Wednesday, July 31, 2013

”He had a few flashes of brilliance but he was otherwise inept”

We've heard this over and over and over again over the course of Paul Gallegos' tenure. This time it actually made the paper. An amazing feat in its own right.

Hung jury in Curry case; mistrial declared as jurors can't agree on murder count - Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard

A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday in the murder case of Limmie Greg Curry III after jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked 7 to 5, in favor of acquittal.

...The jury of seven women and five men convicted Curry, 23, of possession of marijuana for sale but the foreman said jurors simply could not agree on whether Curry murdered William Reid on Feb. 3, 2010, at a rural property off State Route 299 near Willow Creek.

..After the mistrial declaration Tuesday, jurors said they worked hard to reach a verdict in the case but ultimately could not come to agreement. They asked to be identified by their juror numbers rather than their names in order to protect their privacy.

”There was not enough evidence to definitively prove Limmie was the murderer -- there just wasn't,” said Juror No. 2. “The prosecution didn't do their job.”

While jurors interviewed for this story universally lauded (Curry's attorney, Jeffrey) Fletcher's performance during the 10-week trial, many were critical of the prosecutor, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos, who they said seemed ill-prepared.

”He had a few flashes of brilliance but he was otherwise inept,” said one juror, who asked not to be identified.

Echoing comments in Fletcher's closing statement, jurors were also sharply critical of the investigation that lead to Curry and Eddie Lee's arrests, saying it seemed law enforcement honed in on the two suspects and ignored all other leads in the case. Further, jurors said, the investigation seemed incomplete in many ways.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Let's hope not

(Élan) Firpo for DA? - John Chiv Words Worth

Odds are, they've done this before, and this girl is lucky to be alive

I'd be searching that property for gravesites.

Lake County men face marijuana drug operation, sexual abuse charges - Julie Johnson/Press Democrat 7/26/2013

Federal prosecutors have taken over the case against two Lake County men accused of running a large marijuana farm on a rural tract of land and sexually abusing a 15-year-old runaway.

'Extremely disturbing'; two men suspected of enslaving runaway teen face federal pot chargesThadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard 7/26/2013

Two Lake County men suspected of raping a 15-year-old runaway, locking her in a 2-foot high metal box for days and forcing her to trim marijuana for weeks remained in the Humboldt County jail Thursday after a judge denied their release on drug charges.

Ryan Balletto, 30, of Lakeport and Patrick Steven Pearmain, 24, of Clearlake, appeared in the federal courthouse in Eureka on Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas, who denied their release, saying he viewed both men as flight risks and dangers to the community. The two men were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Vadas said during Wednesday's detention hearing that he finds the case “extremely disturbing,” echoing the sentiments of Assistant United States Attorney Matthew McCarthy.

”This is far and away the most disturbing case I've seen in my career as a prosecutor,” McCarthy told the court.

McCarthy told the court that Balletto, a former U.S. Marine, met the 15-year-old runaway in Los Angeles and drove her nearly 500 miles to a 680-acre piece of land he owns in Ogulin Canyon near Clearlake, keeping her there for weeks against her will to help manicure marijuana buds harvested from a 1,300-plant grow.

McCarthy said both Balletto and Pearmain had sex with the girl while she was kept at the property, and that equipment “consistent with sexual bondage and sadomasochism” was found there. McCarthy said authorities searching the property also found a metal box -- measuring 4 feet long, 2 feet wide and 2 feet high -- with air holes drilled in it, and that the girl later told police the two men locked her inside the box on two occasions for a total of about three days.

McCarthy said the two men referred to their marijuana operation as “their mission,” and told the girl they were locking her in the box to “teach her” and protect their “mission.”

According to a federal criminal complaint filed against the two men, the box -- located outside the trailer in which Balletto resided on the property -- had a hose attached to it, allowing the men to wash human waste off the girl and out of the box without opening it. The girl told authorities, according to the complaint, that Balletto called her a “trooper” for not screaming while she was locked in the box....

Teen allegedly kept in toolbox as part of marijuana operation - News10/KXTV (image source) 7/26/2013
Lake County: Three arrests, marijuana, cash and military-grade weapons seized - Daily News 7/26/2013

...Authorities allegedly found five children in the North Lakeport home they scoured.

Members of the LCSO SWAT team, narcotics task force and major crimes unit served a search warrant on Balletto's nearly 700-acre property in the area of Junction Plaza in Clearlake Oaks Wednesday, according to a department statement released Friday. Deputies also executed a search warrant at Balletto's North Lakeport home.

LCSO officials said they found 1,491 marijuana plants, more than $4,000 in cash and "the largest and most sophisticated bulk of weapons seized in recent (department) history" between the two searches.

In total, investigators reportedly discovered 22 firearms, including high-powered military-grade sniper and assault rifles, automatic assault rifles and pistols. They also recovered military-grade body armor and scopes, high-capacity magazines and ammunition, according to the LCSO statement.

The five children removed from the residence were taken into the custody of Lake County Child Protective Services, the LCSO stated....
Marijuana cultivation investigation leads to human trafficking case - Lake County News

The men also are alleged at one point to have kept the girl in a large box as a punishment, according to District Attorney Don Anderson.

Pearmain’s attorney, Tom Quinn, declined comment at this stage in the case, and Balletto’s attorney, Mitch Hauptman, did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Deputy District Attorney Ed Borg, who is handling the sex crimes case against the men, said they are facing charges of human trafficking, statutory rape, oral copulation on a person under age 16, sodomy, false imprisonment, annoying or molesting a child. Balletto also is charged with lewd and lascivious acts on a child under age 14 or 15.

They could each face nearly 16 years in prison if convicted of all the charges, Borg said.

While the California Attorney General's Office has put increased focus on fighting human trafficking, which the agency said is the world's fastest growing enterprise, human trafficking cases are rare in Lake County, Borg said.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever charged it,” he said....

The girl has since gone into protective custody outside of Lake County, Borg said.

The situation involving the girl also involves a third suspect.

Eric George Edgar, 45, was arrested on May 16 in connection with the case, Borg said.

Edgar is charged with statutory rape for having allegedly raped the teenage girl when they were alone together on the property. He's also facing charges for making criminal threats and attempting to dissuade a witness, Borg said.

The girl was being kept in a small group of trailers on the property, while Edgar was staying in a trailer more than an hour’s hike across a canyon. Edgar is alleged to have happened upon the girl and raped her, Borg said.

L.A. girl kept in metal box on pot farm for sex, authorities say - LA Times 7/26/2013
Lake County men transferred from (Humboldt County) jail; former Marine is one of two men accused of enslaving runaway teen - Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard 7/27/2013
Criminal complaint: Ryan Balletto...Note: This doc­u­ment con­tains con­tent that some read­ers might find dis­turb­ing. - LA Times 7/26/2013


Lots of unanswered questions. Picking up runaways in LA, transporting them hundreds of miles to a remote location, a 'box' that indicates they solved a problem they must have had before, telling her she was a trooper for not screaming... how many screamed before her?

Just be glad this is before Federal authorities, and not Humboldt County's DA.

(U.S. Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas and Deputy District Attorney Ed Borg were formerly with the Humboldt County DA's Office. Just some of the talent 'lost, fired, or driven away' by Paul Gallegos.)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

And so it begins

Former prosecutor to run for DA: Candidates file elections paperwork to begin fundraising - Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard

A retired prosecutor has filed paperwork with the Humboldt County Elections Office announcing his intent to run for district attorney in 2014.

Arnold Klein, who retired from the Humboldt County District Attorney's Office in January 2012 at the age of 69, filed a candidate intention statement with the elections office on Monday, Elections Manager Kelly Sanders confirmed....

Reached Tuesday, Klein said he is running under the tentative slogan, “We Deserve Better,” and said he thinks he can make a positive impact on the office.

”I'm experienced, I'm balanced and I'm not caught up in the broken process that is going on now,” he said.

Klein said he thinks the DA's Office has misallocated its resources, spending too much on its investigations bureau and too little on prosecutors, and that he's been disappointed in what he sees as a steady exodus of experienced prosecutors from the office under Gallegos' tenure.

We do indeed deserve better. Good luck, Mr. Klein.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Something we agree on

Gallegos weighs in on 'stand-your-ground' laws: Amid national controversy, Humboldt County DA supports California self-defense law - Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard
While the nation's top cop strongly condemned “stand-your-ground” laws, and protests over self-defense legal statutes raged across the nation in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal last week, Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos said Friday he doesn't have a problem with the statutes.

”No matter what you do, things can go bad,” Gallegos said. “But the idea behind stand your ground is that the process of retreating can also put you in danger, even graver danger in some cases. The reality is if someone comes at you, you should be able to stay there and defend yourself.”
Gallegos gets it.

University of California Hastings College of Law professor David Levine, on the other hand, does not get it.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hislop retires. Gonna spend more time with his family.

Transformation in DA Investigations Bureau; retirement, new faces bring change to investigations unit - Thadeus Greenson/The Times-Standard

...After 33 years in law enforcement, DA Chief Investigator Mike Hislop, 51, has retired and District Attorney Paul Gallegos has tapped investigator Wayne Cox to fill the post. The office is also readying to welcome a pair of new investigators into its ranks in the coming weeks, leaving a void in another local agency's criminal investigations unit....

Gallegos said he has full confidence that Cox is the right person for the job.

”Wayne is the future, and it looks like a very promising future,” he said. “I'm excited. More than excited, I feel we are very fortunate in this office, and in this community, to have him.”

Other changes are also ahead for the DA's Office Investigative Bureau, as the departure of William Hansel several months back to take a lieutenant position with the Humboldt State University Police Department and Cox's promotion left a pair of vacant investigator positions.

Hislop said the bureau has gone ahead with hiring Kyla Baxley and Marvin Kirkpatrick, both of whom currently work as detectives with the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office. Both are expected to start in the coming weeks.

Kirkpatrick, who's worked for the sheriff's office for 27 years, will do general investigations. Baxley, who's worked for the sheriff's office for about five years, will investigate child sex crimes, Hislop said, adding that both are “rock solid” and will work well with the bureau's team.