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United States v. Luke Scarmazzo and Richard Montes (2006-2008, Modesto, CA)

posted Jan 28, 2013, 2:02 AM by The Editor   [ updated Jan 31, 2013, 2:40 AM ]
On May 15th 2008, the federal government sentenced Luke Scarmazzo and Richard Montes to 30 years in a federal prison for operating a continuing criminal enterprise and manufacturing, distribution and cultivation of marijuana.

From 2004-2006, they opened and managed a medical marijuana dispensary by the name of California Healthcare Collective in Modesto, CA. Mr. Scarmazzo and Mr. Montes consulted and retained the services of a corporate attorney for the sole purpose of opening and operating the business legally and professionally. Per California state law, a medical marijuana dispensary is legal under Proposition 215. The City of Modesto approved a business license for the dispensary. In addition, Mr. Montes and Mr. Scarmazzo opened business bank accounts with Wells Fargo, hired Certified Public Accountants for bookkeeping, and paid their employees through a payroll service. They were responsible and kept thorough records and receipts for everything pertaining to the business. They were upstanding and paid the City of Modesto, State of California as well as our Federal Government taxes, in the neighborhood of 2 million dollars annually.

On September 27 2006, after a 16 month sting operation, DEA Agents raided California Healthcare Collective and all homes in connection to CHC. Mr. Scarmazzo and Mr. Montes were arrested, as were many employees, many of whom accepted plea deals in return for testimony against these men. They were accused of seven charges, each carrying a 20 year sentence, with a possible total of 140 potential years in prison. The reason that Mr. Scarmazzo and Mr. Montes faced such a large amount of time is because Marijuana is considered a Schedule One drug by the federal government.  Marijuana is grouped into the same category as Crack, Heroin, PCP and Methamphetamine, because they claim that Marijuana has the same effects as the above listed drugs, and no medical value. Federal prison time requires the sentenced to serve every day of their time, with no options for early release or time off for good behavior.

The arrest and trial of Mr. Scarmazzo and Mr. Montes has been controversial.  California state law legally allows a medical marijuana dispensaries, which are illegal per the Federal law.  While the Government does not want these facts publicized, it is crucial that all the citizens of California know their rights have been severely violated.

Upon learning that the offense had a mandatory 20-year minimum sentence, two jurors filed declarations with U.S. District Court in Fresno recanting their verdict, and lawyers were seeking a retrial as of September 2008.  In November 2008, Scarmazzo was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison and Montes to 20 years.  Two other defendants, Bradley Wickliffe, 28, and Brad Heinmiller, 32, pled guilty and sentenced to 100 hours community service plus two years probation. Charges against Stephen J. DeMattos, 24, were dropped in September 2007.  Four other defendants, Jose Malagon, 33; Antonio Malagon, 28; Monica Valencia, 25, and Lucky Jamal Boissiere, 26 pled guilty April, 2008. Valencia was sentenced to 366 days on August 20.

On January 5, 2011, a federal appeals court upheld the convictions of Scarmazzo and Montes, denying them a new trial.

Listed below are some interesting and relevant facts that were not discussed or acknowledged in regards to the trial, as provided by DeVina Scarmazzo, wife of defendant Luke Scarmazzo:

1. THE PROSECUTION WAS EXPLICIT IN THEIR ARGUMENT THAT CALIFORNIA'S STATE LAWS ARE IRRELEVANT IN THIS CASE. ESSENTIALLY, THERE WAS NO OPPORTUNITY OR PERMISSION FOR THE DEFENSE TO INTRODUCE ALL THE LEGITIMATE BUSINESS DONE UNDER CALIFORNIA STATE LAW.

2. THERE WAS NO MENTION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA ALLOWED DURING TRIAL.

3. THE DEFENSE ATTORNEY'S WERE NOT PERMITTED TO REVEAL TO THE JURY THE AMOUNT OF YEARS PER CHARGE. THAT KEY PIECE OF INFORMATION WAS WITHHELD, SO THE JURY WOULD MAKE THEIR GUILTY VERDICT WITHOUT FEELING REMORSE FOR POTENTIALLY SENTENCING THESE MEN TO LIFE IN PRISON.

4. ON DAY 2 OF DELIBERATIONS, A JUROR WAS REPLACED WITH AN ALTERNATE FOR ADMITTING HE WAS PRO MEDICAL MARIJUANA AND COULD NEVER FIND THESE MEN GUILTY.

5. THE JURY WAS UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT THESE MEN WOULD SERVE APPROXIMATELY 1 YEAR IN PRISON, WITH PROBATION FOLLOWING.

6. SEVERAL OF THE JURORS "FELT PRESSURED BY THE PROSECUTION AND COURT TO RETURN A GUILTY VERDICT"

7. UNDERCOVER DEA AGENTS OBTAINED MEDICAL MARIJUANA PRESCRIPTIONS FROM VERIFIED PHYSICIANS, ALLOWING THEM TO POSE AS CUSTOMERS OF THE COLLECTIVE.

8. THERE ARE CURRENTLY SEVERAL HUNDRED STATEWIDE MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSARIES OPEN AND OPERATING THROUGHOUT CALIFORNIA, MANY OF WHICH HAVE BEEN IN BUSINESS FOR UPWARDS OF 9 YEARS.

9. IN 2002, THE 9TH CIRCUIT COURT APPEALS DECIDED TO UPHOLD THE RIGHT OF DOCTORS TO RECOMMEND MARIJUANA TO THEIR PATIENTS, AND OF THE PATIENTS TO RECEIVE THAT RECOMMENDATION.

10. IN 1978 THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROVIDED 9 PEOPLE (ONLY 4 ARE ALIVE TODAY) WITH MEDICAL MARIJUANA AFTER A MEDICAL NECESSITY DEFENSE WAS RECOGNIZED IN COURT. THIS RECOGNITION CREATED THE INVESTIGATIONAL NEW DRUG COMPASSIONATE ACCESS PROGRAM (IND PROGRAM). THIS PROGRAM WAS CLOSED TO NEW PATIENTS IN 1992 DUE TO A FLOOD OF AIDS PATIENTS WHO WERE INTERESTED IN BEING A PART OF IND.

THE PEOPLE WHO STILL RECEIVE MEDICAL MARIJUANA FROM OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ARE:

IRVIN ROSENFELD RECEIVING 600 PRE ROLLED MARIJUANA JOINTS MONTHLY SINCE 1982
GEORGE MCMAHON RECEIVING 320 PRE ROLLED MARIJUANA JOINTS MONTHLY SINCE 1990
ELVY MUSIKKA RECEIVING 320 PER ROLLED MARIJUANA JOINTS MONTHLY SINCE 1988
BARBARA DOUGLAS RECEIVING 360 PRE ROLLED MARIJUANA JOINTS MONTHLY SINCE 1991

THE FEDERAL MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM MARKED ITS 30TH ANNIVERSARY MAY 10TH, 5 DAYS BEFORE LUKE AND RICHARDO WERE SENTENCED. THE SAME GOVERNMENT THAT STARTED THIS PROGRAM AND HAS RECOGNIZED MARIJUANA'S MEDICAL AFFECTS, IS THE SAME AUTHORITY WHO SENTENCED Mr. SCARMAZZO AND MR. MONTES TO 30 YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON.

THE PURPOSE OF THESE ABOVE FACTS IS TO INFORM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA OF THE TRUTHS FROM AN UNBIASED STAND. ALL OF THESE FACTS HAVE BEEN WITHHELD FROM THE PUBLIC FOR A REASON. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WAS ADAMANT IN THEIR PURSUIT TO MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF THESE MEN, AT ANY COST. THEY WERE DISHONEST, EVASIVE AND CAREFUL IN CONDUCTING THEIR STING AND TRIAL. THE TRIAL WAS COMPLETELY IN FAVOR OF THE PROSECUTION, BEFORE IT EVER GOT UNDERWAY. A FAIR TRIAL WAS NOT GIVEN TO THESE MEN. THIS IS A MULTI-FACETED ISSUE AND IT IS DISARMING ON MANY LEVELS.
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