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Activist Freed in Medical Pot Case

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Apr. 15, 00
Orange County Register
By Teri Sforza
COURTS: A judge reverses Marvin Chavez's conviction and orders him released on bail pending appeal...
There was a moment of shock. Then the courtroom erupted in whoops and cheers as the judge who last year sentenced medical marijuana activist Marvin Chavez to six years in state prison unexpectedly freed him Friday, pending appeal. "I'm so surprised!" said Linda Chavez, his ex-wife. But Chavez must post $25,000 bail. In the elated atmosphere outside the courtroom, some 20 supporters dug into their pockets to help raise the $2,500 needed for his bail bond, collecting nearly $600 on the spot. Attorney J. David Nick, who's representing Chavez for free, forked over $60 of his own and vowed to personally drive the bail bond to the Vacaville prison, wait until Chavez is released, escort him to the airport, and put him on a plane home. Chavez should be in Orange County by Monday. "All humans are capable of change," Nick said of Judge Thomas Borris' decision. But Nick wasn't expecting change, and he went into the hearing ready for a war. Nick said in court that Borris should recuse himself from the case and the two battled for several minutes. That made Borris' decision even more surprising. He said he granted bail because Chavez's appeal raises substantial legal issues, Chavez has strong ties to the community, and he doesn't pose a danger. Borris also issued a plea from the bench echoed by Nick imploring the state Court of Appeal to finally rule on the highly controversial Proposition 215. The medical marijuana law passed in 1996, but its application and interpretation have been uneven. Chavez has said he believed he was operating in good faith under Prop. 215 when he gave pot to people who said they were sick. But Borris didn't allow him to mount a defense based on the law. Chavez was found guilty and has been in prison for more than a year.

Copyright 1999 The Orange County Register