Prosecutors will remain on test case

February 25, 2007

Sara Reed, The Coloradoan

Prosecutors handling a Fort Collins medical marijuana case will stay on the case, a judge ruled Monday.

Attorneys for James and Lisa Masters, who face cultivation and distribution charges, asked Chief District Court Judge James Hiatt to remove prosecutors from the case, claiming one of them acted in a way that diminished their chance of a fair trial.

Brian Vicente, a Denver attorney, argued that prosecutor Tom Lynch sneaked into a seminar on defending medical marijuana patients he gave last month.

Vicente said Lynch went to extraordinary measures, not leaving when he realized Vicente was representing the Masterses, to gain information.

Vicente said the actions were improper and warranted the appointment of an outside prosecutor.

During questioning by his colleague Michael Pierson, Lynch said he had no indication that the seminar was exclusively for defense attorneys until he was asked to leave.

Lynch was involved with the early stages of the case but has since been reassigned due to unrelated matters.

Hiatt ruled there was no evidence to support Vicente's request and declined to remove the District Attorney's office from the case.

"You have to be very cynical to think everyone is running around with an agenda and to think this was anything other than an innocent mistake," he said.

After the hearing, Vicente said he was disappointed by the ruling.

Police arrested the Masterses in August when they checked on the welfare of their children and the officer smelled marijuana. The children were removed from the home but reunited with their parents a few months later.

The couple, who both are medical marijuana users, said the marijuana was for their use as well as use by other medical marijuana patients. The couple said those patients had designated them as caregivers, allowing them to grow medical marijuana for them.

Last year, a judge declined to dismiss the charges because the couple did not have proper state documentation.

The case is being called a test case for the caregiver provision of the medical marijuana amendment.

At the request of prosecutors, Hiatt also issued a reminder that attorneys in the case must abide by the rules of professional conduct, which restrict attorneys from making statements outside the courtroom that could prejudice potential jurors.

Vicente said the request was an attempt to censor him and his clients.

District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said it simply was a request for a reminder to follow the rules by which all attorneys are bound.

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