By Terrie Best – San Diego Americans for Safe Access
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.