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Meet California's Lawless SheriffPerspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
Law? What law? Patrick Hedges just makes his own and calls in federal forces on the citizens of his county when he needs more muscle.
(SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.) - The dark ages have descended upon sunny San Luis Obispo, California, where a sheriff has made a personal mission out of punishing a legal medical marijuana dispensary owner. Threats, intimidation, and an absolute and total disregard for his own state laws describe the SLO-town Sheriff Patrick Hedges, to the embarrassment of many.
Law after law has been passed in the United States allowing the legal use of marijuana for sick people. This herb keeps cancer and HIV/AIDs patients from throwing up and withering away, relieves chronic pain, and it is a one of the few things that helps and aids combat veterans who suffer from combat stress: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
But Patrick Hedges doesn't care about any of that.
San Luis Obispo County, California sits exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. It is largely rural and the home of Cal Poly University and Cuesta College. To the south is Pismo Beach and to the north is my adopted hometown Morro Bay. This is a progressive county that is not matched by Hedges' outdated law enforcement practices. It is however known for being a few years behind California's major cities, and I suspect this is one thing Hedges relies on during his witch hunt operations.
The case at hand centers around a person advocates describe as a law-biding citizen, who is likely bound for federal prison during his sentencing which is scheduled to happen January 12th 2009.
Advocate Cheryl Aichele, says the man facing the wrath of Hedges is Charles C. Lynch, the former operator of the medical marijuana dispensary called Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers in Morro Bay, California.
"By some estimates Charlie faces up 100 years in federal prison. However, anytime behind bars would be a travesty of justice in this situation," Aichele said.
A one hundred year sentence for helping sick people, with a prosecution based on lies. Solid evidence that would have led to an immediate acquittal wasn't allowed to enter the trial, as federal courts fail to recognize state's rights; a platform our miserable lame duck president ran on when he and his brother forged his way into office back in '02.
Aichele says Charles did everything he could to follow the laws governing medical marijuana dispensaries in California.
"He called the DEA months before opening his location to inquire about the laws, and was told by a DEA agent that 'it's up to the cities and counties to decide how to handle that [medical marijuana dispensary] matter'".
Charlie worked closely with the city of Morro Bay and the county of San Luis Obispo to obtain a business license which clearly stated "medical marijuana dispensary" and a nursery permit to sell cloned medical marijuana plants. He followed all his business license requirements, city regulations, county restrictions and state laws.
However, San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Patrick Hedges doesn't like medical marijuana and apparently doesn't like following California law. After 11 months of investigating Charles, his employees, his patients, and his dispensary and not finding anything to justify a state-issued search warrant, the local Sheriff called the DEA.
Aichele says that together, both law enforcement agencies forced their way into Charlie's house and place of business with para-military style actions, including uniforms and weapons. At his home they forced Charlie to the ground naked and took all his money and medical marijuana. At his dispensary, they terrorized his patients and employees taking everything relevant.
Charlie was allowed to re-open his dispensary by local authorities but the DEA eventually sent a letter intimidating property forfeiture to the landlord of the location. The letter threatened to take all of the landlord's property away if he didn't evict the medical marijuana dispensary from the building. Federal agents operating like an organized crime syndicate, that's just great.
President-elect Barack Obama has stated that he has no interest in federal prosecutions of medical marijuana users. Perhaps the madness can eventually end, and people like Hedges whose open disregard for state law in the persecution of legal residents will end.
Residents of San Luis Obispo will be well served to remember the actions of Hedges when election time rolls around. Surely there are real crimes taking place every day in SLO County, along with unsolved disappearances and Murders.
I think that it will take a while, but Hedges will end up being lucky to get a job at McDonald's flipping burgers when the smoke from this debacle clears. He will go on damaging citizens for a while longer, but new federal rulings expected over the course of the next year could change things entirely.
Hedges follows a path that he has established, instead of supporting the wishes of California voters. The saddest part is that the only benefactor for Hedges' behavior is the pharmaceutical industry. That is the industry most determined to see marijuana demonized, because they know this natural herb stands to cut down on their sales of morphine-based drugs.
Aichele says CCCC was the only medical marijuana dispensary in San Luis Obispo County. "Charlie was out of work and more than 2,000 patients with doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana lost their safe access to medicine that helps their chronic conditions and terminal illnesses."
Eventually the DEA and local sheriff's department came back and arrested the Charlie at his home and violated his rights by covertly taping the incident and not allowing him to speak with his lawyer. Aichele says this evidence was eventually not allowed into the case due to the illegal conduct of the DEA.
"Charlie's family had to post $400,000 bail with their own property and money to get Charlie out of jail but he was still restricted to house arrest with an ankle bracelet.
The matter is not missing the nation's attention either. Drew Carey & ReasonTV did a video about this situation and have followed the story. Check out reason.tv for more.
If Charlie's bail amount seems excessive, Aichele says that's because it is.
"Especially in comparison to the $5,000 bail set for a San Luis Obispo sheriff's deputy (yes, the same department that investigated, raided, arrested, and eventually testified against Charlie) who is accused of child pornography and who only faces up 10 year in prison."
"The disparity in these two bails and sentencing shows the grave injustice of mandatory minimums, sentencing guidelines, bail amounts and the federal government's civil war on drugs as opposed to protecting our children from REAL predators," Aichele said
During the trial, the prosecution reportedly painted Charlie like a major drug cartel leader to the jury, stating that he made over $2 million. What they don't say is that the expenses for running the dispensary, paying the employees and taxes far exceeded that amount and the dispensary was in debt at the time of its closure and remains in debt to this day.
Aichele says the prosecution also tried to make it seem like Lynch was endangering children in his community by charging him with sales to minors. What they didn't say is the Federal Government considers any adult under the age of 21 years old a minor in drug cases. Or that he only sold to adults over 18 years old or to the parents or guardians of patients under 18 years old."
The only evidence of wrongdoing presented in the trial; the thing that brought the roof down, was the arrest of a CCCC security guard who violated the organization's trust and clearly established policies, by selling marijuana to a narcotics officer. He did not do this for Charles Lynch. I was in Morro Bay attending my parent's funeral when this case first broke, and the word in Morro Bay at the time was that CCCC was doing everything they could to comply with the law.
On August 5th 2008, Charles C. Lynch was found guilty of 5 cannabis-only felonies and faces 5-100 years in federal prison despite the Mayor and City Attorney testifying on his behalf as a law-abiding citizen.
Because of archaic federal law in a nation where states rights fail to exist, he wasn't allowed to use the medical benefits of marijuana, state law, or all the facts as evidence in the case because of strict federal precedents. Aichele says the jury only heard part of the story and was issued over 13 pages of more than forty individual jury instructions explaining to them how to deliberate in this case.
Within hours the jury found him guilty of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, two counts of sales to adults under the age of 21 years old, maintaining a drug premises, possession with the intent to distribute.
For more information on this case, visit Charlie's Website: friendsofccl.com
Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer
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With almost 25 years of experience on the west coast and worldwide as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor, Tim King is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.
Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu
In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005.
Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 115 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.
Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide.
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