Sunday, February 04, 2007

Paul Gallegos visits the scene of the crime

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The Ferndale Enterprise Quote of the Week: "This is not the crime of the century. I'll concede that entirely." Humboldt County DA Paul Gallegos on the Sean Marsh case.

Interesting statement given the facts revealed in the Enterprise's story. Why - did you know that Gallegos visited the scene of the crime - the corner where Sean Marsh's son stepped a foot off the curb? Seems like he's taking it very seriously indeed. Tempting as it is to editorialize, I'll refrain. But pay attention to Gallegos' responses to the reporter.

DA explains Marsh "child endangerment" prosecution
February 1, 2007 The Ferndale Enterprise Front Page Story

subhead - Paul Gallegos paid a visit to Brown and Main for a first-hand look at intersection where toddler allegedly entered into crosswalk 18 inches.

"When is it appropriate? After the child is run over?"

That was the answer Tuesday afternoon from Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos after he was asked by The Enterprise if it was appropriate for his office to be prosecuting Sean Marsh.

Marsh, a former Main Street business owner, is on trial this week on two misdemeanor charges - child endangerment and interfering with the duties of a police officer. the former Village Baking & Catering owner allegedly allowed his toddler son to enter the crosswalk a distance of 18 inches at Brown and Main without supervision.

Ferndale Police Chief Lonnie Lawson, who happened to be in the area at the time Marsh's son allegedly headed into the crosswalk, pulled over to talk to Marsh after witnessing the alleged incident. Marsh, states the Chief in his report, was asked for his identification several times but refused to show his license. Instead, Marsh identified himself by name only.

Marsh has contended that his son was under his watchful eye the entire time he was visiting with fellow merchants on Main Street and did not enter the intersection, and in fact could have been hurt by the chief's action of pulling into the crosswalk.

The chief, apparently frustrated with Marsh's attitude, instructed him to turn over his young son to Ferndale Real Estate's Jake Drake, while he handcuffed Marsh after calling for backup, and put him in his patrol car. Drake has stated that she was a stranger to the chief and was concerned about him turning over the child. (Drake, along with several other Ferndalers, is scheduled to testify at the trial.)

Marsh's nine-months pregnant wife eventually emerged from inside Abraxas Shoes where she had been shopping to learn of her husband's situation.

Marsh was then taken to the Humboldt County Jail, where he spent the night on $50,000 bail. He was released in the morning. More than six weeks later the case was reopened and Marsh was arraigned.

Originally the DA's office told The Enterprise the case was "rejected" due to further investigation needed. However, Gallegos on Tuesday said, according to the file, a complaint request was received June 1 and filed on June 5.

"It was not originally rejected," he stated.

However further clarification with the criminal desk at the DA's office shows that a "statement of probable cause" from the FPD was filed on June 5 and not a complaint. "The case was declined on June 1 "due to further investigation needed." And it was not until July 18 that the case was reopened - after Main Street merchant Polly Stemwedel filed a complaint against the chief.

An investigation done by the Fortuna Police Department cleared the chief of any wrong doing.

Meanwhile the detention slip from the jail provided to The Enterprise states that Marsh was released from jail because "there was insufficient grounds for making a criminal complaint."

Marsh, the evening after his arrest, attended a Ferndale City Council meeting and asked for a public apology from the chief. The request was ignored.

Gallegos, meanwhile, said Tuesday that he and deputy Jose Mendez paid a lunchtime visit to the Brown and Main intersection three weeks ago to see exactly where the alleged incident took place.

"I think every attorney, if you're going to trial, should go and look at the site." said Gallegos, adding that it's the state's duty to enforce the laws.

"We have an obligation as parents to try and take reasonable steps to protect our children," he said. "When a parent fails to do that, the state has to step in and do that."

Gallegos commented on the fact that he has children as well and knows that "kids do run off."

"It certainly is a fine line," he said. "Is it the most egregious conduct in the world? No. But there is, quite frankly, not necessarily egregious conduct and we have to prosecute. Those are the laws. we then give it to a jury and let them decide what they think about it."

Gallegos denied any link between merchant Stemwedel's complaint against the chief and the reopening of the case.

Gallegos continued in a lengthy interview on the case, stating that while he "would not weigh in on the parent's intent," he didn't think that Marsh "lacked love or a desire to take care of the kid."

"The facts, however, as we understand, show that it wasn't the safest thing for the kid," said Gallegos.

Marsh's trial began on Monday in Judge Timothy Cissna's courtroom in Humboldt County Superior Court. Jury selection took up most of the morning on Tuesday and Deputy DA Mendez predicted the case would take up five mornings.

Several motions were filed by Mendez on Monday to apparently exclude the testimony of several witnesses.

The case file was unavailable for review and Mendez, when asked via email for clarification of the motions, stated, "I understand the desire to know everything about a case involving people in your community (especially for a reporter). However, I do not wish to subvert (or even be seen as attempting to subvert) the court process by putting this trial in a newspaper. At this point, the court file is a matter of public record and can be viewed by anyone who comes to the courthouse and makes the request. I also do not wish to go into why certain motions were made (or not) by one side or the other. As to plea offers, there is a certain amount of confidentiality that can be expected in negotiations. For the sake of all parties involved, I will not go into what was contemplated in negotiations by either side to resolve the case."

However, when Gallegos was asked by The Enterprise about the motions, he put the phone on hold and fetched the file.

Upon returning, he explained three motions had been filed with the first to exclude the testimony of Marilyn Benemann, the wife of former City Councilman Carlos Benemann, a witness to the event.

Gallegos then stopped reading the motions, stating he was not sure whether it was appropriate to be revealing the information in them.

"I'm not trying to conceal information from the public," he stated, "I'm just not sure what the court is going to do."

Gallegos, however was later asked by The Enterprise to make the motions public, per the California Public Records Act. Just before press time, Gallegos emailed The Enterprise and said Mendez would make the motions available. They were not available by press time.

Meanwhile in his earlier interview, the district attorney conceded that the Marsh case was "not the crime of the century."

"I'll concede that entirely," he said. "if the case should have been dismissed, we would have dismissed it. We always try to evaluate cases fairly...sometimes we're wrong."

Calls and emails, meanwhile to Marsh's public defender Angela Fitzsimmons were not returned.

In addition to the story, The Enterprise masterful cartoonist Jack Mays depicts a mock newspaper with an illustration of the arrest and the banner headline "Gallegos gets tough on Toddler Wandering - Leash Law now applies to all Ferndale Children.

Mock front page stories "Crime running rampant in Humboldt County - children found in locked car - police discovered two children locked in a car at the Bayshore Mall. The temperature was 120 degrees... Toddlers exposed to toxic fumes at Eureka Meth Lab... Eureka Police shoot "fleeing juvenile"... a twelve year old juvenile was shot sixty four times by Eureka Police Officers. the victim was trying to climb the new fence surrounding the Balloon Track. The reasons for the shooting were unclear at press time. According to a spokesperson for the District Attorney's office there were no investigators available at this time, the entire staff is currently investigating the wandering juvenile case in Ferndale....Crime in Humboldt County cited as reason for Tourism decline... Irate business owners, city governments, tourism board and film commission are all up in arms over the County District Attorney's Office. The General Complaint is that Gallegos is pre-occupied with child wandering cases and he doesn't have time for felony cases.... Gallegos was quoted as saying "No child will be left behind, blah, blah, blah, blah."

Funny stuff. If only it wasn't so serious.

(transcribed from the hard copy edition)
Ferndale Enterprise Sean Marsh NOT GUILTY - A cartoon, an editorial, an article and letters to the editor
ACQUITTED ER - Sean Marsh not guilty on all counts, jury decides Tuesday
ER - Sean Marsh testifies on his own behalf in child endangerment trial
ER - Marsh denies letting 2-year-old toddler walk unattended in road
NCJ - Word to the Wise: Don't Cop an Attitude in Ferndale


  1. The resource allocation here is odd. Apparently crime is so reduced that this kind of behavior merits, in the eyes of this DA, a week long trial, and apparently dozens of hours of prep. And did I read that the
    deputy and the boss drove to Ferndale to
    "view the intersection". So this case was soooo important that the DA himself had nothing better to do than hold the deputy's hand so he didn't play in traffic? Or maybe lunch was involved? No matter how you slice this, it's hilarious. No, wait, Eric will be here any minute now to explain why all this makes perfect sense, it's worth the time and money, Paul is a great (Dear) leader, this crime must be prosecuted .... Go ahead, Pretzel Boy, knot yourself around this one.

  2. It was probably just an excuse to have lunch at Curley's.

    Little did he know Back in 2000 - The Journal did a story on Curley's - noting that "Young chefs like California Culinary Academy grad Andy Losh, Thad Eskra and Sean Marsh also get a lot of credit from Tait for his success. Hostess, waitress, salad chef, artist-in-residence, curator of exhibits and head cheerleader Holly Garbutt has been there since the beginning as well."

  3. Have to say it-You are on a Roll... Go Rosie!

  4. I just want to know if he went to the scenes of the crimes committed by the knifepoint robber, or to see the tree in the Whitethorn rapist case - you know the one they allegedly tied the victim to for three days... or to see the specially outfitted car that the heroin dealer from Southern California was driving when he got busted for a crime he was already on pobation for.... "Certainly" he is "looking into that."

  5. Several good points Rose. Thanks for the post, it was interesting and informative.

    Does the Humboldt County DA go after others with so much vigor for child endangerment ? What about parents that sell meth or heroin out of their residences and expose their kid to drug addicts, needles, and robbers ? What about parents that grow marijuana in the house and expose their kids to mold, drug violence, a police raid ?

    I doubt that Mr. Marsh will be convicted by a jury. The best the DA and his bumbling sidekick can hope for is a hung jury.

  6. This takes some of the heat off of

  7. Well sort of...yougofree and Mendez are lunch buddies (does that include the afternoon adult beverage too?) and Mendez gets his mentoring from yougofree (lost the only two trials he's had in Humboldt).com.

  8. I thought in Gallegos first election he said he wasn't going to waste resouces on chicken cases. He focuses on this and civil cases to the detriment of rapes, robberies and drug dealers.

  9. That would be when he was running for office. Contrast that with what he is doing now.
    Garbage cases, said Gallegos, come in two forms: Cases that would lose if actually brought to trial and cases that are overcharged for the crimes committed. The idea behind filing both kinds of garbage, he said, is to get the defendant to plead guilty, netting a conviction without having to go into court.

    "Probably 95 percent of the cases that are filed plead guilty. In fact, there are a lot of cases that are filed on the assumption they will plead guilty, because of the time and expense involved in defending them. But these cases shouldn't even be filed in the first place, because if they were challenged, they would lose," Gallegos said. Better yet: If they weren't filed at all, it would save the county time and money...."
    NCJ - In the News 2/21/02

  10. So, according to what Gallegos said, his two high profile cases and all of the recent cases that jury's rendered not guilty verdicts in would be defined as "garbage cases." He's in the garbage business apparently.

  11. Can Sean Marsh sue Gallegos for wrongful prosecution.

  12. No. The prosecutor is virtually immune from any act committed in his role as DA. Judges get an even better deal. Teachers, Doctors and cops, not so much. Go figure.

  13. But they (DA's)can be prosecuted for crimes they commit while in office !

  14. If this was a Disney movie, or even Mayberry RFD, as Fred mentioned, the DA would come to his senses and drop the charges against Sean Marsh. Or someone would step in and save the day.

    A happy day shopping and visiting with friends turned into a nightmare for this little family, and there is no repairing the damage done.

    Only the jury can make things right.

    But nothing will make up for the angst, stress, frustration, fury and despair the Marsh's have suffered.

    And what is to stop a travesty like this from happening again? Gallegos' priorities are so skewed it defies belief.

  15. The ironic thing is that this is a man whose prior law practice is listed as Divorce, Adoption and Family Law Attorneys. Gallegos & Gallegos, now Joan M Gallegos.
    (specializing in divorce, child custody, child support, adoption and guardianship)

  16. don't forget representing Pelican Bay prisoners and other undesirables on appeals.

  17. This is why the voters need to be very careful who they give this type of power to. Gallegos has publicly shown incredible lapses of judgment over and over again. The concern is that he has the power to charge citizens with a crime, and if that power is abused, citizens will find themselves using their time, and possibly money, to clear their name in court.

  18. Sean Marsh is an incredible "hot head". I can see why the cop arrested him. It was more about his belligerent attitude than it was the child.Sean can make you go from having a great day to wishing you never got up that day in about 5 seconds.Sean has been fired from most of his jobs because of his attitude including Curley's.

  19. Yeah - ok, but he wasn't charged with being a hothead. He was charged with child endangerment.

  20. Marsh should have shown his ID if he had it on him. And he probably should have worked to defuse the situation. Both he and Lawson. Both made mistakes here. Lawson is well-liked from what I can gather. So what went wrong here?

    $50,000 bail and a night in jail is a pretty stiff punishment for not turning over your ID, but you can agree that is a consequence.

    Reinstating charges six weeks after he was released because there was no evidence of any wrongdoing and then throwing the full weight of the law at what is otherwise an innocent man out with his wife and kid is simply mindboggling.

  21. The bail is standarized by the specific charge. Don't want to appear to be defending Gag's but they are sooooooo far behind cases are often filed late.

  22. Sean Marsh should have been pepper sprayed like the tree sitters were. Paul needs to start acting more like Terry Farmer. We need more lawsuits like those flating around.

  23. "flating around" ?

  24. 12:57 - sorry but you don't know that the case was received and rejected on June 1, 2006 by the DA. Mendez rejected it. On July 18th it was pulled out of rejects and filed. Something smells really bad here.

  25. "Marsh, states the Chief in his report, was asked for his identification several times but refused to show his license."
    License for what? Does being on the sidewalk in Ferndale require a license?

  26. I'm being told it took the jury 20 minutes to acquit.

    That that included the time it took to walk in and out of the jury box.

  27. You're right, 2:19. I forgot about that. For those who are new to the blog, here's the post on Gallegos' exploits at Pelican Bay, where he was allegedly illegally passing notes between inmates and allegedly was caught illegally taping conversations and had his tape recorder and tapes bagged into evidence in front of him. This was before he ran for DA here in Humboldt County.

  28. A twelve year old juvenale[sic] was shot sixty four times by Eureka Police officers.

    Is it right to joke about such things? Aren’t they afforded a special privilege?

  29. lawson is NOT well liked here in ferndale. HE is the hothead! those of us who live here wish we could get rid of him and his out of control officers every day. it's not like ferndale is crawling with crime. and don't say it....THAT has nothing to do with lawson. that's just ferndale...

  30. The police report from the same issue would seem to bear you out 4:32:
    Jan. 22: - Traffic stop at Hwy 211 & Sage for speed violation
    Jan. 24: - Report of chimney fire in the 600 block of Main
    - Pedestrian stopped at main and Milton for riding skateboard in the middle of the road.
    Jan 25: - Vehicle stop at Ocean and Main for lighting violation.
    - Erratic driver reported on the Wildcat.
    - Vehicle investigation on Lewis St.
    Jan. 27: - Traffic stop at Hwy 211 and Market for brakelight violation.
    - Report of loose horses on Port Kenyon.
    - Traffic stop at Hwy 211 and Port Kenyon for speeding and failure to yield to sign.
    - Traffic stop for taillight violation at Centerville and Meridian.
    - Loose cows returned to field at Hwy. 211 and Waddington.
    - Report of burned out vehicle at Centerville Beach, recovered stolen vehicle.
    Jan. 28: - Report of man with taser at the ferndale Fairgrounds inside the track.
    - Traffic stop at Port Kenyon and Fulmor for stop sign violation.
    Jan. 29: - Follow up on stolen plastic cow.

    What's the story on the plastic cow?

  31. Carol Ann, According to the ER story that goes with that picture, there was an art exhibition and community fundraiser where some 200 of Mays’ unseen Ferndale drawings were on display. Thirteen of these original drawings have been made into limited-edition contact prints (50 per drawing and the prints at $75 each). They were on sale that night, I don't know if they are still available. Maybe someone can let us know.

    Mays’ prints’ total proceeds will go to a nonprofit organization that event organizers Titus and Karen Pingitore have named in Mays’ honor — the “Amaysing” Grace Foundation, which was begun to help Ferndale families (95536 area code) who must travel for medical treatment for their children.

    Phone 707-786-4111 or 786-4611 for more information.


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