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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CA: Healdsburg Pot-Growing Crime Victim May Get Paid For
Title:US CA: Healdsburg Pot-Growing Crime Victim May Get Paid For
Published On:2012-01-23
Source:Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Fetched On:2012-01-25 06:02:12

A Healdsburg home-invasion robbery victim can get restitution for his
stolen marijuana if he was growing it in accordance with local
guidelines for medical cannabis.

But just how much Michael Steffens' weed is worth is open to debate.

His lawyer is expected to ask for $18,000 for six pounds taken from
his West Dry Creek Road home by four men dressed as police officers
who barged in, beat him and bound him with a telephone cord.

Steffens, a 51-year-old carpenter who was smoking pot under a
doctor's recommendation to treat neck pain, will likely testify at an
upcoming Feb. 14 hearing. Whether lawyers for the defendants will get
to cross-examine him is unclear.

"We want to be careful the victim is not re-victimized," his lawyer,
Steve Spiegelman, said Monday.

Marijuana advocates say Steffens could be the first person in the
state to be awarded restitution under his circumstances. Others have
been compensated for medical marijuana that was seized and destroyed
by authorities.

But never have the courts ordered criminal defendants to repay a
victim for stolen marijuana, according to marijuana advocates.

Judge Gary Medvigy on Friday he would consider it if Steffens
possessed the pot under state and local regulations. In general, any
person with a doctor's note can have up to three pounds. Steffens and
another adult family member had six.

"I'm sure he met the guidelines," Spiegelman said.

Still unresolved is whether Steffens can qualify for money from the
state to pay for a post-traumatic stress disorder he said he suffered
from the robbery. Spiegelman said the district attorney's
victim-assistance division has turned him down because the case
involves marijuana.

Victim advocates denied any blanket policy for pot cases but said
there are other reasons a person can be deemed ineligible, including
if they had past convictions or in some way contributed to the crime.

The judge has no authority to intervene in that regard, Spiegelman said.

Steffens has been trying to get help since the October 2009 robbery.
As he lay tied up on the floor, the four men loaded a U-Haul trailer
with his possessions, including weed that was drying in his barn or a garage.

Steffens broke free as soon as they left and called 911. Three of the
men were arrested within hours. All four were eventually charged,
convicted and sent to prison or jail.
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