by Jessica Pishko
Last July, a 9-year-old decided she didn’t want her pet goat Cedar to become someone’s BBQ. She had raised the goat, feeding it and tending to it every day, and Cedar had become her pet.
Against her will, she sold the goat at the Shasta District Fair as part of a 4-H auction program. (The girl’s parents tried to withdraw from the auction but were not allowed to because of some unwritten rule—though nobody is going around calling 4-H communists for forcing sales of private property.) A state senator’s chief of staff bought Cedar and proudly proclaimed his intention to throw Cedar on the BBQ pit and make her a meal.
According to a complaint, the girl was so distraught at the prospect of her goat being slaughtered that her mother took Cedar to an undisclosed location in Sonoma County. The mother then offered to pay the fair any fees it had lost in the transaction, which was about $63.14 (a percent of the total sale price for Cedar, which was $902; the vast majority of the sale profit went to Cedar’s family, which, obviously, they did not want.)
Documents released this week show that the fair authorities were dead-set on getting the goat back. Shasta County Fair officials wrote to Cedar’s owner: “Making an exception for you will only teach [our] youth that they do not have to abide by the rules…Also, in this era of social media this has been a negative experience for the fairgrounds as this has been all over Facebook and Instagram.”
We still don’t know how the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office became involved. What we do know is that deputies got a search warrant – based on the claim that Cedar’s family had committed “grand theft” – drove some 500 miles to Sonoma County, seized Cedar, and brought her…somewhere. The complaint alleges Cedar has been slaughtered, but no one knows where or how. No one was charged with any crimes. But Cedar is gone.
The whole thing looks like a group of local politicians being mean to a kid. And, why? Did the state senator truly think Cedar’s meat was irreplaceable? Did the sheriff’s office think that seizing a goat was the best use of their time? Why was the sheriff’s office involved at all? (The complaint points out that this should have been a civil matter since the issue was one of contract law – and minors are generally allowed to back out of contracts because of their age.)
Shasta County made news in the last year because the Board of Supervisors has been taken over by an extremely far-right majority, backed by local militia members, called the “Liberty Committee.” This new uber-conservative coalition just decided to end their contract with Dominion and go to all paper ballots for future voting. As a local TikTok commentator points out, this means that residents of Shasta County are effectively disenfranchised because there is no approved plan for voting.
The sheriff’s office has been in huge turmoil. In 2019, Eric Magrini was appointed to the role of sheriff; he resigned in 2021 after a variety of accusations, including creating a hostile work environment, mismanagement, and maintaining a culture of fear. (According to the Record Searchlight, the county has still not released relevant records on Magrini’s alleged wrongdoing or the investigations conducted.)
Among other things, Magrini was also accused of inappropriately communicating with militia members during a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Redding. The investigation cleared the sheriff of this charge, although he deleted relevant texts and other communications with the militia leadership (also deemed to be not inappropriate).
The new sheriff Michael Johnson won the 2022 election on a platform only slightly less far right than his challenger. As one write-up explained, Johnson admitted to attending a “constitutional sheriff” training held by Richard Mack of the CSPOA and found the ideas “eye-opening.” “I gained a lot of respect and knowledge in that process of finding out what the responsibilities are of a Constitutional sheriff,” he said. John Greene, his opponent, had a more full-throated endorsement of Mack and the CSPOA. But, as the author of the piece points out, the two came off pretty similar, even though Johnson got endorsed as the “less radical” candidate. Greene was endorsed by the Liberty Committee.
Like the author of this excellent summary of the two sheriffs, I agree that there ultimately isn’t much distance between the two. Northern California – the “State of Jefferson” – has always been extremely far-right, and Shasta County has only become more so since 2020. Historically, there is also evidence to suggest that sheriffs are perfectly willing to become more far-right when the community wants them to do so.
The goat debacle has put everyone in a bad light, and they know it. One would think that a true “constitutional sheriff” and anti-government militia would hesitate to seize private property, but, as we all know, rights are in the eye of the BLEATholder.
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