420 NOT GUILTY IN 10: HOW A JURY OF 12 FOUND A LOS ANGELES MEDICAL MARIJUANA PATIENT NOT GUILTY IN 10 MINUTES
by Tony M. Soliman, Esq.
In this current climate of medical marijuana law reform, it’s not hard to see the shift in the paradigm towards liberation. It appears the public consensus favors medical marijuana regulation that provides adequate defense for qualified patients against law enforcement agencies and prosecuting legal teams who claim to “protect the people” and “represent the people”, respectively. The proof? A not guilty verdict in 10 minutes.
As medical marijuana defense attorney Michael Cindrich told the jury, reiterating what the Los Angeles District Attorney began with in her opening statements, this case was “ALL ABOUT THE MONEY”. That is, both the police and the prosecution have a statutory interest in money obtained from forfeiture of currency retrieved in a criminal investigation, which logically can be considered a motive.
When the LAPD raided medical marijuana patient Roberto Gell’s home in a West Los Angeles neighborhood, they never once acknowledged his status as a qualified patient who had the legal right to grow medical marijuana for himself and on behalf of the patients in his collective. They only had one main objective: locate and confiscate any and all money on the premises.
The lead detective ignored pleas from both Roberto and his girlfriend that they held valid medical marijuana doctor’s recommendations and should not be treated as criminals, handcuffed in their own home in front of their infant baby daughter. Instead, the police officers interrogated them about where they were hiding the rest of the money. Roberto insisted there was no more money and that he had copies of his patient’s medical marijuana recommendations, but the detective was unyielding in his unsuccessful attempts to locate more currency. Ransacking the house and taking any evidence that would be used to try to convict the defendant, the police conveniently left behind all evidence that pointed to a legitimate medical marijuana collective.
On cross examination, Mr. Cindrich picked apart the prosecution’s witnesses, proving through their testimony and the facts of the case that evidence to convict the defendant did not exist. He revealed the detective and lead officer’s incompetency several times by impeaching them with their own prior testimony, testimony of the defendant’s witnesses, and even testimony of the defendant himself.
There was no way the jury would not see the truth in the testimony of the defense witnesses. I followed this case from the onset and was present during jury selection. The 12 picked were an intelligent group who truly represented the defendant’s peers. They felt the truth in Roberto’s compelling testimony and I knew they would surely read through the prosecution witnesses’ lies and smoke and mirrors.
While the prosecutor had no way to prove that Roberto was selling marijuana illegally, all she could do was contest the admission of the doctor recommendations into evidence, in hopes of keeping the medical marijuana collective defense away from the jury. However, Mr. Cindrich brilliantly did what it took to get these documents authenticated and therefore got them admitted into evidence for the defense. He also brought in well renowned medical marijuana expert William Britt to watch the testimony of the defendant and give his opinion on the legitimacy of the collective, which he confirmed using his extensive knowledge and experience.
By the time the trial reached closing arguments, it was evident who would be the victor. While the prosecutor’s closing was unconvincing and came off as a final desperate attempt to paint a black and white picture using color, Mr. Cindrich took that same color paint and laid out all the facts and evidence in a logical and well-orchestrated mural to bring the defense together perfectly.
Coincidentally, at 4:20 pm the jury began to deliberate. By 4:30 pm they had a verdict. Not guilty!
The relief Roberto experienced at that moment was priceless. Time must have stopped at that very second while the raid, arrest, nervous waiting time, trial, and his own testimony flashed before him and came to a screech. It was over. Roberto beat the prosecution thanks to California law and the efforts of his legal counsel. Now the real PEOPLE know they can win against greed. That is liberation at its finest. At least from this medical marijuana patient and the medical marijuana community’s perspective.