Judge Gives Just Slap on Wrist to 3 in Pot Case, Holds 4th for Trial

By Citlalli Florez

MODESTO, CA – Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Ruben Villalobos this week gave three people diversion but held a fourth for trial—all were charged with misdemeanor marijuana cultivation, and none will be named because the charges are not felony level.

The deputy district attorney said there were more than 1,000 marijuana plants present at the place of residence of the accused. There were 36 pounds of processed marijuana and trimmings.

Additionally, there were three one pound bags of marijuana and 1/2 pound of processed marijuana also seized on the property. There also was a 12 gauge shotgun located on the premises.

The marijuana plants were allegedly in different stages of growth. The prosecution insisted there were 102 budding marijuana plants approximately 12-24 inches in height, 340 budded plants 22-74 inches in height, and 272 marijuana plants 24-36 inches in height.

Deputy Public Defender Jovana A. Torres said her client had told law enforcement of the marijuana plants being located on the property. He also paid $800 a month to one of the other accused to rent a room.

DPD Torres’s client denied tending to any of the plants and said he has no idea who owns them. He said someone who lives on the property in a recreational vehicle east of the main residence takes care of the plants. He doesn’t know the subject’s name but knows where on the property they live.

The client of DPD Amy Kennedy had a similar argument to DPD Torres’ client. She added that the property was very large and has multiple structures along with a bus.

Her client was allegedly living in what is considered to be the second residence on the property. The accused stated a shop hand lives in what is referred to as being the first residence. The client insisted she had no connection to the plants whatsoever.

DPD Kennedy added her client has no criminal history and was cooperative with law enforcement.

The DDA wanted to highlight the DPD’s client was living on the residence and also renting a room for $800 a month. They also stated the accused was aware of the marijuana growing although also alleges that they are not associated with it.

DPD Kennedy’s client claims they have seen a different “co-defendant” watering the plants. Therefore the Deputy District Attorney believes the accused has more than passing knowledge of the plants because they have an understanding of who the main operator may be.

The third accused was represented by defense attorney Jared Wyman Jordan. He had the same argument as the first two defense teams. The accused cohabited in the second residence of the property and had lived on the property for six months.

Earlier in the year, Attorney Jordan’s client claimed to have noticed someone prepare the fields for growth. She had denied assisting in any way. She allegedly has no criminal history and was employed as a cake decorator at the time of a search warrant for the property.

The accused had transitioned into seasonal work and is currently unemployed. The defense thus asked the judge to grant diversion so she could have no further barrier to employment.

The DDA countered the accused lived with DPD Kennedy’s client in a house behind the main residence with a four-year-old child.

They both allegedly also claim to have limited knowledge of “the large operation that they have constant contact with because they live on the property.”

The final defense attorney was Derek Lee Casey. According to the attorney, his client has no prior felonies and was cooperative with law enforcement.

The accused stated that she was renting the property from another party and had lived there for 13 years without prior issues. To help subsidize her rent, she rented out rooms to other people.

According to attorney Casey, someone living on the property made an agreement with a third party whom they had met. This person told the third party to grow marijuana on the property.

According to the accused, there were no discussions with her about whether or not this could happen. Attorney Casey’s client slept in the first house. When law enforcement searched a certain room in the house, two wallets with her identification were found.

Law enforcement never followed up on the wallets or asked which room was the accused’s. Other witnesses also say that it was another accused person who was the primary party managing the plants found on the property.

The DDA responded to this argument by claiming that the accused told law enforcement that she helped a person trim marijuana plants with scissors. In return, she is allegedly paid with bags of marijuana which she stores in her kitchen.

She also added that the accused lived in the main residence and was in charge of renting all other property. The DDA maintained Attorney Casey’s client has greater involvement in the orchestration of the grow house and also seems to be the connecting factor between everyone.

By admitting to trimming the marijuana plants, the accused has admitted to cultivation of which they are being charged, argued the DDA. Although it is a new operation that sprung out of nowhere there is still a variety of plants with different stages of growth.

The DDA concluded the nature of the plants indicates a certain level of time and labor was need, yet the defense wants the court to believe just one person was tending to 1,400 plants, and everyone around them is simply watching it all happen.

She added that “the people think that it is more likely that everyone here and in this community are involved.”

One defense attorney noted no large amounts of money were found on location the day of the search.

Everyone but the last accused was granted diversion for a period of two years, a statutory maximum. They were ordered to have no new law violations and were deemed searchable for controlled substances. The three accused were released on their own recognizance without bail.

They were each ordered to complete a drug education course and both of the accused living together were ordered to complete a parenting class for the child’s risk of exposure to the marijuana plants.

The final defense counsel was ordered back for a trial because the judge found the accused “exercised domination and control and was an active participant.” They believe that the accused was involved due to the packs of marijuana found in their kitchen.

About The Author

Citlalli Florez is a 4th year undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently majoring in Legal Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and Art Practice. She intends to attend law school in the future with the purpose of gaining skills to further serve her community.

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