Criminal charges have been dropped against two men accused of stealing “Yes on Measure S” campaign signs during last fall’s election season.
Shiloh Gramm and Mark Bouscaren, who were both against the sales tax measure which would’ve raised money for a new North County Jail, were both charged with misdemeanor petty theft for the disappearance of a large campaign sign posted outside of a restaurant in Lompoc the day before the election. The report apparently came from Sheriff Bill Brown and his wife. The measure—a brainchild of Brown’s—failed miserably, by more than 61 percent.
The charges were dropped on February 2. Jerry McBeth in the District Attorney’s Lompoc office said that prosecutors don’t always have all the information at the time charges are filed, and when new information comes in which presents problems with proof, they reevaluate. In this case, he explained, proof beyond a reasonable doubt did not exist, and they dropped the charges.
“It was unfortunate that these two gentlemen had to go through this,” said Joshua Lynn, attorney for Gramm. He credited the district attorney’s office for “realizing it’s not worth going forward and quickly resolving the issue.” Both men apparently had alibis when the sign was taken, and it was a case of mistaken identity. Or, as Bouscaren put it, “my evidence was far superior to theirs.”
Bouscaren, in a statement given to The Independent Monday, said that as an electrical engineer, he must always maintain an above average ethical position. “I don’t steal other people’s ideas, other people’s property, and always respect and treat others as my equal.”
So when the charges were filed against him, he immediately hired counsel to protect his reputation, he said. Bouscaren said he voluntarily interviewed with the Lompoc Police Department that evening, and was informed he did not match the eyewitness description. Weeks later, however, he received notice that charges were filed against him. “It is important to…note that the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office, Lompoc Police Department, and the District Attorney’s office all have a monetary stake in the measure passing: some have directly funded it and all have publicly endorsed it,” he said.
Bouscaren said the “actions of the Lompoc Police Department, the District Attorney’s office” and today’s “guilty until proven innocent” attitude at the Superior Court “have cost me thousands in attorney’s fees, lost productivity, and have likely hurt future employment opportunities.”
McBeth did defend charges related to a sign being stolen. “Any time you have property damage done, or theft, and you can prove it, I don’t think it’s a waste of time,” he said.
Lynn, fired from the DA’s office not long after losing his own campaign to now-DA Joyce Dudley, had his own fair share of signage trouble, ironically enough. He reported more than 100 signs stolen off private property during the course of his campaign, and his wife filed a police report at one point when a sign was stolen from their own front lawn. Charges in that case were never filed.