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Railroading Rexrode

It was Grand Central Station for medical marijuana the night I met Russell Rexrode in September 2007 at the Johnny Winters Music Fest at the Navarro General Store.

He had his squirming 5-year old son on his shoulders as we talked about the Fish & Game raid on his home, searching for a lion cub they knew he had already turned in; the medical marijuana they seized as evidence of "crime", despite it being legal; the jury that convicted him of cultivation, depriving him of his way of life -- growing & hunting.

There was also news that nite that 90-year old Lester "Smitty" Smith and his wife Mary had been raided in Philo for their little 12 plant backyard garden. KZYX moderator, Karen Ottoboni, pressed me to do something. "We can't let this be happening to our 90-year olds." Turns out Smitty and Mary were not arrested because they had done nothing wrong but sheriff's deputies confiscated their life savings of $54,000 from an unlocked home safe, Smitty's hunting rifles and their medical marijuana garden, leaving them nothing for the doctor-authorized bud tea they drink daily to ease their aches and pains. After dismissing all criminal charges and forcing him to file a separate lawsuit, 15 months later Smitty's and Mary's life savings was finally returned, but not their marijuana and not his heirloom hunting rifles. As a WWII navy gunner, Smitty was determined to compel the return of his guns as a constitutional right and he finally got them back last month. It would take a separate lawsuit to return the medicine.

Rexrode was found guilty of two felonies:

1) illegal possession of an abandoned lion cub he was no longer possessing

2) illegal cultivation of marijuana, although it was not illegal since it was medical, authorized by his local doctor.

His sentence was probation and a fine with no right to grow or hunt or have guns. The 2010 Major Crimes Task Force raid, called a "probation check", occurred January 4, 2010, two days before the landmark Supreme Court People v Kelly ruling, which threw out numerical plant limits as unconstitutional and instead, established the Trippet standard for quantity of medicine allowed, i.e., whatever is "reasonably related to (the person's) medical condition".

The prosecution claimed Rexrode had 'too much', approximately 20 pounds ("not counting stems, moldy leaf, rootballs and dirt on the way to the burn pile"). Rexrode says he was growing for 8 people, all with doctors' authorizations, but 4 of them were omitted from the evidence provided the jury.

According to Sara Rexrode, Russell's stalwart wife, "defense attorney Katharine Elliot made a deal with the DA to reduce the number of doctors' authorizations from 8 to 4, leaving several pounds unaccounted for.

Two of the patients were authorized to have 5 pounds. Two others were not asked to testify. One was waiting in the hallway and was never called. The other was not even subpoened.

If all of Russell's witneses had been heard, it would have shown, he was in compliance."

Instead, the defense attorney and the prosecutor made an outrageous deal that excluded fully half of the testimony in favor of Rexrode's innocence on the medical marijuana, without his knowledge or consent.

"We only found out about all this later. The deal was in the transcripts of the trial", according to Sara.

In everyday lingo, this is known as betrayal. It cost Rexrode his conviction.

Rexrode lost his appeal last month. He is fighting to have the bogus felony reduced so he can get his hunting rifles returned and be allowed to hunt again.

He is facing incarceration at sentencing June 23 -- 90 days for probation violation + a large fine, minimum.

With two young kids, ages 5 and 12, health payments and prosecution debts, their hardship is apparent. The long distance line on their phone has been cut off from lack of payment.

These folks need community help. The kids need a dad. The justice system is unjust.

The betrayal of Rexrode's defense lawyer is a heartbreaker--selling out to the DA, keeping the jury in the dark about exculpatory evidence by excluding witness testimony, working against the interests of her own client.

There is also the presumably false warrant obtained by Fish & Game Dep Lynnette Shinek, based on her bogus claim that they needed access to the lion cub which Rexrode had, despite knowing Rexrode had already given the cub to Fish and Game and no longer possessed it.

Once he realized it was not legal to keep an abandoned lion cub, after days of internet search and talking with lawyers, Russell relinquished it to proper authorities.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Law enforcement lied to get the warrant they didn't need and punished Rexrode for doing the right thing. When the marijuana laws are used to ruin good people's lives, they are wrong to the core and we all know it.

If you want to lend a hand, write Superior Court Judge Ron Brown, Room B, 1000 N State St Ukiah 95482.

Ask for leniency -- community service or home bracelet instead of jail.

Share a dime with Sara so she can turn their long distance phone service back on.

Show your support at sentencing Wed June 23 at 8:30 am Superior Court #B Ukiah.

It doesn't matter what you wear as long as you are there.
Call (707) 964-9377 for more info.

pebbles trippet


  1. Pebbles Trippet June 17, 2010

    It is good to see this letter posted as it may bring supportive people out to Rexrode’s sentencing Wed., June 23, 8:30am, Room B. His whole family–2 children, wife, parents, and friends–will be there in support.
    It also allows me to make a couple of corrections since talking again yesterday with his wife Sara.
    In 2005, Russell Rexrode was originally charged with felony marijuana cultivation & misdemeanor possession of a lion cub.
    He was convicted at trial with the aid of his defense attorney who, behind Russell’s back, made a deal with the prosecutor and sabotaged half of his patient-witnesses from testifying to the jury that he legally grew medical marijuana for them.
    Since his case includes a felony, it turns out Russell is not eligible for work release or home detention as “misdemeanants” are. He was sentenced to probation (allowed to possess but not to grow) and six months jail if he violated, which he did by having medical marijuana when he was visited for a “probation check”.
    Probation is a trick bag and usually ensnares you again. They have it down.
    I was once told I was eligible for home bracelet by the prosecutor and the court to mollify my supporters at sentencing who called for leniency–no jail, home detention for marijuana transportation due to my medical purposes (this was prior to the law changing). The Court and Contra Costa DA knew I had prior medical marijuana felonies and that I was therefore not eligible.
    But I didn’t know that. I believed them. When I arrived naively for an appointment to arrange home detention, they looked at each other and smiled and went in the other room and came back with handcuffs and took me away. They added I wasn’t eligible.
    How easy is that? Too easy to be fair. It is one of the tricks in their bag to interfere with the cannabis medicine-providing process that is now protected by law.
    On a personal note, I was transporting two pounds of leaf for medical purposes and retroactively found legal. They blocked my medical purpose backed by a doctor’s testimony, so I eventually won.
    It is much the same with Russell Rexrode. Why is law enforcement interfering in his private medical decisions, taking away his rights, medicine & unrelated hunting rifles, taking everything that is near and dear to him, separating him from his family, incarcerating him with no means to support them during a jail stint of 6-month + 90 days for probation violation.
    His right to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes and separately his right to gun ownership without discrimination due to being a cannabis patient are at issue. Rexrode has harmed no one. He is being railroaded. The AVA headline nails it! pt

  2. Pebbles Trippet June 18, 2010

    The AVA deserves credit for publicizing Rexrode’s plight–being “caught in the clutches” of law enforcement, as Herb Caen put it. Editor Bruce got the ball rolling last year with a lengthy sympathetic and sad front page article about Russell’s hunting passion, the innocence of the abandoned lion cub incident made into a jailable crime, co-mingled with his felony medical marijuana conviction.
    Russell’s right to gun ownership allowing him to hunt within the law was stripped away by the felony conviction. In addition to his family, he described hunting as his life’s blood. “It’s what I love to do most…hunting in the woods in tune with my dogs. it’s a way of life. I’ve been doing this for years. And now I can never hunt again because of a bogus medical marijuana felony. I thought I was doing it right.”
    Bruce then followed up with a widely-regarded letter to Rexrode’s Judge in the original case, painting a picture for leniency.
    According to Sara Rexrode, the defense attorney inexplicably submitted only 3 support letters out of a total of 30 for the Judge to consider at sentencing. That’s why all letters of support should be sent directly to Superior Court Judge Ron Brown 100 N State Ukiah 95482 (keep a copy).
    By the way, it is Lt. Lynnette Shinek, not deputy sheriff, who initiated the intrusion with a bogus warrant to retrieve an abandoned lion cub that Russell had already submitted to Fish & Game. She should have patted Russell on the back. Instead he was investigated, charged and hung out to dry. Plus the side charge of felony medical marijuana. This qualifies as persecution. pt

  3. Pebbles Trippet June 25, 2010

    Judge Ron Brown, true to his rep as a hanging judge in the Aaron Vargas child molestation case, sentenced Russell Rexrode to the maximum 9 months in county jail–6 months for possession of an abandoned lion cub & felony marijuana cultivation despite it being medical & legal, + 3 months for probation violation. The judge granted an extension of 6 weeks before turning himself in.
    Rexrode intends to challenge his conviction on habeas, which is reserved for new information that wasn’t brought out at trial & may go toward proving his innocence. His goal is to reverse his felony medical marijuana conviction so as to regain his right to own a firearm, enabling him to resume training his hunting dogs. “I would like to teach my son the lessons you learn hunting. It instills discipline and patience. To me it is a sport, not to kill but to learn the ways of animals and nature.” On the marijuana Russell added, “I thought I was helping people who couldn’t grow for themselves but they weren’t allowed to testify for me at trial. My attorney Catherine Elliot made a deal with the prosecutor to only allow 4. What did she get for that deal. I got nothing.” pt

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