[UPDATE, Oct. 26, 8 p.m.]: Santa Ana's settlement with David and Marla James as well as the Sky High Holistic collective amounts to $100,000, according to a copy of the settlement provided by attorney Matthew J. Pappas to the Weekly. As reported below, the settlement comes with the city agreeing to drop all charges against volunteers who were arrested at the dispensary in return for an agreement that they not pursue civil litigation against the city.
[ORIGINAL POST, Oct. 20, 6:52 a.m.]: Santa Ana's city attorney office has dropped all charges against a dozen employees of Sky High Holistic, the Santa Ana medical marijuana dispensary that police raided on May 26, 2015, during which officers were recorded on surveillance footage eating what appeared to be pot edibles, throwing darts, and insulting a paraplegic pot activist. After the Weekly and other news outlets posted the video online, three officers caught on tape were fired and have been charged with petty theft and vandalism.
Although the dozen employees were charged with misdemeanor counts of working in an unlicensed pot shop, the Weekly has obtained court records showing that Santa Ana city attorney Sonia Carvalho has formally agreed to drop those charges in return for promises from each employee that they not sue the city over the incident.
“The defendant agrees to withdraw the Tort Claim filed with the City and agrees not to initiate a civil action against the City and/or its employees stemming from the execution of the search warrant,” the agreements state. “Based upon the above stipulations and considerations, the cost of litigation and witness unavailability, the City Attorney agrees to dismiss the criminal charges against the defendants in the interests of justice.”
“The dismissal of charges shows Santa Ana is starting to take responsibility for the inappropriate actions taken against Sky High and its patient members,” said Matthew Pappas, an attorney for the dispensary.
In addition to the ten employees—the Weekly agreed not to name them in print to protect their right to privacy—Santa Ana has also dropped charges against activists David and Marla James, who had initially refused the city's offer in the hope of filing a lawsuit, but who recently agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the city.
Marla James says she wanted to sue the city because of the insulting treatment she received during the raid as well as the fact that she was forced to sign a document despite the fact she is legally blind and couldn't read the paperwork. In the video of the pot raid, one of the officers was recorded joking about wanting to kick James, an amputee who is confined to a wheelchair, “in her nub.”
“I'm very happy that it's finished,” James says of her settlement with the city. “The police officers that were mean to me no longer work there, and that's good.”
Award-winning investigative journalist Nick Schou is Editor of OC Weekly. He is the author of Kill the Messenger: How the CIA’s Crack Cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb (Nation Books 2006), which provided the basis for the 2014 Focus Features release starring Jeremy Renner and the L.A. Times-bestseller Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love’s Quest to bring Peace, Love and Acid to the World, (Thomas Dunne 2009). He is also the author of The Weed Runners (2013) and Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood (2016).