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State of California v. Addison DeMoura (2007-2010, Stanislaus County, CA)

posted Jan 29, 2013, 10:03 PM by The Editor   [ updated Feb 25, 2013, 1:59 AM ]
Addison DeMoura founded the Oakdale Natural Choice Collective Inc in May 2007 to stand up voters' right to safe access.  Central Valley medical cannabis patients had to travel long distances or rely on the black market when the last Modesto dispensary was raided in August 2005. The collective was a safe, affordable and patient-friendly environment. ONCC was thanked daily by ill people who now had local safe access to their medication.

On July 31, 2007 the DeMoura's home and the collective was raided n the early hours of the morning by local police, Sheriffs, SWAT and a local DEA task force. The DeMoura's 2-year-old son, Tiger, was snatched from his bed iby armed SWAT team officers, carried down the stairs kicking and screaming with guns pointed at him. He was then sat next to his handcuffed mother who was unable to comfort him except for drawing her own body around him while they despoiled their home.Tiger is still traumatized and has not been home to stay with his parents. Addison and 4 volunteers of the collective were arrested, but returned home the same night, out on bail. The first court date was on August 22, 2007, following a medical cannabis rally the collective organized. The very next day, Addison and his wife Jessica were both arrested at their home for a medical garden at a separate location which was used to provide patients with safe medicine. After staying the night in jail, they were both released on bail.

Marijuana charges were dropped against DeMoura, but as of August 2010 he was still fighting tax-evasion charges.

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Waiting Game Over - Oakdale Dispensary Defendants Arraigned
by Vanessa Nelson  
Saturday, 15 March 2008

MODESTO, CA -- After nearly eight months of regular court appearances, several defendants associated with an Oakdale medical marijuana dispensary have finally been arraigned in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

Last July’s raid of the Oakdale Natural Choice Collective was assisted by a mélange of law enforcement agencies working in tandem, including the local police and sheriff’s departments, as well as a task force called the Stanislaus Drug Enforcement Agency. The defendants have maintained that the dispensary operated in compliance with California’s medical marijuana law, which applies to those patients who have a physician’s approval for their marijuana use. Addison DeMoura, who owned the Natural Choice Collective, has steadfastly asserted that each person who utilized his dispensary had a doctor’s written approval, and that his staff verified every recommendation with the physician who had issued it.

Lieutenant Mike Zahr of the Modesto Police Department has publicly disagreed with claims that the dispensary’s operations were legal. Shortly after the raid, Zahr told reporters that the Natural Choice Collective distributed marijuana to people who didn’t have recommendations from physicians. In his view, the dispensary was “nothing but a front for criminal drug trafficking.”

Zahr also disagreed that medical marijuana has been legalized in California, declaring that state law only provides patients with an argument to use in court. “It’s a defense to prosecution,” he said simply.

For DeMoura and his five co-defendants, however, it seemed that the prosecution might never get underway.

Their arrests had followed right on the heels of the raid, and release on bail had come quickly afterwards. An arraignment was promptly scheduled, and it looked like the case was coming together quickly indeed. But the perception of speed was only an illusion.

The first scheduled arraignment, which occurred in the midst of a moderately large protest by medical marijuana activists, was inexplicably delayed at the last minute. The next day, DeMoura was arrested again at his home, under the suspicion that he had ties to a medical marijuana grow location. This time around, however, his wife Jessica was also arrested and made to await charges. And wait they did…

Again and again, the defendants were called to court for an arraignment, only to be told by the court clerk that they would have to come back another time. The District Attorney’s Office, the clerk said, was still investigating the charges. At first, the defendants were required to show up for this treatment every couple months, but soon the frequency of the ineffectual appearances increased so much that they began happening on a weekly basis. The clerk would continually promise that an arraignment would follow at the next required appearance…but, week after week, it was a promise that fell through.

The situation was a continual source of frustration for the defendants, who struggled to arrange the time off of work for the series of pointless court appearances. They were required to show up, but every time they were dismissed before the judge even entered the courtroom. As the clerk told each of them, they had been put on the day’s “no complaint” calendar.

It was a term that began to irk the defendants. “That’s ridiculous,” Joseph Young muttered crossly after an appearance earlier this month. “They held a gun to my daughter’s head for no complaint!?”

The other defendants have made similar remarks about the officers who executed the search warrants, but only DeMoura has begun putting his accusations on record. As part of a set of claims seeking substantial monetary damages from the city and the county, DeMoura cited emotional trauma suffered by his toddler son Tiger during the search of his family’s home last July. DeMoura said that Tiger, who was two years old at the time, was pulled out from his room by SWAT team members who had their guns pointed at the frantic child. Tiger has since refused to return to his home, according to the claim, and has been living at another location with Jessica.

The claim also describes vandalism committed during the search of the DeMoura home, saying the officers wrote on the walls and urinated in the laundry area. But most of the money DeMoura requests from the local government is intended as compensation for costs related to the dispensary raid, such as attorneys’ fees and the value of items that were seized or destroyed. This sum also includes lost revenue from the dispensary itself, which was shut down as a result of the bust. Although its business license declared the sale of “natural therapeutic products,” it did not specifically mention marijuana, and after the raid the building’s landlord demanded DeMoura close up shop.

The Oakdale Police Department and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office have both publicly disputed DeMoura’s allegations, and they expect the claims for damages to be denied by the city council and board of supervisors. But a denial would only pave the way to DeMoura’s next strategic step: filing an actual lawsuit against the city and county, for which he has already retained Oakland attorney Robert Raich. With a famed lawyer waiting in the wings and the bold demand for a total of over $2 million in damages, Addison’s claims made local government immediately perk up and take notice. Once DeMoura’s story hit the Associated Press, the District Attorney announced that it would be filing charges against him and his co-defendants at their next court appearance. For better or for worse, it seemed that DeMoura’s claims for damages had finally brought an end to the waiting game in the criminal case.

On March 14th, 2008, at half past one in the afternoon, DeMoura and his co-defendants finally got what they had been waiting for. All of them were charged for marijuana possession with the intent to sell and for maintaining a facility for such sales. Those criminal counts came directly from the raid of the dispensary, but the simultaneous searches of multiple homes brought additional charges for some of the defendants. Angel Herrera, for example, was also charged for the possession of concentrated cannabis, while Russell Green was hit with an extra count for cultivation. But an even more provocative allegation was leveled at Jessica DeMoura, who was charged with child endangerment. For a young mother struggling to help her son heal from the disturbances of a home invaded and a family life disrupted, such a charge is serious indeed.

The actual evidence will come to light as the case progresses and the prosecution provides discovery, but in the meantime, each side has its allegations.

DeMoura claims law enforcement damaged to his property, his business and his family, and calls for $2 million from his local government.

The District Attorney’s Office, for its part, claims the defendants did damage to society, and the restitution it seeks is the kind that is paid not only in money, but in time and personal freedom as well.

Originally published by Vanessa Nelson at www.medicalmarijuanaofamerica.com (now defunct).
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