Pot Advocates Awarded $75,000 

Pot Advocates Awarded $75,000 
Posted by FoM on August 02, 2001 at 07:40:34 PT
By Jason Armstrong, Tribune-Herald
Source: Hawaii-Tribune Herald
Hawaii County will pay $75,000 to settle a civil lawsuit filed by two marijuana advocates who claimed they were unfairly prosecuted for their controversial views.The Hawaii County Council voted 6 - 3 Tuesday to pay the money to Aaron Anderson and Roger Christie, who in 1995 sued the county, Prosecutor Jay Kimura and then - deputy prosecutor Kay Iopa, now a private defense attorney. 
Tired and financially drained from fighting the county over what started with his 1991 arrest for receiving hemp seeds, the 64 - year - old Anderson said he'll accept the settlement with mixed feelings."Chances are we wouldn't get much more than $75,000 anyway in state court," he said of a trial that would have started Nov. 3.Anderson in April lost a similar federal lawsuit after a judge removed Christie as a plaintiff and ruled the civil rights claims should be pursued in the state's venue.Christie said failure at the federal level weakened the remaining claim, under which the two had first sought $1 million."It felt like the ideal time to move on and get a win," he said. "This decision shows that it's possible to turn negatives into positives in my life." Accepting the settlement requires the plaintiffs to give up the right to appeal the federal ruling, said attorney Steven Strauss, who represented both Anderson and Christie.After expenses, Anderson said he will clear about $20,000, which he will spend to fix his teeth, hold a party for his supporters and buy a lot next to his Puna Palisades home.Strauss, whose fees were not added to the settlement amount, will earn approximately $16,000, with the balance going to Christie, who will get a smaller share due to his late arrival to the lawsuit, Anderson said.Because the settlement is a fraction of the original demand, Anderson said none of the money will be used to start a civil rights training center or to fund a drug - awareness program. He had promised to use a sizable portion of the original amount for those purposes.The plaintiffs originally sought $1 million, but the council in April 2000 rejected paying that amount.Lawmakers on Tuesday favored the latest offer, which Glenn Shiigi, a county civil attorney, said was chosen by state Judge Riki May Amano during a settlement conference held last month.South Kona Councilwoman Nancy Pisicchio, who voted to approve the $75,000 offer, said she worried the county, which is self - insured, would end up paying far more money if the case went to trial."I don't think we would have had a chance of winning because we were at fault," she said. As a result of the case, Pisicchio said she hopes county attorneys will become more knowledgeable of the law and that the council will receive better representation from the Corporation Counsel's Office, which defends the county against civil lawsuits."This isn't an isolated example of the county being found at fault in a legal proceeding," she said. The county is appealing another civil case in which jurors in December 1999 found the county must pay $2.9 million of a $4.9 million award resulting from the rigging of promotions within the Police Department.In voting to pay the settlement to Anderson and Christie, Pisicchio was joined by Hilo lawmakers James Arakaki, Aaron Chung and Bobby Jean Leithead - Todd. Ka'u Councilwoman Julie Jacobson and North Kona Councilman Curtis Tyler also endorsed making the payment.Opposing votes were cast by Puna Councilman Gary Safarik, Dominic Yagong from Hamakua and Kohala representative Leningrad Elarionoff."I just don't feel that we should pay them anything," Safarik said. "I feel that the county was justified in their prosecution."The plaintiffs alleged civil rights violations, economic damage, malicious prosecution and abuse of process stemming from their 1991 arrest for accepting delivery of 25 pounds of hemp seeds.Police seized the shipment and arrested Anderson and Christie, who claimed the seeds were sterile and therefore legal because they could not be used to grow marijuana. The two men, who planned to use the seeds to make food products and support the activities of the Hawaii Hemp Council, were then indicted on the charge of promoting marijuana.The criminal charge against Christie was dropped in 1995, while the trial against Anderson ended in 1997 with a deadlocked jury. Prosecutors' efforts for a second trial were denied in 1998 when a Big Island judge dismissed the case.The civil lawsuits in both federal and state court ensued. Following the council's action Tuesday, the plaintiffs listed the benefits of their struggle.Anderson said the "rabid prosecutor" Iopa no longer works for the county and progress has been made on the marijuana crusade, pointing to the legalization medical marijuana and an Oahu study of the benefits of hemp, a non - intoxicating form of the plant.Strauss noted the case showed that not all hemp products are illegal in Hawaii and that government employees are not entitled to immunity from their actions. Newshawk: Rev. Dennis ShieldsSource: Hawaii-Tribune Herald (HI)Author: Jason Armstrong, Tribune-HeraldPublished: August 1, 2001Copyright: 2001 Hawaii Tribune HeraldContact: editor hawaiitribune-herald.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:HempDefense Jurors Rule for County in Marijuana Suit Defenders Testify Anderson was Targeted Shots Traded in Hemp Case
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