Arcata Sued Over Pot Raid – April 5, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

ARCATA – A 66-year-old Arcata medical marijuana patient has filed a lawsuit against the City of Arcata and police officers who allegedly carried out an illegal search of her home that included excessive force against her seriously ill husband.

Zehndner Avenue resident and medical marijuana patient Barbara Sage filed the civil lawsuit last week and is seeking punitive and other damage awards for alleged police misconduct that contributed to her husband’s death.

According to the lawsuit, the June 1 search of Sage’s home was carried out by at least 10 officers and eight of them – some “with guns drawn” – entered the house after an officer dressed as a utility worker knocked at the door.

Sage’s husband, Charles, who was 67 years old at the time and is now deceased, is alleged to have been treated with excessive force. The lawsuit states that Charles Sage, a medical marijuana patient who had lung disease and Hepatitis C, was in the living room of the house when police entered. The officers handcuffed him too tightly, the complaint continues, and “made him lie on the floor.”

A press release from Sage’s Arcata-based Attorneys, Peter Martin and Jeffrey Schwartz, includes more detailed allegations. “Charles Sage was sleeping in his bed with the assistance of oxygen tubes in his nose,” it states. “Officers pulled the tubes from his nose before they forced him to the floor.”

A subsequent search yielded no marijuana and according to the lawsuit, none had been present since May 5. No charges were filed against the Sages, who had grown about 50 marijuana plants in their house well prior to the search, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims that the actions of police caused “physical injury” to Charles Sage’s wrists and triggered “severe emotional distress, depression and a shortened lifespan.” The alleged police misconduct is described in the complaint as elder abuse and the “rough treatment” is alleged to have caused depression severe enough to have “hastened his death.”

Another main aspect of the complaint is its allegation that the search warrant was based on sketchy leads.

A May 27 search warrant affidavit by Arcata Police Officer Brian Hoffman – who is the only officer specifically named in the lawsuit – states that a jogger noticed the smell of marijuana coming from the Sages’ home during his morning runs and he reported it to police.

On May 11, Hoffman and Officer Kevin Stonebarger went to the home and in the affidavit, Hoffman states that he smelled the “strong odor of marijuana” on the west side of the house. He noted that there was no other residence immediately to the west.

Hoffman also obtained PG&E records and said they showed “electrical usage that is indicative of past and/or current indoor marijuana cultivations” at the house.

The lawsuit complaint describes the warrant’s claims as “defective” and notes that the electrical usage records cited in it show a decrease of 47 percent, “Which would lead to a conclusion that even if cultivation had previously occurred, it had now ceased.”

The lawsuit argues that the search warrant affidavit included “false statements or omissions of material facts” and failed to establish probable cause.

In the press release on the lawsuit, Schwartz said one of its goals is to influence a change of approach. “Maybe, just maybe, a lawsuit of this kind may make the police departments in Humboldt County think twice before invading a person’s home to check out their Prop 215 status,” he said.

Arcata City Attorney Nancy Diamond was out of town and unavailable for comment. Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman said he couldn’t comment on the specific allegations included in the lawsuit but he generally talked about some of the procedures and issues involved with searches.

Chapman said search warrants are approved by judges who look for sufficient evidence and “I feel more comfortable if our officers have a deputy district attorney look at it to make sure we meet those standards.” Hoffman’s affidavit was also reviewed and approved by Deputy District Attorney Max Cardoza.

Proposition 215, the state’s medical marijuana law, allows an “affirmative defense” against prosecution, Chapman continued, but does not bar police from carrying out searches and enforcement actions.

The odor of marijuana is not enough to establish probable cause for a search, Chapman said, although it can be weighed as evidence along with other factors such as electricity usage.

He added that “it’s a waste of time and not necessarily appropriate or consistent with community values to expend resources on small medicinal grows.”

Asked about searches that fail to yield marijuana, Chapman said not finding it at a suspected grow scene doesn’t necessarily refute the conclusions of warrant affidavits. They cite evidence of suspected criminal activity that has occurred, is occurring or will occur but marijuana and other evidence can be removed from a location between the time a warrant is prepared and its execution, he continued.

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12 Responses to “Arcata Sued Over Pot Raid – April 5, 2012”

  1. Ian Ray

    Is this the same house with the youtube CCTV video of the raid?

    #60015
  2. IF

    Yeah, that was this raid

    #60057
  3. Justanother

    I am an educated, lawful woman residing in the City of Arcata, and I know this woman, and her now deceased husband, Charles. Before you pass judgement know that Barbara is one of the kindest, gentlest, funniest, most advanced-thinking people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. She has spent almost the last ten years lending herself, every day, to one of the most popular, upstanding and outstanding nonprofit organizations in our community. When this event occurred, many were appalled. Charles, too, was a gentle soul with a kind heart, and yes, this event did send him into a mortal tailspin. It was a sad, sad thing to watch happen to this loving, law-abiding couple.
    What comes to mind for me are the young, rude, gun-toting, big truck-driving, property destroying ‘growers’ who are an embarrassment to our community- never confronted or lassoed or made to answer for their actions as they invade and destroy our neighborhoods…
    Shame on you City of Arcata! Shame, shame, shame.
    What comes

    #60105
  4. macadoshius

    I hope that this suit is a lesson for the GI Joes of law in these parts to have a bit of discretion…Are people like the Sages the problem in Humboldt?..Only someone like the slug Max Cardoza cud sign a warrant for a old sick couple..Hey Max..got a shortage of REAL criminals?Cuz there knee deep everywere else..

    #60121
  5. donalds

    Routine re-screening, including polygraphs every 5yrs to help fight and prevent police misconduct and corruption. Officers would think twice before breaking laws or rules of conduct. http://t.co/rv9CwYeR

    #60133
  6. Ian Ray

    Donalds, agreed. They should go through a Ouija board examination as well.

    #60146
  7. larry h.

    Police abuse like this is archaic to say the least. A 67 year old man being beaten by boss hog himself. I hope they think twice before this happens again. Does the officer get one of those eirie photo’s taken in Eureka?

    #60431
  8. Mark Siegal

    I had something like this happen to me.The cops injured my back and ect.I sued in federal court and won.I think the jarhead that did that to me will think twice before he abuses his power like alot of them do.I got a published opinion in the West Law book 2006 sup 2nd edition Siegel vs Drew Miller and the Upper Merion Police department in King of Prussia Pennsylvania.It’s very hard to sue the police and win but I did and damm proud of it!.Good luck to you in your lawsuit I hope you win!,
    Many kind regards,
    Mark

    #61008
  9. Zach Rosenberg

    Ridiculous treatment. If more raids like this happen, let us know at http://www.kushmagazine.com.

    #63455
  10. Zach Rosenberg

    Ridiculous treatment. If more raids like this happen, let us know at http://www.kushmagazine.com.

    #63553
  11. Zach Rosenberg

    Ridiculous treatment. If more raids like this happen, let us know at http://www.kushmagazine.com.

    #63554
  12. […] husband, Charles Sage, were subjects of an APD-led cannabis raid on June 1, 2011. A subsequent lawsuit filed by attorney Jeffrey Schwartz alleges police misconduct, including excessive force used […]

    #70683

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