by Kelsey Landon, Edward Garcia and Taite Trautwein
Jury is Chosen for Drug and Child Abuse Charges
By Kelsey Landon
Tuesday morning, October 24, 2017, the jury selection process began in the trial for David Ashley Froste in Department 10 of the Yolo County Courthouse. Mr. Froste is facing charges which include the manufacturing and distribution of a controlled substance, child endangerment, and illegal possession of a firearm.
Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson appeared in court to represent Mr. Froste and to oversee a fair jury selection process.
In the jury selection, both counsels and the judge made it clear to all jurors that the most important quality in those selected would be their ability to make fair, unbiased judgments based only on the facts presented in the trial.
By mid-afternoon, a 14-person jury was selected, including two alternates, comprised of seven women and seven men.
After ensuring that these men and women would hold no preconceived ideas of the defendant as well as of the charges brought against him, the judge proceeded to read to the jury the charges Mr. Froste is facing.
First was the felony for manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance known as butane honey oil, a substance derived from marijuana.
The last felony charge brought against Mr. Froste is the owning or possessing a firearm, despite Mr. Froste being prohibited by law from doing so.
At 9am Wednesday, October 25, 2017, the trial itself will begin with the People’s opening statement. The trial is expected to last until Friday.
Trial Begins for Man Accused of Manufacturing Honey Oil
By Edward Garcia
This Wednesday morning marked the commencement of the People v. David Froste. The defendant faces charges related to a search of his residence, which found evidence of a honey oil lab—these labs are used to extract high concentrations of THC from cannabis.
Judge Daniel Maguire began the trial by allowing counsel to present their opening statements.
First up was the attorney for the People, who stated the case would be relatively straightforward and highlighted the search of the defendant’s residence. The police found the following items: cannabis, honey oil residue, numerous canisters of butane, and shotgun shells.
Emphasis was placed on the items used to manufacture the butane honey oil.
The People did make it clear that one component, the extraction tube, was not found, but ensured it was “very cheap, easy to obtain.”
Lastly, to end their opening statement, the prosecution informed the court that two children had access to all of these items.
Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson began his opening statement by issuing a caution to the jury. “Justice isn’t overreaching,” he stated.
In regard to the missing extraction tube, Mr. Johansson highlighted the inability to process honey oil without it.
“It’s darn well critical,” he concluded.
Continuing his statements, Johansson cited how honey oil can come from utilizing different sources, not just butane gas. Likewise, butane gas can be sold for many different purposes. Law enforcement did not search for different reasons to own these items. Instead, they put them together and assumed they were used to manufacture honey oil.
“Keep your mind open,” Mr. Johansson stated, as his opening statements came to an end.
The floor was now open for the People to call to the stand their first witness—Senior Detective Richard Towle. He was the primary officer in the search of the defendant’s residence in Knights Landing.
He testified to finding several containers of marijuana, approximately $4000 dollars, coffee filters, several canisters of butane—both used and not used—and shotgun shells.
During the search, the residence was occupied by two children, the defendant’s parents, and the defendant himself.
Focusing on the location of the evidence, Detective Towle specified that he found the three shotgun shells inside an orange bucket, and an employee hearing test with the defendant’s name on it.
Furthermore, the defendant’s room was identified by numerous indicia found in it. This included a social security card and a California benefits ID card.
Inside the defendant’s room, Towle found numerous containers of marijuana, used butane canisters, the glass portion of a blender, and a Pyrex dish with residue. He also specified that some of the cannabis found was called ‘shake.’ This is the leafy substance, or leftovers, of the bud.
Brought up by the prosecution, Detective Towle stated the door to the defendant’s room did not have a lock mechanism, leaving it accessible to others.
Moving to the backyard, Detective Towle’s testimony detailed finding coffee filters inside a barbecue, and numerous butane canisters nearby. A parchment paper and pan with residue were also found.
The People concluded their questioning by presenting Detective Towle with the evidence from the search, and he readily identified the items for the court.
During cross-examination, Mr. Johansson began by asking if the purpose of a detective is to find inculpatory and exculpatory evidence. “Correct,” Towle responded.
In response, the defense asked Detective Towle to explain where he found the shotgun shells. He stated they were on a shelf in the garage. He had to manipulate the bucket, in order to see the contents, he added.
Towle also explained that he sent the shells to get examined for fingerprints, but “no prints were located.”
Similarly, the defense asked if he had tested the Pyrex bowl and pan for fingerprints. Towle testified that he did not test these items.
Mr. Johansson then inquired about Detective Towle’s expertise in relation to honey oil. Towle explained he had no training, and used Agent Gary Richter’s experience as a guide.
After stating that the honey oil could be purchased at dispensaries, Detective Towle admitted to not searching for a medical marijuana card on the defendant.
A juror ended Detective Towle’s testimony by asking if a gun was found. “No,” Towle responded.
The second witness was Agent Richter, a deputy sheriff with the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office as well as an agent for the Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team (YONET).
During his time in law enforcement, Agent Richter has had numerous encounters with drugs.
His testimony emphasized his experiences dealing with butane honey oil labs, and the specific training he has received on the substance.
Due to this training, Richter was able to explain the process of manufacturing butane honey oil for the court. He stated the goal behind manufacturing honey oil is either to make more money or to use all your plant materials.
Richter also addressed earlier concerns by admitting butane is not the only thing that could be used to make honey oil, but it’s the most preferred. “It’s what they can learn off of YouTube,” Richter said.
People on the street typically call it ‘wax,’ and you can get it at your local dispensary, he added.
Seeing his plethora of knowledge on the subject, Judge Maguire agreed to deem Agent Richter an expert on the substance.
The People asked Richter if these butane honey oil labs ever blew up. He said they did, and when you have butane in a fire, “it’s an explosion.”
Switching focus back onto the search, Agent Richter testified to being there and finding items related to the manufacturing of butane honey oil. The prosecution wondered if the items located would be able to tell Agent Richter that an extraction of THC had occurred.
“Based on my training and experience, yes,” he responded.
Some materials alone would not be enough, but due to the empty butane canisters, honey oil residue, Pyrex dish, coffee filters, finely ground cannabis, and regular cannabis it would appear that an extraction did occur, and another would be likely to take place.
The People asked if missing the extraction tube would sway his opinion. It did not. Agent Richter pointed out that they can be easily made, or borrowed from someone else.
Furthermore, Richter informed the court that butane honey oil cannot be made legally, and, at least to the best of his knowledge, nobody in Yolo County was licensed to manufacture it.
Since butane canisters are also used to refill lighters, Detective Richter explained how most smokers go through a can or two of butane gas in a year. At this scene, much more than one or two cans of butane were found.
Testimony concluded this morning with the People questioning just how dangerous this particular set up could be.
“I hold them all in the same regards,” Richter said. If an explosion did occur, the flames could easily push into the garage door.
Before Mr. Johansson had a chance to cross-examine, the court broke for lunch.
By Taite Trautwein
The testimony in the jury trial of David Ashley Froste continued into Wednesday afternoon, with two witnesses being brought in to testify regarding marijuana found at the defendant’s residence.
Testimony from YONET Agent Gary Richter rolled over into the second session of the day in order to give Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson an opportunity to cross-examine. Richter was present for the serving of the search warrant in which the marijuana was initially discovered.
In response to questioning from the defense, Richter claimed that there were five pounds of marijuana found at the house. Additionally, a bowl full of honey oil, a term for hash oil made out of concentrated marijuana, was found in the backyard of the premises.
The only person home at the time of the search was Froste’s father.
Richter also claimed that multiple items needed for the extraction of the honey oil were present at the scene, such as butane and Mason jars, but he conceded that it “wasn’t an active lab at the time” due to the absence of an extraction tool.
Johansson stressed that there was no evidence at the residence that an extraction tool had ever been there.
Richter also briefly described finding shotgun shells in the garage of the home.
At this point, questioning returned to the prosecution, who had Richter describe how, of the hundreds of labs he has investigated in his time working for the Yolo County Narcotic Enforcement Team (YONET), less than ten have actively been in operation at the time of his search – the implication being that simply because he did not find the process of honey oil actively being extracted does not mean there is not sufficient evidence to suggest this was the intended use of the tools.
Richter also described discovering a skillet which had what he suspected to be concentrated cannabis caked on the side, but he admitted he did not know whether or not it had been tested after it was taken by police.
Finally, questions from the jury were allowed, with one juror seeking clarification on whether or not the honey oil extraction process was similar to that of other concentrated cannabis extraction processes. Richter clarified that there are several methods that could be used, but the most common form involves Mason jars and butane. This clarification ended Richter’s time on the stand.
The second witness of the afternoon was Kimberly Sand, an employee of the Sacramento branch of the California Department of Justice, Bureau of Forensic Services. Sand specifically deals with controlled substance and alcohol analysis.
An envelope present in the courtroom was confirmed by the witness as being the one she pulled from her department’s evidence vault to analyze. Sand claimed that after she opened the sealed envelope and chemically tested the substance, it was determined to be 5.4 grams of concentrated cannabis.
The only clarification the defense asked of the witness in cross-examination was to the presence of butane in the sample tested. Sand claimed that the test necessary to determine that was not requested.
Following Sand’s testimony, neither the prosecution nor the defense had any other evidence to present. Judge Daniel Maguire asserted the trial was ahead of schedule and he expected the jury to enter deliberation tomorrow afternoon.
A bizarre conversation took place after the jury left the department, as the prosecution attorney claimed he had seen a juror pumping her fist toward the defense as she left the room. All parties agreed that the action was not enough to call for the juror’s dismissal, but Judge Maguire promised to have some admonishment prepared for the jury first thing Thursday morning when the trial resumes.