Caltrans Case Against Tree Sitter Dismissed

Falcon-300x274 10th June Long-standing trespass charges against Mark Herbert, aka “Falcon,” who perched in an old oak tree in April, 2013, above the hill west of Highway 101 that Caltrans is now excavating for soil to construct the much-protested Willits Bypass, where he observed and reported on developments, were dismissed entirely on May 29th by Judge Ann Moorman in Ukiah Superior Court. Falcon was charged with trespass 602K, “entering any lands, whether unenclosed or enclosed by fence, 1) for the purpose of injuring any property or property rights or with the intention of interfering with a lawful business…”

The District Attorney told the court that no one had subpoenaed the CHP officer from the Special Weapons and Tactics unit who supervised the arrest of Herbert, the witness who was supposed to testify. Unlike other tree sitters, including Warbler, the young woman whose original tree sit sparked the Bypass protests, Herbert was not extracted by force, but agreed to come down when requested to do so.

Herbert’s attorney, Ed Denson, said “Judge Moorman indicated the case was almost a year old and she dismissed it. The CHP investigation was very perfunctory and it should have been clear to the investigating officer that Herbert had committed no crime. The evidence shows that no intention on Herbert’s part to interfere with any lawful business or occupation. “

Denson elaborated: “Herbert’s case differed from that of all the other tree sitters, but the CHP failed to note that. Their report said his tree was north of 101, but the videos clearly show it was on a hill well south of 101 out of the construction area. No one from Caltrans or the CHP had even come to his site to ask him to come down until the day he was arrested by a team of 24 officers. He then voluntarily descended from the tree. It was clear that his purpose in doing the tree sit was to be a witness to the events occurring across the highway during the CHP blockade of the media preventing reporting on the extraction of the sitters. Herbert was a spokesperson for the effort to save the valley while the others were prevented from contact with the public. Had the CHP thought things through, the taxpayers could have saved thousands of dollars.”

The D.A. had almost a year to prepare and still was not ready to prosecute the case. A rally to support Herbert and fellow activist Will Parrish was held on the courthouse steps at noon. Parrish, who writes for the Anderson Valley Advertiser, stopped work on the Caltrans Bypass for more than eleven days last June and July by occupying a wick drain tower on the north end of the project, leading finally to his arrest and the arrests of several other activists trying to supply him with food and water denied him by CHP officers on site.

Parrish’s hearing on restitution demanded by Caltrans in the amount of $150,000 has been postponed to July 17. Assistant District Attorney Sequiera said the case has become confusing and he is insisting now that Caltrans supply their own lawyer to appear in court on the case, which will also be over a year old by the time of the hearing.