Lawsuit against Nevada County Sheriff’s Office filed by cultivator postponed
The attorney for a Nevada County cannabis cultivator who claims he was victimized twice — once by a home invasion robbery and then by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office — has amended his lawsuit to include more constitutional violations by law enforcement.
Brian Chaplin’s complaint was originally filed by attorney Joe Elford in December and was set for a status conference Monday. That hearing in Nevada County Superior Court was continued until next month, however. According to court records, at least one defendant had not yet been served with the amended complaint, which was filed March 15.
The basis for the civil suit stems from what transpired after the home invasion on Nov. 11, 2017. Chaplin, who has been growing medicinal cannabis in Nevada County since 2013, was not home at the time of the robbery at a Brooks Road property. Several collective workers were ambushed by five men in tactical gear who held them at gunpoint and bound them with zip ties before stealing about 40 totes of marijuana cola on the stem and a GreenBroz trim machine.
The workers freed themselves and called Chaplin, who in turn called 911. According to the complaint, Chaplin was met at the gate by Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Mackey, who was notified this was a medical grow. Deputies on scene then called out Sgt. Justin Martin, then-head of the Narcotics Task Force, and a search warrant for commercial marijuana cultivation was served, the complaint states. Sheriff’s deputies subsequently seized and destroyed the remainder of Chaplin’s cannabis crop, reportedly 170 plants and nearly 350 pounds of cola on the stem.
Chaplin subsequently filed a claim against the county, which was denied in June 2018.
Elford’s amended complaint clarifies some of the sequence of events and the alleged acts by law enforcement that violated Chaplin’s rights. Elford has said he intends to prove the search warrant was not valid, and the marijuana was legally possessed under California law and therefore Chaplin is entitled to compensation for its destruction.
The complaint alleges that Chaplin was deprived of his California constitutional right to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure; was deprived of his property through its destruction without an opportunity to be heard before a neutral magistrate; and was deprived of his right to just compensation for property that was seized without a legitimate public health or safety interest. It also alleges that Chaplin’s rights were interfered with by threats, intimidation and coercion, a violation of California civil code. And the complaint further alleges violations of the U.S. Constitution: the right against unreasonable search and seizure and the destruction of property without due process of law.
The lawsuit is requesting monetary damages, as well as a declaration that the defendants’ action were unlawful and unconstitutional. The trial, which could last five or six days, has not yet been scheduled but could be pushed out to next year.
Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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