Sunday, March 19, 2006


David Mitchell ex-Point Reyes Light owner, restrained


Article Launched: 03/17/2006 8:51 AM PST

New editor, old editor feuding in Point Reyes

Nancy Isles Nation
Marin (Calif.) Independent Journal

The Pulitzer Prize-winning former editor and publisher of the Point Reyes
Light has been slapped with a temporary restraining order by the
ex-prosecutor who replaced him at the weekly West Marin newspaper.
The order bars David Mitchell, the muckraking journalist who published the
Point Reyes Light for 30 years, from the newspaper office where he used to
hang his hat.

The order also compels him to stay away from the new publisher, Robert
Plotkin, 35, a former Monterey County deputy district attorney who bought
the Light from Mitchell and has dreams of turning it into "the New York
Times of West Marin."

Plotkin petitioned for the temporary restraining order on Feb. 17, a day
after he said Mitchell grabbed him by the neck and tried to run him down
with his car.

On March 2, Marin Superior Court Commissioner Randolph Heubach issued a
ruling ordering Mitchell to stay 100 yards away from Plotkin, his wife,
Lys, and 5-year-old son. Mitchell is also to stay away from the Point
Reyes Light offices, Plotkin's car and his home in Bolinas, and his
child's school.

In a statement filed with the request for the restraining order, Plotkin
said that he and several staffers were going to go out to lunch with
Mitchell on Feb. 16. Plotkin was a passenger in Mitchell's car when
discussion turned to plans by the paper to publish an article about a

Plotkin said Mitchell told him he would not go to lunch and proceeded to
drive toward the newspaper office to drop him off.

"He grew visibly, shakingly angry," Plotkin wrote in the statement. He
said that when Mitchell grabbed him by the throat, he jumped out of the
passenger seat.

Plotkin claimed that Mitchell then screamed profanities and nearly drove
his car into the newspaper office's French doors.

Reached at his home, Mitchell, 62, referred questions about the
restraining order to his attorney, who did not return phone calls.

But Mitchell did say Plotkin was overreacting.

"It sounds like we have a very young man with a very wild imagination,"
Mitchell said.

The 6-foot-6-inch Mitchell said he wrote a column in the Light a month ago
asking the public to support the new publisher of the local paper.

"I've been trying to defend him," Mitchell said. "The guy is excitable and
sometimes has a tendency to jump at shadows. He sometimes goes after the
people trying to help him."

Locals say they have had mixed feelings about Plotkin's Point Reyes Light.

Steve Doughty, a dairy rancher and owner of Point Reyes Vineyards, said he
and some others set Plotkin straight at the last chamber meeting. "This is
not New York," Doughty said. "We think he's coming around - if he follows
through with the things we talked about at our meeting, it will work out."

Doughty said locals don't want a newspaper like the New York Times. "I
chastised him for writing about driving his BMW and living in Bolinas,"
Doughty said. "He needs to get out and meet some of the people and find
out things."

Judy Borello, a rancher and owner of the Old Western Saloon in Point Reyes
Station, was unaware of the conflict between Mitchell and Plotkin but said
she misses the old Light.

"Dave knew us better - he knew the layout and the people in the town,"
Borello said. "Robert lives in Bolinas and hasn't lived there that long."

Heubach extended the restraining order until the next court hearing on
April 4. Lawyers for both the men said they hope to settle the issue out
of court. Mitchell's lawyer said Mitchell wants access to the newspaper's

Mitchell, whose stories on Synanon won the Pulitzer for public service in
1979, is confident everything will work out.

"He will come to his senses," Mitchell said.

Plotkin, in an interview Thursday night, said he has "no animus" against

"Since I took over the newspaper, it's been very difficult on Dave, and
the loss of the newspaper has affected him very deeply, and I hope he'll
be able to recover," he said.


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