Judge Rejects D.A.’s Five Year Request and Sentences Kubrin to One Year

Is the Tide Turning on Sonoma County’s Secret War on Weed?

The overfilled Santa Rosa courtroom of Judge Rene Chouteau was standing room only, as nearly 100 supporters of Yarrow Kubrin turned out for the sentencing of a local real estate broker and father of two small children.

Dozens of supporters waited in the hallway to hear the final sentencing, which was one year in county prison, followed by four years “supervised release” (probation).

After the sentencing, Kubrin attorney Chris Andrian explained that this would likely mean about six months in local jail. “It was a fair and just decision,” Andrian said. “The judge took into consideration the good and the bad.”

Andrian had asked for probation only, with no jail time, so that Kubrin could remain with his wife, seven-year-old daughter, and emotionally challenged four-year-old son.

As described in detail here at the Sonoma Independent, the County’s $63 million per year Probation Dept. had requested a four and a half year prison sentence. And on behalf of ‘The People Vs. Yarrow Lee Kubrin,” Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch’s office ignored more than 1,000 signatures on a “Stop Incarcerating Parents for Victimless Marijuana Crimes” petition urging her to lessen its request for five and a half years of jail time.

Sonoma County’s District Attorney Jill Ravitch,  whose $225,000 annual salary and $109,000 in benefits makes her the seventh highest paid D.A. of 58 California counties, refused to answer written questions provided a week in advance from the Sonoma Independent about the purpose of spending millions of public dollars to jail otherwise law abiding citizens for victimless marijuana-related crimes.  But within hours of the sentencing, she was quoted in a Press Democrat article here calling the Kubrin prosecution a “public safety” case involving cash and guns. She said,  “This has nothing to do with whether it should be legalized…It has to do with efforts to keep our community safe now.”

Unfortunately for the taxpaying public, Press Democrat court reporter Paul Payne did not bother with what seems like two logical follow up questions for Sonoma County’s District Attorney:  What did Kubrin do that had any impact on public safety, and which specific members of the public were victimized, or harmed, by his actions?

The Sonoma Independent contacted  District Attorney Ravitch after the sentencing and asked these very questions, but again,  received no response. Instead, Ravitch provided a comment to San Francisco’s Bay City News here, which apparently was more willing to present her quote without any counter-arguments.  Ravitch stated, “When people take advantage of the medical marijuana laws in order to line their own pockets under a veil of legitimacy, they will be prosecuted. And when convicted felons arm themselves with assault rifles, broker hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana illegally, and launder their proceeds to hide them, they will be held accountable. Our community deserves to be protected from this highly profitable and potentially lethal combination.”

It seemed to many in the courtroom that Kubrin’s wife Heather, who said that she kept the never-fired guns as collectibles, showed more care for her family’s safety in keeping them locked in a safe in a locked basement room than many gun owners demonstrate.  And despite a reported 40 charges against him for technical violations of California’s arcane medical marijuana laws,  there were no charges that Yarrow Kubrin ever robbed or threatened anyone, or diverted water, farmed on public land, or sold to minors, or sold marijuana publicly. The accusation of money laundering seems particularly ironic, since it was Kubrin’s attempt to deposit the proceeds of his marijuana collective’s sales in the Exchange Bank that led to the police bust of his non-profit business.

So on one hand, marijuana growers are either not legally allowed to deposit money in banks, or, if they do, this will trigger their incarceration (as it did in Kurbin’s case). On the other hand, the District Attorney’s office argues this cash creates a dangerous situation that endangers public safety. And, unlike many other cash businesses run by law abiding citizens, because marijuana is involved, anyone engaged in the marijuana business is ineligible for the protection that the Constitutional right to gun ownership provides other Americans.

In the courtroom, such inconvenient facts were ignored as Deputy District Attorney Anne Masterson delivered an impassioned sentencing argument for five and a half years imprisonment. The Sonoma Independent would have liked to present a video of the statements made at today’s sentencing, but a formal application to bring a video camera to record the Superior Court proceedings and present them to the public was rejected, without any explanation,  by Judge Chouteau late last week.

So despite a state law permitting cameras into the courtroom, the Sonoma county citizens whose taxes pay Anne Masterson and Jill Ravitch’s ample salaries will be unable to witness how the public servants employed by our District Attorney’s office vilify a defendant when justifying their secret war on victimless marijuana crimes. Masterson portrayed Yarrow Kubrin as a child-endangering parent who left marijuana on the kitchen counter near food (without mentioning that his two year old was not in the house the early morning of the bust). Like Ravitch, she called him a repeat felon (not mentioning that his past arrests were for small sales of marijuana at the age of 19). She warned that Kubrin possessed deadly firearms  (not mentioning that they were owned by his wife, never fired, or brandished, and were well-secured in two locked safes).

Prosecutor Masterson then alleged, without any evidence or justification, that a small, never fired .22 caliber gun found locked in a secure gun safe in the basement was “apparently for use by their two year old daughter.”

‘This is not a man who is a legitimate businessman,” Masterson told the court. “This is not a marijuana case.  This is a cash and guns case… that calls out for a prison term. Kubrin has made a lifelong commitment to making money in the marijuana business, and he did it very well.”

After observing Matherson’s arguments, a local Kubrin supporter named Ruben observed to The Sonoma Independent, “She was out for him, she was out for blood.”

In a long, detailed, and personal speech, Kubrin attorney Chris Andrian rejected Matherson’s charge that Kubrin was dangerous. He noted that Kubrin has never been charged with a single act of violence, and that he did everything he could to make his business legal, registering his non-profit marijuana collective, getting permits for it and opening the bank accounts whose cash deposits triggered his arrests. Andrian called Kubrin a peaceful, family man who, like many other “good solid citizens” in the real estate and construction business, turned to marijuana growing to support their families in the aftermath of the 2008 recession. Andrian acknowledged the more than 1,000 petition signers who joined him in requesting no jail time, and to the widespread public attention being placed on the sentencing due to Kubrin’s network of community supporters, the Sonoma Independent coverage, and a version of  this coverage (by this author) in the Huffington Post.

“Marijuana,” Andrian told the court, “is now California’s largest crop, worth $14 billion a year. It has become an essential part of the Northern California economy, and we all benefit from it. The people of this state are likely to legalize it in 2016. Marijuana is part of our culture and it’s not going away. We have to learn how to do this differently. Rather that treat these as criminal cases, we should treat them as businesses and tax them.”

Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau, piercingly attentive during Masterson and Andrian’s long speeches, spoke softly, but firmly, for just a few minutes. “Probation is not appropriate in this case,” he said. He scolded Kubrin’s recidivism, noting “Your father has been writing letters for you since 1992.” Judge Chouteau expressed alarm about the half dozen guns found in the safe, saying, “You acquired a large number of guns designed to kill your fellow human beings. When you have these weapons, you are putting your family and neighbors at risk.”

Then, without ever mentioning the word marijuana, Judge Chouteau announced his sentence of one year, rejecting the D.A.’s request for a five and a half year prison term.

He next reviewed the probation report, announcing fees and mandatory drug testing that will include marijuana. He dismissed the Probation Department’s recommendation that Kubrin be sent back to prison to serve his full five year term if he ever tested positive for alcohol during his four year probation period, and also removed the written request by the Probation Department that he be sent back to prison for setting foot in a place that served alcohol.

The sentencing complete,  Yarrow Kubrin kissed his wife goodbye.  Three armed court officers placed him in handcuffs and led him out of the courtroom to the Sonoma County jail.

Afterward, the hallway filled up with supporters listening to Andrian explain the sentence. He then thanked those who turned out for Kubrin.  “You guys did more than I did,” he said.

The morning after the sentencing, I interviewed Heather Kubrin nearby the school where she was dropping off her second grade daughter (as disclosed in last week’s coverage, our children attend the same school).  She is planning to get a real estate license to help support her family, since Yarrow has now lost his.  She said that she told their children that daddy would be home by Hanukah or Christmas.  A six month term, she explained, will be challenging, but manageable.

Heather Kubrin appeared rested, resigned, and relieved that the judge did not comply with the District Attorney’s request for a five and a half year sentence, which would have meant nearly three years in jail.  “That would have been devastating,” she observed. “It would have caused a lifelong change for our children, especially our four year old son, who has special needs.  Our pediatrician wrote a letter describing why he really needs to be with his father at this time.”

Apparently, Judge Chouteau understood this, and heard the record number of letters and petition signers supporting leniency for  Kubrin.  I asked Heather why, then, did the District Attorney insist upon such a long sentence.   “They don’t care what your family situation is,” she said. “I know that there are many, many children of other people incarcerated for long periods for victimless crimes, but the prosecutors just don’t care.”

The founder and Editor of the Sonoma County Independent, Greenberg is an investigative financial journalist with 35 years of experience with national publications. Greenberg writes a political blog that appears in the Huffington Post In 2015, he won two first prizes from the Greater Bay Journalism Awards for his coverage of the closing of Palm Drive Hospital. In 2014, he won first prize for analysis from Award competition for his coverage of the Monday closings of Sonoma County's libraries. He has been an investigative financial and political journalist for such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, Forbes, New York, Money, The Bohemian, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Playboy, Self, Inc., GQ, The New Republic, and Alternet. He is also the author of several well-reviewed books. As a new media innovator who has developed a half dozen interactive web platforms and dozens of content-focused web sites, Greenberg is committed to enhancing responsive government and expanding media democracy. Greenberg is founder of Progressive Source Communications, a Sebastopol-based public interest communications company. In the past, he founded and managed two other online companies, TV1.com, and Gist.com. Greenberg’s political work included serving as Policy Director for the New York City Council’s Select Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment in the years following 9-11. His work resulted in more than $250 million of federal funds being re-directed to needy businesses and constituents in the impacted area. Greenberg has been Vice President of Fenton Communication’s New York office. His work on behalf of non-profit organizations has included communications consulting for Save Darfur, Stonyfield Farm, the ACLU, and the Lakota People’s Law Project. Greenberg holds a B.A. in writing from the State University of New York at Binghamton, and a Masters Degree in Law from Yale Law School, where he graduated with honors in First Amendment Law.
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  • KD Lewis
    5 May 2015 at 11:06 pm

    I am grateful the sentence was reduced to 1 year, and that he could be out in six months. I am glad his kids will have their dad back after a not too terribly long time. This case is further proof that marijuana should be legalized. Hearing the result of Yarrow’s sentencing is a relief compared to what I know the prosecution wanted. Serving 6 months away from one’s growing 4 year old child is still a long time. In my opinion zero months would have been better. 6 months for a 35 year old is nothing, a mere 1/70th of your life. Six months for a 4 year old is an eternity. At this point in a toddler’s life growth happens on a day to day basis. Taking dad away for 6 months is permanently scarring at least.

    It is a sign of the times that Yarrow’s judge was able to be lenient. The perspective toward marijuana “offenders” is lightening. But what about all the people who are still serving time behind bars for similar offences that happened a decade ago? If we are handing out reduced jail time for crimes committed today, than we should be actively revisiting cases, and reducing the jail time for all the crimes of the same nature, no matter when they were committed. By reducing the punishment for a non-violent marijuana offense today we are not saying that the times have changed, I think we are saying that the people who initially made marijuana illegal and put these harsh punishments in place were wrong, and the change in that perspective should manifest results across the board, not just in new cases.

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  • Rhea Graham
    5 May 2015 at 11:51 pm

    Repeal Cannabis Prohibition! Legal-izing does just that … adds a bunch of laws to it. It’s a plant, for pity sakes! How many hops plants can you grow? How much beer can you brew at home? That is the only plant that is a first cousin to the Cannabis plant! DISCRIMINATE MUCH? Blessings, let’s put an end to this insanity.

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  • DJ Has-been
    10 May 2015 at 9:04 pm

    “What did Kubrin do that had any impact on public safety, and which specific members of the public were victimized, or harmed, by his actions?””

    It’s about Guns & Money. It was the Ar-15. PLAIN AND SIMPLE. California has hated that rifle for decades. That evil black rifle has been the enemy (and embarrassment) of many politicians here in California for decades.

    I was also busted. But none of my firearms were banned Assault Weapons.
    Not by Make, Model, or by configuration. This made ALL the difference in the WORLD!!

    As far as intent to distribute; I had 1500 dollars in cash which was given to me by the members of my collective to purchase organic coco. And I had Ziploc bags in the cupboards in my kitchen. And in my ottoman coffee table I had a small gram scale for some naturally tumbled pollen.

    So this was a “DRUGS, MONEY & GUNS” bust for Local Law Enforcement.
    4 years later it was resolved in a plea deal. Even though my firearms were all in compliance, they didn’t look good in a picture all piled up with “drugs” and a scale.

    I plead guilty to 11357(a) Possession of concentrated cannabis.
    …a drug crime, and became a convicted felon. :-((

    They wanted 7 years! Then 3. ALL BECAUSE OF THE GUNS!!

    In the end, I got no jail time, and 3 years felony probation.
    And I’m lucky…F-N lucky I did not have a banned Assault Weapon.

    So my point here is.

    IT’S ABOUT THE GUNS! I am now a felon, and that’s exactly what California wants. Our politicians are losing every gun battle on the hill, so simply turn us all in to felons. Problem solved.

    Our Gun laws need reforming too.
    This is NOT just about POT.
    This is about our freedom.

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    • Chris
      21 May 2015 at 2:10 pm

      Minutes (below) of the April 28 BOS meeting reveals quiet approval of acceptance of $120,000 fed $$ for local marijuana eradication. Ravitch & Freitas secret war on medical marijuana continues unabated.

      13. Authorize the Sheriff to execute the 2015 Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program Letter of Agreement with the Drug Enforcement Administration, to receive a minimum of $120,000 for marijuana suppression and eradication activities, and to execute any amendments that do not substantially alter the scope of the agreement.
      Board Action: Approved as Recommended
      AYES: Susan Gorin, David Rabbitt, Shirlee Zane, James Gore
      ABSENT: Efren Carrillo

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  • Francyne Ferraro
    17 May 2015 at 3:08 pm

    mr . greenberg,, heather kubrin is my daughter.. we are estranged i live in florida.. why??? when yarrow began to be greedy in the pot world.. his accounts were frozen.. who came to their aid?? jail, last mo rent?? lawyer chris andrian.. oh mom we will pay you back ..i am new at retired i need my money…yarrow is a violent man who has said and done terrible things.. you never saw. my daughter is stoned all the time.. putting the kids in danger…i was very angry at being stoned for yarrow and heather.. they dismissed me and now i am without my lilly who loves me…. you will never know the truth.. bull on these 1,000or letters.. i am family and she is brainwashed loving the money that freely came in by box from new york all over.. my daughter owned a gun ever.. they lied both of them..i tell the truth.. so before you defend any one get the other side, mine.. he owes me 23,000 you get retired mr greenberg.. and have some one a drug scum like kubrin.. take your hard earned money.. see how you feel/// i am on facebook you can ask me anything.. because i do not hide, move every 6 mo like they did….. living a criminal life style….please feel free to know the truth…

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