Lyle Nooner came into Yolo County Superior Court last week in a wheelchair with an apparent knee injury. He told his attorney, Michelle Spaulding, that he was beaten after being extracted from his cell for several days around 4 am by 10 Yolo County Correctional Officers.
Mr. Nooner was originally arraigned on December 30, 2016, on a five-count felony complaint including possession for sale of meth and heroin, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Two of the counts were dismissed based on lack of Yolo County jurisdiction.
Mr. Nooner, who will be 58 in a week, has a lengthy criminal history, having spent the better part of 24 years in prison after a 1985 conviction on concealed weapons charges. However, since 2009 he had by most accounts cleaned himself up and was working with others in prison through the Inside Circle Foundation, which he started with in Folsom. According to a number of participants, Inner Circle helped turn their lives around and enabled many to get out of their cycle of crime.
Questions About the Criminal Case
According to court documents made available to the Vanguard, Mr. Nooner had come to West Sacramento and stayed at the home of a long-time friend. He arrived at the friend’s door at 1:30 am, with possessions including laundry in a black trash bag and two insulated lunch bags which were placed in his friend’s safe.
Later in the week, Mr. Nooner left the home and did not come back. Nor did he ask to retrieve the property from the safe.
The wife and son informed the friend that Mr. Nooner had left some things at the bottom of a closet. They showed him a bag that contained syringes, ice picks, possibly a handgun, knives, and a substance that appeared to be crystal meth.
They contacted the police who contacted YONET (Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team). According to court testimony, YONET came to the house and took all of the contraband.
Mr. Nooner was arrested on the evening of December 27, 2016. According to Officer Shad Begley of YONET, who along with Agent Gary Richter investigated the matter, the meth weighed 326.5 grams, which according to Officer Begley’s testimony indicated possession for sale, as it would be nearly a year’s worth of meth for the average user.
When he was arrested, there was a substance found on the floor consistent with heroin. They claim it was 10 grams of heroin and therefore, along with other factors, the police concluded that the heroin was possessed for sale as well.
In a court filing, the defense has challenged whether the drugs were Mr. Nooner’s. The weapons did not have Mr. Nooner’s fingerprints. The bag was never fingerprinted. On this basis, in a Penal Code section 995 motion to strike, the defense claimed there was insufficient evidence of possession.
The defense in their argument noted that, in order to prove possession, “the People must also show that defendant had dominion and control over the contraband.” In this case, the defense argues, “Mr. Nooner did not exercise dominion and control over the locations where the contraband was found.”
Ms. Spaulding added, “Furthermore, there is insufficient evidence that Mr. Nooner possessed the alleged contraband on any of the particular dates in question.”
The Inside Circle
Michelle Spaulding told the Vanguard that beginning in the early 2000s, Mr. Nooner started turning his life around. He became active not only in his work trying to help other inmates, but also himself. He started with Inside Circle at Folsom in 2002.
According to his friend, Alan Shortall, “When Lyle was released from prison he decided to leave California so as to be able to have a fresh start.”
Mr. Shortall explained, “I was operating a company in Pennsylvania and Lyle came to work for me. He worked for me for approximately 7 years, he was one of my best employees. He worked 18 hour days, 7 days a week, paid his taxes and saved every penny he could.”
Mr. Nooner bought himself a house and he never had any problems with the law. In fact, Mr. Shortall explains, “He was an upstanding member of the local community. He decided to return to CA so as to help released prisoners reintegrate back into the community.”
He sold his house for which he received approximately $150,000 and received a payout of $150,000 on his disability benefit, due to a work place accident which required knee surgery.
The Inside Circle, Mr. Shortall explained, grew out of his time at Folsom. Mr. Nooner made a decision to attract yard leaders and shot-callers, believing that if he could attract prison leaders to their movement, it would give permission for the general population to follow.
Mr. Shortall explained, “Lyle was the recognized Alpha Male in Folsom and he embraced the healing work and by doing so he gave permission for the other men in the prison system to participate. He modeled that it was O.K. for the prisoners to embrace their emotions and still maintain their strength as a warrior. Lyle was a significant enabler in the prison program which has now seen over 500 of the toughest men in the prison system embrace love, compassion, integrity, accountability, and congruence as a new way of living their lives.”
He has used the same approach to help U.S. Special Forces Operatives, who have been deployed in combat multiple times.
One freed convict, Erin, had been, for 22 years, serving a life sentence inside one of the worst prisons in California, but was paroled 14 months ago. “As a prison and street gang member he lived with the belief he would die in prison. ICF changed that belief and his life forever. An ICF member since 2000, he is an advocate for Restorative Justice as a means of Social Reform and is currently pursuing his B.A. via Cal Berkeley.”
Another freed convict stated: “The Inside Circle was an instrumental piece of my personal development inside prison and continues to be a major factor in the successful reintegration I strive towards since returning to society. Without ICF, I most certainly would likely still be a creature among humans with no connection to my own sense of self or appreciation for life…..my own or that of others. The impact ICF had, and continues to have on my life is something words are insufficient to fully give testament to.”
It was only upon returning to California that Mr. Nooner’s legal troubles returned.
Arrest and Treatment in Custody
Upon his arrest in December 2016, Mr. Nooner was injured. He hurt his back, neck, knee, and his hand during the arrest. “His hand was damaged to the point where it can’t be repaired. He had physical therapy for months to get to the point where he could walk with a walker,” Michelle Spaulding claimed. The injuries and incidents described here were relayed to the Vanguard through Ms. Spaulding, originating from her client Lyle Nooner.
According to his attorney, he had received roughly five significant beatings during the 16 months or so he has been at the Yolo County Jail, most of them because he talked back to a guard.
Ms. Spaulding explained that this incident occurred at one point and, according to Mr. Nooner, “since that time, the treatment from the guards has been has been no good whatsoever.”
For the most part, Mr. Nooner took the mistreatment in silence even though some of the beat downs were “pretty substantial” according to his attorney.
He had generally taken it, but “he said this time it was too bad, it hurt him too much and he needed it to stop.”
At approximately four in the morning on Saturday, June 9, there was a cell extraction. The reason for their entry was a shroud covering a broken light fixture. There are varying accounts as to the nature of this shroud. Sheriff Ed Prieto told the Vanguard that it blocked the guards’ view of the cell, but Mr. Nooner, through his attorney, told the Vanguard that he covered the light with a very thin towel to shield it slightly in order to sleep.
There was a bare bulb on the ceiling where there was a huge crack or hole in the light cover, which stays on 24/7. The guards had known about this shroud for months but did nothing until this night.
Ms. Spaulding explained, “He wanted me to also be clear that he covered the light with a very thin towel. It didn’t impede the light in anyway, he can still read by the light. And it had been up for quite some time and they left it up after the extraction. It’s still there.”
Mr. Nooner, through his attorney, claims that there were 10 officers involved in what happened next. He has the names of six of them. There may be a seventh name as well.
They came in talking about the shroud, and rolled him up. They sat on him, kneeling on him, until finally he explained to his attorney, his knee blew out.
“We don’t know if it’s broken or not, because no one has seen him,” she explained. She would later clarify that he was X-rayed, but never saw a doctor or nurse.
She says he asked for medical attention, but was denied. He cannot walk and is in significant pain.
Ms. Spaulding told the Vanguard that she had spoken to Captain Vaughn about this incident and also about his disciplinary diet, a form of punishment. Captain Vaughn reportedly defended the diet, telling her there was nothing wrong with their disciplinary diet, that he gets the recipe right out of Title 15.
Mr. Nooner told Ms. Spaulding he had been fasting for nine days rather than eat the repulsive meal, which he said is referred to as the “doggie diet,” because it is formed in the shape of dog feces.
She asked about medical issues, and the guy said that he would send someone down there, but if he refuses to see the doctor, they can’t do anything about that.
”That told me that he probably wasn’t go to do (anything),” she said.
Sheriff Prieto was unaware of this incident when the Vanguard contacted him. However, he noted that his file shows Nooner was on the highest level of disciplinary status. He said that they would investigate the matter further, but noted that there are always two sides to a story.
Ms. Spaulding told the Vanguard, “I believe officer safety is a paramount issue in a jail and I know that things need to be done to protect the guards and to keep order for everyone’s safety. But what’s been going on here is just plain bullying. If this isn’t stopped, I fear for what could happen to Lyle or to somebody else in Lyle’s position in the future.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting