Pubdate: Thu, 22 Mar 2001
Source: Tahoe World (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Tahoe World
Contact:  P.O. Box 138, Tahoe City, CA 96145
Fax: (530) 583-7109
Author: Gus Thomson, Auburn Journal
Bookmark: (Kubby, Steve)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)


AUBURN - Marijuana raids in 1998 and 1999 have enmeshed Placer County in
a series of lawsuits alleging that sheriff's department members
overstepped their legal authority. 

Three lawsuits have been filed in federal District Court in Sacramento
County, with Santa Cruz attorney Kate Wells representing plaintiffs
Robert DeArkland, Chris Miller and Lyman Sanborn. 

But the Placer County Counsel's Office is arguing that the raids were
conducted legally. Deputy County Counsel David Huskey said Monday that
the county has already rejected financial claims connected with the
three suits and that led to civil suits in Sacramento County. 

A fourth suit has been filed in Sacramento Superior Court with Steve
Kubby attorney David Nick serving as legal representative. Kubby and
former Rocklin dentist Steven Baldwin have also threatened civil action. 

Both Kubby and Baldwin were arrested after drug raids by the Placer
County Sheriff's Department. Arguing that the marijuana seized from
their homes was for their personal medicinal use under Proposition 215,
their cases went to trial but went unresolved after juries stalemated on
whether they were guilty of possession of marijuana for sale. Last
month, the Placer County District Attorney's Office decided not to
pursue a second trial with either the Kubby or Baldwin case. 

Wells and Nick could not be reached for comment Monday. Huskey said the
three cases handled by Wells will be heard one after another in 2003. 

Huskey said the main allegation against the county is that search
warrants were obtained with false statements in affidavits. 

"We're saying it's simply not true and makes no sense," he said. 

Huskey said marijuana found in garbage cans formed a basis for a search
and there is no reason to believe any marijuana was planted in the trash
to facilitate granting a warrant. 

"Given the number of garbage searches undertaken there are far more
misses than hits," he said. "It's a factual dispute that boils down to
their word against the word of an officer." 

DeArkland, Miller and Nick's client also claim false arrest because of
their status as medical marijuana patients under Prop. 215, Huskey said.
Under the Compassionate Use Act passed by voters in 1996, California
residents can grow and possess marijuana for medical use if they have a
doctor's recommendation. 

"The problem is that the officers are investigating whether they could
be selling marijuana illegally," Huskey said. "A person could be a
legitimate medicinal marijuana user but also selling. The officers
proceeded in good faith." 

Under the concept of qualified immunity, officers can proceed without
liability if the law is unclear, Huskey said. Prop. 215 doesn't provide
law enforcement with guidelines on reasonable amounts of cannabis for
medical marijuana patients. The amount of marijuana allowed to be grown
by a patient became a key issue in the Kubby case. A total of 265
marijuana plants were confiscated from Kubby's home but he contended the
crop was for personal use because he needed all of it to keep a rare
form of adrenal cancer in check. 

Jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal. 

The lawsuits also claim excessive force by law enforcement during the
raids, Huskey said. 

"There was no physical harm," Huskey said. "Our response is that
investigators went in with their guns drawn and shouting orders but
that's typical. They're in a potentially dangerous situation and they
holstered their guns as soon as the site was secured." 

A fifth suit against the county - also in federal court - has been
launched by Joseph Sandbank. 

His suit has been filed without an attorney. Huskey said Sandbank does
not claim to be a medicinal marijuana patient. His claim is that
investigators made a false statement to obtain a warrant, Huskey said. 

The total damage claim amounts are in the millions of dollars.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk