Woman Brings Meth Pipe Through Court Security, Convicted For Possessing 0.0118 Grams of Meth

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Yolo-Count-Court-Room-150Guilty Verdict Raises Serious Questions About Priorities During Budget Crisis –

Next time you hear Sheriff Ed Prieto or District Attorney Jeff Reisig complaining about their lack of resources to fight crime remember this case, and the use of court and law enforcement resources needed to prosecute this case and bring it to a jury trial and ultimately to a guilty verdict and a felony conviction.

Maria Pastor was taking her friend to a court hearing in Department 9, which is the arraignment court across Third Street from the main court building in Woodland.  As she went through security, the Deputy at the screening line, Sgt. Batista noticed something suspicious in a purse going through the scanning machine.  He saw something that looked like a smoking pipe.  He found a pipe and a bag of white powder that turned out to test positive for presumptive meth.

According to Joseph Palecek, who works for the California Department of Justice in the Toxicology Lab, the substance was methamphetamine and the weight of the meth was 0.018 grams.  Ms. Pastor was arrested.  She subsequently tested positive for amphetamine in her blood.

Ms. Pastor faced charges for possession of meth, which even at the tiny amount that they found is a felony and a misdemeanor charge for possession of drug paraphernalia. 

One of the critical questions in this case is what is a usable amount of meth?  In this case the amount of meth was literally scraped off the back of the pipe.  What is the legal limit of usable?  We learned in this case that there is no legal definition and that number is up to the discretion of the jury.

However, the defense tried to create reasonable doubt in this case by introducing another story that the jury likely found ultimately implausible.  Maria Pastor took her own defense.  She claimed that when she picked up her friend, she noticed his housemate, Julie, whose last name she does not know, well dressed.  She discovered she was having a job interview.

Suddenly Julie said that she liked Ms. Pastor’s purse better, and in a hurry they agreed to exchange purses.  Ms. Pastor took out her wallet and put it in Julie’s purse and left.  They went into the main courthouse without incident, realized it was the wrong building and went into Department 9.  It was there that the meth pipe was discovered.

Ms. Pastor claimed it was Julie’s meth pipe and she had no idea it was there. Fingerprints or DNA were never taken in this case.

She did acknowledge that she had used meth herself the night before, hence the reason she tested positive. She claimed to be a period user, using meth once a week.

The jury after less than a day of deliberation, clearly did not buy this story, which seemed contrived and found her guilty on both charges.

Commentary

While one can feel fairly comfortable in the jury’s verdict, based purely on the letter of the law, there seems something very much amiss her.  Why is the DA using resources to prosecute as a felony a small possession charge?  0.0118 grams is tiny.  And yet, now Ms. Pastor has been convicted of a felony,and  it took three days of court resources.  It took the reimbursed time of several experts.  And it took the time of both the DA’s office to prosecute as well as the Public Defender’s office to defend.

There is little doubt in my mind that this was her meth.  Was she foolish to have brought it to court?  No doubt, and she probably did not realize it was there.  Nevertheless, given the quantity charging this as a felony was an egregious waste of resources by a county that is strapped for cash.

It was in March that District Attorney Jeff Reisig lamented the impact of budget cuts.  As reported in the Woodland Daily Democrat on March 22, in addressing the Woodland Chamber of Commerce:

“Reisig  also told the audience, there are new budget cuts coming, and grants only allow certain aspects of funds to be used a certain way. Reisig  says that because staff has already been cut as much as possible, services will suffer with this next round of budget  cuts.

When the 2010-11 budget comes into play, it is likely that a number of proposed cuts will affect misdemeanor prosecution, meaning crimes such as vandalism, theft, and simple assault will likely involve arresting and releasing without charges.

The same might be true of juvenile prosecutions and as well as anti-truancy programs and white collar crime.”

A few weeks later on April 7, the Daily Democrat reported, “Potential budget  cuts will cause Yolo County’s criminal justice system to regress to a time of backlogged cases, overcrowded jails, and greater victimization, according to DA Jeff Reisig.”

It continued, “During a budget  workshop Tuesday, Reisig  told the Board of Supervisors he can only, in good conscience, recommend cutting $766,187 of the more than $2 million asked of him by the County Administrator’s Office.”

Furthermore, “Any deeper, and the result will be ‘degradation in the streets’ and the virtual elimination of misdemeanor prosecution for both adults and juveniles.”  While the DA has vowed to never overlook DUIs, domestic violence and battery against police officers, with about 4,000 other misdemeanor cases falling by the wayside, “the criminals figure out they can now carry around meth pipes and marijuana with little or no consequence.”

Indeed, lest you believe this case of felony prosecution is for a tiny amount of meth is unique, the public defender in this case informed me he has a similar case coming up next month where the amount of meth is 0.02. 

The bottom line here is that given our budget challenges as the DA himself has acknowledged, maybe it is time to re-prioritize what cases are prosecuted and how our criminal justice system is applied.  I want dangerous criminals taken off the streets and put into prison.  In order for that to happen, people who represent no threat to anyone but themselves ought to not end up clogging up a courtroom for three days.

Someone pointed out to me that drug possession is illegal.  It is.  But we do not have the luxury to prosecute every case to the hilt anymore.  Prosecuting this case means that perhaps another case does not get prosecuted.

It may seem insignificant that Ms. Pastor will likely receive some sort of suspended sentence and probation.  However, consider what Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote in the Sac Bee on June 27, 2010, chronicling a new book by Michelle Alexander, “The New Jim Crow.”

According to Mr. Pitts, Ms. Alexander, “contends that the mass incarceration of black men for nonviolent drug offenses,  combined with sentencing disparities and laws making it legal to discriminate against felons in housing, employment, education and voting, constitute nothing less than a new racial caste system. A new segregation.”

Ludicrous you say?  Ms. Alexander chronicles cases of Oakland police officers accused of planting drugs and beating up innocent victims.  The result of these drug laws means a huge number of people are felons.  Felons cannot vote.  Most jobs will not hire them.  They cannot get loans.  So effectively a felon is disenfranchised, unable to get most jobs, and not able to buy a home – they are second class citizens and all of these factors not coincidentally were true during Jim Crow.

At least in Ms. Pastor’s case in Yolo County, she received good representation from the Public Defender’s Office and Mr. Richard Van Zandt.  Ms. Alexander chronicles huge numbers of cases where people where people take felony pleas without ever having spoken to a lawyer.

It would be one thing if these were serious charges and dangerous criminals.  In Ms. Pastor’s case, you just have to wonder what our priorities are and whether the cries of poverty should be perhaps be driven more introspectively into the charges practices of the DA’s office again.

Perhaps the DA can start taking questions from the County Board of Supervisors about their charges practices and cut out some of the histrionics about turning dangerous people loose if we continue to cut their budget to fix what has been $36 million in budget shortfalls the previous two fiscal years.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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37 thoughts on “Woman Brings Meth Pipe Through Court Security, Convicted For Possessing 0.0118 Grams of Meth”

  1. David M. Greenwald

    Where did you guys get crack from?

    “Oh the poor little crack user. Sorry if I can’t feel sorry for her.”

    You don’t have to. It’s as much an issue of where you want your taxdollars going and whether you want the DA’s office to pursue these cases or actual dangerous criminals, given the fact that the DA himself has said that with budget cuts they will be releasing convicted people from jail and they will not be able to prosecute certain cases anymore.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    Adding to my point Rusty, why do you believe a small quantity of meth should be treated as a FELONY criminal problem, meaning the person will not be able to vote, buy a home, or get most jobs. What purpose does that serve society? Why not treat it as the health problem that it is? Studies have shown it would be far less costly to treat these people rather than put them through the criminal justice system? How much do you think it cost the taxpayers given court time and staff time and expert time to put this case on? Don’t you think that money can be better spent?

  3. biddlin

    In terms of cost effectiveness, most western nations have found the treatment/maintenance model to be preferable to adjudication and incarceration. For the USA, the issue continues to be dealt with on emotional and moral grounds. Rehabilitation programs are prohibitively expensive for most users, and space availability is an ongoing issue, so some of the saving gained from enforcement and prosecution would need to be spent on improving access to care. Acceptance of the maintenance concept in our culture is doubtful. Many Americans are resentful of providing facilities for the physically challenged, so it seems unlikely that they will be amenable to accommodation for the chemically addicted.

  4. Avatar

    Pure and simple do the crime do the time , it was in her blood sample . Would you want her at a job where she has access to your credit card from a purchase , teaching your child at a daycare , driving on the road , making major decisions for for the company she works for .

    Your limited knowledge of this subject is very apparent .

  5. Kane607

    DPD: “What purpose does that serve society? Why not treat it as the health problem that it is? Studies have shown it would be far less costly to treat these people rather than put them through the criminal justice system? How much do you think it cost the taxpayers given court time and staff time and expert time to put this case on? Don’t you think that money can be better spent?”

    yes, I saw the other article on your site. you think drug use in general, not just “tiny amounts” are health issues and not criminal issues. I’m pretty sure you are going to vote to legalize marijuana in November because you think its “harmless”. spare me. drug use is linked to violent crime. they are not mutually exclusive. and come on, she was caught with a tiny amount of meth, but who is kidding who, there is more where that came from.

    As far as these so-called “studies” are concerned, where did those come from, and who does those?

  6. Kane607

    oh, and one other thing… she was caught with possession of drug paraphernalia, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that she has been doing a lot more than .0118 grams of crystal meth.

  7. E Roberts Musser

    Do you know if the woman was offered a plea bargain and refused to take it? Because that would be my guess as to why this case ended up in court as a felony…

  8. Mr.Toad

    Did she have priors? Not that it matters. Much of the violent crime that occurs is related to meth use. If you walk into the belly of the beast with a pipe containing meth residue and meth in your blood people are going to notice.

  9. Roger Rabbit

    Sounds like Mr. Reisig missed an opportunity to get this person to admit she was a gang member and then could say how gang members are going taking over the court house and maybe get an injunction barring them from court to defend themselves and that would raise his conviction rate and then he could apply for a grant to go catch all the gangs members that were not showing up to court.

    And the wheels of the bus go round and round.

  10. Avatar

    Marijuana is a gateway drug if legalized , this girl is way beyond that with meth , marijuana probably wouldn’t even phase her , that points to long time use to get too that point .

    Your way to soft on crime , glad your not a cop , DA , or a judge , looks like most posters agree !

  11. JustSaying

    What a great day for me–the first Judicial Watch I’ve read in which I’m in full agreement with David!

    Prosecuting this case was such a waste on so many levels. How will this change user Maria? How will this prosecution improve Yolo County residents’ lives? What potential drug abusers will change their ways? What difference will it make for anyone in any way?

    Seems like the County, Courts, DA’s Office, Sheriff, Public Defender (all paid by us, at what price for this one?) could have been spending our money in much more productive ways. What’s the problem: the state law or the discretion of the county district attorney?

  12. Superfluous Man

    Avatar,

    “Marijuana is a gateway drug if legalized”

    Not the flawed “gateway” argument…

    “marijuana probably wouldn’t even phase her , that points to long time use to get too that point.”

    How can your speculative remarks regarding her marijuana use “point” to anything?

    “Your way to soft on crime”

    Or realistic.

  13. David M. Greenwald

    “drug use is linked to violent crime”

    It’s ironic you state that, drug use is not itself linked to violent crimes. What is liked to violent crimes is the illegality of the sale and transport of the drugs. Until I see people propose making alcohol, which is linked to violence in usage, I’m not going to take that argument seriously.

    The gateway argument is bs as well, otherwise alcohol and cigarettes would be illegal, as they are used prior to even marijuana.

    What’s interesting to me is that not one of the people who are arguing that this was the right decision dealt with the issue of resources and cost. Just as we don’t have the resources in the city to pay people whatever we want, just as we don’t have the resources to have “frills”, we also do not have the resources to prosecute every single crime no matter how minor. No addressed this point. The DA told us that he would have to release people from jail, presumably people who committed far more serious crimes than this lady, and no one addressed this point that I saw. Interesting.

  14. David M. Greenwald

    “so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that she has been doing a lot more than .0118 grams of crystal meth.”

    I don’t think that’s admissible evidence. You have to stick with what you can prove.

  15. Superfluous Man

    “The DA told us that he would have to release people from jail”

    Perhaps the effects of the budget cutbacks have not been felt just yet?

  16. David M. Greenwald

    Maybe. But to me, if I were Reisig,I’d be looking at the most painless places to cut, and really who is going to objective to cutting back on prosecution of small quantities of controlled substance? I understand people above’s voiced concern, but there is reality here and it seems they get it when it comes to cutbacks in other areas but not in this one. Seems odd.

  17. Superfluous Man

    “who is going to objective to cutting back on prosecution of small quantities of controlled substance”

    Apparently quite a few people commenting on this piece. I think you’ll find that many people think prosecuting felony possession cases is important, regardless of how small in quantity. I’m not saying I agree, but a lot of people associate crime and violence with drug use. Consequently, prosecuting all drug cases is a priority.

    “but there is reality here and it seems they get it when it comes to cutbacks in other areas but not in this one. Seems odd.”

    There’s some truth to that.

  18. David M. Greenwald

    “Do you know if the woman was offered a plea bargain and refused to take it? Because that would be my guess as to why this case ended up in court as a felony… “

    Everyone is offered some sort of plea. My guess is that in this case the plea offering would have resulted in a similar punishment as going to trial, so they rolled the dice a bit.

    There is a problem here. I was walking to a public defender and she had a client facing 25 years to life. She believed her client innocent but when she got a 3 year offer, they jumped on it. The client wasn’t happy going to prison for what will be another 14 months due to time already served, but she said taking it to trial was a 50-50 prospect as to whether a jury would agree. When you are looking at 25 versus three years, that’s a huge stake. I think that’s a problem that you have people not wanting to try to exonerate a client they believe innocent. Most defense attorneys have a sense for the clients who are innocent versus the clients who did something but maybe not what is claimed, versus the guilty ones.

    I’m sure the punishment in this case with a suspended sentence was similar to what a plea would have yielded and given the small quantity they took the chance.

  19. Mr.Toad

    Much of the violent crime that occurs is related to meth use.

    I quote myself because you didn’t address my concern about meth specifically. I think if you talk to people who know about drugs and law enforcement they will tell you that meth is a particularly dangerous drug associated with other criminal conduct.

  20. biddlin

    Mr.Toad-As a semi-professional musician for the past 42 years, I am all too familiar with drug abuse and its effects on the users and society. It is true that meth, especially when smoked, causes extreme paranoia and violent responses in the user. I have seen many of my associates successfully recover and thrive after their recovery. Drug users who want to quit can be helped. In a recent study of New York treatment programs, 80 to 90 percent of users who had regressed after two rehab programs were successful after completing a third. While, monetarily, treatment is costly, the cost of repeated prosecution and incarceration is greater.

  21. Don Shor

    “In a recent study of New York treatment programs, 80 to 90 percent of users who had regressed after two rehab programs were successful after completing a third.”
    Wow, I would have to see the specifics of that claim. I don’t believe the success rate for meth rehab is even close to that. I know of no program for drugs or alcohol of any kind that has an 80 – 90% success rate. I’d be surprised if the overall success rate of rehab for meth is even 15%. Meanwhile, their relapses cost us all in crimes that range across the spectrum.

  22. JustSaying

    [quote]Mr. Toad: “Much of the violent crime that occurs is related to meth use….I think if you talk to people who know about drugs and law enforcement they will tell you that meth is a particularly dangerous drug associated with other criminal conduct.”[/quote] That very well may be true, but Ms. Pastor was arrested, tried for and convicted of possession, and not for the terrible crimes you fear she eventually will commit.

    The questions in this case, in my opinion, really revolve around the cost and the lack of benefit to her or potential drug users or the rest of us. Could the time and money invested in pursuing this case have been put to better uses? I say: “definitely yes.”

  23. biddlin

    That’s not what the survey says Don. What they were saying is that users who had failed at rehab twice have a great success rate if they try a third time, perhaps indicating a greater desire to succeed. I think it was published in Newsweek, but frankly I read it in my Dr.’s waiting room, or as I like to think of it my retirees club. I can also add that two of my closest friends were horribly addicted to crack cocaine and successfully overcame the disease, but in both cases it required long and repeated therapy.

  24. Don Shor

    Hi biddlin,
    The only evidence I have ever seen is that well over 90% of meth users return to meth use after rehab. It may well be that some people succeed on their third or fourth try, after multiple relapses and frequently while engaging in other criminal behavior (violent and otherwise). Perhaps the threat of serious legal consequences will help a meth user commit to abstinence. Certainly from a legal standpoint, with an overwhelming relapse rate, no proven rehab systems, and continued adverse social consequences, there is little reason to treat meth use as primarily a health issue.
    Most of the discussion here about resources and cost has only to do with the cost of prosecuting this. It would be very difficult to quantify the effect of continuing to assign meth users to rehab programs, knowing that the vast majority of them will fail. It really isn’t that simple an issue. But we have good reasons to consider using the threat of stiff legal penalties for meth use, if only as an incentive to get people to stick with rehab.

  25. biddlin

    Don Shor-Most users released from prison return to use and the related criminal aspects. With rehab we all have a better chance of them improving.

  26. David M. Greenwald

    “I think if you talk to people who know about drugs and law enforcement they will tell you that meth is a particularly dangerous drug associated with other criminal conduct. “

    But how much of that is due to the influence of the drug rather than the fact that meth is illegal and therefore it requires criminal conduct to obtain it? A lot of people I have talked to in both believe that the real problem is its illegality.

  27. rusty49

    “two of my closest friends were horribly addicted to crack cocaine and successfully overcame the disease”

    Disease????????????

    How about choice….addiction…..if one is fat because they eat too much is that a disease? These people made a choice to take drugs.

  28. David M. Greenwald

    I think you are defining disease too narrowly and choice too broadly. Clearly at one point in time, an individual makes a conscious effort to intake a given drug. However, at some point, they cease to have control over their intake and it becomes an addiction. Likewise there are people that are fat because they lack the ability for portion control and because of slowing down metabolism, and people who are fat because of a variety of compulsive disorders that renders the idea of mere choice a fallacy.

  29. Primoris

    [quote]You don’t have to. It’s as much an issue of where you want your taxdollars going and whether you want the DA’s office to pursue these cases or actual dangerous criminals, given the fact that the DA himself has said that with budget cuts they will be releasing convicted people from jail and they will not be able to prosecute certain cases anymore. [/quote]

    However, the instant felony prosecution does NOT meet the criteria, now does it?

    The public may consider law enforcement remiss to take no action when a person attemts to secret contraband into our courthouse, especially with meth in her booldstream.

    David, did you investigate Pastor’s criminal history or conveniently leave it out of your “story?”

    Some druggies need to hit rock bottom and many find themselves in such a place e.g., when behind bars and facing felony charges, no?

    Maybe today is the day for Maria Pastor? It is doubtful that the current offense is her first time using meth.

    If she has children/family what is the impact on them or society. Oh, but no discussion there for some odd reason (maybe slant)?

    If she, like many users have no job, monies etc. and she is committing crime to feed her habit, maybe being stopped in her tracks is good for society?

    And Mr. Pitts? Oh please….

  30. Primoris

    RR opined, [quote]Sounds like Mr. Reisig missed an opportunity to get this person to admit she was a gang member and then could say how gang members are going taking over the court house and maybe get an injunction barring them from court to defend themselves and that would raise his conviction rate and then he could apply for a grant to go catch all the gangs members that were not showing up to court.

    And the wheels of the bus go round and round.[/quote]

    Apparently you are still dizzy from your conspiracy theory bus ride in your own little universe.

    Attention: Roger Rabbit, the ride is over; your may unbuckle your seat belt, adjust your tin-foil hat and egress…

  31. Primoris

    “Just Saying,” you make a point, it’s up to Maria Pastor alone, isn’t it? Maybe you can arrange an “intervention for her?”

    Then she can face the facts and make a decision.

  32. Primoris

    Greenwald believes: [quote]But how much of that is due to the influence of the drug rather than the fact that meth is illegal and therefore it requires criminal conduct to obtain it? A lot of people I have talked to in both believe that the real problem is its illegality.[/quote]

    Compare and contrast your logic relative to prescription drugs.

    Oh, it won’t fly. They are legal not all abusive users commit crime in order to obtain the drugs.

    On the other hand why do we have pharmacy robberies to obtain legal drugs?

    Ah, it’s the drugs…

  33. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]David, did you investigate Pastor’s criminal history or conveniently leave it out of your “story?” [/quote]

    It came up during discussion, she had one prior from 13 years ago, it was like conspiracy to commit fraud, don’t know the details. As far as I know that’s her only prior.

  34. David M. Greenwald

    [quote]Compare and contrast your logic relative to prescription drugs. [/quote]

    There’s still a common element, it’s still a controlled substance. It operates in a black market situation unless you are abusing your own prescriptions from your own doctor, in which case you are probably not robbing stores.

    The bottom line for me is that any argument you can make about keeping drugs illegal you can at least make about alcohol and possibly cigarettes, and yet they remain legal. I think we can better resolve these problems as health issues. I have not seen interdiction efforts work. We can go to war on drugs and the drug market will simply shift.

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