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Good Advice in Australia or India, but not Clairemont

Neighborhood News contained a cautionary tale about rattlesnakes in Clairemont that reminded me of when Chicken Little thought the sky was falling. Four rattlesnakes were seen in Clairemont over the course of one week. Hmmm. Four snakes does not a crisis make.

The author also saw a snake under a bush a month ago. Really? An unidentified snake a month ago? But wait, there’s more! Her neighbor reportedly saw a huge rattlesnake that could have been 15 feet long. The largest rattlesnake in the world is only half that size and is not found in this state.

The author suggests that all snakes be avoided because only experts can tell by looking whether a snake is venomous or not. Good advice in Australia or India perhaps, but not in Clairemont. The only venomous snakes in California are rattlesnakes, and they are extremely easy to identify. Even if the snake was missing the distinctive namesake rattle at the end of the tail, the triangular shape of the head cannot be confused with any other snake in California.

If you want to protect your neighbors from harm, advise them to wear seat belts, stop texting while driving, and look both ways before crossing the street. Too bad the Reader doesn’t pay for that kind of story.

  • Ken McLean
  • Mira Mesa


Request for More

I just wanted to call and thank you very much for an article in your last issue (August 13), “We Had to Go to the Mountain.” It was very interesting, very revealing. Please do more stories like this. It was just great.

  • Matty Azure
  • via voicemail


Liars Before We Hit the Stand

Re: “When You’re Guilty til Proved Innocent,” August 20 cover story

Brutal conditions, punishment and a high five to the corrections officers who hand out justice, representing all of us, upon those who would appear before a judge!

I used to have those emotions, founded on the perpetration of harm upon my fellow innocent community members. Not so much anymore. I am the stepfather of Uriah Courtney.

As the man who told a judge I would make sure my son adhered to the straight and narrow while being released to my business under a work furlough granting. I hunted him harder and more vengefully than the police when he left that program and walked away.

Then, when he was caught and returned to a courtroom where they charged him with a crime on a day when I, my employee, a USPS contracting officer, and a visitor from Guatemala who was with me at the time, all stood with my son at the moment a young women was being assaulted 15 miles away, I made a commitment to his mother and her son that I would not stop until this was corrected.

A female juror who was so kind to speak to me within minutes after voting guilty in my son’s case, in response to my questions about my testimony on my son’s behalf, told me, “You’re his father. You love him. We thought you would lie for him.” When I questioned her about my employee’s testimony, she said, “He’s your employee; he might want to keep his job.” I realized we were liars before we hit the stand.

I read in a study that 95% of all the people in California prisons have never been in front of a jury. The sentence that put them there was part of a plea deal. The number one reason cited for taking a plea deal was the fear of a jury verdict against them. My son, although never offered, would not have taken a deal that left him with a sexual offender status and incarceration based on that. He trusted the truth. He trusted the jury.

His mother and I visited him at Donovan State Prison over 400 times. We call each day “the time we served” with him. We witnessed the sadistic treatment of our son and other inmates in that visitation room many times. A correction officer was a frequent perpetrator and tried several times to “out” our son as a chomo, a child molester, even going so far as to solicit a beating upon our son by one of the inmate “enforcers.” I know because that “enforcer” and I have become close after he wrote me a letter upon my son’s release, telling me he didn’t do it because something in him told him my son was innocent.

Since my son’s release, I return several Saturdays each month to visit inmates I have come to know have not had a visit from anyone during their incarceration. One of them had been without a visitor in his 20 years up to the time I started to see him. I also visit with one man I have no doubt is innocent.

As I have returned another hundred or so times since my son’s release from Donovan, several of the correction officers have expressed sorrow for my son’s injustice. They have inquired as to his well-being, and offered a humane gesture of compassion for our family’s suffering over those eight years Uriah was with them. They shake their heads, and I realize my son may have changed their hard line with the inmates just a little.

But then again, the other day while placing my personal attire in a plastic box for inspection in the visitors processing room, one of those same correction officers who still inquires about my son took a moment to whisper to me a question: “Why do you come here to visit these other men you visit?”

I told her that because of my son’s stay here, I came to know of men who were isolated by financial circumstances, distance, time, or shame by their families, and had not been out of their cell blocks in many years. I had compassion to give them just a few hours of distraction from their life here, and offer some conversation, food, and maybe a hug of human contact where they will never have that.

She leaned over the counter and whispered to me in a judgmental tone, “Well, you know a lot of them are child molesters.” I said, “Yes, chomos” (to let her know I was a seasoned visitor who well-understood the inhabitants of those walls I stood with her in). She then went on to,lean in closer, look me in the eye, and with disdain in her voice said, “Well you might feel different about them if it was your family member who suffered at their hands.”

Not wanting to position myself for victimization at the chance of being terminated from my privilege of visiting the men I do, I withheld saying anything. I sat down in a waiting chair for my turn to walk through the gates and gun towers, razor wire, and locks.

It was all I could do to not return to her and let her know that I would not feel differently if it was my own “family member who suffered at their hands,” and I have no doubt about that, because I still loved her, even though it was at her hands my family member had suffered.

  • Richard Gambino
  • Proud stepfather of Uriah Courtney

Stoppen Sie Die Pit Bulls

Re: “You Love Me Now, but Will You When I’m Four?” April 21

Das pit bull is a viscious killer! Ve musttt exterminate ze pit bull most promptly! Das pit bull has lock jaws zat vill KILL!! Das pit bull iSS bred to eat little children and das pit bull only knows death und ze bloodshed!

ZiSS dog is ze pure evil und must not be allowed to live!! I propose we round das pit bulls up and assign zem to special “WORK CAMPS” in order to make use of special lock jaw fighting skilSS we all know zey poSSeSS!

Meinen Kleinen San Diego, do not let ze pit bull fool you with its pitbullry und drive to overcome ziSS city! Ve must stop ze pit bulls NOW!!!

  • Der Fuhrer
  • Adolph Schmutz
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