On Thursday, the Vanguard reported on a police raid and high-risk warrants that were served on five residences in the Royal Oak Manufactured Home Community on Wednesday morning.
In that article, the Vanguard used the exact wording from a police statement, “… served search warrants on five residences in the Royal Oaks trailer park in Davis. The search warrants and subsequent arrests were the result of a 4 month investigation into narcotics dealing in that neighborhood.”
Just before 5 pm on Friday afternoon, the Vanguard received a letter from Attorney Terry Dowdall of the Dowdall Law Offices located in Orange, California, with an office also located in Sacramento. The letter from the law firm accused the Vanguard and myself of acting “with malice in making false and denigrating statements in the article, in order to injure the owners and management of Royal Oak Manufactured Community in its business, trade and profession.”
Mr. Dowdall asks that we retract the false statements, “accompanied by an editorial in which you specifically repudiate your libelous statements and provide an accurate description of the location wherein the reported raid occurred.”
The law firm demands “immediate retraction in writing of these false and libelous statements.”
The Vanguard takes these matters very seriously and takes great pains to ensure that the information provided is true and accurate. In this case, the Vanguard‘s information came directly from the police release and from discussions with Assistant Police Chief Darren Pytel.
According to Mr. Dowdall, the statements at issue – which, interestingly enough came from police sources, including the spelling of the mobile home park itself – incorrectly referred to the park as “Royal Oaks” rather than “Royal Oak.”
Mr. Dowdall states that the headline of our article was incorrect when it stated that “the police recovered weapons and narcotics at Royal Oaks.” He writes, “In truth, Police raided a single mobile home situated on property outside the park. The mobile home that was raided has nothing to do with the Park, and the Park has no control whatsoever over the raided mobile home, which is situated on property the Park neither owns nor controls.”
Second, Mr. Dowdall objects that the firearms and narcotics “were recovered from this one mobile home which is outside the Park and which has nothing to do with the Park.” Mr. Dowdall writes, “You clearly chose to fictionalize this aspect of the story in order to make it conform to your ongoing efforts to defame the Park.”
Mr. Dowdall ignores that this information came from police sources and that this is the first article that the Vanguard has every written on this topic.
Third, he notes that we correctly state that a residence “was condemned as being uninhabitable,” and “yet you deliberately fail to mention that this residence is not part of the Park. Instead, you lead readers to believe that this home is in the Park.”
Fourth, he writes that “for four paragraphs after this assertion about the one mobile home (which in fact lies outside the Park), making the claim that this particular mobile home is part or indicative of some larger problem at the Park. A mobile home outside the Park is not part of any larger problem with the Park; it is not even part of the Park.”
He adds, “The reporting in this case appears to have excluded any inquiry of any of the police agencies, the management, or counsel for any of the parties, prosecutors, the defendants or other sources. Any of these sources would have provided truthful information about the location of the raid and that it occurred outside Royal Oak.”
Mr. Dowdall ignores that the information came from a police press release and fails to note that the Vanguard includes a quote from Assistant Chief Darren Pytel. The police department served as the primary source of this information, and yet Mr. Dowdall asks, “Did you talk to a single knowledgeable person about this case?”
The Vanguard stands by this report and its accuracy. The police in their release reported: “Police recovered 168 marijuana plants, 3 lbs. of marijuana, and a concentrated cannabis lab. A related search warrant carried out in Sacramento netted 1.5 lbs. of methamphetamine. Also recovered from the searches at the Royal Oaks trailer park were multiple firearms and ammunition, 2 assault rifles, and tools and parts used to manufacture assault weapons. One residence was condemned as being uninhabitable, and two children were placed into protective custody.”
Assistant Chief Darren Pytel told the Vanguard that representatives from the mobile home park claimed that the residences were outside the park on Thursday. However, he stated, “we were unable to verify (that) on the maps.”
Assistant Chief Pytel indicated that they did “four other searches (in that location) also in trailers and made arrests and recovered guns.”
Assistant Chief Pytel told the Vanguard last night, “The two handguns and two rifles at the bottom are from that (protective custody) house.”
He added, “The two assault rifles, one Smith and Wesson handgun, and pink shotgun are from the Moriarty residence.” Kenneth Moriarty, 27, of Davis was one of five adults arrested in the raid – the Vanguard had not previously published the names of the arrested.
Assistant Chief Pytel said, “The (protective custody) house was in with the rest of the trailers in Royal Oak[s].”
The Vanguard has learned much more about this situation in the last few days.
Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza told the Vanguard on Friday, “Royal Oaks appears to be a very poorly managed mobile home park. Law abiding residents are at financial and physical risk. This is extremely disturbing, as many low income families reside there. I am working with justice and law enforcement to explore solutions.”
He added, “Based on information that I’ve received over the last several weeks, this week’s raid brings to light just one example of a complex set of issues in Royal Oaks that may well demand a legal remedy.”
The Vanguard will have a follow-up report when more information comes to light.
—David M. Greenwald reporting