Last month, we told you about Joseph Lightfoot, a man accused of child abuse simply because he grows marijuana in his home -- something he's authorized to do thanks to his caregiver status.
Tomorrow, Lightfoot will appear at a preliminary hearing in Denver County Court -- and attorney Dan Murphy says his client is innocent of all charges.
"Joseph is a loving and caring father," Murphy says. "And when the facts come out, we'll see that there's no child abuse in play here."
Due to tomorrow's hearing, Murphy is reticent to go into too much detail about the case against Lightfoot and Amber Wildenstein, who's represented by another attorney. But he does share his view that law enforcement may well have overstepped its bounds in this instance.
"It's unfortunate that the Denver Police Department feels the need to come after somebody who's not committing child abuse and is otherwise engaged in an activity that's constitutionally protected at the state level," he says.
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Page down to see a photo of Lightfoot and his daughter, as well as to read a release from the Cannabis Therapy Institute sharing details about the 8:30 a.m. hearing.
Parent/Patient Charged with Felony Child Abuse
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Denver -- Parents of legal grow operations can be charged with felony child abuse under current Colorado law, according to the Denver District Attorney. In June, Denver DA Mitchell R. Morrissey filed felony child abuse charges against parents Joseph Lightfoot (30) and Amber Wildenstein (29) for legally cultivating medical cannabis in the basement of the house that they lived in with their three children. Joseph and Amber were arrested and forced to post $50,000 bond each to get out of jail. They have a preliminary hearing set for Aug. 24 in Denver District Court.
Joseph Lightfoot Defense Fund http://www.paypal.com/ Donate to Paypal Account: firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the DA's press release, the couple had been operating a "licensed marijuana growing operation" in their house when police were called to investigate a domestic disturbance. When they arrived, the police reported that there was no crime being committed, but discovered a medical cannabis garden in the basement. The cultivation area was legal under state law, and the police did not confiscate any of the plants or medicine. However, days later they came back to serve arrest warrants on Joseph and Amber for felony child abuse and to take the kids.
According to the DA's press release, "Colorado Revised Statute 18-6-401 states in part that a person commits child abuse, if, in the presence of a child, or on the premises where a child is found, or where a child resides... the person knowingly engages in the manufacture or attempted manufacture of a controlled substance."
In an interview with Michael Roberts from Westword, Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver District Attorney's Office, said, "It's state law, and we don't pick and choose the laws we enforce and prosecute. We have an obligation to go forward with what's on the books, and marijuana is a controlled substance." http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2010/07/marijuana_cultivation_leads_to.php
Lightfoot's attorney is Daniel M. Murphy of Denver. Murphy says he is confident his client will be cleared of all wrongdoing. "My client is a good parent and the facts of this case will show he absolutely did not commit child abuse," Lightfoot says.
However, medical cannabis activists see this as yet another attack on cannabis patients by the government. "This is a disturbing trend where the police will use the kids to get at the cannabis, or the cannabis to get at the kids," says Riah McBee of a group called Medical Marijuana Family Advocates Cultivating Truth (MMJ-FACT).
McBee's children were the target of a Boulder County investigation related to his medical marijuana use last year, but the case was resolved and McBee still has custody of his children. "The Denver Police are trying to send the message that you will have your children seized even if your medical cannabis is legal under state constitution. Parents should be very concerned about these perversions of the laws and infiltration into their families lives," McBee says.
The children, aged 7, 9 and 11, were allowed to remain in the custody of their mother. However, Joseph is only allowed phone contact with his biological daughter, even though Joseph raised all the children with Amber for 10 years.
NEXT HEARING Joseph Lightfoot has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug. 24 at 8:30am in Denver County Court, Courtroom 2100, Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center, 490 W. Colfax, Denver, CO If you attend to show support for Joseph, please DRESS TO IMPRESS.
DEFENSE FUND A defense fund has been set up by Timothy Lightfoot, Joseph's brother, to help pay for the expenses of the arrest and prosecution of his brother.
Contributions can be made to: Joseph Lightfoot Defense Fund http://www.paypal.com/ Donate to Paypal Account: email@example.com