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— A former death-row inmate who beat an 18-year-old murder rap and ended up living as a born-again Christian in his mother's 19-foot trailer at the Mt. Helix View Estates trailer park in El Cajon has been busted by Border Patrol agents for allegedly carrying six grams of methamphetamine, several syringes, and chemicals and equipment needed to equip a drug lab. Lee Perry Farmer was freed in January 1999 after a Riverside jury acquitted him of the 1981 murder rap that had put him on death row for eight years, according to an account last week in the Riverside Press-Enterprise. In the original murder case, Farmer and another man had burglarized the apartment of 18-year-old Riverside resident Eric Allyn Schmidt-Till, seeking to satisfy a $500 drug debt that Schmidt-Till's roommate owed them. They left but later returned for a second burglary, during which Schmidt-Till was slain. During their first trial, Farmer was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. His codefendant, who testified against Farmer, was convicted of burglary. But eight years later, when the codefendant confessed he had fired the gun that killed Schmidt-Till, the state Supreme Court overturned Farmer's conviction and ordered a new trial. Farmer was again convicted but escaped with a life sentence. Then in 1997, a federal court ruled that Farmer had received incompetent legal counsel in his first trial and ordered yet another retrial, in which he was acquitted of the murder charge and set free because he had done enough time to cover the remaining burglary counts against him. After getting out of prison last year, the newspaper says, Farmer spent his time working at San Diego's Community Connection Resource Center, where ex-cons find housing, jobs, and counseling. He did so well he was Community Connection's "employee of the quarter" for October through December, according to the paper. Louise Fyock, Farmer's boss at the center, was quoted as saying Farmer had "suffered the atrocities of prison life and he comes out with this uplifting spirit." Farmer got $1500 a month for working at the center and occasionally spoke to college classes taught by John Cotsirilos, the lawyer who won his acquittal last year, the paper says. "I have that yearning to get back to that [spiritual] place that's so gratifying, where nothing stirs your interest more than that time with Him," the Press-Enterprise quoted Farmer as saying in a December interview. But when Farmer was busted last week at the Border Patrol checkpoint just south of Temecula, it was Riverside County prosecutor Brian Sussman's turn to talk. "It was all an act. If nothing else, his act has been exposed. He went back to the [old] lifestyle.... He never missed a beat," Sussman told the paper. "The guy is doing exactly what he was doing before."

Natural-born Lobbyists

The big local lobbyist Ben Clay has picked up another client: the San Diego's Natural History Museum. Clay's firm, Carpi & Clay, will lobby on "unspecified legislation," according to an account in the Political Finance and Lobby Reporter. Some of Carpi and Clay's other clients include the California-American Water Company of Monterey and the City of Encinitas, to lobby on legislation containing funds for beach sand replenishment. Partner Ken Carpi has also lobbied on behalf of the San Diego Unified Port District for increases in taxes on airline passengers ... An English epileptic who departed San Diego last July 15 on a solo trip to Australia promising "to do or die" may be lost at sea. Andrew Halsey, 42, got off to a bad start when his 20-foot boat, Brittany Rose -- named after his 15-year-old daughter -- was blown off-course by storms, ending up somewhere near Acapulco last fall. He turned down a Norwegian ship that tried to rescue him. Since then, he has only managed to get 2000 miles closer to his destination of Sydney and has turned down offers of food and rescue. Now his supporters worry that he'll soon leave the tracking of coastal radar and will run out of supplies by mid-April and his battery-powered emergency signal will go dead. Halsey became the first disabled man to row across the Atlantic three years ago, spending 117 days at sea.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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