One of the most high profile stories within the pages of this newspaper during the past few months is a court case involving a receivership.
For some background, the case involves Jerry Cox, a local resident whose land was placed in receivership following a proceeding in Mariposa County Superior Court. He is owner of the Bison Creek Ranch.
Mariposa County officials alleged, and the court agreed, there were more than 100 code violations on Cox’s property and the property was placed in receivership by the court. Receivership is a law in which the state can take control of property for various reasons, including code violations.
When that happens, it puts into motion various events, including securing the property, which was done in this case. The receiver can then secure funds to do various tasks, from security to petitioning the court to do either demolition or repairs.
There is another component to this case, as well. More than two years ago, Cox was arrested and charged with 14 felonies, including rape. He could have spent the rest of his life in prison.
However, after almost two years, the district attorney dropped the charges against Cox. It’s fair to say it is a rare occurrence when a major felony case like that is simply dropped.
Both of these events have caused a stir in the community.
In the rape case, many believe local officials knew all along the victim in the case was not credible and had a history of seeking out men before alleging rape and other allegations in an effort to gain financial gain. There certainly seems to be evidence that the very first law enforcement officer who talked with the alleged victim wasn’t buying her story.
But the case proceeded forward and it hung over Cox’s head for nearly two years. Why it all happened remains a mystery and one which can only be solved by local officials who made the decision to proceed with the case. So far, they aren’t talking about the circumstances, simply saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Many people would like to see the district attorney pursue charges against the woman, but that has not happened.
In the meantime, the receivership case continues forward. It should be emphasized the court did find for the state of California in the case, meaning it was determined by the court that Cox was guilty of the code violations.
However, Cox’s attorneys have been arguing since that time the charges are drummed up and it was all a setup by someone with a vendetta. There is no proof, to date, that is the case.
It does remain curious, though, that many of the court documents in the case have been sealed. It seems odd, at best, that inspection records from the building and planning departments are sealed. Why that happened remains a mystery, as well.
One of the biggest factors which has come from this particular case is worry among the community that “big brother” can find a bad electrical outlet in your house and then come and seize the property. That is a genuine point of concern among people in the community. Most say there are code violations just about anywhere you go in Mariposa County and they wonder why this particular case has been singled out.
They also fear it could happen to them if they anger someone in power. Though that might not be the case, it remains the perception in the community.
But there are others in the community who argue Cox should be held accountable because he was running an illegal business where guests were coming to his ranch but he was not adhering to the laws that govern such a business.
Others say Cox is nothing but trouble and is anything but innocent in many endeavors along the way. They point to a previous case in which he was charged for illegally selling firewood.
Yet others say even if he is nothing but trouble and anything but an upstanding citizen, that doesn’t mean he should have been subject to spending his life in prison on charges that would have never held up in court.
To be fair, Cox did meet the woman via an online dating site and she came here after they had contact. That’s certainly not against the law, but it does raise eyebrows among many.
How all of this will play out remains to be seen. Cox’s attorneys have filed an appeal with the California Court of Appeals, and that could have a major bearing on the final outcome. But that will take a long time to weave its way through the state court.
In the meantime, Cox’s lawyers will continue to argue the receivership is an unfair burden on their client and will continue to lobby local officials to seek charges against the woman in the felony case.
Conversely, some local residents will continue to hope the court sticks by its ruling and holds Cox’s feet to the fire.
How it will all play out remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, it should be interesting.
Greg Little is editor of the Mariposa Gazette and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.