In the lobby of Blaine DeJong's now-closed North Cluff Avenue business, 18 plaques hang on the wall, most with photos of Little League teams and many reading, "To the best coach."
DeJong was active in the Boosters of Boys and Girls Sports, serving as president twice, and helped put up scoreboards at Salas Park.
Since January 1980, the Lodi native successfully ran DeJong's Auto Works. Until recently, it had a gold shield smog certification, meaning that he met tougher state testing requirements and could service vehicles that fail at other stations. Lodi currently only has one such station.
"I'm not a bad guy. I've done a lot for the community," he said after walking out of a Lodi courtroom Thursday morning.
Much has changed for 54-year-old Lodi resident, who was arraigned Thursday on misdemeanor charges of battery and resisting arrest - though DeJong claims he was actually the victim and has injury photos on his camera.
Now he walks with a cane from five back surgeries, sometimes stops in mid-sentence to grimace and wears a medical bracelet to warn medics that he has diabetes. As if medical woes aren't enough, he told a judge that he has a huge mortgage on his shop and is trying not to lose it in this bad economy.
It started in late 2007, when agents from California's Bureau of Automotive Repair began conducting undercover stings at Auto Works.
Three vehicles were equipped with hidden cameras, and each one was given a fake smog certification at DeJong's shop, according to a complaint filed by the state. On two vehicles, DeJong charged hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs.
The state shut down the shop and revoked DeJong's licenses.
"I'm not perfect, but I think the punishment that BAR inflicted on me was a little harsh, especially for a first offense," DeJong said, noting that other Lodi shops have gotten in trouble but not been forced to close.
He tried to get the revocation postponed until he sold the business, but the state refused.
On May 19, 11 days after the revocation, state agents showed up in Lodi after hearing that his shop was still open for business. DeJong said Thursday that he was in a bind, because he'd promised work to customers before the revocation, and in one case two replacement engines were bad so the work was delayed until he could get a third.
The day five agents arrived with a Lodi police officer for backup, DeJong allegedly came out of the shop with a baseball bat. The Lodi officer told him to put the bat down, and DeJong complied.
Then, according to a state BAR spokesman, DeJong put his hand in an agent's face and knocked his sunglasses off, cutting the man's head in the process.
DeJong said Thursday that he did pull the agent's sunglasses from his face and throw them to the ground, but said he didn't cut the man or intend to do so. He says the agents entered his private property without permission, looking like "a SWAT operation … it was like something out of a movie."
He was arrested and placed in a patrol car, and then he asked to go to the hospital. Police complied.
DeJong has photos on his camera showing a very red left eye, and a bruise on his chest.
He's frustrated that one of the things BAR busted him for was allowing someone to work without smog certification. DeJong said he's had five back surgeries and was supervising the employee, since some of the work is too difficult for him.
"It's perfectly legal to sublet a vehicle and send it to a shop to get a catalytic converter, but it's not legal for my guy, who's not certified, to smog a vehicle under my supervision," DeJong said in obvious frustration.
Now he's trying to lease out his shop, which is nearly 11,000 square feet. After pleading not guilty to the charges against him, DeJong told San Joaquin County Court Judge David Warner that he has no money to pay an attorney. His business is closed and he's waiting to see if he can get disability.
Warner continued the case to July 16 and appointed a public defender, but told DeJong that since he owns his house and business property, he'll probably have to repay the county for the legal fees.
"Well, if I can do that, I will," DeJong replied.