S.F. Cops Fume As Their Pot Case Wafts Away in Court


Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
2002 San Francisco Chronicle

Sheriff Defies Judge in Pot Case 

Beat the rap, get your pot back -- on doctor's orders.

In a move that has the cops spinning, a San Francisco judge -- without any objections from District Attorney Terence Hallinan's office -- has ordered police to give back the marijuana and hash oil they seized when they pulled over a couple of guys for allegedly tossing bottles around the streets in a drug- and alcohol-fueled ride through the city's west side.

"And you wonder why things are the way they are out on the streets," said one officer close to the case.

It all started when James Rivers, 23, and Babu Lal, 24, were pulled over after one of them allegedly threw a liter bottle at another car while they were driving along Geary Boulevard.

According to the police report, the car reeked of booze and reefer. Rivers, who was behind the wheel, allegedly had "bloodshot eyes that were glazed" and eyelids "drooping to closing."

Lal, who was in the passenger's seat, appeared to be "toasted," one of the officers said.

From the get-go, officers said, Rivers was belligerent, refusing to cooperate with tests to measure his blood alcohol level.

Lal, on the other hand, was passive -- his only move was to show officers the medical marijuana card he'd been issued by the city Health Department.

The cops ignored the card, searched the car and found about an ounce and a half of weed in an M&M's bag and in a tin. They also found a vial of hash oil on the car's console.

Rivers was charged with driving under the influence and with possession. Lal, who owned the car, was charged with possession.

And then they got to the courtroom.

In short order, Lal's attorney, Brian Petersen, moved to have the charges dismissed on the grounds that the drugs were for medicinal use.

Faster than you can say "roll 'em," the district attorney agreed, and the possession charges were dismissed -- including the charges for possession of hash oil.

Petersen then made a motion to have the drugs returned to Lal. When the D.A. didn't object, Judge Wallace Douglas signed the order.

The cops, however, took one look at the judge's order and said, "No way." They've since asked for a rehearing on the matter, which has been scheduled for May 1.

But from the looks of things, Hallinan doesn't feel there's any problem with the judge's order.

"On the basic question of whether the police should return marijuana confiscated from a bona fide patient, I agree with the Oregon Court of Appeals (which recently ordered cops to return medical pot they seized from someone's home)," Hallinan said.

But isn't toking up while driving a slightly different matter? "In this case, the patient's medicine could be returned to him, and the police could testify that he had it on him," Hallinan said.

All this could have an interesting domino effect on the charges against Rivers, who is also accused of possession.

As Rivers' lawyer, Clifford Gould, points out, if Lal gets his drugs back, then a good deal of the evidence against Rivers "goes up in smoke."

WHOLE LOTTA RICE: San Francisco mayoral aspirant Gavin Newsom's Camelot wedding came at a Camelot price -- but luckily for Prince Charming, much of it was picked up by his family friends and hosts Anne and Gordon Getty.

For months now, speculation has swirled around City Hall about the price tag attached to the four-star reception that the mega-rich Gettys held for Newsom and his bride, prosecutor Kimberly Guilfoyle, at their Pacific Heights mansion Dec. 8.

Well, it turns out the Gettys paid $232,616.90 -- exactly half of which was reported on newly amended economic disclosure forms filed by Newsom, who as a city supervisor is required to report his share of gifts.

The costs included everything from catering and flowers to security both for the VIPs in attendance and for the bride, who was reported to be the target of death threats as she was preparing to help prosecute dog-mauling defendants Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel.

The amended statement also reveals that $6,770 was spent on the couple's rehearsal dinner, hosted by socialite Maryon Davies Lewis at Plump Jack's -- the Marina District restaurant operated by Newsom and other investors.

Earlier this month, Newsom had filed his annual economic interest statement disclosing many of the wedding gifts -- from $1,440 in plates and chargers from novelist Danielle Steel to a $65 "congressional plate" from Sen. Barbara Boxer.

But the list omitted costs related to the wedding itself, which were largely paid for by the bride's father, or the costs of the reception and rehearsal dinner.

When we asked, Newsom first told us those items didn't have to be disclosed.

But he promised to ask the city attorney -- and was told the reception costs were considered gifts.

Just for the record, Newsom said he never actually intended to have that big reception at the Gettys' in the first place.

"We were actually doing a wedding out of the country for 50 people, but because of family issues we did it in the city, and then Anne (Getty) volunteered to do this," he said. "It was never my intention that they were going to support the reception."

Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. They can also be heard on KGO Radio on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Phil Matier can be seen regularly on KRON-TV. Got a tip? Call them at (415) 777-8815. The

2002 San Francisco Chronicle   Page A - 17 

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