Saturday, June 20, 2009

How DA Bob Lee and Ariadne Symons subverted our justice system

by Becky Johnson
June 28 2009

Santa Cruz, Ca. -- Okay class, let's review what we learned about our justice system in Civics class. A person is innocent until proven guilty. A person may not be tried twice for the same crime. A jury finds a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. A guilty person is sentenced and must do their time. Once they have served their sentence, they are said to have paid their debt to society and are freed. They can even vote. Right?

Wrong! Not in District Attorney Bob Lee's roost at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse where all of the above is being turned on it's ear. But first a little history lesson is in order. Former District Attorney, Art Danner teamed up with then Assistant DA Ariadne Symons in 1997 ( Bob Lee was elected DA in 2002 and Symons was elected Superior Court Judge in June of 2008). Their task was to circumvent a ruling handed down by Judge Thomas Black when he ruled Schmidt should be tried by a juvenile court in 1989. Donald Schmidt, who grievously committed rape and murder of a 3 yr old child, was 16 years old, at the time of the crime, and Judge Black ruled that due to his " his limited intelligence and maturity," he should be tried under the Juvenile Justice System.

Schmidt was tried for rape and murder by Judge William Kelsay and convicted on 1 count of first degree murder and 1 count of forcible rape, however, the rape charge was overturned on appeal due to prosecutorial error and a charge of 2nd degree murder was affirmed. Schmidt has been incarcerated ever since. He is now 37, and the oldest ward in the California Juvenile Justice System. Currently he is housed at the Herman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino.


Symons, certain that a mistake had been made by trying Schmidt as a juvenile, set out to make sure that the verdict SHE wanted, would be had. She and District Attorney Art Danner, found what the New York Times calls "a rarely invoked state code," and the SENTINEL calls "a little-used provision" Section 1800 of California's Welfare and Institutions code, in order to undo the now-deceased Judge Black's verdict.

Schmidt was taken to court every two years, and tried to determine if he was found to have serious mental problems that impede his ability to control his behavior.

Under this method, Symons tried Schmidt 5 times and was able to extend his time beyond his original sentence another 12 years. During this time, Schmidt has committed no new crime, has been called "a model prisoner" by his handlers, and hasn't even had a write-up since 1994. He has completed high school while incarcerated, now works as the supervisor of a work detail which paints the facility he is in, and has a girlfriend his own age who knows about his past. But you would never know this, to hear Symons talk.

In an National Public Radio interview on July 4, 2005, DA Ariadne Symons confirmed that her goal was to circumvent Black's verdict when she said "that he should in fact have received life in prison."

That interview can be found here.

Lee was quoted in a 2009 New York Times article as saying "We believe he's a psychopath, and we believe he has no regrets or remorse for his conduct."

But is he? Bob Lee is NOT a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. So what have the psychiatrists said? Schmidt's seven-person treatment team at the Herman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino agreed to testify on his behalf, saying he has been rehabilitated. Clinical psychologist, Richard A. Starrett, testified April 17, 2009 before Judge Robert B. Atack saying that while Schmidt was still a danger, "he was not a psychopath".

When Ariadne Symons went before the press in 2005, she said "Once a sociopath, always a sociopath." She claimed that Schmidt had failed to benefit from years of treatment, had never acknowledged his guilt, and had shown no remorse. However, her ONLY evidence was to retell the grisly details of the original crime, minus a few details.


In 2005, Symons did not say that Leslie Silvola, the mother of the murdered child, had plead guilty to 1 felony count of distributing methamphetamine to a minor (Schmidt). She did not say that Silvola had originally been charged with 9 felony counts; 6 for furnishing illegal drugs and 3 for child endangerment. She didn't mention that a neighbor, Gail Levey, had filed two complaints with the Child Protective Services which were belatedly responded to and for which no abuse was found during the single visit they made.

Gail Levey testified at Silvola's hearing in 1989 that CPS "is already guilty of one murder. They killed Marihia. They had ample information to prevent her death."

There was no mention of the missed CPS reports in the 2009 New York Times, the current San Jose Mercury News articles, or the National Public Radio report of 2005. And missing from all three of the SENTINEL's 2009 articles was any report on either the CPS complaints OR that DA Art Danner reported in 1989 that all of the very young Silvola daughters had been sexually assaulted.

It's as though the SENTINEL reporter had no access to the paper's own archives. Or more likely, the reporters exclusively took their lead from Adiadne Symons, who had her own axe to grind and career to build.

DA Art Danner reported in 1989 that both of the surviving young sisters showed "irrefutable" medical evidence of a sexual assault in the weeks before her sister was raped and murdered. Danner also said "There's evidence on the 7-month old." No one in this case contends that Donald Schmidt was ever in the Silvola home prior to the night of the murder. So, the evidence shows that Silvola had been selling methamphetamine out of the home, provided meth and alcohol to minors and adults. All of her three daughters under the age of four had been sexually assaulted. Apparently baby-rape-meth parties were a common event at the Silvola household. Danner also said the girls were suffering from malnutrition as well. In exchange for testifying against Schmidt, Silvola plead to 1 felony and 1 misdemeanor. She has never admitted to her culpability in providing Schmidt with both meth and alcohol that night.

But for Symons, a scared, angry, messed-up 16 yr-old who was under the influence of a powerful, illegal drug which causes hypersexuality, and alcohol, which removes inhibitions, who was left alone in a bathroom by the mother with Silvola's 3-yr-old daughter naked in the tub -- he was to be held accountable for all the blame.

Inexplicably NPR's Richard Gonzales in 2005 reports that Schmidt raped the girl "while Mr. and Mrs. Silvola entertained guests in another room." The court testimony reveals that there was no "Mr." Silvola in the household. No father of the Silvola daughters was anywhere to be found. Instead, those court records claim that while Schmidt was assaulting Marihia, Leslie Silvola, the girl's mother, went through Schmidt's pockets to see if he had stolen anything from her. That is how little she trusted him. But the chaotic and criminal hell the girls were living in was completely sanitized from local news reports. In fact, according to the 2005 NPR report, any culpability by the mother was entirely missing from the report. And no mention is made that he has already served his sentence and has already been held an extra 12 years.

Instead, Leslie Silvola is pitched as the grieving mother, who lost her darling daughter, who she loved and cared for. A little girl who would be alive, happy, and healthy today if it were not for Donald Schmidt.


In an April 30, 2009, SENTINEL article by Cathy Kelly, she quotes Leslie Silvola, the single mother of four daughters from Lompico and who now lives in Michigan :

"He's a very sick person," she said. "I am so afraid if he gets out he will repeat what he did to another child. I don't want to see any parent have to go through anything like this. It's the worst thing to lose a child and the way that he murdered her ...

"It tore my family apart; I'll never get over it."

SENTINEL writer, Kelly continues:

Silvola said she went through years of counseling after the murder and regained custody of her other two daughters. But, she said, she remains "so heartsick I can't stand it.

"She was such a wonderful child," she said. "I'd get up in the morning and she'd help me. She'd get diapers for her little sister and go shopping with me. People were just amazed by her. We'd sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' together every night."

found at:

No mention of the evidence of similar sexual assaults on her two-year old daughter, A___, or her 7-month old daughter, C____. Assaults which must have occurred before Schmidt had ever darkened the doorway of her home. No discussion that meth itself, causes hypersexualization.


GAIL LEVEY testified about Marihia's mother, Leslie Silvola in 1989 saying that the Silvola children, including one child in diapers, "would show up at my house filthy and hungry." Levey had also told the CPS that she believed that Silvola was selling drugs out of the house. She was so disturbed at the lack of response by CPS that she testified they were "already guilty of murder. They killed Marihia. They had plenty of evidence to prevent her death."

While the failure of CPS to investigate those complaints was a big story back in 1989, it is totally missing from any current narrative. Schmidt testified in 2005 that his youth was a living hell. He had been sodomized by his biological father, three men from his church, and his foster father. He had dropped out of high school in Fremont, Ca., and become a runaway. As far as he knew, life consisted of meth, alcohol, and the powerful abusing the powerless. When he raped Marihia in that bathroom, he was getting back at all those who had abused him, and modeling what adults were doing in the world that he knew.


According to Chuck Blanford, a volunteer mentor at the facility in which he is housed, the night Schmidt was arrested for rape and murder was the night his life was saved. The sexual abuse against him stopped. He was able to get the therapy he needed to recover from his own abuse. He was able to mature, to understand what had happened to him, and eventually to admit his crime and show remorse.

Even while still at Juvenile Hall in Felton, Ca., he got a girlfriend his own age. She spoke to him regularly through a glass window, but had no physical contact. He continued to write her after she was moved to a group home.

Because Schmidt is very personable he is well-liked, and women are attracted to him. Symons calls Schmidt's interest in women his own age as "continuing to prey on vulnerable women with small children." She claims this is evidence of predation against children, but it is actually evidence he is not a pedophile, and is able to form mature relationships with adult women.

DA Rob Wade, who took over after Symons was elected Judge, claimed that Schmidt was "manipulative" and "a sexual sadist."


Each jury would be dragged through the gory details of that late December night in 1988, but without revealing the extent to which the mother was also culpable. All they knew is that the mother had been convicted on one felony amphetamine charge and 1 misdemeanor charge of child neglect. They learned nothing of the failure of the CPS to properly investigate. The jurors never heard that the 2-yr-old daughter and the 7-month old daughter both showed physical evidence of sexual assault that Danner called "irrefutable."

All they heard was that this "sociopath" and "predator" was responsible for this reprehensible crime and that only the jurors could keep another child safe from this monster. They put the jurors in an impossible position. Under our system of laws, being tried twice for the same crime, is called double jeopardy, and is illegal. Yet Donald Schmidt has been tried again and again for the same crime: a crime he committed as a juvenile, which involved other adult predators, and which spotlighted the failure of a government agency. The DA's office did it by using a Health and Institutional code 1800 which is rarely used by anyone. They asserted that Schmidt still was dangerous, in direct conflict with sworn testimony from his State-certified treatment team. And that he has no regrets or remorse for his conduct. And they told jurors that WHEN Schmidt re-offends, they will regret any decision to allow his release.

On June 25, 2009, after two hung juries, District Attorney Bob Lee announced that Schmidt would ONLY be incarcerated for one more year ending what might have been back to back hung juries with no end in sight.

SOURCES: NYT "A Killer at 16, and Still in California’s Juvenile Justice System Decades Later" by JESSE McKINLEY April 25, 2009

SJ Mercury News "Returning Kids to Abuser Stupid" by Joanne Jacobs Sept 14, 1989

NPR "A State's Oldest Youth Offender" All Things Considered July 4, 2005 - Richard Gonzales

Santa Cruz SENTINEL "Second mistrial declared in convicted child killer's bid for freedom" By Jennifer Squire 06/05/2009 found at:

TOPIX forum comments provided by two jurors, Schmidt's former girlfriend, his mentor, Chuck Blanford, Leslie Silvola's daughter, Cyndi, and from neighbor, Gail Levey in May and June of 2009

"CA Fights to Keep Adult-labled Psychopathic Killer in Custody"-- April 26, 2009 by TChris of TALKleft

"The shame of medicine: the Depravity of Psychiatry" by George Mason University economics professor Bryan Caplan May 2009 found at:

1 comment:

  1. This is a gread whistle-blower areticle. Anyone who looks into the history of Child Protective Services (CPS)in California, and particularly in Santa Cruz ounty, where this horror unfolded in mounanous Lompico, will find that CPS agency is not a stranger to being investigated by the state.

    This is not surprising to me, as in my own study, I find that in the CPS system, one is "guilty until proven innocent," not unlike the IRS, but unlike the rest of government's systems.

    Who's sins were being hidden?


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