Ex-Con back in custody
Arrested in Berkeley with $1,000 in his pockets
San Francisco Examiner - Jan. 17, 1981, front page
By Dennis J. Opatrny
Phillip A. Thompson, the ex-convict accused of several felonies and released without bail, was arrested in Berkeley last night with $1,000 in his pockets.
After the release order was revoked, Thompson's attorney, Martin Lurie, had said he expected his client to surrender to authorities.
But when police traced him last night to a Berkeley motel, they said Thompson had $1,000 in cash, another $1,000 check, and appeared to be on the verge of fleeing.
He was arrested and transported here, where he was logged into the county jail at the Hall of Justice at 2 a.m.
Municipal Judge Louis Garcia's release order had ruffled the feathers of police and prosecutors.
Last night Garcia, who said he was irked at the criticism but would take responsibility, revoked his earlier order granting Thompson, 35, release from jail on his own recognizance, a legal way of saying his word was sufficient bail.
The judge's revocation of his order came after criticism by Deputy Police Chief George Eimil and District Attorney Arlo Smith.
Law enforcement officials said they considered Thompson a poor risk to be granted freedom simply by promising to return to court to face the charges on Jan. 21.
Ex-con back in custody after uproar over bail
Thompson was arrested Wednesday and charged with multiple felony counts of grand theft, possession of stolen property, illegal weapons possession and narcotics violations.
Wednesday's arrest at the Hunters Point warehouse came after police had set up surveillance there. He was spotted carrying a gun into the warehouse. Police got a search warrant, raided the warehouse and took him into custody.
Before that, however, they had followed him to a house in Kensington, adjacent to Berkeley. Police said they learned Thompson had been living there about a month.
Last night, acting on a search warrant, police went to the Kensington house, found items linked to two United Parcel Service hijackings last month, and also were able to trace Thompson to the Flamingo Motel at 1761 University Ave. in Berkeley.
He was released last August from state prison after serving time for escape, receiving stolen property and weapons violations.
When police raided the warehouse where Thompson was arrested, they had also hoped to find a lead to the whereabouts of Valerie McDonald, a 26-year-old artist and aspiring actress who disappeared last November after reportedly being offered a movie role.
McDonald, at the time of her disappearance, lived at the Tower Apartments on Upper Grant Avenue, where Thompson became the manager after his release from state prison.
It was there, police said, that Thompson became associated with two ex-convicts he had known in prison, John Gordon Abbott, 26, and Michael J. Hennessey, 23.
McDonald told friends she was offered a part in a movie by Hennessey, but after she went to the closed set for the filming, she was never seen again.
Hennessey later was shot to death by Royal Canadian Mounted Police after he grabbed a gun which had fallen out Abbott's pocket. Abbott was arrested by Mounties in connection with the shootout. Among the men's possessions were identification papers belonging to McDonald. It is not clear why the men fled to Canada.
But it was the connection between the ex-convicts and McDonald that piqued the curiosity of San Francisco police, whose Missing Persons Detail is baffled by her disappearance.
Eimil, the department's chief of inspectors, was critical of Garcia for letting Thompson go without posting bail because he feared Thompson might not return to face the charges and any questioning about McDonald.
District Attorney Smith was angered when Garcia signed the order releasing Thompson without notifying his office. The order was signed in the judge's chamber.
The only other persons present during the OR issuance were Lurie, Thompson's attorney, and Josephine Rivera, an employee of the Northern California Service League. The NCSL is an adjunct of the Public Defender's office and aids poor defendants who require special services, such as clothes, to appear in court.
Rivera reportedly vouched for Thompson as an honorable member of the community who would return to face the charges against him, but failed to include the ex-inmate's rap sheet of arrests and convictions. She declined an interview when telephoned.
Garcia, meanwhile, said if he had had the full background on Thompson, he would not have released the man simply on his promise to return.
"I may have made a mistake," Garcia said, "but if it was a mistake, it was in not knowing all the facts. I'll take the blame for it because I didn't ask for the facts."
The judge said he was particularly irked at the sniping by Smith and police, particularly that of Smith.
"I'm a little POed that Arlo Smith said it was inappropriate," Garcia said. "If were to start criticizing, well..."
Smith, however, denied he called the order "inappropriate." He said he was miffed because his office was not told of the bail hearing in the judge's chambers.
Thompson, however, phoned the public defender's officer yesterday to say he would return for his arraignment Jan. 21.
"He'll make every court appearance," Lurie said of Thompson.
Police, meanwhile, continued to examine the evidence seized at the Hunters Point warehouse where Thompson was arrested, which included a pound of potassium cyanide and license plates made at Folsom Prison.
Officers also found a cache of welfare and U.S. Treasury checks taken in the robbery of a mail truck in Santa Rosa on Nov. 1.