This is Episode 6 in the story of the formation, rise and fall of the little education collective that used to exist up here on our mountain. I wrote and posted this account three years ago on my blog and then pulled it off because someone whose name I had not changed, objected. Now I have changed both the name of the little school itself, and the names of everyone who might be negatively impacted, and plan to re-post the story, one episode per day, until all 32 are again on my blog.
A Dark and Gloomy Night
“I did not try to kill your daughter. Will you please leave my property? You are not welcome here.” I was speaking to Corrine Rose Chintz, or Imika as she called herself, upon her arrival at my complex on March 9th, 1989.
“I will not leave until you admit that you endangered my daughter.” Ironically, she had come driving down my road at a frantic pace in her red four-wheel-drive FourRunner, to accuse me of driving too fast on her road that morning, when I had gone to Bell Springs Education Collective to pick up my son Casey.
“It is time for you to leave. I do not need my kids listening to this.” I didn’t think that was going to work, but I had very little practice in this.
“I am filing a restraining order against you in Ukiah.” She was getting warmed up.
“Fine, knock yourself out. I highly doubt that any judge would take your word against mine.”
“He will when I tell him how all of you are conspiring against me. You are all a bunch of liars.”
“Get off of my land, you witch. Go back to where you came from.”
Imika did not go quietly into the night. She left with a barrage of invective and tore past the house down to where it dead-ended. When she came rocketing back up the road, she passed our house at a rate of speed that probably matched the speed in her mind, that she believed I had been traveling, when I passed by her daughter earlier that day. It seemed like a long time ago, already.
True to her word, Imika filed the paperwork in Mendocino County’s Superior Court on the corner of State and Perkins Street. I was ordered to appear at 9:30 on the morning of March 17th, the Honorable Eric Labowitz presiding. To add insult to injury, I was served my subpoena while at a family gathering, most likely that of my sister Laura’s birthday, at Pauline’s home on March 15th.
I was totally flummoxed that Imika could file paperwork based on a fabrication. I was mortified that this could occur; I no more endangered the child’s life than I endangered her mother’s life, when she came on my property, ranting and raving.
The entire courtroom scene was quite surreal, sitting with fourteen community members who had come down to Ukiah to bear witness to my character. Of all of the supporting comments that were made I will take Kat’s comment to my grave, one of the highest compliments I have ever had bestowed.
I sat amongst these friends, lamenting once again the nature of a judicial system which allowed people to use the mechanism to their benefit, instead of the designed purpose. Kat’s comment to me was, “Accusing you of endangering Misha, is the same as saying that Winnie the Pooh tried to harm her.”
I could see that Imika was angry at the collective; I was a member of the collective; therefore Imika was angry at me. I couldn’t see why she had to attack me in such an unfair way. I said something to that effect to Judge Labowitz when I was given the opportunity to speak. But first I presented my case index cards and all.
The court had provided me with a copy of Imika's statement, which was included on the Petition for injunction Prohibiting Harassment. It read like this:
This suit is filed in Mendocino County because
My 7 year old daughter was nearly run over by the reckless driver on our property and told to shut up by him. he is an encroacher.
March 9th, 1989. Mark O'Neill drove by my home on a private road unreasonably fast. I called the Bell Spring Education Collective and Community Center where he was going, (2 minutes from my home) and left a message for the driver of the silver Subaru to slow down. Mark O'Neill drove back onto my property at full speed came to a stop at my driveway. I told him from my home to slow down because people and animals were on the road on my property. He was in a rage and made a nasty sign with his fingers and drove off at full speed. My daughter Misha Chintz age 7 was near our gate on our property and had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit by his car. She said to him "You might want to go a little slower there are people on the road" (meaning herself) He said to her " You shut up" He jumped back into the car and drove off as fast as the car would go. This man said to me later in the day when I told him to stay off my property because he had nearly run over and killed my daughter to "Kiss my ass, you bitch". This man and his wife laughed and said it was a joke.
“Number one: Ms. Shins calls me a ‘reckless driver.’ In nineteen years of operating a motor vehicle, I have never been issued a moving violation. I am not a reckless driver.
Number two: She calls me “an encroacher”; I have a letter dated January 14th, 1989, granting me legal road access for ingress and egress to and from the property of Joe. I am not an encroacher.
Number three: She says I was driving unreasonably fast. The standard speed is five miles an hour, so yes, I was driving three times that speed. But fifteen miles per hour is not unreasonably fast.
Number four: She says I was in a rage. She is right that I was angry. Annie had pneumonia, my boy was sick, and she thinks I’m driving too fast. Excuse me for living and breathing. Imploring her, with my hand extended supplicatingly, palm upward, is not "a nasty sign with his fingers."
May I explain about the gate? Ms. Chintz, through her daughter, plays this game with the gate on the far side of her house, the gate that everyone has to pass through if headed to the school. She will watch someone unlock the gate and pass through to the school, and then send the child out to re-lock the gate. It has happened over and over, and occurred again on this occasion. As I pulled up to the gate, Misha was off to one side and she said in a sing-song voice, ‘My mother doesn’t want you driving fast on her road.’ Where was her concern for her safety? According to her mother, Misha had been terrified of my reckless driving.
Your Honor, my wife is petrified of this woman. She would not come to this hearing, because of this fear. She fears for the psychological health of her boys, who are exhibiting signs of stress, which include nightmares about the school. Now Ms. Chintz has publicly accused me of reprehensible acts that I did not commit, in an effort to attain some measure of satisfaction against the members of Bell Springs.
This accusation is totally false. If you grant Ms. Chintz this restraining order, it’s the same thing as convicting me without a trial. Your Honorable Honor, sir.” I almost genuflected to him. He shuffled his papers in response and then spoke, quietly, making eye contact with me.
“Listen, Mr. O’Neill. I understand your position; however, you do not comprehend the total depth and breadth of a restraining order. It is not a declaration of guilt. It is a system the court has in place of protecting not only the plaintiff, but the court itself. I do not know whether Ms. Shins is presenting the truth or not; this is not a trial. However, if I allow you both to walk out of here today, without granting the restraining order, and you turn around and harm her, how does that make the court look?
What I can do for you, is make the restraining order mutual so that both of you are bound by the same set of rules.”
Though dismayed at the prospect, I saw the reasoning, even if I felt it did not apply to me. Judge Labowitz didn’t know if I was Jack the Ripper or Winnie the Pooh, but he did know that no one was going to come pounding on his chambers door, announcing that the plaintiff for a denied restraining order had just been assaulted by the person intended to be restrained.
I took little consolation in the fact that Annie and the three boys were named on the restraining order as being household members who were protected likewise from Imika.
It was a dark and gloomy March night.