Prosecution

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I'm as angry as I've been in a long time over this one...

This one has me as angry as I've been in a long time. Tampa Bay, Florida, area resident Mark O'Hara served two years of a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for 58 Vicodin pills. (Vicodin is an opiate pain reliever.) Sound like an extreme sentence for such a small amount, even if it was trafficking as the charges read? But there's more. O'Hara had a prescription for the pills. He's a pain patient. His doctor confirmed that he had prescribed the Vicodin to O'Hara and that he had been treating O'Hara for years. But prosecutors moved against him, and -- astonishingly -- argued to the judge that the jury shouldn't be informed that O'Hara had a prescription for the Vicodin, because there's no "prescription defense." And the judge -- doubly astonishingly -- actually bought it. Never mind the fact that the drug law O'Hara was charged with violating specifically exempts people who have a prescription. The appellate judges who threw out his conviction used words like "ridiculous" and "absurd" to describe it. Sickeningly, prosecutors have yet to say that O'Hara is off the hook and won't be taken to trial again. I think we need to organize on this one and press the system to do justice to the prosecutors and judge for the terrible atrocity they committed against Mark O'Hara. Knowingly imprisoning an innocent person is the functional equivalent of kidnapping. It should be treated as such. Prosecutors Mark Ober and Darrell Dirks should be in chains; their continued status as individuals holding power in the criminal justice system poses a threat to the safety of all Americans. The judge who enabled the kidnapping, Ronald Ficarrotta, may only be completely incompetent, but I'm not sure he should get that benefit of the doubt. Read more at Reason.
Location: 
Tampa, FL
United States

A New Activist's Tactic Emerges in the Rosenthal Trial

One of the feature stories I'm working on this week is the Ed Rosenthal re-trial on federal marijuana production and distribution charges, which ended yesterday with a split verdict. The trial was a complete waste of time since even if Rosenthal was found guilty, he could not be sentenced to anything more than the one day he had already served, but federal prosecutors were vindictively determined to get their man. Rosenthal's supporters were equally determined not to help the government, and that's where the new tactic emerged: A dozen people in the medical marijuana movement who had been subpoenaed to testify against Rosenthal simply refused. A civil contempt citation is the usual response to such refusals, but as the judge in the case noted, the contempt citation is designed to impel people to testify, not to punish the. When the judge asked if throwing them in jail for the weekend would change their minds, they all said no. Since they convinced the judge they were rock solid in their positions, he decided not to issue the citations and instead dismissed them. He also thanked them for the dignity they displayed in articulating their positions. We should all thank them for taking this courageous stand. Who knows? Maybe we can start a movement. Look for a feature story on the trial and the witness rebellion tomorrow.
Location: 
United States

OUR VIEW: Corruption exacts its toll in public funds and confidence

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Standard-Times (MA)
URL: 
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070520/OPINION/705200318

Three-month drugs trial takes its toll

Location: 
Auckland
New Zealand
Publication/Source: 
Stuff (New Zealand)
URL: 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/4062954a12855.html

Ganja Guru retrial begins

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
AXcess News (KY)
URL: 
http://www.axcessnews.com/index.php/articles/show/id/11002

Initial Hurwitz Prosecutor Resigns from DOJ #2 Post

good riddance to Paul McNulty!!!!! One of the big news stories today was the resignation of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty as part of the US Attorneys firings scandal. I commented on the possibility of a McNulty firing on March 20th here in the Speakeasy, pointing out his history as the prosecutor who initiated charges against pain physician Dr. William Hurwitz, got the DEA's pain FAQ pulled to influence the trial, as well as his role in getting parole abolished in the state of Virginia. McNulty was present last month when the new Hurwitz verdicts -- more limited than the original, though still negative -- were read. Good riddance to Paul McNulty. May this mark an end to his evil works once and for all.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

In the opium capital of the world, very late lessons in drug enforcement

Location: 
Kabul
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
International Herald Tribune (France)
URL: 
http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/05/15/asia/opium.php

Opening statements set for today in the retrial of marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
KSBY 6 (CA)
URL: 
http://www.ksby.com/Global/story.asp?S=6516392

Pain Update -- Dr. Maynard

The Pain Relief Network has posted updates on the case of Virgin Islands pain physician Dr. Paul Maynard, here, here and here. I don't think we have past coverage of Dr. Maynard's case on DRCNet, but our under-treatment of pain feed gets updated regularly (and is also available via RSS).
Location: 
VI
United States

What the heck is going on in Licking County, Ohio?

There's something funny going on in Licking County, Ohio. According to the local newspaper's courthouse roundup, a bunch of people were charged with drug trafficking, but the charges don't seem to match the facts. Let me show you what I mean:
• Ti C. Warner, 27, last known address 381 N. Executive Drive, Newark, was charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs, a second-degree felony. The charge also carries a specification of selling drugs near a school. Between March 29 and 30, Warner allegedly was observed by Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force buying a total of about seven grams of methamphetamine on two occasions, according to court reports. Both purchases were allegedly made in the vicinity of a Newark City school, according to court reports. Branstool set Warner’s bond at $40,000. • Sherry L. Runyon, 46, last known address 16328 Pleasant Hills, Newark, was charged with trafficking in crack cocaine, a fifth degree felony. On April 11, she allegedly was observed by Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force buying less than one gram of crack cocaine, according to court reports. Branstool set Runyon’s bond at $10,000. • Kevin L. Barker, 29, last known address 9215 Lancaster Road, Hebron, was charged with aggravated trafficking in drugs, a fourth-degree felony. On March 26, he allegedly was observed by Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force buying 1.64 grams of methamphetamine, according to court reports. Branstool set Barker’s bond at $10,000.
Do you see what I mean? These are people who were apparently caught buying drugs. And they are charged with drug trafficking? I don't know who is responsible for these charging decisions—either the Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force or local prosecutors—but they don't seem to be supported by the facts. And here's one more bizarre charging example from Licking County:
• Kelly L. Mihelarakis, 32, last known address 633 Mount Vernon Road, Newark, was charged with permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony. Between March 29 and 30, Mihelarakis allegedly allowed an associate to buy about seven grams of methamphetamine on two occasions. Both alleged purchases were made in the vicinity of a Newark City school, according to court reports. Branstool set Mihelarakis’ bond at $5,000.
Excuse me!? "Permitting drug abuse"? This person is charging with not stopping someone else from buying speed? This is a crime? You have got to be kidding. Well, my hat is off to the Central Ohio Drug Enforcement Task Force and the Licking County criminal justice system. With their apparently unjustified charging decisions, they are certainly doing their part to ensure that Ohio's chronic prison overcrowding crisis continues.
Location: 
OH
United States

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