Marijuana: Kaleb Young suing for pot plants improperly seized and killed by Larimer County
Back in December 2011, we told you about Kaleb Young, a marijuana caretaker who'd been acquitted of three felonies. But while the Larimer County Sheriff's Office gave back some of the items seized during a raid the previous year, 42 marijuana plants weren't returned -- because they had died.
Now, Young, assisted by attorney Rob Corry, are suing for compensation. The LCSO has responded by asking for the case to be dismissed. Get details and see photos and documents below.
As we've reported, Young, a Timnath resident in his early thirties, served as a caretaker for multiple patients -- prosecutors only acknowledged five due to restriction in the state's MMJ regulations, while Corry says there were more. In addition, Young had a doctor's recommendation for fifty plants. But his application for a red card was in limbo through much of 2010 because, at that time, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was many months behind in processing the paperwork.
Near where Kaleb Young's warehouse grow was located.
In the meantime, various law enforcement agencies had their eye on him. "They started looking at his residence that June," Corry told us for our original post. "Multiple police officers went over there, made observations, pulled power records. They spent hundreds of hours working this up. It was ridiculous."
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Then, in September, officers raided Young's home, and they came in force. "They had eighteen SWAT-level officers wearing battle dress uniforms, many of them carrying assault rifles," Corry said. "They ripped Kaleb out of his house with guns drawn -- this for a guy who had no criminal record -- and did the same thing to his mother."
The cops subsequently found a warehouse space containing what Corry described as "a small grow -- fifty plants, some of them dying, cared for by an amateur grower with piles of documentation."
Of course, the one document he lacked was a red card. As a result, Young was charged with three counts: cultivation, possession with intent to distribute, and possession of over eight ounces -- all felonies at the time.
The case dragged on for more than a year, but in the end, Young was acquitted in a jury trial, and in early December, he drove a pickup truck to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office with Corry and the latter's colleague, Travis Simpson, to pick up what had been taken. But according to a lawsuit filed earlier this year (it's on view below), the LCSO "refused to return 42 medical marijuana plants on the ground that the Larimer County Sheriff's Department allowed the medical marijuana plants to die or be destroyed."
What were these plants worth?
Rob Corry, Kaleb Young and Travis Simpson at the Larimer County Sheriff's Office in December 2011.
Photo by Diane Humm
Speaking this week, Corry says, "If you use the DEAs valuation of them, probably in the neighborhood of $200,000 -- plus some equipment and those sorts of things."
A lawsuit wasn't the first course of action, he stresses. "We engaged in a back-and-forth quite a bit over the phone," he recalls. "Then we went them a letter. So we definitely made some effort" to resolve the issue outside of court. "But they were not interested. I think in their view, they're immune -- and that's what they've said in filings as well."
Indeed, the LCSO response to Young's motion for a summary judgment -- that document plus the Young/Corry response are shared here, as well -- is notably terse. It simply states that "the pleadings and the evidentiary materials show there are no genuine issues of fact and that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law."
To that, Corry says, "there is a generalized legal principal at play here that transcends medical marijuana: If the government takes your property, they give you compensation."
He offers up the following analogy: "Let's say the government seized my dog, and they say it's vicious. But if it's later determined that the dog wasn't vicious and should be returned, they couldn't say later that they'd denied it food and water or put it down. They'd need to keep it alive until either the wrongdoing was proven or it wasn't -- and that's the case here. The jury acquitted my client of all charges. So they needed to return the property they'd taken from him in as good or better condition than it was in when they took it."
Corry acknowledges that he's wading into uncharted waters. "This is a case that's never been brought before, to my knowledge, and there are some novel legal issues that surround medical marijuana. But the basic principle that government needs to compensate you when they take your stuff is much more simple."
The case has been filed in Larimer District Court, a jurisdiction that's not known for being all that friendly to defendants in marijuana cases. But Corry isn't overly concerned.
"I think we'll get a fair hearing," he allows. "Obviously, the jury in my client's earlier case was made up entirely of Larimer County residents, and they unanimously acquitted him. And the judge is obviously intelligent and certainly capable of reading the constitution and case law.
"Larimer County is still part of Colorado, the the Colorado constitution still applies."
Look below to read the original lawsuit, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office motion for summary judgment and the Young/Corry response.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Jury clears Kaleb Young, caretaker who had no red card."
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