Thursday, September 3, 2009

San Francisco Diary--Journal Of An Exile

In the past week we've had the hottest day in recorded San Francisco history for that date, followed two days later by the coldest night in recorded history for that date, followed two days later by the second-highest temperature and highest humidity on record for that date. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was back in my native Chicago where the word was "if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes." But like the stolid postman, neither heat nor cold nor clamminess of night shall keep this diarist from his appointed rounds.

NOTE: The Bay Area has been buzzing for days over one of the most bizarre criminal stories one can imagine. The police in Antioch (Contra Costa County) arrested Phillip Garrido, age 58, for kidnapping and rape charges for the 1991 abduction and imprisonment of Jaycee Lee Dugard. What makes the story so horrifying is that during those years that Dugard and his wife Nancy held the young woman captive, Dugard fathered two daughters by their captive, whom the pair kept locked up in an enclosed pen behind a back fence which hid the yard behind it from casual viewers.

San Francisco Chronicle writer Debra J. Saunders discussed the case, and raised some really telling issues. Garrido has been on California parole since 1999, when he was released from prison on an earlier rape conviction in Nevada. For ten years of Jaycee's imprisonment and repeated rape, Garrido was subject to drug testing, required to wear a GPS device and subject to twice-monthly unannounced visits from his parole officer. In 2006, a neighbor called 911 to report children were living in Garrido's backyard in squalor, but the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department failed to search the registered sex offender's police logs. They also failed to check the CLETS database (which would have told them he was on parole, and a search warrant was unnecessary). If the parole officer ever actually visited the premises, he certainly didn't look past the phony fence in the back yard which hid the scene of the ongoing felonies.

At least the parole office who couldn't shake off his torpor and bring himself to leave his office to conduct on-site investigations kept good paperwork (very comforting to Jaycee, I'm sure). An alert UC Berkeley police officer became suspicious of Garrido, and upon asking a few questions, was told that the two girls (ages 11 and 15) who were with Garrido were his daughters. The UC cop called Garrido's parole officer when she ran a check on him and found Garrido was a registered sex offender with terms forbidding him to be around adolescent girls. The parole officer, who was of course in his office, told the UC cop that Garrido had no daughters.

The Contra Costa Sheriff immediately issued a mea culpa offering his "apologies to the victims" as he accepted "responsibility" for his officers' failure to investigate an alleged crime or to notice that the dimensions of the back yard were different from the house to the back fence than they were from the house to the other back fence which was visible from the street side. Well, at least he admitted the mistake, if not the plain damned stupidity of it all. He said: "We're beating ourselves up over this." In all fairness, I suspect he really is, and he may end up beating up a few officers as well.

But the prize goes to Gordon Hinkle of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. His statement to the Chronicle was one of the most self-serving lies (or at least distortions) ever to come out of the mouth of a CYAing public official. He stated that Garrido had "outfoxed" parole officers by building the false fence to hide the secret back yard. Oh, brother! But that's not the clincher. In an absolute masterpiece of false bravado, Hinkle said that the parole officer's "diligent questioning and followup . . . led to Garrido revealing his kidnapping of the adult female." HOLY S--T, you have GOT to be kidding!

There is one minor hero here--Megan's Law. Locals who thought that Garrido was more than a little creepy looked him up on the California Attorney General's Megan's Law website and discovered he was a registered mentally disordered sex offender. At least kids in the neighborhood were kept far away from this felon. Civil libertarians are in high gear trying to get Megan's Law modified so only police officers will have access to the list, and will make the decision as to who should be informed, such as schools in the area. "The money that a repeal saves could help pay for monitoring compulsive molesters more instrusively--through ankle bracelets and the like." Uh, guys, Garrido was on parole, wearing a GPS ankle-bracelet, supposedly getting bi-monthly visits from a parole officer, and was reported multiple times by citizens for suspicious activity. Stuff your experts, it doesn't work.

NOTE: Of course our local strangefellow, Mark Morford, is back from vacation, and he has a different take from Saunders. Opening "sentence" of his article on the subject: "As a passionately jaded observer of news media and the insane human spectacle it is so painfully wont to wallow in, I find there are always a number of choices when it comes to analyzing things like the horrific Jayee [sic.] Lee Dugard/Phillip Garrido saga, that sickening kidnapping/rape/confinement tale spanning 18 years, multiple offspring and countless layers of psychological torment often too disgusting and sad to ponder for long without a book of poetry, a puppy and a large glass of Scotch."

No, that wasn't his whole article, that was his first sentence. He wants to lecture everyone on the dangers of bloodlust. Sample: "Great, another psycho rapist madman. Let's just kill Phillip Garrido right now and be done with it. Or maybe throw him in prison and let him suffer for a while first and then inject him, hang him and zap him with 2,000 volts all at once because he's obviously an unspeakable monster who doesn't deserve another breath on this planet." Somebody forgot to tell Mr. Snark that we've never had the electric chair in California, but that's just a detail.

Then he chides the media for its "unrelenting coverage which, of course, plays right into this perspective, amplifies the fear to such a degree that you think this sort of thing simply must be happening all the time, even if it's completely untrue." Well, Mr. Morford, after spending twenty years of my life in courtrooms, and having a daughter who is a court officer charged with investigating child abuse and child neglect, I'm here to tell you--it's completely true. Oh, maybe not quite this dramatic or as long-lived, but it's a quibble the victims wouldn't really be interested in.

Having drawn the wrong conclusion, Morford then goes on to lecture the liberals (mildly) and the conservatives (wildly). "Why do you never read about, say, that pacifist buddhist yoga teacher who suddenly snapped and opened fire on a playground? Why is it the worst a hardcore liberal lefty is capable of appears to be, say, hurling a brick through the window of the Nike store." Then he moves on to his favorite target: "Whereas your average neocon likes to bring his a [sic.] machine gun to Glenn Beck's Obama-is-a-Nazi pool party?" It took him longer than usual to locate his target.

He concludes with the most dangerous thing a "journalist" can do. Raise an issue, condemn, contrast, analyze, insult, and then go off into la-la land with a non-solution solution. "Maybe it has more to do with taking the open-ended view itself, and seeing the Dugard [sic.] story as simply that: a compelling opportunity to ask yourself how to respond, which perspective holds even a modicum of compassion and humanity. Maybe there is no 'right' way to take it all in; there is only a sigh, a shudder, a wincing nod to the demon in us all, and a breathing through."

Morford opened his article by asking "How do you make sense of the ugliest abuses of man?" That is an eternal question, and deserves a better answer than concluding that maybe there is no answer. That kind of agonizing, handwringing, analyzing and psychologizing led to eighteen years of abuse, rape, and imprisonment for a young girl whose life will likely never be right again. There is such a thing as evil, and it must be dealt with harshly, quickly, and with the full cooperation of the authorities. Those who sit idly by while it goes on around them deserve nothing but contempt. And a judgment awaits them: "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Rev. 3:16

So the legal system which failed at the early stages, will now take over through the courts. We want the rule of law, not the rule of the jungle or the rule of vendetta, but I can't help feeling that limiting the death penalty to first degree murders was a major mistake on the Supreme Court's part. Nevertheless, that is the law, and we must live with it. So now we will be treated to years of trials, motions, testimony about how Garrido's mommy didn't love him so he has a psychological problem, years more of appeals, and finally, if we're lucky, Garrido will get life imprisonment without possibility of parole. But at least there will be some children protected from harm, not by the police, not by the courts, not by the parole office, but by observant and caring citizens who pushed the authorities into doing their job.

NOTE: On an equally ludicrous note, the shooting death of a local thug by an inexperienced BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police officer has taken another twist. For those who haven't read about this case, the BART officer shot and killed a young career thug while the criminal was handcuffed and lying on the cement platform. There are versions of the case which run from murder to negligence and pretty much everywhere in-between. But that's not the story this time. This adorable young man had a father (doesn't everyone?). And as one would expect, daddy is filing suit against BART.

The Chronicle, in its inimitable style, refers to Mr. Thug (Oscar Grant III) as the "unarmed rider" shot by BART police. Laundering the little gangster is not going to change the story. Papa Oscar Grant Jr., who is filing a federal civil rights lawsuit against BART, is doing so from his prison cell where he is serving a life sentence for murder. The Chronicle touchingly points out that "Grant Jr. cried in his prison cell at California State Prison in in Vacaville when he learned his son had been killed." Since they didn't have anyone there at the time, the Chronicle is relying on the word of Grant Jr.'s lawyer, Panos Lagos.

Grant Jr. was convicted of murder a month after Oscar III was born. He shot a man to death while he was watching TV in his home in the lovely East Oakland area of Darien Avenue (which frequently resembles Mogadishu, Somalia), and critically wounded a woman who was with the murder victim at the time. Violins and sad songs Lagos says: "Even though he is a convicted murderer, I would hope that people could still identify and appreciate that there's still a relationship between father and son." Oh, go chase yourself, Lagos.

Earlier, another "civil rights" attorney filed a suit of behalf of Grant III's mother, Wanda Johnson (surprise, surprise, she wasn't married to Grant Jr.), and Sophina Mesa, who was Grant III's girlfriend and mother of their four-year old daughter. Is anybody noticing a pattern here?

Nobody has filed a wrongful death suit, for some reason. I can hazard a guess. The BART officer's action was clearly unlawful, but "wrongful" is a bit iffy. And in a wrongful death suit, somebody has to show that the deceased had some sort of value. The best attorney around wouldn't be able to prove that Grant III had any value or prospects of longevity which would justify an award of damages. But those wonderful civil rights statutes that brought millions for Rodney King are very handy. And the "civil rights" attorneys chasing the money are fully aware of that fact. I apologize to my parents and my pastor (I'll deal with God privately) for losing my sense of Christian charity in believing that some lives have absolutely no value at all, and Grants II and III are among them. I hope God will forgive me for my slip, and I'm sure the federal jury will forgive the Grants for living and give them oodles of money to salve the pain of their terrible loss. Maybe they can spend some of the money on parenting classes (or at least birth control classes).

NOTE: The State of California is wallowing in debt combined with the highest income taxes in the United States. RINO governor Arnold Schwarzenegger did what a sensible executive should do (only more so)--he cut jobs. The poor state workers who have both civil service protection and union goons to help them, knew exactly where to go to remedy this unprecedented action on the part of government: The Superior Court of San Francisco. Judge Charlotte Woolard didn't disappoint the civil "servants" who believe they are entitled to jobs for life, full-time employment for as long as they want it regardless of economic conditions, and ever-growing pension benefits. Want to guess who filed the suit? OK, the liars (oops, lawyers) for the SEIU. And Woolard, being a good lefty make-it-up-as-you-go-along judge, felt compelled to go the union one better. The SEIU represents 6,300 workers compensation employees, but Woolard figured "what the hell" and ruled in favor of another 1,100 workers who weren't represented by the union, and weren't even parties to this lawsuit.

And what horrendous thing was the financially beleaguered state requiring? That these overpaid, underworked and outrageously inefficient employees take two unpaid days off per month until June, and thereafter, 3 days per month until the fiscal crisis is over (if that ever happens). They don't lose their jobs. They don't lose their pensions. The don't lose their extensive medical benefits (paid for by the taxpayers who can't afford their own anymore). They don't lose their ridiculously high hourly wage. The don't lose their civil service protection. Just two or three days a month. I worked for the California Inspection Rating Bureau, which is part of the same operation, when I was a student. We were the most efficient division in the department, mostly because the vast majority of employees were students being paid minimum wage to help pay for our educations. I can testify that if the governor had fired the whole damned department and replaced them with starving students, the system would be greatly improved. If Judge Woolyhead is upheld, the employees will be entitled to back pay plus 7% interest for each day they were furloughed.

By the way, furloughs exactly like this are not unprecedented (I said that tongue-in-cheek). It has been done many times before in the recurring history of California financial crises, and the state Supreme Court has upheld the government in every case. And so California in general, and San Francisco in particular, continue to circle the drain.


Writer X said...

The Jaycee Duggard story is so unbelievably tragic. The flippant way Moford writes about it makes it even worse. That guy is a pig.

AndrewPrice said...

Duggard is the kind of guy who makes me wish that capital punishment were not so humane.

Also, maybe it's time that we started holding the people who release these monsters accountable for the crimes they commit after being released? You and I both know, having done criminal law at various times, that almost all criminals are repeat/repeat/repeat offenders. Maybe it's time that our system wizened up and realized that some people simply don't belong back on the streets.

Tennessee Jed said...

Hottest day, eh? How 'bout them sunspots!

Gordon Hinkle-- both his name and his actions make him my nominee and odds on favorite for what I hope will become the first annual Commenterama "Cheeser of the Year" award.

Mark Morford: Hawk you are making this guy up, right?

StanH said...

The Duggard story is a prime example of government incompetentsy. This creep was lurking in plain view, surrounded by law enforcement, but no one (parole officers/sheriff ) takes a peek in the house, the backyard, what a story.

Mr. Grant’s story is everywhere America. Generational criminals that make a good argument to bring back orphanages in an attempt to break the cycle.

Mr. Morford he is indeed a hopeless moral relativist, up to the point that some creep has somebody he cares about.

Just how long will California last with these deficits, it’s amazing.

Unknown said...

WriterX: I can't decide if Morford thinks he's clever, funny, cutting-edge, insightful, brilliant, or all of the above. It's obvious that he takes himself very seriously. Sometimes I think he's just stoned.

Andrew: It's going to get a lot worse here in California. With the state in such deep financial trouble, "early release" keeps getting earlier and earlier. We're putting seriously dangerous repeat offenders back on the streets in ever-increasing numbers. And it's not the wooly-headed judges and social engineers doing it anymore--now it's the accountants.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: The weather's so weird right now I think I'm seeing rain clouds forming--in my dining room.

Gordon Hinkle's statement praising his parole officers was so jaw-droppingly insane, that I think he deserves the Loon of the Year award.

I'm a fairly resourceful and creative guy, but in my wildest bout of imagination, I could never create a Mark Morford. For one thing, I can't string that many words together without the compulsion to end it with a period. I've written chapters that were shorter than his sentences.

Unknown said...

StanH: Maybe Obama's new Green Czar can put Oscar Grants IV, V, VI etc., ad nauseam in executive positions in the paradise they are creating. Remember, poverty causes crime--individual behavior has nothing to do with it.

After all those years in criminal law, I had to develop a rather tough hide. But even I was shocked by the Garrido story--both by the horrific acts of the pervert, and the unbelievable incompetence and arrogance of our so-called officers of the law.

Sadly, California reflects the words of the Eagles "Just remember this, my girl, when you look up in the sky, you can see the stars and still not see the light." This state still has more natural resources and manufacturing capability than any other state in the union. But as radical environmentalists and social welfare troops shut down our farms and factories, and tax the rest into oblivion, California continues down the road to ruin. A "conservative revolution" could turn the deficit into a surplus in four or five years

HamiltonsGhost said...

I think this tells you why the Founders wanted to keep things as local as possible, and when the authorities failed, expected people to do things for themselves. Waiting for government to do much of anything, at almost any level, is an exercise in futility and a guaranteed disappointment. The sad part is that law enforcement is one of those things we ought to be able to rely on when we inform them of what they need to do in order to perform their duties. That proper function of government failed Jaycee Duggard in unimaginable ways.

So who has more moral right to sue the government for its failure to do its duty? Jaycee Duggard, or the much-convicted Grant clan?

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I suspect it will get a lot worse out there as they start turning people free. And then they'll blame the economic downturn for forcing people to turn to crime.

Unknown said...

Andrew: That's the logic the liberals will use. Remember when they were asking us why we were so tough on crime and why we were sending so many people to prison when the crime rate was down? They were absolutely incapable of making the connection between incarceration and crime rates.

Unknown said...

HamiltonsGhost: Unfortunately, as long as legislators keep writing new ways to sue, and as long as lawyers can get rich off of them, and as long as judges are unable to say "you've gone too far this time," and as long as pandering politicians keep creating all-new "civil rights," the legal right to sue will always have precedence over the moral right to sue. Scumbag Grant and his whole useless family would have been S.O.L. if they had had to sue based solely on wrongful death damages. But, since the gangster was black and the cop was white, you have a "gimme" civil rights suit. The facts of the case don't matter. Only the race of the two persons directly involved.

StanH said...

In the case of the Grants that’s just a shakedown of society these people are generational scumbags. I know what you say this is a “fait accompli” because of race and civil rights. Do you think loser pays would back anybody off this kind of crap law suits?

Unknown said...

StanH: "Loser pays" won't work in this kind of case. It is against public policy to "punish" a litigant who files a "good faith" suit to protect civil rights. The taxpayers who pay for BART and the riders the thug was menacing will end up paying for this worthless creep who is worth quantum numbers more dead than alive. Where the thug actually had some monetary worth, "loser pays" might have some limited effect on the filing of a private wrongful death suit.

About the only thing that would really help is severely limiting "civil rights" suits to clear cases of intentional suppression of a citizen's constitutional rights, a cap on the amount of damages along the lines of wrongful death suits, and reinstatement of sovereign immunity for all cases where there is no clear and convincing evidence that the government either knew or had reason to know that its agent might commit an act harmful to a citizen's rights.

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