Pubdate: Sat, 10 Jun 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Author:  Maline Hazle <  >


Sheriff, Undersheriff Are Found Not In Contempt In Plant Case

A visiting Superior Court judge refused Friday to re-open contempt of
court proceedings against Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope and
Undersheriff Larry Schaller.

After an hourlong session Trinity County Superior Court Judge John
Letton ruled that Redding attorney Eric Berg had offered no new
evidence or legal arguments that the sheriff should be punished for
allowing a federal drug agent to seize medicinal marijuana another
judge had ordered returned to a Redding man.

Letton had ruled March 30 that Pope and Schaller could not be held in
contempt unless Berg could prove that they intentionally violated a
'specific, narrowly drawn order.'

Shasta County Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman ordered the pot
returned to Richard Levin, 49, in January, a month after a jury
acquitted Levin of cultivation of marijuana for sale.

The jury found that Levin grew and possessed marijuana legally under
the stateís Compassionate Use Act, Proposition 215.

As he had earlier, Berg argued Friday that by calling for Federal help
Pope and Schaller 'took steps to interfere with and undermine'
Boeckman's order. Had the sheriffís office not postponed th time
arranged for Berg and Levin to pick up the pot, Berg said, they would
have retrieved it before the federal seizure.

Schaller promised Boeckman that he would return the marijuana to Levin
and should have appealed in state court if he didn't want to follow
the order, Berg said.

Letton, citing his earlier ruling and the legal case upon which he
based it, said that even if the sheriff did engineer federal
involvement, that didn't mean he was in contempt.

"A federal court order supersedes a state court order and the sheriff
is bound by that," Letton said.  "We don't need law school for that."

Letton also dismissed Berg's arguments that Pope and Schaller could be
held in contempt for 'unlawful interference' with court proceedings
and 'misbehavior.'

Berg's pleadings that the sheriff, as the county's highest ranking law
enforcement officer, should not 'lie' to a judge while planning other
strategies, also were rejected.  Letton said Berg's 'rhetoric,'
including words like 'surprised,' 'duped' and 'offended,' is

Deputy County Counsel John Loomis, who represented the absent Pope and
Schaller, did  not argue in court, saying only that Berg had offered
nothing new.

Loomis also dropped a county petition that had sought 'monetary
sanctions' against Berg and Levin for pursuing the contempt issue.

That petition was in the court file and was not immediately available
for public review.  Loomis refused to elaborate on the petition.  Berg
said he and Levin will discuss an appeal of Letton's decision.
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