Friday, December 1, 2023

DA Dave Eyster’s Fight with Judge Is Not About Thunder the Wonder Dog—Geniella’s Thoughts


Mike Geniella’s incisive voice and watchful eye have been aimed at Mendocino County for many decades as a long-standing reporter for the Press Democrat and the spokesman for Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office. Now retired, Geniella finds the writing habit hard to shake. We’re excited to host a column from him sharing his thoughts, comments, and concerns about life here in Mendocino County.

So, DA Dave once again has flipped his ‘bright lights’ on a high-profile animal abuse case on the Mendocino Coast.

Even though DA Dave acknowledged late Friday that he lost his bid in a state Court of Appeal to overturn a judge’s sentencing in the case, he is brashly claiming victory in his ‘Hail Mary’ legal challenge. DA Dave had hoped to embarrass Superior Court Judge Clayton Brennan further publicly, even though the associated costs of the DA’s appeal outweighed the chances.

No doubt DA Dave is righteous in his beliefs about the 2019 case of ‘Thunder the Wonder Dog.’ He has pursued it with as much vigor as any criminal prosecution.

DA Dave is cruising toward a fourth term in office unopposed (the filing deadline is early March), which will make him only one of two DAs in county history to have served as long. Eyster sees this as widespread public endorsement of his prosecution policies, and management of the county’s top law enforcement office. Indeed, the DA’s office is one of the few stable operations in a county facing administrative turmoil, and sharp divisions in leadership.

Yet it is no surprise to long-time observers that DA Dave sometimes gets in the way of his own self. The dog case is an example.

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DA Dave believed Judge Brennan mishandled the sentencing and was too lenient on the defendant, who had pled no contest to shooting the dog and leaving it to die in the woods. Thunder survived and returned to health under new care. The defendant in 2020 entered her plea felony animal cruelty. She was sentenced to unsupervised probation for 36 months, court imposed counseling, and a ban on owning animals during her probation. She also was required to serve 500 hours of community service.

Animal lovers on the coast and across the nation were outraged with the outcome of the widely publicized case. DA Dave knows how to seize on public sentiment about animal abuse and turn it into political force. He publicly launched a follow up attack on Brennan.

The truth, however, is DA Dave’s fight with Brennan is not about Thunder.

It is really about Brennan’s audacious challenge a decade ago of the DA Dave’s ‘marijuana restitution’ program. The judge then dared to publicly challenge DA Dave by suggesting the program was tantamount to extorting defendants unless they agreed to pay hefty fines for illegally cultivating marijuana in exchange for lesser criminal charges. DA Dave’s program was unique in the state. It cleared up a court backlog of marijuana cases, and eventually raised $7.5 million for county coffers before voter legalization of marijuana made the program moot.

DA Dave was livid after Brennan’s denunciation from the bench of his pot plea deal program. He then forced the Superior Court to keep Brennan in exile on the coast court by refusing to let him try cases at the courthouse in Ukiah. Other judges reluctantly went along with Brennan’s exile to avoid a public bloodletting.

It is important to remember that DA Dave, even if unopposed in his bid to be re-elected, needs checks and balances. In an era when the news media has collapsed, and there are no longer ‘court reporters’ roaming the halls of the courthouse and monitoring the legal process, DA Dave has free rein.

As it is DA Dave has taken to writing his own press releases and massaging his message in his own style.

Case in point is the official press release on dismissal of DA Dave’s legal challenge by the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District in San Francisco.

DA Dave claims victory, and he has the audacity to pretend he was interviewed in a press release he wrote himself.

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“When asked for comment on today’s decision,” he writes, ‘‘While my attorneys and I respect the decision of the Court of Appeal, that decision will not affect the safeguards that I put in place last year. Those safeguards will remain in place as a long as I have any say in the matter.’”

Perhaps the bright lights need to be kept on DA Dave as he struts unopposed into a fourth term.

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  1. Funny how animal rights trump human rights. I was assaulted with a weapon near the Ukiah rail trail months ago and the DA decided to drop felony charges. I’m a 68 year old disabled veteran of zero worth to the justice system. I still have not fully recovered from the injury of being struck in the head with a large ring that had a screw protruding from it. The sinus damage does not go away. Alden Running Larvie walks free. That was the second time he assaulted me with a deadly weapon.
    Mendocino people might step over a bleeding human to rescue a crying puppy

  2. Perhaps people are not aware of the lengths Mr. Eyster went to in a failed attempt to violate Ms. Smith’s probation and send her to jail. Despite the fact that Judge Brennan specifically said Ms. Smith could keep family pets Mr. Eyster obtained a dubious search warrant for an infraction level violation, assembled a posse of officers from multiple agencies, and proceeded to raid Ms. Smith home. The posse was comprised of multiple armed officers from the Sheriff’s Office, armed DA investigators, and an animal control officer. The officers confronted and terrorized Ms. Smiths teenage daughter who was home alone attending school via Zoom. Officers held the terrified teen at gun point while investigating an infraction (i.e speeding ticket level offense). Officers seized six chickens the teenager has been raising as a 4-H project. Mr, Eyster charged Ms. Smith with six infractions (one for each chicken) for possessing animals as Judge Brennan said she could. Mr. Eyster then tried to use these infraction level offenses to violate Ms. Smith’s misdemeanor probation. Judge Shanahan heard the case in Ukiah and found no violation of probation.

    Mr. Eyster was willing to endanger and traumatize a teenager in furtherance of his vendetta against Ms. Smith. Hardly what you’d expect from an official who’s job it is to protect the public.

  3. Examine the Sprinkles case if you want to see malignant prosecution. Eyster is an evil man with too much power.
    How many malignant narcissists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
    A: not their job but they love to beat the darkness with a stick

  4. Was it a woman or a war
    That led to the bottle
    Laying empty near the head
    Of a wasted old man
    I lift my shoes high
    As I gently step over
    Avoiding the stain
    Of his blood and his tears
    Yet I’m happy as I look in the mirror
    Just knowing someone’s lower than me
    Yet I wonder
    If I ever reach bottom
    Can a man harvest mercy
    Never planting its seeds

    I’m drinking too much
    Oh I’ve got it handled
    It’s easy to quit
    I’m on the wagon oft times
    Compare my self to old restless Jimmy
    It’s been years since I woke
    In my cold naked shame
    In my tent hangs a cheap little mirror
    Where I look at my face
    Standing strong and so free
    Yet a question still seems to annoy me
    Can a man harvest mercy
    Never planting its seeds

    The church group was singing
    In joys preparation
    To go to the Bowery
    And share love with the poor
    One girl asks me
    Do we need to touch them
    The truth in her words
    Struck my heart like a spear
    Near the alter stood a rich beveled mirror
    Reflecting to us
    Our hypocracy
    And the hymn
    That it seemed to be singing
    Can a man harves mercy
    Never planting its seeds
    Seeds of Mercy by Douglas Wayne Coulter
    Inspired by Kristopherson

  5. Someone dug a pungie pit near the homeless camp of Paul a local homeless schizophrenic. A board full of nails buried at the entrance of his camp. He almost lost his foot from infections. Ft Bragg police did not ven collect the board with nails but declared it ” a clever method to get rid of pests”. In the local paper, Denorior horse cruelty trial was ongoing. Skinny horses vs vicious assault on homeless. Guess what ruled the media? Paul left the area so the police won that war against the homeless
    Ft Bragg police refused to collect the punjie board as vidence. I kept it for years.

  6. Eyster NEEDS TO GO. Seriously. He is a monster that only cares about keeping his prosecution numbers and years of life sentences as high as possible. With little regard for humanity. Can you say overzealous prosecution. Most district attorneys are overzealous but Eyster takes it to a whole nother level. I have met the man twice and had a long conversation with him. He is an egomaniac. Very full of himself. But would make a very good used car salesman. His next career hopefully. God I miss Norm Vroman.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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