By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
Two women accused of attempting to extort money from former top county executive Ben Angove were freed yesterday and their bail was returned at least for the moment.
The women, Kristine Rathbone and Bobbie Hibshman, expected to be arraigned and assigned an attorney, but instead were told no charges are pending against them.
Youve been exonerated, said Superior Court Judge William Follett. But he told Rathbone and Hibshman to expect a letter from the state attorney generals office asking them to appear in court at a later date. Last week, Del Norte District Attorney Robert Drossel passed the case to the state attorney generals office, citing potential conflicts of interest.
Crying and recovering from a bloody nose that erupted just before her time before the judge, Hibshman, 19, asked Follett if the letter could be sent to her lawyer.
Weve been having a lot of trouble with things like that not coming, she said.
Follett told the two women to work something out with the district attorneys office. But, Rathbone questioned his advice.
The DA wont speak to us. They wont speak to us, she said.
And, Rathbone, apparently mystified by the action of the court, asked: Why hasnt Mr. Angove been arrested?
Hibshman added: We were arrested. If he admitted to giving me alcohol, why hasnt he been arrested?
Visibly taken aback, Follett said: The only thing I know about this case is whats in the file and theres nothing in this file.
Angove resigned as the countys chief administrative officer the day before the women were arrested and jailed. The same day he resigned, Del Norte County Sheriffs detectives served a subpoena to inspect Angoves computer hard-drive.
Following their arrests, the women contacted the Triplicate, expressing shock that they were the ones being charged.
Since then, officials have engaged in a virtual news blackout on the case.
Only a subpoena, Angoves letter of resignation and minimal arrest information on the two women have been released since Angove abruptly resigned Sept. 20.
Drossel has confirmed the investigation into Angove is a criminal one, and he added it is linked to Hibshman and Rathbone.
No charges have been filed against Angove and he has not been arrested, police say. Attempts by the Triplicate to reach him for comment have been unsuccessful.
The two women have said that Angove had a romantic relationship with Hibshman and both women knew him.
According to the two women, law enforcement officials believe the women attempted to extort $1,000 from Angove. A letter written by one of the women was given to the police as evidence.
The women said, though, that the letter was simply one of many they wrote all at once, as a sort of self-therapy, after Hibshman ended her affair with the executive.
Throughout Angoves relationship with the women, Rathbone said Angove bragged of his political clout in the community, and that scared her.
At one point he said Who do you think they will listen to, you or me, and I said Yeah, youve got a point there, Rathbone said.
Her husband is nearing parole at Pelican Bay State Prison.