Pubdate: Fri, 28 Feb 2003
Source: Oakland Tribune, The (CA)
Copyright: 2003 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
Author: Josh Richman


Federal judge rejects probation in sentencing Jeff Jones for handing out

Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative executive director Jeff Jones, one of
the California medical marijuana movement's most respected figures, was
sentenced Thursday to 90 days behind bars for handing out leaflets near a

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter A. Nowinski of Sacramento apparently ignored a
report recommending probation, instead ordering Jones, 28, into federal
custody for the misdemeanor. He will start serving his time Monday.

"I plan on commencing a hunger strike as soon as I'm taken into custody,"
Jones said later Thursday. "This is political -- this has nothing to do with
the rule of law."

Jones' attorney, Michael B. Bigelow of Sacramento, said he "can't recall
ever having seen a judge as apparently angry as he was, and for the life of
me I don't understand why. I think everybody involved in the case --
probation, the U.S. Attorney's office, assorted staff -- pretty much assumed
that the magistrate would follow the probation officer's recom-mendation."
Jones was arrested outside Sacramento's federal courthouse last June 24, the
day jurors were being selected to try Bryan Epis of Chico.

Epis later was convicted of growing marijuana and now is serving a 10-year

Jones and other activists that day handed out a leaflet giving Epis' side of
the story: his belief that California's 1996 medical marijuana law --
Proposition 215 -- protected him, even though federal law still bans
marijuana completely.

When U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell found some potential jurors had
received the leaflets, he agreed with prosecutors that the whole panel of
potential jurors had been tainted and dismissed them all.Jones' conviction

During a five-hour trial in December, Jones told Nowinski he had neither
authored the leaflet nor brought it to the courthouse that day, but
acknowledged he neither read it closely nor understood its impact before
handing it out.

Nowinski convicted Jones of influencing a juror by writing, a misdemeanor
punishable by up to six months in prison.

A probation report, noting Jones' acceptance of responsibility and remorse,
advised he be placed on supervised probation until paying restitution for
the cost of seating a new jury panel.

Nowinski on Thursday ordered Jones to pay $3,924.93 in restitution -- and
also ordered him jailed.

"The feeling of the judge ... was that I had no remorse, that I was thumbing
my nose at the court and all I cared about was myself," Jones said.

"If I only cared about myself, I wouldn't have shown up at court for Bryan

It was unclear Thursday whether Jones can surrender himself Monday in
Oakland or if he must do so in Sacramento.

Steph Sherer, director of the medical marijuana group Americans for Safe
Access, said activists will stage a protest either way.Medical pot's 'poster

Under Jones' direction, the Oakland cooperative provided marijuana to
card-carrying members with physicians' recommendations.

City officials in 1998 brought the group under a city ordinance's
protection, but in a legal battle that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, the
federal government won an injunction halting its marijuana dispensation.

Meanwhile, the young, earnest, clean-cut Jones became a poster boy for the
medical marijuana movement, with none of the baggage some earlier and more
controversial figures carried.

"Jeff has been a backbone for Oakland and for the Bay Area, and his work has
really pushed the envelope of implementing Proposition 215," Sherer said.

"His political work with the city ... has definitely been a model for the
rest of the state."
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MAP posted-by: Josh