Koopman Cannabis Case Drags On

Tuesday, March 12, 2013
AMS Director Jennifer Koopman

AMS Director Jennifer Koopman

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

EUREKA/ARCATA – The marijuana cultivation case against Arcata Main Street Executive Director Jennifer Koopman has yet to reach a preliminary hearing stage and a medical defense is being prepared.

The next court date for the case is March 28, as Koopman’s attorney, Patrik Griego of the Eureka-based Janssen Malloy LLP law firm, has asked for time to obtain a variety of documentation he’ll need for defense.

That includes documentation for a medical defense. By the end of the month, the case will either be resolved or a date will be set for a preliminary hearing.

In addition to cultivation and sales, Koopman is accused of “allowing a place for preparing and storing a controlled substance” and child endangerment related to allegedly hazardous electrical rigging.

The county’s Child Welfare Services department has investigated the child’s living conditions and deemed them to be safe. Koopman’s seven-year-old daughter had been placed with a relative for a short time but has been returned to her custody.

The county’s Drug Task Force searched Koopman’s house on Manzanita Avenue in Eureka on Nov. 2 while no one was home and according to a press release, “267 marijuana plants that ranged in size from three foot to four foot in height” were found in the garage and seized.

Agents also seized $3,700 in cash “from inside of the residence,” the release states.

A “possible electrical fire hazard” at the growing site was suspected and county building officials were called to the scene. The Pacific Gas and Electric Company was directed to turn off the power.

Having “learned that Koopman was at work in Arcata,” agents went there and “located Koopman at her place of work,” arresting her.

Warrant affidavits for PG&E records and the home search reveal how the investigation was informed. Task Force Agent Stanley Harkness, a Eureka police officer, said in the affidavits that in late October, he spoke with an unidentified informer referred to as CCI-1, who reported having repeatedly smelled the odor of marijuana coming from the house while walking and driving by it.

A “large amount of traffic,” which had been “heavier over the prior few weeks” was also reported by CCI-1.

The informant is no stranger to police. Harkness states that disclosure of CCI-1’s identity could “jeopardize their safety and their future usefulness to law enforcement.” He adds that CCI-1 is “providing information to law enforcement for the good of the community and not for any consideration in a pending criminal case or for financial gain.”

The visitations of Koopman’s apparent boyfriend were also observed and reported to police by CCI-1.

After well-known county marijuana enforcer Sgt. Wayne Hansen went to the house and confirmed the odor of marijuana, a warrant for the PG&E information was submitted and approved.

Harkness said the records showed that since May of 2012, there’d been an average electrical usage of 4463 kilowatt hours per month, which the affidavit describes as “well above the average and reasonable use for a home this size.”

Based on that plus CCI-1’s and Hansen’s observations, a warrant to search Koopman’s home was obtained.

Griego declined to comment on the allegations but indicated that he’s preparing a medical status defense.

Koopman’s arrest gained a lot of attention and “shocked” the Main Street board, according to a statement released by Robin Hashem, its president at the time.

Hashem was the lead organizer of the Nip it in the Bud campaign, which raised awareness of marijuana growing impacts in residential neighborhoods and encouraged residents to work with police to respond to them.

She resigned as board president in early February. Asked about it, she said it was due to personal and work obligations and wasn’t related to Koopman’s arrest.


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