Friday, October 24, 2014     Volume: 29, Issue: 13
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Doobie Half-Dozen files suit against state

MATT FOUNTAIN

Everybody knew it was coming, and here it is:

 

Nearly a year after their cases were reluctantly dismissed by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, five of the medical marijuana collective operators arrested in 2010’s controversial “Operation Green Sweep” have filed a civil suit against the California Department of Justice.

 

On Dec. 27, 2012, Valerie and David Hosking, Steven Gordon, and Rachel and Chip Tamagni filed the lawsuit in SLO Superior Court, alleging the now-defunct state Narcotics Task Force engaged in police misconduct, abuse of process, negligence, infliction of undue emotional distress, false imprisonment, and violation of constitutional and legal rights when its agents arrested 12 local residents in their homes on Dec. 28, 2010.

 

The lawsuit also names as defendants the task force’s former commander Rodney John, and SLOPD officers Jason Dickel and Amy Chastain, who helped lead the operation. Also named as plaintiffs are the former defendants’ children, who were present during the raids and witnessed the allegedly unlawful actions, and some of which were temporarily placed in protective custody.

 

Each of the five collective operators’ cases were dismissed on Jan. 17, 2011, at the request of the DA’s Office after Superior Court Judge Barry LaBarbera drafted jury instructions that would have made a prosecution victory unlikely. The DA’s Office then immediately appealed its own dismissals to the state.

 

And those cases have remained stagnant since, though a number of the defendants have yet to receive their confiscated personal property—including bank accounts and other assets—back.

 

On June 9, 2011, the defendants filed a joint claim against the state’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, of which the state had 45 days to formally respond. It didn’t, the lawsuit alleges.

 

The lawsuit also alleges that, beyond the legality of the collectives’ operations, the arrested were denied food, water, and bathroom use during their several days of incarceration.

 

“[The agents’] acts were willful, wanton, malicious, and oppressive and done with conscious disregard and deliberate indifference to [the former defendants’] rights,” the suit reads.

 

The five are seeking an unspecified amount of damages, recouping of attorney fees, compensation for past and future medical expenses related to the raids, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief “to restrain [law enforcement officers] from conducting similar unlawful seizures in the future.”

 

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A San Luis Obispo Police Department spokesman could not be reached for comment.