John Balazs is an attorney in Sacramento, California, specializing in criminal defense, including appeals, habeas corpus, pardons, expungements, and civil forfeiture actions. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. John was an Assistant Federal Defender in Fresno and Sacramento from 1992-2001. He currently serves as an adjunct professor in clinical trial advocacy at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. Please email EDCA items of interest to Balazslaw@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @balazslaw.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated. Do your own research or consult with an attorney.
Yesterday, according to this EDCA US Attorney press release, Judge Mendez sentenced Yan Ebyam to 6 years in prison for two separate conspiracies to grow and distribute marijuana in United States v. Ebyam, No. 2:11-CR-0275-JAM & 2:11-CR-0276-JAM.
In the rural Sutter County town of Rio Oso, Thomas and David Jopson were fourth-generation farmers and sons of the local fire chief. They were also legends in the heirloom tomato business, nationally renowned for their greenhouse-grown produce.
On Tuesday, Thomas Jopson, 64, pleaded guilty in federal court to a reduced felony charge stemming from leasing out the family greenhouses for growing marijuana. His brother David Jopson, 63, is expected to plead guilty on Feb. 18, according to statements by attorneys in court.
A Los Angeles lawyer was indicted on federal charges Wednesday for allegedly orchestrating a marijuana business that persuaded two Sutter County farmers to convert their greenhouses for heirloom tomatoes into massive grow rooms for pot.
Attorney Nathan Hoffman, 52, who has law offices on Los Angeles' Wilshire Boulevard, was indicted with four other men on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana.
Authorities said Hoffman formed entities "Black Horizon" and "Blue Horizon," which set up major marijuana cultivation operations in Sutter and Sacramento counties.
Hoffman's indictment follows charges last year against brothers Thomas Jopson, 63, and David Jopson, 61, and an Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur Yan Ebyam, 35.
Two decades ago, on a rice farm seemingly lost beyond the cattails and wild blackberries of rural Sutter County, Thomas and David Jopson took an audacious risk.
The fourth-generation farmers, sons of the local fire chief, erected a row of greenhouses. With innovation and hard work, they earned a national reputation for producing premium tomatoes that retailed for more than $4 a pound.
Now the brothers may face 10 years in federal prison after they undertook an even more ambitious project – growing pot.
Thomas Jopson, 62, and David, 60, were indicted this week along with 10 other people after authorities seized 2,168 marijuana plants at the family ranch June 21. Another 3,305 plants were found at a Sacramento County greenhouse allegedly tied to the brothers' purported partner – Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur Yan Ebyam.
Although I'd assume the U.S. Attorney's Office knows the penalty for marijuana cultivation, this Appeal Democrat, 6/30/11 piece incorrectly refers to the Jopsons as facing a mandatory minimum federal sentence for growing 1,000 or more marijuana plants as 5 years, rather than 10 years, imprisonment:
Rio Oso tomato farming brothers Thomas Wesley Jopson and David Eldon Jopson were indicted today in federal court on charges of growing at least 1,000 marijuana plants at their farm on Pleasant Grove Road, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Indicted along with the Jopsons were 10 other defendants, including Yan Ebyam, reportedly a marijuana entrepreneur who recently attempted to organize industrial marijuana grows in the Oakland area.
Law enforcement officers raided the Jopson farm June 21 as well as a greenhouse in Sacramento where more plants were found.
The Jopsons face a minimum five years in prison if convicted, U.S. Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner said.
While another attempt to legalize marijuana looks like it will be headed to California voters in November 2012, see Contra Costa Times, 6/24/11,
A man who tried to make Oakland into a center for growing medical marijuana was arrested earlier this week on suspicion of running illegal pot farms in Sacramento and Sutter County with thousands of plants, federal authorities said.
Yan Ebyam, 33, was arrested Tuesday in Sacramento and has since been released on a $150,000 property bond, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Sacramento. Eleven other people allegedly involved in various aspects of growing and processing the marijuana also were arrested.
Ebyam is a controversial figure in Oakland, where he converted large warehouses into medical pot production centers and even hired unionized workers. His above-board business there, however, reportedly fell apart last year after thefts, financial problems and pressure from federal authorities on the city to stop allowing such facilities.
The criminal complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court in Sacramento describes massive marijuana-growing efforts at a former tomato farm in Rio Oso in Sutter County and at a former wholesale commercial florist in Sacramento.