the Konocti and Middletown Unified school districts, and for Yuba College's Board of Trustees were decided on Tuesday, and a south county fire measure got voter approval.

The Middletown Unified School District Board of Trustees had two seats available, which went to William Wright, with 1,365 votes (26.8 percent) and Sandy Tucker, 1,117 votes (21.9 percent), according to the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office.

Runners-up were Jean Rudy-Goulart, 965 votes (18.9 percent); Kim Bladel, 937 votes (18.4 percent); and David Riccio, 709 votes (13.9 percent).

In that district, voter turnout was 64.8 percent, according to the Registrar of Voters Office.

Comparatively, voter turnout for the Konocti Unified School District Board race was at 54.9 percent.

In that district, Mary Silva won reelection decisively, with 3,071 votes, or 35.7 percent of the vote. Also reelected Tuesday was Hank Montgomery, with 1,917 votes (22.3 percent). Runners up were Gigi Mattos, 1,833 votes (21.3 percent) and Lynda Davis Robinson, 1,774 votes (20.6 percent).

In the race for Yuba Community College Trustee, Benjamin Pearson took 4,070 votes (52 percent) over Mark Bredit's 3,751 votes (48 percent).

South Lake County Fire's Measure B was passed with a 73 percent to 27 percent vote (2,886 votes to 1,067, respectively).

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HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – In the wake of a home invasion and armed robbery last week in Hidden Valley Lake, the security chief for the gated community reassures residents that his agency is taking extra precautions.

The incident in question took place last Tuesday evening, Oct. 28, as Lake County News has reported.

Hidden Valley Lake residents Kevin Schosek and Wendy Ferrell were in their Park Point Court home when a white male subject, dressed all in black and wearing a ski mask, came through their back door, according to a Lake County Sheriff's Office report.

The subject brandished a semi-automatic pistol in robbing the two before fleeing their home. He is described as 5 feet, 9 inches tall, with a slender build.

Capt. Jim Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office couldn't be reached late Friday regarding the status of the investigation.

The home invasion and robbery has Hidden Valley Lake residents worried. Hidden Valley Lake Security Chief Charles Russ said he understands their concerns, but reminds them that such incidents are very rare.

“In the 14 years that I have worked here nothing of this magnitude has ever happened before,” he said.

Russ said Hidden Valley Security is working very closely with the ongoing investigation led by the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

He said his agency is taking “proactive control,” with extra security patrolling in the areas of concern.

Russ also requested that if residents of Hidden Valley Lake have any questions they should not call the security gates but should dial his office directly at 987-9414.

Concerned citizens may visit the Hidden Valley Lake Association Web site,, where information is being posted as soon as Hidden Valley Lake officials are aware of it, Russ said.

Anyone with leads in the case should call the sheriff's office investigative branch at 262-4200.


Voters at the grange in Finley cast their ballots Tuesday morning. Photo by Harold LaBonte.



LAKE COUNTY – From one end of Lake County to another, Tuesday's presidential election proved an energizing exercise in democracy, as citizens voted for presidential, congressional, state and local elections.

The election brought out enthusiasm in young and old voters alike, who made their way to polls in steady numbers throughout the day.

Sen. Barack Obama, elected the nation's 44th president, won handily in Lake County, with 11,986 votes, or 58.3 percent of the vote, compared to his rival, Sen. John McCain, who received 8,034 votes, or 39.1 percent.

Other presidential candidates on the ballot were Ralph Nader, 224 votes (1.1 percent); Bob Barr, 118 votes (0.6 percent); Cynthia McKinney, 112 votes (0.5 percent); and Alan Keyes, 88 (0.4 percent).

Lake County Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley had told Lake County News she expected a high turnout, which is common for presidential elections.

During the last month, Lake County's registered voter rolls swelled to 75 percent, with the county's vote-by-mail – or absentee numbers – growing to 51 percent, as Lake County News has reported.

The ballot count for Tuesday – which was posted by Fridley's office at 12:08 a.m. Wednesday – showed a turnout of 59.5 percent overall, with 10,991 precinct ballots cast and 9,920 absentees.

That percentage is about 10 percent below the 2000 presidential election turnout, and about 16 percent below turnout for 2004, according to numbers supplied by Fridley's office.

The more compelling story to be found on Tuesday was that of the people coming to the polls and the people volunteering to ensure the election ran smoothly.

Lake County News visited 12 polling places – representing 29 precincts – around the county on Tuesday as residents were taking part in the historic election.

From Nice to Clearlake Oaks, from Clearlake to Lakeport to Middletown, the story was much the same – turnout was big.

Precinct staffers also reported that voters were, in many cases, waiting for the polls to open at 7 a.m., with steady voter turnout over the ensuring hours.

“It's been a very interesting day,” said DeAnn Fawcett, a volunteer poll worker at the Lutheran Church Parish Hall on Country Club Drive in Lucerne. She estimated voter turnout in the Lucerne precincts to be up by 75 percent over the previous presidential election.

At the grange hall in Finley, election inspector Joan Luke said voters were coming through the doors steadily all day, with an expectation that voting would busier toward day's end.

At the Nice Community Baptist Church, Steve Merchen and fellow election volunteers also noted high turnout.

They, like others witnessing the election, told poignant stories of people who took part in the voting.

Nicole Ventura, one of the volunteers at Nice's polling place, said an elderly man came to vote with his daughter earlier in the day. The man hadn't voted in years but made a point of going to the polls to cast his vote on Tuesday.

Another man, said Ventura, announced to poll workers that he hadn't voted since Richard Nixon ran for president.

At the Orchard Shores Clubhouse in Clearlake Oaks, a steady stream of voters continued visiting the polls into the evening.

“It's been very busy all day long,” said election volunteer Pat Brotherton.

She said she witnessed a “real change of attitude of voters this time,” with more voters showing optimism and an upbeat attitude.

Her fellow volunteer Gwen Bushell agreed. “The interest has been sky high compared to what it has been.”

They also said they saw families coming in to vote together.

In Lower Lake, Gary Pickrell, an election inspector at the Lower Lake United Methodist Church hall, noted more turnout than the June primary.

“We've been busy from the start,” he said.

Voting in Middletown and Hidden Valley was also reported to be brisk by election volunteers, who said the day was going smoothly.

Poll worker Teri Fox at the Middletown Lions Club said in the few years she had been working as a volunteer this was the largest turnout they had.

At the Hidden Valley lake Firehouse, poll workers estimated they were seeing an average of 34 voters an hour.

With the optimism there also came concerns about the election's outcome.

Hidden Valley Lake resident Elizabeth Leathers said she hoped her vote wasn't in vain, adding, “I hope that the Bush administration has nothing to do with the outcome.”

Election volunteer Suzy Reicks, working at Clearlake City Hall, said the spirit of the day was very positive, with voters waiting patiently during the busier periods of the day, such as after school got out mid-afternoon.

She said there were many first-time voters – both young and old – making their way to the ballot box, and many parents also brought their children along.

One little girl who accompanied her mother to the polls shortly before 8 p.m. was allowed to drop her mom's ballot into the box, and afterward got an “I voted” sticker to wear home.

Many young first-time voters also wanted to drop their own ballots in the box, said Reicks.

Voting machines: Different communities, different receptions

While registered absentee voters outnumber voters who are registered to cast their ballots at precincts, Tuesday's turnout showed more votes cast at polling places.

Each polling place has one InterCivic eSlate electronic voting machine, overseen by a trained technician. The machines saw different levels of use around the county.

Lucerne election volunteer Jack DeVine said there had been definite interest in the polling places voting machine, which was used mostly by younger voters.

The machine in Nice was widely used, with more than 40 people casting their vote electronically as of 5:30 p.m., according to Merchen. In the June primary, about 30 people had used the machine in Nice.

However, many people stayed with their paper ballots. In Nice, when offered a paper ballot or the voting machine, one woman replied, “Paper, definitely.” A man said, “I don't do electronics.”

The machines had less use in Clearlake, Clearlake Oaks and Lower Lake, poll workers reported.

Anthony Lewis, who oversaw the machine at Clearlake City Hall's polling place, said the machine worked fine, with the only glitch being when it briefly ran out of paper. He said he's used it himself and it's a reliable voting option.

Lake County News correspondents Harold LaBonte and Aimee Gonsalves contributed to this report.

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Poll workers oversee voting operations at Del Lago in Lakeport. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




The first box of ballots arrives at the Lake County Registrar of Voters Office from a Lakeport precinct on Tuesday night. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Ballot counting at the Registrar of Voters Office in Lakeport went on well into the night. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




LAKEPORT – An attorney who formerly represented children in civil and criminal cases in the Lake County courts is scheduled to go to trial early next year on child pornography charges.

Robert Wayne Wiley, 75, is set to go on trial on Jan. 27, 2009, on two counts of possessing child pornography, according to Deputy District Attorney Ed Borg. The trial date was set at an Oct. 29 court appearance.

Calls to the office of J. David Markham, Wiley's attorney, have not been returned.

Wiley was arrested on a single count of possessing the materials in September of 2007, after which his contracts for representing juveniles in criminal and civil matters were immediately terminated, as Lake County News has reported. The children portrayed in the materials are not alleged to have been children he either knew or represented.

The District Attorney's Office did not formally charge Wiley until earlier this year. In July he was in court to plead not guilty to four felony counts of possession child pornography.

According to court documents, all local judges have recused themselves from the case, so Judge Harry N. Papadakis, a retired Fresno County Superior Court judge, is hearing the case.

The filing against Wiley alleges that on Feb. 27, 2007, a bailiff in Lake County Superior Court's Department A – where Wiley regularly appeared in the course of his work – found a thumb drive in the courtroom's jury box.

The bailiff plugged the device into a computer to see if he could identify who it belonged to, and that is when he is alleged to have discovered pornographic images of children. Afterward, the bailiff turned the thumb drive over to Det. Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff's Office, who passed it on to District Attorney's Office Investigator Craig Woodworth.

Woodworth is assigned to the Northern California Computer Crimes Task Force, headquartered in Napa, and has expertise in examining computers, said Borg.

Investigators later served a search warrant on Wiley's home and Lakeport office, where they located “several devices” found to contain child porn, according to court documents.

One of the devices, a hard drive, is part of the case's evidence, which was sealed at Borg's request.

Wiley's preliminary hearing was held in two installments, the first on Sept. 17, with the hearing continued to Oct. 10.

Before the hearing began on Sept. 17, Markham, Borg and Papadakis had an informal meeting in chambers to try to reach a resolution.

“We are talking about settling the case for various reasons,” Borg told Lake County News.

Immediately following the Sept. 17 hearing, Woodworth helped Papadakis review the materials on the hard drive in the judge's chambers.

When the case returned to court Oct. 10, Markham successfully argued for reducing the four felony counts to two.

Those two charges would correlate with two occasions Wiley was alleged to have been found in possession of the pornographic materials. The first alleged instance was on Feb. 27, 2007, when the thumb drive was discovered in the courtroom, and the second was on Sept. 20, 2007, when a search warrant led to the discovery of additional materials. That also was the date Wiley was arrested.

Borg argued on Oct. 10 that Wiley had allegedly admitted to being in possession of the materials for years – at least a year and a half to two years, according to statements in court.

Papadakis, who viewed the materials, stated, “There is also the issue of art versus pornography.”

However, he added, “The court was satisfied that this was what we refer to as child pornography.”

Wiley has worked for about two decades in the local courts, and was considered an expert in juvenile justice matters.

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Lake County Teacher of the Year Joyce Paiva (center), surrounded by her children, Erin, Kristin and Matt; her brother, Dan McMahon, and sister-in-law, Marilyn McMahon. Photo by Caitlin Andrus.

KELSEYVILLE –The Lake County Office of Education honored its teacher of the year Joyce Paiva at the 14th Annual Teacher of the Year Recognition Dinner at Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa on Saturday, Oct. 25.

The criteria for selection of the County Teacher of the Year is based upon the state and national requirements. Those include professional development activities, commitment to the improvement of the educational system, personal attributes, creativity and ability to communicate ideas effectively as well as professional skills in delivering curriculum and instruction to students.

This year's committee members were Wally Holbrook, Madelene Lyon, Kate Lyons and Marc Morita. The committee chair was Deputy Superintendent of Schools Chris Thomas.

County Superintendent Dave Geck welcomed the approximately 80 guests to the dinner and introduced district superintendents including Dr. Bill MacDougall of Konocti Unified School District, Erin Hagberg of Lakeport Unified, Pam Tarner of Lucerne Elementary, Korby Olson of Middletown Unified, Kurt Herndon of Upper Lake Elementary and Patrick Iaccino from Upper Lake High.

Each of the superintendents introduced and spoke about their respective District Teachers of the Year.

District honorees included Robann Hill, fifth grade teacher, Pomo Elementary School; Cindy Beasley, first grade teacher, Lakeport Elementary; Kathy Hughes, kindergarten and first grade teacher, Lucerne Elementary; Bob Norris, retired eighth grade math teacher, Middletown Middle School; Janice Klier, fourth grade teacher, Upper Lake Elementary School; and retired art, humanities, and academic decathlon teacher, Christina Moore of Upper Lake High School.

Following the recognition of the district teachers of the year, Mountain Vista Middle School Principal John Berry introduced Paiva as the Lake County Office of Education’s Teacher of the Year for 2008-09.

Berry described Paiva as “uniquely well liked and highly respected.” He said that every school needs a rock of Gibraltar and Paiva fills this role at Mountain Vista.

Paiva was then called to the stage where she received a plaque and spoke about her experience as a teacher.

She gave an acceptance speech in which she recognized all parents, teachers and educators for their role in children’s lives. “We don’t give ourselves enough credit for the jobs we do.”

Paiva added, “Great things happen because we teach.”

All of the individuals who do great things in this world had a teacher, a parent, a mentor who taught them how to read or how to do math, she explained. It is important that these people take the time to recognize the role they have and the important part that they play in a child’s life.

Paiva was born in Illinois, but grew up in what she says used to be small town Morgan Hill where she commuted to Norte Dame High School. She moved to the city of San Jose after high school graduation to attend San Jose State University, where she majored in English.

She said she knew she had a talent for writing and “really enjoyed the literary aspect of the major,” so it was a natural choice to choose this area of study.

While in college, Paiva worked at a large bank part-time and was offered a full-time position before she had received her bachelor's degree. She felt she needed a greater challenge and while she was trying to figure out what her next step would be, she received a flier in the mail from San Jose State University that described a program called Project 70. San Jose State was taking applications for a special education program and would accept 70 students. She decided to give it a go, was accepted, and thus Paiva’s teaching career was born.

Paiva has taught in Lake County since 1971, with her first job student teaching kindergarten and third grade. She has taught various grade levels, with the past 12 years of her career teaching sixth through eighth grades at Mountain Vista Middle School.

Currently, Paiva teaches seventh and eighth grade math, which she finds very challenging and rewarding. Her goal is “to have each student reach their highest level and establish a strong mathematical foundation.”

“It is a day-to-day challenge, making sure they understand each and every step,” she said.

In addition to teaching math, she also is the independent study coordinator for the district.

Paiva’s children – Erin, Kristin and Matt – surprised her and attended the ceremony along with Patty Perkins, Tavis Perkins, and her brother, Dan McMahon, and sister-in-law, Marilyn McMahon.


Jim Comstock of Middletown will be the new District 1 supervisor. Courtesy photo.




SOUTH LAKE COUNTY – After trailing Susanne La Faver by less than a dozen votes in the June primary, James Comstock came through on Tuesday with a decisive victory to claim the District 1 supervisorial seat.

Comstock received 2,369 votes, or 53.1 percent of the vote, to the 2,096 votes – amounting to 46.9 percent – for La Faver.


La Faver issued a statement Wednesday congratulating Comstock on his win.

“I wish to express my most grateful thanks to my wonderful supporters and volunteers for all your effort, time and contributions,” she said. “I sincerely appreciate your encouragement and your passion for the well-being of District 1 and Lake County. We must remain involved and help keep Lake County the wonderful place we are proud to call home.”


In June, La Faver had received 811 votes to the 800 received by Comstock. They had topped a field of six candidates, and La Faver and Comstock set out over the next several months to pick up the votes that had been split between the four other candidates in the primary.

Comstock, who was reached early Wednesday morning after just receiving the final vote tally, said he attributed his win to his efforts to meet with south county residents and listen to their needs, wants and desires.

His campaign, he said, was about improving the south county's economic situation and providing opportunities for the community's young people, tasks which he acknowledges won't be easy but which he is committed to pursuing.

“This is about serving,” he said. “This isn't about me winning.”

Comstock will succeed Supervisor Ed Robey, who is retiring at the end of this year after three terms on the board.

The two men are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, with Robey – currently serving as board chair – known for more liberal stances while Comstock is a conservative who believes in less government, not more.

As a result, Comstock's election will represent a major shift in the board and its approach to a variety of issues.

Case in point: On Tuesday, the board was set to hold a second reading on an ordinance to ban genetically engineered crops, which had initially been approved on a 3-2 vote Oct. 21.

Comstock, whose family has a 1,700-acre ranch outside of Middletown, has been an opponent of the ban, which Robey authored and took to the board.

While Comstock looked on from the gallery Tuesday, the board's three-hour discussion of the ordinance and some proposed modifications resulted in the matter being continued to Nov. 18, when a revised ordinance and more information about the formation of an advisory committee will be presented.

Comstock said the matter has been rushed through, and said he expects there will be an attempt to get a revised version passed by the board before Robey's term ends.

The GE ban will be one of the first orders of business for Comstock once he's sworn in this coming January. He said he wants to see the issue resolved in an equitable manner.

Comstock added, however, that if the board were to accept a revised version of the ban that he would work to overturn it.

“I firmly believe that this should be worked out without government intervention if possible,” he said.

That includes relying on local experts and an advisory committee to explore the matter further. “I believe the cart was put in front of the horse here,” he said, adding that the process has been “skewed.”

He's also not a supporter of rent control, and the board on Tuesday also discussed a rent stability agreement that has been in the works for years.

Comstock said if landlords can't raise rents they don't improve their property. However, he said he supports the agreement's voluntary approach.

During the election Comstock walked all of the south county's mobile home parks, and found some of them to be “an absolute disaster” and “an embarrassment.”

“Code enforcement needs to be in there now,” he said, recalling when many of those parks were resorts more than 40 years ago.

Comstock portrayed himself as the candidate for change in the south county. “I firmly believe that District 1 has been underrepresented.”

In the final weeks of the campaign, questions were consistently raised about Comstock's relationships with pro-development forces in the south county, which he said was a manipulation by Robey and others opposed to his campaign.

Comstock had received a $10,000 campaign donation from the Luchetti family, who bought their ranch from Comstock's father decades before. “They have no intention to developer their property, just as we have no intention to develop ours,” said Comstock.

He added that if he were a developer, he would have developed his land before now – such as during the time when his family was struggling to pay off the crushing inheritance tax that hit them in the wake of his father's death 30 years ago.

“I don't live the rural lifestyle, every day, wanting to see us paved over and looking on San Jose,” he said.

Comstock said he likes to see cows grazing on the land, but believes property owners have rights, which includes development.

As he gets ready to take his seat in January, Comstock will step down from his seat on the Middletown Unified School District Board of Trustees, which he has held for nearly two decades. He'll also be getting extra help on the ranch and working to maintain his current clients in his financial services business, but will no longer be expanding his efforts.

“I ran for this to serve the people of District 1 and the county and that's what I plan on doing,” he said.

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


LAKE COUNTY – As the nation prepares to head to the polls on Tuesday, state and local officials are reporting record voter registration levels.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen reported Friday that 17.3 million Californians have registered to vote, nearly a million more voters than were registered in October 2004 and nearly two million more than this same time in 2000.

Those 17.3 million account for 74.56 percent of the 23.2 million eligible voters in California, according to Bowen's office. That's up from the 69 percent statewide registration Bowen reported in September.

While this October's percentage is down slightly from the 75 percent registration recorded in October 2004, and the 80.21 percent registration in October 1996, California still has more registered voters now than ever before, with the state's population continuing to grow.

Here in Lake County, the numbers of registered voters also have grown, especially in the last month.

The September registration report showed that 71.86 percent of Lake County's 46,714 eligible voters were registered to vote, according to Bowen's office.

Her Oct. 20 report put Lake County's registration up to 75.18 percent – above the state average – with 35,154 voters prepared to go to the polls.

Since the start of January, Lake County's voter rolls have grown by approximately 2,800 voters, up just 1,474 in the last month alone, since Lake County News last reported on voter registration numbers.

In her more than two decades on the job, Lake County Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley said this year's registration is the highest amount she's seen for any election, including presidential elections, which she said typically draw larger voter interest.

In preparing for the big day on Tuesday, Fridley said, “I expect a big turnout.”

The number of voters registered to vote by mail – or absentee ballot – also has grown.

Last month, the percentage of absentee ballots was at 44.3 percent. Fridley said for the election her office has issued 17,947 absentee ballots, which accounts for 51 percent of the county's registered voters. That's up by nearly 3,000 voters from the 14,953 Fridley reported as being registered to vote by mail permanently last month.

So far, she added, 9,711 absentee ballots already have been returned to her office.

Because of the number of absentee ballots they'll be counting this year, Fridley said her office will begin tallying those votes between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday, although they can't release the results until after 8 p.m.

She said county Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Cox and County Counsel Anita Grant have volunteered to be on hand to help her with the counting Tuesday.

Analyzing the numbers

On a statewide level, Democrats lead registration with 44.4 percent, compared to 31.4 percent for Republicans, according to Bowen's report. Third parties account for 4.3 percent of voter registrations, and “decline to state” has risen to its highest level ever, 19.9 percent.

The numbers in the latest report put Democrats up slightly from their 43 percent registration of four years ago, while Republicans have declined from 34.7 percent.

Both Democrats and Republicans have shown overall declines in registration since October 1992. That year, Democrats reported 49.1 percent registration and Republicans 37 percent, compared to 3.6 percent for third parties and 10.3 percent for decline to state voters.

Locally, Bowen's report showed that the number of eligible voters in Lake County grew from 46,454 in January to 46,758 in October.

In Lake County, the October report has Democrats at 43.5 percent of registered voters, or 15,292, up from 13,094, or 42.97 percent, in January.

Republicans had 10,545, or 30 percent, of registered voters, in October, an increase from 10,075 registered voters but down from the January percentage of 31.14 percent.

The third-highest designation was “decline to state” voters, who came in with 7,335 voters or 20.87 percent in October, compared to 6,488 or 20.05 percent at the year's start.

American Independents come in at 3.37 percent, with 1,183 registered voters, up slightly from 3.25 percent and 1,053 voters in January. The Green Party reported 380 registered members, or 1.08 percent, down from the 414 voters, or 1.28 percent, at the start of the year.

Other parties showed the following changes: Libertarians, 214 (0.61 percent) in October, 212 (0.66 percent) in January; Peace and Freedom, 131 (0.37 percent) in October, 129 (0.40 percent) in January; and “other,” 79 (0.24 percent) in October, 74 (0.21 percent) in January.

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



My wife loves potatoes. No wait, I don’t think you understood what I said, “MY WIFE LOVES POTATOES!” So I have a general rule when I make dinner: if I’m making something that is really exotic or “special” and there is a chance that she’ll hate, say, Sweetbreads a la Gusteau with Anchovy Licorice Sauce (all the kids laughed at that one – it's a dish from the Disney movie “Ratatouille”), I’ll include a heaping side of potatoes to the plate.

More often than not her dinner plate will be returned to the kitchen counter with the sweetbreads untouched and not a molecule of potato remains. If I dare try to make the potatoes healthier by omitting the butter, milk or sour cream she will sulk for the rest of the day as if I took away Christmas.

Another accommodation I make for her potato craving: when I make mashed potatoes for dinner, I cook six to eight potatoes so that there is a lot of leftovers for my wife to make potato pancakes out of for the next few days. Really, she would eat potatoes in one form or another every day if she had the chance.

The potato pancakes she makes are something I had never seen before I met her. I knew from my own heritage about lefsa, a Scandinavian potato crepe, and the rosti, the national dish of Switzerland which is a pancake made from shredded potatoes, and I had even heard of the traditional Passover latkes, but the recipe she makes is unique and evidentially passed down through the generations of her family. Aside from the emotional element involved, the reason my wife likes using mashed potatoes rather than the usually called-for grated potatoes, is because the texture is more like a pancake.

I’ve tried to convince my wife that mashed potatoes made with a food mill are far better than when made with a potato masher, but she stands her ground saying that she likes the little unmashed chunks that the masher misses; she says it makes it more “like Mom made them.”

I argue back with science: the process of mashing and stirring potatoes activates the glutens in the potato starch and it makes them “gluey,” so you have to flick your wrist to get them off of the serving spoon as if the potatoes were from outer space and actually consuming the spoon. The less you mix your mashed potatoes the less gluten you activate. Processing potatoes through a food mill (not the same as a food processor) or a potato ricer mashes the potatoes instantly and doesn’t activate much of the gluten in the potato.

The other nice thing about using a food mill is that you don’t have to peel the potatoes first, you just cook them then put them in the food mill peel and all and the mashed potato flesh falls through to the bowl below while the peels stay in the food mill, thus saving work. But for my wife the issue is an emotional one having to do with “comfort foods” and memories of childhood, so I can’t win this one with logic. By the way, food mills are available locally at specialty kitchen or sometimes health food stores.

Something to keep in mind when making mashed potatoes is that you should try to preheat any ingredients that you wish to mix into your mashed potatoes so you don’t cool the potatoes down when adding them in. While the potatoes cook I melt butter, milk, sour cream, salt and white pepper together. I use white pepper so as not to spoil the look of the potatoes with little black flecks.

Potatoes are high in carbohydrates, fiber and vitamin C, but beyond that they aren’t real nutritional powerhouses. Wild potatoes are full of glycoalkaloids in toxic amounts to humans, but the domesticated potato has had most of these toxins bred out of them. Occasionally you will see the green areas on a potato that indicates the presence of these toxins. The good news is that most of these toxins remain on the surface of the potato with the skin so they can be peeled off, AND they are destroyed around 340 degrees.

Years ago it was believed that the discovery of the cinnamon vine (Dioscorea Batata) was going to make the traditional potato disappear from the planet. To be precise they are in fact related to the yam, although unlike yams they are safe to eat raw. Also unlike the yams they taste remarkably like regular potatoes.

The Great Potato Famine in Ireland made people realize how dangerous it was to rely on the potato as a staple. The cinnamon vine on the other hand grew like a weed (and is considered a noxious weed in many places), had no disease or pest problems, and produced 3-foot-long potato-like tubers that when cooked tasted just like potatoes. It also produces miniature tubers in its flowers so you can have plenty of seeds for next year’s crop.

So with the cinnamon vine we could have potatoes without having to worry about losing a crop, and it would be cheaper to grow since they wouldn’t need to be sprayed for any reason. Hallelujah, we have solved world hunger!

The failure of this plant as the solution to world hunger came directly from its productivity; we have no kind of harvesting machine that can pull a 3-foot-long potato out of the ground. Poof! The miracle replacement for potatoes fell into obscurity. In my yard we grow cinnamon vines, but we do it in wine barrels filled with potting soil. When it’s time to harvest we just tip the barrel over and pull the soil out and spread it around the yard.

One shocker for someone new to these tubers is that they are very mucilaginous so when you slice them raw there is a lot of slime that comes off of them and onto your hands and knife, so use caution when handling. In our house they have come to be known as “slug potatoes” since they release slime like slugs. This slime doesn’t affect their flavor once cooked, and they are excellent when used as a substitute for potato chips.

Now, back to the original potatoes, and the potato pancakes my wife makes from the leftovers. There is one odd thing that I have to mention that you might not believe but when I prepare potatoes I’ll peel them and throw the peels in the compost pile. Yes, it’s an organic gardening habit, but I really have no choice; my garbage disposal is allergic to potatoes. If even one molecule of potato goes down my drain it will clog. Even though I could stuff an entire disassembled Volkswagen Beetle down my kitchen sink and not have a single problem, if one tiny potato peel goes down my sink is useless.

By the way, in case you didn’t know, the United Nations (evidently having solved all of the planet’s problems and having nothing else to do) has named 2008 as “The Year of the Potato.” Hurry, run and tell all your friends!

Tonight’s dinner is going to be fried tofu with a carrot-chipotle sauce ... and lots of potatoes.

Potato pancakes

1 to 1 and a 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup diced onions
1 egg
1 to 2 tablespoons milk, as needed for consistency
White pepper to taste
Butter to fry in, about 2 tablespoons
Sour cream

Mix the first four ingredients well. Add enough milk to make the mixture spreadable, but still thick. Spoon onto a buttered frying pan set to medium heat and cook until golden brown. Serve with sour cream on top and add some snipped chives if you desire.

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.


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