Pubdate: Wed, 30 May 2007
Source: Tri-Valley Herald  (Pleasanton, CA)
Copyright: 2007 ANG Newspapers
Author: Josh Richman, Staff Writer
Related: Court Transcripts
Bookmark: (Ed Rosenthal)
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)


Verdict May Redefine Legal Standing of Drug

SAN FRANCISCO -- The fate of Oakland "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal once
again rests in a federal jury's hands -- in a manner of speaking.

A federal prosecutor and Rosenthal's lawyers rested their cases and
made closing arguments Tuesday on whether Rosenthal should be
convicted of five marijuana-growing felonies. Then jurors began

But even if convicted, Rosenthal, 62, faces no more than the one day
behind bars -- time he already served -- to which he was sentenced
after his first trial and conviction in 2003, later overturned by a
federal appeals court. Whether with a clean slate or as a convict,
Rosenthal will walk free no matter what this jury decides.

"You've made a contribution, an important contribution to the
administration of justice," Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan
assured jurors Tuesday morning, adding "the evidence is clear, and we
would submit, overwhelming" to prove Rosenthal's guilt.

Laying out a pattern of documents -- property and utility records,
invoices from bulk supply purchases and the like -- as well as
witnesses' testimony, Bevan said Rosenthal conspired with others to
use a warehouse at 1419 Mandela Parkway in West Oakland; a house
across the street from his own home elsewhere in Oakland; and the Harm
Reduction Center medical marijuana club on San Francisco's Sixth
Street as sites to grow and distribute thousands of marijuana plants.
More than 3,100 plants were seized from the Mandela Parkway site in
February 2002, Bevan noted.

"Your responsibility is to hold him accountable for no more than what
he did but no less than what he did," Bevan urged the jury.

Defense attorney Robert Amparan -- much of whose case was gutted last
week as U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer deemed defense witnesses'
testimony of medical motivation irrelevant to the federal charges --
danced a delicate dance in his closing argument Tuesday.

"There are places that we can't go.... There are answers too
realistic, reasonable questions you may have that I can't give you,"
he told the jurors, instead focusing on discrediting the credibility
of government itself -- "I fear my government because it does not
always tell us the truth" -- and its witnesses in this case.

"The federal government has had almost six years to complete this
recipe ... and yet their recipe, ladies and gentlemen, contains
tainted, soiled, spoiled ingredients," he said. "If it smells like
something that's going to make you sick, you have the right to reject

Breyer repeatedly sustained Bevan's objections or even halted
Amparan's argument himself as improper. For example, when Amparan
described himself as "a gay Mexican one generation out of the fields,"
Breyer shut him down, saying "It's not about you." When Amparan
accused Bevan of placing a woman and a person of color at the
prosecution's table to balance out the two Latinos and a woman at the
defense table, Breyer once again cried foul: "I suggest that you
simply argue the case."

Finally, as Amparan tried to liken Rosenthal's situation to past
injustices done under color of law -- such as slavery, or internment
of Japanese-Americans during World War II -- Breyer sent the jury out
of the courtroom and then lambasted Amparan for trying to lead the
jury into questioning federal law itself. Amparan insisted he wasn't,
but said he planned to cite false pretenses for the war in Iraq and
the botched response to Hurricane Katrina as other instances of the
government's mistakes.

As applause erupted from a courtroom packed mostly with Rosenthal's
supporters, Breyer warned such outbursts would lead him to clear the
courtroom; he then ordered Amparan not to make these arguments to the

With the jury present again, Amparan sought to discredit those who
had testified against Rosenthal: Bob Martin, whose own marijuana
dispensaries haven't been raided during his cooperation with the
government in this case; James Halloran, Rosenthal's former partner
who escaped the possibility of three 50-to-life sentences in return
for his testimony; and David Lewis, Rosenthal's neighbor and a
recovering methamphetamine addict.

Amparan urged jurors to make "reasonable inferences" about what really
happened, and why, from the evidence and testimony: "Be strong and
have courage, and I trust you will do the right thing."

A federal jury convicted Rosenthal in 2003, but within hours, most
jurors publicly renounced their own verdict, claiming they'd been railroaded.

into convicting him by a court that allowed no consideration or
discussion of medical marijuana. Breyer later sentenced Rosenthal to
only one day in jail and warned any such cases in the future would
receive harsher penalties.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2006 ruled there had
been juror misconduct, and overturned Rosenthal's convictions.
Prosecutors re-indicted Rosenthal in October, adding charges that he'd
laundered marijuana proceeds and falsified three years worth of tax
returns; Breyer in March tossed out those new charges, deeming them to
be vindictive prosecution. 
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