Chico skier exonerated

Judge says officer had no probable cause

A little more than a year ago, Chico ski enthusiast Jeff Newman posted a sign illegally in Lassen National Forest and faced the wrath of Forest Service officer Paul Zohovetz. After an altercation at his home, Newman was charged with resisting arrest, a federal misdemeanor. Earlier this month, a U.S. magistrate judge ruled in Newman’s favor, saying Zohovetz’s behavior was inappropriate, according to a letter from Newman’s Redding attorney, Adam B. Ryan.

The sign Newman posted advertised his side business of tuning skis, so when he received a phone call from a man wanting his skis tuned, he arranged a meeting at his home, on Eighth Street in Chico. That potential client turned out to be Zohovetz, who appeared in Newman’s driveway in full uniform. When asked to leave his property, Zohovetz threatened Newman, a diabetic, with a taser.

Judge Craig M. Kellison ruled that Zohovetz had no probable cause to arrest Newman, and he had no right to be on Newman’s property after he was asked to leave. “Freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state,” Kellison said.