An undercover officer for the Long Beach Police Department is caught on tape threatening a witness the day Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron won back their affirmative defense in a medical marijuana case that puts the city at the center of the medical cannabis conversation.
By Sam Sabzehzar | November 29, 2011
With a sudden reversal of the medical marijuana defense ruling through the appellate courts the day before Thanksgiving that allows the jury to hear facts regarding marijuana as a medicine, the lead detective in the case is showing signs of desperation.
Oscar Valenzuela is the lead detective in the People Vs. Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine, two medical cannabis dispensing center operators who are being charged with possession, sales, and a slew of other dispensary-related charges.
This case is not unlike other medical marijuana cases, accept these two brave men are taking it all the way to trial.
Here’s where it gets interesting because what the prosecution tried to hide to the jury is now front and center, including the fact that undercover officers lied to a doctor to receive a valid medical marijuana recommendation using false identification because they were not allowed into the medical cannabis dispensing center without one.
Oscar Valenzuela, an LBPD Drug Investigations Section detective, seeing his case unravel, showed up to one of the former collective-member’s place of work and intimidated him and threatening to press charges should he stick to his original statement while on the witness stand.
If he changes his testimony however, the Det. Valenzuela was willing to “probably offer full immunity” and “clean this whole mess up by making it all go away.”
The “it” part in there is another problem for the prosecution’s case and Valenzuela’s career, potentially, as he seems to be quite insistant that he has such power to do such a thing, and the thing in question is an antique gun that wasn’t re-registered after 2001 which Oscar seems content on charging him with should he not “cooperate.”
Some of the key highlights of the conversation include the witness stating he has legal representation and is aware of his rights and was choosing to exercise his right to remain silent until he was in the presence of his lawyer, who is also the lawyer for one of the defendants.
Valenzuela, however, unwilling to leave, virtually begs him to change his story, going so far as to tell the witness that if he does, he may get all his possessions back that were taken from his home in the original raid (including an antique from WWII that has nothing to do with this case but was removed from his home regardless).
Unaware he is being recorded, the witness tells him that he thinks the detective work being done is grossly unethical, illegal, and the charges are untrue, rendering the witness useless to the prosecution’s case, lead by Jodi Castano, who successfully removed every potential jury that mentioned compassion towards medical marijuana patients during jury selection.
Frustrating Valenzuela further, the detective tells him that if he does not ‘tell the truth’ on the stand he would guarantee charges would be brought upon him as well, including perjury, at which point the witness replies “Honestly, I don’t think your detective work is very good. Everything we did was by the book.”
A full transcript of the recordings will be made available to the public soon, as will the recordings.
The witness, who wishes to remain anonymous for the moment, for fear of retaliation by the Long Beach Police Department including further harassment at his workplace, reiterates in the recording that the city issued permits for the medical cannabis dispensing center and paid or were in the process of paying all their taxes with the State of California Board of Equalization and the IRS.
The dispensary also followed the California Attorney General Medical Marijuana Guidelines, written by former AG and current Governor Jerry Brown in 2008 for the purposes of these matters the defendants are facing today, which Ms. Castano also hopes to hide from the jurors.
At one point, the detective turns off the recording to call Long Beach lead D.A. Sandy Thomas, and while he continues to speak with the witness after stepping away away to call the person who sent him there, which Valenzuela admits to on-tape, he then fails to turn the recording device back on when he returns to speak with the gentleman who by all accounts is an upstanding citizen and noble representative for the medical cannabis community.
Day three of the trial will begin promptly at 9:30am Wednesday at the Long Beach County Superior Court and there will be a protest every morning during this trial in front of the courthouse.