Saturday, 04 February 2023

Massive marijuana bust dismissed in court

UPPER LAKE -- Charles "Eddy" Lepp greeted as "positive" the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court to dismiss charges against him stemming from a 2004 raid on his marijuana gardens in Upper Lake that has been described as the "largest single marijuana bust in the history of the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Judge Meredith Patel in San Francisco ordered that all evidence and information taken from and used against Lepp be suppressed due to the illegal service of warrants, according to a press release. It was unclear who issued the press release, which was contained in an email from a "Craig Tierney," but did not include the name of a business or letterhead.

The raid, conducted in August 2004, resulted in the DEA's seizure of 32,524 plants from a marijuana garden that was a part of Eddy's Medicinal Gardens and Multi-Denominational Ministry of Cannabis. The raid on the 20-plus acre garden was conducted by members of local law enforcement and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Elite National Guard Wolf Team, the press release said.

Marijuana taken from the property and destroyed was estimated by the DEA to have a street value of $80 million.

The DEA is alleged in the press release to have called Lepp's garden "the most sophisticated cultivation they had ever seen." Lepp, himself, openly boasted of having the largest stand of legally grown marijuana in the U.S. in the time before the raid. The marijuana was grown in plain view from Highway 20.

A subsequent raid on Lepp's home and property followed in 2005 by law enforcement officers acting on a municipal warrant.

Judge Patel has called for a Franks (appeals) hearing on Jan. 9, 2007, at 9:30 a.m. at the Federal Court Building in San Francisco, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, regarding that warrant the press release said.

At the hearing, which will be open to the public, Patel will hear testimony from witnesses for both the prosecution and defense to determine the validity of the warrant and the information used to obtain it.

Lepp was arrested on yet another warrant in 2005 charging that he sold and distributed marijuana. Lepp, however, has always claimed that he grows marijuana on a consignment basis for individuals who had signed documents for its use from physicians and that he has never profited from marijuana cultivation.

Although Lepp has been openly critical of the DEA and local law enforcement in the past, his response to Judge Patel's decision was relatively quiet.

"It certainly looks positive, but we're are not out of the woods yet," he said, noting that the DEA has 30 days to appeal Patel's decision, which was issued on Dec. 12.

Locally, Lepp seems to be in the clear. Recently, he showed a reporter a county-issued document stating that the Lake County Sheriff had no charges pending against him.

Sheriff Rod Mitchell said he was not aware of any charges against Lepp.

Twice within the last few months Lepp has contacted the sheriff's office regarding burglaries and theft of marijuana from his property.

Asked if he planned to initiate any additional litigation if all issues involving the two busts work out in his favor, Lepp replied "Oh yeah!"

E-mail John Lindblom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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