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Grass Valley man cleared after drug raid arrest

Erin Houck fought to clear the name of her father, Donald Deskins.
Li z Kellar/lkellar@theunion.com |

In August 2015, narcotics detectives serving search warrants at a Grass Valley apartment complex arrested a number of people in a high-profile bust that included allegations that one couple kept drugs, needles and a loaded gun in close proximity to a toddler.

Also swept up in the raid was a disabled Vietnam veteran living in another apartment who was accused of being in possession of drug paraphernalia and suspected heroin.

That man, Donald Deskins, was cited and released on suspicion of maintaining a residence for the use of controlled substances. He ended up losing his apartment of nearly four decades and was homeless for a period of time.



The only problem? Charges were filed against the wrong man.

That’s according not only to his family — but also according to a motion to dismiss filed by the Nevada County District Attorney’s office, which acknowledged in a January letter that a case was filed in error against Deskins. The accusation had a devastating effect on Deskins’ life, said daughter Erin Houck.




“He was traumatized,” she said of her father, who is disabled due to schizophrenia. “He was really emotionally distraught over this — it was all he could talk about … He felt like he was guilty until proven innocent.”

For both Houck and Deskins, letting the community know what happened to him became very important — not just to clear his name, but to raise awareness of how easy it is for elderly and disabled people to be victimized by people who are unscrupulous and predatory.

“Many elders are at risk for exactly what he went through,” Houck said. “Sadly, not every one of them have family who can or will assist … I think it’s important to understand this can happen to someone you love — and that you can refer people who need help to services, without putting yourself at risk.”

Deskins had lived at the apartment complex on Segsworth Way for 38 years, his daughter said. But people whom Houck characterizes as “transient individuals with drug addiction issues” began using his place as a crash pad.

“They were making themselves at home, taking advantage of him,” she said.

Even though he would call the police on occasion and have them removed, they always came back, Houck said.

“It makes me sad,” Deskins said. “I thought I was a better judge of character … I’m not going to let people in anymore.”

After drugs allegedly were found in Deskins’ apartment during the search, he was cited and released.

What happened next, Houck said, was another violation of trust, when the property management company that handles the complex forced Deskins out.

“They referred to him as a drug dealer,” she said. “He had a very solid, simple structure (to his life) forever. That was turned upside-down.”

According to Houck, her father was given a non-renewal notice of his lease, with just 30 days to move out. He initially landed at a residential facility in Auburn, she said, then eventually ended up at Utah’s Place in Grass Valley.

That was when Houck realized what was going on and started working to get his charges dismissed, with the help of attorney Greg Klein.

Houck also has been working to stabilize her father’s housing situation, and said he is set to move into a new apartment of his own soon, with a family member acting as caretaker.

“He has (had) enough labels in his life,” she said.

To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.


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