Albion Monitor /News
[Editor's note: Reporter Mark Heimann has possession over the "Bear" Lincoln letter and envelope that lies at the center of this controversy. Heimann testified in court last Wednesday that the letter appeared on his desk at the Anderson Valley Advertiser in mid-January, and he has no idea how it got there. Heimann has covered the Lincoln case since the beginning for the AVA, and wrote a substantial portion of the Round Valley hypertext feature that appeared earlier in the Albion Monitor.]

Why Bruce Anderson is in Jail

Commentary by Mark Heimann

In the land of the free and the home of the brave, the brave are jailed for exercising their freedom. Free speech and a free and uninhibited press are a uniquely American myth. But in practice, the U.S. is no different than the corrupt government of Brazil, which just jailed two reporters for being critical of that government.

Here in California's banana republic of Mendocino County, an independent and free press is afforded the same treatment by the local government. The forces of repression share a common cause: the concealment of their crimes.

Only the AVA and Albion Monitor have reported the weakness of the District Attorney's case against Lincoln

The jailing of Bruce Anderson is not about Bear Lincoln's letter; the letter is useless to the prosecution and would be just as useless even if it were written in Lincoln's own hand. It provides no new evidence. Lincoln has admitted being on that hill the night of April 14, 1995. Some of the information contained in the letter is legitimately contested and some is Lincoln's opinion. Lincoln is presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise. He has not given up his right to free speech. That the D.A. is so relentlessly pursing this innocuous letter shows how little evidence there is against Lincoln, yet the D.A. is trying to put him to death.

Take the issue of how dark it was that night. Lincoln says, "no one could see 20 feet in front of their face." The surviving deputy, Dennis Miller, says it was "so light he could read his watch by the light of the moon." It was both. A storm was moving in that night, the full moon was hidden, then exposed, then hidden again. By three or four in the morning, it was snowing.

Lincoln's opinion is that there was more than one M-16 firing, though the evidence does not support his belief. Lincoln also says he thinks 200 to 250 shots were fired. What the evidence does show is that over 60 shots were fired at Lincoln from at least three different police weapons, including an M-16 on full automatic, and that Deputy Miller lied in a material way about the events of that evening.

With the kind of combat firepower that was directed at Lincoln, it's a wonder he didn't think he was being shot at with a cannon. Ear witnesses to the event describe the fusillade as "like a war" and "like being back in 'Nam" and thought more than one machine-gun was in play. Any one who has been on the receiving end of the fast-firing M-16 as I have, can testify that the sound is more like a giant zipper being pulled than individual shots. If they are truthful, they'll probably recall the warm, wet feeling running down their pants leg.

Paraphrasing Lincoln's letter: there was no warrant, no road block, no lights, and no warning. Only the last item is contested by the authorities. Besides Lincoln, Deputy Miller is the only witness to the events that night on that hill, and it has already been proved that he has lied. Are we supposed to believe that now that he has been caught in his fabrication he is now telling the truth? It is the calculated withholding of his mendaciousness by the D.A.'s office that resulted in the Grand Jury indictment against Lincoln being squashed last year.

The District Attorney's case against Lincoln is extremely weak; his prime witness is without credibility, so he is attempting to build his case retroactively. The AVA is the only news source, other than this publication (the Monitor went on-line five months after the shootings) that has consistently reported these facts. That is one of the reasons why the AVA is under attack with its editor jailed.

Politically-motivated prosecutions and abuse of power by D.A. Massini

The other is the AVA's reporting of D.A. Susan Massini's criminal abuse of power and her politically-motivated prosecutions. Massini, who just lost an election for Superior Court Judge, blames me for her defeat -- and I accept this credit with pride. Massini's record of official malfeasance is much too extensive to recount in full here, but just two examples of her most recent official misconduct illustrate the point:

  • Massini refuses to prosecute the assailants of Alvin "Pink" Peters, brother of Leonard Peters, the unassuming man who was slain by Deputies Miller and Davis in the same shootout that has Lincoln on trial for his life. (Massini has charged Lincoln with the death of his friend Leonard through the legal principle of "vicarious liability.") Even though the shooters of "Pink" are known -- there are seven eyewitnesses -- Massini will not press charges because one of the assailants is a minor witness against Bear Lincoln.

  • Massini's illegal prosecution of four Carpenter's Union Representatives for trespass on job sites where union workers were working, even though she knew the crime never happened and no laws had been broken. Interoffice memos from two of her own deputy D.A.'s reveal that she had been advised that the Union men's actions were legal and justified. Massini personally ordered that they be prosecuted for a non-crime against the advice of her staff, resulting in a costly seven day jury trial in which the Union men were acquitted. Massini went so far as to order the police detention of one of the men, Richard Radcliffe, as he waited outside the courthouse for his attorney, saying he was a suspicious character who "might be trying to break someone out or throw a bomb or something." Massini was well aware of who Mr. Radcliffe was, since she had personally participated in prior proceedings and had ordered his prosecution.

    Mendocino County is now facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit charging civil rights violations, false arrests, and malicious prosecution because of the D.A.'s illegal actions.

  • Cynical attempt to bankrupt the paper

    Bruce Anderson is the most articulate and outspoken voice pointing out the D.A.'s abuse of power, the Sheriff's class warfare against minorities and the poor, and the courts' collusion in both. With Bruce in jail for the duration of the trial, local authorities would significantly reduce the AVA's strength. This is a cynical attempt to bankrupt the paper with mounting legal fees and interfere with its normal business. I have no doubt that I'm next in their sights.

    The D.A.'s and Judge Luther's persecution of the AVA is a frontal assault on a free press and the Constitution that they swore an oath to uphold. Luther's decision that it "was highly unlikely" that I provided the court with the original letter as received by the AVA puts us in an impossible situation.

    I could "prove" the authenticity of the letter by providing the envelope, which would reveal the source. Luther himself ruled that the envelope is protected under the California Shield Law. D.A. Aaron Williams stipulated to this, yet his life of questioning at last Wednesday's hearing was nothing but a fishing expedition to get me to reveal information contained on the envelope. I have never betrayed a source, and I'm not going to start now. By putting the burden of proof on us, Luther is saying we have to snitch on a source to prove the letter is original, while at the same time saying the source is protected -- a Catch-22.

    Luther's decision was also wrong in that the test is a preponderance of the evidence -- that is, 51 percent. Williams provided no evidence that the letter I gave him was not the original received by the AVA, only his theory that I had made it up. The D.A.'s own evidence that the letter was probably typed by someone with Lincoln's defense team tends to support us. Therefore Luther's ruling was legally as well as morally wrong. This comes as no surprise to observers of Luther's checkered career on the bench. There is nothing Mendocino authority could do that would really surprise us anymore.

    To support free speech and free press, write your local newspaper, and write to Judge Luther (Superior Court, Courthouse, Ukiah, CA 95482). To support the AVA, subscribe (POB 459, Boonville, CA 95415).

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    Albion Monitor June 2, 1996 (

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