By Julie Maruskin
A motion was granted to terminate defendant Paul Fullerton’s formal misdemeanor probation for possession of marijuana for sale. In fact, not only was his probation terminated a year early, the entire case was expunged.
Almost four years ago on Feb. 29, 2016, the defendant, Mr. Fullerton, had his plant business, Lil’ Shop of Growers, and residence raided by the Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team, or YONET, for drug possession. The raid was brought on by Mr. Fullerton selling marijuana to an undercover officer on two separate occasions.
Mr. Fullerton was coerced into selling to the undercover officer after the undercover officer claimed that his wife was sick of cancer. The officer entered the shop with a homeless man that Fullerton had met prior. The defendant claimed that many undercover officers had attempted to come into his shop looking for marijuana; however, he had always turned them away stating that he did not sell marijuana. The cancer story man came back requesting more marijuana for his wife and this lead to Mr. Fullerton eventually accepting money from the man who was insistent on paying him. The accepted money went into Mr. Fullerton’s “charity boot.” On this occasion, Mr. Fullerton felt sympathetic to the undercover YoNET officer’s made-up story.
When raiding the defendant’s home, the twenty-three officers took marijuana that Mr. Fullerton used for medical purposes, specifically a spinal injury that he received when he worked as a well-decorated firefighter for many years.
The police charged Mr. Fullerton with possession of marijuana for sale. They also charged him with child endangerment and possession of a firearm due to his firearm collection. He detested this, claiming that the expensive safe, where he kept the guns had to have been locked. The child endangerment charge led to his daughter being taken away for 10 days.
Mr. Fullerton’s wife also received charges which led him to sign a plea agreement in order to drop the charges against his wife. These deal only concerned the possession of marijuana for sale charge as the other two had been dropped. Following the plea deal, his wife lost her nursing license. They claimed that these incidents left the family with post-traumatic stress disorder.
A new proposition, Prop. 64, was passed that turned the defendant’s drug possession charge from a felony charge to a misdemeanor charge. Mr. Fullerton was, then, sentenced to 90 days of house arrest and formal probation despite only being charged for a misdemeanor.
On October 21, a hearing for a motion to terminate Mr. Fullerton’s probation was held. The evidence to justify early release included the fact that the defendant had no prior criminal record to the drug possession charge. An argument was made that alleviating the heightened probation would help additional stress that could cause issues for Mr. Fullerton and possibly lead to him acting in conduct that would lead to longer probation.
The defense attorney also argued that Mr. Fullerton could better serve the community if he was not required to serve probation due to his involvement in ICS programs that allow Fullerton to give back to society. ICS programs, or Incident Command Systems, are programs that are designed to manage fire emergencies more efficiently. The court asked the defendant if he was involved in such programs prior to the case and he agreed that he was.
In addition to this hearing, many letters had been written and sent to the court in support of Mr. Fullerton and his character by community members and former fire captains. The money that he received from providing the undercover YoNET officer marijuana went into the “charity boot” in his store that he uses to collect money to donate to charity.
The court agreed to terminate the probation.