Macosko pleads no contest in pot case
November 13, 2002
In the end, the stakes were too high for Matt Macosko, who pleaded no contest to a possession of marijuana for sale charge in a Tuesday plea agreement.
Macosko faces up to a year in El Dorado County Jail for the possession charge. The agreement will dismiss marijuana related charges in two other cases during sentencing Dec. 13 at 8:30 a.m.
Macosko was arrested on Oct. 16 when South Lake Tahoe police officers found roughly 11 ounces of marijuana in two bags inside his converted school bus. Officers had a misdemeanor warrant stemming from Macosko’s supplying a false address to officers.
Another case, involving transporting a quarter pound of marijuana by U.S. mail, is expected to be dropped at sentencing.
A partner of J. David Nick, Macosko’s attorney who was busy with a case in Santa Clara County, said the idea for a plea agreement happened recently and seemed the best option.
“It’s a risk analysis,” Ean Vizzi said outside the courtroom. “If we went to a three week trial, there’s a small chance of conviction.”
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In 1997, Macosko served seven months in El Dorado County Jail for possession of marijuana for sale. Three years later, police pulled Macosko over for a traffic violation. A small amount of marijuana was found and later returned because of Macosko’s medical recommendation to use pot.
The 30-year-old dreadlocked Macosko faced a maximum of seven years in state prison if found guilty during a furnishing marijuana to minors trial that was scheduled to begin today.
Because of the agreement, the trial, expected to run three to four weeks, will not happen.
Macosko sat next to Vizzi inside El Dorado County Superior Court. His head was down when Judge Jerald Lasarow read his rights after the plea. Macosko, who remains in jail on $85,000 bail, responded with sullen sounding answers to Lasarow’s questions.
Vizzi said his client grudgingly accepted the offer.
“He wanted to be vindicated by a jury. He really did,” Vizzi said.
Macosko has a doctor’s recommendation to use medical marijuana for a severe anxiety disorder. Three such recommendations were found in his bus during his arrest last month as well as smoking pipes, plastic baggies and a scale.
The recommendations and arguments that he is a medical marijuana caregiver were going to be Macosko’s defense.
Deputy District Attorney Mike Atwell said the agreement saved money and time.
“Because Matt Macosko has not changed his behavior in the last two years and has continued to do the same thing, we have finally gotten the case that without question would have been susceptible to a successful medical marijuana defense,” Atwell said.
A waiver was instituted which allows Judge Suzanne Kingsbury, who will preside at Macosko’s sentencing, to take into consideration one count of furnishing marijuana to minors.
Trial was scheduled to begin today in which Macosko faced multiple counts of furnishing marijuana to minors.
In October 2001, Macosko was arrested by SLEDNET, a South Shore drug enforcement team, for allegedly giving marijuana to a 12- and 14-year-old earlier that year.
During the arrest, authorities found a scale, $1,800 and almost a quarter pound of marijuana in his car.
Both sides on Tuesday seemed ready for a plea agreement and it took about an hour to officially hammer it out. Atwell and Vizzi went into chambers after a continued preliminary hearing, which began Nov. 1, was finished. During the preliminary hearing neither side called any witnesses and Vizzi asked Lasarow to dismiss previous testimony from Chris Conrad, a marijuana scholar and the defense’s only witness.
Afterward, Macosko’s supporters stood outside the courtroom speaking to Vizzi. Shelly Arnold, aka the Green Goddess, said in the long run, the community will recognize Macosko as a legitimate caregiver.
“In my heart of hearts I know Matt Macosko was a caregiver and getting a jury in this town was not going to work,” she said.
William Ferchland may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org