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Column: Whenever a sheriff OKs harassing a pastor for a Batmobile, it’s time for accountability

California is full of individuals who have the best beef having an elected sheriff.

People whove had a relative killed by deputies, for instance, and cant get any answers in what happened just because a sheriff won’t be transparent concerning the departments internal investigation.

Or people whove filed a complaint about being wrongfully detained or defaced by way of a deputy and then hear nothing back just because a sheriff is resistant to oversight.

Its bad enough for all those folks who live here, as whoever has dealt with LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva can attest. However now, Californias inability to deter questionable behavior among its sheriffs is even affecting people in other states.

Specifically, a soft-spoken pastor from Indiana named Mark Racop.

He’s got become ensnared in a ridiculous criminal investigation over a Batmobile launched by outgoing San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos at the behest of 1 of his wealthiest campaign donors.

In July, Racop opened the entranceway to Fiberglass Freaks, the shop where he’s got been building officially licensed, 1966-era Batmobiles for greater than a decade, to get not just one but four members of the San Mateo County Sheriffs Department standing outside with warrants.

These were there in tiny Logansport, Ind. a large number of miles out of these jurisdiction, midway between Chicago and Indianapolis, with taxpayers footing the bill on the orders of Bolanos.

Weeks earlier, Bay Area agent Sam Anagnostou, who through his company, donated $1,000 to Bolanos ultimately unsuccessful reelection bid, had approached the sheriff about Racop.

Back 2017, Anagnostou ordered a $210,000 custom Batmobile from Fiberglass Freaks, with the expectation of Racop completing it sometime in 2018.

But delays happened. The pandemic happened. And Anagnostou didnt create a payment for nearly nine months. For the time being, Racop sticking with the guidelines spelled out in the sales contract about missed payments moved another customer before Anagnostou.

By 2021, Anagnostou had grown so impatient therefore angry he tried getting his local Atherton Police Department to research and persuade the San Mateo County district attorneys office to file charges against Racop. No luck. He then tried filing case in California, alleging fraud. No luck there either. The judge ruled that Indiana will be the proper venue for hearing the case.

Bolanos was Anagnostous last hope.

Within an era where police is under such siege, this appears like this was not so well-planned, San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley explained. What were attempting to do might know about be attempting to do is establish credibility with people, not do stuff that appear to be were doing favors. And thats sort of, unfortunately, what this appears like.

Indeed, the optics are so very bad that the Board of Supervisors has been flooded with calls and emails from angry constituents.

Consequently, the county has asked the California attorney generals office to research what happened. And on Saturday, the county retained retired Superior Court Judge Winifred Y. Smith to launch just one more investigation.

What we are able to do is incredibly limited, said Horsley, who was simply sheriff of the county for 14 years. This is actually the California Constitution. The sheriff can be an elected officer. We cant take them off from office. And nor would we over a definite incident, nonetheless it is really a heck of an incident.

::

Full disclosure: I understand Racop. Well, Mark.

I met him about six years back, when he officiated the marriage of two longtime friends, Dawn and Jeff. Hes a geeky guy, a filmmaker whose love of the Batman began as a youngster. He legit wished to function as Dark Knight when he was raised and, while he doesnt regularly wear a cowl and cape, wants to shout: To the Batmobile!

I frankly hadnt considered Mark in years. Then, a couple of days ago, Dawn woke me up muttering and squinting at a Facebook post on her behalf phone.

A member of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department inspects a Batmobile at Fiberglass Freaks.

An associate of the San Mateo County Sheriffs Department inspects a Batmobile at Fiberglass Freaks.

(Mark Racop)

Mark got hemmed up by some California sheriffs.

What?

California sheriffs!

I will mention this conversation happened in NEVADA, first thing each morning after my special birthday. Well, it could have been around in the afternoon. Its hard to inform in Vegas sometimes. But Dawn gamely plowed ahead, relaying the wild, convoluted story about Mark first reported by KGO-TV in SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA.

I had a need to know more. THEREFORE I called up Mark.

He was still outraged and bewildered in what had happened. He explained the way the members of the San Mateo County Sheriffs Department, along with a deputy from Indianas Cass County Sheriffs Department, refused to let him call an attorney and treated him just like a criminal.

A spokesperson for Bolanos didnt return a obtain comment.

They kept saying they were likely to arrest me, Mark explained, and they were likely to extradite me to California.

Since it works out, the team of four did have a warrant, not merely to find Fiberglass Freaks for records concerning the Batmobile that Anagnostou ordered, but to arrest Mark and bring him back again to San Mateo County.

Mark didnt know after that it, but he previously been charged with two felonies, including for fraud. He since has already established to hire a lawyer in California at 695 bucks one hour with an enormous retainer and take action with a frozen bank-account.

San Mateo County Dist. Atty. Steve Wagstaffe explained that, while he was from leave, prosecutors believed there is enough evidence showing Mark made a promise that couldnt be kept concerning the Batmobile.

The data was submitted to three different judges within San Mateo County, the initial search warrants and the ultimate one for the arrest warrant plus they all said yeah, theres reasonable cause to trust a crime has been committed, he said.

Still, given the backlash not forgetting the speculation, since Anagnostous company donated to the district attorneys campaign aswell Wagstaffe has backed off.

He’s got vowed to have a closer consider the case and obtain Marks side of the story. Already he’s got delayed an Aug. 19 order to surface in court in San Mateo County.

I believe we need much more if you have a victim, a wealthy victim, whos spending a few hundred thousand dollars to create a Batmobile, Wagstaffe explained. That conveys a particular image to a jury. I believe a jury of our citizens would require some clear evidence a fraud has occurred.

::

Stories like Racops are why an upcoming ballot measure in LA County is indeed important.

Voters will decide whether to amend the county charter to permit the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to eliminate a sheriff from office. To take action, at the very least four of the five supervisors would need to agree that they’re no more fit to serve.

Its a choice open to all charter counties in California, including San Mateo County.

Needless to say, the L.A. County ballot measure is due to supervisors long-running public struggle with Villanueva. But you can find sheriffs around California brazenly testing and abusing public trust without the real accountability between elections, because the San Mateo County mess illustrates.

And unlike Racop, whose case has garnered national media attention, most Californians quietly lose their fights with sheriffs possible that only reinforces the deep distrust between police and poor communities of color.

Im the guy that switches into restaurants and I consider the policemen, I consider the sheriffs deputies and I say, Many thanks so much for the service. I appreciate you and I am hoping you have a safe evening. Thats me, Racop said.

Now he’s got sleep problems and eating. He’s got heart disease. Hes stressed.

I’ve PTSD when I visit a sheriffs vehicle, Racop said. So its bad. Its not right, you understand?

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