Pubdate: Sat, 25 Mar 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397

Ex-Broadcaster Says Sheriff Not Aware Of Effort

Eric Berg, the Redding lawyer who wants Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope held
in contempt of court, says a former broadcaster and another Redding attorney
tried to intimidate him into dropping the contempt action.

''These are powerful people -- the sheriff has the ability to make life
difficult for me and my future clients, so I have to take it seriously,''
Berg said.

But Tony Seton, a Redding advertising man and former radio broadcaster, said
Pope had no idea that he had contacted Berg in an attempt ''to help re-knit
the community.''

A second letter came from Redding personal injury attorney G. Neil Tocher,
who did not return calls seeking comment this week.

Pope did not return telephone calls seeking comment, either.

Assistant County Counsel Michael Ralston, whose office represents Pope, said
the letters appear to be Berg's attempt ''to put his own spin'' on the case
because ''Eric never has been able to come up with either facts or law to
support his position'' in the contempt case.

The letters were filed in Shasta County Superior Court last week as part of
Berg's contempt action against Pope and Undersheriff Larry Schaller.

Trinity County Superior Court Judge John Letton, who took over the
politically sensitive case after all nine Shasta County judges removed
themselves, has not yet ruled on whether a hearing will be held on the
contempt allegation.

Berg represents Richard Levin, 49, of Redding, a medicinal marijuana user
who was acquitted in December on a charge of growing pot for sale.

Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman ordered Pope to return 1 pounds of
marijuana confiscated before Levin's arrest, but when Berg and Levin went to
retrieve the pot Jan. 21 they were told that it had been seized by a federal

Berg contends that Pope engineered the seizure warrant in contempt of
Boeckman's order.

Berg's associate, Gary Roberts, added the two letters to the official court
file last week.

Tocher's letter, dated Feb. 3, the day Berg filed the contempt action, was
one line. ''Before you do anything involving Jim Pope, would you give me a
call,'' he wrote.

''I interpreted that as a threat, basically, that I'd better talk to him
before I did anything at all,'' Berg said.

Seton first approached Berg through his (Seton's) wife, Redding family law
attorney Linda Seinturier, who asked Berg to talk to her husband, Berg said.

After Seton and Berg talked March 8, Berg asked Seton to summarize the
conversation in a memo, both men said.

In that memo, dated March 10, Seton wrote that ''Jim Pope had already been
through a lot (and) further legal action on the matter would only exacerbate
the tensions surrounding the issue.''

''Dropping the contempt citation would put Mr. Levin in a favorable light in
this community for his perspicacity in recognizing the benefits to the many
who need medical marijuana and for his generosity in letting the matter drop
rather than seeking further punishment and or humiliation of law
enforcement,'' Seton wrote.

In addition, he told Berg, ''your reputation and ability to defend your
clients, particularly in this area, would be greatly enhanced for the
benefit of all concerned.''

''A gracious concession by your client on this relatively small point could
reverberate and induce enough support'' to spark approval of ''enabling
legislation that the will of the people in passing Prop. 215 (the state's
Compassionate Use Act) will finally be realized,'' Seton wrote.

Seton wrote that he was not ''making any proposals or offering any deals''
and that he had approached Berg ''strictly on my own.''

Berg called Seton's approach ''sweet, but subtle intimidation. Seton was
livid when he learned that his memo had been filed with the court, calling
the action ''a disgrace, but not untypical of Eric Alan Berg.''

He insisted that he was merely making recommendations that Berg is
''apparently too egotistic and intellectually incompetent'' to follow.

''This is just nonsense, this behavior -- it's posturing,'' Seton said.
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