Oaksterdam Raid: Journalist Is Only Person Charged One Year Later
Our friends over at SFist today posted a reminder that it's been one year since federal agents -- mostly the IRS, though DEA and US Marshals were on scene -- raided the campus of Oakland marijuana grow college Oaksterdam University and the offices and apartment of its founder, cannabis legalization hero Richard Lee.
The lone bad man
No one from Oaksterdam -- not the indomitable Lee, whose life savings was spent on the Proposition 19 campaign (before an irate IRS could seize it, the theory goes), and none of his student growers -- has to date been arrested or charged with a crime in connection to the raid.
But there were arrests, and a year later, exactly one person has been charged with a crime: Jose Gutierrez, a veteran radio reporter for KPFA. He's in federal court, and faces up to eight years in prison.
It may come as a surprise that nobody was arrested in the biggest and highest-profile marijuana-related raid in recent history. But that just appears to be the federal Justice Department's playbook: disruption without prosecution is dissuasion enough.
In October 2011, DEA agents also raided the Mendocino County farm of Matthew Cohen, founder of cannabis delivery service Northstone Organics. Agents destroyed 99 plants that were ready to harvest that day. Cohen hasn't been charged, but he's out of the cannabis game, as is Lee, whose notoriously low-key lifestyle (rented one-bedroom apartment, old car, "the same wallet and belt I've had for a decade," he once told us) gave the feds very little to work with.
It's a bit different with Gutierrez, who is in trouble not for marijuana but for allegedly assaulting a member of law enforcement. Gutierrez, who contributes to KPFA and other radio programs but is also an unabashed supporter of medical marijuana, was one of the many activists on scene that day protesting the raid.
One way or another, Gutierrez -- who was wearing a mask and holding a sign, either protesting or taunting the agents -- found himself tackled to the ground by a pair of agents. The agents say he hit them first; witnesses and others say he was singled out for some correction from the feds who were on the scene.
The entire incident was captured by KTVU as well as by people on-scene.
Gutierrez pleaded not guilty in July, as Fred Gardner of O'Shaughnessy's reported, but the case has dragged on and on. In the meantime, the former roofing contractor, whose 50-year-old back went bad not long ago, was barred from using medical marijuana while his case was pending.
Veteran marijuana defense attorney Omar Figueroa is handling the case, but a year is a long time to be in the courts for allegedly shoving a cop.
Gutierrez's has been the untold story from the Oaksterdam raid -- but hopefully not for much longer.