Pictured: Darrin Stone on security video showing him removing a “Black Lives Matter” sign from private property. Photo credit: Ventura County Sheriff’s Office

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com 

Diversion program for assailant at July protest

Martha Kuppenbender, a resident of Ventura, has agreed to participate in a diversion program offered by the Ventura County District Attorney to avoid formal misdemeanor battery charges from being filed with the court. 

On July 19, 2020, Kuppenbender was in her vehicle and stopped at a red light on Victoria Ave. at the Telephone Road intersection in Ventura. She got into a verbal exchange with protestors who were in the roadway median at an event aimed at gathering support for an effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom hosted by a group called Patriots of Ventura County. Kuppenbender left her vehicle and walked toward a woman with the group and struck her with her hands. The woman struck was not injured. 

The diversion program was started in 2017 by the Ventura County District Attorney’s office to reduce recidivism. The option is offered only after an attorney reviews the evidence and determines that there is proof of the charges and that the person to be charged has minimal or no criminal history. Only certain low-level misdemeanors qualify. 

Cost of the program depends on the classes needed and ranges from $300 to $530. Applicants to the program who cannot afford it can apply for a fee reduction. 

Vandals accept diversion program

Two men who defaced and stole a sign from private property in Westlake Village have agreed to participate in a diversion program. 

On Oct. 19, the Ventura County District Attorney announced that Jeffrey Moore and Darrin Stone, both residents of Thousand Oaks, were accepted into the program following their destruction and theft of a sign that read “BLM,” referencing Black Lives Matter. 

On June 11, Moore sprayed an “A” over the “B” on the sign, in an apparent effort to change the meaning of the sign to “All Lives Matter.” The sign was replaced by the property owner. 

On June 13 and again on June 19, Stone — who at the time was a civilian employee of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office — cut down and removed a second and third sign the property owner had put up to replace the previous sign. Stone was placed on administrative leave following the incidents; he no longer works for the office.

Causing fear or harassment is a crime

On Oct. 15, Gregory Totten, Ventura County District Attorney, issued a statement clarifying that certain online posts which target an individual for harassment or intimidation can be illegal and constitute a crime. 

The practice sometimes referred to as “doxing,” which involves posting certain identifying information about a person, including their name, image or address, in an attempt to harass, cause fear or otherwise intimidate them, constitutes a misdemeanor crime. 

“Any person who intentionally places another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of that person’s immediate family, by an electronic communication and for the purpose of causing that person unwanted physical contact, injury, or harassment by a third party, may be guilty of a misdemeanor.” 

The statement emphasized that while every person has the right to “free speech and the posting of personal opinions on the Internet, there are risks and potential criminal liability associated with intentionally causing the harassment of others . . . residents should be aware that First Amendment rights are not unlimited, and we encourage the community to be mindful that the law prohibits doxing.”

Totten’s statement clarified that  “harassment means knowing and willful conduct that is directed at a specific person, that serves no legitimate purpose, and would be considered as seriously alarming, annoying, tormenting, or terrorizing to a reasonable person. Personal identifying information can include a digital image, an electronic message of a harassing nature, a home address, or phone number.”

Former Ventura County employee admits violating disclosure rules

Public employees in certain positions are required to fill out a particular form, Statement of Economic Interests, or Form 700, and file with the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Some public employees, even though not elected officials, must file this form, which is a public record, in order to disclose any potential conflict of interest that may arise in the course of their duties. The forms are submitted under penalty of perjury. 

On Oct. 15, Gregory Totten, Ventura County District Attorney, announced that Raymond Gutierrez Jr., a resident of Ventura and former manager with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, pled no contest to a misdemeanor violation for failing to report $32,000 in income he received acting as a licensed real estate broker in a deal in which he represented both the sale and purchase of a property in the county. The purchaser was a developer working in the county.  

Gutierrez received a sentence of 36 months probation and was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.