By QUINCY CROMER/The Daily Journal
Conflict between Mendocino and Alameda county officials persists more than a month after two Berkeley residents were arrested near Willits on suspicion of possession and transportation of some 44 pounds of marijuana.
Winslow Norton, 24, and Jessica Gibson, 20, both of Berkeley, were pulled over for traffic violations at 11:45 p.m. April 12 on Highway 101, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.
Deputies detected the odor of marijuana and conducted a vehicle search, MCSO incident reports state, discovering packaged marijuana for sale and $2,280 in cash.
Norton and Gibson were booked into jail on suspicion of possession and transportation of marijuana for sale.
Michael Norton -- Winslow's father -- attempted to post their bail with $150,000 in cash, according to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office. The cash was confiscated as a product of suspected criminal activity.
"(The money) smelled like marijuana and was being used to bail out people being held on marijuana charges. (Norton's) bail was increased to $150,000 and there was a bail hold call to make sure they weren't being bailed out with illegal income," Deputy District Attorney Matt Finnegan said.
Norton and Gibson posted bail April 18, six days after they were arrested.
According to their attorney, Bill Panzer, there is a serious issue of request for discovery as Norton and Gibson were pulled over as a pretext stop for driving under the influence.
"It is written up as a DUI investigation, and we don't believe that it was a DUI stop. They were allegedly pulled over for DUI charges and there were no DUI tests done. No field sobriety no blood tests."
"They were driving right at the speed limit, using cruise control. The police report states they were weaving within their lane and went over the center line once. They are basically pulling people over on pretext charges and looking for marijuana."
Panzer said he has filed a Pitchess motion to request information regarding past reports on the deputies involved in the arrests. A Pitchess motion can be sought by a defendant to access the personnel file of an arresting deputy, which includes internal affairs investigations, citizen complaints and other records.
Norton owns a cannabis cooperative -- Compassionate Collective of Alameda County -- which is legally recognized by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and Sheriff's Office, Panzer said.
"The case has to raise questions. In a typical drug dealing case, you don't get a letter from the Board of Supervisors stating that their operation is legitimate. You don't get a call from the sheriff's office saying they are cleared in Alameda County," Panzer said.
In regard to the $150,000 confiscated by deputies, Panzer said his client has never been served with a notice of the seizure.
"The money belongs to the cooperative and the statute (Prop. 215) specifically states people can join co-ops to provide their own medicine and they have immunity from sales and transportation (of marijuana)," Panzer said.
"The co-op always keeps a war chest. Given what is going on politically and the raids that have been conducted, they keep an amount for obtaining medicine and an amount for potential legal problems such as this."
In accordance with Prop. 215, cannabis cooperatives are not able to sell marijuana for profit, but Panzer said the money from Norton's "war chest" is distributed back to the members of the co-op every fiscal year.
As the counselors prepare for the preliminary hearing scheduled for June 15, they will meet on June 13 for the Pitchess motion hearing to address Panzer's request to obtain personnel files of the arresting deputies.
"I certainly expect that this case is unusual enough that they should have raised a red flag and they should have done more investigation," Panzer said.
"Transportation and possession (of marijuana) is what they were charged with," Finnegan said. "Those are the relevant charges and that is what I will be pursuing during the prelim.