P for Vendetta: Shasta County District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones Strikes Out Twice in Attempt to Disqualify Judge from Gun Range Lawsuit

Shasta County Superior Court Judge Benjamin Hanna

Considering their entire lifestyle is at stake, the Millville Plains residents suing Shasta County and District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones over the supervisor’s proposed massive gun range project in the middle of their rural residential neighborhood aren’t asking for much.

All they’re seeking is a writ of mandate to overrule the Shasta County Board of Supervisors’ decision last October to allow the High Plains Shooting Sports Center project to proceed with a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND).

Instead, they want the project placed on hold until a full-fledged Environmental Impact Report (EIR), as required by the California Environmental Quality Act’s (CEQA) fair argument standard, is conducted.

“The initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for the project does not provide adequate environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act,” states the writ submitted to the Shasta County Superior Court by the petitioner’s attorney, Donald Mooney from Davis, last November. “Substantial evidence supports a fair argument that the project may have potentially significant environmental impacts to biological resources, water quality, noise, public safety and wildfire.”

The Millville Plains are approximately 8 miles east of Anderson. The proposed gun range includes 160 shooting positions for pistols, rifles and shotguns and would occupy a 151-acre parcel just north of the Dersch Road and Leopard Drive intersection. There will be a clubhouse for civilians and a separate facility for law enforcement.

Jones plans to operate the shooting sports complex five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or dark, whichever comes first. He wants to hold up to 14 sports shooting events per year, with large shooting events (up to 500 people) being limited to two per year and small shooting events (30 to 200 people) being permitted up to 12 times per year. Participants in the events can take advantage of RV overnight dry camping in the facility’s designated parking area.

Map of proposed Millville Plains gun range (rectangle) with shooting directions and surrounding residences.

It’s an enormous number of features compacted into a relatively small 151-acre wetland area that includes vernal pools and swales that harbor several protected wildlife species. Last October, the residents’ attorney, Mooney, brought in the heavy hitters: highly respected environmental biologist Scott Cashen and acoustics expert Pablo Daroux.

Their expert testimony, presented to the board of supervisors before they voted on approving the gun range, eviscerated the project’s MND and pointed to the obvious necessity of conducting a full EIR.

Nevertheless, at the Oct. 24 board meeting, the supervisors voted 3-1 to approve the project. Shasta County Department of Resource Management director Paul Hellman shrugged off the new evidence.

“I don’t know if his consultants have responded,” Hellman hedged, admitting that he could make the call that the Millville Plains residents have a fair argument against the project, but he wasn’t going to “because I didn’t feel the need or that it was fair [to Jones] to change that determination.”

Hellman raised the specter of a “never-ending process” for Jones, the son of a gun store owner who’s been quietly chipping away on his dream project since 2010.

Very quietly chipping away: Most Millville Plains residents didn’t learn about the ambitious project’s full scope until March of last year, when the approval for rezoning the 151-acre parcel from rural residential to sports recreation came before the planning commission and passed unanimously.

Ignored repeatedly by the board of supervisors during the entire process (except for their elected representative, District 3 Supervisor Mary Rickert, the only supervisor who voted against it) the Millville Plains residents, along with residents of Anderson and others who will be affected by the gun range project, filed their writ of mandate seeking a full EIR last November.

Shasta County Superior Court Judge Tamara Wood recused herself from the case, handing it to Judge Benjamin Hanna.

What happened next can only be described as a bizarre vendetta against DA Bridgett that has nothing to with the proposed gun range.

District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones.

Rather than defend the gun range project on its merits, which are considerable for local gun enthusiasts, Jones, the Real Party of Interest  (RPI) in the litigation, switched tacks, sailing away from stormy environmental regulations that might doom his project and toward territory entirely more familiar to the supervisor: Attacking public servants and county employees without cause, including Judge Hanna, who Jones has tried and failed twice to disqualify from the case.

Jones’ latest attempt to disqualify Judge Hanna was dismissed by the judge on May 24, one week after Jones’ attorney Shon Northam filed it.

“The declaration by counsel fails to comply with legal requirements, is improperly repetitive of the last attempt at disqualification, and fails to show legal grounds for disqualification,” Judge Hanna stated in his order. “It is therefore ordered stricken pursuant to CCP 170.4(b).”

The case resumes in Judge Hanna’s courtroom on June 10 with a status conference to determine the trial schedule. The status conference has been delayed twice, thanks to Jones’ eleventh-hour attempts to disqualify the judge.

There’s a certain level of annoyance in the judge’s latest order, as if he were shooing away a persistent fly. Other than the addition of attorney Northam and redundant information obtained from an employee whistleblower investigation involving Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett’s office, there’s hardly anything new in Jones’ second attempt to disqualify Judge Hanna.

As we shall see, Jones remains obsessed with destroying DA Bridgett. The 18-year veteran of the prosecutor’s office, along with former Shasta County Schools Superintendent Judy Flores and recently retired Clerk/Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen defeated a slate of three unqualified male candidates endorsed by Jones and funded by his benefactor Connecticut son of a billionaire Reverge Anselmo in the 2022 primary election.

Apparently, Jones still hasn’t gotten over being beaten by girls. Blinded by his unslaked thirst for revenge against Bridgett, Jones seems to have lost the thread in the defense of his proposed gun range. If he loses the case, its unclear whether he has the funds to conduct a full EIR of his Millville Plains property. If he does obtain funding, it’s equally unclear whether the project will survive an EIR without significant modifications, if at all.

The Millville Plains residents’ way of life may be threatened, but for Jones the stakes are just as high. He might lose his long-held dream to build a world-class shooting sports center in Shasta County.

Thanks to Jones’ vendetta against Bridgett, it’s been an ugly case so far. It’s bound to get uglier.

Blowing the Whistle on the Whistleblower

In his first failed declaration to disqualify Judge Hanna filed on April 5, Jones claimed that a whistleblower, “a former employee of the Shasta County District Attorney’s office and close friend of DA Bridgett,” supposedly told him that Bridgett “instructed her employees — including secretarial staff, senior/supervising deputy district attorneys and deputy district attorneys — to work on her election campaign during business hours on county time.”

Those employees allegedly included Hanna, who was Bridgett’s chief deputy district attorney until May 2023, and his wife, Kelly Kafel, who remains at the DA’s office as a senior deputy district attorney.

According to Jones the alleged whistleblower asserted, “DA Bridgett told her office that she ‘would lose the election and you will lose your jobs’ if the employees didn’t work on her campaign.”

The whistleblower allegedly told Jones that former county counsel conducted an investigation in which “DA Bridgett admitted that she instructed her employees — including the secretarial staff, senior and supervising district attorneys and deputy district attorneys — to work on her reelection campaign.”

Jones alleged former county counsel hid the investigation from the board of supervisors. He claimed he planned to hire an outside investigator to examine the allegations. According to Jones’ first declaration, since Judge Hanna will potentially be questioned by this investigator, he’s incapable of being a “fair and impartial arbiter” in the gun range lawsuit and must be disqualified from the case.

Jones did not swear to tell the truth under penalty of perjury on his unsworn declaration, perhaps because he wasn’t telling the whole truth. DA Bridgett issued a blanket denial to Jones’ claim.

“I can assure you the statements he made about me and my office are false,” Bridgett told A News Cafe. “It is concerning that Patrick would make such false statements under penalty of perjury. In any case, I am confident that the truth will prevail.”

In the plaintiff’s response to Jones’ first declaration, attorney Mooney noted that even if Jones hired an outside investigator, as a private citizen he has no power to subpoena Judge Hanna or anyone else.

Judge Hanna struck Jones’ first declaration from the record on April 12.

“Since the statement of disqualification is unverified, untimely, was not served on all parties, and fails to disclose on its face any legal grounds for disqualification, it is ordered stricken pursuant to CCP 170.4(b),” Judge Hanna concluded.

Supervisor Patrick Jones takes a polygraph test in Red, White and Blueprint episode.

Like most of Jones’ ubiquitous fabrications, there was a kernel of truth in his declaration to disqualify Judge Hanna filed on April 5. There was indeed a whistleblower, a former employee of Bridgett’s who filed a complaint submitted by email to Shasta County Support Services in March 2023.

The whistleblower alleged they’d been mistreated at work by Bridgett and that during the 2022 campaign the whistleblower and other employees were ordered by Bridgett to work on the campaign during office hours.

We know this because on April 30 the board of supervisors voted 3-1 in closed session to waive attorney-client privilege and release the results of the whistleblower investigation to Shon Northam. Northam claims he plans to use the report in an unrelated criminal case to discredit the DA’s office and have the felony charges of domestic abuse dismissed.

It’s unknown if Jones, who did not recuse himself from the April 30 closed session vote, informed his board colleagues he planned to hire Northam and use the whistleblower investigation to disqualify Judge Hanna in the gun range case.

On May 17, Northam notified the court he was Jones’ attorney in the gun range case and filed the second declaration to disqualify Judge Hanna, using information from the whistleblower investigation.

Jones and Northam did not respond to repeated inquiries from A News Café.

Attorney Shon Northam and Cottonwood Militia leader Woody Clendenen on a 2022 Red, White and Blueprint podcast.

A News Café requested and received a redacted copy of the investigation from the county. Despite the redactions, anyone who has worked for or with the Shasta County District Attorney’s office can easily identify the whistleblower and other members of Bridgett’s staff.

Releasing the results of the whistleblower investigation appears to violate the confidentiality of the whistleblower as elaborated in Chapter 22, Section G of the Shasta County Personnel Rules manual, which states:

“Information concerning a complaint will not be released by the County to third parties or to anyone within the County who is not involved with the investigation, except as required by law, nor will anyone involved be permitted to discuss the subject outside of the investigation or a resulting disciplinary action.

“The purpose of this provision is to protect the confidentiality of the complainant, to encourage the reporting of any incidents of discrimination or harassment, and to protect the reputation of any employee wrongfully charged with discrimination or harassment.”

How exactly Jones stumbled upon the confidential whistleblower report is a mystery. However, Shasta County District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye has been promoting the county’s internal whistleblower hotline at board of supervisor meetings for months.

According to anonymous reports from numerous county employees, Crye has raised hackles by constantly interfering with various departments, causing some county administrators and employees to flee their jobs for safer, less stressful havens.

On March 20, Crye sponsored an agenda item on the whistleblower hotline featuring a presentation by Shasta County Auditor/Controller Nolda Short. Jones first mentioned the whistleblower in his April 5 declaration just a few weeks later.

Crye did not respond to A News Café’s inquiries. It’s worth noting that Crye and Jones are directly involved in the attempt to discredit DA Bridgett for her decision to accept a $50 million civil settlement with PG&E over the 2022 Zogg Fire litigation rather than pursue an unwinnable criminal case against the utility giant.

Both supervisors pushed the effort to have State Attorney General Rob Bonta prosecute DA Bridgett’s office. When Bonta sent a response to Jones saying Bridgett was exonerated of any wrongdoing on  January 29, Jones and Crye buried the letter.

Detail from redacted 48-page whistleblower report.


District Attorney’s Office in Turmoil During 2022 Election

The whistleblower complaint filed by DA Bridgett’s former employee covers the time between February 2022 and March 2023, after which the employee departed. A News Café has chosen not to publish detailed information about the employee’s allegations to protect the whistleblower’s confidentiality—what’s left of it.

County Counsel hired the San Francisco law offices of John Biers to investigate the whistleblower’s allegations. According to Senior Deputy County Counsel Gretchen Stuhr, the investigation cost $24,394.

Stuhr declined to answer whether any supervisors were involved with initiating the investigation, claiming, “The Board only waived the attorney-client privilege as to the report, nothing else. Therefore, this information is exempt under Government Code section 7927.705.”

According to the whistleblower report, the employee alleged that Bridgett had “engaged in unprofessional conduct … effectively creating a constructive discharge.”

However, the investigation, which included interviews with Bridgett and four employees including the whistleblower, revealed that the whistleblower was reacting to legitimate criticisms of their work product by Bridgett. The employee was also facing numerous personal pressures involving multiple family illnesses.

All these stresses combined soured what had been a collegial relationship between the whistleblower and Bridgett, at least in the whistleblower’s eyes. As often happens in such situations, the whistleblower never discussed these issues with Bridgett or anyone else in the office, according to the investigation. The investigator determined that the whistleblower’s allegations regarding Bridgett’s “unprofessional conduct” were not sustained.


The whistleblower’s second allegation contained three parts relating to the 2022 primary election:

“That: (a) DA Bridgett required, approved, or implicitly authorized that her subordinates and others work on her campaign during regular County work hours; (b) that DA Bridgett and her subordinates engaged in campaign-related activities during regular work hours; and (c) that DA Bridgett and her subordinates engaged in campaign-related activities on County premises.”

Historically in Shasta County, district attorneys rise through the ranks and are appointed by their predecessors. Rarely do they face a contested election. That changed around Feb. 1, 2022 when attorney Erik Jensen, an Orange County native and a corporate workmen’s compensation lawyer who has never tried a criminal case, challenged Bridgett for the position.

Jensen was supported financially by the Anselmo-funded Liberty Committee PAC which received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the hyper-conservative Connecticut libertarian Reverge Anselmo to support its slate of MAGA candidates. Lacking experience in criminal law, Jensen relied on advice from a name that will be familiar to readers of this story, local criminal defense attorney Shon Northam.

As A News Café reported during the campaign, Northam was the mastermind behind the Jensen campaign’s false claims that Bridgett’s office had a low criminal conviction rate and habitually violated the Brady rule, which mandates prosecutors provide all evidence to the defense during the discovery phase of criminal trials.

Political advertisement falsely accusing DA Bridgett’s office of flagrant Brady Rule violations.

 Northam’s legal secretary was paid $5100 by Liberty Committee for opposition research. Northam himself promulgated this misinformation at board of supervisors’ meetings, on social media and even on the quasi-fascist Red, White and Blueprint podcast.

At the same time, May 2022, A News Café was also a thorn in DA Bridgett’s side, demanding that her office prosecute the coaches responsible for the West Valley High School football team’s long history of hazing, and in some alleged cases sexually assaulting, the younger players on the team.

As the whistleblower investigation reveals, Bridgette’s office was rocked by the Jensen campaign’s misinformation and the West Valley High School case. One employee described the office atmosphere as “hysterical” and having a “victim mentality.”

The whistleblower claimed that 80 percent to 90 percent of their workday was spent on the campaign, an allegation that was refuted by all the other employees that were interviewed by the investigator as well as DA Bridgett.

In fact, the employees who worked on the campaign all claimed to be volunteers who did their best to not campaign while on the clock. Ironically, Bridgett repeatedly reminded staff not to campaign during work hours and had to stop the whistleblower, who was worried that the boss might lose the election, from working on the campaign at the office several times.

 “I don’t think that they were just having a victim mentality or feeling like a victim, I feel like people were actual victims of this campaign and they didn’t deserve to be,” Bridgett told the investigator. “They should attack me as the candidate, don’t attack my clerk and my attorneys and my people.”

“I mean, we had defense attorneys in court humming the Brady Bunch song because they did a stupid video, a TV ad that showed like eight of our attorneys and support staff as the Brady Bunch characters about how unethical they are because of these [alleged] Brady violations,” Bridgett continued, referencing Northam’s participation in Jensen’s campaign.

“We had attorneys coming back from court in tears because they were being personally attacked in court. And that’s why I say we can call it blurred lines or whatever, but I call it standing up for my people and making sure that my people feel like I care, and I’m concerned, and that the office is going to protect them and that the correct information was going to get out to the public in a timely fashion,” Bridgett concluded.

The investigation found the whistleblower’s first two alleged campaign violation, that Bridgett ordered her employees to work on the campaign during office hours and that she and her employees campaigned during office hours, were not sustained.

“This investigator recognized that the line between working on a response for campaign purposes versus defending the office to maintain public trust can be a thin one,” the whistleblower report states. “On balance, this investigator is persuaded by the interviews of DA Bridgett and [redacted employee names] that they understood the line and were exercising appropriate judgment in ensuring they were staying within the bounds of the law.”

As an elected official, DA Bridgett is categorically exempt from these two claims because technically she’s on the clock all the time. However, the investigator did find that Bridgett, by answering more than a score of emails during office hours over a period of several months, did violate a lesser regulation, Rule 38 of the Shasta County Personnel Rules, which prohibits campaign activities on county property.

“This investigator finds, based on a preponderance of the evidence, that DA Bridgett, and [redacted employee name] engaged in election-related activities on County premises,” the whistleblower report states. “That said, it is important to note that these activities were de minimus and clearly not an intentional effort to flout policy. This investigator finds [redacted employee name] and DA Bridgett to be honest witnesses who used reasonable efforts to follow the legal prohibitions on campaign activities.”

Some of the Millville Plains residents with Jones’ property in the background.

Millville Plains Residents Will Have Their Day in Court

A News Café was unable to attend the latest gun range status conference hearing on Monday, May 20, but Millville Plains resident Ed Wilkes and several other plaintiffs did attend. Wilkes lent this reporter his notes from the hearing.

According to Wilkes, Patrick Jones and his wife and Shasta County Counsel Joe Larmour were also in attendance. The plaintiff’s attorney Mooney called in from his Davis office. When Judge Hanna called the case at 9:36 a.m. Jones informed him that Northam was “on his way.”

Northam arrived an hour late and Judge Hanna called the case again at 10:07 a.m. Hanna granted Jones’ request to substitute Northam for County Counsel Larmour. As the RPI in the case, Jones had publicly pledged to pay for his own attorney, but Northam seems like an unlikely choice for this litigation. Northam is a criminal defense attorney, not an environmental or development lawyer.

Next Judge Hanna informed the court that once again he’d received a last-minute declaration seeking to disqualify him from the case on the previous Friday, May 17. This time the declaration was written by Northam. The judge rescheduled the status conference for June 10 and adjourned the case.

“That ended the session, the real business taking about 3 minutes!” Wilkes noted.

In Northam’s May 17 declaration to disqualify Judge Hanna, there’s no mention of hiring an outside investigator to probe DA Bridgett’s alleged misconduct as Jones claimed in his April 5 declaration. Instead, Northam relies on the whistleblower investigation conducted by San Francisco attorney John Beiers that was given to him after the board of supervisors waived attorney-client privilege on April 30.

Northam claims he reviewed the investigation but his declaration calls into question just how close that review was. He repeatedly makes claims about DA Bridgett’s office that were not sustained by the investigation.

Shon Northam (red, white and blue shorts) and Carlos Zapata at the Registrar of Voters office during the 2022 primary election vote count.

For example, Northam claims DA Bridgett “instructed her employees … to work on her reelection campaign during business hours and county time.” The allegation that DA Bridgett ordered her employees to work on her campaign during office hours was not sustained by the whistleblower investigation.

Northam’s declaration to disqualify Judge Hanna from the gun range case claims “Judge Hanna was aware of the campaign violations … and neither reported nor disclosed to the California State Bar the campaign violations being committed by DA Bridgett.”

But the whistleblower investigation found that DA Bridgett committed no major campaign violations and only unintentional de minimus violations of a local personnel regulation prohibiting campaigning on county property.

Northam singles out Judge Hanna’s wife, Senior Deputy District Attorney Kelly Kafel in the declaration, complaining that during the campaign Kafel “made a number of public/social media remarks including remarks at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors regarding this counsel [Northam] that were both disparaging, inflammatory, not true and attempted to portray counsel as a liar and politically motivated.”

This was a tactic used often by Northam in Jensen’s campaign. First throw unsubstantiated mud at DA Bridgett’s office then complain that members of the office who called him out in public had a political agenda and/or were working on the taxpayer’s dime.

In fact, Kafel did call out Northam in public and on social media, as in this Facebook post from June 2, 2022, just days before the primary election. Kafel defended one of the District Attorney’s young prosecutors from criticism leveled at her by Northam.


“This is an amazing young prosecutor that works at the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office (not the baby, the mom),” Kafel said. “She puts her heart into every case to protect victims of domestic abuse. Her character has been attacked by the Liberty Committee, Jensen and his minion Northam.”

Northam’s declaration continues as if all the whistleblower’s allegation were sustained, which is the opposite of what the investigation found. He claims without evidence that because of DA Bridgett’s “fraudulent use and theft of Shasta County taxpay dollars … criminal defendants were not timely prosecuted and cases were not timely or filed at all, resulting in a backlog of cases and prejudice to criminal defendants.”

Northam goes on to claim he’s going to use this information to dismiss the charges against his client David Cody Merrifield, an ex-convict with a history of violence. This is the case Northam used to convince the board of supervisors to waive attorney-client privilege in the whistleblower investigation.

Merrifield is currently charged with corporal injury to spouse, cohabitant, or child’s parent; assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury, criminal threats and kidnapping. The alleged crimes occurred on July 24, 2022.

In the declaration, Northam claims he’s going to subpoena Judge Hanna in the Merrifield case in June. In his response striking the declaration from the record, Judge Hanna noted that Northam “claims that he plans on issuing a subpoena to the Court to testify in a hearing on a pending criminal matter. Whether this plan will become reality remains to be seen, and counsel’s plan does not create legal grounds for the Court’s disqualification.”

In his response striking the second declaration from the record, Judge Hanna said Northam was simply rehashing the stricken first declaration filed by Jones in pro se.

“Here, the majority of the allegations in the declaration filed by counsel are recycled from the earlier filing by RPI Jones,” Judge Hanna stated. “Indeed, other than portions of the declaration outlining counsel’s professional experience and a pending motion to dismiss in an unrelated criminal matter, the grounds for disqualification in both filings is from information gathered from a report by a ‘whistleblower’ which supposedly alleges a nebulous connection between the Court, the Court’s spouse, and actions by the elected district attorney of Shasta County.”

Hanna scheduled a new status conference for the Millville Plains/Anderson residents’ lawsuit against Jones’ gun range on June 10.

Whether Jones and his attorney Northam can focus on the environmental issues at hand instead of pursuing their vendetta against DA Stephanie Bridgett and her office remains to be seen, but it doesn’t appear likely.

In early May, Northam filed a subpoena with the Shasta County Superior Court seeking recordings from the whistleblower interviews and an unredacted copy of the whistleblower report, which he claims are necessary to defend Merrifield.

Jones was soundly thrashed by Matt Plummer in this year’s primary election and will vacate the district 4 supervisor seat at the end of the year. If he also loses the gun range case, he’s going to have a lot of spare time on his hands.

R.V. Scheide

R.V. Scheide is an award-winning journalist who has covered news, politics, music, arts and culture in Northern California for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in the Tenderloin Times, Sacramento News & Review, Reno News & Review, Chico News & Review, North Bay Bohemian, San Jose Metro, SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, Alternet, Boston Phoenix, Creative Loafing and Counterpunch, among many other publications. His honors include winning the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Freedom of Information Act and best columnist awards as well as best commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists, California chapter. Mr. Scheide welcomes your comments and story tips. Contact him at RVScheide@anewscafe.com..

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