Kaddis ruling draws national spotlight
By Kelly Eells
Ventura County Superior Court
Judge Kevin McGee's ruling in an Ojai Valley landowner's trial
has given environmental activists from San Diego to Oregon reason
The precedent-setting case has been garnering statewide, even
national, attention since May 23, when the defendant, Los Angeles
real estate agent William Kaddis, was convicted of 11 criminal
counts related to the bulldozing of 301 state-protected oak trees
on his Lake Casitas-area property. Indeed, "the largest
rape of land in Ventura County history" has become something
of a cause célébre - and not just for environmentalists.
A June Newsday.com editorial cites the case as "one more
example of our diminishing property rights," while a Yahoo
News Service report, "Brave New World," prompted this
angry response: "In other words, folks, your private property
is now 'our environment.'"
The case also found its way into
"The Odd Truth," CBS News reporter Brian Bernbaum's
compilation of "strange but factual news from around the
world," with the headline, "Oak Tree Massacre Could
Send Killer Away."
But if McGee saw any humor in the headline, he didn't let on
as much. On Friday, he sentenced Kaddis to seven months in jail
and five years' probation, a key term of which includes "paying
$500,000 dollars in restitution to the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy,"
per Deputy District Attorney Karen Wold.
"This sends a nice message to others," she said.
Though she had originally asked for three years' jail time and
$800,000 dollars in fines, Wold added that she was "happy
with the result." Especially since "his probation starts
immediately. Though he's posted bail and filed an appeal, that,
and the terms of it, was stayed right away."
Kaddis, in other words, "should already be working out the
terms of his restitution payments with the Probation Dept. He's
also been ordered to submit an engineering report - prepared
by an engineer familiar with the county's Hillside Erosion Control
Ordinance programs and plans - and pay an as-yet undetermined
civil judgment for counsel" (incurred by the county as a
result of the two trespassing complaints Kaddis filed against
Wold indicated that she was particularly pleased with the court's
decision to "direct the money to the Land Conservancy, where
it was sure to be used as intended, for the preservation of the
She explained that, while "the court couldn't make him,
Mr. Kaddis, donate the money to the OVLC - nor could it specify
organization - the county tree ordinance" provides for such
Wold was also quick to point out that, "the Land Conservancy
didn't propose this. I recommended that the money go where it
could be of the most use," during a meeting with the Planning
Commission and other Resource Conservation District officials.
Another term of Kaddis' probation mandates that he "keep
no more than four dogs" on the property for the five years
of its duration. Shaking her head, Wold noted that, "as
of his conviction date, he still hadn't removed (the other 50-plus)
dogs ... showing just a blatant disregard for county rules."
Local resident Bruce Roland wonders if "the preservation
of any oak tree will (now) require the buying of any dirt in
which it's growing.
"It's kind of sad that this 'compensatory mitigation' is
in place," said Roland, adding that it "seems (similar
to) 'prosecuting nothing for profit.'"
The Ojai Valley News
to the news