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Tracknum: 124811003926354 Pubdate: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN) Copyright: 2001 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co. Contact: http://www.knoxnews.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/226 Author: Wayne Wilson, Sacramento Bee Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?115 (Cannabis - California) Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal) JUDGE RULES COUPLE'S FILES FROM RAID NOT PROTECTED BY PRIVILEGE Thousands of files seized by federal drug agents from an attorney-physician couple who advocate the medical use of marijuana need not be returned, a judge ruled Tuesday. U.S. Magistrate Gregory G. Hollows rejected the attorney-client privilege asserted by the operators of California Medical Research Center in the El Dorado County town of Cool, but set up rigid rules by which the still-sealed records may be reviewed. Neither attorney Dale C. Schafer nor his wife, Dr. Marion "Molly" P. Fry, would discuss Hollows' findings, saying they had not yet seen the 28-page order. Their lawyer, J. David Nick of San Francisco, could not be reached for comment, but after Monday's hearing in U.S. District Court in Sacramento he characterized the government's campaign against the pair as an "unsavory attempt" to instill fear in seriously ill Californians. The offices of Schafer and Fry, along with their nearby Greenwood residence and a storage unit in Cool, were raided Sept. 28-29. A U-Haul truck transported the seized computerized and paper files to Sacramento, where they have been placed in a locked room on the 16th floor of the federal courthouse. Schafer and Fry have yet to be formally charged with a crime, but drug agents alleged in the affidavit for a search warrant that the lawyer and doctor were engaged in a scheme to unlawfully prescribe, cultivate and sell marijuana. The government called it a marijuana prescription "tag team" with the doctor recommending pot therapy and the attorney advising patients how to avoid conviction. At Monday's hearing on the Schafer-Fry motion to return their files, attorney Nick argued that the government is on a "fishing expedition," looking for evidence that would implicate thousands of sick people who use marijuana medicinally. Nick said the Compassionate Use Act, a 1996 state ballot measure, permits Californians to employ pot therapy when it is recommended by a doctor. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Pings said that possession or distribution of marijuana is a federal crime, regardless of one's claimed medical needs. And, she said, the actions of Schafer and Fry went beyond the mere recommendation of marijuana therapy. "Attorney Schafer did more than advise clients about the ins and outs of medical marijuana, including how to avoid prosecution or how to act after an arrest," Hollows noted in his findings. "He coupled that advice with sales of marijuana, distribution of marijuana clones, as well as the organization of a business with his doctor-wife for the mass distribution of marijuana through allegedly unlawful recommendations. "At this point, there is probable cause to believe that attorney Schafer not only advised his customers to possess marijuana in violation of federal law, he took steps to ensure that possession," Hollows declared. Schafer advertised on the Internet and in local papers, offering marijuana recommendations from his business, Hollows stated. But "he affirmatively told his purported clients from the inception of their meeting that he was not their attorney," Hollows said, quoting a question-answer sheet "apparently given to ... Schafer's customers": Q: Is Mr. Schafer my attorney? A: No. Dale C. Schafer (has) provided you with legal consultation to assist you in understanding (the applicable law) and how to keep you out of trouble with law enforcement. With that in mind, Magistrate Hollows reasoned, "Attorney Schafer's clients could not have had a reasonable basis to believe that they were submitting confidential information to their lawyer." Thus, there was no attorney-client privilege, he found. Recognizing the "sensitive" nature of the seized documents, Hollows ruled that the government will be allowed access to some of the files only after they've been reviewed by a "special master" for the purpose of establishing relevance. The medical records themselves will not be opened because, under the government's theory that all marijuana use is unlawful, any reason for such use is not relevant, the magistrate noted.