"It is better to know less than to know so much that ain't so."
Josh Billings 1885
In the past 51 years one miner died while mining in the Sixteen to One vein. His name was Mark. He began mining with his father at the age of four. He had his own wet suit and together they looked for gold in the waters of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. His life ended on November 6, 2000, on the 1700 foot level of the Sixteen to One Mine. It was a tragic industrial accident, and his fellow miners were hit hard. It was a first for all of us. We all cried. Great heroics were performed by his fellow miners: Vince Kautz, Steve Shappert, his childhood friend Jonathan Farrell who managed the mine. It was a dark day at the mine, darker than any other where men and women work to overcome all the obstacles of living their American dream…freedom, independence, sense of worth or value to themselves, their community and their country.
Mark was doing what he loved and what he believed in. He was happy, full of life and exuberance. He lit a cigarette, made a statement and drove his train into an obstacle that only became an obstacle minutes before. His co-workers excelled in caring for his wounded body but to no avail. He died because of his behavior at that particular moment, a tragic industrial accident underground.
Of course the government authorities were required to investigate. American taxpayers pay to protect the safety of its most valuable resources, its miners. That is what the Act of 1977 says. While concerns of possible violations of standards were expressed, no one investigating the accident at all levels of the government suggested criminal circumstances existed. MSHA, the federal agency regulating the safety of American miners issued citations. Their allegations were only allegations and have never been reviewed in an administration hearing. OSHA, the equivalent safety agency at the state leve, did likewise. The Sierra County Sheriff concluded its investigation of the accident without any references to criminal charges. One year and seven months later allegations of criminality were proposed and a criminal complaint was issued in Sierra County. The charges were initiated and are being advanced not by the Sierra County District Attorney or the State Attorney General but the private California District Attorney Association.
What arrogance! What self-serving, unethical and illegal behavior from members of the California State Bar. How disgraceful and low the once honorable profession of the law has become. This defines a new form of ambulance chasers. Remember the phrase, “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief” from the 1950’s. Strike lawyers as an honorable profession. Those advocating this type of prosecution must look into the mirrors of reality. Will Kyle Hedum, Denise Mejlszenkier and Larry Brown see the reflections of the bottom suckers they emulate. Will some of the 180,000 licensed California attorneys stand up for their profession? Where are the spirited ones, the lawyers who founded the California State Bar, the lawyer who lobbied for true justice, the prosecutor who supports the California District Attorneys Association. It is time to step up. Protecting the evil or misguided ones amongst your profession can no longer be practiced. After all, your mission statement calls law a practice. Isn’t it time to set it right? I think so, and I encourage it.
The judicial branch of the government practices in an arena unencumbered by conditions of the executive branch and legislative branch and yet are symbiotically attached. Lawyers please step forward. The California Bar Association proudly proclaims it has “nearly 180,00 members.” That translates to one attorney for every 200 residents of California. Yes, for each 200 of us there is one lawyer trying to make a living, trying to feed himself and find her way to the riches of American life.
Original Sixteen to One Mine, Inc., our employer, is the oldest American natural resource company mining gold today. It is under attack. It will survive, no doubt. All will be exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing, except those hiding in the shadows of the prosecution. However, if those people and those beliefs sponsoring this damaging senseless assault are not brought to accountability, they will continue to attack the farmers, the mines and the industries of America. America cannot take it any more. It is time to stand up and be counted. Our country’s future is at stake.