by Letters to the Editor, June 15, 2010
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.