By Terrie Best, San Diego Americans for Safe Access
Monday, June 27, 2011 in San Diego Superior Court, the faulty search warrant obtained by a misleading affidavit was upheld in the medical cannabis case of Jason and Sarine Gastrich.
All morning, Deputy DA Ramin Tohidi and attorneys for the defense argued the legitimacy of the warrant which led to felony charges of possession of marijuana for sale, cultivation, and child endangerment (due to the mere presence of marijuana plants in the house).
The mistruths and omissions utilized by law enforcement in the affidavit to convince Judge Whitney to sign the original warrant were evident to everyone in the courtroom; worrisome is they were not evident to the Judge who should have been outraged at what defense arguments labeled as a ‘judicial duping’ by Steve Reed and other law enforcement personnel.
Another issue raised during Monday’s hearing was whether law enforcement had enough probable cause to obtain the search warrant in the first place.
Instead of relying on probable cause, in this case as is typical with most medical cannabis cases in San Diego, law enforcement took advantage of a neighbor’s complaint of cannabis smell as reason enough to invade and destroy the Gastrich residence.
Taking the pieces of the investigation which supported evidence of marijuana and withholding the pieces of evidence which supported that the marijuana was medical and therefore lawful, the cross-sworn officers took their investigation to a California state court in a state were medical cannabis is lawful, and obtained a search warrant based solely on the premise that marijuana was smelled and that marijuana is illegal.
When will patients’ rights be respected by law enforcement? If judges will grant law enforcement the right to break down doors with guns draw simply because of the existence of marijuana in the home, we are all vulnerable to being abused, arrested, and drug through court for exercising our right to choose a medicine that helps us and is lawful by a ballot vote of the people.
In the hearing which lasted just under ten hours over two days, law enforcement investigators vehemently defended their warrant while the defense attempted to tease out just how much evidence pointing to medical cannabis had been kept from the judge and exactly why it was that the Gastrich family caught the attention of the cross jurisdiction Narcotics Task Force, or Team 9 of Operation Green Dope.
Apparently, it all began with a neighbor who became curious and then complained about a greenhouse structure in the Gastrich backyard, specifically a plywood barrier atop the fence between the two yards.
In a letter - which during the hearing caused somewhat of a Perry Mason moment after being whipped out of the lead case agent’s purse and entered into evidence never having been examined even by the prosecution - Gastrich explained the barrier was erected to protect his medical cannabis from the neighboring spot light.
This letter, addressed by Gastrich to neighbor Steve Skinner was subsequently sent to investigators in a series of moves that began with Skinner’s phone call to San Diego City Councilmember Kevin Faulconer a result of which the Narcotics Task Force launched their investigation.
The investigation was fraught with surveillance, K-9 units and a multitude of tactics to determine if marijuana was growing even though the Gastrich letter spoke of the medical cannabis grow and this was a fact neither of the defendants ever hid from.
What was missing from the investigation was even the slightest attempt to substantiate the couple’s garden as a legitimate medical cannabis garden.
Investigators wasted scarce resources to find probable cause for a fact the defendants would have freely admitted but they utterly failed to investigate if the Gastrichs were patients and further, carefully omitted any indication this might be so when they asked a judge if they could violate the 4th Amendment Rights of these citizens.
Special Agent Michelle Sarubbi of the U.S. Forestry lead the eight person swat-style raid including cross-sworn officers Matt Stevens, Steve Reed and a host of other Team Nine members sworn to protect California law but donning DEA hats when it suits them.
The judge was misled and these investigators wasted valuable resources and failed to protect the people or uphold the law.
This is more of the same from San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, her fierce fight against patients and her dedication to overturning state law.
For more information on medical cannabis in San Diego, please visit our website at www.SafeAccessSD.org
Operation Green Dope; Bonnie Dumanis’ Medical Marijuana Eradication Effort Takes on New Name - http://www.safeaccesssd.org/2011/06/operation-green-dope-bonnie-dumanis.html