Year in review: What were they thinking?

Some dumb things people said and did in 2008

‘WE DO’<br>After the clerk/recorder’s office discontinued marriage ceremonies, the first gay couple to marry in Butte County brought their own officiator and wed in County Center.

After the clerk/recorder’s office discontinued marriage ceremonies, the first gay couple to marry in Butte County brought their own officiator and wed in County Center.

CN&R file photo

In going through back issues to pull together this annual Year in Review issue, we invariably rediscover a few incidents that had us scratching our heads—when we weren’t just plain outraged—over their stupidity or brazen effrontery.

What, we ask, were they thinking?

Here are the candidates for dumb and dumber that stood out in 2008.

Hit on Craigslist
Ann Marie Linscott put Oroville in national—and international—headlines this past summer when she posted an unusual ad on Craigslist. She wanted to pay someone $5,000 to kill her lover’s wife.

Linscott, a massage therapist who has a degree in—get this—criminal justice, was arrested in January at her home in Michigan. It turned out she had met an Oroville man via an online class, and they started e-mailing, which blossomed into a cyber-romance and eventually a physical one.

She mustn’t have liked that he had a wife (despite the fact that she, too, was married), so what better place to find an assassin than Craigslist?

In April, Linscott pleaded guilty to three federal charges and faces up to 30 years in prison.

Dubious residence
When former state Sen. Jim Nielsen decided to return to politics by running for the 2nd District Assembly seat being vacated by termed-out Doug LaMalfa, he had a small problem: He didn’t live in the district and wasn’t eligible to run for the seat.

Rather than sell his million-dollar Woodland house and move into the district, Nielsen bought a funky old doublewide mobile home in Gerber, near Red Bluff, and claimed it as his residence when he registered to vote.

So far nobody has been able to convince authorities that he violated the law, and in November he handily won the Assembly seat. What was he thinking? Probably that he could get away with it.

Setting a bad example
What’s up with adults stealing from kids? This past year featured four high-profile cases of grown-ups being accused of taking money from student-athletes, Boy Scouts and Little Leaguers. If that’s not deplorable, we don’t know what is.

First there was Shannon Hostettler, who pleaded no contest to embezzling more than $60,000 from the Pleasant Valley Boosters, money that was meant for the high school’s sports teams. A judge recently ordered her to repay the group $84,731—what she’d taken, and then some. She faces sentencing next month.

The other cases came up at about the same time as Hostettler’s judgment. On Dec 2, former Gridley Little League treasurer Eryka Abella was arraigned for allegedly using $32,878 for her own purposes. Dec. 4, Lisa Elaine Beale, of Chico, was arrested on charges of embezzling nearly $30,000 while serving as treasurer of Chico Boy Scout Troop 3. That same day, police arrested Paradise High School English teacher Delmar O. Hughes for allegedly stealing an undisclosed amount of football gate receipts from the school safe.

Gas prices will what?
Guess who said the following back in June, as gas prices were topping $4 a gallon: “When $3.99 seems like a bargain, it’s a clear sign that high gas prices are here to stay. Those prices are not going to change in November—not to a great extent, anyway.”

OK, we fess up. That bold prognostication appeared in this very newspaper, in an editorial about how to save fuel. Gulp.

(By the way, gas prices will go back up … someday.)

Play banned in Orland
When longtime Orland High School drama teacher Tim Milhorn and his students found out in early October that the play they had been working on for six weeks—about teen suicide—had been abruptly canceled by school officials, who cited a danger of copycat suicides, the question had to be asked: Could a play warning of the dangers of teen suicide really cause a teenager to commit suicide?

Milhorn described The Tender Yellow Sky, which he wrote, as “totally a play against suicide.” District Assistant Superintendent Armand Brett, who was instrumental in the play’s being axed, described The Tender Yellow Sky as “border[ing] on being therapeutic,” which he gave as a reason for its demise.

To ask that question once again, in a slightly different way: Could an overtly anti-teen-suicide play that borders on being therapeutic actually cause a teen to commit suicide?

Milhorn and his incredulous students thought not. Chico’s Blue Room Theatre offered its support by allowing the use of its facility for the play’s production. The district countered with a ban on students rehearsing The Tender Yellow Sky on school grounds.

Three crimes, three sentences
When an emotionally distraught, developmentally disabled Oroville teen with no record of violence received a 22-year prison sentence late last year for a gun-wielding incident on the Las Plumas High School campus in which no one was hurt, many people were floored.

Greg Wright, now 18, is currently on lockdown in Cell Block C of Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, known as the most violent prison yard in the state.

Contrast that to the sentence received in June by 31-year-old Lawrence Wright, who slipped a date-rape drug into a 20-year-old woman’s drink at a party, carried her into a bedroom and raped her twice while she was fully aware but unable to move. Judge Sandra McLean—who also presided over Greg Wright’s trial—gave Lawrence Wright a nine-year suspended sentence.

And in October, a former sprint car racer named Troy Hovey was given 180 days in jail and placed on probation for causing the death of local caterer Amit Tandon when he smashed into Tandon’s truck while driving the wrong way on Highway 99.

Hovey’s blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit. Tandon’s pregnant widow pleaded for the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, but Judge Robert Glusman ordered otherwise.

What were McLean and Glusman thinking? They’re judges, so we’ll never know.

No weddings!
When, on May 15, the state Supreme Court decided to overturn a ban on gay marriages, what did Butte County Clerk-Recorder Candace Grubbs do? She immediately announced the county would no longer be offering marriage ceremonies.

It wasn’t a smart move, considering she didn’t have any evidence to back up her assertions that her decision had actually been made prior to the court ruling, due to budget cuts.

What resulted was a community of people—gays, lesbians, and everyone who supports them—feeling shunned by their local government. Some took their marriage-license money elsewhere. Others held their ceremonies in County Center anyway, using their own officiators.

Finally, after a CN&R public-records request revealed no documentation to back her up, Grubbs said, “I erred,” but maintained that the decision had nothing to do with not wanting to preside over gay marriages.