Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The End Of An Era

Last Friday was the final day on the job for Santa Barbara Assistant District Attorney Pat McKinley. On a day many of us thought we'd never live to see, after nearly 40 years, he finally pulled the pin and retired.

More than just "the number two guy" in the district attorney's office, he has been one of my oldest and closest friends since I moved to Santa Barbara more than 30 years ago.

He was a mentor to me when I joined the DA's office fresh out of law school and in time became a softball and skiing buddy, a groomsman at my wedding, and the godfather to my son.

What makes him unique is that while he is as tough a prosecutor as you will ever encounter, he has a heart as big as all of Santa Barbara.

For example, many years ago, when I was still working in the DA's office and McKinley was my direct supervisor, I was handling the case of a defendant known as "Crippled Johnny." Despite being afflicted with polio, Johnny was suspected of being a drug dealer, and, indeed, I succeeded in convicting him of selling heroin.

One day in court during a break in his trial, I remember Johnny telling me that years before, McKinley, a good Catholic, used to come and visit him and other patients in Cottage Hospital.

Although he was tenacious in the courtroom, a surprising number of those he prosecuted would probably tell you that when all was said and done, they came away feeling they had been dealt with fairly.

On one occasion a few years back, Pat and I were having Saturday breakfast at a local restaurant when a guy who was working in the kitchen, whom Pat had sent to prison years before, came out and wanted to say hello and shake his hand.

And no, the fellow wasn't holding a kitchen knife behind his back.

Those are just a couple of the scores of Pat McKinley stories I could tell you. Anybody who has ever known him probably has their share of stories to tell as well. I'm sure more of them will be told at the Montecito Country Club on July 26th when Pat's formal retirement dinner will be held.

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There Goes The Neighborhood? John Cleese's Montecito equestrian ranch has been sold. The buyer? Seattle gazillionaire Craig McCaw, ex-husband of First Amendment freedom fighter Wendy McCaw.

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Another Newspaper Is Shrinking. The Ventura County Star announced yesterday that it is reducing the number of news pages it carries. The move is part of a cost-cutting effort in response to declining advertising.

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The Channel 3 Alumni Club. Willa Sandmeyer, who early in her career worked as a reporter for KEYT, is reportedly among those being laid off at KTLA in Los Angeles.

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Finally, remember to put down that cell phone today, at least while you're driving. California's "hands-free" cell phone law went into effect at midnight.