The Sheet tracked down Bret Meier this week for an interview. We referenced Meier last week upon learning that the Mammoth Lakes Police Department had reached a monetary settlement with Mr. Meier after an incident where he had been falsely arrested and offered a nightly rental at the Bridgeport Hilton.
It turns out that Mr. Meier still lives in town, and serves as a caretaker for a blind veteran.
Mr. Meier describes himself as generally a fearful person. Several times, he described it as a “bedridden fear.” He takes medication to even himself out. Unfortunately, the medication doesn’t mix well with alcohol, and Mr. Meier has gotten into his share of scrapes over the years.
He says that when he drinks, he tends to black out easily because of the medication.
He has attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings since 2003.
He describes himself as “low-functioning.” Which I interpreted not as a reflection upon Mr. Meier’s intelligence, but as a statement about his ease in the world.
Life is not easy for Bret Meier.
He is no saint.
On the evening of May 7, 2016, Mr. Meier created a disturbance at the Clocktower Cellar. He brought a bottle into the bar, attempted to serve other customers and made disparaging comments to the bartender.
He admits he was a “bad boy.”
The cops showed up and one of the cops misidentified Meier as a man with an outstanding warrant named William Shade.
He was arrested on the assumption he was William Shade. Police reports claim Mr. Meier never corrected officers when identified as Mr. Shade.
Body cam footage of the arrest has been destroyed according to MLPD Records Supervisor Krystle Stewart.
Meier said he blacked out at some point during the arrest and he woke up in the drunk tank in Bridgeport. He asked, “Why am I here?” His wallet was still in his pants so he produced his driver’s license.
He says he was told, “Well, that’s not necessarily you.”
But in short order, MLPD Sgt. Marc Moscowitz, now retired, arrived to pick him up.
Meier says he refused settlement offers from MLPD on a few occasions before finally agreeing to meet officers in the vacant lot next to The Stove.
Officers began negotiating with him. Meier recalls there being a whole bunch of $100 bills lying on the front seat of the police vehicle.
Meier settled on $1,500 and then signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Police told him they regretted the mix-up and said, “We hope this helps with your move-in payment” because they knew he needed to find a new place to live.
“I knew it was a scam and that I could have gotten more, but I wasn’t sure about hiring a lawyer … I’m on-and-off cognitively impaired. I was scared. I’m susceptible to being around people who may take advantage of me. And when people ask me things, I don’t like disappointing them.”
Meier described himself as being “plagued” by his disability which seems to get worse as he gets older.
Mr. Meier says his relationship with the MLPD is currently decent, in large measure because he doesn’t get out much.
In the past, he said local cops would come to his home and provoke him, but he says, a lot of the cops have changed and he’s going to church more and his pastor spoke to the cops and he stopped wearing fatigues and he’s blending in more.
Now onto the Lt. Eric Hugelman retirement.
We reported in last week’s issue that at his retirement ceremony on April 14, Hugelman said his retirement was not of his own choosing.
Over the weekend, The Sheet was contacted by a source who asked whether or not Hugelman’s testifying in his daughter’s DUI case had something to do with his ouster.
We didn’t know about the DUI case, so we looked into it.
Hailey Hugelman, 25, was arrested in the early morning hours of January 30, 2020. She was stopped by the California Highway Patrol after running a stop sign on the Main Street frontage road at Laurel Mountain Road.
She then failed field sobriety tests and blew a .19 on the breathalyzer.
While there was not a court reporter present at her misdemeanor jury trial, so we don’t have a firsthand transcript, The Sheet learned that Lt. Hugelman testified that his daughter told him she had ingested about 80% of an 8 oz. bottle of cough syrup (Nyquil) just before she had gotten behind the wheel.
The defense argument was that Ms Hugelman was under .08 before she got behind the wheel, and the alcohol from the cough syrup only kicked in during the traffic stop.
According to the Trial Brief submitted by Assistant D.A. Tobias Hasler, “She [Hugelman] stated that she started drinking at 8 p.m, stopping at 9 p.m.”
She said she consumed two ciders.
She then apparently didn’t drink another drop (except for the cough syrup) until she left the Public House at approximately 11:55 p.m.
Ms. Hugelman is 110 pounds.
A member of the defense team said Lt. Hugelman’s testimony in the case was very limited in scope – perhaps five minutes – and involved his advising his daughter to save the Nyquil bottle she had consumed from.
The jury ultimately convicted Hugelman of charge 23152(a), driving under the influence, but acquitted her of charge 23152(b), which is driving under the influence with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of more than .08.
The Sheet asked Mammoth Police Chief Al Davis “Did Lt. Hugelman’s testimony in his own daughter’s DUI case impact your opinion of Lt. Hugelman as a law enforcement officer in any way?”
He answered no.
The Sheet was unable to reach arresting CHP Officer Jon Nyland, but did speak to Nyland’s colleague John Marchant, who said he’s never had/heard of a DUI arrest that involved a “cough syrup defense.”
Mono County District Attorney Tim Kendall, however, had a different take. He said “it’s a common defense that’s used all the time.”
And all you need is one juror to agree with you.
In regard to the Hugelman case, Kendall said he didn’t recall her saying she had cough syrup in the car at the time of her arrest, and “I can’t comment on whether she might’ve been coached.”
What’s interesting is that Hugelman’s penalty was not affected by escaping conviction for 23152(b). She received the standard first offense DUI penalty which involves about $2,000 in fines, a court-ordered class and 30 days suspended license.
The Sheet did obtain a copy of Hugelman’s employment contract to determine what it cost for the Town to terminate his at-will employment.
The answer = not much.
Ten weeks severance pay. That’s about it. Off a base salary of approximately $148,000/year.
Maybe it was just a cost-cutting move.
Forgive me the next section (or not). Given the history of MLPD hijinks, I figured I should come up with a departmental survey for future job applicants.
There are ten questions.
One must achieve a score of eight points to be considered officer material at the MLPD. Scoring will appear at the end of the quiz. Don’t cheat.
1. The department motto is a.) serve and protect, or b.) service and wear protection.
2. The department’s favorite number(s) are a.) 10-4, or b.) 69.
3. What is your preference? a.) flashing blue lights, or b.) flashing tighty whities.
4. Do you use cough syrup for a.) a cough, or b.) driving home after a party.
5. When you have cornered a perp, do you say, a.) Come out with your hands up! or b.) Come out with my pants down!
6. When advising a person of their rights, do you say a.) Anything you say can and will be used against you, or b.) Anything you say in a sexy voice will reduce your sentence.
7. Select the appropriate phrase. a.) You have the right to remain silent, or b.) Shut up and obey.
8. Which do you prefer? a.) Al Pacino in Serpico, or b.) Joseph Wambaugh’s “The Choirboys”
9. Choose your phrase. a.) Can I see your license and registration? b.) Why don’t you give me an address and time?
10. Would you rather a.) Chase robbers, or b.) chase tail.
Extra credit: Name your favorite bar in the Eastern Sierra.
Each b answer is worth one point.
Extra credit answer: Rusty’s Saloon, of course.