Apr. 7, 00
Record Searchlight
By Maline Hazle
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Redding attorney Eric Berg is asking a Trinity County Superior Court judge to reconsider contempt of court allegations against Shasta County Sheriff Jim Pope and Undersheriff Larry Schaller. Berg contends that visiting Judge John Letton's March 29 dismissal of the case failed to address key issues in the contempt case — specifically ''Schaller's and Pope's dishonesty and deceit'' in failing to return medicinal marijuana to a Redding man acquitted of marijuana cultivation.
On Jan. 14 Shasta County Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman ordered the marijuana returned to Berg's client, Richard Levin, 49. But when Berg and Levin went to retrieve the dead plants and 11/2 pounds of processed pot Jan. 21, sheriff's deputies told them a federal agent had seized it.
That prompted Berg's Feb. 3 contempt motion, which fell to Letton for consideration after all nine Shasta County judges removed themselves from the politically sensitive case. Berg is arguing that Letton should rehear the matter, in part because, he said, the judge ''misstated the issue'' and ''misstated the facts'' in his ruling. Deputy County Counsel John Loomis, who represents Pope and Schaller, said his office has not yet decided whether to respond to Berg's latest motion. He declined further comment. Pope could not be reached for comment and Schaller deferred to Loomis.
Letton's March 29 ruling says contempt of court can only be shown if there is a ''clear, intentional violation of a specific, narrowly drawn order,'' and went on to say that because Boeckman's order to return the marijuana contained no specific time for the return, there was no violation of that order. Letton also suggested that Berg should have asked Boeckman to specify a time for the return and that because he didn't, he should not complain that the sheriff allowed the pot to be seized. In his latest motion, Berg argued that he would have insisted on a time had he known Pope and Schaller ''were ... asking federal agents'' for help.
When Boeckman ordered the marijuana returned, Loomis, representing Pope and Schaller, told the judge they would comply. ''They asked for time to comply with the order,'' Berg's petition says. ''They used that time not to comply with the order but to devise a scheme by which to avoid complying with the order ...'' In a statement released after Letton's ruling last week, Schaller said he first discussed his ''ethical and legal dilemma'' over Boeckman's order with federal drug enforcement agents on Jan. 19, two days before Levin's pot was to be returned. Schaller said he asked the Drug Enforcement Administration to seize the pot from Levin after it was returned, but the DEA chose to take it from the sheriff before its return. If Letton chooses not to hold a hearing on Berg's petition, the attorney could file an appeal.

Reporter Maline Hazle can be reached at 225-8266 or at: mhazle@redding.com Published: April 7, 2000 © 2000 Record Searchlight - The E.W. Scripps Co