Handi-culpable: Phony-ticket writer and self-styled activist Matthew Lakota was found guilty Monday of impersonating a meter maid so he could steal ticket fees paid by dupes Lakota “caught” parking in handicapped spaces. Lakota was arrested in August 2002 after trying to cash three ticket fee checks totaling $760. Some of those Lakota ticketed were actually disabled but had expired parking placards.

Lakota, who considers himself a crusader for the rights of disabled people, maintained in court that the real-looking “tickets” he left on cars were notices of his intention to sue in civil court. But Judge Robert Glusman didn’t buy it and found Lakota guilty of impersonating a public officer, attempted petty theft and possession of stolen property. Three felony extortion charges were thrown out.

Lakota, who defended himself, has vowed to appeal. He faces up to four years in prison.

Crime of the crop: The county supes heard impassioned pleas and hyperbole from both sides of the genetically engineered-food debate Tuesday before deciding to let voters choose in November whether such crops should be banned in Butte County.

Many farmers are against the initiative, saying it would limit their crop choices and add an expensive and burdensome layer to county bureaucracy. Proponents of the ban say GE crops are unwanted in export markets, may be unsafe and could contaminate the crops of organic farmers.

County Ag Commissioner Richard Price said the ordinance was vague, expensive and nearly unenforceable. Local rice farmer Ryan Schorr said anti-GE activists, whom he called “the vegetable police,” were using fear to push an irrational agenda. Anti-GE activist Catherine Talbott said the biotech industry was not to be trusted, that GE crops have not been shown to be safe and that consumers don’t want to eat GE foods.

You’re out: Butte County DA Mike Ramsey confirmed this week that former prosecutor Leo Barone, who was investigated for leaving crucial evidence out of a case that resulted in a man being falsely convicted of child molestation, no longer works for Butte County.

Ramsey said he was unable to comment further on the nature of Barone’s departure, but he did say that a look at Barone’s past cases turned up nothing unusual.

Riff Raff goes underground: The Riff Raff will not go homeless. The word from club booker Elvis is that the downtown watering hole/live-music venue (whose current lease was not renewed) is close to moving into the space recently vacated by Team Players on Main Street. With more space to work with, the new digs would definitely work better as a rock spot, possibly even bringing in some bigger-name bands.