Charges Dropped Against Pot Activist

March 03, 2003

Associated Press,

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- An activist accused of disrupting a medical marijuana trial won't be spending three months in federal prison after all, a magistrate decided Monday. U.S Magistrate Judge Peter Nowinski had ordered Jeff Jones, executive director of Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative, jailed for three months Thursday after he was found guilty in December of trying to influence jurors trying the case against fellow activist Bryan Epis. Nowinski also ordered Jones, 38, to pay restitution of $3,925, the government's cost of replacing the jury pool that presiding U.S. District Judge Frank Damrell Jr. decided was tainted because of the fliers Jones distributed outside the federal courthouse. However, Nowinski dropped the jail time during a hearing Monday. Epis was found guilty of growing marijuana, but is appealing his conviction and 10 year sentence. Jones' defense attorney had argued that he was exercising his First Amendment right when he passed out the fliers. Meanwhile Monday, authorities quarantined a floor of the federal courthouse in downtown Sacramento shortly after noon Monday after employees found a white powdery substance while sorting mail. Investigators determined two envelopes containing the substance were addressed to Nowinski and Damrell. "One of the letters contained some threatening language," said FBI spokesman Nick Rossi. However, the powder tested negative for anthrax in a field test and initial laboratory test, Rossi said. The floor is not regularly used by the public, said U.S. Deputy Marshall David Gump. Four employees in the room when the envelopes were opened were isolated for a time, while an uninvolved magistrate and three employees were evacuated from the floor. Medical marijuana advocates, who decried the apparent hoax, said Jones' attorney also received a threatening letter Monday. The attorney could not be reached to comment. (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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