Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jan 2000
Source: Sacramento News & Review (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Sacramento News & Review
Contact:  1015 20th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
Fax: (916) 498-7920
Author: Mike Pulley, Note: This is the second of a series by investigative reporter Michael 
Pulley.  Cited: "Search Unwarranted"


The Placer County Sheriff's Department's controversial marijuana raids on 
more than 50 residences throughout Sacramento and Placer counties may soon 
become an issue before a Placer County Grand Jury.

Individuals targeted by the raids said they plan to file formal complaints 
as soon as a month from now alleging wrongdoing by Placer's narcotics 
deputies involved in a two-year drug sting aimed at busting indoor pot 
gardens that used hydroponics.

"We're going to get everybody-even where there's the smallest bit of 
corruption involved-to file a formal complaint with the Placer County Grand 
Jury," said Michael Baldwin, one of about seven medical marijuana patients 
who were arrested in the sting. "We might even file complaints with the 
Sacramento County Grand Jury."

A six-month SN&R investigation (Search Unwarranted -Jan. 20) of more than 
70 drug cases revealed that the Placer County Sheriff's Department's 
Special Operations Unit finds itself caught in the crossfire of an emerging 
legal battle. At the heart of the controversy is Sheriff's Department 
narcotics detectives Tracy Grant and Ronald L. Goodpaster. In multiple 
claims and lawsuits filed in recent months, both deputies have been accused 
of committing perjury on sworn affidavits and violating the civil rights of 
individuals living in Placer and Sacramento counties.

In interviews and court records, the two detectives were accused of lying 
about the existence of marijuana they claim to have seized from trash cans 
as evidence and making false claims about residents' electrical power 
usage. In two instances, Grant said under oath that he observed cars parked 
in driveways. But SN&R's investigation revealed that the cars were not 
there at the time Grant said he saw them. The two detectives' statements on 
affidavits about trash searches, power records and vehicles are significant 
because they established the probable cause that was used to obtain search 
warrants and convictions in dozens of marijuana cases in the last two years.

The Placer County Sheriff's Department would not allow its two deputies to 
be interviewed by SN&R. Placer County Sheriff Edward Bonner said he 
couldn't comment for SN&R's story since it was about "medical marijuana." 
Bonner said he has decided not to comment on stories about medical 
marijuana until after the trial of Steve Kubby, a high-profile medical 
marijuana patient who has used pot for more than a decade to treat his 
terminal cancer. Kubby, the Libertarian party's gubernatorial candidate in 
1998, and his wife, Michele, were arrested by Placer deputies a year ago 
and charged with felony possession and cultivation of marijuana. The Kubbys 
are leading proponents of California's Proposition 215, the initiative that 
legalized the cultivation of use of marijuana by patients who receive 
recommendations from physicians. The Kubbys are fighting the Placer County 
charges against them and say their marijuana was strictly grown and used as 
medicine under the terms of Prop 215.

The Placer County Sheriff's Department's activities included more than 30 
raids within the last two years on homes throughout the city and county of 
Sacramento. It's not clear why Placer's drug team, known in court records 
as the Special Operations Unit, was targeting so many residences within the 
jurisdiction of the city and county.

But numerous defendants arrested by Placer County's special drug unit told 
the SN&R they believe they were targeted because they shopped at Green 
Fire, a Sacramento gardening supply store that specializes in hydroponics 
and organics. In at least 14 of the raids in Sacramento and Placer, Placer 
detectives confiscated as evidence Green Fire catalogs and Green Fire store 
receipts found at the homes of defendants, court records show. In at least 
four cases, the Placer Drug team came up short, sometimes finding 
misdemeanor amounts of marijuana, but no evidence of marijuana cultivation. 
In one of the mistaken drug raids, Sheriff Bonner personally apologized to 
Lyman "Sandy" Sanborn, a life-long Republican Party activist and childhood 
acquaintance of former President Ronald Reagan. Sanborn's residence was 
mistakenly raided by the Placer drug unit last July 1. Sanborn's grown son, 
Scott, who lives with his elderly parents, had made a shopping trip to 
Green Fire just a few weeks before the raid.

When contacted about the link between Green Fire and the Placer raids, 
Jeanne Shelsky, Green Fire's owner, told SN&R: "We have a store that tries 
to help people that garden. We have no involvement in anything illegal, and 
we are appalled at the thought that law enforcement would target anyone 
just because they came to a garden store."

But while many of those targeted by the Placer raids have blasted the 
Placer County Sheriff's Department's detectives, at least one Sacramento 
official praised the drug-busting work they do within the jurisdiction of 
Sacramento County.

"They do a good job and have had some very significant grow cases, and, 
basically, we appreciate the help they provide," said Dale Kitching, 
supervising deputy district attorney of the Sacramento County District 
Attorney's major narcotics unit. "Those are cases that we might not 
otherwise learn about or have the time to pursue."

Kitching personally signed off on many of the search warrants written by 
Tracy Grant and served on Sacramento residents. Kitching said he was not 
aware of the lawsuits and claims accusing the detective of perjury and 
violation of civil rights. "I certainly hadn't had nay occasion to doubt 
their credibility," Kitching said, about the two detectives.

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department also was aware of Placer's 
extensive raids in Sacramento County, said Sgt. Bob Risedorph, head of the 
major investigations bureau within the Sacramento County Sheriff's 
Department's Narcotics/Gang Division. "We have a broad array of drug 
problems," said Risedorph. "Unfortunately, sometimes the marijuana problems 
kind of get deprioritized because of the methamphetamine, cocaine and 
heroin problems."

Risedorph would not respond to allegations that Placer's sting was aimed at 
customers of Green Fire. "I'm really not going to go into specifics about 
what I know and didn't know about their surveillances," he said.

"If you're a peace officer here, you're peace officer powers are good 
throughout the state of California," said Rick Gibson, spokesman for the 
the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. "They don't have to tell us 
they're coming into the county here. They keep these investigations private 
from ours. You've got to keep those investigations shielded. If an 
investigation leads you to another jurisdiction, it would be proper to 
notify that agency that you will be there on a certain date serving a 
search warrant. That's just so if we get 911 calls coming in, it notifies 
our communications bureau that some type of police action is occurring."

Other law enforcement officials defended Placer County's activities. "When 
the people from these organizations that are trying to legalize marijuana 
claim law enforcement is unethical in dealing with medical marijuana 
patients, they're wrong," said Christy McCampbell, the acting assistant 
chief of the state Department of Justice's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement. 
"I'd ask them to prove that fact."

SN&R's ongoing investigation has learned that at least one federal 
narcotics agent assisted Placer County deputies in their sting on 
Sacramento residents. Richard Adams, an agent with the Internal Revenue 
Service's Criminal Investigations Division, confirmed that he used federal 
subpoena powers to obtain electrical power records of those targeted in the 
raid from the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District. Placer detectives 
used those power records as evidence that suspects were operating 
energy-consuming pot gardens within homes. That evidence was used to 
establish probable cause on search warrants. Adams told SN&R that he 
typically works with Placer detectives as part of his involvement on 
narcotics task forces involving the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

A DEA spokeswoman said the federal drug-fighting agency may have assisted 
Placer detectives in their raids, but that assistance was not part of any 
formal task force. "There was no formal task force," said Jocelyn 
Favors-Barnes. "We may have assisted as a multi-agency case."

In the meantime, numerous defendants targeted by Placer's raids are 
fighting back with plans for civil litigation against Placer County and its 
detectives and the plans for filing formal complaints with the Placer 
County Grand Jury.

"If the Grand Jury fails to act, then we will got to (state Attorney 
General) Bill Lockyer's office," said Baldwin. "If Lockyer fails, then 
we're going to a federal prosecutor."

Baldwin himself is still facing prosecution by the Placer County District 
Attorney Brad Fenochio. Baldwin, a dentist who formerly practiced in 
Rocklin, and his wife, Georgia Chacko, were arrested by the Placer Special 
Operations Unit in late 1998. The couple had recommendations for use of 
marijuana as medicine from Dr. Alex Stalcup, a prominent Concord physician 
who is considered by law enforcement officials to be one of the state's 
leading authorities on illegal drugs. When charges that the Baldwin couple 
were guilty of felony cultivation and possession of marijuana came before 
the Placer County Superior Court last year, a jury split 6-6 on charges 
that Baldwin was guilty, and it deadlocked 7-5 in favor of acquitting his 
wife. The Placer County District Attorney's office has said it plans to 
retry the case later this year.

Placer's narcotics detectives "are breaking down the foundation of our 
entire nation-the Constitution-just so they can get little notches in their 
guns," said Baldwin. They first started out trying to nail the so-called 
potheads, but now it's spilling over into everybody. Everybody's rights are 
now threatened by the Placer County Sheriff's Department. The sick thing is 
that the judges and the district attorneys are backing it up in the name of 
the war on 
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