By Terrie Best - Court Support Coordinator, San Diego Americans for Safe Access
San Diego - San Diego District Attorney (DA) Bonnie Dumanis made the prosecutorial procedure the punishment today by dragging to the brink of trial of Clint Guidry and Cameron Mitchell who committed no other crime but to merely possess medical cannabis for their own use.
In her failed San Diego campaign for Mayor, Dumanis claimed her office only prosecutes illegal drug dealers hiding behind California law, a mistruth illustrated by the two cases which were to be held in Vista and San Diego courts respectively but were dropped this morning in the final dramatic moments before trial.
"Both Guidry and Mitchell are medical cannabis patients with doctors' recommendations and are not hiding behind the state's medical cannabis laws but are protected by them, said one San Diego courtroom observer who came to support Mitchell. "Dumanis' office should not be focused on building cases against medical cannabis patients but she continues to squander public money trying to victimizing and pressure for pleas those who are vulnerable and less apt to fight back" the woman continued from the courthouse.
Lance Rogers, Attorney for Guidry in Vista said that while preparing for trial last week the Deputy District Attorney (DDA), Brandon Owens, indicated the DA's office was re-evaluating the case and could potentially dismiss the misdemeanor charge against Guidry in favor of a felony. Dumanis' office instructed Rogers to convey that message to his client.
Today in court, Owens did dismiss the misdemeanor, but in a slippery move, requested the judge advise Guidry once again of the plushy terms of the misdemeanor plea. Seeing the threat, Rogers made it clear on the record that the DA's office was dismissing the case. Further, Rogers stated that his client refused to plead guilty to a case that the prosecution was dismissing. Rogers asked on record if the DDA had additional evidence as to whether Guidry should plead guilty to a case that was being dismissed. Of course the answer was no and that was the cue that the threat of the felony was the DA's last bluff.
We congratulate Clint Guidry and Lance Rogers on the victory. When asked what's next, Roger's tells us Guidry is humble but may be looking at options for getting his property back, including the six pounds of medical marijuana he grew legally for himself and an ailing family member.
Defendant Cameron Mitchell, who says he saw several legal patients plead guilty before him in San Diego court, was offered a felony plea last spring by Dumanis' office but Mitchell refused. Then, as the days to the trial drew near, he was badgered with more plea deals that had him giving up his rights as a protected patient.
Mitchell refused even the misdemeanor plea which was offered this morning in San Diego Superior Court, saying he had faith in the legal system; he was a legitimate patient and had not broken the law. Mitchell tells of an earlier discussion with family members in which a strategy of not backing down was created. Mitchell and his family felt the DA was pressuring because they knew the case against him for possessing two ounces of medical cannabis would not win at trial.
Mark Bluemel, Mitchell's attorney, gathered expert witnesses - one of which was San Diego Americans for Safe Access' Kim Twolan who planned to testify in both cases - and set about building a defense; an expensive and punishing undertaking for both attorneys and their clients.
In San Diego Court in the tense moments after Mitchell refused what was to be Deputy District Attorney Brock Arstill's last bluff, Arstill turned and dismissed all charges, leaving one wondering if the DA's office had even prepared a case after spending what must have been countless resources investigating Mitchell.
"It is clear Dumanis must meet uncompromising public outcry when she refuses to follow state law in San Diego." "Irresponsibly and vindictively using resources to investigate cases she can't win puts patients as well as public safety at risk" said a pair of medical cannabis patient advocates who attended in support.
When Dumanis asserts she is going after people who "hide behind state law" she should be reminded that these laws are for protecting patients and patients have every right to take cover under them. That is what the law is for.