Posts tagged: federal courts
New orders from the U.S Justice Department to end federal prosecution of state-authorized medical marijuana patients and dispensaries will have no effect on cases in Eastern Washington, prosecutors said Monday.
The policy memo issued today calls for an end to prosecution of medical marijuana patients who are in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state medical marijuana laws.
Those cases already aren’t prosecuted here, said Jim McDevitt, the U.S attorney for Eastern Washington.
“This office has, at least in my memory, never prosecuted anyone purely and simply because they were a medical marijuana user,” McDevitt said Monday. “But we have gone after them because they’ve basically been a distributor of medical marijuana.”
McDevitt said he is interested in pursuing federal charges against local dispensaries found in violation of the state’s medical marijuana law.
Read the rest of my story here.
Click here to read Jim Camden’s Sunday story on large marijuana growing operations led by Mexican drug cartels that McDevitt said are becoming a big problem in Eastern Washington.
Today’s announcement won’t change much locally. But the debate is raging in California, where weed advocates are gathering signatures to get as many as three pot-legalization measures on the ballot in 2010 in California, according to The Associated Press. (The picture above is from a grow raid in August.)
“Under federal law, marijuana is illegal, period,” the article reads. “After overseeing a series of raids that destroyed more than 300,000 marijuana plants in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills this summer, federal drug czar Gil Kerlikowske proclaimed, “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine.””
Click on the link below to read the full story by Marcus Wohlsen, which was published Oct. 7.
An order order issued Wednesday by U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno stated Canadian cocaine suspect Michael B. Yuill’s employer was being investigated “relevant to the pending charges.”
Not true, according to this document filed Friday.
“The Government did not intent to assert that the Defendant’s former employer is under investigation for the pending charges,” according to the document. “The government is aware that the recent fire at the Defendant’s former place of employment is under investigation by Canadian authorities as a suspicious fire. The Government does not have information that the Defendant’s former employer is under investigation for the drug trafficking offense charged in the present case.”
Yuill is being held without bond in the Spokane County Jail after being arrested Oct. 7 with 38 kilos of cocaine in a rented SUV. (Read more here.)
A social networking Web site for his business said Yuill is known in his hometown of Salmon Arm, B.C, as “the guy that dresses up as Shrek every Halloween,” referring to the animated character.
True, according to the local newspaper, the Salmon Arm Observer. The paper this morning emailed us the above photo of Yuill dressed as Shrek in 2005.
WASHINGTON – If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gonzaga University law professor Rosanna Peterson would become the first woman to serve on Eastern Washington’s U.S. District Court bench.
President Barack Obama announced Peterson’s nomination Tuesday for the vacancy left after Judge Fred Van Sickle’s move to senior status last year. She was chosen for the Eastern District, which encompasses Spokane and 19 other counties, from three finalists selected by a bipartisan committee.
“I’m very honored and extremely appreciative of the vote of confidence from President Obama,” said Peterson, who found out she was nominated after a 6 a.m. phone call from Sen. Patty Murray’s office.
Read the rest of Jacob Barker’s story here.
A Canadian citizen arrested in Eastern Washington with more than 80 pounds of cocaine will remain in federal custody, a judge ruled today.
Michael B. Yuill, 36, of Salmon Arm, B.C., has been in Spokane County Jail since his arrest on the Colville Indian Reservation Oct. 7. DEA agents found 38 kilos of cocaine in his rented Nissan Sport Utility Vehicle, according to federal court documents.
U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno said in a ruling filed this morning that there isn’t proof Yuill has a plan for his release that would ensure he’d appear for court dates. While Yuill is very close to his mother and has monthly contact with his brothers, Imbrogno noted that no family members attended his bail hearing Tuesday.
“Typically, if a defendant is a citizen from outside the United States, there is strong family support present at the bail hearing with reasonable assurances the family can assist with supervision and with facilitating an individual’s return for court dates,” Imbrogno wrote.
Yuill’s public defender said his employer at a Salmon Arm saloon can help with bond, but federal prosecutors say that man is being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in connection to Yuill’s charges, according to Imbrogno’s ruling. (UPDATE: prosecutors say the investigation is NOT related to the cocaine bust.)
Federal agents began tracking Yuill, an electrician and father of two with no criminal record, after Spokane International Airport police said he’d rented several SUVs in the last four months and returned them with unusually high mileage.
Read my previous story here.
Spokane International Airport police suspected something was going on with the Canadian man they’d seen several times. In the last four months, he’d rented several SUVs and returned them after racking up unusually high mileage – some 3,000 miles apiece.
Based on that tip, agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration began tracking Michael Barry Yuill, a 36-year-old resident of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, a small community about 300 miles north of Spokane.
Now, Yuill is facing federal drug trafficking charges in what authorities are describing as a major Eastern Washington cocaine seizure.
Read the rest of my story here.
On a Facebook page for his small business, Yuill is described as being known in Salmon Arm “the guy that dresses up as Shrek every Halloween,” referring to the popular’s children’s movie. Check it out here.
A Canadian television network is working to unseal court documents in Eastern Washington federal court about the drug bust that led to a legendary young mountain biker’s death in the Spokane County Jail.
Lawyers for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation filed a motion last week asking a judge to unseal documents in the federal case against a man arrested while en route to meet Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown.
Jail officials say Brown (left and bottom right) committed suicide in jail Feb. 27 after landing a helicopter filled with 420 pounds of marijuana in the Colville National Forest and being met by federal agents Feb. 23.
Federal agents had just busted Leonard J. Ferris and Ross N. Legge with 83 kilograms of cocaine in Utah on Feb. 21.
The arrests revealed a vast drug dealing conspiracy dubbed Operation Blade Runner, which federal agents believe dates back at least five years. ’
Court documents say Ferris and Legge, who had rented storage facilities around Spokane, were to exchange the cocaine to Brown for the marijuana. Originally charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Ferris pleaded guilty in April, but no public record of a sentencing exists in the federal court file, most of which is sealed.
The motion, filed Oct. 5 by the Seattle law firm Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP, said it’s unclear what exactly is sealed in Ferris’ file because even the motion to seal is sealed.
“Presumably, these are sentencing-related documents,” according to the motion. “The Ninth Circuit has recognized the media’s legitimate interest in such documents because of the media’s ability to explain how sentencing decisions are made.”
A documentary news show for CBC called “the fifth estate” is investigating Brown’s death, which is notably not refered to as a suicide in the network’s court filings.
Brown’s death came a week before another young man, Jeremy Snow, was arrested as he landed a helicopter in North Idaho meant to deliver 300 pounds of marijuana and 40,000 pills of Ecstasy.
Snow was sentenced Oct. 2 in Western Washington District Court to 46 months in prison. According to court filings, federal agents accessed Blackberry messages Snow sent to friends and the cohorts his lawyer says pressured him to take the flight.
“During the actual flight, he sent a message which read ‘Flyen 300p over brdr right now! Cha ching,’” according to Snow’s sentencing memorandum. “The government believes that this translates to read that he was flying over the US-Canadian border at that moment and that he was expecting to be well-paid for doing so.”
After Brown, Legge and Ferris were arrested, undercover agents infiltrated the group and set up Snow, court documents show.
(Read a grand jury indictment detailing Operation Blade Runner here.)
The Fifth Estate documentary will likely explore all of this in much greater detail. Court files for Brown and Legge, who is in federal custody in Utah and has not entered a plea, have already been unsealed.
The unsealed affidavit in the case of Brown, who was profiled in Rolling Stone this summer, offers few new details on his arrest, other than this quote: “Lindsay-Brown stated that: “Morally, there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing. It’s pot and that’s it.”
No hearing has been set CBC’s motion to unseal.
A man who investigators say killed his wife and severely beat the man she was having sex with when he walked in on them earlier this month pleaded innocent today to murder and other charges in U.S. District Court.
Kevin I. Pakootas, 23, is accused of fatally beating Colette Peone Pakootas, 23, and injuring Mark Edgett after leaving a party and discovering the pair together about 4:30 a.m. Sept. 5 at his home in rural Inchelium, Wash., which is on the Colville Indian Reservation south of Kettle Falls.
Read the rest of my story here.
The ailing mother of a man who died after being struck, Tasered and hogtied by Spokane police officers should have a chance to have her statement preserved for a civil lawsuit even though a criminal trial is pending, a federal judge ruled today.
U.S. District Judge Lonny Suko refused to grant a request by federal prosecutors to halt all discovery in a separate civil suit involving the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.
Read the rest of Jim Camden’s story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review
The firearm silencer and rifle Brian L. Moore is charged with illegally possessing weren’t recovered during a search of his warehouse in Orange County, Calif., by Spokane police.
They were recovered when Moore’s brother, Dan Moore, gave them to police and said he’d found them in the warehouse after the search. That detail was revealed Tuesday at a bail hearing for Moore in federal court in Spokane, in which he was ordered to stay in jail pending his return to California to face two federal charges of possession of an unregistered firearm.
(Moore was arrested in April and accused of helping his girlfriend, Shellye L. Stark, plot the Dec. 9, 2007, murder of her husband, Dale Stark. Prosecutors dropped the charges this month but say they’ll refile.)
Moore’s public defender, Tina Hunt, questioned Detective Kip Hollenbeck (top right) about that in an effort to convince U.S Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno that Moore should be released and allowed to return home on his own.
Hunt went through each witness statement and pointed out the fact that none had actually said they’d heard Moore (bottom left) say he had anything to do Dale Stark’s murder. She also highlighted conflicts in each witnesses’ relationship with Moore that she argued discredited them.
“Each and every one of these witnesses have biases that attach to them,” Hunt said. “All of these women have reason to lie.”
Hunt scoffed at the state’s claim that the first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges against Moore will be refiled, saying that “common sense” indicates that if prosecutors had a strong murder case, they wouldn’t put it aside so the feds could proceed on less serious weapons charges.
“There’s nothing (for the witnesses) to be afraid of anymore because these charges have been dismissed,” Hunt said. She later said the federal charges look “beatable.”
She also asked how, in “all of the deviousness” police allege encompasses Moore, could he have lived 43 years with no criminal record?
“The truth is because he’s not the person that they are alleging,” Hunt said.
But Imbrogno ruled that Assistant U.S Attorney Matt Duggan had shown through Hollenbeck’s testimony that Moore was in fact a risk to the public and ordered him to remain in federal custody.
He’ll now be transported to California.
The boyfriend of convicted killer Shellye L. Stark will remain in custody on federal weapons charges, a judge ruled today.
Brian L. Moore’s public defender, Tina Hunt, had asked that Moore be released and allowed to return to Orange County, Calif., on his own.
But assistant U.S Attorney Matt Duggan used testimony from Spokane police Detective Kip Hollenbeck to try to show that Moore is a threat to public safety.
Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno agreed and granted a motion to hold Moore.
Moore was arrested in April on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, but those charges were dismissed this month at the request of the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office.
Prosecutors say they’ll refile, but the move is largely seen as a way to avoid a hearing in which a judge was to rule on the defense’s motion to dismiss.
By making the dismissal request, the prosecutor’s office made it so the charges were dismissed without prejudice instead of with prejudice, meaning they can be refiled and not evoke double jeopardy.
I’ll post more details from the hearing later today. UPDATE: Ran out of time today; check back tomorrow.
A prominent school booster charged in a major cocaine dealing investigation could be forced to give up $40,000 and his Mercedes Benz, newly filed court documents show.
Jerald Stuart Carlson was indicted on a federal drug forfeiture charge last week, more than seven months after a police raid at a storage facility behind his insurance business on Government Way north of Coeur d’Alene.
The charge, filed Sept. 15, demands that Carlson give up assets related to charges of conspiracy to posses within intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and attempt to posses with intent to distribute cocaine.
Each of the three charges involves more than 500 grams - or half a kilogram - of cocaine and stems from allegations dating back to November 2007.
The drug forfeiture charge, which calls for Carlson to give up “at least” $40,000 and a 1999 Mercedes Benz already seized by the DEA, is the first filing in the case since a judge extended the trial date in July.
In a motion requesting that extension, Carlson’s lawyer, James Siebe, said he and his client were considering a plea deal. (The new trial date is set for Oct. 27, with pretrial motions due a week from today. UPDATE: Trial now set for Jan. 26, 2010.)
Carlson graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School in 1980 and was named the school’s booster of the year for the 2006-07 school year.
The married boyfriend of convicted killer Shellye Stark could be released from jail Thursday.
Brian L. Moore’s public defender argued for him to be released at a bail hearing today, but a judge delayed the decision so federal officials can verify where Moore will be staying in Orange County.
Assistant U.S Attorney Jill Bolton had asked for Moore to remain in custody until he’s transported to California to face federal weapons charges. Her reasoning hinged on the fact that Moore has no money to pay for his return to California.
“This is the first time I’ve heard we should hold a defendant so he can get a free ride home,” said Moore’s lawyer, Tina Hunt.
Moore’s transportation to California can be worked out with family members, Hunt said.
“He doesn’t need a free ride with the Marshal’s office,” she said.
Absent from the government’s argument to hold Moore was the fact that the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office intends to refile charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
“The case was dismissed,” Hunt said. “There’s no reason to hold him on anything or believe that he did anything wrong.”
The charges being dropped basically amounts to an act of legal maneuvering by the prosecutor’s office to avoid having a judge address the defense’s motion to dismiss, which was set for Thursday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hutton, appearing via video from Yakima, said, “It’s unclear to me that Mr. Moore has the financial means to return to California, but I agree with Ms. Hunt that that’s not necessarily the basis for continuing his confinement. He does appear to have significant contacts with Orange County, California.”
A new bail hearing is set for Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
Federal prosecutors have grown increasingly critical of what they describe as questionable behavior by the Spokane Police Department’s chief legal adviser, who reportedly used his position to provide “traditionally confidential” information to the officer under FBI investigation following the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm.
In documents filed recently in U.S. District Court, prosecutors describe a pattern of behavior by Assistant Spokane City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi (pictured right, and above at the scene of an officer-involved shooting in July) that raises questions about whether the city actively sought to interfere with the federal investigation that led to a grand jury indictment of Officer Karl F. Thompson.
Treppiedi disputes any suggestion that he has acted improperly. Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.
In this 2007 profile by Bill Morlin and Karen Dorn Steele, Treppiedi is described by friends as zealous and effective, and by foes as hostile to open government and blind to police misconduct.
Two men charged in a major cocaine ring were to appear in federal court today.
A Spokane man who stockpiled what federal prosecutors described as a “troubling” arsenal of illegal weapons will spend the next four years in prison.
Ronald L. Struve, 67, was also sentenced today in Seattle to two years probation and ordered to undergo mental health treatment. U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman said his arsenal posed “a huge danger to the community,” according to the Associated Press.
Struve, a legal stenographer, was arrested in Spokane in January after federal agents raided a storage locker in Bellevue, seizing 37 machine guns, 54 grenades, two grenade launchers and 7.5 pounds of C-4 plastic explosives.
The arsenal was discovered when rent wasn’t paid and the Bellevue unit’s contents were auctioned last November.
The agents also searched a stored vehicle and two rental units at 2814 N. Napa St. in Spokane leased by Struve, seizing seven machine guns, a Russian sniper rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle, and a host of machine gun parts that are illegal to own without proper federal licenses.
Agents also seized 33 other legal firearms for safekeeping from the north Spokane location, according to court documents. Prosecutors say many of the weapons had been stolen from the military.
The arsenal was discovered when rent wasn’t paid and the unit’s contents were auctioned last November. Struve was born in Los Angeles and worked as a court reporter in Eugene, Ore; King County Superior Court and as a freelance court reporter in Spokane, according to Stansell.
Struve’s lawyer, Jay Stansell, has described his client as “nothing more than a loner-type person with some unusual political ideas.”
In a sentencing memorandum, Stansell said Struve collected the weapons back in the 1970s for fear of a Cold War threat.
He bought the weapons over several years from a man he met at a gun show who claimed to be a Navy SEAL, Stansell wrote, as was “chagrined and embarrassed” to be facing prison time now.
“As time passed, and as the perceived imminent threat of communist invasion never materialized, Mr. Struve found himself encumbered by this long ago acquired arsenal,” Stransell wrote. “But he never attempted to dispose of it, because of the obvious, practical difficulties of doing so, as well as his personal inclination to never get rid of anything.”
Candace J. Elmer, 53, operated a psychosocial rehabilitation center, Behavioral Intervention Services, which illegally billed Medicaid for services Elmer didn’t provide or wasn’t authorized to provide or that she wasn’t even providing, according to federal court documents.
The fraud began in November 2002, according to court documents. Elmer and her boyfriend, John C. Knudson, Jr. were charged in federal court in November 2007.
Court documents shows Elmer tried to take back her guilty plea and fired a lawyer, R.D Watson, she said forced her to take the plea.
Watson denied pressuring Elmer and wrote in court documents that Elmer was upset because Knudson had received a lighter sentence. Knudson’s sentencing information is sealed in his federal court file. Spokane lawyer Bryan Whitaker now represents Elmer.
A Mexican man will spend more than six years in prison for operating a large marijuana grow that did more than $10,000 damage to the Okanogan National Forest, according to the U.S attorney’s office.
Moyses Mesa-Barajas, 43, was arrested last August after federal and state officials found him in a grow complex with more than 10,000 plants.
Mesa-Barajas claimed ownership of more than 3,000 of the plants, according to federal court documents, and he pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to manufacture more than 1,000 marijuana plants and to destruction of government property wroth more than $1,000.
His arrest came after federal agents spotted grow operations in the forest connected by trails.
A search warrant served at the site resulted in Mesa-Barajas’ arrest, though several people escaped and were never found, according to a news release. There, federal agents found empty containers of fertilizer, pesticides and rat poison and determined the growers had re-routed streams, terraced mountain slopes, and generally just trashed the place.
On Tuesday, Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Mesa-Barajas to 75 months in prison.
He’s to pay about $7,300 in restitution. If he’s able to gain United States citizenship before he’s released, he’ll be on probation for five years, records show.
James McDevitt, U.S attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, praised the sentence in a prepared statement.
“Since no single agency has the manpower or resources to detect and dismantle large scale grow operations on public land, this case highlights the success that can be achieved with cooperative investigations by multiple state and federal agencies. Marijuana traffickers cause significant environmental damage to our public lands each year, not to mention the risk they pose to the public and recreationalists,” the statement reads.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Patrol, the Twisp Police Department, the Winthrop Marshal’s Office, North Central Washington Special Response Team, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Washington National Guard, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This case was prosecuted by Tim Ohms, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.
A Shoshone County man who filled his computer with thousands of videos of children being sexually abused will spend the next 10 years in federal prison.
Kenneth Jack Hendryx, 58, of Silverton, Idaho, pleaded guilty to possessing sexually explicit images of minors in March and was sentenced last week by U.S District Judge Larry Alan Burns.
Hendryx will be on probation for 15 years after he’s released. Hendryx was already a registered sex offender because of a state conviction in 1993 for abusing an 11-year-old girl in Shoshone County.
Hendryx was sentenced to 14 years in prison for that crime, but a judge retained jurisdiction over the case and he was released on probation one week after he was sentenced, according to U.S District Court documents.
He was released from probation in 1996 after completing sex offender counseling and education.
But Hendryx told police he’d been downloading and viewing child pornography on his computer for several hours each day when his home was raided last September, according to court documents.
The FBI and Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office seized two computers and several hard drives containing child pornography during that search.
“The defendant’s collection of child pornography recovered during the investigation of this case included images that were clearly sadistic/masochistic,” according to federal court documents. “…Courts recognize that collectors of child pornography, such as Mr. Hendryx, contribute to the cycle of abuse and are, in part, responsible for the psychological and physical harm to the children used to produce the images.”
Hendryx will likely spend his prison sentence in Massachusetts, court documents show.
A man who eluded federal authorities for nearly a month was captured today after U.S Marshals tracked his muddy footprints in northeast Spokane County.
Anthony E. Burke, 21, served time in federal prison for possessing ammunition when history of commitment at a mental hospital prohibited him from doing so.
Court papers filed as part of his federal conviction portray Burke, alias Anthony Garver, as a troubled young man haunted by his step-father’s abuse and angry at authorities for calling him mentally ill.
Burke appeared in federal court today. Read my story here.
Here’s Thomas Clouse’s report:
“James M. Sebero, 59, (shown above in 2008) previously pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of more than $1.5 million in benefits by claiming to be a paraplegic, according to indictments filed last year in Idaho and Eastern Washington federal courts.
The scheme fell apart after federal agents, investigating Sebero for fraudulently performing annual airplane inspections, learned he’d been receiving VA benefits since 1976, a year after he ended a six-year stint in the Air Force at Fairchild Air Force Base.
Sebero — who later worked as a marine deputy, operated heavy equipment, became a pilot and owned several businesses — has pleaded guilty to the inspection case, lying to the government and 55 counts of wire fraud, which was part of the scheme that netted him about $6,300 a month in disability payments.
He faces up to 20 years in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush said Friday he needed more information about Sebero’s physical condition before deciding how long a sentence to impose and to which federal facility Sebero will be sent.
No date was set for the sentencing, which includes assurances that Sebero will reimburse the government $950,000 and forfeit his residences in Sandpoint and Spokane. He has already sold four cars, including a Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz, a 40-foot boat and helicopter, according to court testimony.
Sebero — who walked with the aid of arm-brace crutches — had no comment after the hearing.”
Read past coverage of the case here.