A three-day jury trial ended last Wednesday with a hung jury, but the defendant will be going to prison anyway.
Manuel Carl Turchan, 37, ran from a bust in Covelo but was identified as one of the players by the satchel he left at the scene.
Local stoners will be horrified by the news that Turchan could be punished with a prison sentence without a guilty verdict. But most of the cannabis community remains intentionally blind to the violence inherent in the semi-legal trade. Besides, most people incarcerated on pot charges are put away for scofflaw defiance of court orders, not “smoking a joint.” The dope dealer in this case will be sentenced to prison for blowing off his probation officer, and going right back to drug dealing after he was put on probation for a bust last year and told not to do it again (for the umpteenth time).
Turchan’s excuse for not reporting to his PO?
“He was injured, your honor,” Turchan’s lawyer told Judge Ann Moorman. “He was left for dead in a field for three days up in Humboldt County.”
Turchan had set a field of highly combustible wild oats afire in September 2015 — during one of the most dangerous fire seasons on record — to draw attention to his immobilized self.
“Okay,” the judge replied, “but this [Turchan’s presumed injuries] went on for a couple of months. He couldn’t call his PO in all that time?”
“Your honor, he was in three different hospitals. First, he was life-flighted to Fortuna, then to Santa Rosa and finally to a hospital in Marin.”
It took considerable effort on the judge’s part to pry any facts out of Turchan’s high-dollar Santa Rosa lawyer. But the judge finally demanded that Turchan’s mouthpiece at least tell his client’s version, highly suspect as it was, that Turchan had been beaten up and robbed — of pot, or the money for it, or caught stealing it, or something very like it. But Turchan wouldn’t admit to any of that, so it was all just hung out in the air like the odor of skunkweed in early October as the judge smiled knowingly. Still, Her Honor felt the probationer could have, at the least, called his probation officer. Turchan’s attorney said that despite his life-threatening injuries, Turchan had tried to call in.
Spoilsport DA David Eyster, prosecuting yet another pot case himself — Eyster seems to take the cases that irritate him the most — read from a medical report describing Turchan’s injuries as a sprained ankle and a twisted wrist. There was no indication that the defendant had lost his powers of speech, immobilized by a head-to-toe body cast or was otherwise physically unable to make a phone call.
Judge Moorman gave Turchan two weeks to come back with enough evidence to prove he’d made a good-faith effort to contact his PO, or the suspended sentence would be activated, and Turchan would go to prison for violating his probation.
Even if Turchan, who’s clearly a hardcore recidivist, shows he made an effort to contact his PO, he will still be held for warrants in Trinity, Humboldt and Sonoma counties.
* * *
Across the hall, Judge David Nelson sentenced Anna L. Roseberry to three years and eight months for shooting Gary Fuller in the pills at her pot pharm in Covelo.
His Honor didn’t want to pack the old girl off, he said, “But the court needs to send a message to the [cannabis] community that the people who operate these grows and arm themselves in anticipation of a situation like this, results in a self-fulfilling prophesy, and it seems that it’s almost a given that someone’s going to get shot. So I’m going to deny the probation defense is asking for, Mr. Kalina, and impose the state prison sentence.”
Deputy DA Josh Rosenfeld asked for the Aggravated Term, but Judge Nelson, the old softie, could only bring himself to sentence the weeping Ms. Roseberry to the Mitigated Term.
* * *
The long, drawn-out case of Anderson Valley’s Kelly Boss* was back in court last week — it comes up once or twice a month it seems, if not two or three times a week (attorney fees must be colossal) — and it should be getting closer to trial. But, alas, defense attorney ED Lerman has successfully stalled this one out until past election day. DA David Eyster, however, has decided to crack on regardless, and Judge Moorman seemed to agree that Mr. Boss’s fate will be decided by a jury rather than the voters.
(*Almost as long as the Irish Beach civil lawsuit which ended this week after over six years of litigation before Judge Moorman, giving rise to a new ethnic riddle: If an Irish Holiday is two weeks in jail, what do you call an Irish Resort? Only lawyers find it funny — you have to pay for the answer.)
At issue this week was whether the Aardvark cooperative (or The Vark 35 collective, depending on which name you prefer) was a non-profit or, as prosecution contends, a commercial dope enterprise for the greater good of comrade Kelly Boss. A fellow from Chicago named Ricotta has been subpoenaed by Boss’s defense. Boss’s defense insists Ricotta was the custodian of records for The Vark 35; and Ricotta has taken the stand several times in recent months, but very little evidence has been shown — besides his say-so —that Vark 35 wasn’t operated for profit.
(We will note here that the love drug industry involves more selfless individuals than the past ten generations of the Little Sisters of the Poor.)
Moorman called it a “negative burden” that defense had to meet — just saying so wasn’t enough: you have to prove you weren’t mucking in mucho moola for the acquisition of a trophy vineyard in Anderson Valley, a cannabis community-approved dacha on the Mendocino Coast, exclusive philanthropic receptions at the Boonville Hotel, and numerous other Gatsby-like acquisitions and activities.
I’m the Boss: Take my word for it.
Moorman: “How’re ya gonna show it was a collective or co-op?”
Lerman: “By Mr. Ricotta’s testimony.”
Moorman: “How ya gonna prove it wasn’t a profit making enterprise?”
Lerman: “Well, there’s a license with the State of California, and they wouldn’t let that happen, your honor.”
DA Eyster seemed instantly overcome by drop-fall disbelief. Ms. Lerman couldn’t help looking over at him.
Moorman: “Ms. Lerman…? Forget Mr. Eyster for a moment. Look at me instead. I just asked you a question.”
(DA Eyster’s a master of mime. His entire physiognomy reacts to courtroom improbabilities. The idea that the state enforces pot or non-profit law draws from Eyster a full-body expression of stark incredulity.)
Lerman: “Sorry, your honor… Yes, Ms. Sturgis will be called.”
Moorman: “She’s the defense witness who will opine that this was operating as a non-profit?”
Moorman: “What’s the evidence?”
Lerman: “Law enforcement found people there with paperwork for The Vark 35.”
Moorman: “A torn piece of paper that looked like it could have been a membership agreement?
Lerman: “Yes, and it clearly must have been the top of a—”
Moorman: “What else ya got?”
Lerman: “The people who were there [the Cameron Road growhouse in Elk] — one of ‘em told the officers that it [the weed] was for a collective in Los Angeles.”
Moorman: “What else?”
Lerman: “Mr. Ricotta’s testimony that The Vark 35 was leasing the property from Mr. Boss.”
Eyster: “Judge, you were ‘told’ this was a non-profit, nothing more; Ms. Sturgis was ‘told’ it was set up with the ‘intent’ of a non-profit, but she’s seen no documents to prove it.”
Moorman: “Ms. Lerman, you told me Ms. Sturgis would come and establish that…”
Lerman: “It’s extraordinarily confusing, Your Honor, Kamala Harris has written a letter saying how hard it is to prove profit-making and—”
Moorman: “I don’t want to get into politics, Ms. Lerman. I’d like to see Ms. Sturgis’s report.”
Eyster: “That would be a series of documents, judge, including a report on Mr. Boss’s finances, his vineyard’s finances, and another on The Vark 35. The defense has to meet the burden of production, and what we’ve seen doesn’t meet that burden. It may have been ‘intended’ to be a non-profit, but that doesn’t mean it turned out that way. Now, if Ms. Sturgis can opine — with having seen admissible documents showing this was a non-profit, it may be dispositive, but so far we haven’t seen that.”
The seemingly endless matter of The People vs. Boss was set to resume next week.
The case of Mr. Lorenzo Rodriguez was set for a court trial this week in Judge Nelson’s court. This one will be carefully watched by Anderson Valley where Rodriguez was shot in the face by a then-high school kid, Bobby Kuny. Kuny apparently shot Rodriguez when Rodriguez threatened the young man’s mother. The DA was handed some last minute defense evidence by Alternate Public Defender Douglass Rhoades, but it seemed the trial would go forward as planned.