Pubdate: Sat,  4 Mar 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Author:  Kimberly Bolander


A Trinity County judge has been appointed to rule whether Shasta County
Sheriff Jim Pope was in contempt of court for failing to obey a court order
to return marijuana plants to their owner.

The state Judicial Council has assigned Judge John K. Letton to review the
contempt of court petition against the sheriff, Court Administrator Donna
Regnani said Friday.

The petition was filed Feb. 3 after Pope turned over 1 pounds of processed
marijuana to a federal agent instead of to Richard Levin, 49, of Redding,
who was acquitted in December of marijuana cultivation for sale. Levin's
attorney, Eric Berg of Redding, successfully argued that he used the drug
medicinally, to treat back pain and hepatitis C.

Judge Bradley Boeckman had twice ordered the pot returned to Levin. The
second order came Jan. 14 when Pope and Undersheriff Larry Schaller sought

All nine Shasta County justices have removed themselves from the case,
leading court administrators to seek a judge from outside the area.

Letton has acted as Trinity County's presiding judge since his appointment
in 1984, Regnani said. He has also practiced law in San Francisco and
Trinity County.

Letton, one of two justices in Trinity County, is also Shasta County's
specified out-of-county judge, meaning he appears every other Friday to
hear cases Shasta County judges have dismissed themselves from.

Since a local official is involved in the Shasta County case, it is not
unusual for the county's judges to remove themselves even if there might
only be the appearance of impropriety, County Counsel Karen Jahr, who
represents Pope, said Friday.

Berg, who filed the petition for Levin, declined to comment Friday about
Letton's appointment.

Jahr said her office has no information leading her to believe Letton will
recuse himself, although he has the right to do so.

The judge may deny Berg's petition based on his written argument and Jahr's
opposition, or he may call a hearing that would be held in Shasta County
Superior Court, Jahr said. No hearing date has been set.
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