State panel upholds order against man deemed a threat to Roseville city manager

Ray Kerridge
Ray Kerridge Sacramento Bee file

A court order that a disgruntled Roseville resident must stay away from City Manager Ray Kerridge has been upheld by a state appellate panel.

John William Zisk has carried on his deceased father’s four-decade grievance over a condemnation action and blames the city for the death of his parents. Under the order, he is not allowed to go to Roseville City Hall, must stay 150 yards away from Kerridge under any circumstances, and is barred from contacting the city manager “directly or indirectly, by any means.”

Two weeks before Roseville’s request for a restraining order in early 2013, Zisk sent an email to Kerridge expressing his frustration over the city’s failure to respond to a list of complaints Zisk had submitted to Kerridge and a purported offer by Kerridge to mediate the demands that was subsequently revoked. After listing dozens of issues and actions by the city, many of which Zisk claimed were “beyond criminal,” he wrote: “This is very ugly and will lead to more national attention than recent school shootings. Please do not force me down this messy path that may consume more lives.”

The mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., had occurred just three weeks earlier – on Dec. 14, 2012.

Placer Superior Court Commissioner Michael A. Jacques held a hearing on Feb. 11, 2013, and issued the restraining order. Jacques acknowledged the “right of people to petition for redress of grievances” as “a central and vital part of our representative democracy,” but found that “statements such as those that (Zisk) has made do not have a legitimate purpose. They have no purpose except to frighten.”

With respect to Zisk’s testimony denying any intention to threaten Kerridge or anyone else, Jacques ruled that the law does not require “willful intent.” The commissioner found that Zisk’s conduct constitutes an “actionable threat of workplace violence” under California law.

In a 12-page opinion issued Tuesday, a three-justice panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal said it had “no trouble concluding that the injunction does not impermissibly impinge upon” Zisk’s constitutional rights, adding that “a reasonable person could understand Zisk’s statements as a credible threat and not mere political hyperbole.”

The opinion was authored by Acting Presiding Justice Cole Blease, with the concurrences of Associate Justices George Nicholson and Andrea Lynn Hoch.

At the hearing in Placer Superior Court, Zisk testified that the city took 6.45 acres of his family’s property along Dry Creek by eminent domain in December 1973, but the city failed to use the property until 2009, when it opened a bike trail through the property. But, according to Zisk, the trail also “crosses … property which was not subject to the condemnation suit.”

In his email, Zisk told Kerridge, a former Sacramento city manager, he believes that the loss of the property and his father’s bitter, years-long wrangle with the city is responsible for the deaths of his parents.

While Zisk acknowledged at the hearing that he is upset, he denied making any threats of violence or intending to cause harm to anyone.

The appeal court justices noted in Tuesday’s opinion that Zisk claimed his reference to school shootings was in connection to his assertion that his plight would lead to national attention, not to any threatened violence.

But the justices said that claim “begs the question, how did he intend to obtain national attention other than by committing an act of violence akin to the recent school shootings?”

Denny Walsh: (916) 321-1189