Sauer family faces feds in pot arrests |

Sauer family faces feds in pot arrests

Federal officials are pressing marijuana cultivation charges against three San Juan Ridge residents arrested in October 2005.

Donald J. Sauer, 50; his nephew Joseph D. Sauer, 26; and a man to whom the elder Sauer sold a property, Jamison J. Starr, 27, all have been indicted in United States District Court in Sacramento.

The Sauers both face charges of having marijuana with the intent to distribute it. Jamison faces that same charge, plus manufacturing marijuana by growing at least 50 plants, according to the three indictments dated Oct. 27, 2005, that were handed down by a federal grand jury.

The elder Sauer, however, said the whole mess was brought on as part of a family feud about property.

Donald Sauer also disputed statements by Sheriff Keith Royal, made at the time of the Oct. 12, 2005, raid, that investigators had found 60 to 70 mature marijuana plants and 30 to 40 pounds of processed and packaged buds.

“They found four plants on my property,” Sauer said. He provided to The Union an investigation report that confirmed the presence of a garden containing four plants about 50 feet from his residence on the 15400 block of Fawnbrook Road. The report was signed by a United States Drug Enforcement Agency agent and dated Nov. 8, 2005.

The report also says agents found “five blue plastic storage containers” containing marijuana and 10 firearms. Sauer said he uses the weapons for hunting.

The remaining marijuana came from other properties raided at the same time. Of the eight properties investigated, six belonged or formerly belonged to Sauer; the other two belong to Sauer family members, according to Sauer and court documents.

Sauer said his properties are rented out, and denied he had anything to do with the marijuana grown there. He said allegations linking him to the marijuana on those properties were “slander” and “garbage.”

“I cannot tell my renter what they can and cannot have for their (medical marijuana) prescription,” Sauer said. “I am not responsible for no one else’s actions.”

Sauer was growing his own marijuana on a doctor’s recommendation for his own medical condition, he said. He was poisoned several years ago when cement got trapped in a boot, he told The Union.

Sauer accused a feuding relative of working with a Yuba County Sheriff’s Department reserve deputy to harm Sauer by arranging the raid.

“This was a big set-up … so I couldn’t fight him on my parents’ property,” Sauer alleged.

According to the DEA affidavit, the investigation began in August 2005 with a tip from a confidential source who “is involved in a personal dispute with Sauer and has a (monetary) interest in that dispute.”

At the time of the raid, Sauer’s wife, Claudia, 55, their daughter, Katie C. Sauer, 25, and Aaron Beyer, 30, also were arrested and booked into the Sacramento County jail. All three were released and none has been charged, according to Mary Wenger, spokeswoman for the Office of the U.S. Attorney in Sacramento.

Donald Sauer pleaded innocent to the charges shortly after the raid. According to federal court documents, Sauer reached “an agreement in principal for a change of plea” at a hearing Jan. 4 before Senior Judge Lawrence K. Karlton, Pontello said.

He is expected to enter a plea agreement at a hearing set for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 22 in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, in Sacramento, said Patti Pontello, another U.S. Attorney spokeswoman.

Sauer said he expects the charges to be dropped “in exchange for not growing pot for a year.”

Joseph Sauer and Starr have hearings set at the same time. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Segal, who is prosecuting the cases, would not comment on them, nor confirm any plea deal with Donald Sauer.

“I think Mr. Sauer is pretty lucky that the DEA decided that the raid didn’t yield enough to take it to another dimension, which is the financial element,” said county sheriff’s Lt. Ron Smith, who participated in the Oct. 12 operation.

California legalized the growing of marijuana for personal use when a doctor has written a recommendation to use it for a medical condition. Marijuana has been found helpful in relieving discomfort associated with chemotherapy and the pain of some chronic conditions.

However, federal law prohibits marijuana possession or its use for any purpose.


To contact staff writer Trina Kleist, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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