Behind the Mitchells' door - Page 2

My strange encounters with a strange crew

Although she promised me an interview that Halloween and mentioned that she "might be in costume," I wasn't surprised when I didn't hear back.

When I read the news about James, I called former San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan, who is representing James and is a long-time friend of the Mitchell family. Hallinan had just returned from Mitchell's arraignment in Marin County, where he is being held without bail.

"James feels terrible about what happened," Hallinan said. When asked about the possibility of James having PTSD from his time in the Marines, Hallinan said, "I don't know if he's been overseas or not."

I then got a hold of a copy of the permanent restraining order Keller had secured on July 7, five days before she was killed. From it, I discovered that James had not been deployed overseas. In fact, according to the allegations in the court order, he had abused Keller for almost two years, beginning a month after the couple met — claiming the abuse was his way to avoid Iraq.

The court filing also revealed that James brought his gun everywhere and usually kept it in his jeans until his siblings, including Meta, filed their own five-year restraining order after he pulled it out during a family business meeting at the O'Farrell Theater in November 2007 and "waved it around in a threatening manner."

Keller's statement also charged that James has mood swings, used cocaine, had a meth addiction, and was arrested for domestic violence in February 2008 when Keller was four months pregnant.

The couple's penultimate fight took place March 4 when Keller told him she was going to live with her mom. After that incident, James was arrested for vioutf8g his probation, and San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris recommended putting James behind bars for three months. But 11 days before Keller's killing, Superior Court Judge Mary Morgan sentenced him to two days and stayed the sentence.

Warren Hinckle, a veteran Bay Area journalist and long-time Mitchell family friend, observes that people can't imagine what it was like to have grown up in this "battle-prone family."

"Sure, I knew Rafe, and obviously something very bad and weird happened," Hinckle told the Guardian. "People forget that the Mitchells spent a lot of the money that they made on First Amendment battles, and that they were on mob territory."

Keller's attorney, Charlotte Huggins, said she wants to make sure there's money set aside for Samantha. But that may be tricky because James was living on trust fund money. Following a 2008 settlement of the dancers' class action suit against Cinema 7 — in which the corporation agreed to pay $2 million in legal fees and $1.45 million toward the dancers' claims — Cinema 7 president Jeffrey Armstrong claimed in court filings that the corporation "is not able to pay the entire amount up front."

Instead, Mitchell matriarch Georgia Mae and John P. Morgan, co-trustees of the Jim Mitchell 1990 Family Trust, which holds two-thirds of Cinema 7's shares, pledged stock certificates as security interest.

Jim Mitchell's four adult children receive $3,000 a month from the trust. They have the right to withdraw 50 percent when they turn 30, and the remainder when they turn 35.

Court files show that Meta, who turned 30 last year, along with Justin and Jennifer Mitchell, are trying to wrest control of the trust from their grandmother, Georgia Mae, 85. Instead, they would like to appoint their mother and Jim's ex-wife Mary Jane Whitty-Grimm as the successor trustee. A hearing is set for September.

A stripper who used to dance at the O'Farrell Theater under the stage name Simone Corday wrote the book 9 1/2 Years Behind the Green Door (Mill City Press, Inc. 2007), in which she recalls Artie Mitchell as her lover.