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Good News: Pain Patient Richard Paey Pardoned by Florida's Governor

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
St. Petersburg Times
URL: 
http://www.painreliefnetwork.org/prn/paey-given-full-pardon-crist-orders-him-freed-today.php

Law Enforcement: Asset Forfeiture Funds Spent on Banquets, Balls, and Balloons in Atlanta

A routine audit of the Fulton County (Atlanta) district attorney's office has turned up questionable spending of money seized from drug suspects under asset forfeiture laws. Less than a month ago, similar apparent abuses were uncovered in the Austin, Texas, police department.

According to auditor's reports, almost one-third of the 376 checks written out of the asset forfeiture account in 2006 were either questionable or not allowed under federal guidelines. Those questionable expenses totaled more than $2 million.

Under federal asset forfeiture laws, money seized by the feds and handed over to state law enforcement may only be used for law enforcement purposes. But District Attorney Paul Howard has a very expansive view of just what that means. According to auditor's reports gathered by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state open records act, Howard's asset forfeiture fund spending included:

  • $1,500 to sponsor the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys;
  • $5,150 for benefits, dinners, football tickets, fundraisers, and balls sponsored by various civic organizations -- none of them directly related to law enforcement;
  • $5,500 spent on rent and catering for a staff Christmas party;
  • $89 for a Superman-style red cape with "Super Lawyer" printed on it that an assistant prosecutor was encouraged to wear at the Christmas party;
  • $150 for a dinner party to celebrate the conviction of a murderer; and
  • $9,100 for Howard's perfect attendance program for students in Atlanta's public elementary schools.

DA Howard defended the expenditures, saying they were tools for fighting crime and boosting office morale. "We cannot pay our employees bonuses. We can't pay overtime," Howard said. "I tried to come up with ways to increase morale."

But county auditors questioned the propriety of the spending, saying Howard may have violated federal asset forfeiture rules. Auditors also raised flags about Howard's mixing various types of funding in the same account.

"This account has several types of funds commingled," the auditor wrote. "These commingled funds include victim witness funds, federal equitable sharing agreement funds and regular operating funds. Commingling these funds is strictly prohibited since all these funds are for a specific purpose."

Howard said there is nothing wrong with putting money from different sources in one account. "We tracked the money," Howard said. "The money was not misused." But he has since created separate accounts for the different funds.

The auditor's reports are not final. They are now being reviewed by a private auditor.

Marijuana: Humboldt County Supervisors Say Legalize It

In a 4-0 vote, the Humboldt County, California, Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to send a letter to their congressional representative asking him to work to legalize marijuana. Humboldt County is part of Northern California's famed marijuana growing "Emerald Triangle."

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Humboldt County ''Drug Enforcement Unit'' -- just abolish it
The letter, which was proposed by Supervisor Roger Rodoni, asks US Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) for his "support in helping to initiate legislation which will legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana."

Rodoni pronounced himself pleasantly surprised by the unanimous vote in an interview this week with the Eureka Reporter. "I was prepared to consider it a furthering of the conversation," he said, adding that he didn't anticipate the board's receptive vote.

The move comes on the heels of a similar effort by nearby Mendocino County, which last month endorsed marijuana legalization. Other California localities have approved measures calling for the taxation and regulation of marijuana, including Oakland (2004), Santa Cruz (2006), and San Francisco (2006).

Marijuana is a multi-billion dollar business in California and is especially important to local economies in Northern California.

Drug War Prisoners: Pain Patient Richard Paey to Get Shot at Early Clemency

A Florida man serving a 25-year sentence as a drug dealer for attempting to obtain pain medications for his back injuries will be granted an expedited chance to appeal for clemency. Richard Paey, 48, has already served four years in Florida prisons for using undated prescription forms to obtain pain medications.

Inmates must typically serve at least a third of their sentences before being considered for clemency. But in the Paey case, which has received national attention, the state Clemency Board last week voted to grant a waiver. His case is scheduled to be voted on by the board next month.

Paey, a former lawyer and father of three, was observed going from pharmacy to pharmacy in his wheelchair seeking medications to relieve the pain from a 1985 auto accident that injured his back. Prosecutors argued that anyone forging prescriptions to obtain so many pain pills had to be selling them, but Paey said he had to use large amounts of opioid pain relievers to be able to function. Paey's pain is so severe that the Florida Department of Corrections has him on a morphine pump.

Paey appealed his conviction, but the Florida Supreme Court in March refused to hear his case. Now, clemency appears to be his best shot at regaining his freedom.

(The November Coalition has posted an important action alert about the case here.)

New Mexico Medical Marijuana Update -- Richardson Says Full Steam Ahead Despite Attorney General's "Prank"

Late Thursday night we reported in the Chronicle that New Mexico's Dept. of Health had balked at supplying medical marijuana to patients following a warning from state Attorney General Gary King that he wouldn't defend state workers if the feds prosecuted them. Gov. Richardson, who is running for president in the Democratic primary, has ordered the Health Dept. to comply with the law, and has urged President Bush to stop the medical marijuana prosecutions. I'm not surprised by Richardson's stance, given how hard he fought to rescue the bill last spring when its demise had already been pronounced. Looking at the text of the law, I really have to say I think King is full of it. The law does not tell the Health Dept. to have its own employees grow or distribute marijuana; it tells the department to license people to grow it. Then those licensees will be taking their chances with the feds, for their own individual reasons. But that's not the same thing as state employees being subject to federal prosecution themselves. There have certainly been federal raids of medical marijuana providers in states that have licensed them, but not of the state agencies who have issued them licenses to protect them from state prosecution. Good for Bill Richardson, shame on Gary King, did he really think he could put that one over?
Location: 
Santa Fe, NM
United States

Medical Marijuana: Feds Seek Oregon Patient Records in Probe of Growers -- Patients Cry Foul

Oregon medical marijuana patients and their supporters are up in arms after it was revealed that a federal grand jury next door in Yakima, Washington, has issued subpoenas demanding medical records for 17 Oregon patients. The subpoenas were issued in April as part of a federal investigation into a small number of Washington and Oregon marijuana growers.

Subpoenas were served to the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, the state office that issues permits to patients and growers, as well as The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, a private Portland clinic where doctors examine patients to see if their conditions can be alleviated by medical marijuana.

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Donald DuPay, official 2006 election photo
As part of the same investigation, DEA agents in June raided the home of medical marijuana patient and caregiver Donald DuPay, seizing 135 plants he was growing for other patients. DuPay, who hosts a local cable TV show about marijuana, was not arrested. He is among the 17 people whose records were subpoenaed.

For Oregon patients, the experience has been frightening and disturbing. "It's crazy. It's really scary. If they can get my records, they can get Gov. Kulongoski's, they can get yours," DuPay, a former Portland police officer and 2006 candidate for Multnomah County sheriff, told The Oregonian on Saturday.

For medical marijuana advocates, it looks like a new tactic deployed by the feds in their ongoing effort to thwart state medical marijuana laws. The grand jury subpoenas are the first ever issued for patient records in a marijuana case, "and of course, it is very worrisome," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "People have an expectation of medical privacy, and I think they have a right to expect medical privacy," Mirken said. "It's one thing to talk about people selling a product that is in fact not legal under federal law. We may think that's stupid. But that's in a whole different realm than obtaining people's medical records."

"This sends a message to the other states and their programs that they're vulnerable to federal interference," said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access. "It doesn't take a brick to hit you over the head to know that the federal government is trying to undermine California's medical marijuana law, given all the raids and threats to landlords. This is one step further that shows the federal government is very serious about going after patients."

Patients and their advocates are fighting the subpoenas. On August 1, attorneys representing the state of Oregon, and the ACLU representing The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, went before Chief US District Court Judge Robert Whaley in Yakima to urge him to throw out the subpoenas.

In that hearing, Assistant US Attorney James Hagery, who is leading the federal investigation, admitted that the subpoenas were too broadly written. He told the judge the grand jury is investigating "four or five" Washington and Oregon growers for using the medical marijuana laws to cover up their marijuana sales, that the 17 patients were people who got medical marijuana from the growers in question, and that the grand jury wants only current addresses and phone numbers, not "medical records" for those patients.

Hagerty did not explain why, if he is investigating alleged non-medical marijuana sales, he needs to look at registered medical marijuana patients.

A ruling on the subpoenas will come soon, the judge said.

Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Balks At Growing It

Update: Gov. Richardson has ordered the Health Dept. to implement the law, and has urged President Bush to stop the medical marijuana prosecutions.

When the New Mexico legislature passed the state's medical marijuana law this year, the law was unique in mandating that the state would oversee the production and distribution of the herb. But Wednesday, the state health department announced it would not comply with that portion of the law for fear of the feds arresting state employees.

"The Department of Health will not subject its employees to potential federal prosecution, and therefore will not distribute or produce medical marijuana," said Dr. Alfredo Vigil, who heads the agency.

The decision was not exactly a surprise. New Mexico Attorney General Gary King warned last week that the department and its employees could be criminally prosecuted by the feds and that his office could not defend state workers in criminal cases.

But while lifting the threat of potential federal prosecution from the health department and its employees, the move may open them to legal action from supporters of the law. The agency is "leaving itself open for a lawsuit," Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico office head Reena Szczepanski told the Associated Press Wednesday. "I remember certain legislators talking about how they didn't want their grandmother to have to go into some alley and deal with some criminal element," said Szczepanski.

Racial Profiling: Kansas Police Agencies Honor Reporting Law Mostly in the Breach

Only one out of three Kansas law enforcement agencies are reporting racial profiling information to the state attorney general's office, the Kansas City Star reported Saturday. This despite a law signed two years ago by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) requiring them to do so in a bid to end police stops based solely on skin color.

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enter at peril of profiling
The law requires departments to make annual reports listing complaints of racial profiling, but it has no enforcement mechanism. "We don't have any enforcement ability" over those agencies that don't report, said Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison. "There's no penalty if they don't report."

"There's no hammer behind the law. No teeth in it," said state Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City), who was an original sponsor of the bill. "It became the proverbial toothless paper tiger."

So toothless that 284 of Kansas' 431 law enforcement entities -- that's 66% -- didn't bother to comply. It doesn't have to be that way. Next door in Missouri, there is a 97% compliance rate, not least because departments that don't comply stand to lose funds. In 2005, the Missouri Department of Public Safety withheld more than $7,000 from 17 non-complying agencies.

Nor is that the only problem with the Kansas racial profiling law. It also called for a 15-member Governor's Task Force on Racial Profiling, which was supposed to quantify the problem and make recommendations for abolishing the practice. But some of the task force's members apparently can't be bothered to actually show up for monthly meetings, leaving it without a quorum at its last one.

Among the critics is the task force's co-chairman. "Up until this point there's been a lot of dialogue, but the truth is, people are looking for action," said the Rev. Allen Smith of Salina. "We're expecting some real results," said Smith, pastor of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church in Salina. "I don't think the issue is going away."

Sen. Donald Betts (D-Wichita), another sponsor of the legislation, said the task force's role was even more critical because of the lack of teeth in the data collection part of the law. He said he would call for the replacement of task force members if something doesn't happen. "It does not take forever and a day to come up with recommendations of data collection," he said. "It's time to stop talking about it and time to be about it. It's time to move… If the task force doesn't do something, I intend to hold the task force accountable."

Racial profiling was identified as a problem in Kansas after a study released in 2003 showed that state troopers were three times as likely to stop black and Hispanic motorists than white ones. Police in some Kansas cities were also found to be twice as likely to stop black or brown motorists.

The 2005 bill was supposed to address that problem, but without the cooperation of law enforcement it will not. As for the task force, it has until 2009 to complete its work. But it may not get that long, especially if the police don't step up and start handing in their numbers.

Search and Seizure: Arizona Supreme Court Limits Vehicle Searches

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled late last month that police cannot routinely search the vehicles of people they arrest. In a 3-2 decision in State v. Gant, the court held that the warrantless search of Rodney Gant's vehicle after he was arrested, handcuffed, and sitting in the back seat of a police car went beyond an allowable search incident to arrest and was "not justifiable."

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/car-search.jpg
police searching accused drug traffickers' car
Gant, from Tucson, was convicted on drug charges after police waiting for him as part of a drug investigation arrested him on a warrant for driving on a suspended license when he drove up to a targeted address. Police knew he had the pre-existing warrant because they had checked up on him during an earlier encounter at the same address. When Gant drove up and got out of his car, police called him over and arrested and handcuffed him. They then searched the vehicle and found the drugs that led to his conviction. The court overturned the conviction, calling the search a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The legal argument centered around whether the facts in this case were consistent with a search incident to arrest. US courts have recognized searches incident to arrest as one of the few areas where the Fourth Amendment requirement of probable cause or a search warrant not does apply, citing officer safety and the need to preserve evidence.

The Arizona Supreme Court held that the search of Gant's vehicle after he was already under arrest and handcuffed for a traffic warrant was not a search incident to arrest. "When the justifications [for a search incident to arrest] no longer exist because the scene is secure and the arrestee is handcuffed, secured in the back of a patrol car, and under the supervision of an officer, the warrantless search of the arrestee's car cannot be justified as necessary to protect the officers at the scene or prevent the destruction of evidence," wrote Justice Rebecca Berch for the majority.

Arizona law enforcement was not happy about the ruling, and some agencies suggested they would find ways to skirt it. Police departments across the state, working with the Arizona Association of Chiefs of Police and the Arizona Law Enforcement Legal Advisors' Association, filed briefs urging the court to uphold the conviction and hinting they would adopt different arrest procedures -- perhaps not handcuffing suspects until after a vehicle search -- to be able to continue the practice.

Justice Berch addressed that implied threat in her opinion. "We presume that police officers will exercise proper judgment in their contacts with arrestees and will not engage in conduct which creates unnecessary risks to their safety or public safety in order to circumvent the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirements," she wrote.

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

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