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McDonald Pleads Not Guilty, Packs Up Shop

After more than three months in jail, longtime downtown shopkeeper tries to get his life in order and fight the criminal charges against him.

Customers, friends and passers-by have long been accustomed to the rather crammed and cluttered state of the , the novelty gift and adult video shop that has been a fixture in downtown Mill Valley for more than 48 years.

But just nine days before he must vacate his tiny storefront at 74 Throckmorton Ave., shop owner Dave McDonald is surrounded by disarray that far surpasses his norm.

Released from Marin County Jail on bail earlier this month, the 70-year-old McDonald hopes to put his life back together on the heels of his . He pleaded not guilty to those charges this week and is back in court Sept. 14.

“I’m getting there,” McDonald said of his efforts to vacate the store of decades of inventory, from posters and adult videos to a 350-pound piece of a diesel train engine that serves as the base for a stool.

McDonald has no cash, as narcotics agents seized it in the that led to his arrest. He was able to post bail through donations from friends and is now trying to raise money by liquidating some of the inventory he has amassed over the past 50 years, much of which is stacked up in his shop, the house he owns in Fairfax and the apartment he rents in Fairfax, as well as his multiple storage units in Marin.

McDonald needs to raise a few thousand dollars to pay back rent on those storage units and avoid having their contents seized. He has until July 31 to empty his shop, as his landlord, former Pacific Sun publisher Steve McNamara, evicted him at the end of March for failure to pay rent.

Despite the uphill battle ahead of him, McDonald has put back on some of the 30-plus pounds he lost in jail and appeared motivated as he moved boxes from his shop to his van outside on a recent afternoon.

But while the liquidation is something he can partly control, the criminal case against him .

What were once eight felony charges for possession and intent to sell methamphetamine, as well as a large quantity of a precursor to manufacturing it, have been whittled down to three. That’s largely because the substances McDonald allegedly sold to an undercover agent tested negative for what he allegedly told agents they were, according to court testimony last month. Additional charges related to the discovery of guns in McDonald’s shop were dropped because the guns were dust-covered relics.

But even if he sold fake drugs to undercover narcotics agents, McDonald faces three felony charges and several years in prison if convicted.

He said he remains optimistic that he’ll be exonerated.

“I’m just going to keep at it here,” he said.

Ann Sonz Matranga July 24, 2011 at 03:33 PM
I feel lucky that I arrived in Mill Valley in 1990, last chance to know about an earlier, different time ... Mill Valley Music, Sweetwater, Susan Cummins Art Gallery, the old Dipsea on Sunnyside, Linda at Cavallo, Susan at Mirror Mirror, Smith and Hawken, the original Banana Republic ... And on the neighborhood side, what about all the houses with no gates? When did so many people decide to get big, electronic gates, and why? ... Dave's shop seems to be a link to the earlier era ... I know it's nostalgia, and there's still plenty of beauty ... Blessings on the Depot for being a keeper, and on Bill Graham for helping create the welcoming center of Lytton Square , and on Tony (Misha) the best shoemaker in the universe ... but still, when Dave goes, for better and worse you know you won't see anything like that store again.
denise August 07, 2011 at 06:45 AM
Dave Mac Donald may be 'different' but he is not a criminal. It is sad to lose another link to the past, but it is worse to see a long time member of our community outrageously accused of dealing meth and absolutely heinous to find that he was starved in our county jail, punished for being a vegetarian. I am outraged by the treatment of this 70 year old shopkeeper whose prior worst crimes were parking tickets and feeding pigeons. This whole scenario is just WRONG.
denise August 07, 2011 at 06:52 AM
See yesterday's article in the New York Times for more details on how Dave was punished for caring about animal rights and being a vegetarian: http://www.baycitizen.org/columns/scott-james/are-inmates-entitled-vegetarian-meals/
Jody Stickney August 12, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Interesting article, thanks for posting.

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