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Oh, That Old Gang Of Mine

Peter Richardson
Peter Richardson

There are pot cases and there are pot cases, and here at ground zero Pot County we see them all, great and small. This one is big, as in big personalities, and its roots go back some.

You've got Peter Richardson, a long, lean charismatic fellow who, it is widely assumed, parlayed a Covelo-based pot fortune into a construction company that came to be awarded large, local public building contracts. Years ago Richardson was close to former DA Susan Massini who, when she fired present DA David Eyster, had one of her investigators march Eyster, then an assistant DA, out of the Courthouse at gun point. Eyster's crime? Not supporting Massini for re-election. There were rumors that Massini, beguiled by the tall man with the meticulous braid down his back, protected Richardson from this and that prosecution.

In the current chapter of The People vs. Peter Richardson, you've got the County's legendary cop, Peter Hoyle, a lawman not friendly to the herb in a county where the herb is not only the primary industry but holy sacrament to at least half the population.

You've got Keith Faulder, a crack criminal defense attorney who's gone from prosecuting pot cases as an assistant DA under the late Norm Vroman to defending them.

And you've got Eyster, the Mendocino County District Attorney whose babyface good looks are movie-perfect as the righteous young prosecutor out to beat back evil.

All these people know each other, go back together in all sorts of odd ways. They probably know each other better than many families know each other.

The judge is Ann Moorman, a kind of den mother in this one. She knows all the players, too. Before she was elevated to the bench a couple of years ago, Ms. Moorman enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as one of the top defense attorneys in the County.

District Attorney Eyster handles many of the County’s marijuana cases himself. He's implemented a strategy for dispatching pot cases that not only saves the taxpayers a lot of public money but even makes some money for local law enforcement. In exchange for misdemeanor pleas and fines, Eyster resolves the endless flow of marijuana cases before they clog up the courts.

Some cases do, however, go to trial, but none of them have yet pitted the DA against his old pal Faulder. This will be the first pot case Faulder has taken to jury trial — if it goes that far — since he won the big one for the legendary Laytonville-Leggett agro-outlaw, Matt Graves.

Eyster vs. Faulder in front of Moorman co-starring Peter Richardson and Peter Hoyle.

Get ready to rummmmmmmmmble!

Faulder is recently back from climbing Mt. Everest and seems to be in fighting shape. At Richardson's prelim last week Faulder came out swinging with an immediate motion to suppress statements Richardson made to Agent Hoyle at the time of the Richardson bust, saying it was a Fourth Amendment issue. DA Eyster responded to Faulder's constitutional gambit by consulting his holy law book to cite legal scripture saying that any such motion should have been submitted in advance. Eyster went on to point out that the case had been postponed because of Richardson's prostate cancer, and that Faulder had had plenty of time to get his motions in order.

Faulder countered that his motion was implicit in the Constitution, and therefore had more authority than the rules of court. He said Richardson's statements to Hoyle were involuntary; Faulder said he wanted a special hearing to prove that they were involuntary.

Judge Moorman said a special hearing wasn’t necessary. “We’re going to go ahead. I want to see how this unfolds,” she said.

Faulder made another motion concerning the medical marijuana recommendations possessed by Richardson and his wife. Eyster said they too should have been submitted in advance. Faulder snapped back that the DA already had them because law enforcement had seized them at the time of the bust.

Eyster made his own motion, that “judicial notice” be taken that the defendant was already on summary probation for a prior marijuana-related offense when Hoyle and Company raided him again early this year.

On that interface between devil weed and the forces of law and order, Special Agent Hoyle of the Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force had busted Mr. Richardson at his Sanel Drive home south of Ukiah on February 7th of this year.

Eyster: “Did you find any marijuana at that location?”

Hoyle: “Yes, I did.”

Eyster: “Let me show you some photographs. What is this a picture of?”

Hoyle: “It shows a portion of the basement, two rows of mature marijuana plants with lights suspended over them.”

Eyster: “And this photograph, People’s exhibit number two?”

Hoyle: “More plants.”

Eyster: “People’s three?”

Hoyle: “More plants.”

Eyster: “Number four?”

Hoyle: “More immature plants.”

Eyster: “How many?”

Hoyle: “Over 200 immature plants.”

Eyster: “Did you find any pots?”

Hoyle: “Yes. In a detached garage there were 10 stacks of 20 five-gallon pots in each stack.”

Eyster: “Do you know anything about the grow lights used?”

Hoyle: “Yes. I was talking to a grower as recently as two days ago who told me that you can expect to get one pound per light, per cycle.”

Eyster: “How many lights did you find at the Richardson residence?”

Hoyle: “Nine high-intensity lights.”

Eyster: “Find any zip-ties?”

Hoyle: “You mean the Sheriff’s zip-ties?”

Eyster: “Yes.”

Hoyle: “No.”

Eyster: “How many plants all together?”

Hoyle: “354.”

Eyster: “Was there any processed marijuana?”

Hoyle: “Yes. Approximately two pounds.”

Eyster: “Did you reach any conclusion?”

Hoyle: “Yes. In my opinion, the majority of this marijuana was for sale and a portion for personal use.”

Mr. Faulder rose to cross: “The number 354 — does that include the really small plants?”

Hoyle: “The number includes all the plants.”

Faulder: “As to the processed cannabis, was it all in one bag?”

Hoyle: “I believe it was in five separate bags.”

Faulder: “But some of it was old, wasn’t it?”

Hoyle: “I don’t recall.”

Faulder: “Did you find a scale?”

Hoyle: “I didn’t, no.”

Faulder: “Did you talk to the other officers in the Task Force?”

Hoyle: “Yes.”

Faulder: “Did any of them find a scale?”

Hoyle: “If they did, it wasn’t pointed out to me.”

Faulder: “Did any of you find any packaging materials?”

Hoyle: “That’s a loose term.”

Faulder: “Did you find any weapons?”

Hoyle: “I didn’t find any firearms.”

Faulder: “So there were no weapons?”

Hoyle: “You throw a wide net at me, counselor.”

Faulder: “I’m not trying to trick you, I promise, Agent Hoyle. What kinds of weapons are you talking about?”

Hoyle: “There were knives in the kitchen.”

Faulder: “And you consider kitchen knives weapons?”

Eyster: “Objection. Argumentative.”

This came rapid fire, with the DA jumping to his feet to confront Faulder. The court reporter watched warily as the lawyers' cacophony of claims and counter-claims made it impossible for her take it all down.

Judge Moorman, in the voice of a playground monitor, “Alright! Alright, you two! Everyone just take a breath.”

Faulder: “But you didn’t find any evidence of a prior grow, did you?”

Hoyle: “That’s not correct.”

Faulder: “You found pots.”

Hoyle: “Yes.”

Faulder: “But wasn’t there extensive landscaping at the property?”

Hoyle: “What do you mean by that?”

Faulder: “By what?”

Hoyle: “Extensive.”

Faulder: “I’ll leave that to you.”

Hoyle: “There was shrubbery, things like that.”

Faulder: “Of the smaller, immature plants — were they rooted — did you personally inspect any of them?”

Hoyle: “What do you mean, ‘inspect’?”

Faulder: “Did you pull any of them out and look at the roots?”

Hoyle: “I may have been somewhat involved in that, but I don’t really recall.”

Faulder: “Many were clones — were they rooted?”

Hoyle: “I recall some were rooted.”

Faulder: “Did you take any photographs of them?”

Hoyle: “No.”

Faulder: “Yes, but you did take photos of the cut plants, isn’t that true?”

Hoyle: “I took photos of all the plants after they were cut down.”

Faulder: “So as you sit here today, you can’t testify that all those plants had roots?”

Hoyle: “No.”

Faulder: “That’s all I have.”

Special Agent Hoyle stepped down, but be on the lookout, pot pharmas, Hoyle knows who you are and just might get around to visiting you next.

The prosecution rested after the fast go round with Hoyle and Faulder.

Faulder called his first defense witness, Ms. Jeannie Louette McKay, wife of the defendant. Ms. McKay had been at work when the Task Force made the bust. She came home to find her house turned upside down and her husband in jail. There had been another heated argument between Eyster and Faulder regarding spousal privilege as to testifying, and Judge Moorman finally ruled that privilege would be waived if McKay took the stand. She did.

Faulder: “Do you have a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Faulder: “So you were not there?”

McKay: “No.”

Faulder: “But your husband, Peter, has a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana, as well, doesn’t he?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Faulder: “So something happened recently that necessitated your husband’s medical marijuana recommendation?”

McKay: “Yes. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August of 2012.”

Faulder: “How did Peter then change the way he used cannabis?”

McKay then launched into a tentative narrative, responding to cues from Faulder, describing the latest vogue in medical marijuana use. “He got a Vita-Mix blender and a Champion juicer,” she said. “He started making canni-butter [no trade mark, yet, entrepreneurs!] fruit juices, and vegetable smoothies, using fresh cannabis.”

Faulder: “Did you have anything to do with the making of these products?”

McKay: “No.”

Faulder: “”Did you have anything to do with the growing of the cannabis?”

McKay: “No.”

Faulder: “So, only Peter did the cultivation and preparation of the juices and smoothies?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Faulder: “Did you drink it?”

McKay: “Yes. It was usually in the fridge.”

Faulder: “Did you smoke cannabis?”

McKay: “Occasionally, not often.”

Faulder: “Nothing further.”

Eyster for the prosecution.

“So, you were aware of a search warrant being served at your home?”

McKay: “I was told about it.”

Eyster: “Who told you?”

McKay: “Peter did.”

Eyster: “You were aware he was on probation?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Eyster: “You knew he wasn’t allowed to have more than 25 plants, weren’t you?”

McKay: “I don’t know…”

Eyster: “You know about the Sheriff’s zip-tie program?”

McKay: “I don’t know…”

Eyster: “But you work for the County, don’t you?”

Faulder: “Objection, relevance, your honor.”

Moorman: “Overruled.”

Eyster: “Where do you work”

McKay: “I work at Child Protective Services.”

Eyster: “Do you smoke marijuana?”

Faulder: “Objection, relevance.”

Moorman: “Overruled.”

Eyster: “So you do smoke marijuana?”

McKay: “Occasionally.”

Eyster: “How often?”

McKay: “Once every two days or so, but it depends. My job is very stressful.”

Eyster: “On average, in a month?”

McKay: “I don’t know?”

Eyster: “Do you ‘roll your own’?”

McKay: “No.”

Eyster: “Do you use a pipe?”

McKay: “Yes.

Eyster: “How much do you put in it?”

McKay: “I don’t know.”

Eyster: “Can you give me an estimate?”

McKay: “No.”

Eyster: “Do you know what a gram is?”

McKay: “No.”

Eyster: “Do you have any experience with cooking?”

McKay: “I think I made cookies once.”

Eyster: “Ever use measuring devices for cooking?”

McKay: “I don’t recall.”

Eyster: “Do you have measuring devices in your kitchen?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Eyster: “But you never use them?”

McKay: “No.”

Eyster: “How much marijuana do you put in your pipe?”

McKay: “A small amount.”

Eyster: “How small?”

McKay: “A pipeful.”

Eyster: “How big is the pipe?”

McKay: “I don’t know.”

Eyster: “You say you have measuring devices in your kitchen — do you know a teaspoon from a tablespoon?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Eyster: “Well, is the amount you use closer to a teaspoon or a tablespoon?”

McKay: “I don’t know.”

Eyster: “How often, then?”

McKay: “I told you I don’t know!”

Faulder: “Objection, your honor, that’s been asked and answered.”

Moorman: “Overruled.”

McKay: “Occasionally.”

Eyster: “Four times a month?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Eyster seemed to be badgering the witness, but if Ms. McKay only smokes four grams in the course of a month, and hubbykins really only needs a little for his juicer, why 300 plants?

The DA launched a kind of Good Housekeeping line of culinary inquiry. He wanted to know how much of the fruit/pot juice, canni-butter and veggie/bud smoothies she and her husband consumed. Were they canni-vegans on cannibas diets?

Ms. McKay said she had nothing to do with the preparation of these pioneer medico-nutritional products and couldn’t say specifically what proportions the pot recipes called for.

Eyster: “So you didn’t make the canni-butter … Did your husband?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Eyster: “How do you know?”

McKay: “It wasn’t there, and there it was.”


Eyster: “So you never saw him make it — did you see anything?”

McKay: “A crock of butter.”

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Eyster: “On February 7th was there any canni-butter in your home?

McKay: “I don’t know.”

Eyster: “Would the crock have been in the fridge or out?

McKay: “I don’t recall.”

Eyster: “How did you know the police had been in the house?”

Either the cops had been in the house or someone had majorly freaked out and threw everything this, that and every which way. But seriously, who else gets to kick your front door down, throw you on the floor, call you and your granma muthafuggas, and toss all your stuff around?

McKay: “I finally got a call that Peter had been taken to jail.”

Eyster: “But you understood it was an important event?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Eyster: “Did you know that the charge of ‘marijuana for sale’ was going to be an issue?”

Faulder: “Objection, relevance.”

Eyster: “I think it’s tangentially relevant, judge.”

Moorman: “Overruled.”

McKay: “I don’t know.”

Eyster: “What did you then do to make sure you had an understanding of the difference between marijuana for sale and marijuana for personal use?”

McKay: “Our house was trashed! I was in shock.”

Eyster: “Did you ever go into the basement and help with the cultivation?”

McKay: “No.”

Eyster: “Why not?”

McKay: “I worked!”

Eyster: “Had there been a bankruptcy in your household?”

McKay: “Umm…”

Faulder: “Objection, relevance.”

Moorman: “What’s the relevance?”

Eyster: “Marijuana for sale.”

Moorman: “Overruled.”

Eyster: “So you knew there was a bankruptcy?”

McKay: “Yes.”

Eyster: “When?”

McKay: “I don’t know.”

Eyster: “Oh, please, Ms. McKay.”

Faulder: “Objection.”

Moorman: “Overruled.”

McKay: “Peter had been sick, losing lots of weight, the marijuana was a medicine…”

Eyster: “The question was were you aware of the bankruptcy and when.”

McKay: “I don’t take care of the finances!”

Eyster: “Are your finances separate?”

McKay: “We share in the expenses.”

Eyster: “What income did Peter have?”

McKay: “Property management and an antique motorcycle business.”

(Ed note: The construction workers at the Water Trough, many of whom worked for Pete when he ran Rainbow Construction, say he bought Harleys and Indians rather than pay his sub-contractors. The old gent who owns the Trough corroborates this — Pete built the big new Grace Hudson school right across the street — and all these guys drank in the Trough during the construction. Many, including Pete, still do. Also, Pete told me himself that there was no “profit” in these big projects, so he invested all his money in collectable bikes.)

Eyster: “Did you know the property he managed was the source of the marijuana cultivation offense he was on probation for?”

Faulder: “Objection.”

Moorman: “Sustained.”

Eyster: “Did you know there was a mortgage?”

Faulder: “Objection.”

Eyster: “I get to probe, judge.”

Faulder: “That’s irrelevant.”

Eyster: “Don’t argue with me, counsel.”

The two lawyers were standing toe-to-toe, arms folded on their chests, scowling at each other.

Moorman: “Okay, you two. I want a sidebar — right now!”

When lawyers get out of hand, and the proceedings seem likely to veer out of control, the judge calls a time out to "admonish" them to behave.

Her honor stomped down off the bench, robes billowing, and stamped her foot to show her impatience as the lawyers continued their stare-down standoff. Then they gave it up and went to the corner with the judge for a few words of …? We couldn’t hear what. But a long, heated discussion ensued and at times Judge Moorman had to put her hands between the two lawyers, the way referees in boxing matches separate heavyweights. When they came back, Eyster resumed his attack on Ms. McKay’s impenetrable stonewall.

Eyster: “What’s the mortgage payment?”

McKay: “I don’t know.”

Eyster: “What’s the utility bill?”

McKay: “I don’t know.”

Eyster: “I’ll have more questions for this witness later, judge.”

Moorman: “Redirect, Mr. Faulder.”

Faulder: “Yes, thank you, your honor. Ms. McKay, do you do the cooking in your home?”

McKay: “Yes, I do.”

Faulder: “But your husband takes care of all the cannabis cultivation and preparation?”

McKay: “Yes. I don’t go in there.”

Faulder then started a back and forth with his witness that was so rapid-fire I couldn’t get it down. But it had to do with how “extraordinarily sick” Mr. Richardson has been, his weight loss, and how the cannabis seemed to help him cope with what may well be terminal illness.

Judge Moorman said, “Slow down, I can’t keep up, you’re talking over each other and my court reporter has to take all this down.”

The judge has to comprehend it all and the court reporter has to take it all down. I have to do both. The judge has a law degree; the court reporter has a shorthand machine; I have a pencil and pad.

There was a recess, then a certain Dr. Lovejoy, a former gynecologist was called to the stand, at which point the hearing was postponed.

Why would a gynecologist go from pudendas to pot?

Stay tuned.

And don’t forget to order your Magical Canni-Butter Crock Kit today! ¥¥



One Comment

  1. Steve May 22, 2014

    Peter Richardson is an arrogant self righteous pig. The guy has ripped off many people for his own gain. He is sick in the head. One day he says he has lupus, next week its cancer. He loves for people to feel sorry for him. Don’t let this lenky clown fool you. He is trashy and only uses others for his own gain. Oh, and the guy hits women.

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