Joe Byron And Joe Grumbine Lose Motion, Must Stand Trial Nov. 28

Ever since their December 2009 arrests for selling marijuana, Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine, founders of two collectives in Long Beach as well as Garden Grove's Unit D, have been to countless hearings at Long Beach Superior Court. They've been joined by their supporters of the activist group The Human Solution, which have used the court dates to stage protests on the steps of the courthouse aimed at garnering public attention to the case. In September, the two men faced a major setback when Judge Charles D. Sheldon ruled they couldn't mount an affirmative defense in their trial, meaning they can't even mention medical marijuana

Today, Judge Judith L. Meyer gave the two Joes and their supporters one more thing to protest: she denied their motions to quash and traverse the original search warrant used in their arrests.

It would have been a major surprise if Meyer had done anything else, of course. After all, she's the judge who signed the original search warrant.

Byron's attorney, Allison Margolin, did her best to persuade Meyer that the search warrant typed up by Long Beach Police Detective Oscar Valenzuela was dishonest and left out critical information which would have kept Meyer from signing it in the first place. Valenzuela, Margolin claimed, failed to state that he had fraudulently provided Byron and Grumbine's collective with a valid doctor's recommendation to smoke marijuana, and that he signed a membership form stating that he was a co-owner of the collective, a form that explicitly stated that members could not use fraud to obtain the weed.

To prove her point, Margolin put collective volunteer Elyse Etherson, who was working the cash register when Valenzuela bought his weed, on the stand. Etherson narrated the collective's procedures for signing up new members and detailed how she would turn away anyone without a valid doctor's note or current California driver's license. But prosecutors pointed out that Valenzuela had mentioned that he'd provided a doctor's note and identification when he purchased the marijuana, and that he'd even mentioned that people who lacked such paperwork were turned away.
In any event, because Etherson couldn't remember selling Valenzuela the pot, Meyer cut off her testimony, arguing that unless she could provide specific evidence of something having transpired during that transaction that wasn't in the search warrant, there was no further reason to hear from her. Because Valenzuela also stated in his search warrant affidavit that he believed Byron and Grumbine were profiting from marijuana sales, Margolin also petitioned the court to let her put a forensic accountant on the stand who could testify that profits must include only revenue left over after employee salaries, bonuses and other overhead are factored in. Meyer denied that motion too.
In announcing her ruling, Meyer explained that as far as she was concerned, the mere fact that Valenzuela signed a form making him a member of the collective didn't make him a co-owner, nor did it allow the collective to provide him with marijuana. 
“My belief in the law is that you can't sell,” Meyer said. “The question then becomes whether they [the transactions cited in the search warrant] were sales . . . If it looks like sales, then there is probable cause to see if there are sales” taking place at the collective. “And that's all I need for a search warrant.”
Meyer added that Byron and Grumbine can still seek to prove that the transactions that occurred were not sales per se, but it's an issue that will have to go before the jury. “You made me think very hard,” she told Margolin. “Your moving documents were very well stated and well put. Let's just say I'm a strict constructionist when it comes to the law.”
The judge saved her best–or at least funniest–material for last. She ordered Byron and Grumbine to appear back in court on Nov. 23 in the courthouse's Dept. K. “K as in Kangaroo,” she added, apparently unaware of the obvious irony. Jury selection in the trial begins on Nov. 28. 

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