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

 

Federal medical marijuana memo stirs angst in industry

Just another reason you need a good criminal defense attorney like Michael McCabe.

In October 2009, medical marijuana advocates celebrated a U.S. Department of Justice memo declaring that federal authorities wouldn’t target the legal use of medicinal pot in states where it is permitted.

The memo from Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden was credited with accelerating a California medical marijuana boom, including a proliferation of dispensaries that now handle more than $1 billion in pot transactions.

But last month brought a new memo from another deputy attorney general, James Cole. And this time, it is stirring industry fears of federal raids on pot dispensaries and sweeping crackdowns on large-scale medical pot cultivation.

Cole asserted in the June 29 memo that state laws “are not a defense” from federal prosecution, saying, “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug” – and that distributing it “is a serious crime.”

Justice Department officials said the memo offered “guidance” for states permitting medical marijuana and didn’t mark a harsher shift in federal policy. But it was a clear signal of the government’s concern about a move toward industrial-scale operations that would generate millions of dollars in revenue.

The memo came off as a threat to Steve DeAngelo, director of the Harborside Health Center, California’s largest medical marijuana provider. He charged that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are turning their backs on medical users and imperiling the distribution of marijuana as medicine.

“I can’t imagine why the Obama administration wants patients to obtain their medicine from a criminal market rather from a licensed and regulated system of distribution,” said DeAngelo, whose Oakland dispensary has 50,000 clients and handles more than $22 million in annual transactions. “I just can’t imagine them following through on their position.”

Advocates and legal observers are split on whether the concern expressed in the Cole memo over the “scope of commercial cultivation and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes” signals raids on pot stores. But many say it is a backlash against cities and entrepreneurs trying to cash in on the medicinal pot trade.

The city of Oakland is still exploring a plan to regulate and tax expansive marijuana cultivation, despite warnings by federal authorities that they wouldn’t tolerate earlier city efforts to sanction cavernous indoor marijuana farms.

Myths Of The Criminal Justice System

Myth 1: You Can’t Be Tried More Than Once For The Same Crime

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that no person shall “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” This protection against “double jeopardy” is intended to prevent the government from retrying the same defendant over and over until prosecutors can get a conviction.

But there are some exceptions. First, the protection only comes into play once a jury has convicted or acquitted a defendant. So in trials that end with a hung jury or a mistrial, the prosecution can usually bring the same charges again. One particularly egregious example is Curtis Flowers of Mississippi, who has been tried an incredible six times for the murder of four people in 1996.

Myth 2: The Government Can’t Punish You For A Crime Without First Convicting You

Under federal sentencing law, once a defendant has been convicted of any federal crime, when determining a sentence, the judge can consider other crimes he or she may have committed. That includes crimes for which the defendant has never been charged and even crimes for which he or she has been acquitted.

In 2007 Antwuan Ball of Washington, D.C., was charged and tried for a long list of alleged federal crimes, including drug dealing, conspiracy, racketeering and murder. The jury was apparently unimpressed with the prosecution’s case. They acquitted Ball on all charges, save for a relatively minor $600 sale of half an ounce of crack. But last March, a federal judge sentenced Ball to 18 years in prison, a disproportionately long sentence the judge said was due to his disagreement with the jury’s decision to acquit on the other charges.

Myth 3: Ignorance Of The Law Is No Defense

Every introductory criminal justice class teaches this one. If you’re pulled over for speeding, you can’t claim you didn’t know the speed limit. If you’re pulled over while driving through, for example, in Virginia and the cop notices your radar detector, you can’t claim you had no idea the device is illegal in that state.

This particular “myth” is mostly true. And the problem is that it’s becoming nearly impossible to know what the law actually is. The U.S. Constitution outlines just three federal crimes — treason, counterfeiting, and piracy. Various projects have tried to count the number of federal criminal laws passed since, and many have simply given up. But by most estimates, there are at least 4,000 separate criminal laws at the federal level, with another 10,000 to 300,000 regulations that can be enforced criminally.

Read the rest of the story here.

 

The U.S. government’s hard-line policies on marijuana can clash with California’s more lenient laws

The U.S. government’s hard-line policies on marijuana can clash with California’s more lenient laws – and, in some cases, override them. For California medical marijuana patients arrested by federal Drug Enforcement Agency officials, local and state laws no longer apply. The consequences of a DEA investigation can be costly and, in some cases, life-destroying.

Read the rest of the story here.