Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers are shaking our heads at the fact that a former Los Angeles County official from Cudahy received five years of probation for bribery, while the same week, a former marijuana dispensary operator was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison – even though he was abiding by state law.
Although we want to focus more in this blog entry on the bribery case, the juxtaposition and inherent unfairness of these two cases is unavoidable, given the timing and subject matter.
On one hand, you have a public official who extorted thousands of dollars from a dispensary owner in exchange for his vote. On the other hand, you have the owner of three medical marijuana dispensaries that each provided an invaluable service to ailing people.
How is this justice?
In the Cudahy case, a former interim city manager, had numerous roles working with the city over the course of a dozen years. He is the first of three officials to be sentenced in connection with his role in taking some $17,000 in bribes from a man who sought to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the city.
He reportedly conspired with the former mayor and a councilman in order to obtain the money. The case shed light on apparently widespread corruption within the local city government in this Los Angeles suburb.
Federal prosecutors in the case had sought two years in prison – far less than the 30 years he could have received, due to the fact that he cooperated extensively with federal investigators. However, the judge declined to impose even that.
An attorney for the defendant told the judge that it was actually the former mayor who cooked up the dispensary bribery scheme.
As a matter of practice, the defendant and other city workers were reportedly instructed to act as couriers for bribes from local businesses to higher ranking city officials. Then he and the others would receive a cut.
It was reportedly business as usual when a local businessman expressed an interest in opening a marijuana dispensary in town, which would have been the first. Officials allege that the defendant, along with two other city officials, demanded and accepted cash payouts from the dispensary owner in exchange for their formal support of the operation.
As it turned out, however, the would-be dispensary owner sought help from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and was working as an informant for the investigators, who worked behind the scenes for months to establish a criminal case against those city officials involved.
In addition to his probation, the defendant in this case must pay $5,000 to the FBI and has been ordered to complete 1,500 hours of community service. Additionally, he’s barred from working at any local or state government office without prior approval from the court.
Despite a tearful apology from him, it’s a slap on the wrist.
The other two individuals involved have also pleaded guilty, and are expected to be sentenced later this month and next month, respectively.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.
Former Cudahy official gets probation in bribery, Jan. 8, 2013, By Jeff Gottlieb, The Los Angeles Times
More Blog Entries:
California Supreme Court Takes On Second Medical Marijuana Case, Dec. 20, 2012, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog