A visiting judge on Tuesday granted 30-year-old Allen Nelson, of Sacramento, release on his own recognizance. He was arrested on September 22 on a search warrant that was served on County Road 41a, where the deputies collected 498 growing marijuana plants with an estimated value of approximately $750,000.
At that time, Mr. Nelson was charged with cultivation of marijuana, conspiracy, and possession of ammunition by a prohibited person.
Mr. Nelson had filed a declaration in pro per, but the judge declined to hear that declaration at this time.
Deputy DA Larry Eichele indicated that he was not opposing OR but did not understand why it was not initially granted for Mr. Nelson but was for the five others who were arrested in a similar raid that removed 2227 marijuana plants with a value of over $5 million.
Guangyang Bao, 60, of Sacramento, Jian Fang, 54, of Sacramento, Sinh Lieu, 52, of Sacramento, Bobby Lieu, 55, of Sacramento, and Paofu Chen, 34, of Queens, New York, were booked into the Yolo County Jail.
All were charged with felony counts of possession of marijuana for sale, cultivation of marijuana, maintaining a place for the purpose of unlawful drug sales, and conspiracy.
Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt indicated that Mr. Nelson was part of the group of people being “duped” by Heidi Lepp, a minister at the Sugarleaf Rasta Church. He explained that she’s
the person essentially running this operation up and down the state.
Ms. Lepp was arrested last week on suspicion of conspiracy, producing or cultivating marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale, and was booked into the Sacramento County Jail.
During those raids in Sacramento and Yuba Counties, $21,000 in cash, 1,500 marijuana plants, more than five pounds of processed marijuana and eight guns were seized during the searches.
Back in August, the church became a focal point for law enforcement when Ms. Lepp contacted the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 1 to report that 33-year-old Mark Anthony Sanchez, who worked as a caretaker at the church’s marijuana garden in rural Yuba County, had become violent with another church member.
When deputies arrived, Mr. Sanchez fired on them, injuring two, and when they returned fire, they hit Mr. Sanchez who later died of his injuries. The officers suffered injuries, having been hit in the pelvic area and the arm.
Ms. Lepp declined comment to the Vanguard on the latest developments.
However, in a previous statement she indicated, “The above named church members were volunteers and in very good standing with our church and standards. The charges against all are false with police misconduct.”
She writes of Allen Nelson:
“Allen did not have guns nor was the ammunition his. It was the landlord Gunner and I will get a sworn affidavit. They were old shot gun shells in his barn. This was the church that was burnt to the ground by we don’t know who yet. We would like to find out who. Allen’s probation officer even recommended he be let out on OR and the Judge who I am pending federal litigation with, Judge Reed, will not let him out and they are keeping him on lockdown.
“Allen cannot use the phone to call his attorney or his reverend. This is very serious violation of his civil rights and disheartening to know and we are all very scared by this behavior on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office.
“Allen has not been able to call out and they told me at the jail I was lying. That he is in general population and able to call. We spoke to him last night and that is not true. We are very seriously worried about him.
“There was no victim that the court can provide. The county has violated our civil rights, divine rights, 1st, 4th, 6th and 14th amendment rights,” Ms. Lepp writes. “The hate crimes that are taking place on our churches has done significant spiritual harm to us, which has put us at a loss for words.”
Mr. Nelson now has a preliminary hearing schedule for November 7 in Yolo County Superior Court.
—David M. Greenwald reporting