Trimmers Busted on Brown Paper Bag Evidence—

Kym Kemp / Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011 @ 7:03 p.m. / Humboldt , marijuana ,  News

 

The raid which resulted in the arrest of multiple foreign nationals and which marked the acknowledged beginning of a new slant of targeting trimmers also marks a great I-told-you-so point for the more paranoid.  According to today’s piece in the Times Standard,  some of the major pieces of evidence against the trimmers are scribbled onto the sides of paper bags.  The piece says, “… investigators also found brown paper grocery bags with the defendants’ names or initials on them that contained processed marijuana. Cox said the bags were used to track who trimmed how much marijuana…”  Countless folk are now muttering, “I told you guys not to write names on the bags!”  In the future, folk will be back to using symbols or code.

Meanwhile, in a guest post, Skippy Massey offers up a summary and opinion on

DISTRICT ATTORNEY PAUL GALLEGOS GOING AFTER TRIMMERS: PART II

(Much thanks to the Times Standard’s Thaddeus Greenson for his excellent work which is the basis for much of Skippy’s and my work)

Trimmers, the Scales of Justice, and the Long Arm of the Claw

Kym recently pointed out the glaring disconnect of District Attorney Paul Gallegos’ new enforcement slant of going after lowly cannabis trimmers while an organizing kingpin goes free. Stanislaw Kopiej’s massive $1 million Hydesville  marijuana bust and probation-only plea bargain is a stark contrast to the bud tending female trimmers soaked and hammered with felony charges by the DA’s office. He’s free on bail— while the trim ladies languish in the 5th Street Salmon Slammer. Birds of a tether do time together, per the wobbly scales of justice and Gallegos’ new attitude.

THE COSTS of the two-day preliminary hearing for the four female co-defendant trimmers in the Hydesville/Bridgeville grow operation has exceeded $10,000— and that’s just to determine if there’s enough evidence holding the defendants to answer to felony charges of cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale. The defendants required court-appointed defense attorneys and four interpreters traveling from Southern California to translate the proceedings into Russian and Bulgarian costing $8,000. Incarcerating the trimmers for the past 25 days have so far cost an additional $8,000. Taxpayers footing the bill will see increasingly significant expenses should the case ultimately proceed to a jury trial.

IS THE District Attorney’s hard line on marijuana trimmers a costly new policy— a waste of resources by not pleading them down from felonies— or a cost-effective, long-term ‘tough love’ strategy? It all depends upon whom you speak to.

We try to do things efficiently and not waste taxpayer resources, but my job is to make sure the law applies to everyone,” Gallegos said. “If someone makes it more expensive and therefore I don’t prosecute, then where do you draw the lines? Once I get involved in drawing lines other than the law, I don’t know where to start and I don’t know where to end,” he said. Gallegos noted it’s the defense strategy of drawing out these hearings that makes them more expensive.

TAKING A tough line with methamphetamine and heroin dealers, Gallegos refuses to ignore the area’s illicit marijuana industry. “Those profiting from the industry whether by trimming or running grow operations are enjoying the benefits of society without paying for them,” Gallegos said. “Even after arrested, they’re given taxpayer funded interpreters and defense attorneys and are afforded the protections of the society they’ve been cheating.GALLEGOS SAID he expects trimmers to plead guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy, possession, or maintaining a residence or property for cultivation. “The felonies can be ‘wobblers,’ meaning that if defendants successfully complete one year of probation they can petition to have them reduced to a misdemeanor and, after a few more years, petition to have the conviction expunged. I think that’s fair,” Gallegos said.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY Eddie Schrock strongly disagrees. “The message (my client) received is that if you have enough money in our system you can buy your way out of jail. I think the judge was very clear that, at best, these are low-level individuals that have certainly been treated much more harshly than (the grower in this case) Mr. Kopiej.

It’s a waste of resources,” said attorney Jeffrey Schwartz, also representing one of the co-defendants. “When you can’t go after everything, you have to pick and choose. So why pick and choose trimmers? Trimmers are at the bottom of the marijuana food chain. They generally get paid about $200 per pound of processed marijuana that they produce— roughly equal to 10 percent of the market price, about $20 an hour for the average worker. Spending

large amounts of limited public funds going after what are essentially hourly employees looking to make a bit of money just doesn’t make much sense,” Schwartz said.

SCHWARTZ ALSO believes the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office’s approach to the case represents a clear departure. “They are, in essence, treating the trimmers equal to the growers, and that’s unprecedented in this county, if not in the entire state,” Schwartz said, adding that prosecutors are offering nothing less than a felony plea. “It’s a huge disparity. You’re supposed to go by culpability, and I think everyone would agree that trimmers are way low down the chain in Humboldt County.” In fact, Schwartz said he thinks trimmers would fall lower than hydroponics stores, fertilizer dealers and nutrient shops. ”Those are all way more involved in the cultivation of marijuana in Humboldt County than trimmers,” he said.

CALIFORNIA HASTINGS College of Law professor David Levine sees both sides of the issue. “Prosecutors prioritize cases all the time. The short-term cost-effectiveness of these cases and strategy looks very expensive, and it does seem harsh to go after these little people and force them to plead to a felony,” Levine said. “But one interesting thing about going after some of these low-level people is that maybe word will spread that this is a dangerous place to go work, and then maybe some of the work force will dry up… but you really won’t know for a couple of years if this was a smart move by the DA or not.

RECENT CASES that featured the arrest of dozens of trimmers should send a message, Gallegos said. “These people need to understand that they are engaged in illegal activities and there will be consequences until the law is changed,” Gallegos said. “I hope they understand that we are looking and we are watching and we are waiting until they’re there to do our busts.”

BUT IF these recent cases are any indication, defense attorneys are holding firm by advising their clients not to plead, leading to lengthy and costly proceedings. In essence, the ante has been raised and pockets are being lined. Humboldt and SoHum residents overwhelmingly voting for Paul Gallegos wonder why he’s employing a tougher hard line approach above and beyond the appropriate level of social justice and good common sense. In the wake of this case, one questions whether there’s good reason for the pricey new policy of targeting trimmers. And why the organizing growing kingpins go free.

(Information sourced from Thadeus Greenson/Times-Standard here and here, Kym Kemp, and the Humboldt Sentinel)

18 comments

  • Fiance here: I’d lay odds it because the Feds are up his tail…he is running scared!
  • yep-be afraid-nor cal is a psych test-
  • im hoping they dont take the plea bargain, cause offering them a felony while the grower is already out on bond is just plain wrong,.

    so lets say this goes to court with a jury and everything like that, dont you think most of the jurors (assuming they are all locals) have their hand in the marijuana industry, whther that means they have helped a buddy trim before, grown themselves, or anything else that connects them. what im getting at is if they get a jury i would think the jury is gonna laugh in the face of the prosecution and find them all not guilty…..i know i would.


    what do you think kym?…..everyone?
  • I have to agree that it may be pretty hard to get a Humboldt jury to convict trimmers on felony charges, especially if they’re aware that the higher-ups are walking away with sweet plea bargains in exchange for making a legalized bribe. (Oops, did I say “..in exchange for making a legalized bribe?” Of course what I meant to say was “…in exchange for forfeiting hundreds of thousands in cash and property.”)

    By the way, if someone actually wrote their own full name on a bag of pot and it was sitting right in their lap when the cops burst in, well that’s one thing. But some bag found in another room, with just initials on it, or a name on it but written in someone else’s handwriting… well that seems like some pretty weak evidence.

    Bags may get consolidated, and buds may get moved from one bag to another, so the fact that such and such initials are on such and such bags doesn’t really prove anything. If that’s the kind of weak-assed “evidence” the prosecutors are hoping to use to prove “constructive possession,” then no wonder the trimmers’ lawyers are advising them to hang tough and take that kind of bullshit to trial.
  • someone named Stanislaw Kopiej just started working at my place of employment; around a week ago- a young kid.. no elderly bulgarian drug kingpin.. haha what an insane name coincidence?
  • This is some excellent reporting, par for the course for Ms. Kemp. I remember being naively skeptical when some people in my hometown said that bigger growers paid off law enforcement to escape justice, but now that it’s blatantly on the front page, well….
  • The fat cat is charged with a felony too. He just had the bucks to get out on bail. Trimmers are broke so they stay in jail pending the outcome of their cases.
    Unfair but standard.
  • In this case, the trimmers still in jail are there because they are foreign nationals. They are considered a flight risk. The grower has agreed to a plea bargain which is why he is out. They don’t want to agree to a felony because that means they won’t be allowed back in to the US once their sentences are fulfilled. I’m not sure that they would be allowed to agree to community service as they are considered flight risks. That is something I’ll need to find out.
  • Gallegos may have the Feds up his rear end but he’s proven he’s just another craven, corrupt, pandering politician who’s loyalty goes to the highest bidder. Latest in a long list of examples is Stanislaw Kopiej. Gallegos won’t be getting many votes if he’s greedy enough to run again. I’ll wager the fat cats case disappears.
  • In response to Kym Kemp
    “The grower has agreed to a plea bargain which is why he is out.”

    I’m not sure that’s really 100% accurate. He’s out of jail because he had the money to post bail. I believe the plea bargain is basically a seperate matter, dealing with the eventual disposition of his case, not his immediate custodial status. (But maybe I’m wrong and the plea bargain actually does have some bearing on the bail situation. In my opinion it shouldn’t, but maybe it does in some way that I’m not aware of?)

    Either way, in both cases the key ingredient is money — and lots of it. The grower apparently had lots of money (or access to lots of money, perhaps from some of his associates further up the distribution chain) so he could put up the bail and get out of jail. And he apparently has plenty of money for a private lawyer, which no doubt helped him obtain the generous plea bargain. Perhaps most importantly, there was a lot of money seized at the site, which the system wants to get their hands on and for which the DA seems willing to trade leniency in the plea bargain negotiations in exchange for the immediate forfeiture of this cash.

    The lesson for big growers seems clear: Just make sure there is plenty of money on-site that can get seized, so you can later exchange forfeiture of that cash for a lenient plea bargain. Meanwhile, make sure you have a bunch of money socked away somewhere else, to cover your bail and a private lawyer. As long as everyone gets paid, everyone goes home happy.

    Well, everybody except your labor force of trimmers — and as far as that goes, I guess the idea is “fuck ‘em, they’re on their own.” Apparently if they didn’t want to risk rotting in jail they ought to have become big, well-capitalized growers, not just a bunch of broke-ass, expendable day laborers.
  • There’s an elephant in the room: a giant disconnect between reasoning, social justice, plain judicial common sense. Why?

    Mr. Gallegos previously stated in the Times-Standard: “(Trimmers) are all engaged in a criminal enterprise so we expect them all to plead guilty to a felony…. people should keep in mind that growers sustain other losses when busted. The people that we believe are running the business, we are taking them out of business. The trimmers lose less at a bust because they have not invested in the enterprise. The big people, they lose all their money, all their product, and all the capital.”

    Think about this for a moment. While big growers walk away having lost capital, trimmers, on the other hand, have no such material assets. They aren’t ‘big people.’ In fact, they are more likely to be on the fringe of being poor with little to show. Under the DA’s unprecedented reasoning they’re expected to to plead guilty to felonies— while in one example at least one grower walks away and likely receiving a sweet plea bargain in return for forfeiture. Also keep in mind that after being found guilty by a plea of felony, trimmers risk being sentenced to State Prison by the nature of their plea.

    And there certainly are other options available than expending taxpayers’ money to incarcerate trimmers for court proceedings, too. Today, the jail population was at 400 individuals housed in a facility with 391 beds. It’s overcrowded, filled with more serious felony offenders (and perhaps 18 Occupy Eureka protesters on lesser charges as of late). Trimmers should be allowed to post a reasonable bail amount, be considered for temporary release based on their own recognizance, or, if need be, receive supervised electronic monitoring until court disposition.

    We outlawed the idea of Debtors’ Prison in this nation long ago in 1833. Incarcerating trimmers and expecting them to cop to a felony plea because they have nothing to forfeit— ‘no money, product, and capital’ and believing they ‘lose less’ because they ‘have not invested in the enterprise’— is, at best, unreasonable, disingenuous, and draconian. It’s a glaring disconnect of justice.

    To note, yours truly asked an attorney well-connected to the case today about the DA’s new slant against trimmers. His response? “It’s true. Paul’s being harsh and I believe it’s because he’s being leaned on by the Drug Task Force to do so.”
  • When voting in 2012, remember how that lying sack of shit Obama lied to you! Legal MMJ busts under Obama [in 3 years] are up almost 100% over Bush in 8 years.
    Ron Paul has wanted to legalize MMJ for 35 years.

    Gallegos is using MMJ to further his NAZI career. Vote that prick out too. Gallegos is a pussy.
  • Thanks Skippy and Tra for some excellent points. I always feel I learn so much from comments like that.
  • In response to tonebone
    Tonebone, I understand your anger. But I ask people who comment here to not use insults. I hope you understand. I appreciate your choice to be part of the conversation but I ask everyone to avoid terms like sack of shit, Nazi etc.I know it is hard to do that when you’re angry but, for me, it detracts from the conversation.
  • In response to tonebone
    One of the good things about our system is that the District Attorney, being an elected official, is held accountable to you. In this system, the pendulum can often swing from left to right given the issues and concerns of the community. Fortunately, Kym is reporting on these subjects and keeping you informed. If the DA continues a trend of being overly harsh targeting trimmers, voters can bring up their concerns, hear his response, and vote their conscience at the ballot box. These trim cases are deserving of scrutiny. Until then, keep an open mind. Mr. Gallegos has been a fair, decent, and honorable man so far. He should be given a fair shot of being judged based upon his merits, track record, and how well he’s been serving our community over a period of time.
  • In response to skippy
    Tonebone…..I agree with you 100% about Obama’s lies on medical marijuana but please keep it clean. We’re all frustrated over this one but my kids visit this site. As for Gallegos, he lies like Obama and any other politician.

    Thanks
  • Big growers obviously have more to loose than trimmers but most big growers have lots of cash hidden away in the usual places and are right back in operation. The tons of cash used for their bail is also used to resume their operation.
  • […] THINGS IN THE BUD: Ms. Kemp’s Hemp Report begs the question of District Attorney Gallegos’ new slant of targeting trimmers with felony […]
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