Monday, December 9, 2013

interview: Big Leaguer Jonny Gomes remembers SRJC roots

[originally printed in Oak Leaf News Dec. 8, 2013]
Hometown Boy in Big Leagues, Remembers Roots

The word “hero” gets overused so often it hardly means anything. Heroism is not just a one-time action, but a way of life. Few people walk the walk of true heroism more than Santa Rosa Junior College’s most successful baseball player, Jonny Gomes.
Before winning this year’s World Series playing for the Boston Red Sox, Petaluma native Gomes played baseball for Santa Rosa Junior College until getting drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2001. Gomes also played for the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals before returning home to play for the Oakland A’s for the 2012 season. In his very first World Series appearance, his three-run homer won Game Four against the St. Louis Cardinals and helped the Red Sox win the series.
Gomes is known for inspiring the best from his teammates, both on and off the field. He donates money and equipment to various charities, and paid to rebuild Casa Grande’s baseball field house – twice - after arsonists burned it down in 2006. Gomes demonstrates his generosity of spirit by taking time for an interview with SRJC’s Oak Leaf earlier this year, shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing:
Oak Leaf: So, can you tell me a little bit about playing at SRJC and what it was like when you were finally drafted?
Jonny Gomes: Gotcha. I tell you what, I was very grateful to have drawn two coaches, Ron Myers and Damon Niedlinger. To this day, in the Big Leagues, about ten years later, I’m doing the same drills I learned there, and I’m really, really lucky as a player to meet both those guys; true geniuses of coaching the game. And we weren’t that good, at all, to tell you the truth, but those two coaches really got the max out of everyone’s talents, and I think we played a little bit over our skills just because of those coaches.
OL: I understand you have the ‘707’ [area code] put on your gear; that’s actually done in the factory?
JG: That’s right.
OL: Can you talk a little about that?
JG: Well, it’s just a little tribute, if you will, to sticking to my roots and remembering where I’m from, and at the same time there are charities at whatnot back at home, and I’m able to donate that equipment and auction it off.
OL: That brings another question: when Casa Grande’s field house got burned down twice in 2006, did you take that personally?
JG: No. No, I didn’t take it personal by any means; probably just some jackass, you know, just trying to burn it down. I mean, if he had made it more personal, I don’t know, with some personal… something.  But it was probably just some punk looking for something to do.
OL: I understand that you’ve been batting with the names of the Boston Marathon victims on your bat.
JG: Yeah, I just did it for one game, just two at-bats. I had two bats made, and I used it my first at-bat and then used it my second at-bat and then gave them to the team and let them auction it off for The One Fund, and I think they sold yesterday.
OL: I have a couple friends, Drew and Tony, who always get season tickets with the [Oakland] A’s. So last year, when you were playing with the A’s… They both grew up in Santa Rosa, now seeing a local boy in the big leagues. So as a player, how is it having fans from your hometown watching your team?
JG: Well, I think that pretty much comes with the invite with playing in your hometown, or near your hometown. But growing up a die-hard A’s fan, obviously when they won the World Series in ’89 and then lost in ’90, really set off my love for the game of baseball, and it’s just a complete honor to be able to wear that uniform.
OL: Did you have a favorite baseball player growing up?
JG: Ah, I just had a favorite team – and that was the A’s.
OL: Oh, great! Now, when you were at SRJC, did you have any favorite teacher or classes?
JG: No. Baseball.
OL: Well, I don’t really have any other questions – I wasn’t expecting a lot of time with you. Do have anything you’d like to say to the JC students?
JG: No, just that I was very grateful to attend that college, and it holds a lot in my memories, and being able to travel the country now helps me understand it’s one of the nicest campuses around.
OL: Well, I really appreciate your time I’m going to try to see you next time you play in town, and hopefully interview you on camera if you have time.
JG: All right, chief.
OL: Have a great game.
SRJC baseball coach Damon Niedlinger also took the time to answer a few questions about Gomes:
Oak Leaf: What are your impressions of Gomes from his SRJC days?
Coach Niedlinger: Jonny Gomes improved as much as any player from his freshman to sophomore years.  He was a very hard worker that overcame a lot of challenges off the field.
OL: Is Gomes a credit to the SRJC athletics department?
CN: Absolutely, Jonny has been a strong supporter of the SRJC program as well as his hometown of Petaluma.  He is a very generous man with his time and his resources.
OL: What are your impressions of Gomes' professional career?
CN: Great teammate.  Jonny is associated with winning and the importance of having unselfish guys in the clubhouse.  He always stays ready to play and truly wants his teammates to have success.
OL: Can you comment on Gomes' charity work - like helping rebuild Bob Leslie Field at Casa Grande High School?
CN: Jonny is a very generous man that demonstrates that he remembers where he came from.  From helping rebuild Bob Leslie Field to the all the support/awareness he raised for the Petaluma Little Leagues and the support of their families to be able to see there kids play. Jonny is consistently one of the guys that is always at the top of the list when the professional team he is with recognizes charity/community outreach work.
When Jonny was with the Reds & A's he was always terrific to the kids of friends and past coaches.  I was at a game one time and he brought my son down on the field during batting practice to meet Dusty Baker and gave him a bat and some batting gloves.  What makes Jonny special is that it is very genuine and he makes the kids feel special.

The Oak Leaf would like to thank Abby DeCiccio, Red Sox Media Relations Specialist, for setting up this interview, and would also like to thank Jonny Gomes for being such an inspirational sports hero, both on and off the field.

article: Holzworth Trial Starts Next Quarter

[originally printed in Oak Leaf News Dec. 8, 2013]

Holzworth Trial Starts Next Quarter

            The criminal trial proceeded slowly with attorneys on both sides scheduling an evidentiary hearing to test the validity of search warrants served against Jeffrey Holzworth, the former Santa Rosa Junior College District Police officer accused of pilfering over $300,000 from SRJC parking machines since 2005. The 28-year veteran held sole responsibility for collecting money from parking machines at SRJC campuses in Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Windsor, and faces 11 counts of receiving stolen property and one charge of grand theft; his wife Karen faces three counts of receiving stolen property and one count of acting as an accessory.
            On Nov. 21, 2013 Judge Kenneth Gnoss heard arguments from Assistant District Attorney Amy Ariyoshi and defense attorney Joe Passalaqua regarding motions to quash and traverse the affidavits and search warrants served by Santa Rosa Police Department detectives on Nov. 28, 2012 which discovered receipts from SRJC parking machines and ATMs, casino player’s club cards, gambling records and several caches of stashed cash in quarters, $1 bills and $5 bills totaling $13,487.
            Ariyoshi explained the difference between motions to quash and motions to traverse a search warrant outside the courtroom after the hearing. A motion to quash corresponds to the “four corners of the warrant itself,” such as a lack of probable cause or if the judge reviewing the warrant got something wrong. A motion to traverse corresponds to search warrants based on misrepresentation or reckless falsehoods. In a review of either of these motions, quashing is limited to the search warrant itself without bringing in additional evidence, whereas traversing requires bringing in outside information.
            “It’s all a technicality issue,” Ariyoshi said.
            In court, Passalaqua’s motions all focused on “the fruit of the poisoned tree,” a legal doctrine excluding evidence obtained from improper search warrants. If the warrant itself is illegal, the “poisoned tree,” then any evidentiary “poisoned fruit” found is also inadmissible.
            Passalaqua described two incidents, in 2006 and in 2012, where SRJC District Police officer Steve Potter discovered evidence suggesting Holzworth’s misappropriation of the parking meter money he was entrusted to collect. Potter’s observations amounted to a warrantless search by an on-duty officer, Passalaqua said. If Potter’s original affidavit were found improper, any later search warrants based on that affidavit, or based
            In 2006, Potter saw a gym bag in the District Police locker room and unzipped it to verify the bag’s owner. Inside, Potter saw the laptop Holzworth allegedly used to erase the internal memories inside the parking machines, as well as a “large sum of U.S. currency,” and secured the gym bag in the evidence locker. Passalaqua said this constituted a warrantless search by an on-duty officer.
            Ariyoshi countered, saying it was merely an action of one co-worker securing another’s valuable property accidentally left out. “There is no indication any officer had any suspicions or any knowledge of violation of law,” she said. “The reasonable presumption was Holzworth got his bag back and proceeded to act as normal.”
            Passalaqua disagreed and said, “Potter was not acting as a private citizen, because private citizens cannot lock items into evidence.”
            On Oct. 24, 2012 Holzworth, in his personal vehicle, gave Potter a ride to a defense training session at Tauzer Gym, and Potter said he noticed the cup holders were full of quarters, and no other coins. When Holzworth stepped out of the vehicle monetarily, Potter opened the center console and looked inside, where he saw six stacks of $1 and $5 bills. Ariyoshi said this was the action of a private citizen getting a ride from a co-worker, not an active investigation by an on-duty officer, and there was no reasonable expectation of privacy in an unlocked center console.
            Passalaqua disagreed and said, “If I was a guest in Your Honor’s car, you wouldn’t want me to go through your center console – and vice versa. The Fourth Amendment has to stand for something, and if it doesn’t protect from the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, then why have it at all?”
            Ariyoshi said California law doesn’t support the assertion that a law enforcement officer is on duty at all times, and even while on duty an officer’s actions may be those of a private citizen, not an acting agent of the government. For example, in 2012 when Holzworth gave Potter a ride to their defense training session, they wore civilian clothes and did not have their handguns with them. “There is no indication Potter was acting as law enforcement. He wasn’t investigating a crime,” Ariyoshi said.
            “It’s ludicrous to say he wasn’t on duty,” Passalaqua said. “When you are a salaried officer, part of your job is defense training.” In regard to Holzworth’s unsupervised oversight of collecting money from campus parking machines, “That supports bad policy on the part of the JC – no mechanisms in place,” Passalaqua said.
            Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Ariyoshi said law enforcement officers do not have extra Fourth Amendment rights. “It’s outrageous to take advantage of the fact a police officer is surrounded by other police officers, to use that as a technicality,” Ariyoshi said. “Can an officer shoot somebody in the head, as long as it was only observed by another officer? It’s an absurd technicality to base a case on.”
In the worst case, Ariyoshi said, if the judge dismissed the entire case by tossing out Potter’s affidavit, the District Attorney’s office would “strenuously disagree” and file an appeal, but expressed doubt the entire search warrant would be thrown out. “Everything else is a plain sight observation,” Ariyoshi said. “Just suppressing two observations, from 2006 and 2012, to just ignore everything else over a 6-year time frame, would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The defense can’t attack basic facts, that Holzworth had control of that job. He was master of his own domain.”
            Passalaqua had no comment outside the courtroom.
            On Dec. 3, 2013 attorneys from both sides met in court briefly to schedule an evidentiary hearing at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 15, 2014 in courtroom 15, where Potter and SRPD  detectives Azzouni and Lazzarini will give testimony supporting the probable cause backing up their search warrant affidavits.