Frances Plante-Scott recalls events from 1992 when her husband, Donald Scott,was killed by a narcotics detective on their ranch in the Malibu mountains.
By David Wallace/Special to The Malibu Times
From the title of Frances Plante-Scott’s just released CD, “Conspiracy Cocktail,” it would be easy to write her off as just another conspiracy theorist who sees deceit and corruption in government agencies ranging from the IRS to the DEA. That would be very wrong. What Plante-Scott has gone through during the past 11 years, recalled in a recent interview and memorialized in song on her album, could have embittered anyone.
It began on October 2, 1992, when, following a false marijuana tip, L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies broke down the door of the cabin on the 200-acre “Trails End” Ranch Plante-Scott shared with her husband of two months, Donald Scott. It was the classic case of a police raid gone bad-not only was no marijuana found, the 61-year-old Scott was shot and killed by a narcotics detective during the “bust.” Also involved in the raid were 32 representatives of 13 other agencies including the U.S. Border Patrol, the DEA, the LAPD, Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Parks Service. (Recordings of the actual phone calls made by the Sheriff’s deputies after the tragedy are set against her lyrics for the song “I’m Going to Stop You” on the CD.)
Plante-Scott, a stunning redheaded Texan, has long claimed that the raid and “murder,” as she calls it, of her husband were the result of a conspiracy to seize the ranch under the asset forfeiture drug laws and sell it to the National Parks Service. The participating agencies could then, as allowed by the law, split 85 percent of the estimated $5 million sale price. Michael Bradbury, then the Ventura County district attorney, supported her claim. In a voluminous report written a year after the event, he concluded the fatal raid was “a land-grab by the (L.A.) Sheriff’s Office.” (Although Scott’s ranch was entirely in Ventura County, Bradbury was not told in advance of the raid).
A year later, Plante-Scott lost the cabin in the 1993 Malibu fire. “After the fires,” she says, “everyone thought for sure I would have to leave ‘Trails End.’ Instead, I put up a 30-foot tall teepee and lived in it.” She also got a shotgun-“I needed it,” she said, “because there were rattlesnakes and mountain lions.”-hired a pre-O.J. Johnnie Cochran and sued the government for $100 million. The image of Plante-Scott as a sort of gunslingin’ rebel earned her the nickname of “Annie Oakley of Malibu.”
As Cochran recalls in his autobiography, “Scott’s land was adjacent to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It is a beautiful piece of property-there is a seventy-five foot waterfall on it-and someone in the federal government wanted to incorporate it into the recreation area. The National Park Service offered to buy it … he didn’t want to sell. Rich white people are rarely victims of police brutality, but Donald Scott had something [they] wanted, so he died.” Although the government claimed everything was legal and the shooting was justified, nevertheless it settled for $5 million; the money was more or less eaten up by lawyer’s bills and payments to Scott’s three children. Being a civil case, the government was not obligated to provide an attorney as it is in criminal cases.
Cochran said Plante-Scott told a judge at the time that she was so poor she considered eating road kill. She didn’t, but in 2001, she left the ranch after the IRS auctioned it to recover unpaid taxes. A Dr. Schultz ended up with “Trail’s End” for a reported $1.4 million. “It got to be like Hydra,” she says of her seemingly endless struggles with governmental authorities. “Cut off one head and two grow back.”
The experience broadened Plante-Scott’s mission from one of fighting for justice over a personal tragedy via dozens of print, radio and television interviews (including ABC’s “20/20”), to today’s commitment for exposing the truth as she sees it about the government’s war on drugs, the asset forfeiture laws, and the Patriot Act-“Nothing less than a war on our constitutional freedom,” she asserts.
Some of the difficulties Plante-Scott encountered during her evolution from a mourning beleaguered widow into a song-writing Erin Brockovich were caused by her direct manner. “I sometimes say things, things that aren’t politically correct,” she says. “Even then I’m occasionally misunderstood. Because I armed myself when I was living in the teepee, I was adopted as a sort of poster child by, of all people, the right-wing, save-our-guns crowd.”
“She is a deeply passionate, altruistic person who follows her heart with an innate perception of right and wrong, finding a catharsis in her music,” Bill Aylesworth, president of her company, Great Scott Presentations, says. “I soon found out this was a no-nonsense lady who doesn’t mince words. In the spirit of the Alamo, she shoots from the hip, metaphorically and otherwise.” Another CD, “Organic Plante,” is due this summer, and Aylesworth is negotiating for a book and a feature film.
“I just didn’t want Donald to have died in vain,” Plante-Scott adds quietly.