Charges Dropped; Sleazy Deputy Stole Medical Marijuana Card


Photo: Calaveras County Sheriff
Deputy Steve Avila admitted he stole a medical marijuana patient’s I.D., falsified the birthdate, then bought pot with it — and arrested the man who sold it to him!

​Prosecutors have dropped drug dealing, cultivation and possession charges against a medical marijuana dispensary owner in which a Calaveras County sheriff’s deputy used a legitimate — but stolen — medical marijuana card to induce the man to sell him cannabis.

Jay R. Smith, 37, pleaded no contest Friday to a single charge of aiding and abetting another person to commit a felony, according to court records, reports Dana M. Nichols at the Stockton Record.
Smith was sentenced to pay a $160 fine and serve 90 days in jail, but will not be subject to probation. The plea deal means he will be able to continue work as a medical marijuana patient advocate, Smith said.
His arrest on January 4, 2010, prompted protests by medical marijuana patients and providers. At the time, Smith was operating K Care Collective, a medicinal cannabis dispensary.
Calaveras County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Avila, also known as “that sleazy piece of shit,” posed as a legitimate medical marijuana patient named Robert Shaffer of Ione, California, and contacted Smith seeking to buy cannabis.
Deputy Avila had “gained possession” (I guess that’s what they call stealing when a deputy does it?) of Shaffer’s medical marijuana card in late 2009 during an earlier drug case against Shaffer. Deputy Avila then proceeded to falsify the birthdate on the card to persuade Smith to sell him marijuana.

Avila claimed he obtained the medical marijuana card “from an investigation we conducted,” but also claimed he “did not recall” which officer obtained it, or how it was obtained.

Photo: CCRMG
Dr. Phillip Denney: “It just smacks of entrapment and sleaziness to me”

​Smith said that when he called Shaffer’s physician, Dr. Philip A. Denney of Carmichael, the card proved to be legitimate. So he agreed to sell marijuana to Avila, not knowing the officer had stolen Shaffer’s identity.
Both Dr. Denney and Shaffer both later objected, saying they had not consented to Deputy Avila’s use of Shaffer’s medical marijuana card, and that they did not know of Avila’s plans to do so.
“It just smacks of entrapment and sleaziness to me,” Dr. Denney said after learning the recommendation he had written for Smith had been stolen by Deputy Avila.
Smith delivered the marijuana to the man he thought was Shaffer in the Valley Oaks Center parking lot in Valley Springs.
Then-Sheriff Dennis Downum claimed that meeting someone in a parking lot is not within the legal guidelines for selling medical marijuana. Prosecutors agreed and pressed the case.
Smith said he pleaded no contest to save money. He said he had already spent $45,000 on attorneys, and going to trial would have cost him another $12,000, far more than the $160 fine in the plea bargain.
Court documents do not indicate who the other person was who committed a felony allegedly aided by Smith.
“The charge is a trade-off,” Smith said. “There was nothing discussed in there about who that person was. And Shaffer had nothing to do with my case.”
According to some activists in Calaveras County, the Sheriff’s Department has targeted everyone who sells medical marijuana to patients.