The five-year federal effort to throw one of the nation’s most prominent advocates of marijuana in prison appears to be dead after a judge ruled that prosecutors had vindictively piled on charges against the Oakland man after he successfully appealed his pot-growing convictions, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ruled yesterday that prosecutors had illegally retaliated against Ed Rosenthal, 62, last fall when they added tax-evasion and money-laundering charges to his previous indictment for growing marijuana for medical patients.
The new charges were based on old evidence, the judge said, and appeared to be aimed at punishing Rosenthal for winning his appeal and for complaining that his trial had been unfair. Prosecutors’ actions seemed designed “to make Rosenthal look like a common criminal and thus dissipate the criticism heaped on the government after the first trial,” Breyer said. That perception “will discourage defendants from exercising their First Amendment right to criticize their prosecutions and their statutory right to appeal their convictions.” Breyer left the marijuana-growing charges intact but noted that prosecutors could not seek to add to the sentence the judge imposed before the convictions were overturned — one day in prison, which Rosenthal has served.