Sunday, November 16, 2008

Police illegally seized medical pot

Police illegally seized medical pot

Haiku man files civil complaint before his arrest, drug charges

By LILA FUJIMOTO Staff Writer POSTED: November 15, 2008

WAILUKU - A little more than a week before he was arrested as the alleged head of a marijuana trafficking organization, Brian Murphy filed a lawsuit complaining the Maui Police Department was interfering with the operation of Patients Without Time, the Paia-based medical marijuana advocacy group he founded.

Representing himself in the 2nd Circuit Court filing, Murphy described how medical marijuana was seized in two incidents in which police executed search warrants at his Haiku residence. The first incident occurred about a month after he reported being pistol- whipped and injured during a home invasion robbery last November.

He said police officers who went to the home on Aliikoa Place to investigate the early-morning robbery Nov. 17 seemed more focused on his marijuana plants than the crime.

When he went with a lawyer to the police station three days later to turn over photographs of a blood-stained floor and other evidence in the robbery, Murphy said he was told that he was the object of an investigation.

On Thursday, police announced the arrests of Murphy and six other Maui residents in the culmination of a two-year investigation dubbed "Operation Weedkiller." Police said Murphy, 53, was head of the organized crime group that used Patients Without Time and state medical marijuana laws to disguise a drug-trafficking operation.

Police said people were hired to protect the illegal business of Patients Without Time, which sold marijuana to hundreds of people for profit.

During the investigation, police reported seizing 335 marijuana plants and clones, 2,300 grams of processed marijuana, 4,830 grams of unprocessed marijuana, 32 grams of hashish, 100 marijuana-laced candies, a vehicle, $14,085 in cash and drug paraphernalia associated with marijuana growing and distribution.

According to Murphy's lawsuit, some of the marijuana, paraphernalia, cash and his truck were taken when police vice officers executed search warrants on Dec. 28 and Jan. 31 at his residence.

In addition to Murphy, those arrested at various locations Tuesday were identified as Brian Igersheim, 31, of Makawao; Robert "Bobby" Armitage, 58, of Wailuku; Douglas Kaleikini Sr., 54, of Wailuku; John Cooper, 40, of Kihei; William "Bill" Cox, 48, of Haiku; and Stuart Hirotsu, 48, of Wailuku.

All were charged with criminal conspiracy, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. Most also faced various felony drug charges.

During his arraignment Wednesday, a Feb. 2 trial date was set for Murphy. He pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal conspiracy, first- and second-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, first- and second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana, first- and second-degree promotion of harmful drugs and six counts of possessing drug paraphernalia.

Murphy was later released after posting $100,000 bail.

A message left for Murphy at the Paia telephone number of Patients Without Time and Maui County Citizens for Democracy in Action wasn't returned Friday.

A message on the answering machine reported: "We've had a legal crisis with the Maui Police Department. We're facing lots of charges. We need help. We support medical marijuana. We hope you do too. Please go to our Web site if you can donate to our legal fund."

In addition to the Maui Police Department and Police Chief Tom Phillips, Maui County and the state are named as defendants in Murphy's lawsuit filed Oct. 31.

In the court document, Patients Without Time is described as a medical marijuana advocacy group and cooperative involving more than 300 medical marijuana patients on Maui.

Murphy said he is a registered medical marijuana patient and his residence was registered as a "medical marijuana grow site for himself and three other statutorily authorized medical marijuana patients."

Under state law, patients diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition can use marijuana for medical purposes if the physician certifies in writing that the benefits of medical use of marijuana would likely outweigh health risks. Patients must register with the state Department of Public Safety and receive a certificate, which allows someone to have up to three mature marijuana plants, four immature marijuana plants and one ounce of usable marijuana for each mature plant.

Murphy maintained that he was in compliance with state medical marijuana laws when he gave police keys to his residence so they could investigate the robbery. He turned over the keys as he was being transported by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he received 14 stitches to his forehead after being attacked, pistol whipped and subdued during the robbery, according to his lawsuit. He said he had been awakened at 12:30 a.m. by a video home security system and saw armed and masked men arrive in a vehicle and knock down the front door to enter the home.

When the first search warrant was executed at Murphy's residence Dec. 28, medical marijuana was confiscated and destroyed, he reported. He said funds and political records of Maui County Citizens for Democracy in Action also were seized. Murphy is director of that organization as well as Patients Without Time.

According to the lawsuit, "Two late-arriving police officers in the search warrant party were thought by (Murphy) to perhaps be two of the original home invaders." The lawsuit cites similarities in "body movements" and blue fatigue pants and black footwear worn by the intruders.

Murphy said additional political funds and the truck he used in political activities for Maui County Citizens for Democracy in Action were taken by police when the second search warrant was executed Jan. 25. Along with processed marijuana and paraphernalia, police seized "mother" plants from which other Patients Without Time members would take cuttings, Murphy said.

Lila Fujimoto can be reached at

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