Pubdate: Thu, 7 May 2009
Source: Chico Enterprise-Record (CA)
Copyright: 2009 Chico Enterprise-Record
Note: Letters from newspaper's circulation area receive publishing priority
Author: Terry Vau Dell,  Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Bryan Epis)


SAN FRANCISCO - A three-judge panel has upheld the conviction and 
ten-year sentence of a Chico man, who is widely believed to be the 
first medical marijuana patient to be prosecuted under federal law in 

The attorney for Bryan Epis, now in his early 40s, indicated she will 
request the Chico man be allowed to remain free on bail pending a 
re-hearing of the case before the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.

Epis was originally convicted by a federal jury in 2002 of conspiring 
to manufacture more than 1,000 marijuana plants out of his West 
Francis Willard Avenue residence.

Butte County sheriff's officers reportedly seized 458 plants from the 
basement of Epis' home in June 1997, and claimed to have found 
records that more plants had been grown there.

Epis, who had a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana for chronic 
back and neck pain due to an auto accident, said he was growing the 
plants for himself and four other patients who shared in the expenses.

His residence is located within 1,000 feet of Chico High School, and 
that, among other factors, subjected Epis to a mandatory minimum 
sentence of 10 years under federal drug law.

Epis served about 25 months of his sentence when the Ninth Circuit 
Court released him in 2004, pending the outcome of his appeal.

In an 11-page decision earlier this month, a three-judge Ninth 
Circuit panel rejected a series of arguments by Epis' attorney, 
including allegations of prosecutorial misconduct during his trial, 
destruction of evidence afterward and improper denial of a so-called 
"safety valve" from the mandatory minimum sentence.

Epis contended that at his trial, the federal government improperly 
used a two-page excerpt from a computerized draft proposal he was 
considering to present to the San Jose City Council for starting up a 
medical marijuana dispensary in that city, to try to make it seem 
that he was involved in a large commercial pot-sales venture.

Epis' attorney, Brenda Grantland of Mill Valley, argued on appeal 
that Epis was improperly denied the right to raise a medical 
marijuana defense at his trial.

Even though the Ninth Circuit had upheld the right to use such a 
defense in an Oakland Buyer's Club case, that ruling came after Epis' 
trial, and in any event, was subsequently overturned, the appellate 
judges pointed out.

They also rejected Epis' argument that the federal prosecutor 
committed misconduct when he allowed evidence to be destroyed while 
the case was still under appeal.

The appellate panel held that Epis did not show how the destroyed 
evidence would have been exculpatory, or that it's destruction was 
done in "bad faith."

It also rejected his contention on appeal that the trial court erred 
by permitting the prosecutor to cross-examine him in front of the 
jury about a prior marijuana cultivation arrest.

The three-judge panel said that Epis had placed his credibility in 
issue by claiming that his purpose in growing the marijuana in his 
home at the time of the Chico bust was "for humanitarian reasons, 
rather than a desire for profit."

In upholding the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, the appellate 
justices said that Epis failed to disprove the government's claims 
that he had been "the manager" of the indoor Chico grow and that he 
had not told the truth during a debriefing by the federal prosecutor. 
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