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Criminal Case Update for Plumas County

By David Hollister

Plumas County District Attorney

Thank you all for your support and efforts in making Plumas County a safe and just place to live, work and play. I am especially grateful for the tremendous efforts of those throughout our community who continue to work so hard and make so many sacrifices to keep Plumas County safe during these challenging times.

I am extremely excited to announce Graham Archer and Brian Hagen have agreed to move to Plumas County and join the DA’s office as Assistant District Attorneys. Graham and Brian are both accomplished attorneys and will be tremendous additions to our criminal justice system and our community.

Along the same vein, I am exceptionally grateful for the efforts of those in the DA’s office this past year. For the past eight months, we have operated with one prosecutor (myself) prosecuting a caseload which should be staffed by five attorneys. This has meant no sick leave, vacation, bereavement or other time off. During this time, we have not missed a court appearance, we have not changed our office hours and we have not changed any prosecutorial policy to offset our shortage in staffing. In other words, we have met our obligations with one-third of our attorney staffing and in doing so returned a savings of nearly a quarter of a million dollars to the Plumas County general fund. The arrival of two new prosecutors will be a welcomed relief and a return to a sustainable staffing level.

During this year we have seen a sharp increase in criminal cases involving substance abuse and/or mental illness. This trend is evident with our daily calendars and impacts the quality of life for our citizens. In addition to the spike with substance abuse and mental illness related cases, we are also seeing a significant increase in stress to the remaining employees after so many have left Plumas County’s employment. No county department has avoided decreased staffing and all who remain are greatly, and negatively, impacted. At no time in the last twenty years has Plumas County suffered such a dire state of recruitment and retention.

Even with these challenges, Plumas County remains a very safe place to live, work and play. We, however, are not immune from serious crime. Despite these crimes Plumas County law enforcement continues to position itself to address crime thoughtfully and aggressively in order to maintain the quality of life we each rightfully demand.

Below is a sampling of some recently prosecuted cases to follow up on previously reported crimes as well as provide a flavor of the types of cases we are seeing in court:


People v. Thomas Gilliam (F22-00373)

On August 2, 2022 Thomas Lee Gilliam, age 39 of Quincy, CA, was alleged to have tried to bring an 8-inch long ice pick into the Department One felony calendar. After being accused of that offense, Gilliam was subsequently, on December 7, 2022, found to be a felon in possession of ammunition and charged accordingly. At the time of the offenses Gilliam was being supervised on formal probation. Gilliam is scheduled for a preliminary examination and probation violation hearing on December 30, 2022 and is presumed innocent of the pending charges.

People v. James Kaufman (F22-00353)

On October 21, 2022, James Andrew Kaufman, age 29 of Susanville, CA, was convicted of felony spousal abuse. Kaufman was later sentenced to the aggravated term of four years in state prison on December 2, 2022. Kaufman was arrested following an incident at Antelope Lake where Kaufman beat his wife causing her to suffer a perforated ear drum and a nasal fracture.

People v. Derek Maydole (F21-00628)

On November 4, 2022, Derek Wayne Maydole, age 40 of Chico, was convicted of felony residential burglary and admitted he had suffered a “strike” prior conviction. Maydole, on December 2, 2022, was sentenced to 10 years and 8 months in state prison. Maydole’s conviction stems from a series of late Fall 2021 burglaries in the Wilcox Valley area of Plumas County.

People v. James Swangler (F22-00223)

On May 16, 2022, James Woodrow Swangler, age 26 of Portola, CA, was alleged to have hit another car and fled in Quincy. The next day Swangler is accused of entering a Quincy residence and taking car keys from the owner while armed with a hammer. Swangler is accused of crashing the car into a nearby fence then leading police on a foot chase causing Quincy Elementary School to be locked down. Swangler was subsequently arrested, charged and is pending a court hearing on December 30, 2022. Swangler was being supervised by Probation at the time of the offense on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS) with a petition to revoke his supervision pending. Swangler is presumed innocent of the charges.

People v. Winston Luna (F22-00421)

Winston Phillip Luna, age 33 of Westwood, CA, was sentenced to three years in prison on December 16, 2022 following his conviction for felony assault on November 4, 2022. Luna was arrested on August 6, 2022 in the Lake Almanor area after accosting and assaulting a group of four teenagers. Luna was supervised by Probation at the time of the crime and his Post Release Community Supervision was terminated by the Superior Court at sentencing as unsuccessful.

People v. Lyle Whipple (F22-00526)

On December 16, 2022, Lyle Allen Whipple, age 36 of Portola, CA, was sentenced to 16 months in state prison following his November 18, 2022 conviction for felony evading a peace officer. Whipple was arrested on October 18, 2022 after leading police on a 15-mile pursuit with speeds up to 100 mph on Highway 70. The pursuit finally ended when a spike strip was deployed. At the time of the new felony, Whipple was supervised by Probation on Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS). This grant of PRCS was terminated by the court as unsuccessful at sentencing.

People v. Churchville and Laustrup (F22-00541 & F22-00542)

On November 18, 2022, Jessica Nicole Churchville, age 33 of Quincy, CA and Justin Robert Laustrup, age 38 of Santa Rosa, CA, were convicted of a number of felonies. These crimes included identify theft, possession of stolen property and possession for sale of methamphetamine for Churchville and transportation of methamphetamine and possession of stolen property for Laustrup. Each will be sentenced on January 6, 2023. Churchville and Laustrup were arrested following an exhaustive and ongoing investigation of a large-scale theft of mail in Quincy and the surrounding areas.

Thank you, again for your support and efforts. Should you have any questions or comments please do not hesitate to contact me at the DA’s Office.


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