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For the time being...

| The hot-air balloonists and their lawyer were about to get a court-ordered look behind the mean gates in Indio. But a funny thing happened on the way: the plaintiffs — John C and Carol Marrelli, along with their daughter Marilena, all of Solana Beach — suddenly dropped all their lawsuits against the balloonists. Never mind!

After two years of lawsuits that almost put hot-air ballooning in the Coachella Valley out of business, these most litigious olive growers decided they're rather keep the gates closed than have their day in court. No explanation was given for withdrawing their suits.

Fantasy Balloon flight pilot Steve Wilkinson
Fantasy Balloon flight pilot Steve Wilkinson smiles during a press conference announcing that JCM Farming Inc. dropped a lawsuit against local balloonists on Wednesday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio. / Crystal Chatham The Desert Sun

It could be that they realized they would probably lose in court after a Palm Desert law firm decided to defend the balloonists for free and public condemnation rained down on the Marrellis for their unneighborliness. Or, it could be that whatever they have hidden in there cannot bear public scrutiny.

The walled compound, according to the Marrelli's attorneys, is "an original artistic presentation" that contains "trade secrets" (The Desert Sun, 19-Aug-2011). I've maintained all along that it is a cover for something nefarious, mostly likely underground. A CIA black prison on US soil? The northern terminus of an underground tunnel for smuggling illegal immigrants into the US? Dick Cheney's retirement hideaway? A bomb shelter for the Scientologists? I don't know, but my mama always said to use my imagination.

On the one hand the Marrelli's claimed they were just building a "Napa Valley style" facility in "celebration of the olive" and that they would welcome friends, "old and new." They would even, they said, let people have their weddings there. On the other hand, this facility is so über secret that noone is allowed to fly over it and the plaintiffs of some of their twenty lawsuits cannot come in to see what all the hullaballoo is about. It just doesn't pass the smell test.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018

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