Lock ’Em Up Nation; Mandatory Sentencing for Medical Marijuana

How did the United States, land of the free, become the world’s top jailer? It’s a question asked by visitors from other democracies, and the American citizen who wakes from a stupor to find that our prisons are stuffed with people serving interminable sentences for nonviolent crimes.

For the answer, you need look no further than the real America, the sparsely settled, ruggedly beautiful, financially struggling eastern third of Washington State. There, 70-year-old Larry Harvey, his wife, two family members and a friend are facing mandatory 10-year prison terms for growing medical marijuana — openly and, they thought, legally — on their farm near the little town of Kettle Falls.

To get a sense of the tragic absurdity of this federal prosecution, reaching all the way to the desk of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., consider what will happen next month. Pot stores will open in Washington, selling legal marijuana for the recreational user — per a vote of the people. A few weeks later, the Feds will try to put away the so-called Kettle Falls Five for growing weed on their land to ease their medical maladies. Federal sentencing guidelines, which trump state law, call for mandatory prison terms.

Photo

Larry Harvey, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey and Rolland Gregg each face a 10-year mandatory prison sentence. Credit Nicholas K. Geranios/Associated Press

Harvey is a former long-haul truck driver with a bad knee, spasms of gout and high blood pressure. He says he has no criminal record, and spends much of his time in a wheelchair. His wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, is a retired hairdresser with arthritis and osteoporosis. Mr. Harvey says he takes his wife’s home-baked marijuana confections when the pain in his knee starts to flare. The Harveys thought they were in the clear, growing 68 marijuana plants on their acreage in northeast Washington, one of 22 states allowing legal medical marijuana. (Federal authorities say they are several plants over the limit.)

Their pot garden was a co-op among the four family members and one friend; the marijuana was not for sale or distribution, Mr. Harvey says. “I think these patients were legitimate,” Dr. Greg Carter, who reviewed medical records after the arrest, told The Spokesman-Review of Spokane. “They are pretty normal people. We’re not talking about thugs.”

But the authorities, using all the military tools at their disposal in the exhausted drug war, treated them as big-time narco threats. First, a helicopter spotted the garden from the air. Brilliant, except Harvey himself had painted a huge medical marijuana sign on a plywood board so that his garden, in fact, could be identified as a medical pot plot from the air.

This was followed by two raids. One from eight agents in Kevlar vests. The other from Drug Enforcement Agency officers. They searched the house, confiscating guns, and a little cash in a drawer. The guns are no surprise: Finding someone who does not own a firearm in the Selkirk Mountain country is like finding a Seattleite who doesn’t recycle. Still, the guns were enough to add additional federal charges to an indictment that the family was growing more than the legal limit of plants.

Now, let’s step back. The Harveys live in the congressional district of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is part of the House Republican leadership. She loves freedom. You know she loves freedom because she always says so, most recently in a press release touting her efforts to take away people’s health care coverage. “Americans must be protected from out of control government,” she stated.

Well, maybe. Unless that government is trying to take away the freedom of a retired couple growing pot to ease their bodily pains. That freedom is not so good. Astonishingly, in our current toxic political atmosphere, Republicans and Democrats joined together last month to vote, by 219 to 189, to block spending for federal prosecution of medical marijuana in states that allow it.

Yaayyy, for freedom. There was one dissent from Washington State’s delegation. Yes, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, standing firm for an out of control government instead of defending one of her freedom-loving constituents.

Let’s go further up the government ranks. As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to “immediately review these sentences” — mandatory minimums — “to see how we can be smarter on crime and reduce the ineffective warehousing of nonviolent drug offenders.”

He kept that promise, in ordering a review. And his Justice Department also issued new guidelines saying the Feds would try to avoid prosecution of medical marijuana operations so long as they don’t do things like funnel money to interstate drug operations or sell to children. The Harveys say they meet the guidelines.

Why the federal prosecution, then? Attorney General Holder was in Spokane last week, meeting with his subordinates. But he said nothing about the case. Trial is set for July 28, and the Harveys can’t use legal medical marijuana as a defense, a judge has ruled. All the government has to prove is that the Harvey family was growing marijuana — a federal crime.

If they go to prison for a decade, as the mindless statutes that grew out of the crack-cocaine scare stipulate, they would become part of a federal system where fully half of all inmates are behind bars for drug offenses. And one in four of those crimes involves marijuana.

So remember the Kettle Falls Five when all the legal pot stores and their already legal growing facilities open for business in Washington State next month. There will be silly features about cookies and candy bars laced with pot, and discussions about etiquette, dos and don’ts. The press will cite polls showing that a majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, and more than 80 percent feel that way about medical cannabis. But in the eyes of the federal government, these state laws are meaningless.

If Larry Harvey, at the age of 70, with his gout and high blood pressure and bum knee, gets the mandatory 10-year term, he’s likely to die in prison, certainly not the last casualty of the assault on our citizens known as the War on Drugs. For him, freedom is just another word his congresswoman likes to throw around on the Fourth of July.

CONTINUE READING…

Indiana police pepper-spray stripped woman, leave her naked for hours, make her walk through jail nude: lawyer

After Tabitha Storms Gentry was arrested on misdemeanor charges, she was forcibly stripped and sat naked in cell overnight, her lawyer said. The New Albany woman is suing police. Officers said she was drunk and violent during the whole incident.

BY Meg Wagner

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Friday, June 13, 2014, 7:38 AM

 

The video showed returning to the cell a few minutes later, still naked.

"They leave her in that room — still with no clothes, with a mat that is now soaking wet from the water — for five more hours before they finally give her a jumpsuit and let her make a phone call," her lawyer said.

Officers said Gentry was drunk and violent throughout the arrest.

According to a report, Gentry was warned that "since she had resisted, threatened and attempted to kick an officer, she was being placed in a smock and the females (officers) were going to remove her clothes."

In another report, police said they pepper-sprayed Gentry to subdue her for "the safety of this facility" because her shouting "agitated other inmates."

Landenwich said what happened to Gentry was a use of excessive force and a cruel and unusual punishment.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/police-pepper-spray-woman-left-naked-jail-hours-lawyer-article-1.1828409#ixzz34Wh9iOna

BREAKING: Death Sentence for a $96 ticket (NJWEEDMAN)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQwkMeHGUX8&w=448&h=252&hd=1]
NJ WEEDMAN reads a letter from a prisoner who turns in jail for a wrongful death.

Published on Feb 10, 2014

special thanks to http://njweedman.com/ for bringing us this story.
In this video Luke Rudkowski interviews Ed Forchion the NJ Weed Man after he was recently released from jail and was given a shocking letter from a fellow inmate.

The letter details gross misconduct and neglect on behave of correctional officers which some are saying resulted in the murder of a fellow inmate.

The inmate who released the story to the public was put into solitary confinement for writing this letter.

 
Show your support by writing the whistle blower inmate at
Sean C. Turzanski # 90248
Burlington County Jail
54 Grant St.
Mt. Holly NJ 08060

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Lincoln, Kennedy & Obama’s “Warnings” (Whistle Blowers Corps & Secret Societies)

 

Lincoln, Kennedy & Obama’s "Warnings" ( Whistle Blowers Corps & Secret Societies )
Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Obama and many more have openly said in public that Private Bankers, Corporations and Secret Societies like the Bilderbergs, Council On Foreign Relations and U.N. were the biggest threat to America. People just don’t what to listen, out of fear for the obvious. So they use defense mechanisms like displaced anger, Racism and they cling to the RED & Blue with a death grip. Meanwhile Campaign Contributions in Tax Havens like Ireland pay for, Outsourcing, Bank Fraud, Corporate Tax Fraud, Wars For Rothschild OPIC Profits and Wall Street Fraud. Meanwhile Corporation profits, Wall Street Profits, Taxes, Printing Money, Food Prices go up and American Citizens have less food on the table.
(People Need To Listen)
Whistle Blower Elected President Teddy Roosevelt "Warnings" Corporations : http://youtu.be/6FbQICYlwVo
Whistle Blower Elected President Kennedy "Warnings" Secret Society Speech : http://youtu.be/utYcFf93Srs
Whistle Blower Elected President Obama "Warnings" Secret Society Speech : http://youtu.be/wjssObygXaQ
Whistle Blower Ireland’s Parliament : http://youtu.be/CnJCvKA-oEU
Whistle Blower FBI : http://youtu.be/do_swOstGaI
Whistle Blower FED & World Bank : http://youtu.be/B1UwZIa9AFc
Whistle Blower CIA : http://youtu.be/fbVYF8gpNdo
Whistle Blower Economic Hit Man Killing US Jobs : http://youtu.be/wuxMcMwA3t8
Whistle Blowers TTP Outsourcing, SOPA Internet Regulation & Banker Deregulation : http://youtu.be/CS-x5SlcPPM
Whistle Blowers "Warnings" Private Banks, Corporations & Secret Societies : http://youtu.be/r4kmWZefTrQ
Whistle Blowers Confront Rothschild : http://youtu.be/6sCioKnpHdY
P.S. An election will only turn what could be a good man into a political puppet and put power into the wrong hands again.


I Will Not Comply !!! : I’m done being passive, you can wallow in your Government Sponsored delusion and petty arguments. I’m not supporting Corruption, Outsourcing, Bank Thievery, Debasing our Currency or Corporate Oil Trade Wars and Washington’s High Treason anymore. Every entitlement, service or oath breaker I have paid taxes for or supported to this day has turned out to be a legal battle or a total rip off. I Will Not Comply any more the IRS and ObamaCare will be getting a "I Will Not Comply" return letter this year. I use cash, barter, trade and go tax free from now on. If this government spies on us I will spy on them back. If this government taxes us I will tax them back. If this government fines, warrants or attacks, American Citizens, American Citizens will attack them back. If this government targets us at our homes American Citizens will Target them at theirs back. We are American Citizens ! We will not be tread on by this treasonous and corrupt government any more. Kevlar and High Tech Toys will not mean shit if they cross my line in the sand.


Daniel Chong, forgotten in DEA cell, settles suit for $4.1 million

By Stan Wilson, CNN

updated 3:11 PM EDT, Wed July 31, 2013

San Diego (CNN) — A University of California San Diego student left unmonitored in a holding cell for five days by the Drug Enforcement Administration has settled a lawsuit for $4.1 million, his attorney said.

"This was a mistake of unbelievable and unimaginable proportions," attorney Julia Yoo said on Tuesday.

Daniel Chong, 25, drank his own urine to survive and even wrote a farewell note to his mother before authorities discovered him severely dehydrated after a 2012 drug raid in San Diego.

He was held in a 5-by-10-foot cell with no windows but a peephole through the door. It had thick concrete walls and was situated in a narrow hallway with four other cells, isolated from the rest of the DEA facility, said Eugene Iredale, another of Chong’s attorneys.

There was no toilet, only a metal bench on which he stood in a futile attempt to set off the sprinkler system with his cuffed hands, Chong told CNN affiliate KSWB.

He kicked the door and yelled, anything to get someone’s attention, the station reported.

"I was screaming. I was completely insane," he told KWSB.

One matter still unclear is why no one heard him. Chong told the San Diego Union-Tribune last year that he heard footsteps, muffled voices and the opening and closing of cell doors, even from the cell adjacent to his. Yet no one responded to the ruckus coming from inside his cell.

Chong was detained on the morning of April 21, 2012, when DEA agents raided a house they suspected was being used to distribute MDMA, commonly known as "ecstasy."

A multiagency narcotics task force, including state agents, detained nine people and seized about 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana, prescription medications, hallucinogenic mushrooms, several guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition from the house, according to the DEA.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of Wednesday, April 25, that an agent opened the steel door to Chong’s cell and found the handcuffed student, Iredale said last year.

Student drank urine to survive DEA cell

2012: Student feared death, dehydration

Upon his release, Mr. Chong told CNN affiliate KNSD that he was visiting a friend and knew nothing about the presence of drugs and guns. He was never formally arrested or charged, the DEA said.

While detained, Chong had given up and accepted death, using a shard of glass from his glasses to carve "Sorry Mom" onto his arm as a farewell message, Yoo said. Chong lost 15 pounds and suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, she said.

"He’s the strongest person I have ever met," Yoo said. "As a result of his case, it’s one of the primary reasons the DEA placed a nationwide policy that calls on each agent at satellite offices to check on the well-being of prisoners in their cells on a daily basis," Yoo said.

A DEA spokeswoman declined to comment extensively about the settlement and told CNN that a review of DEA procedures was conducted and submitted to the inspector general’s office at the Department of Justice. She also referred CNN to a previous statement.

"I am deeply troubled by the incident that occurred here," said DEA San Diego Special Agent in Charge William R. Sherman shortly after the incident. "I extend my deepest apologies to the young man and want to express that this event is not indicative of the high standards that I hold my employees to."

Since the incident, Chong has returned to complete his undergraduate degree at UC San Diego, Yoo said. "He changed his major from engineering to economics and wants to finish school, pursue his career and help take care of his mother."

CONTINUE THRU THIS LINK TO VIDEO…

Right now, five adults await death in prison for non-violent, marijuana-related crimes. Their names are John Knock, Paul Free, Larry Duke, William Dekle, and Charles “Fred” Cundiff.

Marijuana Crimes: Five Senior Citizens Serving Life Without Parole For Pot

AlterNet  |  By Kristen Gwynne Posted: 12/26/2012 11:16 am EST

Should five non-violent offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

December 23, 2012  |  

Photo Credit: Farsh/ Shutterstock.com

Right now, five adults await death in prison for non-violent, marijuana-related crimes. Their names are John Knock, Paul Free, Larry Duke, William Dekle, and Charles “Fred” Cundiff. They are all more than 60 years old; they have all spent at least 15 years locked up for selling pot; and they are all what one might call model prisoners, serving life without parole. As time wrinkles their skin and weakens their bodies, Michael Kennedy of the Trans High Corporation has filed a legal petition with the federal government seeking their clemency. Otherwise they will die behind bars for selling a drug 40% of American adults have admitted to using, 50% of Americans want legal, and two states have already legalized for adult use. Since these men were convicted of these crimes many years ago, public opinion and policy related to marijuana have shifted greatly. Should these five non-violent senior-citizen offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

1. John Knock, 65, has been incarcerated for more than 16 years. The only evidence against him was the testimony of informants; Knock was convicted of conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana. The judge sentenced him to 20 years for money laundering plus not one, but two terms of life-without-parole — a  punishment typically reserved for murderers. Despite the uniquely unjust sentence, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court denied his pleas for reconsideration via appeal or court order.
Waiting for death in jail, Knock suffers from chronic sinus problems linked to an untreated broken nose. Due to circulatory problems, one of his ankles swells to twice its size. Knock also suffers from what the legal petition called “untreated" hearing and vision problems. Easing some of his pain are visits from his family and his participation in prison programs. He has taught home building and physical education inside the prison that has become his home. According to the legal petition, he is assured employment and a home should his sentence be commuted.

2. Before he was incarcerated, Paul Free obtained a BA in marine biology and was starting a school while teaching English in Mexico. Now 62, he has continued his passion for education behind bars, where he has lived for the past 18 years. Free helps inmates prepare for the General Equivalency Diploma tests, and according to the petition, prison officials have applauded Paul’s hard work and his students’ high graduation rate. Paul suffers from degenerative joint disease, failing eyesight, sinus problems, and allergies, and he has had 11 skin cancers removed.

3. Once a union carpenter, Larry Duke, a 65-year-old decorated Marine, has spent the last 23 years of his life behind bars for weed. On top of the difficulties life in prison lays on the psyche, Duke suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from multiple tours in the Vietnam war. Like Knock, Duke received two life sentences without parole for a non-violent marijuana conspiracy, and was unsuccessful at appeal. According to the legal petition, Duke is the longest-serving nonviolent marijuana prisoner in the nation.  
Despite his incarceration in a country that has failed him, Duke works from behind bars to design patentable concepts that would assist the general public. While locked up, he has already managed to obtain a federal patent for a water-delivery system he plans to market to the U.S. Department of Defense. According to the legal petition, Duke enjoys the support of his wife and a growing family including two children, two grandsons, three siblings and many nieces and nephews. “They all want him to come home and be part of their lives and dreams,” the petition said.

4. William Dekle, 63, is also a former U.S. Marine serving two life sentences without parole, 22 of which he has already completed in a Kentucky penitentiary. Despite the depressing possibility that he will die behind bars, Dekle has participated in more than 30 prison courses, including counseling other inmates. Before his conviction, Dekle was a pilot certified in commercial and instrument flying, as well as multiengine aircraft. Now he suffers from a chronic knee injury. He is supported by his wife, two daughters, and grandchildren, who call him “Papa Billy.” Dekle’s relatives would ensure a stable home environment should he be granted clemency, the legal petition said.

5. Charles “Fred” Cundiff is a 66-year-old inmate who has served more than 20 years of his life sentence for marijuana. Before the marijuana arrest that changed his life forever, he worked in construction, retail and at a plant nursery. In prison, he worked for Unicor (Federal Prison Industries) for 12 years before his declining health interfered with his ability to work. Battling skin cancer, eye infections, and severe arthritis in his spine, Cundiff uses a walker. While the legal petition makes no mention of family, it says he is regularly visited by “friends from his youth.”
While these men have all spent many years behind bars for crimes they were convicted of many years ago, the same draconian punishments are handed down to marijuana criminals — young and old — to this day. Conspiracy charges, combined with mandatory minimums for marijuana sale and firearms charges, can quickly add up to decades behind bars. Should anyone in the entire criminal operation have a gun (legal or not), everyone involved can be charged with firearm possession during a drug offense, a five-year mandatory minimum that can reach 20 if the person is charged with continuing criminal enterprise — a long-term, large-scale operation. In the end, these sentences are often not applied, but used to encourage guilty pleas in exchange for a lesser sentence.

Marijuana prisoner Chris Williams is an example of one such case. He was recently facing a mandatory minimum of 85 to 92 years behind bars for providing medical marijuana in Montana, where it is legal. Citing a moral opposition to plea bargains forced by the threat of a lifetime in jail, WIlliams rejected a deal that would have drastically reduced his sentence by cutting away mandatory minimums. Then, this Tuesday, federal prosecutors agreed to drop six of eight of Williams’ charges, provided he waive his constitutional right to appeal. Now Williams faces a mandatory minimum of five years for the firearm-related charge, and another five for distribution.

“With the rest of my life literally hanging in the balance, I simply could not withstand the pressure any longer,” Williams said in a statement. “If Judge Christensen shows mercy and limits my sentence to the five-year mandatory minimum, I could be present at my 16-year-old son’s college graduation. This would most likely be impossible had I rejected the latest compromise.”

Kristen Gwynne covers drugs at AlterNet. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology.

CONTINUE READING….

In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country

 

 

In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country. Soon after, stories began to emerge about people receiving life sentences for petty crimes such as stealing a pair of gloves or a slice of pizza. Such cases challenged the commonly held belief that the law applied only to violent criminals.

A forum for short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude by independent filmmakers and artists.

Opinion Twitter Logo.

Connect With Us on Twitter

For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

Our interest in this issue deepened when we read the results of a 2010 report, shared with us by the Three Strikes Project at Stanford Law School. The study showed that more than 4,000 inmates in California are serving life sentences for nonviolent offenses under the three-strikes law. While it is possible that some of the inmates may be eligible for parole after 25 years, a majority face the prospect of decades of prison time. Many of these stiff sentences struck us as egregious.

Although judges have sentencing discretion in a very narrow band of three-strikes cases, the reality is that judges almost universally consider themselves bound under California law to impose a life sentence for a third felony offense, no matter how minor.

When we began working on this Op-Doc, as well as other short-format videos profiling nonviolent “three strikers” and their families, a portrait quickly emerged of Californians struggling with extreme poverty whose lives — in the words of one woman we interviewed — “can just be thrown away.” We also learned that the law is disproportionately applied to minorities, the mentally ill and the poor.

The case of Shane Taylor, the subject of this video, is common in many ways, but also unusual in that his judge and prosecutor have gone on record saying that his sentence is unfair and should be modified. Under current law, revising a sentence after it has been imposed is nearly impossible.

On Nov. 6, voters in California will decide whether to adopt Proposition 36, a ballot initiative that would reform the most draconian aspects of the law — and, in our view, restore the original intent of voters, which was to lock away violent career criminals for life, without unjustly throwing away the lives of small-time, nonviolent offenders like Mr. Taylor. Like most Californians, we believe that the punishment should fit the crime. We’re encouraged that polls show broad public support for the measure.

Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway received the best documentary screenplay award this year from the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Gotham Independent Film Award for best documentary last year, for their film “Better This World.” Funding for the production of this video was raised in part by David W. Mills, a Stanford law professor who supports Proposition 36 and has advocated reform of California’s three-strikes law.

PLEASE CONTINUE THRU THIS LINK TO VIDEO….

In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country

In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country. Soon after, stories began to emerge about people receiving life sentences for petty crimes such as stealing a pair of gloves or a slice of pizza. Such cases challenged the commonly held belief that the law applied only to violent criminals.

A forum for short, opinionated documentaries, produced with creative latitude by independent filmmakers and artists.

Opinion Twitter Logo.

Connect With Us on Twitter

For Op-Ed, follow @nytopinion and to hear from the editorial page editor, Andrew Rosenthal, follow @andyrNYT.

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

Our interest in this issue deepened when we read the results of a 2010 report, shared with us by the Three Strikes Project at Stanford Law School. The study showed that more than 4,000 inmates in California are serving life sentences for nonviolent offenses under the three-strikes law. While it is possible that some of the inmates may be eligible for parole after 25 years, a majority face the prospect of decades of prison time. Many of these stiff sentences struck us as egregious.

Although judges have sentencing discretion in a very narrow band of three-strikes cases, the reality is that judges almost universally consider themselves bound under California law to impose a life sentence for a third felony offense, no matter how minor.

When we began working on this Op-Doc, as well as other short-format videos profiling nonviolent “three strikers” and their families, a portrait quickly emerged of Californians struggling with extreme poverty whose lives — in the words of one woman we interviewed — “can just be thrown away.” We also learned that the law is disproportionately applied to minorities, the mentally ill and the poor.

The case of Shane Taylor, the subject of this video, is common in many ways, but also unusual in that his judge and prosecutor have gone on record saying that his sentence is unfair and should be modified. Under current law, revising a sentence after it has been imposed is nearly impossible.

On Nov. 6, voters in California will decide whether to adopt Proposition 36, a ballot initiative that would reform the most draconian aspects of the law — and, in our view, restore the original intent of voters, which was to lock away violent career criminals for life, without unjustly throwing away the lives of small-time, nonviolent offenders like Mr. Taylor. Like most Californians, we believe that the punishment should fit the crime. We’re encouraged that polls show broad public support for the measure.

Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway received the best documentary screenplay award this year from the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Gotham Independent Film Award for best documentary last year, for their film “Better This World.” Funding for the production of this video was raised in part by David W. Mills, a Stanford law professor who supports Proposition 36 and has advocated reform of California’s three-strikes law.

PLEASE CONTINUE THRU THIS LINK TO VIDEO….