Pubdate: Fri, 02 Nov 2012
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
Copyright: 2012 Swift Communications
Author: Adam Jensen


Former South Lake Tahoe medical marijuana dispensary owner Gennaro 
"Gino" DiMatteo was arrested on federal charges prior to a court 
hearing in Placerville Friday.

As DiMatteo entered the El Dorado County Superior Court's Department 
7 courtroom during a recess about 2 p.m., a District Attorney's 
investigator told him they had to talk, took his arm and shuffled him 
over to a corner of the courtroom between the audience and where 
arguments are heard.

He then asked DiMatteo to put his arms behind his back because he was 
being arrested on a federal warrant.

A statement from the El Dorado County District Attorney's Office 
regarding the arrest does not specify the nature of the federal 
charges and little information on the arrest could be located Friday.

Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for prosecutors in the U.S. District 
Court, Eastern District of California, said she did not have a record 
of the warrant Friday. Online federal court records do not show a 
criminal case against DiMatteo. A record of the arrest was not shown 
on El Dorado County Jail's booking website Friday afternoon.

DiMatteo was arrested Aug. 31 and pleaded not guilty to charges of 
bribery, possession of marijuana for sale, possession of a controlled 
substance and possession of ammunition by a convicted felon.

He was in court Friday for what was supposed to be a continuation of 
a hearing with testimony from William Wilkins, a former employer.

When the hearing started following the arrest, Deputy District 
Attorney James Clinchard told El Dorado County Superior Judge Douglas 
Phimister the prosecution was moving to dismiss the state charges 
against DiMatteo due to the federal arrest warrant.

Phimister allowed the dismissal, but said that the court had 
possession of DiMatteo's passport, something the court did not want 
to hold on to. Robert Woelfel, DiMatteo's criminal attorney, said 
there are multiple items taken as part of the August arrest he is 
requesting be returned to the family. He said he would take the 
passport when it is convenient for the court to deliver it to him.

After the hearing, Clinchard said he was unable to provide any 
further comment and could not talk about the federal charges.

Friday's statement says the move to dismiss the state charges was 
motivated by stricter penalties under federal guidelines.

"Due to the more severe penalties available under federal sentencing 
statutes, the District Attorney's Office moved to dismiss the state 
charges against DiMatteo in lieu of federal prosecution so that his 
criminal activities may be more appropriately dealt with in federal 
court," according to the statement.

The state bribery charge centered around a donation DiMatteo made to 
Lake Tahoe Educational Foundation, which includes South Lake Tahoe 
City Councilwoman Angela Swanson as a board member. DiMatteo was 
asking the City Council to approve a relocation of DiMatteo's 
dispensary, City of Angels 2, at the time of the donation. Swanson 
has not been arrested and has denied intentional wrongdoing.

In Friday's statement, the District Attorney's Office said, "the 
investigation into certain South Lake Tahoe City officials as to 
their dealings with DiMatteo is ongoing."

The statement includes a quote attributed to DiMatteo in which the 
Push Fitness owner says former City Councilman and DiMatteo attorney 
Ted Long's "only agenda is political," that he doesn't intend to 
represent DiMatteo properly and he is using the case "to advance 
himself and his own agenda."

Long is representing DiMatteo in a civil action against the South 
Lake Tahoe City Council challenging their denial of a relocation of 
City of Angels.

Friday's statement contends the federal charges refute Long's 
criticism of the District Attorney's investigation into DiMatteo.

Long has questioned prosecutors' unwillingness to release information 
in the case, and has contended they are pursuing DiMatteo 
aggressively because of his operation of the dispensary.

Long or Woelfel did not immediately return requests for comment Friday.

Audio of the DiMatteo's quote about Long is available at:

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- - Mountain Democrat reporter Cole Mayer contributed to this story.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom