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Courthouse Day for Carlos; From a Lonely Hearing to Paltry ‘Protest’

Considering the quagmire of legal entanglements that Carlos Zapata currently faces, it’s no wonder he’s been MIA from his pet Red White and Blueprint docuseries.

Not to mention he was also a no-show at the Gover Ranch RW&B fundraiser, which Zapata blamed on — ehem – rodeo season.

Nor did Zapata appear at the so-called “protest” Wednesday evening at the Shasta County Courthouse, an event arranged by his militia buddy Woody Clendenen, designed to simultaneously support Zapata and blast the Shasta County’s district attorney who filed charges against Zapata.

Zapata legal issue No. 1

However, you can bet that Zapata did show up for his Wednesday-morning hearing regarding the continuation of the temporary restraining order filed by Nathanial Pinkney, the sous chef/comic who Zapata allegedly assaulted on May 4 at Pinkney’s former workplace.

Zapata, who’s boasted for nearly a year that he has thousands of supporters and followers, walked into the Shasta County courthouse alone Wednesday, without so much as a friend, family member or even his signature baseball cap or cowboy hat.

Keeping it classy, Zapata didn’t look up or break stride as he flipped off an ANC photographer.

The courtroom was nearly empty, and contained only Shasta County Superior Court Judge Jody Burgess and his court staff, plus Pinkney and his attorney Lisa Jensen, Zapata and his attorney Joseph Tully, and two representatives from A News Cafe.

Zapata was the lone person sitting on the left side of the courtroom; no mask. Pinkney sat on the right side, and wore a face mask. Speaking of face masks, we wouldn’t expect to see a face mask on Zapata, since he’s often spoken about how only compliant sheep wear them, and how women find him sexy for not wearing a mask. However, according to one of the deputies on the ground floor on the far side of the metal detectors, everyone who enters the courthouse must either wear a mask, or must have been vaccinated.

No exceptions. Even for Zapata.

Sure enough, I entered the courthouse without a mask, and was asked by a deputy whether I’d been vaccinated, to which I said yes, so I was allowed to proceed into the building. I later asked the same deputy how he knows whether someone is telling the truth about being vaccinated or not. He said that he usually takes people’s word for it, although it’s within his authority to request proof of vaccination.

Therefore, either Zapata has had a change of heart and has been vaccinated, or he lied to the deputy.

Toss another lie on the fire.

The temporary restraining order hearing lasted just a few minutes, but it was interesting, nevertheless. Judge Burgess did most of the talking. He started by expressing disapproval of a situation in which a deputy had called Tully about that evening’s protest related to Zapata, and a rumor that Burgess would seek to continue the hearing.

Burgess expressed concern about transparency, and the desire to avoid ex parte communications (which is where one party communicates directly with the court without the knowledge and presence of the opposing party). Burgess said that kind of behavior would not be tolerated.

“It’s my court and it’s not going to happen,” he said.

Furthermore, Burgess said that should a similar scenario arise in the future, Tully would be expected to hang up without finishing the phone conversation. While Burgess said he didn’t fault Tully for the conversation, he didn’t fully accept Tully’s suggestion that it was merely “procedural” for him to be on that phone call.

Tully was contrite, and said he took responsibility for the call, and apologized if he’d crossed a line.

In another matter, Jensen addressed the fact that ever since Pinkney’s temporary restraining order had been granted, Zapata had continued to refer to Pinkney on social media. Jensen wondered whether Zapata’s social media activity could potentially violate the terms of his restraining order.

Burgess responded that he’d intentionally stayed away from social media, so he couldn’t speak to Jensen’s assertions regarding Zapata’s online activities. However, he noted that if it’s determined later that Zapata’s social media actions were deemed a violation of the restraining order, then those violations would become criminal offenses.

Tully spoke up and said that of course, nobody wanted to infringe upon anyone’s First Amendment rights, to which Burgess agreed.

The temporary restraining order remains in effect.

Legal trouble No. 2

Zapata’s second legal issue is of a criminal nature, related to Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett’s June 28 charges against Zapata for battery and disturbing the peace during his alleged assault on Pinkney.

Monday morning is Zapata’s criminal court arraignment for those charges, during which Zapata is expected to enter his plea of not guilty, after which the case will be set for criminal court. While neither Pinkney nor Jensen are expected to attend, many of Zapata’s followers have voiced plans to converge upon the courthouse in a show of support. (See Woody statement, below.) It will be interesting to see how courthouse staff deals with the mass of unmasked Zapata supporters claiming to have been vaccinated.

The most paltry “protest” ever

On July 4 Woody Clendenen, barber/Cottonwood militia leader, wrote a social media call to action:

“On Wednesday evening, July 7th at 5:00 pm at the Shasta County Court House, we will be holding a public protest against the Shasta County District Attorney, Stephanie Bridgett.

We believe she is caving to political pressure perhaps from the supervisors we are working to recall, and using her position to intimidate recall supporters.

She sent her investigators to intimidate the Shasta Recall leaders, and has taken up the case against Carlos Zapata, despite the police report clarifying his innocence. As members of the county, we should be fearful of a public figure in a position of power succumbing to biased and unconstitutional pressure from others in Shasta County leadership. We are looking for physical support at our protest Wednesday night with both people and signs, as well as attending Carlos’ court date on July 12th at 8:00am in department 10. Let’s keep draining our own swamp from corrupt leadership by taking action now.”

Most protests in front of the Shasta County Courthouse happen on the Court Street sidewalk, in full view of drivers and passersby. Not Clendenen’s protest. His protest was largely hidden from traffic high off Court Street just outside the courthouse doors. Seemingly oblivious to the 107-degree temperatures, the people gathered in an area that featured picnic tables and plenty of room to chat and mingle, lending more the feeling of an alt-right meet-and-greet that a bona fide protest against the district attorney.

No marching. No chants. No bullhorns.

Also, unlike the June 2020 Redding protest in front of the courthouse during which hundreds of people marched and chanted about racial inequality after George Floyd’s murder, there was no sign of uniformed law enforcement officers at Wednesday’s protest. No riot gear. No batons. Not a badge in sight.

Sidebar: Remember when Clendenen claimed someone from the Redding Police Department told him that had it not been for the militia’s presence, RPD would have gassed the protesters? What a difference a year makes.

Last year’s protest was one of the first times your average north state citizen faced the reality of militia in our midst. It was as if the protests for racial equality let the militia genie out of the bottle. They’ve been out ever since.

This time, militia members like Clendenen were the protesters, yet who keeps the protesters in line when the militia are among the protesters? Police? Sheriff? Hello? Anybody home?

Prior to the Wednesday event, despite Clendenen’s warning to his people on social media to expect counter protesters, the only remotely contrarian person was “The Warrior” aka Elijah Todd, who billed himself as someone fighting for peace and justice.

Ultimately, about 90 people showed up, including real journalists, and fake press (Lori Bridgeford) and a tall, neatly-coiffed guy dressed in an outfit that looked part matador, part Captain American and part maître d’.

Five p.m. came and went. Finally, around 5:35 p.m. Clendenen assumed the role as leader on the courthouse steps and got the ball rolling. Clendenen told the group he was proud of everyone for showing up. He complained about District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett, for a few reasons. First, she’d sent investigators to speak with some recall organizers, and second, she filed charges against Zapata. These actions, he said, were from an office that everyone knows is backlogged and understaffed, so how come the DA has time to investigate a recall that had done nothing wrong when she can’t handle her existing cases? And regarding Pinkney’s claim that Zapata threw a full glass at him across the bar, Clendenen said with a chuckle, “I’ve never heard of an assault case where someone got splashed with water.”

That got a big laugh.

One relative newcomer to the drain-the-swamp bucket brigade was Tarick Mahmoud, whose Facebook page identifies him as a future Shasta County Supervisor. He’s also a pharmacist, and a former Shasta County Grand Jury member. Clearly, he has lofty aspirations.

Wearing what appeared to be a pith helmet and perhaps a pharmacist’s smock, he held a sign that showed photos of DA Bridgett and “Public Enemy No. 1” Supervisor Moty with suggestive words below the pair’s photos. He spoke about corruption among leaders, and when he was finished speaking he made the dramatic move of scaling a brick wall where he stood and waved a massive American flag.

Tarick Mahmoud waves a flag from atop a brick wall. King of the hill!

Others who were part of the rag-tag courthouse event were families with kids, and a number of people – mainly guys – with American flags and State of Jefferson flags. Many T-shirts referred to guns, freedom and the Red White and Blueprint movement. “Live American. Die American” proclaimed the message on a man’s T-shirt.

One woman in a white dress enthusiastically assured the crowd that a higher power was on their side. “Our great God is in control of this,” she said.

God help us.

While Zapata did not attend, a few people held pro-Zapata signs.

At one point, when Jesse Lane, Stake in NorCal militia group organizer, asked how many people had been treated unjustly by the district attorney, many in the crowd nodded, answered yes and raised their hands, as if dealings with the district attorney are part of most Shasta County citizen’s everyday life.

The prayer was led by a pastor whose sign condemned the district attorney.

Others took turns standing before the crowd to speak, such as self-proclaimed “journalist” Bridgeford, wearing her yellow vest with the word PRESS on it. Her main beef was personal; specifically against Pinkney for allegations of harassment, and she invited others to come forward who’d also had bad experiences with him.

“He is not funny,” Bridgeford said. “The tables are going to turn.”

She told how Pinkney held up two middle fingers at a Board of Supervisors meeting (after Patrick Jones called Pinkney a domestic terrorist). She said that gesture demonstrated a lack of impulse control, and said “someone like that shouldn’t own a gun”.

Ironically, since Bridgeford did not attend Zapata’s hearing earlier that day, she missed seeing Zapata make that very gesture that very morning in the very vicinity where Bridgeford made her remarks about Pinkney’s lack of impulse control.

You may recall some months back the man whose comments at a Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting went viral after he reminded supervisors that while bullets would run out, rope was re-usable.

He spoke while he displayed a sign that said, “Shasta Co – DA – Politicized, Weaponized, Corrupt.”

Overall, the speakers roundly demonized Bridgett, Shasta County Supervisors Mary Rickert of District 3 , Joe Chimenti of District 1, and Leonard Moty of District 2, with special vitriol for Moty. One person in the crowd made a crude reference regarding Moty’s marriage, which got a hearty laugh from the group.

Another person from the crowd yelled with a laugh, “I’ll stand on Nathan!” after one of the speakers suggested they all stand together.

Clendenen said he had information that would implicate the district attorney in some major wrong-doing; that details would be revealed soon.

The theme among the speakers was it was time to “drain the swamp” of the “tyrannical” corrupt leaders, and that means “RINO’s” too, hollered someone.

Perhaps I missed praise of District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh, but there was no mistaking the mob’s adoration for District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones, who was in attendance and seen with people clustered around him throughout the evening. As people were still gathering and waiting for the program -if there was one – to begin, he approached me and spoke loudly, as if performing on stage without a microphone in a middle-school Li’l’ Abner production.

“Well if it isn’t Doni Chamberlain! I don’t think I’ve seen you since you were fired from the Record Searchlight!”

He continued along those lines, and included accusations that I write lies. I told him to shut up, which I’m not proud of, because it’s unprofessional, and I wasn’t raised to speak to someone that way. After that, I didn’t rise to the bait during the rest of the encounters, and instead, answered along the lines of, “I’m not interested in a conversation with you”.

That’s a weird thing for a journalist to say, I know. And under normal circumstances, with a typical story, I’d be interested in speaking with people. But these are abnormal circumstances and atypical stories. And on that particular night, with this particular group, it was obvious these were not people who truly wished to engage in genuine conversations with me. I was the enemy infiltrating their group.

Their anger is understandable. For more than a year I’ve written negative opinion pieces about the north state’s militia, the pro-recallers, the anti-vaxers, the State of Jeffersonians, and the alt-right Christian zealots like Sean Feucht and Beni Johnson, among others.

I lost my journalistic objectivity when people like Zapata, Clendenen, Lane and others introduced violent rhetoric and verbal threats into their videos, podcasts and social media posts.

Among those who approached me to share their thoughts were Lane, Jon Knight (RW&B major funder/producer), and Melissa Magaña, a recall organizer. Most were polite.

One small woman with a red Trump hat and large sunglasses made a beeline for me and asked if I was Doni Chamberlain, and when I said I was, she said I was not welcome there. (I knew that.)

Twice during the protest someone raised the call for Doni Chamberlain to come forward (I did not), which prompted others in the crowed to join in with that request. A guy directly in front of me asked someone beside him, “Is she here?” After the second chorus of shouts that I should present myself, a tall tatted man with a large American flag and a memorable haircut turned and asked if I was Doni, and when I said yes, he said, “Well I think you’re a piece of shit.”

He was the same man, who, when Lane implored people to be aware that media was there watching and reporting so we could spin our “narrative”  — the POS man offered to block with his flag a reporter whose back was to the wall, videotaping the scene before her.

I will say that Knight came the closest to sounding sincere, and Magaña gets points for making the most perplexing statement when she asserted she was Hispanic and involved in the State of Jefferson.

Uh, OK. Happy for you.

Who wasn’t there/Who wasn’t mentioned

Many of the usual high-profile folks were in attendance, such as RW&B key player Jeremy Edwardson, fellow RW&B producer/funder Jon Knight, Jesse Lane, District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones, State of Jefferson leader Terry Rapoza, and self-anointed pretend journalist Lori Bridgeford. Among the missing, aside from Zapata, were recall organizer Elissa McEuen, pro-recall District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh and Vladislav Davidzon, generic thorn in community flesh.

Funny thing, though, for all the verbal bashing against DA Bridgett, and Pinkney, Moty, Rickert and Chimenti, there wasn’t a counterbalance of praise for Zapata. In fact, I only heard his name mentioned a few times. Likewise, I didn’t hear a single shred of support for Zapata’s employee Elizabeth Bailey and her boyfriend Chris Meagher (pronounced Meyer), the couple who were caught on video administering not one, but two different assaults.

The first assault was upon Pinkney. The recently released surveillance video appears to have exonerated his version of what happened, and cast doubt on Zapata’s version.

From left, Chris Meagher, Elizabeth Bailey and Carlos Zapata converge upon Nathan Pinkney behind Market Street Blade & Barrel, Pinkney’s former workplace, before he was fired after the assault. Zapata previously claimed he didn’t know Pinkney’s assailants, and he wasn’t there during the assault.

The second was upon Bob Hazel, an elderly, hearing impaired veteran.

From left, Chris Meagher confronts Bob Hazel, whose dog is on a leash. Elizabeth Bailey looks on before shoving Hazel outside The Tropics bar in Redding.

 

A friend and I walked to my car, which was parked near a vehicle adorned in “Biden SUCKS” and State of Jefferson decals, and a flag with an image of a weapon that said, “Come and take it.”

Photo source: Facebook.

He can keep it. I mean, I totally would take it, but I can’t. It’s rodeo season.

 

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.

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