Caught with a bag of go-fast big enough to fuel a rocketship, Mark Johnson of 581 Locust Lane in Willits said the 53 grams stashed in his cool-o secret closet was for his personal use, not for sale.
Enter Porkey Pig: “Wee We we we…”
Enter Elmer Fudd: “Waaskally waabitt!”
Johnson’s lawyer, Monte Hansen of Santa Rosa, jowels trembling with such indignation you'd have thought he was the defendant, claimed that his client, Johnson, had been terribly wronged, that it was Deputy Hank Stolfi who was the criminal because Stolfi had no reasonable cause to search Johnson's house where the methamphetamine was found in that secret room hidden behind a bookcase.
Since the passage of Proposition 47, which reduces possession of meth for personal use from a felony to a misdemeanor, dealers have been claiming that the outrageous amounts they get caught with are strictly for personal use. Personal use has become Mendo tweekers first line of defense, along with casting aspersions on their arresting officers. The tweekers and their cash-paid lawyers stall the proceedings with personal use claims and blame the cops then, faced with prison, claim an overpowering addiction and a desperate need of a treatment program "to get my life together."
Mr. Johnson’s case has been successfully stalled for nearly a year and a half, with no end in sight. During a recent courtroom edition, Deputy Stolfi took the stand to answer questions about his experience with Johnson. Stolfi said he went to the Johnson residence with a search warrant on April 15th, 2015, after a couple of incidents involving the defendant and meth. One was a traffic stop April 8th, 2015 and the other a search of Johnson’s vehicle at the Sherwood Valley Casino, March 14th, 2015.
(One would think by now that the tweeking community would have figured out that casino parking lots are regularly surveilled by the police.)
There was no answer when the deputies gave the knock and notice at Johnson's front door, so they forced their way in. There were small amounts of meth here and there in plain view, along with meth pipes and the miniature zip-lock bags used to package the stuff for retail sale. There was also a .25 auto under the mattress and the incriminating 53 grams hidden in the room behind the bookcase.
Deputy DA Brian Morimune asked Stolfi to describe his visit to Villa Johnson.
“I spotted hinges on the back of the bookshelf, and so you could grab it and swing it out, and there was a doorway behind it that led into a small room.”
And there were the 53 grams.
There was also a syringe in the bag for shooting the meth intravenously. Defense attorney Hansen felt that the syringe was proof that the stash was personal.
Hansen: “You also found a syringe fully loaded with a clear substance?”
Hansen: “Would that indicate to you it was for personal use?”
Hansen: “Why not?”
Stolfi: “Out of a hundred contacts I make with users of methamphetamine, over 90% have a gram or less; on rare occasions, as much as three grams. But it is not common for an individual user to keep or have on hand 53 grams. Now, certainly an individual may also be using it themselves as well as selling it, and this is often the case when the amount is only a few grams. But 53 grams is way more than any individual would have on hand for strictly personal use.”
Hansen: “But a syringe would indicate a strong habit, wouldn’t it?”
Stolfi: “It could.”
Hansen: “There was a small amount found in the bathroom?”
Hansen: “And another small amount in the bedroom cabinet?”
Hansen: “And a small amount of heroin?”
Hansen: “Would these amounts be consistent with personal use?”
Hansen: “And wasn’t there some keef found?”
Hansen: “And some butane honey oil?”
Stolfi: “Yes, approximately five pounds.”
Hansen: “Any bud marijuana?”
Stolfi: “Twenty-nine pounds or more.”
Hansen: “How long does marijuana keep?”
Stolfi: “Depends on how you store it.”
Hansen: “And ten pounds of shake?”
Hansen: “But shake isn’t sold is it?”
Stolfi: “Didn’t used to be, but now it’s distributed to make butane honey oil.”
Hansen: “What is a typical amount for personal use of methamphetamine?”
Stolfi: “A twenty dollar bag is two-tenths of a gram; a fifty-sack, is a half of a gram; 3.5 grams is called an eight-ball. The more you buy the better the deal you get, and for personal use an individual may get an eight-ball on payday and it will last all week, or it may be used up with friends over the weekend.”
Then of course this “individual” is so burnt out he can’t go to work on Monday, and after calling in “sick” so many times, he gets fired. Now, to support his habit he must become a dealer himself, or resort to theft, or both. Thus it happens that Mr. Johnson in all likelihood was running a kind of non-sanctioned Walgreens distributing plain old pot, honey oil and meth to lower-level dealers, giving would be Willits entrepreneurs a hand up in the free enterprise community.
It was quite the drug store Johnson was running on Locust Lane, a veritable pharmacopeia of illegal substances. No wonder he can afford to help small business start-ups; no wonder he can afford a venerable old lion of the defense bar like the blustery Hansen.
After lunch Hansen attacked the search warrant, saying Deputy Stolfi had lied to the judge who signed it, an ugly aspersion to paste on a cop but routine these days in American courtrooms.
On March 14, 2015, Mark Johnson’s teenage daughter, Dakota Johnson, had been found in Dad’s truck in the parking lot of the Sherwood Valley Casino while Dad was inside matching wits against against a poker machine. Hansen felt the kid should not have been busted for the six grams and 20-odd tiny zipper bags in Dad's truck simply because she was in the truck while Dad was inside the casino.
Judge Ann Moorman said, “It’s not the proximity to the meth – it’s that the meth was in his truck.”
“But then Dakota says the meth is hers,” Hansen remonstrated, casually throwing the kid under Dad's bus. Hansen was pacing the balliwick, and he’s a big, tall man with true theatric gifts. He took another few emphatic strides, his long legs carrying him hither and yon. The guy puts on a great show.
“Then we have,” Hansen boomed, his huge six-foot-four frame stomping the carpet for emphasis, “the affiant [Deputy Stolfi] – and remember this is only a month before the search warrant is signed — what he [Stolfi] omits to tell the judge is that the meth was found in her [Dakota’s] purse and brassier. So it’s our position that Stolfi lied. Then, he didn’t even arrest Mark Johnson, my client. [At this point Hansen placed an avuncular paw on his client’s shoulder] when he came out of the casino, so how can he tell the judge he knows there’s meth at his [Johnson’s] house? Also judge, she told Stolfi she’d just gotten dropped off by some friends, so if he [Stolfi] told the truth, the judge never would have signed the warrant.”
If what Hansen said was true, then either Dakota was covering for Daddy, or Daddy had set his own daughter up with a meth business all her own — which makes sense, since lemonade stands are so passé for Mendocino County kids who want to start a business to supplement their allowance and learn first-hand how to make a good living.
It should be noted that Dakota was apparently babysitting meth in a casino parking lot at 2:30am on a school night. But for tweekers the time of day or night is irrelevant, as those of us who live near them know to our distress from our countless hours of lost sleep.
The other possibility, the one Hansen wanted the court to believe, was that Dakota was the big-time dealer and that she either sold or gave her father a bag of dope worth over $5,300 for his own personal use.
O hell yes. The daughter clearly framed daddy.
A security guard from the casino came in to corroborate this nonsense, testifying that Mark Johnson was indeed inside the casino that night and the daughter was found in the truck.
Another witness from Laytonville testified that Mark Johnson had been followed from a party at the daughter’s house and pulled over by Deputy Stolfi on April 8, 2015, and that he was arrested because he was carrying a couple of pounds of pot, but didn’t have his 215 card with him.
Then Deputy Jim Wells was called. Wells repeated what had already been established about the amounts and varieties of drugs found at the residence when the warrant was served. But nothing was decided. The hearing, months old already, would have to resume sometime in mid to late summer.
Really? This set of facts occupies this much court time?
Meanwhile the unobstructed flow of meth, thanks to lawyers like Monte Hansen and Prop. 47, has turned many Mendocino County neighborhoods into prison yards of addicts and dealers doing their business.