Daily Updates From Jovan Jackson Medical Marijuana Trial

 

From Left: Terrie Best, Lance Rogers, Jovan Jackson, Rezwan Khan, Kyle Bird

From Left: Terrie Best, Lance Rogers, Jovan Jackson, Rezwan Khan, Kyle Bird

By Terrie Best – San Diego Americans for Safe Access Court Support Coordinator


Background: 
Jovan Jackson is a Navy veteran and a directing member of Answerdam, a  San Diego medical cannabis collective twice raided in previous years which resulted in two different criminal trials for Jovan. The first of Jovan’s trials stemmed from a raid in 2008 and he was acquitted on all medical cannabis charges. After the second raid in September, 2009, Jovan was tried a second time but denied a medical cannabis defense by Judge Howard Shore on the grounds that Answerdam must have had only cultivating members to be entitled to the collective defense known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act. As a result of the denial of his defense, Jovan was found guilty in his second trail.  The guilty verdict was overturned by a successful appeal (People V Jackson) filed by Americans for Safe Access and Lance Rogers, Jovan’s attorney through both trials. People v Jackson returned Jovan’s second case back for retrial, this time in front of Louis R. Hanoian.  Hanoian has consistently said the case is about whether Jovan is covered under the MMPA which does not allow medical cannabis collectives to be for profit enterprises.

 

Note: Day 1 is reported as a separately posted article titled; “Jovan Jackson’s Medical Marijuana Trial Begins, Following Lengthy and Revealing Jury Selection Process

Jovan Jackson Courtroom Update – Day 2

October 28, 2013

Jovan Jackson and his attorneys were back in court today for day two of the prosecution’s case against the Navy veteran and medical cannabis patient.   Jovan, the directing collective operator of Answerdam, a medical cannabis collective which was twice raided in previous years was acquitted in the first trial against him, stemming from a raid in 2008 and found guilty in 2010 from a raid of the same sort in September, 2009. The guilty verdict was overturned by the appellate court last year in People v Jackson and returned for retrial, this time in front of Louis R. Hanoian.

In the morning’s proceedings we were subjected to more exhaustive testimony, images and a video of San Diego Police Detective Mark Carlson, a cross deputized DEA agent, narrating from the stand as he skulked around Answerdam’s suite on Convoy Court in San Diego during the raid which was the result of an undercover buy of medical cannabis a few days prior in 2009.

The photos and video shown the jury today gave no indication that Answerdam was providing medicine to individuals who did not have doctor recommendations, proof which is crucial to show Jovan was acting outside the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA) and therefore guilty. The MMPA provides a defense for the felonies Jovan is charged with: Possession of Marijuana for Sale and Sale of Marijuana and the elements are clearly laid out in the jury instructions the jurors will use to deliberate.

The images shown by Chris Lindberg, the San Diego Deputy District Attorney who has been responsible for the case, did however bore the judge, jury and supporters as we all appeared to struggle understanding why, if the jury instructions say cannabis sales are legal in a closed loop of patients in a non-profit enterprise, we are again today looking at pictures of medical cannabis from the raid as if the very presence of it is a crime.

In defense attorney Lance Roger’s cross examination of Mark Carlson he elicited testimony that Carlson’s investigation – though involving multiple employees – resulted in only two arrests and only of African American men. Lance also questioned Carlson if Jovan was present during the 2009 raid but was not allowed to ask the detective where Jovan was. This because the judge has ruled the jury is not to hear Jovan was in custody or the fact that he was eventually acquitted in the first round of raids on Answerdam.

In a brilliant move, Lance Rogers asked Carlson if the undercover officer Mike Mendez who purchased medicine at Answerdam was a legitimate medical cannabis patient.  Mike Mendez had used false identification, lied to a doctor to obtain a recommendation and purchased cannabis. Carlson, trapped, maintained Mendez was not a patient since he didn’t actually use the medical cannabis.

There were a string of uninteresting witnesses to follow, the most perplexing was a DEA chemist, Michael Brousseau, who was called to testify that he had tested the cannabis Mendez purchased and found it to be cannabis, leaving us wondering if, should the defense stipulate that there was cannabis and it was sold, the prosecution would have any evidence to put on at all.

Among the uninteresting witnesses were SDPD’s Schyler Boyz; another DEA chemist named Todd Davis; Kevin Tidwell, a DEA digital forensic specialist and Garrett Pryor, the Property Manager at the complex Answerdam was housed and finally Answerdam’s doorman John Poukkula.  The doorman, a licensed security guard testified on behalf of the prosecution but actually aided the defense in showing he was there to check doctor recommendations and only after this check would the member patients be allowed inside the interior to obtain medicine.

After lunch, Lindberg called ex-IRS investigator Rudolph Chesnik II, a financial investigator contracted by the DEA. We listened for the rest of the afternoon to testimony and exhibits of Answerdam’s corporation papers, bank statements and sales tally sheets.

Tomorrow Lance Rogers will cross examine Chesnik and the prosecution is expected to rest his case sometime after that.

 

This case is being heard in Department 54 of the San Diego Superior Court at 220 W. Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101.  Lance Rogers is assisted by Nathan Shaman and Rezwan Khan.

The persecution of Jovan Jackson by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is tragic. Please come to court and stand with Jovan as he fights for his rights as a medical cannabis patient and provider.

Jovan Jackson Medical Marijuana Trial  – Days 3 and 4

October 29, 2013

Today, day 3, Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg, the prosecutor through the last two trials, continued his questioning of witness for the prosecution, ex-IRS Agent Rudolph Chesnik II, now a financial investigator contracted by the DEA.  Again, as yesterday, we saw Answerdam’s limited liability papers, bank statements and sales sheets upon a big screen but today we were given testimony by Chesnik concerning his attempts to reconcile sales with deposits and calculate revenues based on sales from a hand full of days.

In cross examination of Chesnik – who we learned is paid out of The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Fund – Lance Rogers pointed out that the investigation did not provide a complete picture of Jovan’s financials inasmuch as the financial crimes investigator was not given key bank information as well as cost and expense information.  Lance elicited testimony from Investigator Chesnik that generally IRS financial investigations have the benefit of speaking with the target entity’s record keeper for clarification on how the entity operates. However, since medical cannabis is illegal under federal law – and all of the behavior associated with the financial operation is considered money laundering – the investigator is not required nor granted permission to talk to the record keeper at Answerdam to get the missing information, however exculpatory.

In the end Lance pulled out testimony from the seasoned financial investigator what we all know:  that profit can not be proven by revenue alone, cost of goods and operating expenses must be calculated in.

Though the prosecution has not yet rested – having two more witnesses arriving from out of state tomorrow – Lance Rogers graciously agreed to split his case and called two of Jovan’s witnesses to fill the gap.

First up was Donald Clark, MD, Jovan’s recommending doctor.  We heard from Dr. Clark about how he evaluates patients who come into his office for medical cannabis recommendations; the time it takes, what he charges and the availability of patient medical records, prescriptions, evidence of body trauma and patient oral accounts and demonstrations.   In his cross, Chris Lindberg did all he could to discredit the doctor by pointing out the cost versus short length of the doctor visits and lack of cannabis dosage information provided to patients. However, in his redirect, Lance determined that Dr. Clark’s clinic compared closely with other pain clinics in terms of cost and length of visit. Lindberg was insufferable, badgering Dr. Clark about that fact that he is not able to catch lying patients. But we all know patient diagnosis of pain is based largely on what the patient reports so his questioning fell flat.

Next on the stand was a patient of Answerdam’s, Kathleen who was a member when the collective was open in 2007 through 2009.  She told the jury she suffers from celiac disease and uses medical cannabis to help her enjoy food and keep weight on.  She was able to explain she provided her recommendation at Answerdam but was turned away when it was found by Answerdam staff to be expired.  When she returned with a valid recommendation she signed two forms one of which was a membership form and another primary caregiver form at another visit.

In a tragic accounting she testified to walking in on what must have been the first raid on Answerdam in full progress. Kathleen saw guns drawn and police in SWAT gear. She explained how sad it was to her since she had always felt so safe at Answerdam with their one-on-one service and professional staff. It must have given the jury startling insight to how scary it is to be a patient during District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ reign of terror on medical cannabis patients.

Lindberg’s cross examination focused on the primary caregiver form and whether Jovan provided care to her in the form of housing or safety. She answered that not even her primary care doctor does that for her.  Lindberg also wanted to know if she paid in cash and why that was. She reminded him of the SWAT style riot gear and guns she has seen and said as a patient she feared for her safety by leaving a financial  record for the police.


October 30, 2013

It was a half day in court today as Judge Hanoian had a training to attend and his courtroom was dark for the last half of the day.

 

The morning consisted of Prosecutor Chris Linderg’s last witnesses; yet another DEA Agent, Sean Turpie and a recall of San Diego Police Detective, Mark Carlson. Nothing of interest was provided by them, only testimony about where certain documents were found in Jovan Jackson’s bedroom when the DEA violated his home in August of 2008.

The Defense’s case resumed after Lindberg’s two witnesses finished their testimony and Bob Riedel, directing member of Mother Earth Alternative Healing Collective (MEAHC), took the stand. Bob walked us through the financial expense of simulating mother nature in growing cannabis using a controlled indoor environment; whether grower members of MEAHC were paid money, the overhead of running a collective, and the fact that risk from law enforcement and lack of zoning drives prices of medical cannabis up.

From Bob, we learned about clones, lights and fertilizers and the judge and jury were riveted by the testimony. My observation was they were more taken with this evidence than any other put before them since the trail began.

In his cross examination of Bob Riedel – a valued community member – Lindberg did his best to discredit Bob by bringing up his medical cannabis advocacy, a theme we often see used by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ Office. Dumanis and her underlings are convinced that patients who help patients are somehow opportunists and inherently unlawful.  This sort of bias is why we advocate in the courts and why we tell Dumanis with our actions that she alone has created this fierce movement against her.

Following Bob Riedel’s testimony, John, a glaucoma sufferer and former patient member of Answerdam took the stand in Jovan’s defense.  John’s testimony was extremely brave and carried a lot of weight. He spoke of his experience with Dr. Donald Clark, testifying how Dr. Clark took his blood pressure, listened to his heart, reviewed his diagnosis records and helped him with decisions about how and when to use medical cannabis for the health of his eyes.  John had positive things to say about his experiences at Answerdam and confirmed that he was indeed a member.

In Lindberg’s cross, he asked John if he knew being a member of Answerdam meant he was helping Jovan Jackson get rich or if he thought he was helping the collective. John’s reply rang through the courtroom when he said he hoped Jovan was getting a salary and that the collective would remain sound as well.

Lindberg was again preoccupied with the primary caregiver form also signed by John as if it proved guilt.  The prosecutor continually forgets the Jackson case is about whether Jovan was making a profit, not about what forms were used.

Other very interesting testimony today was from Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Mario Ceretto of Collective Accounting Solutions.  Mario has been helping medical cannabis collectives with their financials and to pay their income taxes for several years. As he explained it in direct examination by Lance Rogers, collectives are not allowed to have bank accounts per federal law so he must collect funds from his clients and pay taxes on their behalf.

Mario also said it is completely lawful for non-profits to have excess revenue and hold that excess for programs, emergencies and improvements to the collective.  He explained that if the revenue is later dispersed to shareholders or principals then that excess revenue is considered profit.

The CPA also explained that the 501c tax designations are not required for non-profits unless they want an exemption from paying taxes, outlining that non-profits are not solely identified by a 501c designation.

Lindberg, in his cross examination, showed Mario a picture of the CPA with a banner which said NUG.  He tried to discredit Mario with the picture and also questioned him if his CPA business would grow if the cannabis industry grew, leaving me wondering if Mario’s business is suspect because it flourishes as he helps cannabis collectives remain lawful in their financials what then does that say about Lindberg’s own financial expert witness, Rudolph Chesnik II, who’s salary is paid from the assets The Department of Justice seizes in illegal arrests of medical cannabis patients.

The defense case is expected to resume at 9:00 AM on Thursday, October 31, 3013, in Department 54 of the downtown courthouse at 220 W. Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101.

Please come to court and support Jovan Jackson as he fights for the rights of all collectives to exist and serve patients under California law.

Jovan Jackson Medical Marijuana Trial  – Day 5

October 31, 2013

At 9:00AM this morning defense counsel Lance Rogers argued a motion to dismiss the case against Jovan Jackson which was summarily denied by Judge Hanoian.  The argument was that Prosecutor, San Diego Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg had misrepresented the trajectory of the case by declaring a witness and discovery which the defense had then, in good faith, built their opening statements and case around.  In a slippery move at the last minute, Lindberg withdrew the subpoena for the witness on the grounds that the witness would take the Fifth Amendment on the stand. None of the discovery or statements from the witness to the police indicated the witness would plead the 5th but the judge did not find enough cause to grant the motion so trial resumed.

As of last night it was unclear just which witnesses would be called by Lance and there remained a possibility Jovan would not take the stand in his defense. However, he was called to the stand at 9:30AM for an examination that would last five hours including three hours of cross by Lindberg.

Jovan Jackson is an honorably discharged Navy veteran who began work as a barber after leaving the service. He became a medical cannabis patient and while practicing his barber trade during the years of 2005 through 2007, he came into contact with other vets whom he found were also medical cannabis patients – all of them trying to solve the problem of getting safe access to medicine for themselves and several loved ones.

On the stand, Jovan did a remarkable job of taking us back through the early days of the collective when it was just the handful of patients trying to find a solution. In due course the membership grew and the collective got a name which reflected the solution: Answerdam Alternative Care.  Eventually, a location was leased so that cannabis medicine could be stored and patients could visit and obtain it safely and with less risk of law enforcement interference in their own homes. At the time, San Diego was hostile territory for medical cannabis patients and not much has changed, it appears.

Despite the hostility from Bonnie Dumanis in those years – in her zeal to fight the federal medical cannabis war – Jovan researched state law and advised the collective members – many of whom did not have flexible hours as Jovan did – on the law. He did all the leg work it took to build a collective which was safe, lawful and effective in its service to its members.

Jovan made initial financial contributions to Answerdam on behalf of its members and, with the help of the core group of patients, set policies that would respect the building’s neighbors, keep patients safe and avoid contact with law enforcement, many of whom are cross-sworn as federal agents to dismantle California’s voter approved medical marijuana laws.

Jovan told the jurors that membership grew to over 1,500 but not all patients participated fully in the collective since patients would join but some never returned. However, to comply with the law, all patients’ doctor recommendations for medical cannabis were collected including those of one-time-only members making the collective appear bigger than it actually was at any given time.

Because medical cannabis is mostly a cash business due to the fact that cultivating members typically do not accept checks for the product they grow, Jovan took pains to explain the challenges of record keeping to the jury. He also disclosed that he had very little experience in managing revenue so when he was contacted by a financial group who suggested he form a Limited Liability (LLC), Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) and a Trust – a fact that Chris Lindberg has been fixated on as indication of profit-making – he allowed the financial group to move forward in the endeavor on behalf of the collective.

We heard a lot about how the collective spent their money; on advertising, maintenance as well as Answerdam’s exhaustive quality control system of inspecting cannabis so their patients remained, as Jovan put it, emotionally well. He did not want members to experience the trauma of getting home and opening medication bottles with mold or pests inside. Answerdam also paid salaries to working members of the collective, Jovan included. Another fact the prosecution is exploiting as indication of profit.

In August of 2008, Answerdam experienced its first raid by SWAT style cross-sworn police and they were forced to close.  Due to an obligation to its members, they reopened in 2009 and that is when, as an added layer of protection, they began to use the primary caregiver form the prosecution is convinced makes them unlawful.

As a result of the raid, Jovan was in custody for 20 days and eventually faced trial but he is not allowed to say so on the witness stand and that made it difficult to explain many things about the policies of Answerdam and its missing records.

Chris Lindberg’s cross examination of Jovan was exhausting.  He badgered and berated Jovan about withdrawals from Answerdam’s bank account, the cash paid in salaries and the forming of the LLC, LLP and Trust. Lindberg kept refereeing to a transcript from a prior hearing attempting to catch Jovan in misstatements taken out of context. It was brutal and I detested seeing this kind, gentle man who has been through so much being bullied by this wrong-headed persecution.

Some of the points Lindberg fixated on were why Answerdam advertised; the fact that Jovan made a lot of decisions on behalf of the collective; whether growing members who provided medical cannabis made profits and he even suggested Jovan was somehow cheating the rest of the members of the collective because the collective gave an eight ounce of medical cannabis away to members on their birthdays.  And, or course the primary caregiver issue came up again with repeated inquiries about whether Jovan was a nurse.

Late in the day outside the presence of the jury, Judge Hanoian disclosed that the court had received a letter from Robert A. Raich on behalf of retired Senator John Vasconcellos. Senator Vasconcellos co-chaired Attorney General Bill Lockyer’s Medical Marijuana Task Force which eventually crafting what became SB 420 in 2003, also known as the MMPA.  In the letter through Raich, the Senator communicated to Judge Hanoian that the MMPA was being misapplied to restrict profit. The Judge refused to add the letter to the file saying it had no bearing on the case.

Tomorrow, November 1, 2013, the trial will resume with a possible remaining witness and closing statements.  Please plan to attend court and stand with Jovan.  The case is being heard in Department 54 of the Downtown San Diego County Courthouse at 220 W. Broadway, San Diego, CA 9201.

Jovan Jackson Medical Marijuana Trial  – Day 6

November 1, 2013

Jovan Jackson supporters were treated to some high drama in the courtroom today as Chris Lindberg, the San Diego Deputy District Attorney and Jovan’s prosecutor, called Robert Asfari, a former employee of a financial firm named The Renaldi Group (TRG) to the stand.  Lindberg has been using evidence of a sum of money paid to TRG by Answerdam as indication Jovan was making profit.  By way of refuting this, Jovan had testified yesterday to being approached by Robert Asfari of TRG in 2008 with an offer to use TRG’s business management services to help Answerdam Collective and that the sum was for those services, not an investment in TRG as the Lindberg implied.

When Asfari got on the stand, he told a different story than Jovan’s.  Asfari minimized his own role at The Renaldi Group claiming Jovan was an investor and not simply a member of an organization seeking services for its business model. Further Asfari denied any knowledge of forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC), Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) or a Trust on behalf of Answerdam.   What Lindberg and Asfari didn’t know was that a private investigator had been quietly gathering information corroborating Jovan’s accounting of the TRG/Answerdam relationship; information that when presented to the jury became Lance Roger’s finest Perry Mason moment so far.

In Lance’s cross of the hapless witness, Asfari impeached himself again and again, first by failing to disclose he was in fact a Senior Vice President and Managing Partner of TRG and not the sales associate he claimed to be but Asfari was also shown a document with his signature as well as Jovan’s, outlining the very business plan Jovan had testified to and Asfari had denied.

The document, called an Engagement Letter promised Answerdam a three year roll-out plan to move the collective forward in better serving its members with expanded health programs and enhanced services. Phase I of the plan offered branding, marketing, help with financial and corporate structure, trademarking and legal research and development. The letter stated TRG would perform these services and both parties had signed it.  The letter completely gutted the idea that Jovan has sought to invest in TRG and no evidence was presented otherwise.

We would have loved to hear from the private investigator who uncovered the exonerating documents but, though he was called the stand, Lindberg continually objected to questions from Lance of the witness and the judge sustained every one.  Lance could not elicit testimony other than that TRG had a Facebook page and the P.I. had checked it that morning before court.

The evidentiary portion of the trial completed at 11:00AM and after jury instructions were read to the jury, Lindberg began his closing arguments.  We were all subjected to yet another slide show presentation by the prosecution and more of the same claims that Jovan was hiding behind California’s medical marijuana laws to make lots of money and put it in his pocket.  It is interesting to me how jumping hurdles to comply with the serpentine roadmap of medical marijuana laws becomes, in the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, hiding behind them. The Compassionate Use Act (CUA) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA) are specifically designed to protect people like Jovan but DA Bonnie Dumanis consistently finds those who comply are somehow opportunists for trying.

In a laughable assertion, Lindberg tired to convince us that Answerdam is responsible to police all their vendors to be sure they are not making profits either. He went on to say that birthday giveaways of medical cannabis to patient members are illegal since other collective members must bear the brunt, forgetting that everybody has a birthday and eventually gets a giveaway.

Linberg also made much about the fact that there were few financial records found at Answerdam but did not disclose that the police had confiscated most of them and that’s why they were missing.  Lindberg ended with the silly idea that medical cannabis collectives are not entitled to use their revenues to operate. He maintained that medicine must be sold at exact cost; one most know what that cultivator’s production cost is and medicine must be sold at that price all the way down the line with no-overhead added into the price of the product.   Under this whacky analogy medical cannabis can only be sold out of a paper box on the side of the road.

In Lance Roger’s closing he took us through the elements of the MMPA defense and provided a mathematical formula for calculating Answerdam’s revenue. And, he used the prosecution’s own figures to do so.

For those of you who like math, here’s what we heard,  Rudolph Chesnik II, the DEA’s financial investigator, calculated from a handful of sales tally sheets found at Answerdam during the September 2009 raid that the collective was selling 100 grams of medical cannabis a day at about 15.59 per gram.  Most law enforcement officers claim that one pound of cannabis is worth about $5,000.  There are 453.59 grams in a pound of cannabis: $5000 /453.59gm = $11.02 per gram.  $11.02 is what the medical cannabis product cost Answerdam to purchase.  As the DEA investigator testified, Answerdam was selling at $15.59 per gram so: $15.59 – $11.02, meant Answerdam was making $4.57 per gram. If Answerdam sold 100 grams daily, as the DEA investigator extrapolated from the tally sheets, Answerdam’s revenue would be $457.00 extra dollars a day.  Next, we factor in operating expenses such salaries for four employees. Four salaries at 15 dollars per hour for an eight hour shift is $480 per. You can now see that just modest salaries have exhausted the revenue stream and we never got to factor in other very typical overhead expenses such as rent, legal fees, electricity or office supplies,

Lance’s closing argument was followed by a short rebuttal from Lindberg who again insisted that medical cannabis non-profits are not allowed to operate like all other non-profit businesses on the planet. But by that time, we were all half way out the door to Happy Hour.

Jovan’s legal team, Lance Rogers, Rezwan Khan, Logan Fairfax and Kyle Bird – none of whom are getting paid – have done a tremendous job proving that Jovan Jackson operated within the MMPA.  It has been a pleasure to get to know these men and watch them work so hard for our hero, Jovan Jackson.

The jury will meet again at the courthouse to begin deliberations on Monday, November 4, 2013 at 9:00AM.  All efforts will be made to inform the public when the verdict is available to be read.

For more articles on Jovan Jackson case:  http://www.safeaccesssd.org/search?q=jovan+jackson

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

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