By Jasen T. Davis
Major medical marijuana trial–pitting the federal government against state law and legal cannabis providers–ends in Aaron Sandusky being found guilty on drug conspiracy charge
“California state law does not exist here,” judge declares
Friday morning, Aaron Sandusky calmly stood on the steps of a Los Angeles federal court building while press photographers moved around him, positioning themselves for the best shot. Under a strict gag order by Judge Percy Anderson, Sandusky was unable to comment on his own future, hours before a jury would convene to decide his fate.
Despite the fact that several other charges were dismissed, Sandusky—who has become a lightning rod for medical marijuana advocacy and champion of cannabis rights—was found guilty on two charges Friday: conspiracy to manufacture marijuana plants and of intent to distribute of 1,000 marijuana plants.
The judge did not allow California’s medical marijuana laws to factor in the case and prohibited them from being mentioned.
Eight months ago Aaron Sandusky owned and operated three medical cannabis cooperatives in Upland, Colton and Moreno Valley in Southern California. His company, “G3 Holistic, Inc.” provided medicine for many Inland Empire patients.
Last June, Sandusky, his brother and several other members of his company were arrested and indicted on federal conspiracy charges including drug-trafficking, conspiracy to manufacture and possession with intent to distribute.
Inside the court house Friday, Sandusky waited with more than a dozen friends and family members, including former G3 employees. Many of his allies felt that the Judge Anderson’s gag order—and his instructions to the jury to ignore California’s medical marijuana laws because they did not apply in federal court—had not only kept Sandusky from properly defending himself in a court of law, and robbed him of his civil rights.
One associate was particularly concerned. “If you take away what a man says, and then take away what a man writes, what does he have left to defend himself with?”
While it is common knowledge that Sandusky has often stated (prior to the gag order) that he would not have tried operating a medical cannabis collective if President Barack Obama had not said he wouldn’t raid collectives operating legally within state law, this was completely stricken from all court records
In addition, the judge would not permit the jury to hear it at all.
According to Joe Grumbine, a friend and supporter of Sandusky (who had operated a Long Beach dispensary and has been dealing with his own legal issues), the judge told the jury early on that, “California state law does not exist here.”
While the jury deliberated, the mood inside the waiting room was subdued, with a fair amount of gallows humor. Most of Sandusky’s friends and associates, wearing small green ribbons to show their support, were medical cannabis growers, owners, operators and patients themselves . . . so each of them knew how he felt.
Later, when one of Sandusky’s friends asked him if he knew what he wanted for lunch, he said, “Yeah, a not-guilty verdict.”
His attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, also tried to lighten the mood. “Where there’s life, there’s hope, right, guys?”
While the feeling was grim, one hope remained. The longer a jury took to come to a decision, the more likely the chance for a mistrial, or even a not-guilty verdict.
Later in the morning the jury asked the judge if Sandusky would be found not guilty if half of them couldn’t come to a unanimous decision on each of the charges. Without any further explanation Judge Anderson bluntly told the twelve human beings that would decide if Sandusky would spend a most of the rest of his life behind bars in a federal prison, “no.”
That afternoon, the jury asked if they could once again hear Sandusky’s testimony. Judge Anderson agreed, but would not permit them to hear any part that described Obama’s promise not to use federal resources against medical marijuana.
Sandusky’s defense counsel wanted the jury to hear that part, arguing that it might change their minds before they issued a verdict, but the judge insisted that Sandusky’s words remain stricken from the official court record.
After the jury listened to the heavily redacted version of Sandusky’s opening statement, they reconvened. Later on that afternoon they came back with a verdict. Sandusky was found guilty of two of the charges. The jury could not decide on the four others charges, including maintaining drug-involved premises. Four other defendants, who had worked with Sandusky, took plea deals previously.
While federal marshals ordered Sandusky’s friends outside, he was allowed to say goodbye to his family and girlfriend before he was taken into custody. His sentencing hearing has been set for January 2013.