‘Mule’ man released, plans to stay in Napa

Sears was arrested on Highway 29 with his three animals
2013-06-29T22:23:00Z 2013-06-29T22:31:55Z ‘Mule’ man released, plans to stay in NapaKERANA TODOROV Napa Valley Register
June 29, 2013 10:23 pm  • 

The man arrested last week for allegedly walking his three mules across the Butler Bridge is free this weekend but intends to stay in Napa for a while.

John Sears, 65, was released from the Napa County jail at about 7 p.m. Friday after spending two days behind bars. Sears, who also goes by the name Mule, was traveling toward Santa Rosa on Wednesday when he was arrested on Highway 29.

He said he wants to remain in the area because he is not sure whether the charges have been dropped. He also wants to obtains his police report.

Sears, who had been traveling from San Diego to Northern California, said he was not stopped on the bridge as the California Highway Patrol has reported.

He said he was about 100 feet from the bridge. “We were never stopped on the bridge,” he said. Sears also said he did not see any signs prohibiting pedestrians on the bridge.

CHP officers said they detained Sears after urging him to turn around and take Soscol Ferry Road.

On Saturday, after sleeping outside, Sears walked to the Napa County Animal Shelter to retrieve his three mules.  

A few hours later, Sears headed to the CHP station to collect his belongings, including tarps, horseshoe tools, a sleeping bag and medicine bottles. John McDonald, a filmmaker from Southern California who has been filming Sears for the past six months, was also there documenting the developments.

The mules, Sears said, were well taken care of.

The jail is very well run, he also said, and his incarceration did not bother him. “I always felt the energy in the mules with me all the time,” he said. “I really didn’t feel like I left them.”

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(12) Comments

  1. shantz
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    shantz - June 29, 2013 11:34 pm
    I'm glad Mule will be staying in our community for awhile. Welcome! Your story is an inspiration.
  2. truthandreality
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    truthandreality - June 30, 2013 8:32 am
    State Route 29 is designated a "freeway" by the State of California from the junction of S/R 221 to just south of Sierra Ave. It is clearly marked as such, using the standard signs. Pedestrians, bicycles, and motor driven cycles are prohibited on freeways in California. It does not matter if Mr. Sears was on the bridge or near it, as it is all considered freeway, and walking along a freeway is not legal in this state. I am not a big supporter of the tactics and methods of the California Highway Patrol, but the clearly did the right thing in this situation to protect Mr. Sears, his animals, and the safety of the motoring public. I also hope the County attempts to recover costs associated with providing for Mr. Sears' animals while he was incarcerated.Just because someone is a "free spirit" does not give them the right to violate the law.
  3. retiredrancher
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    retiredrancher - June 30, 2013 11:24 am
    Some truth and reality: if the county tries to recover costs, as truthandreality calls it, that means they will have to try to collect from Mule and if unsuccessful, get a judgment against him and garnish his social security checks. I have already donated $100 to the Animal Shelter in Mule's honor to offset the $225 board charge for the 3 mules and others say they intend to donate as well. The balance of the charges t&r would like to see this man pay, and the county spend its staff time on, are a $300 "impound fee" (a fee made up by the county to gather money - this is usually called a tax but we live in interesting times) and $90 for Animal Services to transport the mules to the shelter ($30 per animal = $90 -- they could have walked over instead of getting a county-mandated ride). This incident is the poster-child for government run amok. If there is an effort to collect from Mule, I'll start a publicity and fundraising campaign. I promise.
  4. NapaMark15
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    NapaMark15 - June 30, 2013 12:17 pm
    That's a noble cause, but as I've mentioned in other articles about this, he broke the law (V C Section 21960) and, as the articles state, the CHP arrived to help him safely off the road and Mr. Sears ignored them and refused. Had he followed their lawful direction, they would have safely directed him off the roadway he was illegally traversing on and he would have safely been about his way. Instead, according to the article, he ignored them which led to him being arrested, to which he allegedly resisted.

    That's what we're supporting these days? People who break the law and then ignore the police? If I break the law in my vehicle on Highway 29 and ignore the police and get arrested and my car impounded, will you start a publicity and fundraising campaign to cover my impound fees and court costs?

    We can't pick or choose which laws we follow, or that others should follow, and CHP acted with other motorist's best interests.
  5. napa1957
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    napa1957 - June 30, 2013 1:52 pm
    This county is full of folks who choose which laws to follow, and they are supported by many, including the law enforcement who decides to turn their heads when these "crimes" occur.
    Pot smoking at the Uptown (Snoop) and the Expo (BR) in plain view of hundreds of people as as instance. There is also the plethora of residents who are in our country and do not have the documents to show that they are here legally. What is the big deal about a guy a three mules??
    I see people nearly every day riding their bicycles on the "freeway" and they are encouraged because it's "environmental".
  6. retiredrancher
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    retiredrancher - June 30, 2013 6:49 pm
    There was a day when the CHP would have simply turned their lights on and escorted him over the bridge and sent him on his way. Perhaps with advice on the safest route for him to take . . . and the most lawful. I'm not for lawbreaking but I do expect our officers to use their judgment. Ask any DA or ADA or cop if they ignore violations of the law. It's often done for practical reasons or lack of resources or any number of other reasons. It should have happened here. We have far too many folks tangled up in the criminal justice system for no really good reason and with little to show for it. Discretion, truthandreality, is a good thing and no stranger to our justice system. And, depending on the circumstances of your lawbreaking, like maybe . . . civil disobedience . . . I just might start a publicity and fundraising campaign for you. Please try not to put me to the test though.
  7. NapaMark15
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    NapaMark15 - June 30, 2013 11:24 pm
    The bridge is irrelevant. He was in violation of the law by walking his mules on the highway. And if you read the article, you'll see that it mentions that the CHP attempted to get help get Mr. Sears on a safer (and legal) route for him to continue his journey, but Mr. Sears refused. Ignoring cops when they're acting in your best interest and well as the public's best interest, not to mention when they're giving you a lawful order, will end you up in jail. Plain and simple.
  8. Dr_Faustus
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    Dr_Faustus - July 01, 2013 7:13 am
    California Vehicle Code section 21960 subpart a includes "may" in its language. California Vehicle Code section 2196 subdivision (a) states in part: "The Department of Transportation (DOT) and local authorities by order, ordinance, or resolution or designated portions thereof under their respective jurisdictions...may prohibit or restrict the use of freeways."

    "May" is permissive not instructive.

    Further "the prohibitory regulation authorized by subdivision (a) shall be effective when appropriate signs giving notice thereof are erected upon a freeway or expressway or the approaches thereto." [VC 21960 (b)] This implies that no signage means the restrictive ordinance would not be "effective."

    It seems that for this to be lawful, Napa would have to have passed an ordinance, received permission from the DOT [VC 21960 (c)], and then erect signage "if" the ordinance was passed. [VC 21960 (b)].
  9. Dr_Faustus
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    Dr_Faustus - July 01, 2013 7:19 am
    Finally, an ordinance or resolution restricting pedestrian traffic will not be "...effective..." unless " is supported by a finding by the local authority that the freeway or expressway does not have pedestrian facilities and pedestrian use would pose a safety risk to the pedestrian."

    So, some questions: 1. does a local ordinance exist? 2. did local authorities receive DOT permission? 3. did local authorities make a finding that the freeway does not have pedestrian facilities? 4. did local authorities erect signage making any ordinance effective? 5. what does common law say about it?
  10. Dr_Faustus
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    Dr_Faustus - July 01, 2013 7:39 am
    Oh! And why is the CHP enforcing local ordinance?
  11. Rodeoflagrider
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    Rodeoflagrider - July 01, 2013 8:18 am
    State route 49 is a highway. California vehicle codes 21759-21050-21805. Allow /support equestrian/horse drawn vehicles on highways, county roads & city surface streets. The CVC's language states this is a non-motorized form of transportation. Riders/carriage drivers are to stay to the right & follow the rules of the road. Using hand signals for r/l turns etc..... Automobiles are to slow, yield the right of way, or stop when approahing slower
    Moving vehicles....Crossing a bridge posted to prohibit pedestrian use does not apply here, because the rider/horse drawn vehicle, is considered a slow moving vehicle..
  12. rocketman
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    rocketman - July 03, 2013 6:32 am
    "We can't pick or choose which laws we follow, or that others should follow, and CHP acted with other motorist's best interests."

    Unless of course you are the US Attorney General or the President............
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