Physician and Attorney Call Medical Marijuana Case a Vendetta
Couple questions role of local law enforcement, dismisses allegations.
A Report from the Fry-Schafer Legal Defense Committee
July 18th, 2005
Contact: Bobby Eisenberg
An El Dorado County physician and attorney, facing 40 years in
prison for allegedly selling marijuana from their medical clinic, are
accusing prosecutors of building their case on a foundation of lies and
law-enforcement bias against medical marijuana.
"I don't believe a jury of California citizens will find the
conduct of these two people was in any way criminal", said defense
attorney Laurence Lichter following the arraignment June 22 of Dr.
Marion "Mollie" Fry and husband and attorney Dale Schafer.
Fry and Schafer return to federal court at 9 a.m. on July 22 for a
status conference before U.S. District Court Judge Garland Burrell.
Dr. Fry and Schafer contend that El Dorado law-enforcement
officials encouraged the couple to open a medical-marijuana practice
consistent with state law, and then conspired with federal anti-drug
officials to enforce federal law, in direct violation of their state
constitutional duty. Further, the couple adamantly denies the
allegations raised by a prosecution witness, someone they believe
traded false accusations in return for leniency from prosecutors.
Any trial will revolve around the issue of whether or not Fry and
Schafer were protected by federal law during the period that the
Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club case was before the courts.
On the morning of June 22, El Dorado County Sheriff's deputies
stopped and arrested Dr. Marion "Mollie" Fry on her way to her
medical office in Cool, where she has operated a cannabis-consulting
practice since August, 1999. At the same time, El Dorado deputies took
Fry's husband, attorney Dale Schafer, into custody at the couple's
Greenwood home. After handcuffing Fry, 49, and Schafer, 51, the
deputies turned the pair over to agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Agency, who transported them to the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento.
At the arraignment later that day, the U.S. Attorney's Office
unsealed an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury a week
earlier, accusing Fry and Schafer of conspiracy to manufacture
marijuana and conspiracy to grow 100+ plants with known and unknown
persons. Each of the two felony counts carries a minimum sentence of
five years in prison up to 40 years, a $2 million fine and four years
of supervised release.
At the hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter A. Nowinski agreed to
release Fry and Schafer on a $25,000 unsecured bond apiece. At the
urging of Asst. U.S. Attorney Anne Pings, neither will be allowed to
use marijuana, or the FDA-approved Marinol, while awaiting trial. Dr.
Fry and Schafer pled not guilty and agreed to abide by the bail
conditions. Outside the courthouse,
Lichter blasted the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecuting Fry and
Schafer for actions that were legal at the time under federal law.
"My clients are being tried under the new law for behavior conducted under the old law", Lichter said.
The arrest of Fry and Schafer followed a four-year investigation,
highlighted by the DEA's search of the couple's Greenwood home, office
and a storage facility on Sept. 28, 2001. The DEA seized the medical
records of an estimated 6,000 patients, and confiscated 32 cannabis
plants and an amount of processed marijuana from their residence.
Schafer and Fry were both allowed to use medical cannabis under the law
in California. At the time, Schafer was campaigning for the office of
El Dorado County District Attorney, and eventually finished third in
the race won by incumbent District Attorney Gary Lacy.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento met with Fry and Schafer
previously in a pre-indictment conference, but was unable to persuade
the couple to accept a plea agreement. Schafer said prosecutors broke
their promise to allow the couple to surrender if an indictment was
issued in an apparent attempt to humiliate the professional couple.
"We would have come down here, but they showed up instead with
guns and handcuffs", said Schafer, who was cooking breakfast for his
children when the El Dorado deputies and DEA agents arrived at his
Fry and Schafer contend that they opened the California Medical
Research Center after El Dorado County Narcotics Office Tim McNulty
asked for their help in determining who in the county were valid
medical-marijuana patients, and who were not. A deputy district
attorney had also inspected the couple's personal cannabis garden to
see that it complied with the county's standard. Fry and Schafer helped
negotiate the county's 10-plant guideline along with other members of
the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis.
Schafer, who advised Doctor Fry's clients on the legalities of
medical marijuana, maintains that El Dorado law-enforcement officials
are bound by the California Constitution, namely Article 3, Section
3.5, to uphold a state law that conflicts with federal law, unless it
is overturned at the appellate level. No public or private interest has
sued to overturn Prop. 215, so California peace officers are duty bound
to uphold the controversial measure.
"You can't work hand in hand with the feds and, yet, have a
constitutional obligation to support the state law when it conflicts
with federal law", Schafer said. "That's entrapment by estoppel".
However, at the same time local authorities were ostensibly
cooperating with Fry, Schafer and other El Dorado County medical users,
the county's application for federal marijuana-suppression funds
painted a starkly different portrait. In a 90-day Status Report for the
county's 2000-01 Byrne Memorial Grant of $171,100, El Dorado Sheriff's
Lt. William Whealton identified the couple's cannabis consultations as
"a sham" and questioned the validity of their patients medical needs.
Here is an excerpt:
"In El Dorado County, we experienced an attorney/doctor team that
specialized in helping 'patients' obtain the certificate that enabled
them to grow marijuana under Proposition 215. This team then would
supply the 'patients' with marijuana. They also conducted seminars in
the growing and cultivation of marijuana. The process of obtaining a
certificate was such a sham that we were able to send undercover
officers into the office without medical records and obtain the
certificate". ["Patients" quote marks in original.
To convince a jury Schafer and Fry must persuade them to reject
the testimony of two former employees. According to Schafer, the
employees stole patient recommendations, and engaged in illicit
activities they later blamed on Fry and Schafer.
"We weren't selling marijuana out of our office, that's an
outright lie", insisted Schafer. "We've been smeared for years by what
these snitches claimed we were doing".
Law enforcement remains antagonistic toward medical cannabis.
Agents denied Schafer the right to take his pain medication before
arresting him and as a hemophiliac he was forced to have a costly
infusion due to internal bleeding caused by the ankle cuffs the couple
were forced to wear during their entire incarceration of over six and a
half hours on June 22nd. Upon release that day, Dr. Fry was devastated
to learn that federal marshalls had lost her wedding ring and the
crucifix the devout Catholic wears on a necklace.
Fry and Schafer are native Californians who led exemplary lives
before coming to the attention of law enforcement. Fry, who earned her
medical degree from the University of California at Irvine, comes from
a family with a long tradition of practicing medicine. In fact, her
grandfather, Francis Marion Pottinger was a leading expert in the
treatment of tuberculosis decades before an effective treatment was
developed and he employed the use of Cannabis before it was deemed to
be illegal. Dr. Mollie Fry is a breast cancer survivor, having
undergone a double mastectomy 10 years ago. Fry and Schafer have five
children with three still at home.
Please show your support for Prop. 215, SB 420 and the Doctors,
Patients and Lawyers who continue to uphold the Law in California and
in so doing affirm the will of the People of California.
Rally at the Federal Courthouse, 501 I St., Sacramento this Friday morning, July 22nd, 2005 at 9AM.
We encourage you to bring signs that say things like "My Vote
Counts", "Yes on 215", "Compassion Yes, Incarceration No", "Free My
Donations to the Fry/Schafer Defense Fund can be sent to P.O.Box 634,
Cool, CA. 95614
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