Sun. May 26th, 2024

By Linda Sutter

Recently, the Del Norte Triplicate published an article, Federal Inquiry Into Cop Actions, regarding two law enforcement officers who were caught on tape stealing money during a drug bust.  Sheriff Apperson was quoted as saying, “It wasn’t from our agency,” in an effort to absolve the Sheriff’s Department from any wrongdoing.  It is alleged that Pelican Bay State Prison allowed nine of their officers of the Specialized Emergency Response Team (S.E.R.T.) to service the warrant upon James Banuelos.

And while it may be true that two particular officers were not from the Sheriff’s department, Sheriff Apperson is ultimately responsible for allowing the SERT officers to play a roll in the warrant service and then seizure of property, and should be held responsible for their actions whether or not they are part of his department.  He also knows Sheriff Deputy Detective Griffin’s history of abuse and allowed him to continue in a position of trust.

But the crime indicated by the Triplicate article was not the only alleged crime caught on tape that day. Crescent City also viewed the taped evidence and viewed Sheriff Deputy Detective Richard Griffin telling other officers to go ahead and break windows because County administrators will deny the claim.

This issue of corruption and abuse of power and the public trust can also be seen in the Dave Egan case (BlackHawk Pistol story) where 52 guns were confiscated but never logged by the officers or entered into evidence along with cash, gold coins, passport and more. Sheriff’s Deputy Griffin was there as well.  How many more such cases are out there?

It is imperative that our newly elected Sheriff take his oath to serve and protect seriously and weed out the bad apples such as Griffin and all those under investigation by the FBI.  We can’t fully trust in the rule of law when those who are in charge of enforcing it are also repeat offenders in breaking it.

Allegedly, Officer Matthew Yates, from the SERT team is one of the officers under investigation for stealing the money.  Currently, Officer Yates has a gate stop at Pelican Bay.  What that means is that his picture is posted at the front entrance of the prison so he cannot come on the grounds.  In 2013, public records indicate the Officer Yates made a grand total of $146,824.82 between regular pay, overtime pay, “other pay” plus benefits.

Apparently, he could not live on that amount of money and felt it was necessary to allegedly steal $300 off Banuelos.  Officer Yates may be collecting his salary while on administrative time off until this case is heard and resolved.

We haven’t researched policy and procedures for other counties yet, but find it impossible to believe that our Sheriff’s department would condone destruction of personal property because they know that the County administrators will deny the claim.  Perhaps if the Officers responsible for the destruction of personal property were made to pay out of their own pocket for the repairs they would be more careful in their actions.

We, the taxpayers, citizens and residents, do not pay law enforcement to destroy property, place guns to our temples, shout “I’m going to blow your f***ing brains out,” and steal from us.

People make mistakes, some more than others.  The punishment for their mistakes is prison or jail; not cruel and unusual punishment, not theft or destruction and certainly not threats of violence.

In the academy of correctional officers, you are trained from the get go that there is no “I” in team.  You are placed in a company. Everyone is responsible for their company.  If one screws up they all get punished.  The Speciality Elite Correctional Officers of the  S.E.R. T. team, should all pay the expense of one of their own.  They should all be barred from their position on S.E.R.T. for failing as team members.

It should be noted that Pelican Bay State Prison’s Public Information Officer, Chris Acosta, could not be reached for comment regarding the issue at hand.






17 thoughts on “Pelican Bay State Prison and Del Norte Sheriff’s Department’s HOUSE OF SHAME”
  1. I agree. Apperson, we all love you dearly but you do need to pay closer attention to your PR (Public relations) since you are an elected official. I know one case where Griffin violated my constitutional rights by doing an illegal search and detention that was subsequently dismissed after my attorney, Jon Alexander, filed a Motion to Suppress evidence. When Jon Alexander was elected D.A. we saw some improvement in screening the arrest and criminal complaint reports. Alexander would send back incomplete reports (full of holes) instead of blindly filing on everything and then using illegal methods to obtain a plea bargain, so Defendant never gets his say in Court. Of course, the corruption does not stop at one agency or department, but rather spans out throughout our Judicial System, which is why this County could not stand to have an honest D.A. that didn’t play by their willingness to “bend the law” and therefore they rallied against him and got him disbarred. What an Injustice!!!! Garcia was just the tip of the ice Berg. Where is the I.A team and why isn’t something being done to weed out crooked Deputies, including but not limited to, Deputy Griffin, whom does not follow the rules and regularly violates peoples constitutional rights and gets away with it. What good is ” The Constitution” that tells us our rights, if we can’t enforce that right when it gets violated? I hope the FBI Special Investigative Unit comes in here and does a complete reform in this County. Putting in place a Policy and Procedure Manual that must be read and signed by every employee and where an Internal Affairs Investigator is on hand to promptly and Efficiently follow-up on every complaint where someone violates one or more of the Depts policies. The Deputy Griffins of this County would be weeded out or forced to work within the limits of the law. Come on Apperson, I know you can do it! REFORM IS NEEDED in this Lawless town. And trust me, this kind of behavior, mishandling of evidence, serving illegal search warrants and not sticking to the scope of that search, illegal detentions that they might refer to as Consentual Contact (then they don’t need probable cause to stop) They are doing Pat downs and illegal, warrantless searches on both juveniles and adults. Prolonged detentions on vehicle stops without any justification except that the person was recognized from previous contacts with the law.

  2. Perhaps I should leave this one alone but then what fun would that be. Ha! I moved here in the late 80s. I felt that this would be a great place to raise my kids. A single working mom. Three kids. Leaving the Bay Area, and Valley to be rid of this type of thing. Since, I moved with my kids to The Mother Lode. Then I thought I could move back. Well I got here just in time to see one of the officers fall on his face later to see that this started a domino effect of the whole City and its system. I’m not much for Politics never have been. However this as a whole , what, with The FBI here constantly, and other agencys between here and Brookings, with all the two years of EMBEZZLEMENT, and Then D.A. n other officials turning to drug use or found to be involved in drugs and other mayhem one has to sit back and wonder. Man these found guilty had nothing more then a slapped hand.
    I don’t care, if a person on the streets were to be found in this position, I’m not thinking that they would have been let off so easy. Sure they were all run threw the ringers I suppose and I’m sure other had been given a light sentence for endangering their own children while being under the influence. Or standing in front of a judge and helping or helping take down someone below the law under the influence. Which none of those cases that were tried. Thru that period ever went on to be said TO THE BEST OF THE ABILITY OF THAT D.A. OR PEACE OFFICER.
    Now that we have Task Force in place n play. Yet things are being stolen that are confiscated. What’s really happening to this City as a whole? The things that are being seized are making it back to the street and we are getting nowhere. We haven’t gotten anywhere. This coming from a women who knows little about the City’s Government. Yet I have this opinion. So who do we have helping us. That’s news. I went into court for a civil matter and the stenographer was sent home before the case was ever heard. Not advising anyone that it was taped, because it wasn’t. There was NO WAY to Appeal this case because it had no Minutes. Does this City make its own laws. I’m saddened by the way things have become here. And it hasn’t stopped. One after another they are being accused and found guilty. I don’t care mind you who it is. Im saying I have the shadow of a doubt already in my head and heart. Who is it then in this City we can Trust. Just Wondering. And great article by the way…..

  3. Good Reporting Miss Sutter! When the Triplicate reports on a story. It always seems to be lacking on the details. Yes they do cover all the basic important headlines. When it comes to the meat & potatoes of the story it always seems to be lacking in substance. I have some negative feelings about the decision to withhold this video from the public. Why would it be withheld? It is what it is & has been viewed (in some cases even by the fbi!). They know what it is, so what’s the reason to withhold it? So Yates can get a fair trial? I’t’s time for our newly elected Sheriff to clean house. Starting with the Mr. Griffin individual that was referred to in this article. When the election was going on Mr. Griffin was all over facebook saying he would never work for Apperson. He brought up instances of Apperson’s unfounded misconduct as well as other complaints. He said he would never work under him. Sighting some occasions where Apperson was at the jail joking around with the prisoners. The missing money & jewelry from Banuelos isn’t the only Official misconduct here in Del Norte. Here are some following excerpts and reading materials…(Not every police confrontation is friendly & in some states it’s the leading cause of death)

    The following links are Pot Busts with zero arrests and plenty confiscated…. There may be many more I didn’t want to research to much.
    The following were busts with arrests that who knows if there was really any prosecution. There was a lot of confiscated items & weed.. Wonder where it all goes..? If we can’t trust them with $300…

    1. Dear Troy,

      Thank you for the information. I will tell you this, I recently read a legal brief authored by an attorney here in town which disclosed a whole lot more than $300.00 taken from these drug busts….the case settled out of court…..but in my opinion it had merit because the county doesn’t settle out of court for no reason…at this point the FBI is our only hope for saving grace…and if they sweep this under the rug…then, we the people will have to face the fact that there truly is no law north of the Klamath and the bad guys also wear badges and carry guns…

    1. Dear Jeffery,

      which part is not true? enlighten me…maybe there is something you know that we don’t know….let’s see, well the video I guess could have been a figment of my imagination as well as the gate stop…oh and the amount of money yates makes per year, well, that source came from the California transparency site…oh and keep in mind, the original article is ALWAYS edited by the editor….which means, it is not entirely my words…so maybe you should complain to the editor of the newspaper

  4. How were you able to view the tapes? How can I view them? I would much rather see it for myself if possible. Thank you

  5. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Let’s not convict The Yates family until all the ” facts” are in! Oh, I forgot because he is a CO, it is all over facebook, and the newspaper. Tried, convicted and hung all in the same article! My prayers for all involved.

    1. Dear Sarah,

      The YATES family is not under the gun here, just allegedly Matthew Yates. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you have allegedly done wrong it will be placed in a newspaper. Guilty or not guilty. Why? Because it’s news.

      Yes, Matthew Yates, is a Correctional Officer. He has been trained to recognize and go after those that violate the law; and he’s paid to follow the law.

      So, am I to believe that their alleged dirty deeds should not be publicized because they are public servants?

      That is like when a priest allegedly molests children. Should we not speak about it or write about it because they are priests? Don’t think so. It’s still going to end up in the newspaper. It’s called 1st Amendment rights.

      Our prayers go out to the family too. And if this is brought to trial we will report on the results as well.

  6. You know, I see alot of “wild” accusations being tossed around with absolutely no proof at all. Smearing the names of our public servants and publishing these so called instances of corruption without any proof is wrong. Lets not forget the fact that sert has being going on raids since Wilson was around. It doesn’t make sheriff Apperson a bad sheriff nor Griffin a bad deputy because this Yates character stole money. One thing I do know is that sheriff Apperson really loves his job and he literally was just elected. Rome wasn’t built in a day and I really think he will answer all the critics in good time. Now I’ve heard from a few people that Griffin is one of the hardest working people at the sheriff’s dept. Id like to see proof of any wrong doing before condemning these public servants. I think the “crescent city times” should be entitled to show this so called “proof” before this slandering continues.

    1. Dear Jon, I understand your frustration, Public Servants are held to a higher standard, but they are not above the law, AND are held accountable just like everyone else.

      Sheriff Apperson was quoted as stating at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon May 8th, “The SERT team is supposed to provide service for the outside perimeter of an incident.” In this particular case Pelican Bay Officer Yates apparently did not get that memo. Maybe, if he had, he would not have been in the house allegedly stealing money. This unfortunate set of circumstances affected our newly elected sheriffs credibility because it was on his watch.

      I respect all law enforcement, but if there appears to be is a dirty cop, I’m gonna expose them, pure and simple… end of story.

  7. OMG….Apperson I voted for you because I thought this kind of thing would stop! You need to do some house cleaning and get out in front of this. Clean up your office and give us the department we voted you in to office to have.

    1. I agree with Shirley. This is what we didn’t vote for. Do you want to be a one term Sheriff? The voters are getting a lot smarter these days. Don’t neglect your duties! Do the things you said you would. Get moving because we haven’t seen much yet..

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