Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine Win New Trial, Convictions Tossed!

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It's official: Former OC Weekly cover story icons Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine are no longer convicted felons.

Both men were operators of a pair of Long Beach marijuana dispensaries as well as Garden Grove's Unit D collective that were raided in Dec. 2009; they were convicted of pot sales in a Dec. 2011 trial that ended with the presiding judge, Charles D. Sheldon, dismissing himself from the case after sending a congratulatory letter to the prosecutor--just the latest evidence of his overwhelming bias, (see "Judge Charles D. Sheldon is Captain Kangaroo, Dec. 22, 2011). But today, acting on a motion for a new trial by defense attorneys Christopher Glew and Allison Margolin, Long Beach Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani threw out the two men's convictions, awarding them the right to a new and hopefully fair trial.

In making her ruling, Cassani referred to several aspects of Sheldon's mishandling of the case which the Weekly pointed out during our coverage of the trial. For example, Cassani argued, Sheldon complimented the prosecutor, Jodi Castano, in front of jurors, while also being so rude to the defense team that he actually brought Margolin to tears at one point when jurors were about to enter the room. Instead of giving Margolin a few minutes to collect herself, Cassani noted, Sheldon allowed the jurors to march into court.

Cassani observed that Sheldon also ruled that a videotape and a photograph were relevant to the prosecution's case and should therefore be allowed into evidence--without ever having examined the video or photograph in question. Just as questionable to Cassani was the fact that trial transcripts show that while Sheldon sustained the vast majority of prosecution objections, it wasn't until page 1004 of the transcripts that Sheldon sustained a defense objection. 

As the Weekly previously reported, Sheldon initially sought to deny Byron or Grumbine the right to even mention medical marijuana before the trial began, and then, when another judge overturned his ruling, he forced the defense to go to trial the very next day. Cassani described Sheldon's actions as a series of errors that began before the trial even started, and which continued and worsened throughout the course.

"This was a terrible, terrible, terrible trial," she concluded.

Cassani's ruling--overturning a pair of criminal verdicts in a case supervised by a fellow judge even before the verdicts have been formally appealed--is relatively rare, said Glew. "To have a hearing like this--and to have the motion for a new trial actually get granted--is very rare. And the only reason it happened is because Sheldon recused himself from trial." 

Although the next hearing for the case is scheduled for May 8 in Judge Arthur Jean's courtroom, assuming the case does go forward, trial isn't likely to begin until August.

"For today, justice prevailed," said a delighted Margolin, in the hallway a few moments after the hearing ended. 

"We couldn't be happier with today's result," Glew said. "I'll echo [Cassani's] sentiments. "This was a terrible trial."

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22 comments
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billperron
billperron

Why are obviously biased judges allowed to even be judges? Why are prosecutors who flaunt the law allowed to be attorneys? We the people pay their salaries, we deserve better and we should demand better.

Dwjames1947
Dwjames1947

Great coverage on the trial, Nick.  After seeing the trial for 8 of its 18 days, I must concur with Judge Cassini's comments:"This was a terrible, terrible, terrible trial."  

Monson
Monson

With our State in such a dire budgetary crisis, one is compelled to question how a judge can waste so many tax-payer dollars, and several weeks of juror's lives, in an attempt to manipulate the outcome of a trial without facing some sort of legal or professional consequences.

Wqjackson
Wqjackson

Sheldon should be removed from his seat.

joeyrockx
joeyrockx

The corrupt judge should be thrown in prison with the rest of the trash

Guilty until proven innocent
Guilty until proven innocent

Please stop wasting tax payers money.. i recently settled a case on marijuana.. needless to say i will be going to jail.. when they hang 4yrs over your head and you have a family and a job sometimes you have no alternative but to take a deal.. I will soon be jailed for 90 days..!

way to go joe and joe.. i wish i had the courage to fight my very win able case all the way..

jerry kimberly
jerry kimberly

i too had to take a deal , but i am so old all i got was probation and i had to spend a who lott of money to take their so called drug classes .  boy what a sham that was .

Thegreenmachine777
Thegreenmachine777

Sooooooo tired of taxpaying dollars being wasted on things like this!  They need to put Judge Sheldon on trial for wasting my tax paying  money on this.  But Nooo, he will get a pension and life will go on.  America will be a third world counrty in 10 years (you read it here) from the way the system works.  All govenment and city workers are the lazest workers that coast there way to retirement 9while bitching about their job, they all do) while the real workers build this counrty.  Now to re-try these guys, give me a fucken break!!!  More wasted money

Allisonbrandi
Allisonbrandi

Thank you to Nick the reporter and OC weekly for exposing what went on at trial. Without that we may not be where we are today. In my opinion that coverage was significant in illustrating what we needed to for the recusal motion, even if Sheldon said he recused himself for other reasons. -Allison Margolin, attorney for Joe Byron

Rockon2k
Rockon2k

How much is this fiasco costing taxpayers?  defendants?

Kandiceocnorml
Kandiceocnorml

This is a great outcome for the worst trial I have ever seen. Judge Sheldon should be punished for wasting the tax payers money on this ridiculous circus act of a trial. They probably spent a million already.

Anonyms
Anonyms

Spot On! Cost has never been the Los Angeles District Attorneys' big concern. How you wonder does the LA DA have anything to do with a City of Long Beach prosecution of Long Beach businessmen? Maybe thats what we need to ask the Long Beach City Council next Tuesday 4/17/12 at 5pm. I'm pretty sure that this whole case was initiated by the LA DA's Office but I could be wrong. I thought they were obsessed with these defendants being proved to be wrongdoers after the Feds decided to drop their investigation into their cooperative. This was planned to show pressure on the Regional Attorneys to bring Federal pressure on the medical marijuana movement in my opinion. I'm glad to see it failing on its merits - it has none. The war is over if we want it.

Dweezle.Di
Dweezle.Di

The District Attorneys Office is an LA County Agency NOT City of LA, last I heard, Long Beach is still part of LA County. Just clarifying an answer to the question.

I DO feel that the people of California made a law, and Federal, State, County and City authorities refuse to allow the peoples desires to be allowed. The Gestapo does not like the will of the people. Too bad the legalize marijuana initiative failed, fear mongers won again. Smoking marijuana does not interest me at all, however, I do believe all drug laws should go away just like the alcohol prohibition laws were overturned in 1933. but that would eliminate how many thousands of government workers?

Paul
Paul

The feds were going to investigate and they dropped it?

Jason D. Andrews
Jason D. Andrews

Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine are two men who have been tossed threw the ringer.. Our Justice System is so Corrupt, To see these men go threw all this while we have Laws that allow for Medical Marijuana in the State is ridiculous and a waste of Tax payers Money that we don't have..

   If you use Cannabis in any form and dont say something about this travesty then dont cry when it happens to you, Because it will.. I know these two men personally and have seen the many people they have helped... They followed the Law, But the Law refused to follow the Law...

Jason D. AndrewsExecutive Director Pro215.com

KathieZ
KathieZ

Jason is right. We must stand up for our rights as well as those of us who can't stand up for this but can not live without this medicine. Follow Joe's example and be willing to stand  up because it is the right thing to do. We filled the court room, we watched and we spoke out and it made a difference! Tell the LB prosecutor office not to waste more of the "Good citizens of Long Beach"(Judge Sheldon's comment) money. Dismiss the case!

Ghostladyjames
Ghostladyjames

We will be at the next Long Beach city council meeting on 10/17/12. The police dept are doing warantless police raids on collectives in the city (26 in the past two years.  They are now arresting patients inside the collectives. We need to let them know this is unacceptable. Their original ordinance was illegal and now their ban is illegal. 

Sunnbear
Sunnbear

Are the cops really arresting patients outside of the collectives?!

Ghostladyjames
Ghostladyjames

They are arresting people inside. and the police are currently sitting outside the collectives waiting for patients to exit and then they steal the medicine, ticket the patient and tell the patient if they want to buy pot they must buy it from one of the 18 collectives approved (paying) the city. Since their ordinance was staid by the court, Their ordinance is illegal and their ban (allowing the 18 collectives) is also illegal. This is extortion. 

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