Friday, 24 May 2024

News

THE GEYSERS – A series of small earthquakes punctuated by a temblor measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale shook the Cobb area Sunday evening.


The 3.1-magnitude earthquake occurred at 8:24 p.m. at a depth of 1.4 miles, as was centered two miles north of The Geysers, four miles west of Cobb and seven miles west northwest of Anderson Springs, according to the US Geological Survey.


A second earthquake, measuring 2.6 in magnitude, occurred 25 seconds later, to be followed by a third 10 seconds later that measured 1.8, US Geological Survey records showed.


Cobb resident Roger Kinney reported that the second earthquake felt near as big as the first and lasted longer.


Three more small quakes, two measuring 1.1 and one measuring 1.3, followed over the following three minutes. In all, 16 shakers followed the main one between 8:24 p.m. and midnight.


Besides several Cobb, the US Geological Survey reported that the 3.1-magnitude earthquake was reportedly felt in Kelseyville and as far away as Cloverdale.


Kinney said earthquakes in the seismically active area usually drop off in November and pick up again in April, so the quakes were a surprise, especially coming as closely apart as they did.


The last earthquake measuring 3.0 or above reported in Cobb, The Geysers or Anderson Springs took place Dec. 1 and measured 3.2 in magnitude.


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


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LAKE COUNTY – Cold daytime temperatures, rain showers and the possibility of snow are in the weekend forecast for Lake County.


Cloud cover will increase throughout the day Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento, as a series of cold weather systems from Alaska and Northern Canada move into Lake County.


Those systems will bring with them a 40-percent chance of rain tonight, and a 50-percent chance of snow in the mountains around Clear Lake by Saturday night.


Temperatures are forecast to reach almost 60 degrees on Friday as clouds and the chance of rain continue to increase throughout the afternoon into the evening. Lows Friday night are predicted to be in the 40s with little or no warming during the day on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.


As a colder system moves in on Saturday, daytime high temperatures will only be in the low- to mid- 40s, the National Weather Service reported. Saturday nights' low temperatures are expected to be near freezing.


Chances for snow showers increase to 70 percent on Sunday and daytime highs will again only reach the 40s as another system moves through with increased moisture content.


National Weather Service forecast models for early next predict that snow may fall down to lake level on Tuesday morning, but will change to rain later in the day on Tuesday.


With increased travel during this holiday season, Lake County News reminds everyone to carry chains, advise visiting family members, monitor the changing weather closely, be safe and enjoy the holidays!


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


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LAKE COUNTY – After years of lobbying and delays, Lake County has been notified that a Veterans Affairs outpatient health clinic will open here in 2010, which local veterans leaders say will be an important and positive step for the county's large veteran population.


The VA clinic slated to open locally is one of 31 to be opened in 16 states. All but two of the clinics are slated to open in 2010.


Frank Parker, president of Lake County United Veterans Council, said he thinks the decision to locate a clinic here will have a profound – and positive – impact on local vets.


“It's going to make life a lot easier on the veterans in this county,” he said.


Dean Gotham, president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 951, agreed with Parker's assessment about the clinic, which he said is needed.


In announcing the new clinics, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake said the new facilities will bring VA care closer to the veterans who have earned it.


The two states with the most planned new clinics are Michigan and California. Besides Lake County, California is expected to get new clinics in Oakhurst, Susanville and Yuba County, all of them having the 2010 opening date.


The new clinics will be part of the the largest integrated health care system in the country, run by the VA, which has 153 hospitals and about 745 community-based clinics. The VA’s medical care budget of more than $41 billion this year will provide health care to about 5.8 million people during nearly 600,000 hospitalizations and more than 62 million outpatient visits.


The community-based outpatient clinics, or CBOCs, will become operational by late 2010, with some opening in 2009. Local VA officials will keep communities and their veterans informed of milestones in the creation of the new CBOCs.


This new expansion in the health care system comes on the heels of Congress' recent passage of the largest veterans health care funding increase in the VA's 77-year history, according to Congressman Mike Thompson's office. Since January 2007, funding for veterans has been increased by more than $16 billion.


The increased funding means 15,000 new VA health care workers – among them 1,705 new doctors and 6,468 new nurses – as well as more medical services, better care and shorter waiting times for doctors' appointments for the 5.8 million veterans who rely on the system, according to Thompson's office.


The funding also will add more than 5,200 new case workers to reduce the six-month delay for the nearly 400,000 veterans backlogged in the system waiting to receive their earned benefits.


County Veterans Service Officer Jim Brown said Tuesday that the announcement means that the county's large veteran population – spanning the time from World War II to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – won't have to travel to clinics in Ukiah and Santa Rosa.


That will be especially important for older veterans, said Brown. “Care closer to home is far more important, especially when you've got some chronic illnesses.”


He said having a clinic closer also will be important for preventive care, such as routine checkups, which he said has been missing for local veterans.


Lake County is home to about 8,000 veterans; Brown estimated between 2,500 and 4,500 use the VA health care system. That high per capital population helped land the clinic.


Brown said a local clinic has been on the drawing board for a long time, and he's worked with Thompson's office since about 2000 to get a clinic here.


“The need has always been here, it's just been getting the VA's funding,” he said.


In a Tuesday statement, Thompson – himself a Vietnam veteran – lauded the VA for the clinic decision.


“We always have to remember that the services and benefits we have in place for veterans are not what veterans deserve to get, it’s what they have earned,” Thompson said. “That’s why we’ve been working in Congress to make sure that vets are treated with respect and have access to the care and services they have earned for their service. This new center will mean a huge improvement in the quality of care for Lake County’s 8,000 veterans.”


In 2006, Lake County was supposed to be on the list of new clinic locations but for some reason wasn't included, said Brown. Because of that, he's still a little cautious about the clinic actually becoming a reality, although he concedes, “It finally looks like it is going to get here.”


Brown said that he expects the clinic will be located in the south county – either in Clearlake or Lower Lake – because the area is home to the largest number of veterans in the county.


Normally, the VA rents space for their clinics, often near a hospital since the clinics usually don't have x-rays or labs, Brown said.


Just when the clinic will open isn't clear. “Nobody has given us a firm date yet,” he said. “My hope would be that if they could get that done sooner it would happen.”


More complicated health care procedures will still require that veterans travel to Fort Miley in San Francisco, said Brown. Five days a week, a van provided by the Disabled American Veterans and driven by volunteers leaves at 6 a.m. from Clearlake for the daylong trip to take veterans to health appointments at the VA facility.


Both Gotham and Parker say they drive to Ukiah or Santa Rose to be treated in the VA system.


“They do a good job over there,” Gotham said of the Ukiah clinic.


He added that the issue is not quality but, rather, the drive time for local vets to get back and forth to medical appointments.


A lot of veterans, particularly those who served during the Vietnam War, have post traumatic stress disorder, he said. “And they're making us drive all over the state.”


Not having to spend hours traveling to doctors will be a big boon to local veterans, who have wanted the clinic, said Parker. “It's going to take a big load off of them financially, mentally.”


Gotham announced the new clinic to the Vietnam Veterans of America meeting Tuesday night, said Parker – news which received a round of applause.


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


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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Late last week, the House of Representatives and the US Senate passed legislation to temporarily suspend a tax on seniors who fail to take a required minimum distribution from their retirement accounts.


HR 7327, the Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act was approved by the House on Dec. 10 and the Senate on Dec. 11.


It waives the penalty for 2009, allowing seniors to recoup some of the losses they have experienced as a result of the poor economy, according to a report from the office of Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena).


HR 7327 now heads to President George W. Bush's desk for his signature.


The bill should prove important to the First Congressional District, where the 2000 Census reports there are 84,000 seniors – nearly 12,000 age 65 and over in Lake County alone.


“In these difficult economic times, we have provided real relief to seniors who would otherwise have faced unfair penalties,” said Thompson. “I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate found a way to work together and quickly pass this important legislation.”


Under H.R. 7327, all taxpayers, those who usually take the required minimum distribution amount monthly and those who take a lump sum amount at the end of the year, would have equal treatment. Under current law, individuals who have reached age 70½ must take an annual required minimum amount from their retirement plan or IRA.


Failure to take the distribution would subject the individual to a 50-percent excise tax penalty on the amount that should have been withdrawn.


The bill also is expected to help the struggles of businesses facing funding requirements for employer-sponsored pension plans. Without the legislation, those businesses would be forced to make significantly increased contributions during these difficult economic times when they are very short on cash.


The bill includes temporary relief for multi-employer plans that have been negatively impacted in this economic downturn.


HR 7327 also would make nominal technical corrections to the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which had required employers to fully fund their plans, which proved a blow to many businesses due to eroding market values where those funds are invested, according to an Associated Press report.


The American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries (ASPPA) welcomed HR 7327's passage, saying it will enable pension plan sponsors to adjust to the current market downturn.


Brian Graff, ASPPA executive director and chief executive officer, said passage of the legislation will enable pension and retirement plan management professionals to help retired Americans cope with the current economic condition.


"ASPPA members encouraged Congress to act during this final legislative push of the 110th Congress. Both the House and Senate are to be commended for acting unanimously on this important issue of vital interest to millions," Graff said.


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LAKEPORT – A man accused of the stabbing death last year of a neighbor will appear in court Wednesday for his preliminary hearing.


Ivan Garcia Oliver, 30, of Lakeport is facing a murder charge for the November 20, 2007, death of 67-year-old Michael Dodele, who lived in the Western Hills Mobile Home Park in the unincorporated portion of Lakeport.


Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff said Oliver's preliminary hearing is scheduled to start at 8:15 a.m. in Judge Arthur Mann's Department 3 courtroom.


Besides the murder charge, Oliver is facing a charge of having a weapon in jail. Less than a month after his arrest for Dodele's murder, a jail correctional officer found him with a shank he had made from a plastic toothbrush.


Hinchcliff, who is prosecuting the case, said Oliver is alleged to have killed Dodele because he believed he was a child molester.


Following the murder last year, the murder drew national attention because Oliver had reportedly found Dodele on the Megan's Law Web site, which tracks those convicted of crimes of a sexual nature.


The unclear language of Dodele's list of charges is alleged to have led Oliver to his incorrect conclusion that Dodele had perpetrated a crime against a child.


However, Dodele – who had moved to Lakeport a few weeks before the murder – had actually been convicted of raping a woman in Sonoma County and sent to prison in early 1988. He had only been released from prison a short time before his death, as Lake County News has reported.


Oliver was scheduled for a preliminary hearing last June, but a number of delays pushed the hearing out farther.


One of the factors in delaying his local court appearances was his prosecution in San Diego County, along with his half-brother, on illegal dumping charges.


Oliver was indicted last December for conspiracy and aiding and abetting in dumping hazardous materials in a creek in San Diego County.


Assistant US Attorney Melanie K. Pierson of the US Attorney's Office's Southern District said that Oliver was convicted of the charges.


“In the sentencing in the federal criminal case he was sentenced to 15 months in custody for violating the federal hazards waste law,” said Pierson.


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


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It’s that gift-giving season again, and are you finished shopping yet? No?


Have you considered a home brewing or wine making kit for that special someone? Well, stop a moment and consider it. This is more than just a gift, it’s a potential hobby that a lot of people would enjoy trying but might not think to get for themselves, and it’s unique enough that it won’t be expected or forgotten. Plus, it saves tons of money over buying wine and beer at the grocery store.


Beer brewers are able to create their own signature brew or create “clone” recipes of their favorite store-bought brew. You should see the look of pride in a person’s eyes when they serve someone a glass of beer or wine that they brewed themselves. They have fun in the making of the brew, then fun in designing a label for the bottles (there are Web sites dedicated to people showing off their personal labels), and they have fun serving and drinking it with others. It’s a pastime that gives a person many different ways to enjoy it.


Yes, I am a home brewer; it’s part of my being a big “do it yourselfer.” But just as you have probably come to expect from me, I do things a little differently. I brew mead, which is essentially wine made from honey. Being a history buff I like the idea of making a beverage with such an ancient and colorful past, and I love the versatility that mead making gives.


Brewing at home is quite simple and not as messy as you might think; my wife has yet to complain. In fact, sanitation is the most important factor in any kind of brewing, so cleanliness is a necessity for brewing.


Home brewing kits vary from idiot-proof countertop kits where you “add water, contents of packet, and *poof!* two weeks later you have beer,” to kits that allow you to control every factor of the process and truly craft your very own distinctive creation.


Another great thing about the process is that most of the equipment is interchangeable so you can easily brew beer this week then switch to making wine a couple weeks later. If you have someone on your gift giving list who already is a home brewer, a new carboy is always a great addition (carboys are big glass or plastic jugs used for fermenting) and they are only about $25 on average. The only thing limiting my own mead making is a lack of carboys. I have two and both of them are in use, and I wish I had many more (my wife reads this column, wink, wink, 6 gallon size, dear).


Since we don’t have a brewer’s supply store here in the county, I’ll point out that you can easily find a brewer’s supply online. Here’s another exception to my usual policy of not mentioning names or brands: my favorite supplier is www.morebeer.com, located down in the Bay Area. They have supplies to make beer, wine, mead, coffee, sake and even soda pop. They also have the technical support and on-line help to assist both the new and the more experienced brewer.


The reason I’m making the exception to mention them by name is that they ship so quickly. If I place an order early in the day the shipment is at my home the very next day. This fantastic and speedy service makes getting that last minute Christmas gift very easy. Their great treatment of me has made me always a happy customer.


There are many stories and myths about how alcohol was discovered. Beer makers like to brag about the existence of writings describing the brewing of beer dating from 6000 B.C.E., and winemakers claim creation of their beverage of preference around the same time, but there is even earlier evidence of mead making going back to 7000 B.C.E..


Despite the disagreements between the factions, mead really is the oldest alcoholic beverage. Mead was the beverage of choice for many millennia, then through the progression of time beer and wine eventually took center stage. But since we mead makers work with sweet honey, we aren’t bitter about it.


The first laws ever written (the Code of Hammurabi) included laws pertaining to daily beer rations. Through much of Europe’s history the water was undrinkable, but the boiling and brewing process of making beer rendered the water it was made with safe to drink and so beer was the beverage that everyone, even children, survived on.


Brewing throughout most of history has been considered woman’s work and brewing equipment was considered the wife’s property in divorces. Not until the last couple of centuries have men really taken the craft into their hands.


When the first Europeans came to America they were greeted by native peoples who offered them wine derived from persimmons and a beer-like drink made from corn. When the Mayflower made its journey to the New World the original destination was to be in the Carolinas, but they ran out of beer and landed on Plymouth Rock in order to build a brewery.


During Prohibition it was still legal to make your own alcohol at home, so America wasn’t as “dry” as some would think. At that time Lake County was just as significant a winegrowing region as Sonoma and Napa were, but instead of switching to making sacramental wines (among other means) in order to continue growing grapes, the winemakers just tore out the vineyards and planted ... you guessed it, walnuts and pears.


Grapevines planted in Lake County have the potential to be much better than those grown in Sonoma and Napa because they are at a much higher altitude, and higher altitude creates better flavors in produce. This fact, in addition to the low cost of Lake County land, has caused our area to undergo the biggest explosion in vineyards in many years. Ten years ago we had only a handful of wineries and now they outnumber my fingers and toes combined!


Being in Northern California makes participation in home brewing a very natural thing. Sure, we live in the middle of the wine country so why not be part of the winemaking community? Some of the local professional winemakers got their start in the industry through home brewing. Just like living on the greatest bass fishing lake west of the Mississippi where there are professionals fishing our lake throughout the entire year doesn’t mean that we the local residents can’t fish in it also.


So try making your own beer or wine, or better yet, give a kit as a gift so that someone can make it for you. The limited creativity “just add water” kits can cost as little as $25, but to set someone up with a nice starter system they can grow with will run about $70.


Lake County features a Home Winemakers Festival; June 2009 will mark the seventh annual presentation, at which I would love to have people sample my own work (if I only had more carboys ... wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more). My Ghirardelli chocolate-flavored mead will be ready to drink in June of 2009, but I only have five gallons of it so sharing might be a little scarce this year. That is, if I can even wrestle a few ounces away from my wife.


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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Ivan Garcia Oliver will face trial next year for several charges relating to the November 2007 stabbing death of Michael Dodele. Lake County Jail booking photo.




LAKEPORT – On Wednesday a judge ruled that a Lakeport man will stand trial for a November 2007 homicide.


Judge Arthur Mann ruled that Ivan Garcia Oliver, 30, will be held to answer for the stabbing death of Michael Dodele.


The 67-year-old Dodele, who had moved to the Western Hills Mobile Home Park in Lakeport just weeks before his death, had just been released from prison after serving 19 years for a rape conviction in Sonoma County.


Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff, who is prosecuting the case, alleges that Oliver killed Dodele after seeing him on the Megan's Law Web site, which tracks sexual offenders.


Oliver will face charges including murder, burglary, elder abuse, a special allegation of using a knife and another special allegation of committing a felony against someone because they were on the Megan's Law Web site, said Hinchcliff.


Judge Mann also ruled at the end of the two-and-a-half hour preliminary hearing that Oliver should stand trial for possessing a sharp instrument at the Lake County Jail, said Hinchcliff. About a month after his November 2007 arrest, Oliver was found in possession of a shank he had made from a plastic jail toothbrush.


Oliver's defense attorney, Jeremy Dzubay, stressed that it's important to understand that both sides don't present their evidence at a preliminary hearing, which is the prosecution's chance to prove they have enough evidence to go forward.


On Dec. 22 Oliver will return to court for arraignment, at which time Dzubay expects a trial date to be discussed.


Dzubay said he's anxious for the trial to take place because then he and his client will have the opportunity to present the whole truth of the case.


He estimated a trial will be at least a few months out from the Dec. 22 arraignment date.


“There's a great deal of scientific evidence that's going to have to be analyzed” – both by the defense and prosecution, Dzubay said.


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


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CLEARLAKE – A Clearlake man was arrested in Missouri on Monday on felony drug charges after being found with drugs wrapped up to look like Christmas presents.


The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported arresting Matthew S. Bell, 25, in Montgomery County on Dec. 8.


Also arrested was Alexander K. Lojek, 28, of San Francisco.


The agency said in a written statement that a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer stopped a vehicle traveling along Interstate 70 driven by Lojek.


After Lojek and Bell allegedly gave the officer conflicting information, the officer began searching the vehicle with a K-9.


According to the report, the vehicle search revealed 9 pounds of marijuana, 102 pills of Hydrocodine, 174 pills of Valium and 86 pills of Oxycodine.


The contraband was located in packages wrapped as Christmas presents, the agency reported.


Lojek and Bell were arrested and charged with four counts of felony possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute.


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


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LAKE COUNTY – As the state's budget crisis continues to build, one of the results is that Lake County schools are facing a forecast calling for stormy weather, with schools already having suffered millions in budget cuts and dozens of lost positions.


On Friday, the county's school superintendents issued a joint statement that said, in part, “We believe that we must help our community become aware of the magnitude of the current proposed cuts.”


County Superintendent of Schools David Geck, Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Boyce McClain, Konocti Unified Superintendent Bill MacDougall, Lakeport Unified Superintendent Erin Hagberg, Lucerne Elementary Superintendent Michael Brown, Middletown Unified Superintendent Korby Olson, Upper Lake Elementary Superintendent Kurt Herndon and Upper Lake High School Superintendent Pat Iaccino say the situation ahead for the schools they serve could be dire as more cuts are proposed.


Lake County schools already cut more than $3.8 million when the state budget was passed in September, according to the superintendents. “Those cuts are already hurting our students.”


Across the schools in Lake County county the current budget cuts have resulted in the elimination of the following:


  • 21 teaching positions;

  • 25 instructional aide positions;

  • Four administrator positions;

  • Two school counselor positions;

  • 12 office support positions;

  • Two health aide positions;

  • One library support position;

  • Five custodial and maintenance positions.


In addition, 17 part-time instructional aides and office support positions were reduced in hours.


There also have been 25-percent reductions in classroom materials and supplies, reductions in athletics and extra curricular activities funding and closure of one school site, according to the Friday report.


The superintendents noted that these reductions resulted in increased student-teacher ratios, program reductions, reduced training and resources for teachers.


Now, they say additional budget reductions are being proposed.


An additional $4 million or more could be cut in the middle of the school year after employment contracts are signed and classes under way for five months. The superintendents said this is the same as cutting a district an additional $425 per student or $10,500 per classroom.


“To try and balance the budget without additional revenue undermines the future of the 9,500 students in Lake County,” they explained in their joint statement. “Cuts alone would be catastrophic.”


They suggested that what's needed is a balanced approach that includes additional revenues and greater flexibility in categorical budgeting requirements. Time limited solutions like vehicle license fee increases, increased sales taxes and restructured income taxes must be considered in order to reduce the impact to schools and to the other parts of the state budget.


“As local school districts we are meeting with other Lake County agencies in order to look for cost effective ways to provide common services and pool resources for common purchasing,” the superintendents said in their statement. “That is the spirit of cooperation that is needed at the state capital.


“We believe that as a community we must do everything possible to protect the education of our students,” they added. “Please contact your state legislators to insist that they make education a priority. The future of our children is at stake.”


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Shauna Brewster will be sentenced on the elder abuse and neglect charges on Jan. 12, 2009. Lake County Jail booking photo.


 


LAKEPORT – Following a five-week trial a local woman has been convicted of felony financial elder abuse and neglect.


On Wednesday, a jury convicted Glenhaven resident Shauna Michelle Brewster, 53, of one count of felony financial elder abuse and one felony count of elder abuse/neglect, according to Senior District Attorney Rachel Abelson, who prosecuted the case and is assigned to all elder abuse cases in the Lake County District Attorney's Office.


Brewster, who was defended by attorney Don Anderson, faces five years in prison, Abelson said.


The crimes allegedly were committed over a year-and-a-half-long period against 75-year-old Glenhaven resident Lawrence Russell, for whom Brewster became private conservator in early 2003, said Abelson.


Russell had been previously conserved by a jury and found to be “unable to provide for his needs for physical health, food, clothing, shelter” and that he was “substantially unable to manage his financial resources or to resist fraud or undue influence.” The public guardian served as his conservator for a brief period of time before Brewster agreed to be his conservator, Abelson said.


She said the theft was most egregious during Russell’s stay at Meadowood Skilled Nursing Facility in Clearlake.


The financial abuse came to light when Russell's medical bills, mortgage and other bills went unpaid, said Abelson. Russell's home had gone into foreclosure after payments were not made for seven months, and almost no money was left in Russell's checking account.


Brewster, as Russell's conservator, had the authority and responsibility to control his finances for his benefit, said Abelson.


Thanks to the attention and care of Meadowood Skilled Nursing Facility Staff and other individuals involved with the conservatorship proceedings, the Lake County District Attorney’s office got involved in the investigation of abuse and filed charges, Abelson reported.


Abelson said the elder abuse/neglect charge resulted from a series of events in which Russell was placed in situations that left his health endangered, including a situation where he sustained second- to third-degree burns on portions of his upper body.


The burns were not treated properly and became infected, said Abelson. Thanks to the quick intervention of Lake County Adult Protective Services and other concerned neighbors he was hospitalized to treat these injuries.


Russell's last hospitalization on Jan. 17, 2007, resulted in a diagnosis of neglect by the treating doctors and ultimately led to his placement at the skilled nursing facility, where he remained until his death in May of 2007, Abelson said.


Brewster's jury trial commenced in front of Lake County Superior Court Judge Arthur Mann on Oct. 28. Abelson said the lengthy trial spanned approximately five weeks with periodic breaks.


During the trial it was revealed that Brewster was passing checks to her boyfriends, manicurist or at a local grocery store for cash back, according to Abelson.


During the approximate three months Russell was at Meadowood Skilled Nursing Facility there was approximately $4,000 in cash back she received, Abelson said. There was little evidence that the $4,000 in cash was used for Russell's benefit.


The prosecution’s case included more than a dozen witnesses and thousands of pages of evidence. Abelson said Lake County District Attorney Elder Abuse Investigator Martina Santor investigated the case.


Brewster, whose booking sheet lists her profession as mediator, also has used the last names of Armstrong, Fullmer and Barnes, and has warrants out of Sacramento County for violation of the felony probation cases she has there, said Abelson. Brewster remains in the Lake County Jail without bail due to those outside agency warrants.


Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2009, Abelson said.


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THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED WITH A QUOTE FROM RECORD-BEE PUBLISHER GARY DICKSON AND THE PLAINTIFFS.


KELSEYVILLE – A judge has ruled that the Lake County Record-Bee and a community member owe no damages in a libel suit filed over letters the paper printed earlier this year about the Clear Lake Riviera Community Association and its board.


Judge Vincent Lechowick entered his ruling in favor of the newspaper and Clear Lake Riviera resident Darrell Watkins on Dec. 3, deciding that neither owed any damages to plaintiffs Sid Donnell, Alan Siegel or Sandra Orchid, all former community association board members.


Donnell, Siegel and Orchid filed the suit in small claims court over the summer, claiming defamation of character over a series of letters Watkins had written and the paper had published which the plaintiffs said included false charge against each of them. They were seeking $7,500 each in damages.


Lechowick heard the suit on Nov. 6, and originally had indicated a decision would be issued within a few weeks.


“The judge’s decision was good for the Record-Bee, the media, in general, and for those citizens who have a desire to state their opinion,” Dickson said Tuesday.


Watkins felt vindicated by the decision.


“The little boy and the Record-Bee were victorious in their big battle at the OK Corral against the naked emperor and his gang,” he said. “Alan Siegel, Sid Donnell and Sandra Orchid's shut-up-little-boy bullets bounced right off the thick Free Speech and Freedom of the Press body armor worn by the good guys.”


Reacting to the decision, Donnell said the newspaper successfully smeared and defamed a California State Teacher of the Year, an executive secretary for the Chamber of Commerce and a retired U.S. Army officer.


The result, he said, was that the spirit of volunteerism in a group of individuals who did nothing more than attempt to better their community has been extinguished – all on behalf of a group of individuals who have contributed nothing to their community and “demonstrated a total disregard for their neighbors and their neighborhood.”


Watkins was one of several writers who, over the course of this year, has written letters criticizing Donnell, Siegel and Orchid for a variety of association actions.


He's alleged that they have broken bylaws, not had the bylaws properly accepted by the association membership and have fined homeowners – in some cases, thousands of dollars – for not cutting brush without using an established judicial process.


The content of the letters included allegations of illegal activity, which the plaintiffs said the newspaper had failed to fact-check and which they said had, in turn, damaged their reputations.


The former board members have dismissed all of Watkins' allegations as false.


They also had accused the paper of playing “political football” with a rebuttal letter Donnell had submitted for publication, but which the paper initially refused to print.


At the hearing Dickson said a corporate attorney had advised him not to print Donnell's letter in light of the suit. Siegel insisted the letter was submitted well before the suit was filed. Lechowick suggested the paper should have published it in the interest of fairness.


Dickson indicated at the time that he would publish the letter; however, shortly afterward, Donnell withdrew his publication request. He explained that he, Siegel and Orchid were no longer on the board and wanted to get on with their lives without being subjected to further attack.


Before the Nov. 6 hearing began, Donnell, Siegel and Orchid were served with a lawsuit filed by John Stoddard and a group he formed called We the People.


Filed Oct. 20, the suit names the three as well as another past board member, Boone Bridges, and 100 Does. It seeks injunctive relief and special damages in an unspecified amount.


The suit alleges breaking of election laws, violating the association's covenants, conditions and restrictions and amending those documents without a 50-percent-plus-one vote of homeowners.


This is the second libel suit the Record-Bee has faced this year.


The first suit was filed by neurologist Dr. Camille Keene over an article published in April that claimed she had diagnosed a man with a disease he didn't have. A visiting judge dismissed that case on Oct. 24, but nonetheless said the newspaper had used language “irresponsibly.”


In both cases, the judges indicated during court that the plaintiffs had not proved the damage needed to support a libel case.


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


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