Vindicated But Vilified: My Experience with Judge Charles S. Crandall

Aaron Ochs
4 min readAug 1, 2020

It’s been three years since I appeared before now-former SLO County Superior Court Judge Charles S. Crandall in a case that proved to be one of the most surrealistic moments of my life. Though I’m years removed from it and have grown a lot since that experience, I still face harassment over it and hold Crandall partially but personally responsible.

Because Crandall remains part of the faculty of San Luis Obispo College of Law, I have decided to not continue my pursuit of a career in law at that campus.

Former SLO County Judge Charles S. Crandall (Source:

Crandall presided over a restraining order hearing where CalCoastNews co-founder Karen Velie falsely accused me of stalking, harassing and threatening her and her family. The trigger to the filing was me taking a photo of her at the courthouse and asking questions about her reporting. What was originally benign — albeit ignorant of local courthouse rules on photography — transformed into a harrowing tale of drama ripped from the pages of a John Grisham novel with Velie falsely accusing me of threatening her in the presence of law enforcement.

Though he found her “sole witness” couldn’t recall the dramatic events she described and the “multiple police reports” she testified under oath to filing against me were nonexistent, Crandall only admonished me. And the admonishment itself has become a matter of folklore used by anonymous Facebook accounts that demand I stop writing about CalCoastNews or else, notwithstanding my indisputable First Amendment rights.

I wrote about the case extensively in articles and my book Defamers, but I haven’t focused much on Crandall himself in my work. The reason being is that he ruled in my favor, I was grateful for the outcome and respect the legal process. I didn’t want spoil that outcome with commentary about him or come across as one of those guys who complained about a judge without taking into account the actions that led them to appear before a judge to begin with. In this case, however, I won.

But Crandall was a witness to attorney Stew Jenkins leaning over the witness stand while I was answering his questions. At that time, Jenkins spit in my face and Crandall did nothing except ask Jenkins to take a step back. That’s assault and battery that occurred in his courtroom on…

Aaron Ochs

Author, artist, advocate and entrepreneur from Morro Bay, California.