Is YONET Conducting Witch Hunt against Fullerton and Family?

Paul Fullerton believes that YONET (Yolo County Narcotic Enforcement Team) has engaged in a witch hunt against him and his wife.  Three months after he took a plea agreement in which charges were dropped against Maricel Fullerton, YONET Agent Chris Lara testified at a hearing before an administrative law judge for the Department of Social Services, as Ms. Fullerton attempts to get her nursing license back.

According to them, even the administrative law judge was confused as to why Agent Lara was there, given that the charges against Ms. Fullerton were dropped.

Ms. Fullerton told the Vanguard that when she first saw Agent Lara, she didn’t recognize him.  “I didn’t know that the YONET guy was going to be there,” she said.

She explained that she didn’t have representation and had never been to a hearing like this before.  She thought since the charges against her were dropped, that this would be routine.  But it wasn’t and Agent Lara would testify under questioning from the attorney from DSS for nearly an hour.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she said.  “I didn’t know what to ask.”

She said, “He never looked up.  The whole time he was sitting there, he just had his head down.  He never even looked at me once.”

When it was her turn, she asked him, “At what time did you decide to take me?  When you yourself the moment you walked into my house, told me I’m innocent.  You know I’m innocent.”

She said that he said, “Because you were charged with child endangerment.”

“What about the other charges you put on me?”

“That was just the DA,” Agent Lara would respond.

“That was the only question I asked him,” she explained.

In February of 2016, Paul Fullerton made a mistake.  He knew that YONET and other investigators were attempting to bust him for marijuana sales, but when an undercover agent came to him with a sob story about his wife dying of cancer, he bought it and ended up “selling” him a small quantity of cannabis.

During the sentencing hearing, Defense Attorney Joseph Tully, who represented the couple, 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.”

YONET agents raided his business and his home on February 29, 2016, and Mr. Fullerton was arrested on multiple felonies including 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 Maricel, who had similar charges placed on her.

Mr. Fullerton to this day maintains it was a set-up, that he didn’t illegally sell marijuana, that he kept his weapons safely locked up and away from his young daughter, and that none of the product was accessible to the child.  Nevertheless, YONET would arrest not only Mr. Fullerton, but also his wife, who claims she had absolutely nothing to do with the cannabis.

In December, Mr. Fullerton agreed to take a misdemeanor plea.  It meant that the charges against his wife disappeared.  He would have a 90-day jail sentence, which he is serving out of custody but on an ankle monitor, and three years of probation.

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.

The case was questionable.  One reason for the child endangerment charge, Maricel Fullerton explained, was they said that the marijuana was accessible to the child.  “That door was locked,” she explained.  “They had to kick it in.”

She said, “They were asking for a key to that room and I said, I don’t have a key.  Where Paul kept his marijuana.”

Agent Lara also testified that the gun safes were not locked and were open.  They said that the daughter stated that there were guns all throughout the house.  “It was just a total lie,” she said.

She said, “We asked our daughter if she said that.  She said, no.  Did you ever see guns around the house?  She said no.”

During the hearing, Maricel Fullerton only asked her sole question and then they took a break.  During the break she would confront Agent Lara.  At this point, Ms. Fullerton was crying.  He got up and handed her a tissue box.

She finally said something to him, “I don’t mean to be disrespectful…”  He finally looked up for a second.  “You know what, how do you sleep at night knowing that you’re ruining innocent people’s lives?

“He was quiet, just quiet, looking down,” she said.  “I said, you don’t know what it did to my head.”

Maricel Fullerton told the Vanguard, “To me, I just shouldn’t be there.  I even said, I don’t know why I’m here.  Because my case was dismissed.”  She said that even before they recorded the conversation they said, “We know that you’re innocent.”

She told the judge, “That’s why I’m wondering why they took me.”

The administrative law judge has 30 days to consider her petition.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

***Clarification: DSS is not challenging Ms. Fullerton’s license, they are psuhing for her to have a lifetime ban from DSS facilities.

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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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  1. Tia Will

    1. How much time and money has the initial investigation and legal proceedings around this case costing the citizens of Yolo County?

    2. Who is being made safer by these actions? Were any drugs or guns found accessible to the daughter?

    3. What crimes or actual threats to the community have not been addressed since officers have been tied up with this case ?

    It seems clear that we are in need of a change of direction/priorities in Yolo County. For the first time since 2006 we have a choice of DA. I highly recommend checking out the positions of both Jeff Reisig and Dean Johansson prior to the election.

    1. Keith O

      I highly recommend checking out the positions of both Jeff Reisig and Dean Johansson prior to the election.

      I have and I’m voting for Jeff Reisig.

      1. Tia Will

        Hi Keith

        That’s great. In tabling at Farmer’s Market, what I have found repeatedly is that many Yolo County residents are unable to identify the current DA, are unaware that the DA is up for election, are unaware that there is an alternative to the current DA, or some combination of the above. I truly believe it is our responsibility as citizens to be informed voters. My goal here is to ensure that Vanguard readers are aware of the upcoming DA election and the choices available.

        I am, as I am sure you have figured out, endorsing and voting for Dean Johansson. But that is not my primary goal here on the Vanguard.

        1. Keith O

           I have found repeatedly is that many Yolo County residents are unable to identify the current DA, are unaware that the DA is up for election, are unaware that there is an alternative to the current DA, or some combination of the above.

          That also works in Reisig’s favor, the many voters that will just check the ‘incumbent’ box.

  2. Sharla C.

    My neighborhood association appealed to YONET when a grow house appeared in my neighborhood.  YONET came, collected all the cash they could find, and left – leaving the 50 plants and the dog left in the house to guard the product.  The men running the production were ex-convicts and neighbors had to call the police when one started to beat his girlfriend in front of a young child.  We reported that kids from DHS and others were visiting the house to buy marijuana.  We received no help from YONET.  They came, but only seized the money and went to court to keep it.  I called the DA’s office to find out why they could seize the money, but not shut down the illegal activity.  I did not get a real answer. The ADA that I talked to was just as mystified as I.  We ended up having to appeal to the landlord of the property to evict the renter at the end of the year’s lease. They delayed moving for months until their plants matured, then moved it all in the middle of the night.   This was a block from Davis High School.   So I have little respect for YONET.  I think they need much more oversight into their activities and methods and an investigation to see if they are really benefiting the community.

  3. Ken A

    I don’t know Paul Fullerton but in my younger days (in the 70’s going to Dead shows and Days on the Green with Led Zeppelin) I met a lot of people that sold drugs, I would not have described any of them as “a really good family man”.

    I have not been around drug dealers for decades (but I still have friends that talk about them when they try and get me to join them in a limo and pay $500 for seats to a Stones concert or other group I last saw in the 80’s), and I think we should decriminalize drugs and close down groups like YONET but the odds that a drug dealer always kept his guns and drugs locked up is pretty low.

    I know a lot of people hate cops, and I’m not a big fan of them, but I think that the odds of a cop ratting out a fellow officer probably happens more often than a drug dealer is a “a really good family man” (it is fine to keep guns locked in a safe if you are a duck hunter, but I don’t think a single drug dealer keeps their guns locked up).

    P.S. The guy Sharla saw who “beat his girlfriend in front of a young child” is pretty typical of the guys who walk past the tables at a High School “career day” and say “those jobs are lame I’m going to be a drug dealer”…


    1. David Greenwald

      “I don’t know Paul Fullerton”

      I stopped reading there, because you don’t know the guy and yet are generalizing based on your perception.  Let me tell you about Paul Fullerton.  He was a UCD fire captain.  He hurt his back/ neck and had to retire early.  He ended up with medical marijuana card and then started his own collective.  He’s not a drug dealer.  He operates legally, but he got pinched when YONET entrapped him.  Fullerton doesn’t hate cops, he worked with them for years.  He got letters of support from cops from all over who had worked with him.

      1. Troy Copeland

        I want to say you are right that it doesnt tarnish him or his family, the problem is if anybody reads or sees the article about Paul they are making him out to be a drug dealer which he is not and was not so they are grouping him in with your regular a stereotype typical Street Corner Drug pusher because they don’t know Paul. The General public  know nothing about Paul only thing they know is what was written in the media about him drug dealer conviction end of story. The positives about Paul’s life need to be spread around like pollen in the air. His character his person, his duties to his family,  his participation in his community needs to be on billboards and in the media and on TV for anybody around that surrounding county and areas to help combat against these crooked charges that have been pushed on him. Forced on him forced into a plea agreement due to the harassment of his family.

    2. Paul Fullerton

      Just so you know Keith.. I am not a drug dealer .. I was a fire Captain at UC Davis Fire for 20 years and and 5 years serving Eaparto Fire and Madison Fire… I have had congressional recognition for valor twice , Red Cross Hero , American Legion Firefighter of the Year and Commendations from the Chancellor twice .. once for delivering a baby … I was injured and have 12 screws and three plates holding my neck together .. I had much support from law enforcement as 8 officers from 4 departments and a dispatcher that let me know I was on the radar and they could not understand why .. they even said the DA and Yonet are not right  they will make anything stick.. the undersheriff Tom Lopez gave my first bugles when I was promoted to Captain.   I had letters of support written from more then 50 people and organizations … these were also people that have known me for  20 years… Fire Chiefs, retired Law Enforcement, Major US Air Force, Chief Perry Officer US Navy, Retired military Police and holder of three Purple Hearts , retired California Dept of Corrections , retired Department of Justice … my neighbors wrote letters both Home and shop… and many more… I have a huge respect for law enforcement not YONET or our DA…. the current UC Davis Police Chief hugged me before one of my court dates… when do you see that in court..why we went through the ranks and she know my character … I was invited to the woodland Fire Chiefs badging while my case was going .. I have numerous cops, firefighter, and medics that come visit me to this day.. I am not a drug dealer

      i am also a hunter as I hunt deer in Utah since 90’s I also duck and pheasant hunt…

      i sm a good father.. my oldest whom is 28 .. just bought his first house .. and I adopted him when he was 6 and I was 25… he wrote me a letter thanking me for being his dad as well as my 26 year old step daughter.. my 18 year old son has two jobs and doing well and my daughter is the apple of my eye…

      I have never sold a drug anywhere but I have given cannabis to the ones in need.. as I am a patient and know it works ..

      one love

  4. Howard P

    Reisig showed extreme stupidity in prosecuting the Monsanto protesters… gave them the opportunity for what they wanted… a “bully pulpit”… the judge saved him… he feigns “law and order”, to be sure… a politician, not a professional attorney… still don’t know where my vote will lie, but unless Reisig has an ‘epiphany’…

  5. Tia Will

    many voters that will just check the ‘incumbent’ box.”

    This may be the best argument of all for term limits. Ignorant people will frequently just check the incumbent box whether or not that is in their best interest.


  6. PhilColeman

    “Witch Hunt” is the one undeniable fact in the story. A first-person narrative told by an individual who nobody could possibly believe is objective and balanced in relating this story.

    Add layers of hearsay, unsubstantiated visual cues with interpretations, quotes attributed to various persons without authentication, pleas for forgiveness because the writer neglected to research the hearing process. We put all that together, dismiss the quaint notion of even trying to get corroboration from public records and responses from named and unnamed witnesses, and we come with the one-size-fits-all conclusion:

    It’s all Reisig’s fault.

    1. Ron

      Phil:  I agree that this is not a well-written article.

      I read it as another instance in which David repeatedly latches onto a goal (in this case, the upcoming election for district attorney), and as a result does not provide a complete picture.  David applies a similar approach with other issues, as well.

      For that reason, it doesn’t even serve Mr. Fullerton well.

        1. Ron

          Well, there was this quote:

          “That was just the DA,” Agent Lara would respond.

          There is also a comment directly from Mr. Fullerton (above), regarding the DA.

          Perhaps I’m also being influenced by the comments, from those who pay more attention to this type of subject.  And, from the series of other articles that you write about the district attorney, on a frequent basis.

          But, you’re right – this article is more about YONET, it seems.  So, my apologies.

          I should note that I’m generally not a fan of the type of enforcement mentioned in this article, nor do I have a position regarding the DA.

          And, I have no reason to say anything negative about Mr. Fullerton, and wish him and his family the best. Even though the article itself is not well-written.

        2. Ron

          O.K. – hadn’t thought of that.  But, who prosecutes such cases?

          Regarding the DA, I casually read what you write.  Not sure what to make of it, except that you’re clearly not a fan.  Have mixed feelings myself, regarding “law and order” types, until I’m a victim of a crime. I tend to get a whole lot less “liberal”, when that occurs (as it has, periodically). That’s when I suddenly become a fan of “Dirty Harry” movies. 🙂

          None of that has anything to do with this case, however. If even half of what you write is accurate/complete, it seems troubling.

        3. David Greenwald

          Basically as I understand it, Lara when he questioned Ms. Fullerton, acknowledged she wasn’t involved in this, but then ended up arresting her.  When she questioned him he said it was because of the child endangerment and then she asked why they put the marijuana charges on her, and he responded that was the DA.  It’s an accurate response, but it does pass the buck.

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