Red Bluff Pair Seeking Nonjury Trial
Attorneys for a Red Bluff pair charged in connection with a marijuana-growing operation are seeking a nonjury trial that would speed the route to an appeal.
Longtime event promoter Joe Froome, 49, and his son-in-law, 28-year-old Daniel Ludwig, were in Tehama County Superior Court on Tuesday with their Oakland attorneys, William Panzer and James Silva. Froome and Ludwig are facing charges of cultivation of marijuana and possession of marijuana for sale.
Judge S. William Abel, the retired Colusa County Superior Court jurist assigned to the case, granted a two-week delay in pretrial proceedings. In the meantime, defense lawyers and Assistant District Attorney Matt Rogers will determine what in the case they can agree on, returning to court at 9 a.m. Feb. 21.
A two-week jury trial is set to begin March 5, but Panzer said after the hearing he’s seeking a “slow plea,” essentially a court trial in which the judge would review preliminary hearing transcripts and agreed-upon facts in the case and issue a ruling. That would allow the defense to preserve all its appellate issues for consideration by the higher court, the 3rd District Court of Appeal, Panzer said.
At issue throughout the case, now in its third year, is whether patients have a right to associate and exchange money for their cannabis. The prosecution has challenged that, and “the court has basically agreed with the people, which would render all of our evidence inadmissible,” Panzer said. Should the judge agree to the slow-plea proposal, that hearing presumably would go forward March 5.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Rogers said in his north state experience the kind of proceeding Panzer envisions is highly unusual, noting that court trials typically include witness testimony.
“I do not know of this ( ever ) being done in Tehama County,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
Panzer is co-author of Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996.
Froome and Ludwig maintain they were running a legal medical cannabis collective at the time of an Oct. 21, 2009, raid on a Baker Road warehouse. Agents seized more than 400 plants and 30 pounds of drying marijuana.
Froome also faces eight counts of money laundering in the case.