Friday, 09 December 2022

News

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Andre Stevens was arrested Friday by Clearlake Police. Lake County Jail booking photo.

 

CLEARLAKE – Police arrested a Clearlake man Friday in connection with an early morning homicide.


Clearlake Police reported that they arrested 42-year-old handyman Andre Lafayette Stevens on murder charges after officers found him with a weapon and the victim identified him.


A statement from Clearlake Police Lt. Mike Hermann said that officers were dispatched to the 14100 block of Lakeshore Drive shortly after midnight on a report of a stabbing in progress.


Sgt. Tim Celli and Officer Tim Hobbs arrived on scene within moments, Hermann reported, to find Stevens still holding the knife with bloody hands.


Celli and Hobbs detained Stevens and found the victim nearby with multiple stab wounds, Hermann reported.


The victim, who police initially found conscious, identified Stevens as his attacker before dying of his injuries, according to Hermann's statement.


Several residents of the area told police they witnessed the incident, Hermann reported, because the victim had called for help.


Clearlake Police detectives arrived at the scene, Hermann reported, and Stevens later provided police with a statement on the incident. Hobbs arrested Stevens, who was transported to the Lake County Jail and booked for murder.


Hermann's statement said police have not yet released the victim's name pending notification of family.


Police say the investigation is ongoing with no further information available at this time.


Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the Clearlake Police Department's Detective Division, 994-8251.


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LAKE COUNTY – On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Thompson criticized President George W. Bush's Tuesday veto of an emergency spending bill for the Iraq war that included a timeline for withdrawing the troops.


Thompson's office issued a statement in which he said Bush's veto “signals his determination to keep this war going indefinitely.”


Bush's veto comes as a bill Thompson authored, which includes a similar call for a timed withdrawal, moves through Congress.


The veto also canceled emergency funds for rural areas like Lake County through an amendment to renew the county payments law, which funds counties based on historic timber receipts.


The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Health and Iraq Accountability Act, HR 1591, passed the House on a narrow 110 to 60 vote in March, as Lake County News previously reported. A Senate version of the bill also passed, before ultimately going to the president's desk this week, where it was vetoed.


The bill included increased funding for military and veterans' health care, allocations to improve the readiness of stateside troops and military housing allowances.


However, it also called for withdrawing US troops by Aug. 31, 2008.


Because of the timeline aspect, President Bush had said for months he would veto the bill, which Thompson and others in Congress knew early on.


Although this wasn't the bill he wanted, Thompson said in March he and others in Congress who were against emergency supplementals supported it, calling it “the most responsible bill we could have passed given the divisions in this very diverse Congress.”


Thompson's statement noted that even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said that a timeline such as was included in HR 1591 “communicates to the Iraqi government that this is not an open-ended commitment.”


“Our troops have done what we sent them to do,” Thompson stated. “It's now time for the Iraqis to bring peace to their country. We need to show the Iraqi government that we're serious about the benchmarks we've set for them. Just asking them to meet the benchmarks hasn't worked for four years. This bill sets a realistic timeline for making progress in Iraq."


Thompson also took issue with Bush's criticism of domestic emergency aid that was included in the bill, including money to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, aid to farmers who suffered agriculture disasters, and fund schools and roads.


Included in the Senate version of the bill was an amendment to restore funding to an updated version of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act, commonly known as the county payments law, according to the office of Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, one of the authors of the amendment and the original bill.


California's most recent allocation from the bill was $68 million, of which $1 million came to Lake County. That $1 million, in turn, was divided between the county's road department and area schools, with about $240,000 going to Upper Lake's high school and elementary school, according to the Lake County Office of Education.


Thompson said the bill isn't “pork,” but is meant to offer emergency aid. He added that Bush should put funding requests for the war through the annual budget process, where they belong.


“He has sought to hide the true costs of the war by continuing to use emergency supplemental funding bills, while criticizing the emergency domestic funding the supplemental should be used for,” Thompson said.


The bill also would have included help for those in Northern California affected by the decision to divert water for salmon, which not only resulted in killing salmon but taking away income from thousands of families, Thompson said.


Other funds would have helped fund the county's veterans facilities, including Walter Reed Hospital. Last week, Thompson said he visited the hospital, which he said he's done regularly since the war began. “I met a soldier who had traveled 300 miles for his 14th surgery because he couldn't get adequate care at his local veteran's hospital.”


The veto of HR 1591 doesn't bode well for a bill Thompson introduced earlier this year, HR 787, the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007, which also includes a timeline for withdrawal.


In fact, Thompson's bill calls for the troops to be brought home by March 31, 2008, months earlier than HR 1591's provisions. Sen. Barack Obama's SB 433 is the companion to Thompson's bill.


Many of HR 787's provisions were included either directly or in modified form in HR 1591, said Anne Warden, Thompson's spokesperson.


Is Thompson concerned that if his bill passes Congress, it, too, will ultimately die on the president's desk?


No, said Warden.


“His bill is helping to continue the pressure on the president, and we're going to keep that pressure on until we have a plan for ending the war,” she said. “The party is in line with that thinking and Rep. Thompson is going to continue pushing his bill as meaningful plan for Iraq.”


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LAKE PILLSBURY – A 3.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Lake Pillsbury area early Wednesday morning.


The quake was recorded at 6:01 a.m. at a depth of less than one-tenth of a mile, according to the US Geological Survey.


The epicenter of the quake was eight miles west northwest of Lake Pillsbury along a fault that US Geological Survey seismologist David Oppenheimer previously reported is unnamed.


A smaller quake, registering 1.9 in magnitude, followed at 7:59 a.m. It was located eight miles northwest of Pillsbury, whereas most of the recent activity has been located west northwest of the lake.


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LAKE COUNTY – Foreclosure rates are growing across the country and California, and here in Lake County a new report shows that the number of people defaulting on their mortgages is increasing.


DataQuick Information Systems, a real estate information service, has reported that the number of default notices sent to California – and Lake County – homeowners last quarter increased to its highest level in almost 10 years.


That increase in foreclosures among the state's eight million homes and condos is attributed to flat appreciation, slow sales and riskier subprime loans, according to the report.


The report also noted that while foreclosure properties tugged property values down by almost 10 percent in some areas 10 years ago, the effect on today's market is negligible.


Foreclosure rates statewide jumped 148 percent in the first quarter of this year as compared with that period in March 2006, growing from 18,856 to 46,760.


Last quarter's default level was the highest since 47,912 Notices of Default (NoDs) were recorded statewide in second-quarter 1997, according to DataQuick.


Defaults peaked in first quarter 1996 at 61,541. An average of 33,847 NoDs have been filed quarterly since 1992, when DataQuick's NOD statistics begin.


Andrew LePage, a DataQuick spokesman, said in Lake County foreclosures in the first quarter of 2006 numbered 48, compared with 109 foreclosures in this year's first quarter, a 127-percent increase.


This year's first-quarter foreclosure rates are the highest recorded for the county since 1992, when DataQuick began tracking the information, said LePage.


The last big wave of foreclosure activity in the county appeared in the mid-1990s, he said.


Lake County's homeownership rate of 70.6 percent is higher than the state average of 56.9 percent, according to the US Census Bureau. The county's owner-occupied homes number 19,164, with the county's median home value listed at $255,300.


LePage noted Lake County's default rates have traditionally been “really low,” with a quarterly average of 41. In the third quarter of 2005, the county only had four foreclosures reported, he added.


He suggested that the growth in foreclosures likely correlates with a growing population.


LePage did not have a breakdown of foreclosures by the county's different communities.


The county's foreclosures appear to have started going up late last year, according to LePage. In the third quarter of 2006, foreclosures numbered 67, jumping to 102 the following quarter.


“When you have a slower market and not as much appreciation or no appreciation, that sets the state for rising foreclosure activity,” LePage explained.


In neighboring counties, the rates also have risen. Napa's foreclosures are up by 87 percent, and Sonoma's by 159 percent.


Risky loans a key


For people beginning to have financial problems who have little or no equity, those market characteristics make it much more difficult for them to pull out of a “financial tailspin” by refinancing, he said.


Home purchases statewide peaked in the summer of 2005, said LePage. Loans typically begin to go bad within the first year and a half, he said, and DataQuick's research shows that most of the loans that went into default last quarter were originated between April 2005 and May 2006.


Many risky subprime loans were being made at that time, said LePage. With foreclosure activity continuing to rise, he added, “It's probably telling us that some of the more creative financing and subprime financing is starting to fuel these numbers.”


On primary mortgages, homeowners were a median five months behind on their payments when the lender started the default process, DataQuick reported. The borrowers owed a median $10,784 on a median $331,200 mortgage.


Most homeowners emerge from the foreclosure process by bringing their payments current, refinancing, or selling the home and paying off what they owe. However, DataQuick's study found that about 40 percent of homeowners who found themselves in default last year actually lost their homes to foreclosure in the first quarter. A year ago it was nine percent.


Trustees deeds recorded, or the actual loss of a home to foreclosure, totaled 11,033 during the first quarter, up 81.5 percent from 6,078 for the previous quarter, and up 802.1 percent from 1,223 for last year's first quarter, according to DataQuick.


Foreclosure sales peaked at 15,418 in third-quarter 1996, and hit a low of 637 in the second quarter of 2005, DataQuick reported.


Lakeport attorney Steve Elias, a nationally recognized expert on bankruptcy who has written three books on the subject, said foreclosures and bankruptcy often go hand-in-hand.


Bankruptcy, Elias explained, slows down the foreclosure process, and in the case of Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it offers individuals the ability to repay overdue debts – along with current payments – over a five-year period.


He said he doesn't see many cases these days where people in bankruptcy actually lose their homes, with many managing to refinance or get extremely harsh “bridge loans.”


Bankruptcy, noted Elias, is a good way to let go of home rather than letting it be taken in foreclosure. That's because only the bankruptcy will show up on a credit report, not a foreclosure, he explained, which does less harm overall to one's future credit rating. Short sales, he added, can become a problem because the IRS counts them as taxable income.


Is the state at its foreclosure peak? “We don't think we're there yet,” said LePage, looking at the state as a whole, and noting that a peak would require conditions that would begin to seriously erode home values.

 

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LAKE COUNTY – A woman who recently was sought in connection with an alleged kidnapping of a Glenn County child may not face kidnap charges after all, according to Glenn County authorities.


The Glenn County Sheriff's Office was seeking Tabitha Pasalo, 24,who lives between the Grindstone Rancheria in Glenn County and the Big Valley Rancheria near Lakeport.


Glenn County Sheriff's Det. Travis Goodwin said Wednesday that his department recently located Pasalo in Lake County and interviewed her about the situation.


Based on that interview and the other evidence in the case, Goodwin said the Glenn County District Attorney's Office has decided not to file kidnap charges against Pasalo.


Dwayne Stewart, an assistant district attorney with Glenn County, said the case is still open, and it's not the policy of his office to discuss open cases.


On April 21 Pasalo allegedly took a 2-year-old child from his home at Grindstone and brought him to her brother's home in Lakeport, according to Lt. Rich Warren of the Glenn County Sheriff's Office.


Warren said Pasalo's brother, John Pasalo, 22, may be the child's father.


Lake County Sheriff's deputies helped locate the child the next day, said Warren.


John Pasalo was arrested for felony child endangerment and a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest for trying to escape with the child, LCSO Chief Deputy Russell Perdock previously reported.


Lake County Jail records show John Pasalo remains in custody on those charges with no bail set.


As to why no charges have yet been filed against Tabitha Pasalo, Goodwin said investigators are looking at her claim that she took the child from his mother, 20-year-old Dahnna Burrow, for his own safety.


Goodwin said they're now looking at the question of whether or not the child was actually being harmed, which could have justified Pasalo's actions. “We have to answer that question before we can deal with the kidnap situation,” Goodwin said.


Asked if it's possible Burrows could end up facing charges, Goodwin said, “Anything is possible.”


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LAKEPORT – BoardStock is not coming to the city of Lakeport.


That was the final word from the City Council Tuesday night, following a third public meeting on the subject.


The council's unanimous decision at the end of Tuesday night's meeting effectively put an end to more than two months of discussion about bringing the extreme sporting event to Lakeport.


BoardStock promoter Rob Stimmel and Lakeport businessman Ron Campos had approached the city about hosting BoardStock after Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa decided in February not to host the event for a third year, citing problems with underage drinking.


Stimmel, who wasn't present for the meeting, said previously he believed his event was being blamed unfairly for Konocti Harbor's security and alcohol policies.


Earlier this month, Stimmel began negotiations with Konocti Vista Casino for locating BoardStock there in September rather than the original August dates.


Concerns about the event being located there but still drawing on Lakeport's police and fire resources, with no reimbursement agreements, got the discussions going with the city again. Campos recounted Tuesday that Mayor Roy Parmentier approached him after they began negotiations with Konocti Vista.


About 30 people attended the meeting, which was smaller than past gatherings. Rather than being more evenly split, the people who spoke seemed overwhelmingly opposed to BoardStock.


Lakeport resident Nancy Thornton said she left her daughter's softball game early to come and address the issue, which she said she feels strongly about.


"My big concern is the underage drinking," said Thornton, noting that people will find a way to bring in alcohol, despite the fact it would be advertised as an alcohol-free event.


"We need to do family and environmentally friendly events," said Thornton, citing the recent bass tournaments as an example.


"I think we need to promote a classy town," she added. "We have a classy town. We don't need to bring in this element."


Suzanne Lyons of Lakeport said she had a concern that the potential damage to the town's reputation could far outweigh any financial benefits.


George Smith, a 40-year Lakeport resident and retired math teacher, said it's often people coming from outside the community who cause problems at such events. As examples, he recalled the riots at Chico State's Pioneer Days in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and problems at the Stonyford Rodeo.


"I just picture something very similar with BoardStock," Smith said.


John Norcio, owner of Lakeport's McDonald's, said he wouldn't speak either for or against the event. However, he asked the council to be sure any contract they might sign be sufficient to cover their expenses. Norcio also was concerned that the city "still might be on the hook" for police and fire costs if Konocti Vista Casino hosts the event.


Not having control or access to reimbursement was a concern repeated throughout the meeting by Parmentier.


Officials said during the meeting that Stimmel had offered to give the city $40,000 to cover police and fire costs.


Elaine Jolin of Lakeport asked about whether it was better to have BoardStock hosted by the city or the casino.


"It's really a team effort to cover BoardStock," said Police Chief Kevin Burke, who explained that wherever the event is held police, the Lake County Sheriff's Office and the California Highway Patrol will be covering it.


Burke said it's hard to anticipate what the event would be like, because it's never been at Lakeport or Konocti Vista before. Later in the meeting, he ventured the event would be similar to how it was in the city of Stockton, where there was little problem within the city, but rather outside of its limits.


Alcohol was the major factor, said Burke, when it was at Konocti Harbor. "At Konocti, they made very little effort at all to control alcohol the last time it was held," Burke said.


As to concerns about tribal jurisdiction, Konocti Vista is private property, but Burke said he anticipated them asking for additional coverage.


"Most of the problems associated with BoardStock occur at the location where the event takes place," said Burke.


Despite assurance from Campos that security money would be paid, other objections couldn't be overcome, such as Councilman Buzz Bruns' assertion that the lake, which is already low, would be much lower during the suggested September dates.


Councilmembers also noted receiving overwhelmingly negative feedback from city residents when it came to hosting the event.


Councilman Bob Rumfelt said he worked with Konocti on security during previous BoardStocks. The event itself, he said, wasn't the problem, but the issues that came with it were.


Parmentier maintained, "If we have it here, at least we'll get paid for it."


No one at the meeting could say for certain if Stimmel already had signed a contract with Konocti Vista, including Campos, who said he was the one who first took the idea to Konocti Vista. Bertsch said he spoke with the casino, where they would only say their lawyers were exploring it.


Councilman Jim Irwin said he liked the idea of having the event in Lakeport to try to maintain control.


"With that said, I'm not comfortable at all with this contract that we have," he said.


Ultimately, the council came back to its previous stance and voted unanimously to decline the event coming to Lakeport.


In other council news from Tuesday, the council approved an employment contract with new city manager Jerry Gillham as part of its consent agenda.


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From left, Bureau of Transportation and Housing agency Secretary Dale E. Bonner, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger; Attorney General Jerry Brown; Cathy Clearman, widow of fallen CHP Officer Brent Clearman; and CHP Commissioner Mike Brown at Wednesday's ceremony. Photo courtesy of the CHP.



 

WEST SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger joined the families of several fallen California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers Wednesday to honor and pay tribute to 210 officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in their service to the state of California.


The governor joined Business, Transportation & Housing Agency Secretary Dale Bonner and CHP Commissioner Mike Brown in laying a wreath at the CHP Academy’s Memorial Fountain.


“I know the bravery and dedication to service these officers possess as everyday these men and women stand beside me, willing to risk their lives to protect me and my family,” said Schwarzenegger. “These officers set an example of courage and determination that all Californians can admire.”


Whether it’s pulling an impaired driver off the road, assisting a stranded motorist or protecting their fellow officers, CHP officers have a commitment to service.


“It takes a special person to do the job these men and women do, people are running away from danger as they walk into it,” said Secretary Bonner.


The CHP Academy Memorial Fountain bears plaques engraved with the names of each of the Department’s 210 officers killed in the line of duty since its formation 78 years ago. This year, Oakland area CHP Officer Brent Clearman’s name was added to the fountain.


Clearman, 33, an Iraq war veteran in the Marine Corps and sniper specialist, was investigating a collision on an onramp to I-880 in Oakland the night of August 5 when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver. The injured officer was taken to the hospital where he died the next morning. He is survived by his wife, Cathy.


“My heart goes out to the family and friends of these officers who made the ultimate sacrifice for keeping us safe,” said Commissioner Brown. “It’s an honor to serve with these men and women in uniform who are sworn to protect us everyday without any regard for their own lives.”


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LAKE COUNTY – With the appeals court denying a change of venue motion, a young San Franciscan facing murder charges for the death of two companions during an alleged December 2005 break-in is scheduled to go to trial here this month.


Renato Hughes, 22, was arrested Dec. 7, 2005, the same day as he and two other men, Rashad Williams and Christian Foster, are alleged to have broken into the Clearlake Park home of Shannon Edmonds.


Edmonds reportedly shot Williams and Foster as they fled the scene. It's Hughes, however, who is facing charges for their deaths; a state statute allows those accused of committing a felony which is likely to result in a lethal response to be held liable for any deaths that may occur.


As Lake County News previously reported, Hughes' attorney, Stuart Hanlon of San Francisco, had filed a change of venue motion with Lake County Superior Court.


Hanlon said Hughes – who is black -- can't get a fair trial in Lake County due to the county's predominantly white population and other factors, including pre-trial publicity.


On March 2, Judge Arthur Mann denied the motion.


However, on April 10, Hanlon filed a petition for a writ of mandate and a stay of Mann's ruling with the state's First Appellate District Court, according to court documents.


Last week, the appellate court denied Hanlon's petition to have the order reversed and the venue moved, the court reported.


That means the way is clear to proceed with trial in Lake County.


In addition to two charges of murder, Hughes is facing felony charges of first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and attempted murder, according to records from the Lake County Jail, where he has remained for the year and a half since his arrest.


District Attorney Jon Hopkins said motions in the case will begin May 8, with jury selection set for May 10.


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UKIAH – A Lake County man died late last week after his pickup went off the roadway and into a creek.


The Mendocino County Coroner's Office reported that Paul Jason Rosales, 37, of Nice, was the victim of the early-morning accident that occurred April 28.


The California Highway Patrol's Ukiah office reported that the accident was called in at 7:30 a.m. by a motorist passing 1300 Redemeyer Road near Ukiah.


CHP Officer Matt Holzhauer arrived at the scene within five minutes, according to the CHP statement. There, Holzhauer found a blue Ford F350 pickup on its roof in a creek, 30 feet below the roadway.


Rosales, the vehicle's only occupant, died at the scene, according to Holzhauer's report.


Holzhauer's preliminary investigation found that Rosales' pickup was traveling at an unknown speed southbound on Redemeyer Road. For an unknown reason, the pickup entered the road's west shoulder, where it collided with a wooden guardrail before landing on its roof in the creek below.


Ukiah Valley Fire, Cal Fire, Ukiah Ambulance and the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene.


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LAKE PILLSBURY – A 3.1 earthquake occurred early Thursday, and was followed by several more quakes over the course of the morning.


The 3.1 quake, centered eight miles west northwest of Lake Pillsbury along an unnamed fault, was recorded at 7:40 a.m. at a depth of 4.1 miles, the US Geological Survey reported.


Within five minutes, a second quake in the same area occurred, measuring 2.6 in magnitude, according to the US Geological Survey.


Five more smaller earthquakes followed over the next three hours, ranging up to 2.4 in magnitude, the US Geological Survey reported. Two were centered in the same location as the first two quakes, two others were nine miles west northwest of the lake, and one was six miles north of the lake.


Over the past month, seismic activity has become a daily occurrence in the Lake Pillsbury area, according to US Geological Survey records.


Since the start of April there have been eight earthquakes measuring 3.0 in magnitude or above. The largest, a 4.8 magnitude quake, took place on April 18, as Lake County News previously reported.


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LAKE COUNTY – Two men who failed to comply with the law and register as sex offenders with local authorities were sentenced to prison last week.


On April 27, Superior Court Judge Stephen O. Hedstrom sentenced Alberto Mendoza, 30, and Jeffery Lee Hackler-Knight, 22, to six years in prison each for violating Penal Code section 290, the sex registration statute, according to a statement from the Lake County District Attorney's Office. The cases were not related.


According to court records, defense attorney Doug Rhoades represented both men. Rhoades could not be reached for comment on the cases.


Deputy District Attorney John R. DeChaine prosecuted both defendants.


Detective Mike Curran of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office investigated the Hackler-Knight case, and obtained evidence that Hackler-Knight had moved from his Middletown residence to Clearlake without notifying the authorities, the District Attorney's Office reported. LCSO has jurisdiction over registrants in Middletown and should have been notified by Hackler-Knight within five business days of any change of residence.


Because Hackler-Knight was on felony probation for his underlying sex offenses at the time he violated the registration law, he also was found in violation of that probation and was simultaneously sentenced to state prison for his underlying sex crimes, according to the District Attorney's Office.


On March 9, Hackler-Knight pleaded guilty to failing to register as a sex offender in violation of Penal Code section 290. The District Attorney's Office reported Hackler-Knight was sentenced to a total of 13 years and four months in prison.


Detective Martin Snyder of the Clearlake Police Department investigated the Mendoza case after CPD Officer Timothy Hobbs learned that Mendoza had moved into Lake County, and that he was a sex offender who was likely out of compliance, the District Attorney's Office reported.


The investigation revealed that Mendoza had been living in Clearlake for approximately eight months before coming to the attention of law enforcement. Mendoza’s violation was aggravated in that he had been registering as a sex offender in Sonoma County, but had moved to Lake County without notifying the authorities, according to the District Attorney's Office.


On Feb. 2, Mendoza pleaded no contest to violating Penal Code section 290.


Failing to register as a sex offender carries a maximum prison sentence of three years, the District Attorney's Office reported. However, because Mendoza and Hackler-Knight were each required to admit a prior felony strike conviction at the time of their pleas, each three-year sentence was doubled to six years pursuant to applicable law.


Committing lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14, in violation of Penal Code section 288(a), was the prior strike admitted in both cases, according to the District Attorney's Office.


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LAKEPORT – An Iraq war veteran will spend another six months in jail after being convicted of felony possession of stolen property.


Derick Hughes, 21, was sentenced to a total of 280 days in jail and felony probation Monday afternoon after lengthy courtroom sentencing deliberations between prosecutor Art Grothe and defense attorney Stephen Carter.


Hughes was charged with felony possession of stolen property after being pulled over in Nice last December. During the stop, a sheriff's deputy discovered two used 10-inch by 12-inch ballistic panels from a military body armor system, a BB gun, a miniature souvenir baseball bat and a quantity of concentrated cannabis.


During the first part of testimony on Friday, Grothe attempted to cast doubt on Hughes' military service and his activities in the Marines while Carter worked to relate Hughes' behavior in Lake County to a psychological condition known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Grothe questioned Hughes about the dates and locations of his service as well as the temperature of the weather in Iraq.


Hughes developed PTSD after an explosion during a promotion ceremony in an Iraq battlefield which took the lives of 10 of his fellow soldiers, Carter said.


While on the stand, Hughes described the promotions location. “It was in the middle of an ops zone, a combat zone,” he said.


That tragic event was dramatic enough to garner the attention of ABC's Good Morning America, which interviewed a number of the survivors, including Hughes.


According to testimony during the sentencing, Hughes was diagnosed with PTSD by a Navy doctor before being discharged from the military.


Subsequently, he received an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge after testing positive for marijuana and methamphetamine in Twentynine Palms shortly after returning from Iraq. During the sentencing, Hughes admitted to using the drugs.


The sole defense witness, aside from Hughes himself, was Dr. Albert Kastl, the clinical and forensic neuropsychologist Carter brought in to evaluate Hughes.


Kastl, an expert witness, concluded that Hughes' behavior and attitude was consistent with that of someone affected by PTSD.


At one point Kastl told the court that Hughes had been “trained not to show weakness,” and that suspicious, defensive behavior was “highly consistent” with PTSD.


During cross examination Kastl explained that instances of PTSD were much higher in Iraq than in previous wars. In Iraq, Kastl said, as many as 20 to 30 percent of the soldiers would suffer from the affects of PTSD while in Vietnam the numbers were much lower, closer to 5 percent.


Active duty troops in Iraq currently number around 160,000, according to press accounts.


Friday's sentencing was cut short by the judge and two fire alarms which emptied the courthouse before either attorney had completed their closing arguments. The sentencing resumed Monday afternoon.


The weekend respite gave Carter sufficient time to accumulate 24 defense exhibits comprised of Hughes' discharge documents, a letter of commendation, a two-page checkout sheet reflecting that all items checked out to Hughes were returned, numerous photographs of Hughes in Iraq and a video copy of the Good Morning America show in which Hughes appeared.


Before getting to the video Judge Richard Martin silently reviewed all the exhibits for several minutes, looking over some items more than once. After he had finished reviewing the multiple exhibits, Carter presented the video and Grothe uttered his objection.


Grothe did not object to any of the exhibits except for the Good Morning America video, which he described as redundant.


During a brief give-and-take with Carter over the tape, Martin questioned Carter about how the tape might boost Hughes' credibility with the court. Carter sought to have Martin play the tape and decide for himself.


Carter argued that since Grothe had suggested on multiple occasions that Hughes was not being truthful, it helped support Hughes' claim of military service in Iraq. “It goes to weight,” Carter said.


Carter ultimately convinced Martin to review the tape before deciding whether to sustain Grothe's objection. Carter then placed a small television on the judge's desk and played the video in full view of the court.


During the first portion of the ABC video, Hughes expressed that losing his fellow soldiers was akin to losing relatives. “It's like losing a family member, that's what we lost,” Hughes said on the tape.


Judge Martin then overruled Grothe's objection and accepted the video into evidence along with the other 23 exhibits.


The two attorneys then proceeded with their closing arguments.


Carter had filed a 17b motion, which is used to request a reduction from felony to misdemeanor. He focused on Hughes' service and need for treatment. He stressed that Hughes, who had fought to establish a right to vote in Iraq, stood to lose his own right to vote in the US if found guilty of a felony.


At one point, Martin noticed two veterans in the audience, one a veteran's representative who would soon testify that Hughes would still be eligible for Veterans Administration benefits even after being OTH discharged.


Richard Hulet, a Vietnam veteran who works for the Employment Development Department as a veterans representative, took the stand.


“He's gonna be eligible for full VA treatment for post traumatic stress,” Hulet said of Hughes.


During his closing, Grothe continued to attempt to poke holes in Hughes' story by picking out conflicting details from a probation report and Kastl's testimony. Grothe told the judge he would not seek prison time.


In the end Martin told the court that he had problems with the inconsistencies in Hughes' account and denied Carter's request for the 17b reduction from felony to misdemeanor.


“This court doesn't hand out 17bs right and left,” he said. “This court is not ready to turn him loose on a 17b.”


Martin then sentenced Hughes to 280 days with credit for 90 days served, bringing his sentence to 190 days. Carter said Hughes will actually serve two-thirds of that sentence.


Martin also allowed for day-for-day credit if Hughes takes part in a residential VA treatment center. That treatment would be in lieu of jail time with the possibility of other types of treatment centers as an option.


After the sentencing, Carter expressed his satisfaction with the verdict and reported that Hughes was taking it in good spirits.


“We're very happy he didn't get a prison sentence,” Carter said. “For a guy who's been through what he has been through this isn't such a big deal.”


Carter will meet with Hughes on Wednesday at the jail to work out a strategy going forward. Hughes could potentially complete his three year probation in one year through good behavior and petitioning the court for a reduced charge.


“A year from now when I expect Derick Hughes will be successfully completing the terms of probation, our plan is to bring a motion for early termination of probation,” Carter said. “There's an open door there, we don't have to wait the full three years.”


Should Hughes successfully complete his probation, “You can bet I'll be at the courthouse,” Carter said, where he'll apply to have Hughes' felony expunged from his record.

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

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