Thursday, March 27, 2014

article: Holzworth preliminary hearing scheduled

[originally published in Oak Leaf News March 27, 2014]

The trial over embezzled campus parking meter money inched closer to commencing after a March 27 readiness hearing confirmed a preliminary hearing set for April 2.
Former Santa Rosa Junior College officer Jeffrey Holzworth held sole responsibility, without oversight, for collecting parking fees from SRJC campuses in Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Windsor. Holzworth, a 28-year veteran with SRJC District Police, faces 11 charges of receiving stolen property and one charge of embezzlement, enhanced for an amount over $150,000. Prosecutors allege Holzworth embezzled $300,000 since 2005.
Holzworth’s wife Karen faces three charges of receiving stolen property and one charge as an accessory to a crime.
Judge Jamie Thistlethwaite presided over the brief March 27 readiness hearing in courtroom 2 to confirm the April 2 preliminary hearing. Holzworth’s attorney Joe Passalacqua confirmed his own readiness and spoke on behalf of Karen Holzworth’s attorney George Boisseau, absent from the hearing defending another case. Passalacqua said “with that caveat” of Boisseau’s temporary absence, the defense was ready for the preliminary hearing.
Assistant District Attorney Amy Ariyoshi confirmed the prosecution’s readiness, and its plan to bring a written summary of their case for the court.
The Holzworths and their defense attorney declined to comment after the brief hearing.
Santa Rosa Police detectives served their warrants Nov. 28, 2012 and their search of Holzworth’s personal and work vehicles, work locker and house discovered $14,259 in quarters, $1 and $5 bills, including 16 canvas bank bags full of cash, five glass jars full of coins and $350 in $5 bills tucked in a dresser drawer. One canvas bag held $470 in rolled quarters.
“Holzworth has also told staff at the [bank] that he owns a vending machine business, which appears to be his justification for possessing $1 and $5 in such large quantities,” according to SRPD detective Mark Azzouni’s search warrant affidavit. “Based on this information, it appears that Holzworth turns in bills with small denominations ($1s & $5s) for larger bills ($100s).”
Detectives also found notebooks full of sports betting information, casino player’s club cards, business cards for “female escorts” and shredded remains of SRJC parking permit machine test printouts. Holzworth’s work locker held the laptop and cable he used to erase the internal memories of SRJC parking permit machines. “In doing so, an accounting of the parking machine cannot be completed,” Azzouni’s affidavit said. “If he does not turn in the money from a particular machine, the omission would not be recognized by accounting or police department staff. By discarding the receipt, no one at the accounting or police departments would know that Holzworth collected money from that particular machine. In turn, Holzworth could keep the money.”
In a Feb. 5 hearing, Presiding Judge Kenneth Gnoss reviewed the three search warrants served by SRPD detectives, and the evidence collected by them. The first two warrants placed GPS trackers on Holzworth’s vehicles and obtained his Equifax credit report, and both based their probable cause entirely on observations made by Holzworth’s coworker Sgt. Stephen Potter. Gnoss ruled Potter made his observations while “acting in his law enforcement capacity,” therefore Potter’s discovery of stacks of small bills in Holzworth’s work bag and in his personal vehicle constituted illegal searches.
The “fruit of the poison tree” legal doctrine states an illegal or warrantless search taints any evidence discovered and excludes the tainted evidence from trial. Gnoss excised all of Potter’s tainted observations as well as the first two warrants based on them.
Azzouni based his third search warrant affidavit on personal observations made by several SRPD detectives assigned to follow Holzworth. Even after Gnoss excised all of Potter’s statements and everything obtained by the first two search warrants, enough evidence remained for Ariyoshi to say, “We still have everything.”
After the readiness hearing, Ariyoshi explained the new courthouse policy where all preliminary hearings will now be conducted in courtroom 10 under Judge Peter Ottenweller. Thistlethwaite estimated the hearing will take about four hours.
Holzworth’s preliminary hearing starts 9:30 a.m. in courtroom 10 of Sonoma County Hall of Justice.

article: A self-sufficient SRJC campus

(originally published in Oak Leaf News March 10, 2014)

Santa Rosa Junior College could defend our electrical power grid from terrorist attacks while cutting the college’s operating costs.
Fox News’ coverage of last year’s sniper rifle attack on a power station near San Jose demonstrates our massive power grid’s vulnerability to isolated terrorist attacks. Whenever Fox News finds a new way to panic its viewers, I try to figure out who’s making money.
SRJC’s blackout last semester left people trapped in elevators for over an hour. Sooner or later we’ll feel another power outage, from a brief brownout to a full-on terrorist assault against our electrical freedoms. Unlike most problems, we can prepare for the unexpected is before it happens.
It is a scientific fact that electricity can be generated from sources besides fossil fuels. One of these sources is the sun, a magical being who circles our planet in its golden chariot. Photoelectric cells are intelligently designed to transform this tax-free light from the sun into electricity, and can operate for 20 years or more with little maintenance.
Illustration by Daniel Barba
SRJC has room enough with flat roofs and large open parking lots to install hundreds of solar panels. While this may not be enough to power the entire school yet, it will bring the campus closer to self-sufficiency and reduce our reliance on the grid. SRJC could even acquire the solar panels at little or no cost to our college by applying for grants and community funding. Since SRJC offers certificates in solar photovoltaics, a solar power farm visible from Highway 101 would make a better advertisement than a billboard.
To power SRJC at night, gas turbines could be installed “upstream” of the equipment already burning natural gas, like water heaters. These gas turbines are like a jet engine bolted to a generator instead of an airplane wing, generating power directly. The “waste heat” can power a steam turbine to generate electricity and hot water. The hot air could heat a building or an oven, allowing SRJC’s amazing culinary program to be funded by its own bake sales.
Since SRJC also offers classes to make biofuel from vegetable oil, building power generators for campus use could become part of the curriculum. Imagine a campus where the same oil cooking the students’ food also powers their lights and computers. Our economic future depends on freeing ourselves from fossil fuels, and by expanding and promoting alternative energy projects, SRJC could help lead the way.
While generators and solar panels cost money, that alone should not be our limiting factor. There are people and companies eager to help us, like Sir Richard Branson, whose Virgin Green Fund invests in renewable energy research. With a little help, the SRJC Virgin Generators could make our campus a leader in energy innovation – the cherry on top of an amazing college.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Facebook death announcements; a tribute to my cousin Michael "Jorgo" Jorgensen

When my father died last spring, my sister found out on Facebook. I thought she already knew the bad news when I posted, that somebody had already called her the night before to tell her. I was wrong.
I found out that my dad died right before my all-day final. My step-brother emailed me the night before, but I didn't check Facebook until I got to school the next day. Dad really wanted me to finish college, and I came close to finishing before he died. My final started at 10 a.m. and I had to put on my game face and swing for the fences until I finished about 4:30 that afternoon.
 Afterward, I posted, "The Good News is that I just aced my Digital Video Postproduction final this afternoon. The Bad News is that my father passed away last night, but I was too busy trying to finish school to go visit him - and I was planning on driving out there this afternoon."
My father Victor W. Jorgensen, Jr. in his natural habitat.
Dad had been very sick for over a month, and his condition quickly deteriorated from “very bad” to “much worse” over his final week, so his terminal news at 79 came as no shocking surprise. I assumed my sister already knew the bad news that afternoon when I posted on Facebook.
My friends all liked my dad, and they know my feeble sense of humor. If I had simply posted "My dad just died," they all would have worried I was taking it too hard. But a bad joke is no way to share a family tragedy.
Dad’s last Facebook message to me said, “That was my dad who stood in front of the Jeep.  His troops were afraid, and wouldn't lie the lines till that.” I asked him about my grandfather in World War II, when his prison-furloughed troops were terrified of snipers. Grandpa stood in his Jeep’s headlights and told them the snipers now had a target to shoot at.
My father, my friend, will never “Like” me again.
Discovering dead friends and family members on your Facebook wall is a sad new technological trend. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, it probably will.
A couple days ago after class, I checked Facebook at the library. A picture of my cousin Michael came up, one massive arm gently holding a newborn baby, a tiny cubit of cuteness. He beamed proudly with his dual expression of both accomplishment and unlimited possibilities. I felt so happy for him – until I saw my cousin’s message under the photo, "My brother Michael died yesterday at 35." I held Michael when he was an infant, and that news hit me hard where it hurts.
I don't always cry in the library, but when I do it's because I hurt really, really bad inside. The students using the computers around me must have been distracted listening to me try to stifle my unmanly blubbering. But to my credit, I was mostly successful on several occasions.
I have had to post twice on Facebook that the rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated, as Mark Twain claims he said.
The day before Christmas a few years ago, somebody from my small hometown with my exact name died in an avalanche while snowmobiling. I knew people would see his name in the newspaper and think I was dead. After updating my Facebook status to “alive” I learned lots of my friends and neighbors had read my name on the front page that Christmas morning.  
I discovered Erik eight years ago while looking myself up on Facebook, to find out how easy it would be for my friends to find me. We had the same name from the same small town, and since my relatives settled around there, I wondered if we were related. It turned out we weren’t, but I said I would look him up the next time I was in town. His final message was, “Sounds good.” A few months later he died doing what his family said he loved the most.
Last summer I discovered a giant spike in hits for my new blog, all for the obituary I had just written for my father. They came from a Google search for “Erik Jorgensen obituary.” I knew something had just happened to one of my name-twins, and was morbidly curious enough to Google which one had just died.
The headlines read, “Erik Jorgensen dead of self-inflicted gunshot.” Erik defused bombs in Afghanistan and went missing one Friday from Mountain Home Air Force Base outside Boise, Idaho. Massive news coverage urged people to be on the lookout for the missing soldier, diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and possibly off his medication. Several days later, the TV news reported finding Erik’s dead body.
Both my parents were both born in Boise, and I lived in nearby Emmett through first grade. Since this happened shortly after my dad’s funeral and I have several relatives still in the area, I had to post something, anything. My cousin Michael’s sister told me she saw my name on that tragic news coverage. I’m glad I posted something.
Facebook hasn’t always been the traditional messenger of death.
When my step-brother was shot in the head by his step-father, and his mother found drowned fully clothed in the same house a year later, I was informed by phone. When my cousin Judy came out of the closet, then took her own life a couple years later, and when my cousin Lisa Marie was victim of a murder-suicide, Mom called and brought up the subject gently. From her tone of voice I knew it was very bad news, so I was able to brace myself for it.
Learning of Michael’s death somehow hit me much harder than any other family member’s death. I don’t know how much of that was from finding out through Facebook. I didn’t know what else to do but write on his wall, “I'll miss you, cousin. I wish I had gotten to know you better.” His brothers both “Liked” that.
Blue Mouse Theatre in Tacoma held a tribute to Jorgo
I got to know Michael a little better after seeing how many friends posted on his wall, and wished they had taken the time to tell Jorgo how much he had touched their lives. Michael performed as Eddie in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at Tacoma’s Blue Mouse Theatre. His “Rocky” family held a special memorial performance for him.
Blue Mouse’s Facebook page said, “Dust off your dancing shoes. Tonight is ‘Rocky Horror’ and tonight we remember the life of Jorgo and what he brought to ‘Rocky Horror.’ RIP Jorgo this one will be for you.” Underneath, a poster read, “Keep calm and do the Time Warp again.”
Michael’s wife Christina wrote on Blue Mouse’s Facebook page, “Thank you to all Mike’s Rocky family, I really enjoyed the Jorgo tribute. He would have loved it.”
My cousin Dave wrote, “The best Rocky Horror I’ve ever seen. What good friends Michael has in all of you. Thank you for honoring my brother with such a personal, lively experience. He would have loved it.”
My last conversation with my cousin Michael was asking about his expertise in videogame design: “Unfortunately no, I’m more the traditional PC game dev. Not sure the constraints on making something for Facebook.”
I just didn’t feel like going directly home after learning the bad news about Michael. At my neighborhood pub, the bartender said, “I just read what you posted about your cousin. That must be rough. Let me buy you a beer.” He said some other things too, which I just can’t recall, but at the time I thought it was the perfect thing to say to somebody. The beer itself was a kind gesture, but his compassionate words I will never forget, even though I’ve forgotten his exact words. I wish I could thank you enough, Joe, but all the words I know still can’t cover it. Keep up the good work.
It is hard to know what to say to somebody grieving, even having been on the receiving end of condolences. Over the years I’ve learned through Facebook about several friends losing parents, even both parents. I never know what to say except, “So sorry. Hang in there.” Celebrity death announcements are very common on Facebook, but there is a very different feeling from losing somebody you actually know.
I don’t want to say how many dead Facebook friends I have collected. Too many, and the number won’t get smaller. The same will happen to you someday. I’m sorry for your loss in advance.
Grandpa told me, “When Life hands you lemons, make a song.” So Michael, this ravensong is for you. I wish I got to know you better.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

article: SRJC Board of Trustees approves new member

(originally published in Oak Leaf News March 11, 2014)
Santa Rosa Junior College gained new board member Kathleen Doyle at its March 10, 2014 Board of Trustees meeting. With a six-to-one vote, Doyle replaced Onita Pellegrini of Petaluma, who resigned Jan. 14 from her board position. Doyle previously served an 11-year stint on SRJC’s Board of Trustees until being replaced by Pellegrini in 2005.
“I welcome the opportunity to serve,” said Doyle. “I’m very much looking forward to this position.” She is not related to the famous Doyle family who gave their name to SRJC’s library and scholarships. Doyle said she doesn’t need to be brought up to speed with SRJC agenda items, since she has gotten a copy of the Board’s agenda every single month since she served eight years ago.
“As a resident of Petaluma, I’ve heard nothing but positive about her commitment to the college,” said SRJC president Frank Chong. “I’m certain we could use her expertise in terms of her financial background. I think she’ll be a great trustee.” Chong extended his thanks to all the other applicants. “I think it’s a testament to the college how many people were interested in serving. I’m looking forward to working with her.”
Student Trustee Robert Edmonds cast the sole opposing vote but also looks forward to working with the new Trustee. “As with the rest of the Board, sometimes I disagree with points of view, but that is what a good Board should do, is disagree about things periodically and come to some consensus.”
Doyle’s appointment will be up for election in November. “She’ll hit the ground running,” said Trustee Dick Call.