Revised Citizen Complaint Against San Luis Obispo Sheriff Hedges
Please see the press release called "UNDERSHERIFF REQUESTS MORE INFO IN CITIZEN COMPLAINT". Basically Sheriff Heges had Charles C. Lynch investigated for over 11 months because he was operating a medical cannabis dispensary in Morro Bay California.
The Sheriff couldn't find anything on Lynch to justify a state search warrant, so he called in the Drug Enforcement Administration. Both the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's department and the DEA violently raided Lynch's home & dispensary.
Lynch was found guilty of 5 cannabis-only felonies in federal court and faces up to 100 years in federal prison despite the fact that he followed all his "Medical Marijuana dispensary" business license requirements, city regulations, county restrictions and STATE law.
This is the letter I wrote to complain about the Sheriff. It was forwarded to CA Attorney General Jerry Brown.
Re: Citizen Complaint Against Sheriff Hedges in Charles C. Lynch Case
Dear Undersheriff Bolts:
I welcome and appreciate the opportunity to clarify my complaint against Sheriff Patrick Hedges in the Charles C. Lynch case. I, myself, and others have requested information pertaining to the Lynch case to get answers to our many unanswered questions. We have been denied access each and every time. These denials make it difficult for me to provide you with all the specifics. It will be up to the investigators what “specific actions” warrant reprimand, discipline and/or termination of Sheriff Hedges. Below is the information I have access to and many of my unanswered questions.
Thank you for including a copy of the State Attorney General’s guidelines. I read this document shortly after it was released. It is my understanding that both Lynch and CCCC were well within California State law and the California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr’s medical marijuana guidelines. Charles C. Lynch’s Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers never made a profit and is in debt to this day. To this date, Lynch has not been charged with violating local or State laws. And I have seen no evidence that he has violated either local or State laws.
It is my understanding that Lynch followed ALL his “Medical Marijuana Dispensary” business license requirements [attached], city regulations, county restrictions and State laws. CCCC was closed down by the Drug Enforcement Agency before The State Board of Equalization etermined that medical marijuana transactions are subject to sales taxes. Lynch and his employees paid State and Federal income taxes based off their “reasonable compensation” for their work at CCCC. Lynch required all qualified patients to complete a written “patient agreement” forms. All patients were verified by personal contact with the recommending physician (or his or her agent), verifying the physician’s identity, as well as his or her state licensing status. CCCC kept copies of the patient’s documentation. Why was this lawful business targeted by the Sheriff’s Department in the first place?
I want an investigation to determine if Sheriff Hedges violated state law by initiating the investigation against Lynch, his employees, patients, and medical marijuana dispensary. It is my understanding that the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Department began investigating Charles C. Lynch, his employees, his patients and his medical marijuana dispensary on or about its opening date, April, 1, 2006. What was the catalyst for an investigation?
I heard Morro Bay Mayor Janice Peters testify in federal court that she went around to every one of Central Coast Compassionate Caregiver (CCCC)’s neighbors, handed out her business card and asked them to contact her if they had any complaints about Lynch’s medical marijuana dispensary. She testified she never received one complaint. City Attorney, Rob Shultz also testified he never received one complaint against Lynch, his employees, patients or CCCC. I also heard both these city officials testify that they worked closely with Lynch during and after he opened CCCC. They and other local officials received tours of CCCC and the facility and observed its procedures. They both testified to Lynch’s law-abiding nature.
If it is found to be the case, I do object to Sheriff Hedges’ department enforcing federal law and abusing its enforcement of California law. Who authorized this investigation and why? Was there a complaint? If so, what are the details of the complaint? If not, was the investigation started within department guidelines and California state law? Did Sheriff Hedges authorize an investigation to enforce federal law? Is Sheriff Hedges or other sheriff personnel cross deputized to enforce California and Federal law? Was California tax-payer’s money spent enforcing federal laws? Hedges, in a lengthy e-mail to UncoveredSLO.com, suggested he has “heard the argument that I am not required to enforce federal law. I would simply ask if I am required to comply with federal law. My opinion is that I am. I would hope that you would agree.” Where does the line get drawn between Hedges’ responsibility to State law and complying with Federal law as an elected official paid to uphold California State law?
It is my understanding that this investigation lasted nearly a year before federal agents got involved. In those 11 months, Sheriff’s narcotic agents “staked out” CCCC, followed employees & patients, took down license plate numbers, filmed patients and employees, took photographs of employees and patients, pulled over employees after they left CCCC, and went undercover to catch Lynch breaking the law.
I want to know how much time and resources were spent on these activities. I want an investigation into whether these activities fall within department guidelines and State laws. It seems to me that a lot of California resources and manpower was spent enforcing Federal law. I want to know how much.
I heard several Sheriff’s Deputies testify to various acts they observed that they believed were violations of State laws but Lynch has never been charged on the State level. One deputy testified that he saw Lynch leave CCCC with a large white garbage bag. Law enforcement assumed the bag was full of marijuana. Lynch testified that it was full of empty soda cans he was taking to recycle. Lynch testified that he provided his employees with free sodas as long as they agreed to collect the cans to be recycled.
In addition, A Sheriff Deputy testified he saw an employee walked to the post office with a box and that the employee was sniffing the box. They assumed he was mailing marijuana. I never saw any evidence that the box contained marijuana. Lynch testified he assumed the employee was returning a hard drive.
Furthermore, A Sheriff Deputy testified they saw an employee pass a brown-paper bag to an individual sitting in a car through the driver side window. Law enforcement assumed it was marijuana. Lynch testified it was a fish caught in Morro Bay and Lynch reprimanded the employee for using the brown paper-bag because these brown-paper bags are used to transport patient’s medicine after it has been legally obtained from CCCC.
Also, a Sheriff Deputy testified he pulled over an employee during a pretext stop and there were cloned medical marijuana plants in the car. Lynch testified it was a delivery for a qualified patient. Also the address, 1769 Fredericks in San Luis Obispo, the Deputy testified he saw the employee deliver the plants to does not exist.
Additionally, Deputy John Blank went undercover as Jesse Baldridge. He obtained a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana for medical purposes. I assume SLO Sheriff’s department violated their jurisdictional boundaries by driving to LA and doing undercover work regarding a Doctor Tollette in Los Angeles in an attempt to associate Lynch with the allegedly corrupt doctor. It has come to my attention that Blank, as Baldridge, smoked marijuana in Dr. Tollette’s office with Doctor Tollette. Is that within Department guidelines?
Is it within State law? Is Blank receiving a doctor’s recommendation and then providing the recommendation to CCCC a violation of department guidelines and/or state law? Back at CCCC Blank, as Baldridge, was properly verified as a qualified patient. A CCCC employee called his doctor to verify the validity of the document. The Doctor’s California Medical Board standing was verified. Deputy Blank, as Baldridge, filled out a patient agreement form and various other forms to become a member of CCCC. He was treated like all other qualified patients.
Blank, as Baldridge, returned another time with a 17 year-old boy who he claimed was his son. This undercover son did not have a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana under California law and both Deputy Blank and the boy were asked to leave when Blank tried to enter CCCC while the boy was going to wait outside. They were told CCCC has strict rules against loitering. To me, this proves Lynch and CCCC did what they could to ensure that medical marijuana was not redistributed to non-qualified patients.
I want to make sure that all the above listed activities by Sheriff Deputies took place and if so, fall within Sheriff Department guidelines and State law. Another concern I have is that Sheriff’s department violated Patient Privacy Rights by confiscating patient medical records, videotaping patients coming and going from the dispensary and following patients home and looking in their windows. During the trial, Lynch’s Federal Public Defenders objected every single time the Federal Prosecutors wanted to make patients private medical information into public records by making them evidence. The judge overruled these HIPPA objections every single time. The Sheriff Department’s actions led to SLO County patients’ private medical records being turned into public records. Doesn’t this violate State laws, HIPPA and/or department guidelines?
It’s also my understanding that Sheriff’s deputies obtained information from the dispensary that was illegally gathered from a trash bin that was located on private property. Instead of getting a State warrant to obtain this info the deputies went “dumpster diving” for evidence. As far as I know there was no probable cause, permission, or warrant for entering private property and taking things from a garbage can. Isn’t this a violation of state law or department guidelines? Don’t the Sheriff’s deputies need authorization to enter private property? Who authorized such conduct? Did Sheriff Hedges violate any guidelines or laws by allowing his deputies to act in such ways?
It’s my understanding the Sheriff’s department received the Patient Records, computers and other information regarding the case illegally. The information was seized under a federal search warrant and then handed over to the Sheriff who had no search warrant and no right to the information he received. Lynch filed a motion with the Federal Courts and it was determined the Sheriff had in fact received the information illegally. The government appealed the motion and won basically because the ‘tree had already been poisoned’ and it was too late to stop them. What California law allows the Sheriff’s department to have access to the seized items under a federal warrant?
In Lynch’s case California state taxpayer money was used to do the forensics work for the Federal Government. It was learned during Lynch’s trial that the DEA forensics teams were backed up and would have taken years before they could analyze the Lynch case. The seized possessions and property were then turned over to the Sheriff’s Department who did the forensics for the Federal Government and expedited the prosecution of Lynch. Is this lawful?
Charles C. Lynch is about to lose his home and going bankrupt because of the legal actions initiated by SLO Sheriff. Lynch owned his home for at least 5 years before opening his medical marijuana dispensary. He lives in the same home, drives the same car and wears the same clothes he did before opening CCCC. Now, he’s going to lose all of that. I believe if it weren’t for Sheriff Hedges involvement in this case Lynch would not be in this legal and financial situation. What part of this can Sheriff Hedges be held responsible for?
Money (approximately $24,000) was seized from Lynch’s bank accounts on or around March 29, 2007 with a Sheriff’s State Search Warrant and alleged violations of state law when in fact Lynch was never charged with any state law violations. I want to know if there is any evidence that Charles C. Lynch broke any local or State laws. If not, why was the SLO Sheriff’s Department involved in this case to begin with? How much of what the Sheriff seized will the Sheriff be allowed to keep for Departmental use? Will or has the Sheriff’s department financially benefited for its involvement in the Lynch case? If, so how much?
I believe my comments about Deputy Nick A. Fontecchio were clear in my last correspondence but I’ll restate it here. During Lynch’s trial it was discovered that Fontecchio illegally returned 2 marijuana cigarettes/joints to a PAID undercover CRIMINAL operative who was preparing to do undercover work at the dispensary. Fontecchio did a routine search of the criminal informant and found 2 marijuana joints on his persons (I believe in a pocket). Fontecchio held onto these joints while the criminal operative went undercover. After the operation, Fontecchio returned the 2 marijuana joints back to the criminal undercover operative. It is my understanding that this is ILLEGAL. If these deputies were so concerned about getting marijuana off the streets why would they allow this marijuana to remain on the streets?
In that same email to UncoveredSLO.com, Hedges wondered “what law authorizes me to engage in the distribution of a controlled substance? It is my opinion that the legal system should be given an opportunity to answer the issues as they deal with distribution.” I wonder what the difference between Fontechhio giving an undercover paid-criminal informant back 2 marijuana joints and Sheriff Hedges giving a qualified patient his medicine? Isn’t Fontecchio’s actions considered distribution? Didn’t the California legal system answer Hedges’ concerns about these issues in the State Attorney General’s Medical Marijuana Guidelines (the same guidelines you sent a copy to me in your last correspondence)?
Many Medical Marijuana Patients that have tried to get their seized medicine back from the sheriff have only gotten it back after the courts have ordered the sheriff to return it. Sheriff Hedges has on more than one occasion refused to return seized medical marijuana to QUALIFIED medical marijuana patients. These qualified patients had to spend their own money to get a court order to obtain their medical marijuana back from illegal seizures. Why would a Sheriff’s Deputy return marijuana to a paid-criminal undercover informant but the Sheriff would not return medical cannabis back to qualified patients? One reason I believe it may have occurred is because Deputy Fontecchio is related to the unnamed undercover informant.
As stated in my last correspondence One Sheriff’s deputy’s girlfriend told Lynch that Sheriff’s deputies often sell marijuana that they have seized. I want a thorough investigation into what has happened to bulk marijuana that the Sheriff’s department seizes. Is the Sheriff’s Department in the business of distributing marijuana? Does the Sheriff or his department financially profit from marijuana in any way, shape, or form?
During the trial Sheriff’s deputies admitted to growing marijuana experimentally. This would appear as a violation of Federal Law as federal law does not allow the experimentation of Marijuana. Did the Sheriff’s department have DEA authorization to experimentally grow marijuana? Is this a violation of state law or Department guidelines?
There seems to be a pattern of misconduct on the part of the SLO Sheriff’s department and Hedges regarding marijuana. I would like a thorough investigation to determine if Sheriff Hedges is promoting an environment of misconduct regarding marijuana in his department. Is it the SLO County Sheriff’s Department’s job to enforce California State law or Federal law or both? “The incongruity between federal and state law has given rise to understandable confusion,” states Jerry Brown “but no legal conflict exists merely because state law and federal law treat marijuana differently.” Was Sheriff Hedges confused about California law surrounding medical marijuana?
After the raid, Lynch found a note that said “All Hippies Die” printed on label-maker tape. This was either left by the DEA or a Sheriff Deputy. This is a hateful message that should not have been left behind by a professional group of law enforcement officers. The only wrong doing that I have been made aware of (besides the Sheriff’s Department and Hedges’) is the alleged actions of CCCC’s security guard, Abe Baxter. He allegedly sold marijuana to an undercover paid-criminal informant in the presence of undercover Deputy Fontecchio in a Big 5 parking lot at least 12 miles away from CCCC. Baxter has made a legal declaration to Federal Judge Wu (Lynch’s judge) that Lynch had nothing to do with anything that Baxter may (or may not) have done away from CCCC and that the conspiracy charge against Lynch is false. I will attach that document. The prosecutor in Baxter’s case has stated that he does not believe the marijuana in Baxter’s case came from Lynch or CCCC.
Charles C. Lynch is currently out of jail on $400,000 bail that his family has paid. This amount seems unconstitutional. A SLO Sheriff’s deputy is out on $5,000 bail and only faces 10 years in federal prison for child pornography charges. If Lynch is supposed to be held criminally responsible for the actions of one of his employees, then maybe Sheriff Hedges should be held criminally responsible for one of his employee’s actions. Is Sheriff Hedges facing kiddy porn conspiracy charges?
I believe there has been a pattern of misconduct and complaints against Sheriff Hedges. The most recent involved a domestic call from Mrs. Hedges, on January 19, 2009, to SLO Sheriff’s department to the Hedges’ home. It is my understanding that Sheriff Hedges’ 2 ex wives have had similar complaints against him. Other complaints include, Gary Hoving, a former Narcotics agent, being unlawfully recorded while being questioned during an interdepartmental investigation. Elaine McKellips, a former qualified patient of CCCC has filed a civil suit against Sheriff Hedges’ conduct into Lynch’s case and violations of privacy. Hedges has also received attention when denying D. Craig Steffens, a qualified medical marijuana patient’s return-of-property requests regarding wrongfully seized medical marijuana. Richard Steenken, a qualified medical marijuana patient, was arrested and held in jail for 21 days for marijuana violations even though he was within state law and all charges were eventually dropped. There have been multiple deaths of inmates in SLO Custody including Jay Anthony Vestal who died after being restrained by Sheriff’s deputies for a marijuana charge. Also Sheriff Hedges, as a lieutenant, was involved in the County’s most mysteriously handled murder case, the death of Andrea Lynn Hug. In addition, I have heard from SLO County citizens who are afraid to come forward and complain against Hedges’ and his employees because of the pattern of misconduct of the Department. I question Sheriff Hedges’ ability to live up to his responsibilities and duties as an elected official. Please look in to this.
I, myself, am a medical marijuana patient. I suffer chronic pain directly linked to the use of my hands, arms, and upper body. Typing this complaint has been very painful for me but I feel this is important and did not want to leave anything out. The Sheriff’s Department may benefit from offering persons with disabilities alternatives to written complaints. Not all citizens are equally able-bodied and some require alternative interfacing to interact with government bodies such as the Sheriff’s Department. Maybe the Sheriff’s Department as a whole needs disability sensitivity training. Many medical marijuana patients are disabled individuals. Maybe the Sheriff’s department does not fully understand its federal responsibilities regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Sheriff’s department also doesn’t seem to understand its responsibilities regarding California State law regulating marijuana for medical purposes. Maybe the State Attorney General can see to it that ALL San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s employees are properly trained to handle these matters in more lawful ways.
In consideration to everything I have written, I think one can deduce why I accuse Sheriff Hedges of acting unprofessional, wasting California-tax payer’s money and causing Lynch and his family undue financial and emotional stress. If it is still unclear we may need an independent mediator to handle this issue.
I have been refused access to the information that would allow me to provide the details you asked me for. I believe an independent investigation needs to be done to determine the “specific actions” that Sheriff Hedges made that violate department guidelines and State laws but I’m positive that some violation will be found when properly investigated.
I hope I have made my complaint clearer to you, Sheriff Hedges, SLO County Council and California State Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. If you still have questions please feel free to contact me. Typing and writing are the most painful ways for me to communicate. I prefer phone correspondence best.