Officers get contempt citations

9 GRAMNET members seized marijuana in raid, didn't return it

Contempt citations were issued Wednesday to nine area police officers who seized marijuana during a drug raid and did not return the drugs to their owner, a registered medicinal marijuana user, as ordered by a county judge.

The order to issue contempt citations was signed by Routt County Judge James Garrecht on Tuesday, and the contempt citations were issued by the deputy clerk of the 14th Judicial District Court on Wednesday.

The citations direct the nine officers to appear before Garrecht at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 2 to show why they should not be punished for contempt.

A motion requesting contempt citations for the officers was filed Dec. 30 by attorney Kristopher Hammond, who represents the medicinal marijuana user, Hayden resident Don Nord.

If Garrecht punishes the officers, they could be fined, forced to pay attorney fees or sent to jail, Hammond said.

"My client just wants them to give him back his medicine," Hammond said. "We're not going to run away."

The citations mark the most recent step in a case that has highlighted conflicting state and federal rules about use of marijuana.

According to federal law, marijuana is illegal to use and grow. But under a Colorado law approved by voters in 2000, marijuana can be used and grown by people with certain medical conditions. Colorado is one of nine states with laws permitting marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Nord, 57, who has battled kidney cancer, diabetes and other illnesses, is registered with the state's Medical Marijuana Registry program.

In mid-October, the Grand, Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team searched Nord's home and seized marijuana and growing equipment. GRAMNET is a federal task force made up of local officers.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said his office would defend the actions of GRAMNET because the task force is part of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

"The DEA is our client in this situation, and the U.S. Attorney's Office will vigorously defend our client," Dorschner said.

In early December, Garrecht ordered that the drugs and equipment be returned by Dec. 29.

Some equipment, such as a 1,000 watt light bulb and grow light ballast, were returned before that deadline. But the 2 ounces of usable marijuana and the smoking pipes that were ordered to be returned were not.

DEA officials have said the federal government does not return materials that are considered contraband, including marijuana.

The officers who were cited are Dan Kelliher of the Routt County Sheriff's Office, Doug Cortinovis of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Dwight Murphy of the Steamboat Springs Police Department, Mike Lovin of the Grand County Sheriff's Office, Jenny Hoefner of the Craig Police Department, Todd Reese of the Moffat County Sheriff's Office, and Jody Lenahan, Ed Corriveau and Darren Faulk of the Hayden Police Department.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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