Sheriff Bobby Grubbs is the top cop in Brownwood, Texas, a small town of some twenty thousand church-going souls smack in the center of the Texas vastness between Abilene and Fort Worth. Brownwood has a big reputation for drug arrests in a state with a bigger reputation for life sentences for even small amounts of marijuana.
So here comes a long-haired Mendocino County kid tooling through 2am Brownwood in a battered old Mercedes station wagon with California plates. It was Chris Diaz, 22, the married father of two children ages 4 and 1. Diaz was immediately pulled over on your basic pretext, as in pretext stop, as in automatic pretext stop of a long-haired kid driving through town in the middle of the night in some kinda hippie wagon with California plates.
The cop said Diaz's registration tags had expired, which they demonstrably had not. Soon, all four of Brownwood's night shift cops were on-scene, and what ensued became Brown County's top media story for the next three months, the town not having seen so much excitement since Candy Barr fled the place in 1954 to make pioneer porn films, get herself popped for pot smoking in '57 and mixed up in the Kennedy Assassination in a kind of peripheral way in '63.
So young Mr. Diaz tells the cops, “No, I don't have a driver's license and I'm going to video you boys while you go about your cop business.” That statement got Diaz jerked out of his antique station wagon and handcuffed face down in the roadside Texas dirt.
The four cops proceeded to break into the kid's locked suitcase where they found a whole half ounce of marijuana product, which Diaz, in and out of hospitals since infancy for life-threatening breathing difficulties, says was and is his medicine. He and his family has since argued with convincing plausibility that cannabis is the only way he can find relief from crippling asthma attacks. Diaz also possesses his 215 card and a doctor's prescription. In California he'd be street legal. In Texas, a half-ounce of pot can get you 5 to 99 years in prison, which the young man is now facing.
Diaz lives on the Mendocino Coast. Diaz's mom, who also lives in Mendocino County, is from Amarillo, and his dad lives in Austin, a kind of Texas sanctuary city where the dope laws and the law generally is reasonably applied. Diaz was driving to Austin when Sheriff Grubbs waylaid him in Brownwood.
As the kid languished in the Brownwood jail his family went gone broke raising bail and temporarily staying in Brownwood to fight the case, watching the Brownwood judge refuse to hear any argument having to do with marijuana as medicine. Then Diaz's Brownwood public defender dropped dead just after he'd informed Diaz that he was headed to the Texas State pen for at least five years.
At that news, Diaz did what any sensible young family man would do — he got to hell outta Texas and came home to his kids in Mendocino County, California.
And Texas came looking for him. As did federal marshals who drove down from Eureka to bust in on Diaz's mom's house looking for the kid. So, right about here you ask, “Do you mean to say Texas wants to extradite this young man for a half-ounce of cannabis? They must want him for a bunch of other crimes.” Nope.
That's it. the half-ounce. Diaz is not wanted for anything else except being in full possession of his survival instincts by leaving Texas to avoid being locked up for who knows how many years. And there he was in the parking lot of Mendosa's Market in Mendocino Village on Sunday afternoon the 30th of October, confident that Texas was behind him, when deputy J.D. Comer of the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department pulls up and says, “Gotcha.” Diaz's mom immediately pulled out a megaphone and amplified her son's sudden and wholly unexpected capture, the result of a snitch-tip by the way, but Diaz was off to the County Jail in Ukiah where he's been ever since and where he awaits an extradition hearing in Judge Anne Moorman's courtroom on Wednesday, November, 30th at 1:30 p.m.
Petitions opposed to the young man's forced return to Brownwood have quickly filled up, and his plight is being widely publicized. We'll be in court with him next week and we hope you'll be there, too. This kid should not be sent back to Texas where they're laying for him and can be counted on to max him out.