Medical Marijuana Patients’ Defense Counsel Compels Judge to Review Sheriff Deputy File for Evidence of Misconduct

Littles+with+attorneys[1]By Terrie Best – Court Support Coordinator for San Diego Americans for Safe Access

Vista, CA – Yesterday medical cannabis patients Dennis and Deborah Little were in the San Diego County Courthouse in Vista as their attorneys Lance Rogers and Logan Fairfax argued a Pitchess Motion asking the court to examine the personnel records of a Deputy Sheriff who raided the Little home and then lied about what he found there.

A Pitchess motion, if successful, allows courts to access a law enforcement officer’s personnel information including prior incidents, citizen complaints, and information gathered during the officer’s pre-employment background investigation so that any evidence of dishonesty can be used by the defense to aid in proving falsehoods in investigative reports.

The issue is that San Diego Sheriff Deputy Matt Stevens flew over the Littles’ property in a helicopter and spotted what he thought to be a large field of cannabis.  When he and a team of narcotics officers raided the Littles and found only 25 plants and some excess trim and flower material, along with doctors’ recommendations to show legal patient status, Stevens wrote in his report that he found 640 pounds of marijuana.  Further the plant material evidence has since been destroyed by law enforcement leaving the Littles at the mercy of Deputy Stevens’ false report.

Sanford Toyen, Legal Advisor to the San Diego Sheriff’s Department was in court to defend Matt Stevens and challenge the defense motion, trying to keep the judge, Kimberlee Lagotta, from viewing the personnel file.  Toyen’s arguments fell flat and the Judge went in chambers to view the file.

Judge Lagotta returned shortly afterward and told defense counsel she found no evidence of dishonesty in the Stevens file. The absence of complaints against an obviously dishonest deputy highlights the importance of citizen action when it comes to false claims by police officers.

Many times ordinary citizens are detained by officers and questioned only to later read a police report packed full of lies.  As in the case of the Littles, the evidence is then destroyed making it difficult to prove misbehavior.   However, there are mechanisms in place for citizens to fight back. If you are ever or have ever been victim of law enforcement misconduct please file a complaint. The process is different depending on the offending agency but all agencies have an avenue for redressing officers and all citizen complaints go into personnel files to later be discovered by defense teams who can use the complaints to help others.

The Littles are law abiding citizens in their sixties who chose to grow and use medical cannabis to help ease the suffering of arthritis, HIV/AIDS and eating disorders associated with the debilitating virus.  The couple followed California medical marijuana laws but due to local law enforcement – mainly driven by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis-  refusal to honor the will of the voters and the passage of The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 the Littles are being persecuted unfairly and the investigating officer is using lies to do so.

My heart goes out to Dennis and Deborah Little. Though they have huge community support – as was evidenced by the 25 people who came to court to stand with them – they are suffering enough in ill-health. Don’t they deserve to be treated fairly by law enforcement sworn to protect them? Their ordeal has been a long one and Deborah has experienced tremendous strain, having lost 30 pounds from her slight frame, because she is not allowed to continue the cannabis therapy which helps her so much.

 If you are interested in helping, please come to court and stand with them. The Little trial begins in Vista Court on November 13, 2013.

To read more about this case click here.

For more information, please contact San Diego Americans for Safe Access Court Support Coordinator, Terrie Best at ilegalsmile@hotmail.com

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