It has been around 20 months since Yolo County conducted a raid on the business of Paul Fullerton, Lil Shop of Growers, in Woodland. The former UC Davis fire captain runs a gardening business, but also has a medical marijuana collective that was raided on February 29, 2016.
The result was multiple felony counts originally for possession of marijuana for sale, a weapons charge and a child endangerment charge that resulted in the very temporary removal of the daughter of Mr. Fullerton and his wife, Maricel, who had similar charges placed on her.
With the passage of Proposition 64, however, those felony drug charges became misdemeanors and Mr. Fullerton had the opportunity to take a plea that led to the dismissal of all charges against his wife and to a misdemeanor plea for him, with a 90-day jail sentence and three years of probation.
At the sentencing hearing on Monday, the one issue that remained was informal versus formal probation. Joseph Tully, representing Mr. Fullerton, presented six character witnesses, including a woman who said Mr. Fullerton saved her daughter’s life by having a fundraiser to raise money to treat her brain cancer, as well as several former fire captains. There was also a long list of letters received by the judge, who spent several minutes to name all the letter writers.
Mr. Tully would argue that “this good character testimony” was given by people who know Mr. Fullerton “over the course of decades” and he requested that Judge David Reed grant his client “informal probation.”
Deputy DA Kyle Hasapes said that the People “don’t dispute the service record of Mr. Fullerton.” However, he said that the “law is blind regarding status” and that misdemeanor formal probation offers a way to monitor Mr. Fullerton, who was also accused of child endangerment and possession of an illegal weapons magazine (apparently Mr. Fullerton is a collector and there was some dispute over whether his weapon was lawful).
Hasapes noted that the raid uncovered 22 pounds of marijuana at Fullerton’s home and seven pounds at his business. He was caught selling the marijuana to undercover officers and the quantity and cash found were significant.
He argued that this was a case where probation should check on Mr. Fullerton to make sure he is in compliance.
Mr. Fullerton will be allowed to continue to sell medical marijuana and also use medical marijuana for his various health ailments which led to his retirement from the UC Davis Fire Department, including numerous back surgeries and screws in his neck.
Judge Reed ultimately ruled that he would require him to undertake formal probation, but he struck the prohibitions against the use of marijuana and the giving of blood donations. He will have to report in January, but with a 90-day jail sentence and four days credit, he will be eligible for alternative custody time.
Because this case never went to preliminary hearing and Mr. Tully filed his various motions under seal, we don’t know a whole lot about the details of the case.
The raid was conducted following an extensive undercover criminal investigation by the Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team, or YONET. The YONET team had received information that Mr. Fullerton was allegedly selling marijuana out of his Woodland, CA, business, and then arranged for an undercover YONET informant to purchase marijuana from Mr. Fullerton.
Mr. Fullerton told the Vanguard from the start, “They were overly aggressive pursuing this case.”
According to an affidavit previously acquired by the Vanguard, during the months of January and February, Mr. Fullerton allegedly sold marijuana to an undercover YONET agent, but that information is sealed to “protect the identity of any confidential informant(s), undercover police officer” etc.
Mr. Tully explained: “(Mr. Fullerton) is a really good family man and when the deal was offered that he would accept a misdemeanor offer where he wouldn’t do any jail time and his wife would be done (with) everything and walk away, that was a really big consideration.”
Mr. Fullerton, he explained, pleaded to “giving cannabis to an undercover cop, who had been in (his business) and given him a sob story about his wife having cancer. He didn’t check for a medical card.
“He did give out pretty small amounts of cannabis on two occasions to an undercover officer without first checking his card,” he explained. The first time, he gave it out and the second time, he accepted a small amount of money “because the man was insistent. He put it right in a boot he collects for charity all year long,” Mr. Tully explained. “He really tried to tell the guy not to worry about it. The crime would be in giving it away – it’s just as much of a crime in giving it away as selling it.”
Many believe that the actions by law enforcement were entrapment.
“They pulled on his heart strings,” Mr. Tully said. “Because of the nature of the shop, he suspects that they had had multiple undercover people come in there, lots of times. The thing that actually got through was someone coming in and talking about a sick wife kind of tugging on his heart strings.”
Overall, Mr. Tully said, “I felt that the charges were overblown.” He said, “They charged his wife with things she had nothing to do with.
“They charged them both with felony child endangerment and used that to take their child away with them for (a) time,” he said. He also felt like he could beat the weapons charges, which they dismissed in light of the plea “in a court of law any day of the week.”
The Vanguard will be looking to have a more extensive story on this case in the coming weeks.
—David M. Greenwald reporting