North Bay Legal News of the Day- April 7, 2015

Written By: Attorney Justin O. Milligan

Mental health is critical to having a healthy and productive life.  Some might consider getting help if they find it hard to get up in the morning because they are depressed about some aspect of their job. Some will not seek help until their mental health deteriorates so far that they become incoherent to others.  I’m not sure Ned Kohler of Knights Valley has received the help he needs, but it had to be a sign when law enforcement were called 34 times since January regarding issues about Ned.  (Knights Valley man caught after manhunt, 4-6-15, The Press Democrat.)

Over the last three months Ned’s state of mind must have deteriorated because on Monday morning, he walked into the open door of his neighbor early in the morning and threatened to kill her if she didn’t leave.  What is heartbreaking about his is that the neighbor, Lauren Thollander, has known Ned “for years.”  Lauren, who is 61, told The Press Democrat that she used to pick Ned’s kids for school back when she drove a school bus.  She never expected him to threaten to kill her.  In fact, she had just recently seen him at the local store.  I really appreciate what she says at the end of the Press Democrat Article.  “I’m glad he’s going to get some help,” she said. “He deserves to have a chance to get some help.”  This is so true. There are resources for people with mental illness.  One of the best I can think of is NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  “NAMI Sonoma County is a grassroots

family, client and community member organization, dedicated to improving

the lives of people with mental health challenges and the lives of their families and friends. These challenges are known as neurobiological brain disorders,

or psychiatric disabilities.”  (http://www.namisonomacounty.org/.)  If you know someone who is experiencing mental illness, NAMI is fantastic resource that can identify resources for your loved one to help them get better and to cope with what is to some, a permanent disability.

On another front, two “rival” gang members were sentenced on Monday to state prison for the robbery of the Rite Aid store at Guerneville and Marlow Roads.   (Rival gang members sentenced in Santa Rosa drug store robbery, 4-6-15, The Press Democrat.)  The two were convicted of the gunpoint theft of several bottles of Promethazine.  Promethazine is apparently an under the counter cough syrup often used in a concoction with soda called Sizzurp.  I’ve never heard of that, which just highlights my age, but another thing that struck me is the allegation the defendants were rival gang members.  It reminds me of the sickness of street gangs.  It is a disease just like addiction in that these, often youngsters, make decisions to do things like rob stores for the purpose of supporting a criminal street gang that seem contrary to a desire to succeed to most of us.

What is it that causes a young person to join a criminal street gang?  I’ve never met a successful street gang member.  The ones I meet are always having to spend thousands of dollars to defend against accusations they committed a crime with a gang enhancement, which will add years to a sentence.  (Penal Code 186.22.)  Why do it?  Over the years I have developed some insight to this addiction to a gang and it is complicated.  One of the things I have learned is that no matter how smart these young people are (I have personally never represented a gang member more than, say, 25 years old) if they develop a bond with their street gang friends early on, it is as hard to break as a heroin habit.  And there are programs that view it this way.

For instance, Casa Calmecac, a Santa Rosa based recovery center operated by California Human Development offers treatment based on the specific needs of gang members to those “seeking greater self-sufficiency, independence and dignity through education, training, housing and other services.” (http://www.cahumandevelopment.org/.)  I hope these young men also receive treatment for their disease while incarcerated.  People like them can and do rise above their childhood and their addiction.  I am fortunate to have seen it happen only twice in my career spanning 12 years of practice.  And all the time and effort I have put into trying to help all my clients accused of gang crimes is worth it just to see that happen twice.

Can’t help but to put a shout out to the A’s and the Giants who both won their season openers last night.  Though a Giant’s fan, I am impressed by both teams.  Looks like we may have another exciting season of baseball!

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