The Medical Marijuana Magazine


Todd McCormick Released—

Federal Judge Rules, and Federal Prosecutor Admits, McCormick’s 12-Day Incarceration Was Illegal

Press conference Thursday, April 16, 1998, 12 Noon, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Academy Room

In a stunning display of justice, Federal Judge George King released Todd McCormick today—because there was no federal law to have had McCormick imprisoned in the first place.

"Is there a case law I am not aware of under which we can hold Mr. McCormick until his hearing?" Judge King asked Federal Prosecutor Fernando Aenlle-Rocha.

"Not that I am aware of," Aenlle-Rocha answered.

In other words, on March 3, 1998, when the government asked Federal Magistrate Judge McMahon to lock up McCormick, Assistant United Stated Attorney Aenlle-Rocha knew there was no federal case law under which to do so.

"How could this man watch Todd led away in tears two weeks ago when Assistant United States Attorney Aenlle-Rocha knew all along that what the government was doing was illegal?" asked Peter McWilliams, McCormick’s publisher. "There are four Federal Prosecutors working on McCormick’s case. None of them said, ‘Wait a minute. We’ve locked up this guy illegally.’ This was prohibited by the Bail Reform Act of 1984. This is not new law. The government had to know it was illegal. Apparently people can be locked up just because the government asks for it. That’s how dangerous to all of our liberties the federal war on California medical marijuana patients has become."

Prosecutor Aenlle-Rocha (pronounced eye-in-jah roach-a) was not available for comment.

"It’s so good to be out," said McCormick, embracing his mother who traveled from Rhode Island after his imprisonment. "In custody, I was placed in a room with urine and human feces on the floor, moved to a cell with no pillow, and finally transferred to the psychiatric ward. I was tortured for twelve days illegally by the federal government. They admit it. I hope people are made aware of this. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone."

McCormick, who had cancer nine times before he was ten, was arrested in July 1997 for cultivating medical marijuana in his rented Bel Air home. Although medical marijuana cultivation is specifically permitted by California law (the Compassionate Use Act of 1996), the federal government is pressing for a mandatory minimum ten year sentence, a possible life sentence, and a $4 million dollar fine.

On March 2, 1998, nine Federal Marshals broke into the McCormick’s current residence in Laurel Canyon in an attempt to arrest him. McCormick was not home. McCormick voluntarily turned himself in on the morning of March 3, 1998, and was immediately brought before Federal Magistrate Judge McMahon on charges of traces of THC in his urine. Prosecutor Aenlle-Rocha was not prepared to present his evidence. McCormick, therefore, could not present his evidence that it was, in fact, the residue of the legal prescription medication Marinol®, not marijuana, that was in his urine.

Although admittedly unprepared for the March 3, 1998, hearing, the government asked for McCormick’s imprisonment until the federal prosecutors were ready for the hearing. Not only is there no law under which McCormick could be imprisoned, locking up defendants with a hearing is specifically prohibited by federal law (the Bail Reform Act of 1994). Nevertheless, McCormick was held in appalling conditions for almost two weeks, and would still be in federal custody had Judge King not today granted an emergency appeal hearing.

At the start of today’s proceedings, Judge King made it clear that he would only hear evidence on whether or not McCormick should be held until his hearing, currently scheduled for April 22, 1998, before Magistrate Judge McMahon. The government, nevertheless, continued to point to the THC in McCormick’s urine, which was not the subject of today’s hearing. Finally, Judge King asked if there was any case law under which McCormick could be held, and Prosecutor Aenlle-Rocha admitted "Not that I’m aware of."

A great deal of press attention has been focused on the plight of the Northern California buyer’s clubs and the federal government’s civil lawsuit against them. Until his recent arrest, relatively little press has been focused on McCormick’s case. McCormick faces not mere civil penalties, as do the Northern California clubs, but the most severe criminal penalty short of a death sentence—life in prison.

Further, McCormick’s case is unique in that, unlike the buyer’s clubs, McCormick is charged only with cultivating ("manufacturing") medical marijuana, not with selling, distribution, or even intent to conspire to distribute.

To contact Todd McCormick prior to the press conference: 213-650-4906

The following Federal Prosecutors are in charge of McCormick’s case (listed in this order on court papers):

Nora Manella, United States Attorney

David Scheper, Assistant United States Attorney; Chief, Criminal Division

Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, Assistant United States Attorney, Narcotics Section 213-894-2481

Mary Fulginiti, Assistant United States Attorney, Narcotics Section, 213-894-6681