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As a kid, my dear Irish grandmother used to say: “don’t get too big for your britches.” We know what that means: Essentially, don’t let your imagination and personal prejudices run away from the facts. Admittedly, there are been plenty of times in my life when my britches got too tight, and I’m not talking about what I ate. I talking about what I thought. I talking about what I’ve written. This brings me to Mike Geniella, writer and, presently, self-appointed judge, who has sentenced Kevin Murray to a year in the pen.
MendoFever has thoroughly covered the bad, Ukiah cop, i.e. the Kevin Murray case. By my count, editor Matt LaFever has written at least seven fact-based articles keeping Murray’s alleged misbehavior and admitted crime prominently in the news. Sarah Reith has also written an excellent article. Journalistically speaking, MendoFever may be Mendocino County’s only hope, with young writers coming on board who essentially stick to the facts rather than what they heard on NPR or opinions from the Twitter world.
Enter, Mike Geniella. He’s also covered the Murray case in his distinctly opinioned way. Essentially, in Geniella’s estimation, Murray should have gone to jail for a year rather than receive the probation he got. Frankly, I have scant objection to that if Geniella’s assembled accusations should be proven true in a court of law. Geniella has written by my account five opinion articles in this publication to date and several more in the AVA. He has brought forth accusations from women that claim that they too have been the recipient of Murray’s despicable behavior. If these women have their fair day in court and juries agree with them, as far as I’m concerned, Murray deserves to go to hell. (At this writing, apparently, at least one civil case awaits.) However, in the smoking ruins of the Johnny Depp trial, wherein Amber Heard brought ruin to the Me-Too movement, a day in court for any person—man or woman—abused or sexually assaulted is the essential thing. Hearsay, innuendo, and unproven accusations are the enemies of us all.
And…since I’ve mentioned innuendo and allusion, I would like to ask: does Mike Geniella have a secondary target in regards to the Murray case? Could it be David Eyster, Mendocino County’s District Attorney? Mike Geniella formerly worked part-time for Eyster as his press release writer. Good choice on the part of the DA. Geniella, a practiced yet somewhat humorless writer, has had wide experience with major publications in northern California. He’s a pro. It was the perfect job for him. However, as Geniella began to write about bad cop Murray, most of the problems prosecuting this case were increasingly and exclusively laid at David Eyster’s door. According to Geniella, Murray’s probation sentence and no time in jail was part of a “sweetheart plea deal” that DA Eyster formulated.
Geniella wrote that Eyster claimed the motel victim that Murray threatened and intimidated did not respond to Eyster’s purported and repeated requests to testify against Murray in court. According to Geniella, her attorney stated that she was easy to contact and willing to testify and that Eyster never gave her or her attorney a call to bring her in for trial. Did Geniella ask to see his phone records to substantiate what he said? After all, by then, according to news accounts the attorney had already—without ever going to court—received two hundred and fifty-grand in a lawsuit against the City of Ukiah for his client for her pain and trepidation, which in the end, due to Eyster’s efforts, Kevin Murray did confess. Without Murray’s accuser on the stand, what kind of case did Eyster have? “Sweetheart” deal? The victim never showed up.
Early on in his righteous case against Kevin Murray and his insinuations against Eyster for not correctly prosecuting this case, Geniella mentioned—out of the blue and nowhere—that Eyster often wrote his own press releases. ? What did this have to do with Mike Geniella’s crusade against Murray? Nothing. It had nothing to do with Geniella’s bad cop narrative. It seemed like a personal complaint. The boss is doing my job. The job that I should do. Press releases from a DA’s office often involve complicated legal explanations. Perhaps, Eyster, as an accomplished attorney, felt that with certain cases he could do a much more accurate job writing a specific press release than the writer he had hired.
Trivial issue, perhaps. That is until it pops up again. In Geniella’s most recent piece about Kevin Murray. (last Friday) Geniella characterized Eyster as: “a pugnacious prosecutor who writes his own press releases.” What? There it was again. Eyster writing his own press releases. Attacking Eyster for his performance in the Murray case is one thing. It may or may not be vengeance, but DA Eyster writing his own press releases while pushing Geniella aside appears to be a recurring obsession and a thorn in Geniella’s side. Irritation and obsession can obscure a journalist’s judgment and detract from what they write.
One more minor thing, and something important to all of us.
One. When it comes to Geniella’s campaign to righteously put a cop in jail, Geniella has sensitive skin. The finest writer in Mendocino County since Jack London stayed in Elk and Gualala to fish and hunt is without question, Tom Hine, who writes a weekly column in the Ukiah Daily Journal under the pseudonym of Tommy Wayne Kramer. In regards to the Murray case as well as DA Eyster and Judge Moorland, who sentenced Murray to probation, in a recent column, Tom Hine made a relevant point. He simply asked why would a DA and Judge deliberately destroy their careers by intentionally letting a bad cop off the hook. It didn’t make sense to Hine. In the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Hine’s column is reprinted weekly, and Geniella opined that Tom Hine should be ashamed of himself for offering such a devious point of view. Ashamed? Hine worked as a private investigator for the public defender’s office for decades in our county. When it comes to the courts and the district attorney’s office, I would venture to say that Tom Hine knows a hell of a lot more than Geniella and a hundred times more than me.
Two. I would like to note that Murray is not every law enforcement officer. Does Mike Geniella understand this? As yet, he’s failed to make that point. In fact, in his own words, and in his most recent tirade against the bad cop and Eyster, Geniella wrote: “while Eyster and other prosecutors and police agencies (my underline) stall (my underline once more) in providing full details of cases like Murray’s, the California Reporting Project, founded by KQED and NPR, in 2021 analyzed 103 sexual misconduct cases from different police departments across the state. The conclusion was that in many cases the victims were vulnerable to an officer’s authority: sex workers, confidential informants, and already incarcerated people.” Why did Geniella bring this up? Sex workers, snitches, and criminals as victims of the police? “Many cases?” Geniella’s words. Wasn’t bad cop Kevin Murray the exclusive subject here? Is there an epidemic afoot? KQED? NPR? These are one-sided, liberal-progressive media sources that have been at the forefront of grandstanding the defund the police movement. Defund the police? That particular movement has brought criminal chaos, police attacks, and police killings all across our land. In our own county, sheriff deputies, and local cops risk their lives for our safety nearly every day. They’re our neighbors. They’re our protectors, and the DA’s office finishes what they start after the cops have locked the criminals up. Two fine officers died for us while I’ve been living in this county: Ricky Del Fiorentino in 2014, ambushed by a crazed druggie, and Deputy George Robert Davis whose accused murderer got off the hook. Neither of these policemen, in Geniella’s words, were prone to “stall” when it came to protecting us. To use Kevin Murray to color all law enforcement officers throughout our county is misguided if not wrong. If Mike Geniella casts shame upon Tom Hine for stating an obvious fact, then Mike Geniella should turn his face into a mirror to see the shame he casts upon himself by thinking every cop’s the same.