Monday, August 17, 2009

New York Marijuana Actvist News

Pot activist's request granted

After debate, judge allows woman to represent herself

First published in print: Saturday, August 15, 2009

ALBANY -- A city court judge ruled Friday that a 58-year-old marijuana
activist -- who admits sneaking an 18-inch pot plant past Capitol
security in an effort to persuade state legislators to legalize the drug
-- can represent herself at trial.

Joined by a handful of supporters -- one wearing a "cannabis activist"
T-shirt as he helped unfurl a leafy green "Free Marijuana Prisoners"
banner in front of the Morton Avenue courthouse -- Abigail Storm-Eggink
asked Judge Rachel L. Kretser to allow her to argue her own case.

"My desire to represent myself is because I know I am familiar with all
the issues in the case," said Storm-Eggink, of Kingston, who is also
director of New York Citizens Against Marijuana Prohibition.

The issues she was referring to were not the standard components of the
two counts of unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation, which
Storm-Eggink faces after her July 3 encounter with Capitol security and
a late-June stop by Albany police.

The Ulster County resident, who with her husband, Dan Eggink, has become
a lobbying fixture at the Capitol, said she believes state prohibition
on marijuana use violates her constitutional freedom of religion.

"God gave me this plant," she said, questioning the government's
jurisdiction to declare a plant a controlled substance. "I believe that
the state, that the (district attorney), should definitely take the
position of defending the constitutional rights of every individual."

But a debate about constitutional rights nearly derailed Storm-Eggink' s
bid to serve as her own lawyer.

Kretser repeatedly asked Storm-Eggink whether she was willing to waive
her constitutional right to counsel, a prerequisite for the judge's
approval, and Storm-Eggink replied with evasive answers, prompting the
judge to again ask whether she understood the seriousness of her

Another debate erupted over whether Storm-Eggink is entitled to a jury
trial. Assistant Public Defender Colin Kenneally advised her that
because the charges are violations, she's not eligible for a jury trial.

"Once you're your own counsel, you can make any argument you want,"
Kenneally told her.

Kretser granted preliminary approval to Storm-Eggink' s request for
self-representation , but the judge reserved her right to change her

Storm-Eggink took the marijuana plant in a bag into the Capitol on July
3 -- the same day as a plant sale -- and was cited by State Police upon
leaving the building.

On Friday, supporter Tony Fariello, 58, of Albany, criticized the
government's attitude.

"It's disgusting; it's partisan; it's backward thinking; it's 'Reefer
Madness' thinking," he said, referring to the 1936 movie that demonized
pot smoking.

Depending on prior offenses, the charge carries a maximum penalty of 15
days in jail. Storm-Eggink is scheduled to return to court on Aug. 28

Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at
jcarleo-evangelist@ timesunion. com.

http://www.timesuni s/story.asp? storyID=831215& newsdate= 8\

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