Heimann believes the arrest is for his criticism of the Sheriff's Department
and Anderson Valley Advertiser reporter Mark Heimann was arrested August 22 at the Mendocino County courthouse on a mysterious warrant for allegedly violating a court order.
Heimann had just arrived to cover the second hearing in the arraignment of Bear Lincoln. The investigative reporter says he is unaware of any warrant or violation, and believes the arrest is in retaliation for his critical coverage of the Sheriff's Department throughout the four-month long Round Valley murder case.
Heimann thinks the arrest was sparked by an incident the previous day. He approached Mendocino County Sheriff Jim Tuso inside the courtroom, and asked if Tuso had requested the elaborate high-security measures. Heimann says the color drained from the Sheriff's face and he replied, "I'm not going to comment about this case." Heimann countered that "he had been commenting on the case right along," and started to repeat the question. The Sheriff cut him off with a request to please sit down. Heimann was immediately bracketed by deputies and ordered to return to his seat, which he did. He says the Sheriff "was visibly and unmistakably pissed" and left the courtroom immediately after the incident.
to the Sheriff's Office, Heimann was arrested on a bench warrant signed by Judge Henry Nelson August 3. This warrant was based on a complaint that Heimann violated a restraining order issued on behalf of a former girlfriend. Heimann confirms such an incident occurred, but says Anderson Valley Resident Deputy Keith Squires investigated the complaint, and later told Heimann that he had been cleared. But documents in the Sheriff's files show he was ordered to appear in court July 28 for a hearing about the complaint. He denies receiving a notice, and no proof-of-mailing document can be found in the Sheriff's file on the reporter.
Heimann says that on his release from the Mendocino County Jail after posting bail, a deputy ordered him outside. According to Heimann, the deputy warned, "If you ever make a disturbance in a public building again, you will be arrested." Heimann sees the deputy's warning as further evidence his arrest was retribution for questioning Tuso.
Asked if he or anyone under his direction wanted an excuse to arrest Heimann, Tuso replied, "Absolutely not." When the deputy's warning was cited as evidence of a link to the incident the previous day, Tuso replied, "Actually, nothing happened in court the previous day."
Then why was Heimann arrested in court? Said Tuso, "That was because one of the deputies recognized him and knew that there was a warrant out for him." When it was pointed out that Heimann passed the high-security check outside the courtroom, the Sheriff replied, "I don't know what to tell you."
Although the arrest warrant was dated August 3, Heimann says a warrant check was performed August 20, when he visited Bear Lincoln in the county jail. The next day he attended the first court hearings for Lincoln and presented a photo-ID, was photographed, and stated his name before being admitted to the courtroom. Heimann added that Deputy Squires knows where he lives, yet did not contact him about the warrant, raising further doubts about the timing and motives for his arrest.
Heimann suspects authorities may also use the arrest to deny him jail visits to Bear Lincoln. While Heimann was held at the jail only about two hours before making bail, a large sign at the visitor's entrance to the county jail states no person who has been in jail in the past six months is allowed to visit a prisoner.
Heimann says he is considering suing for false arrest, and a journalists' legal organization is investigating.
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