Shootout, arrest at illegal marijuana farm near Mount Madonna County Park

By Stephen BaxterSanta Cruz Sentinel: 06/28/2012

MOUNT MADONNA – A man was shot in the arm and later arrested during a raid of an illegal marijuana grow near Mount Madonna County Park on Thursday.

Deputies searched for a second suspect Thursday afternoon but did not find him, said Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Cardoza.

They planned to finish the search for the outstanding suspect at sundown Thursday.

The illegal marijuana grow was in a remote area about an hour’s hike southeast of Hecker Pass Road outside the park, said Cardoza. Authorities did not know whether the outstanding suspect had a gun, but two rifles were found near the grow.

“Because it’s such a remote area we don’t believe he’s a threat to public safety,” Cardoza said of the suspect who fled.

About 6 a.m. Thursday, nine Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies and California Fish and Game wardens in a marijuana eradication team started a hike to the marijuana grow above Bodfish Creek.

They arrived and found two men. About 11:45 a.m. deputies fired several shots at them. It was unclear if the suspects fired back, Cardoza said.

One suspect was wounded; both fled.

About 12:30 p.m., Santa Cruz County 911 dispatchers received a call from a Spanish speaking man who said he was shot in the arm. He wanted medical help.

He talked to authorities by cellphone as law enforcement agents tried to find him from the air.

A Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s SWAT team coincidentally had been training in the area, Cardoza said. The man surrendered to them about 2:30 p.m. just off Whitehurst and Hecker Pass Road in Santa Clara County, according to dispatches.

They treated his injury – which authorities said was not life-threatening – and he was taken to a hospital.

The man was arrested on suspicion of illegal marijuana cultivation and faces potential weapons charges, Cardoza said. His name and age have not been released.

“It’s a dangerous operation that these suspects take part in,” Cardoza said of illegal marijuana grows.

Deputies have not yet estimated the size of the grow.

Cardoza said deputies have probed other pot gardens in Southern Santa Clara County near Santa Cruz County in recent years. The marijuana eradication team typically identifies the grows in March and April and raids them during summer harvests.

“It’s not uncommon for them to grow thousands of plants,” Cardoza said. Deputies “pull them out by hand, root and all.”

Thursday afternoon, a few dozen heavily armed deputies from both counties set up a perimeter in the forest south of Mount Madonna County Park. The 3,688-acre park marks the county line between Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties.

They used ATVs, K-9s and a helicopter in the search. California Highway Patrol officers also participated in the search.

As law enforcement agents staged near a ranger station, the quiet, hot park remained open to joggers, dog walkers, horseback riders and other visitors.

Kevin Campbell, who works at Mount Madonna School, was jogging in the park. He was not surprised that authorities found a marijuana plantation in the woods.

“The biggest thing for me is that they leave their trash,” Campbell said. Campfire cooking also could lead to wildfires, he said.

“It’s mostly the trash, the fire danger and the dudes with guns in the woods. That’s unacceptable,” Campbell said.

Santa Cruz, county jointly expand mental health outreach program

By J.M. BROWN -
Santa Cruz Sentinel:  06/28/2012

SANTA CRUZ – With the state shifting greater responsibility for housing inmates to county jails, county and city leaders agreed this week to nearly double the amount of staff assigned to a mental health outreach program targeting downtown.

Officials say pursuing and sustaining treatment is the best way to keep out of trouble people with serious mental illness who also are at risk of committing crime.

“The right place for the mentally ill is not in jail and not in the streets acting out,” said County Supervisor Neal Coonerty, who spearheaded the expansion. “It’s in treatment.”

In adopting the county budget Thursday, the Board of Supervisors approved Coonerty’s request for nearly $275,000 in new funding to expand the MOST program, which stands for Maintaining Ongoing Stability through Treatment. Tuesday, the City Council granted his request to dedicate $80,000.

MOST pairs outreach workers with police to perform crisis intervention and provide ongoing case management for clients. Probation and corrections officials, as well as psychiatrist and a licensed vocation nurse, also are part of the team that will grow in July from 4.75 full-time equivalent employees to 8.5.

The program launched in July 2007 with funding from California Department of Corrections, but the county had to reduce it in 2008 amid the state’s deepening economic crisis. During the program’s first year, the number of total days people identified as mentally ill stayed in jail dropped from about 3,200 to about 150, the county reported.

Coonerty, a member of the county’s mental health advisory board, sought to expand the program after the Legislature last year passed Assembly Bill 109, which redirects many nonviolent offenders away from the overburdened prison system and in to county jails or diversion programs.

“With AB 109, jail beds will be at a premium,” Coonerty said.

The MOST expansion also comes seven weeks after a parolee who spent time in corrections facilities for the mentally ill allegedly stabbed a woman to death in broad daylight on Broadway. The man charged with murdering 38-year-old downtown store owner Shannon Collins is due in court Aug. 13 for a preliminary hearing.

“Somebody that is violent belongs in jail, but if someone is breaking rules and doing unlawful things because they are off their meds and acting out mentally, we have a way to wrap them into treatment,” Coonerty said.

County officials say Maintaining Ongoing Stability through Treatment will be able to assist about up to 90 clients on an ongoing basis, rather than the 40 or so served now. While outreach workers and police can identify people needing treatment, jail, probation and court officials also can make referrals to the program.

To pay for the expansion, the county will tap its general fund, as well as state money designed to help counties and jail officials absorb more inmates. The county’s total contribution for the program, including new funds and in-kind support, will be $1 million.

The city’s contribution also will come from its general fund. Santa Cruz has spent $75,000 annually to support the county’s downtown outreach worker, but the money came from redevelopment funding eliminated by the state last year.

City officials say the outreach worker has been critical in connecting mentally ill people with housing, counseling and other services.

“It’s so obvious where the good work that has been done has had a good outcome,” City Councilwoman Lynn Robinson said.

Also Tuesday, the council approved $25,000 in new funding for a major expansion of Homeward Bound, a program that provides bus tickets to homeless people who want to go to another community where they have confirmed support. Operated by the Homeless Services Center, the program is currently funded through a $5,000 anonymous donation.

Looking At All Sides

by Mike Roberts, Santa Cruz
Good Times Letters to the Editor 6/21-27/12

I moved here three years ago and continue to find this the most wonderful place in many ways. I came here from Charleston, S.C., where I grew up. I worked 20-plus years for the woman that raised Jesse Jackson. I know something about ‘black’ people, I think. And I know it is increasingly inappropriate to consider race when chasing riddles, but I think the biggest misperception common to Shannon Collins’ murder was that which linked him to the homeless community here, a community which I have been a part of since I got here because I recognize these people as family regardless of their hygeine and sanity, for I am myself homeless. What I think should enter public thinking is the observation that the man was a big misfit, unable to reconcile himself to any idea of how to find a comfortable existence among all of these dirty, scary white people (and he had made basically just such complaint for the record at some point as I read it). Someone in his place is as lost as someone in a nuthouse who considers that the only way out is through the window, no matter how high, and he felt like he was on the roof of the nuthouse. Carrying a Bible, come on. Who did not see this as an outcry for some sort of personal, spiritual attention.

Local Nonprofits Benefit from CSA Shares

by Cat Johnson
SC Weekly Jun 20, 2012

To visit the Homeless Garden Project’s Natural Bridges Farm is to step into a simpler world. Just blocks away from the unending flow of traffic on Mission Street and the chaos of downtown Santa Cruz, the farm sits away from it all. Bursting with life, it’s a collage of colors, scents and sounds. Dogs are sunbathing in the dirt; the farm staff and volunteers are bustling around harvesting and weeding, two people are putting together flower bouquets and the wind is coming off the bay at a steady 40 mph. The rows of vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers seem unaffected by the wind. The humans look windblown, sun-kissed and happy.

I’m at the farm to meet Zac, a lanky 19-year-old with a shy smile and a thoughtful disposition. Part of the Independent Living Program (ILP), a local project that helps young people transition out of foster care into self-sufficiency, Zac is at the farm to pick up the boxes of freshly harvested food that ILP receives on a weekly basis. This week’s share contains fava beans, green garlic, strawberries, red and green leaf lettuce, winter bore kale, atomic red carrots and fresh rosemary. Some of the food will be prepared at the ILP Resource Center. The rest will be given to the young people to take home.

“I’ve never been too much on the organic side until I came here and saw what they were doing,” says Zac, who has also volunteered at the farm. “When you go to other farms you don’t see people walking around and you don’t see the variety of plants. It’s beautiful here.”

Susan Paradise, program manager of the Transition Age Youth Programs, of which ILP is a part, says that when the outfit first started receiving and preparing food from the farm, a lot of the kids didn’t know what the various vegetables even were. But the staff kept serving it, and the kids grew to love it.

“Growing up in foster care, they have so little control over what ends up on their plate,” Paradise says, noting that rates of malnutrition are high in the foster care community. “More often than not, it’s not fresh organic produce. But we have a lot of kids eating kale now. I think that our youth sense that this is special food,” she continues. “There’s a really positive energy around this whole process.”

 

A Healthy Change

ILP is one of four local nonprofits that receive donated Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares from the Homeless Garden Project. The others are the Beach Flats Community Center, Women’s Crisis Support and the Santa Cruz AIDS Project. The flowers from each share are donated to Hospice of Santa Cruz County.

The Homeless Garden Project offers transitional employment and job training through its trainee program. An important part of the program is then distributing the food grown by the trainees to underserved community members. Darrie Ganzhorn, executive director of the Homeless Garden Project, calls it feeding two birds with one worm. (She also calls it feeding two birds with one seed, but admits that dividing one seed sounds a bit like malnourishment.)

Ganzhorn emphasizes the importance of the relationship between CSA members, the farm and the farmers. “It isn’t just a connection to the food,” she says. “It’s a connection to the garden.”

A CSA share, which costs $650, comes out to approximately $20 per week. For boxes of fresh organic fruits and vegetables, this is a good price, but for someone who has to choose between rent and food, it may be out of reach.

For many low-income families, high-calorie, low-cost, low-nutritional-value foods become dietary staples, which contributes to our current national health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 35.7 percent of American adults and 17 percent of American children are obese.

For Ganzhorn, the solution-oriented way of addressing this crisis is to make fresh foods accessible and help people find ways to incorporate them into their diet. Through its donation program, the Homeless Garden Project gets healthy food into communities that may not have access to it otherwise.

But that costs money, so the Homeless Garden Project relies on donations from the community. From $5 to $1,000 and up, donations go directly to support the trainee and CSA donation programs. A U-Pick farm stand, open every day from 10am to 4pm at the Natural Bridges Farm, also benefits the programs.

With a goal of 15 donated shares this year, the Homeless Garden Project staff would eventually like to have the majority of the farm’s CSA shares going to community organizations.

“Fresh food shouldn’t just be for the wealthy,” says farm supervisor David Stockhausen. “The more the community at large continues to support us, the more we can do for the community. We’re recycling good.”

Before he leaves, Zac points out how much the farm does for everyone involved with it. “I’m just another person who’s affected by it, like so many others,” he says. “You’ve got to give thanks for that.”

Does Santa Cruz jail people for sleeping?

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

June 14, 2012

Original Post


 At a January hearing in 2011, Ed Frey checks in with
expert witness, Dr. Paul Lee, as supporters Robert Norse
and Gail Page look on. Photo by Becky Johnson

by Becky Johnson
June 14, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. — While my title may seem absurd, it is clear that the answer is “yes.”  Both Gary Johnson, a homeless man, and his attorney, Ed Frey, slept outside the courthouse as part of Peace Camp 2010, to protest laws which criminalize the act of sleeping.  When County Counsel Dana McRae advised Sheriff’s that they could cite protestors with 647 (e), the statewide anti-lodging law, sheriff’s began to advise protestors that “illegal lodging would not be tolerated.”

The misdemeanor law can involve immediate arrest for the act of “lodging,” even though the legal meaning of that term is not defined within the law.

Because of this over-charging ( an infraction sleeping ban ticket would only have resulted in a maximum of 8 hours of community service, if found guilty) the very first ever jury trial on a sleeping ban was held before Judge John Gallagher last May.  Frey and Johnson were found guilty of sleeping.

To show his extreme displeasure with the whole process, Gallagher sentenced both Johnson and Frey to 6 months in jail for the “crime” of lodging, which court testimony said was sleeping. When Frey asked to be released on bail to appeal his conviction, Gallagher set bail at $50,000 each.  Both were handcuffed and jailed right as the hearing ended.

At a later hearing, Gallagher modified the bail to $110, which was, apparently, the bail schedule all along for 647 (e) violations.  Today, in Dept 5, a three-judge panel will hear Frey’s appeal.  If the conviction is upheld, Frey and Johnson may be remanded to jail to finish serving their six-month sentences.

Does Santa Cruz REALLY put people in jail for sleeping?  You bet they do.

Naked man causes a commotion

SC Sentinel Cops and Courts 06/12/2012

SANTA CRUZ - A 46-year-old man was arrested Sunday evening after someone flagged down an officer on Dakota Avenue near San Lorenzo Park to report that there was a naked man near the bathrooms causing a commotion, police said.

The officer found David Torrell, naked, near the bathroom about 7:20 p.m., talking loudly to himself, and carrying pants, shoes and some tools, police spokesman Zach Friend said.

Torrell smelled like alcohol and had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and an unsteady gait, Friend said.

The officer covered him with a blanket and arrested him on suspicion of being drunk in public, he said.

Torrell was described as a transient.

Hero or Criminal?

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

June 12, 2012

Original Post

 

In this SCPD police photo taken on November 30th, Desiree Foster, age 19, is seen
standing in front of the building around 4:30PM. Rocks placed inside wooden pallets
can be seen weighing down the ends of the banner drop, which were needed due to high winds.

 In a world gone Topsy-turvy, a 19 year old activist who served as a media representative is charged with serious felonies and misdemeanors while a greedy corporate bank which has carelessly left a valuable physical asset boarded up and unused for several years, most likely as a tax write-off, is the “victim” and is prosecuting protesters and whistle blowers while seeking $30,000 in “damages.”

by Becky Johnson
June 12, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. — The youngest of the Santa Cruz Eleven, Desiree Foster was arrested as she and her boyfriend were leaving her home on her way to the Santa Cruz County courthouse in an attempt to  quash her arrest warrant by agreeing to appear in court on a date certain. Instead, she spent the next nine hours sitting on plastic seating watching a deputy-controlled television set, having been arrested for two counts of felony conspiracy to trespass and vandalize, and two misdemeanor counts of trespass and vandalism with bail set at $5,000. Her mother, suffering from cancer attempted to raise the $500 to bail out her daughter, when, inexplicably, Desiree was released on her own recognizance.

But the pressure of the felony charges, the financial instability of her family, and the fear and dread that she faced in dealing with her mother’s cancer, proved to be too much. Desiree took an overdose of pills and wound up in Dominican Hospital, treated for a suicide attempt.

Desiree, a passionate and idealistic young woman, had found her voice attending Occupy Santa Cruz general assemblies, and volunteered for many tasks. At home, she and her mother struggled to pay bills.  Desiree is her mother’s primary caregiver, as she undergoes chemotherapy.   Desiree, like many in her generation, knew that something is inherently wrong with our system if she and her mother had to struggle to keep a roof over their heads while her mom was being treated for cancer.  She lived in a world where with or without a college education, young people could not find good jobs.

Without stable and affordable housing, reasonable wages for jobs, and quality health care for all who need it, too many of the 99% who have followed all the rules, worked hard, paid their taxes, are falling through the cracks. Too many still lack health care, are paid inadequate wages, and must pay housing costs that are through the roof.  Wells Fargo is a key player in the housing foreclosure crisis.

On November 30th, 2011, a group of activists and community members entered a long-vacant bank building leased to Wells Fargo, and attempted to turn it into a community center.   During the occupation of that building by 100 to 300 different people, Desiree volunteered for the task of media representative for the ad hoc occupiers.

“I spoke to the Sentinel, KION, Phil Gomez of KSBW, the Mid-County Post and the Santa Cruz Patch,” Desiree told me by phone.  “I spoke to everyone. I told them that we wanted it to be something better than what it is now, just a vacant spot.” She was interviewed on Community Television as well.

While Police Chief Kevin Vogel and DA Bob Lee have characterized Desiree and the Santa Cruz Eleven as “vandals” and “trespassers” who are disrespectful of private property, the truth is something quite different. For the persons who whole-heartedly embraced the temporary and largely symbolic takeover of 75 River Street, which Wells Fargo had all but abandoned, they meant to use it as a focal point to educate the general public about what that building COULD have been used for instead.


SCPD photo of signs left behind at 75 River Street
naming what that building could have been used for.

Most of the occupiers believe that our democratic system has been hijacked by the wealthy. The wealthiest 1% (Wells Fargo) is profiting at the expense of the rest of the 99%.  For business as usual to continue, it means that you and me, the citizenry in Santa Cruz must live and work around Wells Fargo’s ‘dead spot’ –an empty building sitting for four years now, without a single tenant, providing no jobs, no services, and very little tax revenue to the community, but undoubtedly providing a HUGE tax write-off for the ultra-wealthy bankers of Wells Fargo. While public funds are used to evict Wells Fargo’s “trespassers,”  more public funds are used by a DA to conduct a witch hunt against a largely arbitrary list of “felons.”

Truly those courageous and bold activists who gained entry to the dusty and unused interior without damaging the building in any way, did so for a purpose bigger than their own lives. They took considerable personal risk for doing so, and were unlikely to benefit financially from the takeover. Finally, they performed the occupation by using a consensus process, where they formally agreed to refrain from vandalism.

Indeed, police have thus far failed to provide any photographic evidence of this ‘vandalism’ in the hundreds of photos turned over to the defense as part of discovery. Other than some graffiti and an anarchist sticker on the ROOF air conditioning ducts, no other damage has been documented. Yet prosecutors Lee and Assistant DA Rebekah Young used a figure of ” approximately $30,000″ in damage in their indictments in statements written “under penalty of perjury.”  Yet, even in court, Det. Gunter testified that the last time he checked “That number had been lowered to about $22,000.”


SCPD photo of an anarchist sticker on the roof
access hatch at 75 River Street.

The trespassing claim may be questionable as well. For a person to be found guilty of trespassing, they must first be warned, and, upon that warning, fail to leave the premises. None of the eleven defendants fit that description. Police Officer William Winston testified that the first and only verbal warning was given by Sgt. Harms “between 7:30PM and 8PM” and “after dark.” No signage is known to have been posted until the next day at the earliest.

None of the indictment documents include any evidence that Desiree was warned, and after that warning, failed to leave. Now this may be a technicality, the ability and authority for police to remove unauthorized people from private property involves a series of steps to be taken in a certain order. On the night of November 30th, Desiree met with various members of the press and facilitated answering their questions and providing them with interviews, statements, and at points, access.

During the 72-hour occupation, no protester or police officer was injured. Communication was facilitated between three of the protesters and police, public officials, and media. After 72 hours, the group decided to leave peacefully and even spent a few hours cleaning up before going. Their message had been communicated through the media to the public. In the end, the action spoke for itself.  Wells Fargo had been exposed as the thoughtless, land-hoarder that it is.  The public had been made aware of the building’s occupation and the reasons for it.  And no one was hurt.  No confrontation with police occurred. No tasers. No percussion grenades. No tear gas. No batons swinging. Very little vandalism.  And there were no arrests.

So who is the criminal and who is the law-abiding good citizen? The greedy corporation that will use any property under its control to bilk more money for itself; dollars that should rightly have been paid to the government in taxes? Or a 19-year old girl who participated in a largely symbolic occupation to protest against that greed, that misuse of a valuable asset, and to fight against the fundamental inequities in economic justice system rigged by bought Congressmen and Judges to benefit the richest 1%?

Of course, if Desiree and the Santa Cruz Eleven ARE convicted and sent to prison, this is good news for Wells Fargo as well. For Wells Fargo is the biggest investor in the for-profit prison industry.

A BENEFIT DINNER  on SUNDAY JULY 1st to raise money for Desiree Foster’s family will be held at India Joze Restaurant in Santa Cruz between 3PM and 6PM.  The first $500 raised will be designated to help the Foster family.  For more information:  santacruzeleven.org

Election Digest: June 12, 2012

S.C. Sentinel   06/12/2012

SANTA CRUZ

People Power founder to appear for Posner

People Power founder Jim Denevan will be the featured guest at a fundraising dinner for Micah Posner’s campaign for Santa Cruz City Council. Posner has resigned as director of the bicycling advocacy organization to run in the November council contest.

The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. June 29 at Fairytale Farm, 728 Riverside Ave. The dinner will feature organic produce grown in the garden behind Posner’s home. There is a suggested donation of $100; volunteers are needed.

Sign up and buy tickets at micahforcouncil.org or call 227-4772.

Denevan, a chef and artist, went on to create Outstanding in the Field, a farm-to-table organization. The farm behind Posner’s house was created when he and wife Akiko Minami established a tenancy-in-common arrangement with neighbors.

Family Net Worth Drops to Level of Early ’90s, Fed Says

By BINYAMIN APPELBAUM
NY Times – June 11, 2012

WASHINGTON — The recent economic crisis left the median American family in 2010 with no more wealth than in the early 1990s, erasing almost two decades of accumulated prosperity, the Federal Reserve said Monday.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

A house for sale in Washington. Falling home prices accounted for three-quarters of the losses in net worth.

A hypothetical family richer than half the nation’s families and poorer than the other half had a net worth of $77,300 in 2010, compared with $126,400 in 2007, the Fed said. The crash of housing prices directly accounted for three-quarters of the loss.

Families’ income also continued to decline, a trend that predated the crisis but accelerated over the same period. Median family income fell to $45,800 in 2010 from $49,600 in 2007. All figures were adjusted for inflation.

The new data comes from the Fed’s much-anticipated release on Monday of its Survey of Consumer Finances, a report issued every three years that is one of the broadest and deepest sources of information about the financial health of American families.

While the numbers are already 18 months old, the survey illuminates problems that continue to slow the pace of the economic recovery. The Fed found that middle-class families had sustained the largest percentage losses in both wealth and income during the crisis, limiting their ability and willingness to spend.

“It fills in details to a picture that we already knew was quite ugly, and these details very much underscore that,” said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who served as an adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. “It makes clear how devastating this has been for the middle class.”

Given the scale of those losses, consumer spending has remained surprisingly resilient. The survey also illuminates where the money is coming from: American families saved less and only slowly repaid debts.

The share of families saving anything over the previous year fell to 52 percent in 2010 from 56.4 percent in 2007. Other government statistics show that total savings have increased since 2007, suggesting that a smaller group of families is saving more money, while a growing number manage to save nothing.

The survey also found a shift in the reasons that families set aside money, underscoring the lack of confidence that is weighing on the economy. More families said they were saving money as a precautionary measure, to make sure they had enough liquidity to meet short-term needs. Fewer said they were saving for retirement, or for education, or for a down payment on a home.

The report underscored the limited progress that households had made in reducing the amounts that they owed to lenders. The share of households reporting any debt declined by 2.1 percentage points over the last three years, but 74.9 percent of households still owed something, and the median amount did not change.

The decline in reported incomes could have increased the weight of those debts, tying up a larger share of families’ take-home pay. But one of the rare benefits of the crisis, historically lower interest rates, has helped to offset that effect. Families also have been able to reduce debt payments by refinancing into mortgages with longer terms and deferring repayment of student loans and other obligations.

The survey also confirmed that Americans are shifting the kinds of debts they carry. The share of families with credit card debt declined by 6.7 percentage points to 39.4 percent, and the median balance fell 16.1 percent to $2,600.

Families also reduced the number of credit cards that they carried, and 32 percent of families said they had no cards, up from 27 percent in 2007.

Conversely, the share of families with education-related debt rose to 19.2 percent in 2010 from 15.2 percent in 2007. The Fed noted that education loans made up a larger share of the average family’s obligations than loans to buy automobiles for the first time in the history of the survey.

The cumulative statistics concealed large disparities in the impact of the crisis.

Families with incomes in the middle 60 percent of the population lost a larger share of their wealth over the three-year period than the wealthiest and poorest families.

One basic reason for this disproportion is that the wealth of the middle class is mostly in housing, and the median amount of home equity dropped to $75,000 in 2010 from $110,000 in 2007. And while other forms of wealth have recovered much of the value lost in the crisis, housing prices have hardly budged.

Those middle-income families also lost a larger share of their income. The earnings of the median family in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution actually increased from 2007 to 2010, in part because of the expansion of government aid programs during the recession. Wealthier families, which derive more income from investments, were also cushioned against the recession.

The data does provide the latest indication, however, that the recession reduced income inequality in the United States, at least temporarily. The average income of the wealthiest families fell much more sharply than the median, indicating that some of those at the very top of the ladder slipped down at least a few rungs.

Ranking American families by income, the top 10 percent of households still earned an average of $349,000 in 2010.

The average net worth of the same families was $2.9 million.

Santa Cruz Eleven case stalled

Becky Johnson: One Woman Talking

June 2, 2012

Original Post

 Endless hearings ordered to appear before Judges where nothing of substance

happens is part of the problem, and part of the abuse

by Becky Johnson
June 2, 2012

Santa Cruz, Ca. — In what has become a long series of dreary court hearings where almost nothing happens, Judge Sillman did not fail to disappoint. Friday, the June 1st hearing was ostensibly to install defendant, Brent Adams’ public defender, to consider whether DA Rebekah Young had finally turned over sufficient discovery, and to set a new, NEW date for a preliminary hearing (This will be my THIRD date for a preliminary hearing).  In all of these hearings, should any defendant not appear in the proper court at the proper time, a warrant is issued for their arrest.

I call it punishment prior to conviction.  DA Bob Lee and his henchwoman, Rebekah Young have been hanging up the lives of 11 citizen activists, overcharging them with duel felonies and misdemeanors, and smeared them as “vandals” and “trespassers” who “don’t respect private property.” His attack on alternative media journalists is naked and self-serving. How can one journalist covering the event be ignored and another charged with felonies for the same actions? But this is the essence of the charges against nearly half of the defendants. One hundred to three-hundred people went into the building in 3 days time, but only these 11 have been charged.

In court on Friday, June 1st, Sillman curtly announced that the attorney he had appointed for Brent Adams the previous week “was not available” and that he was in the process of locating whether Attorney Charlie Stevens was in the building and could be appointed. Adams, who has been appearing pro per since his former PD, Ryan Murphy, discharged himself a week ago, told Sillman ” I’ve already spoken with a Public Defender and he’s agreed to represent me.”

“Who is that?” Sillman asked.

“Jonathan Gettleman,” Brent replied.
“We are not in the process of reaching that particular name,” Sillman replied and ordered all defendants back in court ANOTHER week later at 8:15AM rather than appoint Gettleman on the spot. That means all 5 defendants, their 5 attorneys, press, and supporters must yet again rearrange their schedules, find transportation, parking, and appear under threat of arrest AGAIN because Sillman refused to appoint a PD that the defendant wanted and would be satisfied with.

For me, it’s deja vu all over again.  Judge Ariadne Symons took five hearings to appoint me a public defender, when she could have appointed the attorney I wanted on day one. She accused me of having “other income” and challenged  that since I own a 15 year old car that I had recently purchased for $1,500,  as “proof” that I was income-eligible for the services of a public defender.

We all saw the results of failing to appear at one of Sillman’s hearings. When DA Rebekah Young refiled charges on two defendants whose charges had previously been dismissed by Judge Paul Burdick, she ordered defendants Cameron Larendau and Franklin “Angel” Alcantara to be present in court at 8:30AM. When neither defendant nor either of their attorneys appeared, Sillman ordered a warrant issued for each of them. But supporters murmured that it was highly unlikely that all four people had blown off the hearing. A far more likely scenario was that DA Rebekah Young had made yet another misstep and failed to notify anyone properly.

This judicial merry-go round is getting me queasy.  The next surreal act is scheduled for June 8th at 8:15AM in Dept. 6.  Meanwhile, “victim” Wells Fargo Bank has not rented 75 River Street yet, and with an asking rental of $35, 231.34 per month, it’s going to be a cold day in hell before anyone rents that building. And if the 11 (now 7) defendants wind up in prison with felony convictions, well, Wells Fargo wins. You see, Wells Fargo is the biggest investor in the for-profit prison industry in the United States. Not only do they tell the police and DA to do their bidding at public expense, but they profit from anyone jailed, whether justly or not.

They are a bank. It is all about numbers for them. They charge 11 people with “trespass” and “vandalism” and attempt to extort a phony “$31,000″ in damages from the defendants. Later, while under oath, Det. Gunter of the SCPD testified that when he checked “The damages were not as severe as we first thought.”  Now the damages are “$21,000″. The only “proof” of any damages were police photos of graffiti on the air conditioning ducts on the ROOF of the building! It is doubtful it cost $21,000 in spray paint to restore the ducts to their original…beauty.

I suspect the ACTUAL damage to the building to be in the hundreds, NOT thousands of dollars range. Perhaps DA Bob Lee should investigate Wells Fargo for putting up such outrageous claims of damages that it amounts to fraud.

I’ve been thinking about Rosa Parks lately.  I compared Rosa Parks to the people who occupied 75 River Street– a vacant bank building–and tried to turn it into a community center.  It was a noble idea. To turn a blighted building, hoarded by a greedy and heartless bank purely for tax benefits, into a vibrant building serving the public good. I’d long eyed that building as a perfect homeless shelter, since it sat empty year after year employing no one, sheltering no one,  and taking up useful space uselessly.  In 2010, while 75 River Street sat empty, four homeless people died of exposure out of doors in Santa Cruz.

Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of that bus, and she was arrested.  She broke the law intentionally, but did so for the greater good. The people who occupied 75 River Street were like Rosa Parks. They intentionally broke the law, but did so for the greater good.  Now let me make one thing clear:  I am no Rosa Parks. In this scenario, I would have been the person who stayed at the bus stop and never got on that bus in the first place. I’d be like the person who SAW Rosa Parks’ brave act and cheered her on from the sidelines.  You see, I never went into the building. I’m a big chicken.

Yet the toll for the defendants is piling up. “Angel” Alcantara was able to make it to court that day and quash the warrant. But Cameron Larendau could not. He lives in Oakland, CA., doesn’t own a car, and it takes him 3 and a half hours by public transportation to come to each court appearance. Desiree Foster, the youngest defendant at 19 years of age, is taking care of her mother who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. When Desiree was arrested, her mom bailed her out of jail, but they really couldn’t afford the $500. Shortly after that, Desiree attempted suicide and was hospitalized. In my own case, I was handcuffed at my home, carted to jail, and spent the night locked up in “G” Dorm.

The costs to our 1st amendment rights are harder to calculate. Who has been too chilled to join a march since the prosecutions were announced? Who no longer wants to associate with the 11 activists charged lest they be next, or with anyone involved in Occupy Santa Cruz?  And what photographer, journalist or blogger isn’t chilled when the CONTENT of their reporting is being charged as “aiding” and “abetting” criminal activity? Yet “the people” as represented by DA Bob Lee march forward, entirely at public expense, and push forward Bob’s dirty little dog and pony show, where our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, our rights to peaceably assemble, and our rights to seek redress of government grievances are severely challenged and truncated just to promote the interests of Wells Fargo and the status quo.  Where is State Attorney General Kamela Harris on this? Does SHE approve of what DA Bob Lee is doing?