Update on DA Case Against San Diego Cannabis Attorney

by on August 11, 2017 · 0 comments

in San Diego

From San Diego Chapter – Americans for Safe Access

Local cannabis attorney charged in the MedWest raid, Jessica McElfresh will be in court on Friday, August 11.  The hearing is required in order to set search parameters in the prosecutor’s examination of Jessica’s documents and devices.

The devices were seized earlier this year when a warrant was served on Jessica’s law office and home.  At that time, charges of conspiracy and a host of cannabis related criminal charges were filed against Jessica and several MedWest employees including the president of the organization, James Slatic.

This will be the third hearing on the parameters of the search warrant. The prosecutor has fought hard to “open Jessica’s computer files as if they were in a file cabinet.” The judge, who signed the warrant and has been hearing the argument, has been either mildly entertained by DDA, Jorjito DePortillo’s notions or mildly outraged. The hearings seem to be going in Jessica’s favor.  Especially with this admonishment to the DDA from the judge:

 “When I signed that warrant, it never occurred to me I was allowing you to search third party client files for scraps.”

It is imperative that Jessica’s client files remain private, especially of they are not pertaining to MedWest. The judge seems intent for that to happen.  A third party, “special master”, Shaun Martin will begin the search of Jessica’s documents once the parameters are agreed upon and the judge makes a ruling to go ahead and search within the parameters. The data from the search will be provided to the defense for approval or further discussion prior to the prosecution and judge.

It can not be easy to go through criminal court as a defendant, much less summarize the experience for the community. Yet, Jessica did this. SDASA is grateful to her and the MedWest people for fighting this excessive and outrageous attack. It is an attack against our rights to have legal representation free from government scrutiny. Please come to court and stand with Jessica McEfresh and the MedWest folks.

Please read this summary Jessica wrote of the July hearing.

From Jessica:

First, I want to thank everyone again for their support and to thank everyone who came on Friday, 7/21.  People braved San Diego’s Comic-Con on a Friday afternoon in downtown, and you pretty much need to be a superhero to do that.  It was incredibly kind and much appreciated.  It’s always hard being in the courtroom as a defendant, but the support makes it much easier. Second, the hearing went very well.  We continue to dig through narrowing the search warrant and asserting attorney-client privilege.  The DA continued to push for a way to review all of, or many of, my client files. This continues to worry me.

Fortunately, the judge continues to deny such requests.  She is very firm that any possible search of my electronic devices must be limited to the investigation.  At this last hearing, she said at one point that never in a million years would she have ever imagined that the DA’s Office wanted to go through files other than those directly related to this investigation when she signed the warrant.  The DA continued to push, but she held firm.

While I am incredibly heartened by the judge’s comments, I do expect continued pushing from the DA.

The DA also continues to insist that my recommendation for medical cannabis is proof of a conspiracy.  The judge was skeptical of its relevance period and said so.  The DA tried to argue that the recommendation was important, and at one point, argued that the recommendation helped demonstrate my knowledge about marijuana.

The judge cut him off, saying, “Oh come on.  Oh come on.”

Still, most of this case remains not funny at all.  We have set another status conference for 8/11/17 at 11:00 AM in Department 36.  The judge envisions this particular hearing will be relatively short, and we will set other dates from there on this motion.  Between now and then, my attorney will try to set an initial list of search terms with the DA for an order that the judge will sign.  Basically, the computer lab may do an initial search of my electronic devices with those terms, but nothing will be reviewed, i.e. read by anyone, even the special master or the judge, yet.  We will begin to dig into review procedures – balancing privilege, possible exceptions and how to show them, etc – at future dates.  I’ve attached our most recent filing on that topic.

We are also going to receive copies of the paper files seized from my office from the special master so that I can prepare a privilege log with my attorney.  On a personal happy note, the judge ordered the return of my father’s medical records, which were taken during the search of my home.  I hope to have my own medical records back soon, too.

Again, I want to thank everyone for their support and for attending.  It really, really, really does help and I will keep you posted about future dates and motions.  I’m heartened the judge agrees with my attorney about the need to protect privilege and my clients – but unfortunately for me, this journey is just starting.  I will have more hearings, motions, and more.  I will keep everyone updated.

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