Pubdate: Sat, 09 Nov 2013
Source: Times-Herald, The (Vallejo, CA)
Copyright: 2013 The Times-Herald
Author: Tony Burchyns


Vallejo's facing another lawsuit by a former medical marijuana 
dispensary operator who claims the city violated his civil rights by 
raiding his collective last year.

In a Solano Superior Court lawsuit, Greenwell, Inc. founder Matt 
Shotwell alleges the city, Mayor Osby Davis and the Vallejo Police 
Department violated his civil rights -- including his right to free 
speech -- by targeting his dispensary for raid and closure in 
retaliation for his outspoken advocacy for local taxation and 
regulation of medical cannabis.

Greenwell was the first of at least six Vallejo dispensaries police 
raided last year. Federal and state agencies also participated in 
some raids. However, all of the cases fell apart because, lawyers 
argued, the dispensaries were in compliance with state law.

"I had to wait until after all of my criminal charges were dropped to 
file a civil suit, and now the city must answer for its wrongful 
actions," Shotwell told the Times-Herald on Friday.

Greenwell, which no longer has a storefront, is the second nonprofit 
collective to sue the city in connection to last year's raids; 
Homegrown Holistic Collective, Inc., served the city with a lawsuit 
last month alleging abuse of power and negligence, among other complaints.

Greenwell's lawsuit, filed Nov. 1, by Oakland attorney Kevin Brunner, 
names the city, Davis, former police chief Robert Nichelini and 
police officer Robert Knight as defendants.

Attempts to reach City Attorney Claudia Quintana were unsuccessful 
Friday afternoon.

Davis, meanwhile, said the allegations directed at him are "absolutely false."

"I would say that nothing could be further from the truth," Davis 
said. "It's ridiculous and it's the kind of thing that attorneys put 
in lawsuits to sensationalize their complaints." Davis, an attorney, 
excluded himself from that generalization.

Police department officials have repeatedly said the raids were 
justified and lawfully conducted.

Shotwell and other critics of the raids, however, contend police 
misstated facts and ignored state law in obtaining search warrants.

Among other allegations, the lawsuit claims Davis and Nichelini 
"selectively targeted the most outspoken" dispensary directors who'd 
voiced support for the city's medical-marijuana tax initiative, which 
voters passed overwhelmingly just months before the raids started. 
Shotwell claims police officers were directed to raid those 
dispensaries, seize their assets and arrest their directors -- 
despite allegedly knowing the establishments operated in full 
compliance with California law.

The lawsuit further alleges Shotwell was re-arrested after the raid 
without a warrant. Following his initial arrest, Shotwell was freed 
after posting $100,000 bail. However, he was re-arrested hours later 
because, police said, there had been a clerical error resulting in 
him being freed without a hearing to determine his bail money was 
clean. Superior Court Judge Allan Carter acknowledged the impropriety 
of the hold on Shotwell's release at a subsequent bail hearing.

Shotwell also alleges Knight and the police department requested he 
be confined in an "extreme" manner during his 10 days in jail, where 
he was held in segregation and confined in a cell for 23 hours a day.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for lost wages and benefits to 
Shotwell, and for property destroyed when seized by police -- 
including hundreds of marijuana plants. It also seeks compensation 
for the loss of future business and general damages for emotional 
distress, pain and suffering, and legal fees.
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