Albion Monitor /News
June 7 Update

Judge Frees Bruce Anderson

by Nicholas Wilson

"I didn't start this," Anderson said

Jubilant Bruce Anderson A jubilant Bruce Anderson was freed from jail yesterday after 13 days of solitary confinement. After hearing new testimony, Judge James Luther said he was persuaded that the letter turned over to the court a week ago was the original letter from Bear Lincoln received by the Anderson Valley Advertiser. The judge ruled that the newspaper editor/owner had complied with the prosecution subpoena demanding the letter and ordered him released immediately. The audience in the packed courtroom applauded the decision.

Anderson called the decision "a victory for free speech," and hoped that media attention would now focus on the Bear Lincoln murder case. "I was surprised it became such a sideshow here, but it's had a positive effect. Bear's plight certainly has gotten out there more." He said it was not a publicity stunt and added, "I didn't start this."

Ling Anderson testifies about how the letter arrived

Though the judge said after last week's hearing that he thought it was highly unlikely that the letter surrendered to the court was the original, he changed his mind based primarily on the testimony of two new witnesses, Anderson's wife Ling Anderson and AVA staffer Mark Scaramella.

Ling Anderson testified that she had sorted the incoming mail at the AVA, and placed the sealed envelope on reporter Mark Heimann's desk because it was addressed to him. She was present when Heimann brought the letter into the Anderson family kitchen adjoining the AVA office to show the letter to Anderson. She told how Bruce had scanned the letter for a few seconds and suggested Heimann make a photocopy of it because it might become a collector's item. She could see only the back of the letter, but noticed that it was on plain white unlined typing paper. This proved to be a significant detail.

Mark Scaramella, who does most of the AVA's typesetting, said he noticed some things about the letter that probably would be noticed only by a typesetter. He noticed that there were quotes around the headline of the letter, and that it already had a headline, making it unnecessary to add one as he usually does. He remembered that the letter was very easy to read compared to the many handwritten jailhouse letters he has typeset for the paper. He also accounted for minor differences between the typed letter turned over to the court and the version published in the AVA, including adding the salutation "Editor" at the beginning and the city of origin at the end. He deleted the October 30, 1995 date of the letter and a postscript asking that a back issue of the AVA be sent to Lincoln at the jail. Although he testified he could not say with absolute certainty that the letter he saw was typed rather than handwritten, he said he was "very, very sure" that the letter before the court was the one he set type from, based on the details he remembered.

Mark Heimann swears letter is original

Mark Heimann again testified that the original letter was in his possession at all times from the time he opened it until he gave it to Anderson's attorney last week to surrender to the court. He explained that the typing of each weekly edition resulted in a foot-high pile of papers on Scaramella's desk. To avoid having to search for the original in such a pile, he made a copy of the letter as Anderson suggested, and took the copy to Scaramella for typesetting. Heimann again swore that the letter surrendered to the court was the original he had received.

Anderson's attorney David Nelson called prosecution investigator Scott Warnock to the witness stand. Warnock had testified last week about reading and copying all of Bear Lincoln's letters from jail. Nelson asked him what kind of paper Bear Lincoln used to write letters. He replied that the paper was rarely white, but nearly always buff with green lines, or sometimes pastel colored, but always lined.

When Bruce Anderson was informed by Nelson that the transcript of the previous hearing showed that he had said "that's definitely not the letter," he said that was the opposite of what he was trying to say. He said that he had not yet adjusted to jail conditions -- the high level of noise, lights on from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., lack of sleep, isolation and headaches from caffeine withdrawal -- and was "more addled than usual." To Nelson's question as to whether the typed letter was something cooked up to try to fool the court, Anderson replied, "Absolutely not. That would be preposterous."

Prosecutor Aaron Williams asked Anderson why, after saying in the AVA and in court earlier that he would never give up the letter, he had so suddenly changed his mind after being jailed. Anderson replied, "It had become clear that I had no recourse in the courts; the letter had been published; the letter did not materially affect the (Lincoln) case. So why sit in jail and not turn in the letter when the real issue right along has been the source."

Williams got Anderson to admit he had said in a radio interview that he would do anything he could to derail a process that had a gas chamber at the end of it. He also admitted that he could not identify the letter from his own knowledge, since he had barely skimmed it when briefly handed it five and a half months ago.

Williams then argued in closing that Anderson's testimony could not be relied on to identify the letter, and that Heimann was so biased in favor of Lincoln that the judge couldn't believe him either. Ling Anderson couldn't identify the letter since she had only seen its back, and Scaramella couldn't say for certain that the letter had been typed, and couldn't identify the letter as the original since he had seen only the copy of it which Heimann had made.

Prosecutor Aaron Williams argued that Anderson could easily prove the letter was the original by producing the envelope

The judge earlier ruled the envelope and its source were protected from forced disclosure under the shield law because it was unpublished. He also ruled that the burden of proof was on Anderson to show that it was more likely than not that the letter he surrendered was the original he had received. Confirming what Anderson has alleged about Williams' real motive, Williams argued Anderson could easily prove the letter was the original by testifying about or producing the envelope the letter was in. He clearly was trying to place Anderson in the position of having to give up the envelope and reveal the source in order to get out of jail.

Nelson argued in closing that there were basically two scenarios to explain the letter surrendered to the court. The January 2 letter from Lincoln to his girlfriend which was read in court last week referred to his earlier letter to the AVA which his attorney Phil DeJong had delayed getting to the paper. Nelson argued it was reasonable to speculate that DeJong had been reluctant to forward the handwritten original to the paper because it might be used as evidence against his client. After Lincoln insisted that the letter be forwarded DeJong or some other member of the legal team had "sanitized" the letter by having it typed before forwarding it so that it could not be used as evidence.

The second scenario, Nelson argued, was the prosecutor's theory that Bruce Anderson, Ling Anderson, Mark Heimann and Mark Scaramella had concocted a phony letter and then perjured themselves in court. He asked why, if they were just cooking up a letter to hoax the court, they wouldn't just type it up as it appeared in the paper, instead of adding the date and the postscript, and deleting the city and salutation.

In coming to his decision, Judge Luther said the testimony of Mrs. Anderson and Scaramella was persuasive and inspired confidence because of the details they remembered and that he would find in favor of Anderson even if the standard of proof had been higher.

After court had recessed Anderson told the Albion Monitor, "I was hoping to make clear from the outset that it was about sources, and I knew it was about sources from when I first got subpoenaed. It wasn't about the letter. And I knew if I hung on I could protect the source."

Williams said he has not given up trying to get the original handwritten letter and to tie it to Lincoln. He insists the letter is important evidence.

In remarks in the hallway Heimann said Williams has "been made a fool of. I didn't do it. Bruce Anderson didn't do it. The AVA didn't do it. He's been made a fool because of his own actions. He was assuming something (that the AVA had received a handwritten letter) and he hung everything on that. He was on a fishing expedition, throwing out a line and seeing what comes up. It's not my fault he comes up with an old rubber boot."

(Exclusive Photos by Nicholas Wilson)

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Albion Monitor June 7, 1996 (

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