Sunday, 14 July 2024


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lake County's congressman has received a key appointment in the House of Representatives.

On Thursday Congressman Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), was selected to serve as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Analysis, and Counterintelligence (THACI).

As the top-ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Thompson will help oversee the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA), and other intelligence agencies and departments.

Specifically, Rep. Thompson will provide oversight for key intelligence activities, including identifying and counteracting security threats posed by espionage or terrorism; analyzing and assessing intelligence related to nuclear proliferation, narcotics smuggling, human trafficking, and other potential threats; and acquiring sensitive information from human sources, either covertly or by debriefing.

“I am honored to have been selected to serve as the top Democrat on this extremely important subcommittee,” said Thompson. “Strong, viable intelligence is the most effective way to keep America safe. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure our intelligence community has the resources it needs. Nothing could be more important to the security of our country and our people.”

In addition to serving as the ranking member of THACI, Rep. Thompson also will be a member of the Subcommittee on Oversight, which conducts studies and investigations across the jurisdiction of HPSCI. These include inquiries into allegations of waste, fraud, abuse, and other wrongdoings and inefficiencies within the intelligence community.

Thompson was first selected to serve on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in 2007.

The committee has jurisdiction over the intelligence community and intelligence-related activities by the CIA, DIA, NSA, and other agencies of the Department of Defense and the Departments of State, Justice and Treasury.

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The board of directors of the Lake County Community Action Agency (LCCAA) is continuing work to restructure the struggling nonprofit and get a clear picture of its finances in the wake of closing down most services and furloughing employees last month.

Facing unpaid back federal payroll taxes, back rent, unpaid vendors and myriad other problems which have been largely attributed to funding cuts, the nonprofit board's 10 members are continuing to take a hand in trying to put things back together, LCCAA Board President Tom Jordan said Thursday.

LCCAA has been a hub for many critical services for the county's most economically challenged – from food cupboards and food commodity distribution programs, to drug and alcohol counseling services, a teen safe house and youth drop-in centers, a transitional homeless shelter and domestic violence education, and more.

But much of that came to an abrupt halt in February. Jordan said in a previous interview that the board became aware of “weak internal governance systems” at a regular Feb. 10 meeting. The following day an emergency board meeting was held, at which it was concluded that employees had to be placed on immediate furlough and programs closed down.

Since then, the board – which previously met about once a month – is meeting more often as Jordan said they try to get LCCAA back on its feet, which he said is a “slow and painful” process.

“We have not made the progress we were hoping to have made by now with respect to understanding our finances,” he said. “The records we have still are not sufficiently clear and complete to help us have that understanding.”

So he said the board is “slogging away” to try to put things together.

“We have accessed records but we think the records may not be complete,” he said. “That's what we're trying to determine.”

He added, “I wish it was more progress. We all do.”

LCCAA's reorganization process ultimately will include determining staffing levels and what services will be offered going forward, Jordan said.

However, he said making those final decisions are still in the future.

“We're still just at step one, what is the true financial condition of the agency,” he said.

As for dealing with the Internal Revenue Service, Jordan said, “Our commitment to the IRS is to pay all future payroll taxes.”

The next step, he said, is to figure out how to pay the nearly $100,000 in unpaid back federal payroll taxes.

He said Thursday that the employee furlough remains in place with an “unknown time to return.” Because the furlough is considered indefinite at this time, he said it's the board's understanding that employees would be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Jordan said a discussion of layoffs hasn't so far taken place.

Some staff members – including Executive Director Georgina Lehne – are assisting the board with identifying program activities that the board doesn't fully understand, said Jordan. Employees also are helping the board understand the invoicing process so bills can be paid.

Jordan said they're trying to figure out what bills they can pay, identify expenses – including unnecessary ones – and discern how much is owned and to whom.

The board has received offers of volunteer help to assist with the reorganization, and also has appealed to Cal/Neva Community Action Partnership and North Coast Opportunities for help, he said.

Jordan said Cal/Neva has agreed to pay for staffing and training to help the agency remain active and to maintain or bring back essential community programs once the restructuring is finished.

But those actions by Cal/Neva aren't something Jordan said the board sees taking place immediately.

Empire Food Bank has helped pay for key personnel to staff the county food bank program and maintain its continued operation, he said.

In addition, Jordan said the California Human Development Corp. has provided consultants and Catholic Charities also has offered some assistance.

Jordan said many people have been hurt by the closure of so many essential community services. “But I am extremely proud of the dedication and commitment of the board member volunteers who have stepped in with a lot of personal sacrifice and integrity to maintain this agency.”

He also thanked the many community members, former employees and service organizations who have volunteered their time to make the reorganization effort successful.

Jordan said the group has a tentative meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, March.

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SACRAMENTO – Everyday activities for teenagers like text messaging, talking on a cell phone or even eating are dangerous, potentially deadly distractions when done behind the wheel of a vehicle.

During California Teen Safe Driving Week, March 6-12, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is warning the state’s newest drivers that distraction can be life changing.

“Teenagers tend to think they’re invincible and can multitask while driving,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “In reality, they’re inexperienced when it comes to driving and they need to recognize the responsibility and the risks associated with the privilege.”

However, it’s not just cell phones causing the distraction among teen drivers; passenger interference, adjusting the radio or changing the CD are additional factors leading to driver inattention.

“Officers see firsthand the destruction caused by inattention,” said Farrow. “It only takes a second of distraction to result in a crash.”

During a four-year period – 2005 to 2008 – in California, drivers between the ages of 15 to 19 were involved in more than 20,000 collisions where inattention was a factor.

Among those crashes, 41 percent resulted in injury or death, the CHP reported.

The overwhelming majority of these crashes is caused by inexperience or distractions, not “thrill seeking” or deliberate risk taking.

To address this growing problem and help drive home the message to teenagers about the dangers of distracted driving, the CHP acquired a grant to fund an educational campaign throughout the state.

Efforts to reduce distracted driving through Impact Teen Drivers – Connecting Key Players continue through Sept. 30 and are a part of California’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan, a statewide road map to reduce traffic-related fatalities.

“The bottom line, distracted drivers can destroy lives,” added Farrow. “The only message they need to receive is to focus on the road and traffic around them.”

Funding for this program is provided by a grant awarded by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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This past weekend I attended a very informative legal education seminar in Sacramento regarding Medi-Cal.

It focused on the proposed (draft) Medi-Cal regulations that will eventually implement the dreaded 2005 federal Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) legislation, which will greatly constrict Medicaid eligibility nationwide.

There also was a one-hour question and answer session in which state personnel discussed various Medi-Cal topics under existing law.

Now, let’s examine some of the important highlights – but remember, this article is not a substitute to obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney.

DRA greatly constricts Medicaid eligibility in the following ways.

First, it lengthens the look back period to 60 months (from 30 months).

Second, it commences the penalty period at the time when a Medi-Cal applicant would otherwise become eligible to receive Medi-Cal, but for the disqualifying penalty creating transfers.

Third, requires that the value of all such transfers of countable assets (made within the five year look back period) be added together to compute a single penalty period.

DRA is, therefore, drastically different from the present law where each transfer of a countable nonexempt asset during the relevant look-back period at the time of application has its own separate penalty period. That period begins when the transfer was made and runs concurrently with any other ineligibility periods created by other transfers.

Thus, currently Medi-Cal allows penalty periods for transfers to expire or be greatly reduced at time of Medi-Cal application. This is because separate penalty periods run from when each transfer was made, and not consecutively as will be required under DRA, i.e., one after the other, so that each penalty is added on to the others.

Commentators said the following regarding DRA.

It continues to be delayed till at least next year, 2012, if not the following, 2013, when final DRA regulations might then have been approved.

In addition, anyone presently receiving Medi-Cal (and others who will become eligible before DRA is implemented) will continue to receive Medi-Cal under DRA (even if that they would otherwise be ineligible based on DRA’s rules) as DRA will not be retroactively applied; and, third, the draft DRA regulations contain important safeguards that protect otherwise ineligible persons where disqualification would seriously jeopardize personal well-being.

In addition, state employees answered certain other recurring questions under existing Medi-Cal law.

If the surviving spouse of a deceased Medi-Cal recipient gifts assets that were received wholly or partially from the deceased spouse, prior to the surviving spouse’s own death, then such gifted assets will not later become subject to estate recovery when the surviving spouse in turn dies.

Generally speaking, Medi-Cal Estate Recovery does not pursue those assets of a deceased Medi-Cal recipient which are worth less than $5,000 (such as ordinary items of personal property).

When examining a bank account to see whether the $2,000 Medi-Cal resource limitation on countable assets has been exceeded, the state computes the monthly value of a checking account by using the lowest account balance on any given day in the month in question and by subtracting all income deposits made during that same month and any checks still outstanding on that day.

In sum, the good news for now is that DRA continues to be further delayed and when it does eventually come into effect anyone already receiving on Medi-Cal will not be required to re-qualify under DRA Medi-Cal eligibility standards.

Lastly, fortunately, there will be important hardship exceptions to protect otherwise ineligible persons.

Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 First St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

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Raymond Brown Jr., 41, of Clearlake Oaks, Calif., was arrested late Thursday, March 3, 2011, for a number of charges in connection with allegedly threatening his family with a shotgun and assaulting the mother of his children. Photo courtesy of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

CLEARLAKE OAKS, Calif. – A daylong manhunt has resulted in the arrest of a Clearlake Oaks man who authorities allege used a shotgun to threaten and terrify his family.

Raymond Brown Jr., 41, was taken into custody shortly before 4:30 p.m. Thursday, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman said Brown was booked into the Lake County Jail on charges including false imprisonment, making threats with the intent to terrorize, willful cruelty to a child, discharging a firearm, shooting at an inhabited dwelling and spousal battery.

At about 9 a.m. Thursday a woman reported to authorities that she had escaped out of her home at the Elem Indian Colony in Clearlake Oaks after Brown, the father of her three children, fired shots from a shotgun to terrorize his family, Bauman said.

Brown had reportedly been under the influence of both alcohol and methamphetamine at the time, according to Bauman.

Throughout the night and in the presence of their three children – ages 1 month to 3 years – Brown allegedly threatened to kill himself and the family, assaulted the woman, broke out a window in the home, prevented her from leaving when she tried, and fired a 20-gauge shotgun into the ceiling of the home before eventually passing out from being under the influence, Bauman said.

Bauman said that at about 8 a.m. Thursday the woman escaped out of the home through a window and got a ride to Lucerne where she called the sheriff’s office.

Acting on the victim’s report that the children were still in the home with Brown, Bauman said sheriff’s deputies responded to the Elem Colony with assistance from the Sheriff’s SWAT team, the Clearlake Police Department and the California Highway Patrol.

After making entry, deputies determined Brown had left with the three children prior to their arrival. Brown was driving a black Dodge Durango and presumably still in possession of the shotgun, Bauman said.

Deputy sheriffs continued their investigation and manhunt throughout the day. Bauman said they located and arrested Brown without incident at approximately 4:20 pm. and transported him to the jail.

All three children were returned to their mother unharmed, Bauman said.

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LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A local man has resigned his post as commander of the Lakeport Veterans of Foreign War post in the midst of allegations that he falsely claimed to have served in Vietnam.

Robert Lawrence Deppe, 57, of Upper Lake submitted a letter of resignation in mid-February after members of the VFW Post 2015 confronted him about the allegations, according to Post Adjutant Kirk Macdonald.

Lake County News reached Deppe via e-mail but he refused to comment for this story.

Earlier in February Macdonald said it was brought to the attention of post members that Deppe was “possibly not eligible to be a member of the VFW because his military record was not valid.”

Macdonald said post members also learned at that time about Deppe's arrest on Feb. 9 for felony passing a fictitious check and misdemeanor petty theft.

Capt. James Bauman said Deppe turned himself in at the Lake County Jail shortly after midnight on Feb. 9 following an investigation into allegations that he took money from his brother-in-law, who lives with him.

Deppe allegedly took eight $100 bills and five $20 bills and replaced them with fake bills. Bauman said Deppe also is alleged to have taken to two $100 bills from his wife's purse, also putting fake bills in their place.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff said Deppe has been charged with forgery and felony petty theft.

Post members asked Deppe to respond to the allegations regarding his arrest and military record at the Feb. 14 meeting, Macdonald said.

They also asked him to sign a Form 180 so his military record could be accessed and verified, according to Macdonald.

“Mr. Deppe chose to write a letter of resignation as commander of the post and also to be removed from the roles of the VFW membership,” Macdonald said. The resignation reportedly went into effect on Feb. 16.

Macdonald said Deppe wouldn't respond directly to the questions about his record, and made no admissions one way or the other.

While the allegations were new to the local post members, questions of Deppe's military record have been arising for several years, according to Mary Schantag, who along with her husband Chuck, a Vietnam veteran, founded the nonprofit POW Network,

“He has been doing this for years and has been exposed, and had been exposed in the past,” Schantag said of Deppe in an interview with Lake County News.

Schantag said Deppe had been under investigation since 2005, after he posted a story on the VFW 2015 Web site, which came to the attention of POW Network members.

Deppe had claimed on the VFW Web site – which he helped administer – to have been a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army form 1971 to 1974, receiving the Purple Heart, as well as the Silver and Bronze Stars. He also said he was a Ranger on Company H, 75th Infantry, Third Brigade, First Cavalry Division.

But men who had served in those branches of the military claimed to have never heard of him, according to a page dedicated to him on the POW Network under the “phonies” category, which can be found at .

Macdonald said that, in light of the issue with Deppe, VFW Post 2015 is taking new measures to authenticate service records up front to make sure nothing like this happens in their group again.

Specifically, they will require prospective members to submit a Form 180. He said that will allow the post to request military discharge records directly in order to confirm a prospective member's eligibility.

Such situations have been reported nationally. One of the most notable recent examples was that of Rick Strandlof, former executive director of the Colorado Veterans Alliance, who in 2009 was revealed as having never served in the military.

Allegations come to light

Schantag said allegations such as those against Deppe usually arise when a person claiming to be a veteran says something wrong, or uses an inaccurate detail, which tips off other veterans.

That seemed to be the case with Deppe, whose account had inaccurate information, according to a statement posted on the POW Network site by Bill Anton, one of the men who reported against him. Deppe also reportedly posted pictures showing the compound where he was stationed, which were said to not reflect what the actual compound looked like.

The Bronze Star document he used claimed that he received the award for action he took in Vietnam on April 10, 1972, while he was a corporal – not a staff sergeant as he'd stated elsewhere.

The document stated in part: “As the first three men of the element exhausted their first magazines, Corporal Deppe immediately recognized the danger caused by the lull in firing and rushed to the position, firing his own weapon and throwing fragmentation grenades. As the team withdrew from the position, he remained in his position and continued his fire, covering the team’s withdrawal. By holding the enemy at bay his fellow soldiers were able to escape without injury. When he attempted to rejoin his team, he was hit by enemy fire, which wounded him in the” left leg.

The commendation also states, “While wounded, Corporal Deppe carried SP4 Jaime Pacheco, leader of fire team 75 to safety in a nearby ravine.”

However, the POW Network alleges that the language of Deppe's commendation actually comes from a Silver Star given posthumously to Pacheco, an Army Ranger who was killed in action on May 25, 1972.

Deppe's document added, “His actions gave the team the precious time they needed to reach safety” – the exact language from one of the ending passages of Pacheco's commendation.

Deppe also reportedly used a Silver Star document that claimed he won the award on May 12, 1972 – just a month after winning the Bronze Star. The document stated that Deppe – said to be a squad leader – pushed back an ambush of the North Vietnamese Army, called in aid for wounded, fired back at the enemy and destroyed an enemy machine gun bunker and crew.

Deppe's Feb. 9 arrest was posted on the POW Network and it appears to have drawn additional attention to his case.

Schantag, who lives in Missouri, said the POW Network was contacted by the Lakeport VFW Post several days before Deppe resigned, with members wanting information on him. She said they were put in contact with one of the individuals who had reported about him before.

She said the POW Network had tracked Deppe, an Illinois native, previously in Missouri, and it believed he also had claimed to be a veteran while living in yet another state.

That Deppe did not directly respond to the question of whether or not he was an imposter could be because, as Schantag pointed out, people proved to be posing as veterans can be prosecuted.

During a typical week the POW Network will send a couple of cases to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for investigation with a view to prosecution, Schantag said.

She said they felt Deppe's case was serious enough that it was forwarded to the FBI in 2008.

Schantag said there have been about 40 to 45 prosecutions nationwide over the last few years, mostly of very egregious cases.

The 2005 Stolen Valor Act was passed in order to enhance penalties in such prosecutions, but two district courts have ruled it unconstitutional, saying that it violates free speech protections. Schantag said she expects the matter will work its way up to the US Supreme Court.

Even without the Stolen Valor Act, Schantag said US Code Title 18 still stands.

“It is still illegal to impersonate an officer,” she said.

She said states are now going for their own mandates, which will make prosecutions faster and easier. Still, Schantag said there aren't enough courts and judges to handle the number of imposters.

“I can't trust any veteran I meet anymore,” she said.

'A pandemic'

Schantag said she and her husband started the POW Network 21 years ago.

“We're not a veterans group,” she said. “We started out as an educational organization trying to write the history of the POW/MIA issue.”

It was about 12 years ago that the issue of frauds and phony veterans became a major focus for them.

“It's a pandemic. It's awful,” said Schantag, noting that she deals with such stories every day.

Imposters come from every background, she said. Ministers and police officers have been caught as imposters, as have teachers.

“We've seen fathers do it to sons, and then we have to deal with the sons,” she said.

She's also dealt with threats, via mail, e-mail and telephone. One night, within the space of an hour, she received 60 threatening phone calls.

The reasons for being an imposter are varied, she said. “It could be something as ridiculous as trying to impress a woman,” to trying to get Veterans Affairs benefits and services.

“They lie to get license plates, they lie to get property tax breaks,” she said. “It's our tax dollars that they're using.”

She said DD 214 forms, which record a veteran's discharge or release from service, are the most forged documents in the military community, and have been known to fool VA officials.

The POW Network has extensive resources for research, as well as the help of many groups – including former Rangers, Special Forces and Navy Seals – who she said can have information on a veteran's records within minutes.

“This is a huge effort behind the scenes,” she said, calling her group a “middle man” in the work.

It used to take months to get confirmation on a veteran's records, but now it takes weeks, thanks to Schantag perfecting her methodology for requesting information from contributors as well as government agencies through Freedom of Information Act requests.

“We get the answers,” she said, noting that nothing is classified any more from the Vietnam and Korean eras.

While they don't delight in exposing alleged imposters, “History has to be accurate,” she said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at , on Facebook at and on YouTube at .

MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. – Mendocino County's district attorney has filed attempted murder and arson charges against a former Willits woman who is alleged to have set fire to the home she shared with her disabled son.

Nancy Jo McGinty, 51, was arrested on Wednesday by Alameda Police office and was being held on $250,000 bail in the jail in Alameda County, where she recently had moved, according to a report from Capt. Kurt Smallcomb of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

The alleged victim in the case is McGinty's 31-year-old son, Michael Joseph Faustina, Smallcomb said.

Based on a sheriff's office investigation submitted to his office, District Attorney C. David Eyster decided to press charges against McGinty, resulting in the issuance of an arrest warrant for her on charges of attempted murder and arson, Smallcomb reported.

Deputies had been dispatched to McGinty's home in the 24000 block of Lilac Drive in Willits on the night of Dec. 14, 2010, on the report of a suspicious house fire that the Brooktrails Fire Department had been dispatched to earlier in the evening, according to Smallcomb.

Upon arriving, firefighters learned that a neighbor – who knew that Faustina was in the home and couldn't get out because he is bedridden – had entered the home prior to their arrival, while the home was on fire. The neighbor rescued Faustina from what Smallcomb said was certain death because of the fire's severity.

Smallcomb said Faustina was transported to Howard Memorial Hospital for treatment of fire-related injuries while firefighters put out the blaze.

Once the fire was extinguished firefighters learned McGinty was probably inside the home during the fire. However, Smallcomb said a preliminary search of the inside of the home resulted in McGinty not being located.

On the morning of Dec. 15, 2010, an arson investigator arrived at the residence with sheriff's Det. Clint Byrnes. Smallcomb said that during an investigative search of the home McGinty was found asleep in a master bedroom bathtub.

It appeared to investigators that McGinty was not inside the home during the entirety of the fire, Smallcomb said. A preliminary statement was obtained from McGinty and she was transported to a local hospital for medical evaluation.

In the following months, Det. Byrnes worked closely with arson investigators from the Brooktrails Fire Department and Cal Fire. Smallcomb said at the conclusion of the fire investigation, it was determined the cause of the home fire was arson.

Det. Byrnes was able to collect additional evidence that is alleged to show that McGinty intentionally started the home fire with the goal of killing herself and Faustina, Smallcomb said.

That information was subsequently submitted to Eyster's office for review, resulting in the issuance of the arrest warrant for McGinty, Smallcomb said.

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NORTH COAST, Calif. – A new bill that's been introduced in the state Legislature is taking aim at poachers and attempting to increase the fines and penalties associated with convictions.

North Coast Assemblyman Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) introduced AB 1162, which he said is mean to protect wildlife and improve hunting in California.

AB 1162 would increase fines to as much as $40,000, along with forfeiture of hunting licenses and seizure of equipment for poachers who intentionally target big game trophy mammals – such as deer, elk, bighorn sheep and antelope – as well as those who use bait or spotlights, take game out of season or wantonly wasting game meat.

Chesbro's office said AB 1162 has received bipartisan support, and is sponsored by the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance, one the state’s largest coalition of hunting and wildlife preservation organizations.

“Long-time hunters and game wardens who have been working in the field for decades tell me that poaching is at an all-time high in California,” Chesbro said in a statement issued by his office. “AB 1162 provides the Department of Fish and Game with an effective tool to protect our game and wildlife, some of California’s most valuable resources. My bill is modeled on legislation supported by hunters in other Western states where poaching has also become a big problem.”

Chesbro said that if AB 1162 becomes law, the Department of Fish and game also will be able to ask for significantly higher civil penalties for particularly egregious poaching cases.

He reported that civil penalties for poaching have remained static for more than 20 years, “while the market value of wildlife has climbed sharply.”

Mark Hennelly, vice president of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance, said that AB 1162 would ensure that poachers pay back the entire value of wildlife they effectively stole from the public.

Department of Fish and Game statistics show that poaching cases have grown in recent years.

Lt. Loren Freeman, a Fish and Game warden based in Clearlake Oaks, said he's also seen more instances of poaching firsthand here in Lake County.

He said increases in poaching may be because of the economy, with people rationalizing that it's OK to take animals out of season for subsistence purposes.

“The majority of the cases that we're running into right now involve deer” – specifically does and trophy bucks, he said.

Freeman said Fish and Game is currently working on three such active cases in the county.

He said he's not seeing trafficking in abalone or items like bear parts.

“That's not one of our major problems,” he said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Richard Hinchcliff has been Lake County's go-to prosecutor on poaching cases for more than a decade.

In recent years Hinchcliff said he's actually received fewer poaching cases from Fish and Game, which he believes is because wardens are having to spend more time enforcing environmental regulations and dealing with red tape rather than being able to enforce wildlife regulations.

As a result, he suspects that the number of poachers actually is larger than the cases he's receiving.

A hunter and outdoorsman himself, Hinchcliff said he believes the county's bail schedule, and the attitude of the local judges, gets good dispositions and fines in poaching cases.

In many cases prosecutors are seeking – and receiving – three-year licensing forfeitures and firearms seizures, he said.

Hinchcliff suggested that judges – upon whose discretion fines currently depend – may not go for the big $40,000 fines proposed in the legislation unless the bill set higher mandatory minimum fines.

“Then that's something that everyone would be required to follow,” he said.

Hinchcliff has his own ideas about how to make the laws tougher on poachers.

“I think there's extremely few Fish and Game poaching cases where a person can be charged as a felony,” he said.

He said Fish and Game also isn't seizing watercraft in some cases, which he suggested is an option.

Current misdemeanors that he said should be charged as felonies include targeting of trophy animals and trafficking offenses – especially for cases involving the trade in bear paws and bladders, and major abalone cases.

Hinchcliff said there is a huge market for bear paws and gall bladders, with poaching rings targeting black bears, killing the animals, taking only those selected parts and then leaving the carcasses to rot. He said the parts are then sold to markets in China.

He said there's also a big black market for trophy animals such as bighorn sheep and elk. Such cases, again, have traditionally only been charged as misdemeanors.

Some people convicted of poaching are now seeing fines of about $2,000, and they're looking their hunting privileges and firearms as well.

He said he rarely sees poaching cases coming out of a need for a person to survive.

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Tiffany Steptoe of Nice, Calif., and her young son were injured in a crash near on the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff on Thursday, March 3, 2011. Photo by Gary McAuley.




LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – The California Highway Patrol issued a report Friday on a single-vehicle crash that occurred the night before, injuring a woman and her young son.

Tiffany Steptoe, 22,of Nice, and her 2-year-old son were hurt in the crash, which occurred at around 6:30 p.m. Thursday on the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff, the CHP said.

Steptoe was driving her 2001 Hyundai Accent westbound on the cutoff at about 45 miles per hour when, for reasons that are not known – in part because it was noted that Steptoe did not remember the crash – she allowed her car to turn sharply to the left, the CHP said.

The vehicle went off the roadway, striking a wire fence and running into an oak tree, the CHP reported.

The CHP's investigation found that both forward airbags in the car deployed, but neither Steptoe nor her son were wearing seatbelts.

Steptoe struck the windshield and steering wheel, suffering bruised ribs and a laceration and contusion to her head, the CHP said.

The child, which the CHP reported struck the right front door pillar post, also suffered a head contusion.

The CHP said both suffered major injuries.

Because medical personnel feared brain trauma for both mother and son, they were flown to area hospitals separately in REACH air ambulances, the CHP said.

CHP Officer Brendan Bach was the investigating officer on the crash.

The Nice-Lucerne Cutoff was the site of another crash earlier this week, when a car went off the road and into the water, and last month an elderly woman was injured in a crash that saw the other driver arrested for DUI, as Lake County News has reported.

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A Hyundai went off the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff near Nice, Calif., and crashed into a tree on Thursday, March 3, 2011, injuring the female driver and her child. Photo by Gary McAuley.

LAKE COUNTY, Calif. – A crash early Thursday evening sent the driver of a car and a small child to regional hospitals.

The crash occurred at around 6:30 p.m. on the Nice-Lucerne Cutoff, according to the California Highway Patrol.

A Hyundai went off the road, through a barbed wire fence and collided with a tree, according to reports from the scene.

Northshore Fire and CHP were among the responders to the scene, where radio reports indicated that they found a 22-year-old woman and her 14-month-old child injured by the crash.

Officials reported that the woman was not wearing a seat belt and was complaining of pain to her chest after the crash threw her into the steering wheel.

Two REACH air ambulances were called, with one landing near Sentry Market and the other at Sutter Lakeside Hospital, where Northshore Fire said its ambulance was taking one of the patients.

Initial reports indicated the woman was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and the child, which appeared to have hit its head, was taken to UC Davis Medical Center.

Specifics about the collision's cause were not immediately available.

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LAKEPORT, Calif. – The Westshore Youth Basketball Program is seeking out interested parents and community members to help lead it next season.

Melody De Leon, who along with husband Scott and a dedicated 12-member board have overseen the program since 2008, said they're looking to hand over the reins to a new group.

De Leon said many of the participating parents' children – including her own – will be leaving the league as they advance in grade levels, which makes it necessary to recruit new board members to coordinate if the league is to return next year.

The organization is designed to provide children with the opportunity to develop the fundamental understanding and enjoyment of the game of basketball with an emphasis on learning basic skills, sportsmanship and team play, she said.

The program serves boys and girls from third through eighth grades, or roughly ages 8 to 14, De Leon said.


It previously was funded and organized by the Lakeport schools, but De Leon said budget cuts ended that.

So in November 2008 the school announced the program – which had run many years – would be ending. De Leon said her husband, who had played in the league as a child, hated to see it end and suggested they take it over.

“What a pleasure it's been,” she said, adding that both of their sons have played in it, with their youngest just completing his last season.

Since taking over the league – previously known as the “pee wee” program – De Leon said they've run 400 games.

Sponsors and sign up fees are the primary funding source, said De Leon. Funding is needed to cover costs such as renting the school facilities for the games.

Planning for the season usually starts in the fall, at the end of October or start of November, with the season running in January and February. The All-Star tournament takes place in March, she said.

During the season, there are three games per night for four nights a week. De Leon said tasks include refereeing, running the game clock, and organizing needed first aid items like ice packs. “We've got it down to where it just flows,” she said.

She said this year they've had more student participation – and more compliments from happy parents – than ever before.

“I hate for it to end and I don’t want to walk away from it,” she said.

The league averages about 210 children playing a year, but the number was higher this year.

“The tremendous parent and community support, along with the dedicated volunteer coaches, referees, and staff is what makes it all happen,” she said. “Combine that with growth you seen in each child each game and the excitement of watching them play, and you find yourself not wanting to be anywhere else.”

For more information or to volunteer, contact De Leon at 707-263-6111 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The league can be found on Facebook at!/pages/Westshore-Youth-Basketball-League/172909386059731?v=wall .


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at , on Facebook at and on YouTube at .



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