The Petaluma man arrested in a high-profile marijuana case in 2009 now is facing several federal charges, but his attorney can’t use the medical marijuana defense that he had prepared for a trial that was about to take place in Marin County.
Avery Badenhop, 47, pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, but he isn’t able to defend himself on medical marijuana grounds because unlike local laws, federal laws do not allow marijuana for medical purposes.
“It’s a real shame. This situation was about to go to trial and we had prepared a medical marijuana defense, but now we can’t use it because in a federal jurisdiction there can be no such defense,” said Douglas Rappaport, Badenhop’s attorney.
Badenhop, a stuntman and tattoo artist, was arrested by federal authorities on Aug. 4 when he came to a Marin County court for a pretrial motion to get his case dismissed on medical marijuana grounds. It was the day before jury selection was to begin in his trial.
Rappaport was surprised by the timing of the federal charges.
“It is very unusual for federal authorities to do something like this. They had plenty of opportunity to scrutinize information to see if this could be tried as a federal offense,” he said.
The current, federal charges are conspiracy to manufacture, to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute marijuana; manufacture of and possession with intent to distribute marijuana; two money laundering counts related to marijuana transactions; and four “structuring” counts related to purchasing money orders from multiple post offices to evade reports, which are required if a series of purchases reaches $3,000.
If convicted, he faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison, and a maximum $2 million fine on each of the two marijuana possession charges; a maximum of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000, or twice the value of the property involved, for each of the two money laundering charges; and a maximum of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 for each of the four structuring charges.
Badenhop was freed by federal authorities after posting a promissory bond.
The Marin County District Attorney’s Office dismissed its charges after federal authorities arrested Badenhop.
“We made the determination because their charges encompassed our charges, and added the money laundering charges,” said Barry Borden, Marin County’s chief deputy district attorney.
A California Highway Patrol officer spotted Badenhop speeding in a vehicle in Marin County on Aug. 28, 2009. Officers found that in the vehicle, he had 20 pounds of marijuana, 200 grams of hash and 100 vials of hash oil in a secret compartment in the car.
Members of the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force then came to Petaluma, where they searched his residence on Kingswood Drive, several other homes and a business near Petaluma Municipal Airport. They found around $800,000 in cash (including $760,000 from Badenhop’s home), 62 pounds of processed marijuana, three gardens with a cumulative total of 420 plants, hundreds of vials of hash and hash oil and five handguns.
Within 12 hours, police officers arrested Badenhop’s wife, Jerri Bionda, as well as four friends and business associates — Marc Herrnberger, Jeremy Kaltenbach, Harry Parker and Radek Statsny. All six people later were released, but the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force continued to investigate the case.
Badenhop’s bail was set at $2 million, but his attorney, Douglas Rappaport, was able to get the bail lowered to $500,000, which Badenhop posted on Oct. 26, 2009.
Badenhop was charged with sale or transportation of concentrated cannabis; sale or transportation of marijuana; possession of concentrated cannabis for sale; possession of marijuana for sale; and possession of a controlled substance.
He also was charged with two crimes resulting from a Petaluma investigation: possession of marijuana for sale and possession of drug funds in excess of $100,000.
Badenhop pleaded not guilty to the charges and was trying to get his case dismissed on the grounds that he was delivering marijuana to legal dispensaries.
The Marin County District Attorney’s Office handled the Badenhop case because he was arrested in Marin, while the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office has been investigating the cases of the other five people.
A hearing in Badenhop’s federal case was held in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Dec. 2 to determine if the attorneys are ready to proceed to trial. The defense attorneys received a large amount of new information and need time to review it, so the hearing won’t resume until Feb. 2.
By DAN JOHNSON,
Published: Saturday, December 11, 2010 at 3:00 a.m.
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Feds take over major marijuana case