DA Vern Pierson Fails to show Probable Cause so Judge Drops Case against Marijuana Dispensary

The Pure Life Marijuana Dispensary case ended in a celebration for Kelly Chiusano, CEO of the Pure Life Collective; Summer Bradley, CFO of the Pure Life Collective; Chris Brown, a Pure Life employee and vendor; and Whitney Marshand, a Pure Life employee. Honorable Judge Kenneth B. Melikian ruled in favor of the defendants, dropping all charges on Friday afternoon.

Judge Melikian addressed the court before he delivered his judgement. “Thank you for your patience in awaiting the court’s ruling. The evidence was voluminous.”

Department 2 in the Main Street courthouse was packed with family and supporters. Bradley, Chiusano and Marshand (Brown was not present) were emotional and sighed a breath of relief in hearing the judge’s decision.

“I feel the truth stood for itself. I came in today not knowing, wondering how I was going to shoulder the financial burden if it went to trial. We run a clean business and we are going to reopen,” said Bradley.

“I am so very grateful he was compassionate,” said Marchand.

DA Vern PiersonThe catalyst for the court case was the arrest of Chiusano following a November 2014 raid at the Pure Life Collective. Five months after the raid, no charges were filed and Chuisano requested the marijuana taken from the business he operated be recovered so he could re open.

Attorney Zenia Gilg, on behalf of Chiusano, filed a request to the county to return records and the marijuana, citing the dispensary “needs to operate,” said Gilg.

The case went through a lengthy preliminary hearing, with both sides bringing forth substantial evidence and interviewing witnesses.

“I am grateful the judge took this very seriously, really taking his time. It is nice to be recognized,” said Gilg.

SOURCE: http://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/tears-of-joy-for-pure-life-crew/


Calif. bill would give access to police misconduct records

By Vivian Ho, San Francisco Chronicle


Records detailing police misconduct and serious use of force, long kept confidential, could become public in California if legislation announced Friday is passed into law.

State Sen. Mark Leno, seeking to tighten accountability amid a national conversation over police shootings and a push for law enforcement reform in San Francisco, introduced a bill that would roll back a 1978 law and subsequent Supreme Court rulings that prompted cities to close police disciplinary cases to the media and the public.

“We’ve reached a critical point in the public’s perception of how law enforcement is doing its critically important work,” Leno said at a news conference in San Francisco, where he was joined not only by police watchdogs and progressive city supervisors but District Attorney George Gascón, a former city police chief.

“Officer-involved shootings around the country revealed on video have raised serious concerns,” Leno said. “Now more than ever the public’s trust in its law enforcement agencies is needed.”

It’s the second time Leno has pushed to restore such access, but stopping the bill will be a top priority for police unions, who argue that accountability can be achieved without violating officers’ privacy.

Harry Stern, an attorney who represents officers around the Bay Area, slammed the proposal, linking it to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ recent approval of a day of remembrance for Mario Woods, the stabbing suspect whose video-recorded killing by police sparked protests and a federal review of the city force.

“No one is against accountability,” Stern said. “But when politicos press an agenda that includes declaring a day in honor of a violent felon, one must consider their motives with a jaundiced eye. … In today’s criminal-friendly, antipolice climate, we need fewer baseless public floggings of cops, not more.”

Public allowed access

Under the Increasing Law Enforcement Transparency bill, the public would be allowed access to records of serious instances of use of force — those that cause death or serious bodily injury — and records of sustained charges of misconduct, including sexual assault, racial profiling, job dishonesty, violation of rights and illegal search or seizure. That means officials have completed an investigation and found the officer in violation.

Those who file complaints would be able to obtain more information on the investigation, the findings and any discipline imposed, rather than a current cursory response that informs the person if charges were “sustained” or “unsustained.”

In cities, including San Francisco, the bill would also allow local officials to decide whether to restore public hearings and public appeals on allegations of misconduct.

Leno, D-San Francisco, said California should not abide some of the country’s least transparent laws governing law enforcement records. The bill comes at a time of heightened police scrutiny nationwide and is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Conference of California Bar Associations.

Peter Bibring, who as the director of police practices for the ACLU of California helped draft the legislation, said it sought to strengthen the relationship between California communities and the police.

Police ‘have to earn’ trust

“Police departments have been concerned about the lack of trust between communities and police,” Bibring said. “But police can’t just ask for trust. They have to earn it, and in order to earn it, they have to be transparent about what they do.”

San Francisco Police Officers Association officials will be among those fighting the legislation. Nathan Ballard, an adviser for the union, said that while officers support efforts to bring transparency — including having officers wear body cameras — the union will oppose legislation seeking “to undo the California Supreme Court’s ruling that protects police officers’ privacy interests.”

“Due process is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution,” Ballard said. “It’s undermined when the public is allowed a ringside seat to an employer’s disciplinary process.”

San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy did not immediately respond to calls for comment, but Leno said he alerted them of his proposal and will be meeting with the police union.

Several San Francisco officials came out in support Friday — including Police Commission Vice President L. Julius Turman and Supervisors London Breed, Malia Cohen and Aaron Peskin — with many invoking the Dec. 2 police shooting of Woods, which remains under investigation.

Tense relationship with police

Gascón, whose relationship with the police force has grown increasingly tense, said his experience as police chief in San Francisco as well as in Mesa, Ariz., where state law granted public access to disciplinary records, proved to him that such laws “do not harm the well-being of police officers.”

“As a career law enforcement officer who spent 30 years in policing, I can tell you that good police officers do not fear transparency,” Gascón said. “Good police officers welcome transparency because it allows them to work effectively with the communities that they serve.”

But Alison Berry Wilkinson, an attorney who represented the Berkeley Police Officers Association when the union fought to close police-misconduct proceedings, said a reversal could have damaging side effects, including on public safety.

“There are a number of documented efforts where highly proactive, very effective officers are targeted (with misconduct complaints) by the bad guys to discourage them from moving forward with enforcing the law,” she said.

Access restricted since ’70s

California law regarding law enforcement records has been restrictive since the 1970s, when a state Supreme Court decision led to a police union-led push for confidentiality measures. However, for years, some city police forces, including in San Francisco and Los Angeles, allowed for some disciplinary records and hearings to be open to the public.

In 2003, the San Diego Union-Tribune filed a lawsuit when reporters were denied access to an appeals hearing for a county sheriff’s deputy who had been fired. A subsequent state Supreme Court decision, Copley vs. Superior Court, held that the public had no right to obtain records of administrative appeals in police disciplinary cases — and ended all local government practices that opened disciplinary hearings.

Time might be right

An effort to undo the Copley decision by then-Assemblyman Leno and then-Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, stalled in an Assembly hearing in 2007 after heavy lobbying from the law enforcement community.

Leno said he is optimistic about the outcome this time, not only because the bill provides safeguards if public access to certain records could jeopardize an officer’s life, but because the timing is right.

“One thing I have learned is that ideas have their own time,” he said. “Despite my own force of will, some things just don’t happen until that idea seems to have come of age. With all that has gone on around the country, here in San Francisco, the polling that we’ve looked at it, I think this is an idea whose time has come.”

Vivian Ho is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: vho@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @VivianHo


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So. Lake Tahoe needs to implement a Citizen review board for So. Tahoe police internal affairs complaints.

sltpd complaint

Greetings So. Lake Tahoe City Council:
I am requesting an “agenda item” to be placed on the next city council meeting to address citizen complaints against the police. The city needs to implement a Citizen review board for So. Tahoe police internal affairs complaints. Complaints against SLTPD officers known as “internal affairs” complaints appear to be covered-up by the corrupt SLTPD.
Many cities in California have implemented citizen review boards and South Lake Tahoe is a major tourist destination. The locals also deserve accountability. My experience is that the SLTPD covers-up citizen complaints against their personnel.
This cover-up and white-washing must stop and there must be accountability and transparency in the SLTPD especially with the false arrests, police shootings, excessive force and neglect of SLTPD officers to follow State laws and withholding police reports from crime victims.
“In many communities in the United States, residents participate to some degree in overseeing their local law enforcement agencies. The degree varies. The most active citizen oversight boards investigate allegations of police misconduct and recommend actions to the chief or sheriff. Other citizen boards review the findings of internal police investigations and recommend that the chief or sheriff approve or reject the findings. In still others, an auditor investigates the process by which the police or sheriff’s department accept or investigate complaints and reports to the department and the public on the thoroughness and fairness of the process. Citizen oversight systems, originally designed to temper police discretion in the 1950s, have steadily grown in number through the 1990s. But determining the proper role has a troubled history. This publication is intended to help citizens, law enforcement officers and executives, union leaders, and public interest groups understand the advantages and disadvantages of various oversight systems and components. In describing the operation of nine very different approaches to citizen oversight, the authors do not extol or disparage citizen oversight but rather try to help jurisdictions interested in creating a new or enhancing an existing oversight system by: • Describing the types of citizen oversight. • Presenting programmatic information from various jurisdictions with existing citizen oversight systems. • Examining the social and monetary benefits and costs of different systems. The report also addresses staffing; examines ways to resolve potential conflicts between oversight bodies and police; and explores monitoring, evaluation, and funding concerns. No one system works best for everyone. Communities must take responsibility for fashioning a system that fits their local situation and unique needs. Ultimately, the author notes, the talent, fairness, dedication, and flexibility of the key participants are more important to the procedure’s success than is the system’s structure.”
Thank You,
-Ty Robben


fuck-the-police_o_168412An arbitration panel reversed the City of South Lake Tahoe’s decision to terminate Police Officer John Spaeth and awarded back pay and benefits. Officer Spaeth and Mastagni Holstedt, APC, attorney Steven W. Welty disproved allegations of dishonesty, excessive force and false imprisonment, and showed that Spaeth’s actions during a traffic stop did not warrant termination. Spaeth’s exemplary work record and the City’s lack of progressive discipline showed that his termination was unjustified.
During his years as a police officer for the South Lake Tahoe Police Department, Spaeth was recognized for his high performance in DUI enforcement. On June 17, 2012, at around 2 a.m., Spaeth observed a car weaving in and out of its lane. The car crossed the white fog line on the side of the road and was traveling approximately 30 miles per hour in a 40-mile-an-hour zone. The driver also made an unnecessarily wide right turn. Based on the time of night, the erratic driving and the area’s history of problems with drunk drivers, Spaeth suspected the driver was intoxicated and stopped the vehicle.
Spaeth checked the driver’s license and registration, and attempted to explain to the driver why he had stopped him. The driver insisted that he had not done anything wrong because he was not speeding, and claimed he had not committed any traffic violations. Spaeth determined that the driver was not intoxicated and decided not to issue a citation. However, just as Spaeth handed back the driver’s paperwork, the driver made a comment similar to “Don’t act like you’re some sort of hero.”
At this point, Spaeth decided to issue a traffic citation for the driver unintention-
ally leaving a traffic lane. He was not angry with the driver’s comment, but felt that the driver did not understand that he had committed traffic violations. Also, Spaeth wanted to lend more validity
to the stop.
Spaeth demanded that the driver give back the documents and reached into the car to retrieve them. The driver refused to release the documents and they both began pulling on the paperwork. The driver then grabbed Spaeth’s forearm. Spaeth grabbed the driver’s arm and placed him in a modified twist lock. He ordered the driver to get out of the vehicle. The driver finally complied, and Spaeth handcuffed him and put him in his patrol vehicle to finish his investigation without further incident. Spaeth determined that the driver’s actions did not rise to the level of battery on a peace officer, and issued a traffic citation. He then released the driver.
When Spaeth returned to the Department, he verbally notified his supervisor of the incident. The next day, the driver filed a complaint with the Department. Spaeth completed a written report of the incident pursuant to his supervisor’s orders. Internal affairs investigated the incident and upheld 16 findings against Spaeth. Spaeth appealed the findings to Chief Brian Uhler and the City Manager, who upheld violations pertaining to performance, reasonableness of force, reporting use of force, required documentation and false imprisonment.
The arbitration panel overturned the City’s allegations, finding that termination was unwarranted. The City claimed that Spaeth “submitted false information regarding the stop to justify his actions.” But Spaeth’s description of the events surrounding the incident was consistent at every stage of the proceedings. A retired deputy district attorney and veteran officer reviewed the internal affairs investigation and did not find any credibility issues. The officer testified that if he were in the same position, he would have cited the driver for traffic violations regardless of whether the driver was intoxicated. Even the City Manager admitted that Spaeth had reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop. Spaeth had no motivation to lie about the driver’s erratic driving.
The City’s allegations of excessive force were also improper. The dashboard video showed a minimal use of force, and Spaeth did not deploy any strikes or takedowns. The panel determined that Spaeth was justified in using a minimum amount of force to obtain the information he officially requested, after it was refused and after the driver used force to prevent him from obtaining the documentation. Moreover, the driver had been angry and confrontational during the entire conversation. The driver was still seated inside the car when he began to resist Spaeth’s efforts to obtain the documentation. The vehicle had not been searched and Spaeth did not know whether the driver or passengers had weapons inside the vehicle. With these factors in mind, the panel found that Spaeth’s use of force
was justified.
The City’s allegations of false imprisonment were meritless. The driver was only placed in a police vehicle after demonstrating that he would not cooperate with Spaeth’s investigation. The driver’s refusal to cooperate required Spaeth to remove him to complete the investigation. The panel found that “This does not amount to ‘false imprisonment.’”
Finally, the panel found that the City’s allegations that Spaeth failed to report the incident did not rise to the level of a terminable offense. Spaeth verbally notified his supervisor of the incident the same night, and completed his written report the next night. He was not aware that the City required a written report every time a suspect is handcuffed, because it is very rare that someone is handcuffed and not subsequently taken to jail. He felt that informing his supervisor was sufficient notification. Furthermore, his supervisor did not order him to write a report until the next night, and the City’s policy does not specify when the written report for detention without arrest is due. The panel found that even if this constituted a violation, it was a minor infraction that did not rise to the level of a terminable offense.
None of Spaeth’s actions supported the City’s decision to terminate him and strip him of his career. His strong work record and the City’s lack of progressive discipline also persuaded the panel that any alleged mistake in judgment could have been easily corrected in other ways. The panel correctly decided to reverse the City’s excessive discipline by reinstating Spaeth and awarding him back pay and benefits. This exceptional outcome could not have been accomplished without the assistance of the PORAC Legal Defense Fund.

About the Author
Steven Welty is a senior associate at Mastagni Holstedt, APC, who focuses his practice on labor and employment law representation, fitness for duty and disability retirement litigation. For over a decade, he has provided outstanding representation of public safety clients in administrative investigations, disciplinary actions and appeals.

Letter: South Shore police force should use body cameras

fuck_the_police_infant_bodysuitIncredibly our local police department has yet to consider implementing the use of body cameras. In cities like Rialto and elsewhere in California, it’s been shown that complaints against police decline after implementation, since quick exoneration of officers usually results. Police forces across our country are turning to camera systems in an effort to regain the trust of the people. Expense is no longer a viable excuse as grants and guidance are now available. And, the cost of a camera system remains low compared to the potential cost of litigation and settlements.

So what’s out there? Microsoft Cloud, for example has a system specifically for police, designed to upload the officer’s video while filming. Many citizens have a cell phone “app” called “Bambuser” that operates the same way. It allows them to upload their recording in progress. So, destruction of the device doesn’t destroy the video. Why should our police have anything less?

A police force that restricts or even refuses to release its information soon begins to assume the role of a secret police. A police state, empowered by a secret police, operates by supervising the citizens’ activities, with no transparency, accountability or oversight. Information control is the heart of their power. Rather that protecting their constituency, they strive to enforce and enhance their personal authority. Freedom of information is their enemy.

In today’s society cameras record our actions dozens of times a day. If your bank deposit or Walmart purchase is important enough to record, then your interaction with police most certainly is. A camera system will protect our city’s finances, the citizens, and mostly our police officers. Our officers, proud of their daily interaction with the public, have nothing to hide and should welcome this inevitable change.

The technology is here and we can’t hide from it.

Dan Gill

South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

SOURCE: http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/news/20375275-113/letter-south-shore-police-force-should-use-body