By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
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By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
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DUUUUUUUUDE . . .
Nick Schou's May 18 piece, "Dude, Where's My Pot?" left me flabbergasted, asking, "Dude, where was my call?"
I thought I had worked out my problems in dealing with Schou's lack of journalistic etiquette—the last-minute calls claiming he had just a few hours left on his so-called deadline when he had been working on the story for days or not calling me for verification of facts. We had many conversations about these problems, and I thought we had resolved them and left them in the past.
When Schou contacted me stating he was doing a pro-medical-marijuana story, I helped him and answered all his questions. Schou and I exchanged several calls and e-mails about medical marijuana. Curiously, Schou never mentioned the name Josue Lopez nor Lopez's absurd contention that he was prosecuted and convicted because he harassed District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, and not because he was in fact guilty of transporting marijuana, possessing marijuana with the intent to sell while armed with a firearm, and cultivating marijuana while armed with a firearm.
Here is the pertinent part of Schou's article containing Lopez's incredible tale:
Lopez got angry and started calling the DA's office, demanding to speak to Orange County's top prosecutor, Tony Rackauckas.
"I started calling the DA's office and told them off," Lopez says. "I kept calling every 30 minutes, pestering him until I got a hold of him. I told Rackauckas, 'You are not looking out for the best interest of the people. You are just about getting rich, and maybe one day, someone will get in there that knows what they are doing.'" Lopez says Rackauckas informed him that his office felt it couldn't obtain a favorable jury verdict.
Lopez grew to regret harassing Rackauckas on the telephone. On Aug. 4, 2005, sheriff's detectives arrested Lopez for cultivating and possessing marijuana with the intent to sell. While Lopez claims he was a "caregiver" to six people, the DA's office evidently thought—given that he was not primarily responsible for housing, feeding and clothing the patients he was supplying with cannabis—that he wasn't a caregiver under the law. Facing three years in prison, Lopez ultimately took a deal that put him in jail for six months.
Dude, why didn't Schou just ask what "the DA's office evidently thought" instead of guessing?
Why would Schou call and e-mail me about other parts of his story yet fail to confirm such serious allegations against the district attorney? If Schou had actually cared about the truth rather than relying on the words of a convicted felon, Schou would have learned that no such phone calls ever took place and District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has never spoken to Lopez.
Schou would have learned that Lopez's tale was sanitized. Lopez failed to mention other evidence that lead investigators to believe Lopez was a drug dealer. Lopez's exposure actually was six years and six months due to the firearms allegation, but the offer by the district attorney's office was always 180 days in jail. Perhaps medical marijuana makes you forget small details such as firearms and knives. . . .
Dude, why didn't you call the Orange County Sheriff's Department and ask them why they started investigating Lopez?
Orange County Sheriff's Department Lieutenant Mark Bailey told me, "The sheriff's department began investigating Mr. Lopez after receiving information that he was engaged in drug sales in July and August 2005. This information did not come from anyone in the Orange County district attorney's office. The district attorney's office did not get involved in the handling of this case until we submitted the case for criminal filing."
Dude, why didn't you look up the public records?
The court records, available to any member of the public including reporters, contain a search-warrant affidavit and the preliminary transcript regarding this case. These court documents directly contradict Lopez's claim that he is being harassed by law enforcement by orders of the district attorney or that Lopez is a compassionate marijuana "caregiver."
During the month of August 2005, the sheriff's department received information that Lopez was cultivating and selling marijuana in his Lake Forest residence, where he was living with parents.
On Aug. 4, 2005, deputy sheriffs searched Lopez's car and found six Ziploc baggies containing various amounts of marijuana (ranging from 1.0 to 3.5 grams), 63 growing cubes to cultivate marijuana, one water pump, 20 rounds of rifle ammunition, and a physician's statement stating he was allowed to consume marijuana. Apparently, the "caregiver" also needed to carry two folding knives clipped to his pants and another knife between the front consoles of his truck.
Dude, why did Lopez lie? Why didn't he just say he was cultivating marijuana as a "caregiver"?
When confronted with growing cubes by the police, Lopez stated he was planning to grow marijuana for himself but had not started growing yet. Asked specifically whether he was a caregiver for others, he said "no."
Dude, a judge denied his medical-marijuana defense.
Lopez was defended by William McPike, a self-proclaimed "medical-marijuana defense" specialist. McPike's business card even shows a large five-point leaf. Lopez's doctor (who "diagnosed" Lopez's medical-marijuana "need" over the phone) even took the stand to help Lopez's medical-marijuana defense. During the hearing, the defense raised that Lopez had a "status as a patient" to consume marijuana. Again, no claim by Lopez that he was a "caregiver."