Rosenthal gets retrial

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Rosenthal gets retrial

Postby palmspringsbum » Thu Apr 27, 2006 8:08 pm

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote:OAKLAND

Juror's call upends medical pot conviction
Appeals court rules advice from lawyer prejudiced case

- Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, April 27, 2006



<img src=bin/rosenthal.jpg align=right width=300>A federal appeals court overturned the pot-growing convictions of a prominent advocate of medical marijuana Wednesday because of a juror's phone call to an attorney friend, who told her to follow the judge's instructions or she could get in trouble.

The juror's unauthorized contact on the eve of the verdict in January 2003 was an "improper influence'' that denied Oakland resident Ed Rosenthal a trial before an impartial jury, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a 3-0 ruling granting him a new trial.

"Jurors cannot fairly determine the outcome of a case if they believe they will face 'trouble' for a conclusion they reach as jurors,'' said the opinion by Judge Betty Fletcher. "The threat of punishment works a coercive influence on the jury's independence.''

The ruling was narrow and did not address most of the issues raised by the conflict between federal drug law, which prohibits growing or using marijuana, and California's Proposition 215, a 1996 initiative that allowed patients to use the drug with their doctors' approval. But the reversal of Rosenthal's convictions continued a series of post-trial setbacks for the government in one of its most prominent marijuana prosecutions.

The federal government has fared better in the U.S. Supreme Court, however, winning cases that upheld federal injunctions against medical marijuana clubs and allowed federal prosecution of individual patients and confiscation of their supplies.

Rosenthal's lawyer, Dennis Riordan, said the ruling and the events that prompted it underscore the uneasiness of the trial jurors, and their community, about criminal charges against a medical-marijuana supplier.

"There would not have been a conviction but for this outside influence'' of the attorney's advice, Riordan said. "Jurors never can be told they can get in trouble for what they say during deliberations.''

There was no immediate announcement from U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan's office on whether it would appeal the ruling or retry Rosenthal.

The appeals court signaled that a retrial and convictions on the same charges would result, at most, in a one-day jail sentence, the term imposed by Rosenthal's judge in 2003. Fletcher said the court "would not be inclined to disturb'' the judge's sentencing decision.

Rosenthal, the "Ask Ed'' columnist in High Times magazine and an authority on marijuana cultivation, was arrested in February 2002 on federal charges of growing hundreds of plants for patients served by the Harm Reduction Center, a San Francisco dispensary.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer refused to let jurors hear evidence about the intended medical use of the marijuana. He also rejected Rosenthal's assertion that he was a drug-enforcement officer -- and thus immune from prosecution under federal law -- because the city of Oakland had designated him as its agent to implement a municipal program of supplying medical marijuana to patients.

The appeals court agreed with that ruling Wednesday, saying Rosenthal may have been implementing Prop. 215 but was not enforcing it.

A jury convicted Rosenthal of three felony charges of cultivating marijuana, and he could have been sentenced to five years in prison. Instead, Breyer gave him a day in jail, which he had already served after his arrest.

The judge said Rosenthal had believed, mistakenly but reasonably, that he was not violating federal law because of his designation as Oakland's agent, an issue that the courts had not addressed.

Rosenthal nonetheless appealed his convictions, buoyed by support from seven of the 12 jurors. In post-trial statements to reporters and a letter to Breyer, the jurors said their verdict would have been different if they had been allowed to consider evidence about the medical use of the marijuana that Rosenthal grew and his status as an agent in the Oakland program.

Those qualms also led to the pre-verdict phone call that the appeals court cited as the basis for its ruling Wednesday.

In a sworn declaration, the unidentified juror said she had been troubled by the absence of evidence about medical marijuana and by the judge's instructions that jurors must consider only federal law. She said she had telephoned a lawyer she knew and asked if she had to follow the instructions or if she had any leeway for independent thought.

She said the lawyer had replied that she had to follow the instructions or she could "get into trouble.'' The juror said she had shared the advice with another juror who had expressed the same confusion.

Although the lawyer's advice was accurate, the warning that jurors could get in trouble was misleading and prejudicial, the appeals court said. "A juror who genuinely fears retribution might change his or her determination of the issue for fear of being punished,'' Judge Fletcher said.

E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.

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<span class=postbold>See Also</span>: Feds take aim at `Ganja Guru' again
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Fed jury slaps `Guru of Ganja' with host of new pot charges

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:27 pm

The Oakland Tribune wrote:Fed jury slaps `Guru of Ganja' with host of new pot charges

Ed Rosenthal says it's federal effort to shut down state pot clubs, "deprive people of their medicine"

By Josh Richman, STAFF WRITER
Inside Bay Area
Article Last Updated:10/12/2006 07:33:02 PM PDT

Oakland "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal was re-indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on a host of marijuana-related charges, roughly six months after an appeals court tossed out his earlier convictions.

The superseding indictment filed Thursday contains 25 counts against Rosenthal, 61, and two of his original co-defendants, Kenneth Hayes and Richard Watts. Rosenthal faces 14 counts including conspiracy, use of a place to manufacture marijuana for distribution, manufacturing marijuana for distribution, laundering money from marijuana sales, and filing false tax returns.

"I knew they had a grand jury but I didn't know what was going to happen," Rosenthal said Thursday night. "What they're trying to do with these indictments and with my continued persecution is to close down all of the dispensaries in California, to deprive people of their medicine."

"It's not the way I planned to spend my time for the next year but I'm resigned to it," he said, describing himself as an "everyman" who won't be cowed. "Most people considering their circumstances for one reason or another are forced to give in under the weight of government pressure. I'm not only standing up for dispensaries but for all these people who've been harassed and hounded by the government."

But he won't let it ruin his life, either. "We're still going out to dinner tonight," he said wryly.

Famed for his marijuana cultivation books and the "Ask Ed" column he wrote for High Times magazine, Rosenthal was convicted of three marijuana-growing felonies in 2003, more than a year after federal agents raided sites including his Oakland home, an Oakland warehouse in which he was growing marijuana, and a San Francisco medical marijuana club he supplied.

Medical use of marijuana on a doctor's recommendation is legal under state law but prohibited by federal law, so Rosenthal was barred from mounting a medical defense at trial. Breyer sentenced him to one day behind bars -- time he'd already served.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his convictions in April, finding juror misconduct -- a juror's conversation with an attorney-friend during deliberations -- compromised Rosenthal's right to a fair verdict and so warranted a new trial. But the court also rejected Rosenthal's claim of immunity from prosecution as an officer of Oakland who grew the drug under the city's medical marijuana ordinance. The court in July refused Rosenthal's requests for rehearing or for an "en banc" rehearing by a larger panel.

He and his lawyers appeared before Breyer in August and September as prosecutors prepared to retry him on the original charges, even as witnesses were being subpoenaed by a grand jury investigating new charges.

Watts was arrested and charged in the same 2002 raids which nabbed Rosenthal, but injuries sustained in a car accident have kept him from trial until now. Hayes fled to Canada to avoid prosecution.

Thursday's indictment essentially claims Rosenthal from October 2001 through February 2002 conspired with Hayes and Watts to grow marijuana at sites on Sixth Street in San Francisco and on Mandela Parkway in Oakland; laundered marijuana proceeds by buying four money orders totaling $1,854 during that time; and falsified tax returns for 1999, 2000 and 2001 by omitting income from his marijuana distribution. Hayes and Watts face similar, related charges.

"With these new more serious charges, I think I'll get even more community support," Rosenthal said Thursday. Citing recent federal raids of Bay Area, Modesto and Granada Hills dispensaries, he said his new indictment is part of "a concerted effort by the federal government" to crack down on medical marijuana.


MediaNews reporter Karl Fischer contributed to this report. Contact Josh Richman at jrichman@angnewspapers.com.

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Freed medical pot advocate is indicted again

Postby palmspringsbum » Fri Oct 13, 2006 1:36 pm

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote:<span class=postbold>BAY AREA</span>

Freed medical pot advocate is indicted again

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
The San Francisco Chronicle
Friday, October 13, 2006




Marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal, who successfully appealed his federal convictions for growing plants for a San Francisco medical marijuana club, was indicted again Thursday on an expanded set of charges, including filing false tax returns and money laundering.

The 2003 trial of Rosenthal, the "Ask Ed" columnist of High Times magazine and an authority on marijuana cultivation, drew national attention and ended in a one-day prison sentence, a disavowal of the guilty verdicts by a majority of the jury, and an eventual reversal this April. An appeals court said a juror who had qualms about the case committed misconduct by phoning an attorney friend for advice.

In the new grand jury indictment, Rosenthal, 61, of Oakland, was charged with 14 felonies, including conspiracy to manufacture marijuana at his Oakland warehouse and distribute it to the Harm Reduction Center, a San Francisco dispensary, between 2000 and 2002.

Those were similar to the charges in a 2002 indictment. The new charges include four counts of laundering money -- four transactions totaling about $1,850 -- to conceal its source as the proceeds of marijuana sales, and five counts of filing tax returns that failed to list his marijuana income.

Rosenthal, reached at home, said the indictment was part of the federal government's campaign to shut down medical marijuana clubs.

"What they're trying to show is that they can close down anybody, a legitimate club, a legitimate provider who's sanctioned by the city," he said, referring to his official status as an agent in Oakland's medical marijuana program. "They're trying to stop patients from getting their medicine."

Rosenthal and his previous co-defendants, Kenneth Hayes of Petaluma and Richard Watts of San Francisco, were ordered to court for arraignment on the new charges Monday. Hayes remains a fugitive, however. Rosenthal said Watts was too ill for trial previously, but he faces trial on the current charges.

At Rosenthal's 2003 trial, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer refused to let jurors learn about the intended medical use of the plants and excluded evidence about Proposition 215, California's 1996 medical marijuana initiative.

After a majority of the jurors repudiated their guilty verdicts and urged leniency, Breyer sentenced Rosenthal to the one day in jail he had already served instead of five years in prison, saying Rosenthal had believed he was acting legally at a time when the law was unsettled.

E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.

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Marijuana guru released on bond pending trial

Postby palmspringsbum » Sat Nov 04, 2006 7:23 pm

The San Jose Mercury News wrote:Posted on Fri, Oct. 20, 2006

Marijuana guru released on bond pending trial

Bay City News Service
The San Jose Mercury News

SAN FRANCISCO - Medical marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal was granted release on a $50,000 personal recognizance bond today while he awaits a federal trial in San Francisco on drug cultivation and money laundering charges.

The bond was set by U.S. Magistrate Nandor Vadas in San Francisco and was halfway between requests by prosecution and defense lawyers. Prosecutors had asked for a $100,000 bond while Rosenthal's attorney asked that he be released on his own recognizance.

Rosenthal's next court date is a status conference on Oct. 25 before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, the judge who will preside over his retrial.

Rosenthal, 61, of Oakland, the author of 13 books about marijuana, was previously convicted in Breyer's court in 2003 of three marijuana-related felonies and sentenced to a day in prison.

But a federal appeals court overturned the conviction earlier this year because of juror misconduct, thus paving the way for a retrial.

In the retrial, Rosenthal will face additional money laundering and tax evasion counts that were added to previous marijuana cultivation charges in a superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Oct. 12.

He is accused of growing marijuana for a now-defunct dispensary in San Francisco.

Rosenthal has claimed outside of court that he sought to help patients who needed medical marijuana. But federal drug laws make no exception for a California law that allows seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana on a doctor's recommendation.

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Government Case Against Rosenthal/Watts Shows Cracks

Postby palmspringsbum » Sat Nov 04, 2006 10:11 pm

IndyBay wrote:
Government Case Against Rosenthal/Watts Shows Cracks
by Clark Sullivan
Thursday Oct 26th, 2006 9:51 AM
IndyBay


<table class=posttable align=right width=300><tr><td class=postcell><img src=bin/watts_richard.jpg width=300 alt="Richard Watts"></td></tr></table>San Francisco, CA Oct 25, 2006 -- In a major victory for medical cannabis patients, Judge Charles Breyer dismissed three counts involving marijuana cultivation against Richard Watts, ruling that the U.S. Attorney's Office had violated the Speedy Trial Act. Judge Breyer, who sentenced Ed Rosenthal to one day in jail after previous trial, openly challenged Asst. U.S. Attorney George Bevan several times about the federal government's justification for retrying Mr. Rosenthal and Mr. Watts. Saying the only question for him to decide was whether or not to dismiss the case "with prejudice", Judge Breyer appeared annoyed that the government was continuing it's prosecution of the case and remarked that he had already tried Mr. Rosenthal once.

Ed Rosenthal's co-defendant, Mr. Watts, son of Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts, has been awaiting trial since his arrest in February 2002. However, due to a serious automobile accident later that year, Mr. Watts was not tried along with Mr. Rosenthal for their involvement with the 6th Street Harm Reduction Center. Nonetheless, Rick was declared competent to stand trial in May 2003, but the government failed to pursue it's case against him and hoped that the superseding indictment, filed last week, would justify continued prosecution on the basis of new charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

Judge Breyer let the old conspiracy charge stand, along with the two new counts against Mr. Watts and suggested that the count of tax evasion be separated in a different trial for both defendants and ordered Ed and Rick to appear in U.S. District Court on December 6th, so he can decide how to proceed with the case.

Ed Rosenthal, noted cannabis expert and author, was previously convicted in 2003 of three marijuana-related counts but had his conviction overturned in April because of juror misconduct by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The superseding indictment containing the new charges was issued by a recent grand jury in which two witnesses refused to testify, citing their 5th Amendment rights.

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U.S. Attorney for Bay Area resigns

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Jan 17, 2007 9:01 pm

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote:U.S. Attorney for Bay Area resigns

<span class=postbold>Ryan probed stock options fraud, steroids in sports; his departure comes amid report he and 6 other prosecutors are being forced out</span>

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
The San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday, January 17, 2007


U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan announced his resignation Tuesday as chief federal prosecutor for coastal Northern California, ending a 4 1/2-year tenure marked by high-profile cases on stock options fraud and steroids in sports and some high-level criticism of his management.

Ryan, 49, reached a "mutually agreeable decision with Washington'' to step down, spokesman Luke Macaulay said. Macaulay noted that Ryan "serves at the pleasure of the president'' but declined to say whether President Bush had asked him to resign.

In a statement to his staff of 110 lawyers in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, Ryan said that "for some months now, I have been considering the possibility of pursuing other challenges for a variety of personal and professional reasons.''

He did not say whether he had another job lined up or whether he was leaving immediately. Macaulay said he had no information about a possible successor.

It's not clear what effect Ryan's departure will have on his office's investigation of Bay Area companies for allegedly concealing their backdating of stock options granted to top executives. Ryan appointed a task force last summer to look into the practice and has obtained two criminal indictments and a flurry of executive resignations.

His resignation came amid accusations by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other Democrats that Bush was pushing U.S. attorneys out of office so he could appoint their replacements without Senate confirmation under a little-noticed provision of the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress in 2001.

Citing a Wall Street Journal article Tuesday that listed Ryan among seven prosecutors around the nation who reportedly were being forced out, Feinstein said she was co-sponsoring legislation that would reinstate a 120-day limit on the president's power to name an interim U.S. attorney without Senate approval. After 120 days, federal judges would make the interim appointments, as they did before the Patriot Act.

Carol Lam, the U.S. attorney in San Diego who brought corruption charges against Republican Rep. Randy "Duke'' Cunningham, also announced her resignation Tuesday. The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted an unnamed law enforcement official last week as saying the Bush administration had asked her to leave.

U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang of Los Angeles quit last month for apparently unrelated reasons. Of California's top federal prosecutors, only McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney in Sacramento, is staying at his job.

The departures have made lower-level prosecutors nervous, said Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor in Los Angeles and former federal prosecutor. "They're worrying -- is the agenda going to come out of Washington, or is the agenda going to be framed by the locals?'' she said.

But another legal observer said he doubted Ryan was being removed for political reasons.

"I don't see Ryan doing anything that doesn't comport with the ideological line out of Washington,'' said Peter Keane, a Golden Gate University law professor and former dean. He said other prosecutors who reportedly are under pressure to leave have been those who "don't meet the general conservative litmus test.''

"I don't think this was in response to a White House request'' aimed at Ryan, said Rory Little, a law professor at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and a former prosecutor in the office under one of Ryan's predecessors.

Little said he'd known that Ryan had been thinking of leaving for about six months. He said he didn't know all of Ryan's reasons but that one must have been the need for a more lucrative job to pay the education costs of two college-bound sons.

The criticism Ryan has faced has been nonpolitical, focusing mostly on his administration of the office.

The overall number of prosecutions by Ryan's office is below what it was under his predecessors. The decline started a year before Ryan took office and might have been accelerated by Justice Department directives to give new emphasis to counterterrorism, which produces few cases.

Last year, according to published reports, a Justice Department audit questioned Ryan's management and rated staff morale as low. Ryan disputed the findings and defended his administration in a question-and-answer session with Chronicle reporters last month, describing morale as "generally pretty good'' and observing that there are unhappy people in any organization.

Little said Ryan's office has had some morale problems, but he described Ryan's critics as ill-informed. Ryan also was defended by Joseph Russoniello, U.S. attorney in San Francisco from 1982 to 1990.

"I called him to congratulate him on having done a great job,'' Russoniello said.

Ryan, a San Francisco native and University of San Francisco Law School graduate, spent 11 years as an Alameda County prosecutor before then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the San Francisco Municipal Court in 1996.

He became a Superior Court judge in 1999 and left in July 2002, when the Senate confirmed his nomination by Bush as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, the coastal region stretching from the South Bay to the Oregon border. He replaced Robert Mueller, who left to become FBI director.

One of Ryan's areas of emphasis has been violent gang crime, usually handled by local prosecutors. His office is pursuing a case against alleged members of the Down Below Gang in San Francisco's Visitacion Valley, at least two of whom face possible death sentences if convicted. The office also won guilty pleas from leaders of the Nuestra Familia prison gang for ordering murders from prison.

"There's a fair amount of criticism of Ryan's energies being misdirected,'' said Keane, the Golden Gate University law professor. "He's not following the usual regimen of a U.S. attorney, going after white-collar crime and corporate crime. ... He's been down in the Mission with the local gangs.''

But Ryan has had some prominent white-collar prosecutions, including the current probe into stock options backdating, a handful of major securities fraud cases and some prosecutions from a task force on high-tech crime, including cases of trade-secret theft and economic espionage.

His office also has filed federal drug charges against several marijuana growers who were operating under California's 1996 medical marijuana initiative. In the most prominent case, noted marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal won an appeals court reversal of his marijuana cultivation conviction but is facing a renewed prosecution by Ryan's office on drug and tax charges.

In perhaps Ryan's best-known prosecution, the founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and four other defendants pleaded guilty to supplying illegal drugs to star athletes, including the Giants' Barry Bonds. No athletes have been charged, although a grand jury is investigating whether Bonds lied when he denied knowingly taking steroids.

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