Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cold comfort

Salas guilty of murder - Grant Scott-Goforth/The Times-Standard

Ryan Anthony Salas showed little emotion, shaking his head softly at times, as a jury Friday found him guilty of the 2010 shotgun slaying of Jack Dale Sovereign.

Salas -- also convicted Friday on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, conspiracy to commit burglary, and conspiracy to commit robbery -- was one of four defendants implicated in Sovereign's death.

Prosecutors alleged that Salas, Nathan Nix, Katrina Inong and Sonia Hunsucker conspired to commit a home invasion robbery targeting a safe at a Santa Clara Street home on the outskirts of Eureka. The robbery attempt was thwarted, according to prosecutors, when the four arrived to find Sovereign sitting in a pickup truck in the home's driveway.

At that point, witness accounts seem to vary, but prosecutors have stated their belief that Nix, Inong and Hunsucker were abandoning the robbery attempt when Salas, armed with a shotgun, approached Sovereign and shot him in the face.

...Inong pleaded guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge in December 2010.

...Hunsucker had agreed to testify as part of a deal with prosecutors, but after pleading guilty to an unrelated killing -- the second degree murder of Darrell Hanger in Willow Creek in 2011 -- and receiving a sentence of 15 years to life in prison, Hunsucker refused to testify.

...Nix ...reached a plea agreement... faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison for the voluntary manslaughter charge.

And so justice is done.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

In the 'YOU JUST DON'T GET IT' File.

Humboldt's funding of prosecutions doesn't add up - Times-Standard editorial

...We understand that these are tough economic times. Tough times require tough decisions, and the Board of Supervisors will have to make them. If Humboldt County wants murders prosecuted, it's time to pay up. The county should find money to hire more prosecutors over more PIOs.

It isn't the money. It's the chaos, stupid.

There's a reason Gallegos has "lost" all our senior prosecutors, and why he can't attract new talent. You should hear from people who come up here to interview.

Fix the real problem before you throw any money at it. You NEED A NEW DA.

He should be swimming in money anyway, will all the unfilled positions - but then there's the mismanaged grants, no?

Who wrote this thing? Thadeus?

Updated: So, Thadeus, dig a little. How many times has "Doing less for more" Gallegos gone before the Board of Supervisors to discuss this? So, what, he's taking his case to the media, is that it? Do your homework. What's going on with the grants? Most of them all you have to do is fill out the forms properly and get them in on time, so what happened? I know his "we've got to WEAN ourselves off these grants" spiel was before your time, but man you should have heard it. Your editorial matches it almost word-for-word.

Kimberly, make him do his job, and look back at the history of this.

PS: What's he doing with all his Asset Forfeiture winnings? What's the value of all the unfilled positions? 'Cause that's money he has available, no? C'mon guys - ASK THE QUESTIONS! They just roll right off your tongue, there's so many.

Remember the Bridgeville SWAT raid he staged? How much did that little charade cost? A couple hundred thou? What'd he get out of it?

Remember, Channel 3's coverage of the grant fiasco? The Arcata Eye and McKinleyville Press have been covering it - where's the Times-Stamdard? Don't ignore real reporting.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Eureka man who pleaded guilty to helping his son dispose of a murder victim's body was released from jail Friday and given probation.

Father receives probation for helping son cover up murder; Donald Steele released from custody, given suspended sentence - Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard

Fifty-two-year-old Donald Steele was given a suspended sentence and three years probation Friday for his role in helping his son, 23-year-old Jacob Steele, dig Jerry George's body up from a shallow grave in Fieldbrook to toss him into the waters at the mouth of the Eel River.

Donald Steele pleaded guilty to a charge of being an accessory to a crime after the fact just days after seeing a jury convict his son of second degree murder for George's killing. He faced up to one year in jail under the deal and was free on his own recognizance pending sentencing.

...While the other people who helped Jacob Steele cover up the murder all reached plea agreements with law enforcement last year -- under which they received probation in exchange for testifying against Jacob Steele -- Donald Steele reportedly refused to cooperate or take a deal.
Ultimately, after his son was convicted of murder, Donald Steele pleaded guilty as charged in his case to avoid trial.

Is there anyone who ISN'T getting plea deals these days?

Friday, August 03, 2012

Hunsucker refusing to testify in Sovereign murder trial; DA's office had agreed to not prosecute if she testified

The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office agreed not to prosecute Hunsucker in the case and to dismiss a possession of stolen property case against her in exchange for her testifying honestly in the prosecutions of Inong, Salas and Nathan Nix, who were all accused of being involved in Sovereign's shooting. - Grant Scott-Goforth/The Times-Standard

Nix and Inong have pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in relation to the case and are awaiting sentencing. Both face up to 11 years in prison.

Hunsucker has since pleaded guilty to an unrelated killing -- the second degree murder of Darrell Hanger in Willow Creek in 2011 -- and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Hunsucker is being held in the county jail on contempt charges for her refusal to testify, and District Attorney Paul Gallegos, who is prosecuting the Salas trial, said that he will call her as a witness every morning until his case rests.

”It's my position that her refusal to testify constitutes a breach,” Gallegos said.
He said that the court ruled Hunsucker “made herself unavailable,” and her prior sworn testimony will be admissible in court.

A 'nightmare in this community'; Sonia Hunsucker was allegedly involved in two homicides and a violent robbery in 12 months. Did prosecutors miss a chance to keep her behind bars? - Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard

...Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos called Hunsucker a “nightmare

in this community,” telling jurors that she had helped plan the robbery after noticing a safe in the Santa Clara Street home a couple of days before. Further, Gallegos said, Hunsucker went with one of the defendants and another woman -- Katrina Inong, who has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the case -- to procure the shotgun used to gun down Sovereign.

While prosecutors allege it was Salas who pulled the trigger that morning, Gallegos told jurors that Inong, Nix and Hunsucker were all willing participants in the botched robbery.

”They are all a part of this,” Gallegos said.

But not all of them are on trial. Gallegos' office agreed not to prosecute Hunsucker in the case and to dismiss the possession of stolen property case against her in exchange for her testifying honestly in the prosecutions of Inong, Salas and Nix.

At the time of Sovereign's killing, Hunsucker was no stranger to law enforcement. In fact, she'd just been released from state prison 65 days earlier, on March 28, 2010, according to California Department of Corrections spokeswoman Ashley Caldwell....

The events raise questions about whether Darrell Hanger's death could have possibly been prevented if Hunsucker had been charged with Sovereign's murder. Conceivably, she would still be sitting in jail, just now standing trial with Salas and Nix. Would that have changed anything? She apparently didn't fire the bullets that killed Darrell Hanger, and testimony in the murder trial hasn't claimed she was the instigator or mastermind of the botched burglary that led to the shootout. But, would Surber -- the apparent shooter -- have been at Ryan Hanger's house that night if Hunsucker, his girlfriend, weren't there?

The questions are unanswerable.

Speaking generally, Gallegos said his office takes the decisions associated with handling these types of prosecutions very seriously but doesn't have the luxury of seeing into the future.

”Unfortunately, we don't have a crystal ball when we're making decisions -- we have to make these decisions with the information we currently have,” he said. “We have to make a decision based on the immediate threat -- which is having a murderer on the street and trying to get enough evidence to charge that murderer and get them off the streets. The costs associated with that are what you see.

”... Sometimes we make decisions that go terribly wrong, or tragically wrong, but at the time we are not operating with a crystal ball that allows us to look into the future,” he said.