Federal Medical Marijuana Defendant Ronnie Chang Reaches Plea Bargain with U.S. Justice Department

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By Terrie Best – San Diego Americans for Safe Access Court Support Coordinator

San Diego CA – Medical cannabis patient and collective operator, Ronnie Chang’s ordeal with the federal government will come to an end on Tuesday, October 15, 2013, after spending over a year behind bars in federal custody awaiting a trial that was to have started next month.

Ronnie, connected to Club One Collective/Extreme Holistic Care, formerly San Diego Dispensary Services with his attorney Michael J. McCabe, has been in and out of court in both the California system and – when charges were dropped and picked up by the U.S. Justice Department – in federal court for a series of hearings which began in 2009 when Club One was raided. The SWAT style raid was conducted by San Diego District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis’ cross deputized Narcotics Task Force in her fight against the public safety that safe access to medical cannabis contributes to San Diego County.

Ronnie’s co-defendants have long since either reached plea deals or, in the case of Hal Pilotte, had charges dropped against them. However, Ronnie was charged – in a vindictive attempt by law enforcement to stymie a civil suit against the City of Oceanside, on behalf of Club One – with over 60 felony counts ranging from money laundering to cultivation by the U.S. Attorney led by prosecutor Paul Starita.

Extreme pressure to plea was put on Ronnie using the fragile condition of his elderly mother, Carmen Chang whom he provided care for prior to his incarceration.  Mrs. Chang has relied on the kindness of the medical cannabis community to help with groceries and other financial assistance via the Free Ronnie Chang campaign organized and managed by Heidi Whitman of San Diego Americans for Safe Access (SDASA).

Also helping Ronnie with moral support was San Diego Human Solution.  Adela Falk, the Prison Outreach Coordinator for SDHS was responsible for mailing dozens of letters and cards from the community wishing Ronnie well and comforting him during his crisis.

The Chang case garnered national attention among progressives when former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner brought the topic of jury nullification – a practice of nullifying unjust laws by way of not guilty verdicts – to the forefront of Ronnie’s case. The former Mayor held a press conference after a gag order hearing which was filed by prosecutors against Ronnie’s attorney, and in response to this video by SDASA’s Eugene Davidovich.  Video of Bob Filner’s press conference, filmed by Marcus Boyd, also of SDASA, can be viewed here.

 Americans for Safe Access, the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research, recently had this to say about federal medical cannabis cases:

“The vast majority of federal medical marijuana cases are never tried. Because those indicted have no ability to use a medical necessity or state law defense in federal court, most defendants are forced to take plea bargains rather than face the consequences of an unfair trial. Numerous medical marijuana defendants over the past couple of years have received mandatory minimum sentences of 5-10 years in prison.”

Please plan to attend this important hearing before Judge Michael M. Anello.  Ronnie will be released from custody with “time served” sometime following the hearing and will be free to recover from the trauma the U.S. Government has perpetrated upon him and his mother.

Many people and organizations came together in support because of the extreme hardship faced by mother and son. A special thanks to the Larsen-Robinsons, who visited, and those who donated money to Carmen Chang and all who wrote letters to Ronnie.

For more information, please contact San Diego Americans for Safe Access Court Support Coordinator, Terrie Best at ilegalsmile@hotmail.com

for the original story click link below

http://www.safeaccesssd.com/2013/10/federal-medical-marijuana-defendant-ronnie-chang-reaches-plea-bargain-with-u-s-justice-department.html

This case has been plagued with vindictiveness from U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy’s office

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Ronnie Chang, a state legal medical marijuana patient and a directing member of Club One Collective/Extreme Holistic Care in San Marcos, will be sentenced on money laundering charges in San Diego’s Edward J. Schwartz Courthouse, Monday, March 17, 2014 at 9:00AM.

“This case has been plagued with vindictiveness from U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy’s office” said Marcus Boyd of San Diego Americans for Safe Access.

read the rest at link below

http://www.safeaccesssd.com/2014/03/ronnie-chang-press-release.html

Gag Order Lifted Now That This Case Has Been Resolved

Here is what Michael J McCabe had to say previous to the gag order which ordered us to remove this video from publishing. The government was concerned that if any potential jurors saw this video that they would not convict.

 

Senior Citizens and Patient Advocates Brave San Diego Federal Courthouse in Support of Legal Cannabis Patients Victimized by Unethical Wire Tap



By Terrie Best – San Diego Americans for Safe Access

 

September 13, 2012

 

San Diego, CA – Over 60 senior citizens put the Edward Schwartz Federal Courthouse on its ear by forming a long line outside the building, donning green medical cannabis ribbons of support, and setting off metal detectors with their canes and walkers.

 

Their mission: To support Ronnie Chang, Hal Pilotte and co-defendants Gary Maddox and Peter Suhan (all allegedly connected to Club One Collective/Extreme Holistic Care, formerly San Diego Dispensary Services). The defendants were in court with their attorneys Michael J McCabe, Paul Turner, Mark Bluemel and Tom Matthews to argue a motion challenging the legality of a wire tap.

 

Michael McCabe, who wrote and argued the motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the wire tap, asserted the affidavit used to support the warrant contained false statements and omissions of facts. Further, had those false statements not been included in the affidavit and had the omitted information been included there would not have been enough probable cause to support the wire tap warrant, making it illegal.

 

US Prosecutor, Paul Starita decided not to use oral arguments and seemed quite taken aback by the full galley of supporters. The US attorney’s office likely understands it will be difficult to seat a jury who would convict when it is common knowledge that California is a medical cannabis state.

 

For years, the federal government has senselessly interfered with states rights to regulate cannabis in accordance with Proposition 215, a peoples’ initiative, SB420, designed to clarify the scope of 215, and the California Attorney General’s Guidelines for the Security and Non-diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use.

 

Among the points of Starita’s written response was the opinion that primary care givers for infirm people who use medical cannabis may not be entities but only individuals. Mr. McCabe, however was able to quickly enter evidence to discredit Starita’s argument with documents he obtained from state court.

 

In the now vacated state case against Ronnie Chang, prosecutor Theresa Pham entered the collective’s membership agreement into evidence some time ago and Mr. McCabe obtained and used the agreement to expose Starita’s falsehood that the collective ever designated themselves as primary care givers.

 

The state case was vacated when the US Attorney’s office inserted themselves into the matter and San Diego District Attorney (and failed Mayoral candidate), Bonnie Dumanis allowed county resources to be used to assist in the victimization of the defendants on the federal level. This disturbing level of cooperation illustrates how much assistance Dumanis office provides the US attorney’s office in their effort to thwart the will of California voters.

 

In the courtroom every chair in department 5 was filled and 20 more supporters waited outside necessitating a US Marshall be stationed at the door throughout the hearing to keep latecomers out, for lack of seating.

 

The Judge, Michael M Anello, acknowledged the supporters with an understanding of why we were there. In a show of authority to the seniors however, US Marshalls attempted to put Ronnie Chang, who is in custody, in the corner of the courtroom away from his counsel, an intimidation tactic that did not work on his honor.

 

In the end Judge Anello ruled against the defendants, a crushing blow to the supporters who were seen leaving the courtroom in tears. Mr. McCabe remained to speak with supporters, explain the motion’s arguments and provide information on the case law cited within it. Among the case law Mr. McCabe used in his motion:

 

Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978)

United States v. $186,416.00 in U.S. Currency, 590 F.3d 942 (9th Cir. 2010)

People v, Mower

People v. Mench

People v. Colvin

 

On the other hand, Paul Starita, in his effort to exit the room and escape the crowd at the end of the hearing, accidentally hit Ronnie Chang’s mother in the head with the swinging door as he exited and she was taken away by ambulance. Mrs. Chang is doing well but sustained heavy bruising.

 

Outside the courthouse supporters were delighted to hear attorney Bahar Ansari Miller take interest in the case and it looks hopeful she will take Hal Pilotte as a client, replacing appointed counsel, Paul Turner. Ms. Ansari Miller was co-counsel with Mr. McCabe in the successful Davidovich state case a few years ago and has extensive knowledge in medical cannabis law.

 

Later that day, Hal Pilotte thanked his friends and supporters with this note:

 

Ann and I wish to thank all of you who showed up to support us in court yesterday, and those of you who held us up in your thoughts and prayers and couldn’t be their. We had around 50+ supporters who showed up for us and well over 20 people who could not get seats inside the courtroom. We know it made an impact. A special thanks to Colleen McCall. Colleen took calls from people who were concerned about us and wanted some information on how to get to the Federal courthouse and Coaster train times to and from. You are all dear dear friends.

 

Hal also vowed to keep fighting this terrible injustice. He and his wife Ann continue to help with the care of Ronnie’s mother while Ronnie is in custody.

 

Upcoming court dates for this case are October 30, 2012 at 9:30AM and November 28, 2012 at 9:30AM, Dept. 5, on the 3rd Flr. of the San Diego Federal Courthouse, 940 Front St. at Broadway, San Diego, CA, 92101.

 

Other articles on this case: 
http://www.safeaccesssd.org/2012/01/club-one-collective-federal-court-update.html
http://www.safeaccesssd.org/2012/07/state-legal-medical-cannabis-patient.html
http://www.safeaccesssd.org/2010/10/san-marcos-sues-for-emergency.html

Helpful links:
www.FIJA.org
www.SafeAccessNow.org
www.SafeAccessSD.org

 

“When you’re a lawman & you’re dealing with people, it’s best not to go by the book, but to go by the heart.” ~ Sheriff Andy Taylor, Mayberry, NC