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Advocates seek justice for brain-damaged Greenville man

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer
11/23/2011

His friends acknowledge that Jarold Hovland is no choirboy.

The 33-year-old Greenville man has a history of violence, heavy drug and alcohol abuse, and a criminal record to back it up.

And it was an act of violence that changed Hovland’s life forever.

During a night of partying Sept. 8, Hovland allegedly hit a man in the face with a full can of beer. The fight that followed left Hovland on the verge of death, with brain injuries so severe that he will likely never fully recover.

When deputies arrived, Hovland’s condition was so critical that the sheriff’s office treated the investigation as a potential homicide.

Clinging to life, Hovland was flown to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno where he was in a coma for 46 days.

Despite a thorough investigation by Plumas County sheriff’s detectives, no charges have been filed against any of the three men who admitted to being at the scene.

The man who admitted fighting with Hovland claimed he was acting in self-defense.

However, a group of Hovland’s friends and supporters insist his injuries prove the fight that followed went way beyond self-defense.

They say three men overwhelmed Hovland and continued beating him after he could no longer defend himself.

“Even if Jarold were to have thrown the first punch in this altercation, or were to have started it in some verbal or non-verbal way, what happened to him was well beyond any self-defense,” said Mina Admire.

“He is going to be permanently damaged for the rest of his life.”

Admire and a group of Greenville residents say that despite Hovland’s reputation, he is a good person who often helped people in the community.

They say his criminal record shouldn’t stand in the way of justice being served. Led by Admire, a number of Greenville residents formed an advocacy group, “Justice 4 Jarold,” to make sure it happens.

The group said it is determined to make sure the investigation continues and that Hovland’s case gets the attention from the sheriff and district attorney that it deserves.

“We are concerned that Jarold’s past not be an issue in this case,” Admire said. “We as citizens are concerned that there not be any innuendo, or this perception that depending on who you are depends on whether or not you get justice.”

The group is speaking for a man who can’t speak for himself. And they have the attention of the county’s criminal justice leaders.

Sheriff Greg Hagwood and District Attorney David Hollister have separately traveled to Greenville on their days off to meet with the Justice 4 Jarold advocates.

Hollister most recently met with the group Nov. 12. Hagwood made the initial Greenville visit two weeks earlier. Hollister said that the case remains open, but there currently isn’t enough evidence to file charges.

“What I am bound by is the evidence in front of me. I can’t speculate on what occurred. I cannot say, ‘Well, this might have happened,’” Hollister told seven members of Justice 4 Jarold during the Saturday morning meeting. “What I need is reliable, admissible evidence. I don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to charge this case right now.”

 

The fight

According to evidence, the fight happened during a night of drinking in a wooded area about 60 yards behind the residence of 125 Bidwell St. in Greenville.

On that Thursday night, Sept. 8, Hovland was found covered in blood. Deputies said when they arrived Hovland was being helped by a man who claimed he heard a disturbance and came to check it out.

“The deputy says Jarold is clearly in distress,” Hollister said. “His head and face are severely swollen. He’s got blood and clear liquid coming out. It’s very serious.”

The man who had rolled Hovland on his side to keep him from choking on his own blood later admitted to investigators that he was at the scene during the fight. He said he originally lied because he had a criminal record and thought he might get in trouble.

The man who was allegedly struck by Hovland admitted he fought with him. Another man admitted he was present during the fight.

Those three men, who were extensively questioned by detectives, are the only witnesses.

“There are no new witnesses. Nobody who is going to pop out from behind a tree and say, ‘I saw it,’” sheriff’s Detective Steve Peay said. “There’s really nothing new other than if Jarold ever remembers. And I don’t believe he is ever going to remember. … He might, but I doubt it.”

Hagwood praised Peay and his detectives for quickly conducting the investigation under challenging conditions. One of the three men questioned is deaf and required an interpreter. And some of the men’s original statements were conflicting.

“At the onset of the investigation, the people involved were either uncooperative or dishonest, or some measure of both,” Hagwood said.

“I’m very pleased with the job that Steve and his group did. Under some really challenging circumstances and in very short order, they were able to kind of figure out the who, what, where, why and when of the entire thing, which was no small task.”

 

Justice 4 Jarold

Hovland’s supporters say medical evidence proves there was more than one person attacking him.

“Bruising on his neck makes it appear he was choked,” supporter Melanie Pellerin said.

“That says it was more than one person. One person could not choke and (at the same time) deliver the kind of blows that he received. There was more than one person. That would not be self-defense. Self-defense is not three people or two people on one.”

Pellerin added there was no blood on Hovland’s shoes or lower body. She said that could only mean the damaging blows were delivered after he was on the ground.

Hollister said it’s possible that two or three people could have beaten Hovland. But he said there simply isn’t enough evidence to prove it.

He said without proof a jury would be left to speculate. He said that wouldn’t provide justice for anyone.

“Because of the degree of this crime, we don’t get to skip steps,” Hollister told Hovland’s supporters. “Do we prosecute the wrong person because we think this is so horrible? … Because a group really wants us to? I would suggest to you: no.”

 

No arrest

“Could we have made an arrest? Possibly,” Peay said. “But we didn’t have all the facts at the time. Because it was questionable, we submitted it to the district attorney’s office for review.”

The district attorney’s review found that, while the information was thorough, it wasn’t enough to press charges even if an arrest had been made.

“I will say at the outset, I think the sheriff’s office did a very good job,” Hollister said.

“We (in the district attorney’s office) are a little bit different than the sheriff’s office. When the sheriff’s office or CHP arrests somebody, what they are determining is: There is probable cause to believe a crime exists. Period.

“They don’t factor in potential defenses at trial. They don’t have the higher trial standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Those are things that we have to factor in to charge a case.”

Hollister said the biggest question is: Who would be charged?

“As far as the case that was turned over to me, the idea that there were multiple attackers is not in the packet (from the sheriff’s office),” Hollister said. “The idea that there were weapons used was not in the packet.”

 

No prejudice

Hollister said he has dealt with Hovland in court many times. Hovland has been in the county jail 10 times since 2007.

Despite that criminal history, Hollister said he has no hard feelings toward Hovland.

“My first interaction with him, he was in custody,” Hollister said. “And when judge (Ira Kaufman) was reading him his rights, Jarold says: ‘Ira, this isn’t my first rodeo.’ I just thought that was classic. So I’ve had kind of a soft spot in my heart for Jarold and his approach.

“The flip side of that is Jarold’s past is a part of the analysis. It has to be,” Hollister told Hovland’s supporters. “The jury instructions require it. The law requires it. Jarold’s got something of a reputation for some level of violence. We have to factor the jury is going to hear all of Jarold’s past.”

 

Hovland’s recovery

After nearly two months in a coma, Hovland is slowly making some strides.

His friends said his brain injury is called diffuse axonal injury. Admire said Hovland “right now has the impulse control about the level of a 3- or 4-year-old.”

“It’s tough to see this vivacious, lively, animated, quick-witted individual reduced to a 3- or 4-year-old mentality,” Admire said. “I have to tell you that going to see him was absolutely gut-wrenching and I put it off as long as I could. He’s never going to be the man he was.”

His friends say Hovland has no memory of the events of Sept. 8. If he does eventually remember, it could impact the case.

Hovland’s supporters said they are trying to keep visitors from telling him what happened. They don’t want Hovland to remember the events as they were told to him. They want him to eventually remember on his own.

“We don’t talk to Jarold about it,” Admire said. “One person did and we immediately let him know that is unacceptable and let him know that he has probably compromised this case.”

 

The case remains open

The sheriff and district attorney emphasized the importance of people giving them information about the case as soon as they hear it.

The Justice 4 Jarold group said it plans to help Hovland get justice, no matter how long it takes.

“We will continue to campaign for Jarold,” Admire told Hollister. “It’s incredible that you and Sheriff Hagwood were both willing to take a Saturday and come to meet with us. We are so grateful.

“We do understand where you are coming from. We just want to make sure you know who we are and where we are coming from.

“We absolutely love this man. And we love our community. Are there elements that don’t belong here? Absolutely.

“If we see anything, or hear anything, we will let Sheriff Hagwood know immediately.”

 


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