As the Weekly has previously reported, the DEA is attempting to seize a $1.5 million Anaheim business complex from a computer engineer and his dentist wife over a $37 pot sale by a former marijuana dispensary tenant. The engineer, Tony Jalali, is being represented by attorney Matthew Pappas, as well as a team from the libertarian law firm Institute For Justice. The case is rapidly turning into a major showdown over the Obama administration's heavy-handed crackdown on California's medical marijuana industry.
The feds have reportedly offered to settle the case if Jalali agrees not to rent to any more cannabis collectives, but he so far has rejected that offer because of various conditions the government has attached to the deal, such as allowing authorities the right to spot inspections. And yesterday, tempers flared in the courtroom after the judge allowed Jalali and his lawyers to go forward with arguments that the attempted asset forfeiture is unconstitutional.
According to Pappas and other witnesses, U.S. Attorney Steven Welk refused to shake Pappas' hand before the court hearing.
"I'm not shaking your hand," Pappas says Welk told him.
"Really? Why not?" Pappas asked. Welk refused to respond.
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Then, after the hearing ended with the judge having made two rulings in favor of Jalali, Marla James, who uses a wheelchair, approached Welk and thanked him for sending six DEA agents to serve her with paperwork threatening criminal action if she continued to operate her now-defunct cannabis collective Med-Aid.
At that point, Pappas asked Welk if he would like to discuss the government's proposed settlement offer. "We don't have anything to talk about with you," Pappas says Welk told him. Then Pappas rhetorically asked whether he should tell the judge that Welk had refused to shake his hand. At this point, Pappas says, Welk approached him and began a lecture about the origin of the handshake, how it was invented in 200 BC when two opponents wanted to show that they were unarmed and had no plans to attack. "I'm not shaking your hand," Welk concluded.
Stay tuned for further updates on this important battle.