Stanton D. Levenson, P.A., Law Offices - Call 24 Hours a Day at 412-889-7270

Blog

Archive for May, 2010

Drug Crimes Defense Case Recap: Tommy Chong, Bong Manufacturers and “Operation Sweet Dreams”

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Sometimes the feds take on prosecutions which, but for their seriousness, make you scratch your head in wonder. One such prosecution was in 2003– the infamous “Operation Sweet Dreams,” which targeted bong makers and sellers.

Among those charged was counter-culture icon Tommy Chong. I represented Tommy, the only first-time offender of the group to receive jail time: nine months.

Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft, and former Pittsburgh U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan took the ludicrous position that closing down bong makers and sellers would somehow reduce drug usage.  Approximately 50 individuals from all over the country were prosecuted here in Pittsburgh. This is not a distinction we should be proud of.

Tommy’s son Paris, a glass blower, was creating and selling bongs over the internet, and Tommy and his wife had financed their son’s venture. The only way to assure that Tommy’s wife and son would not be prosecuted was for Tommy and Paris’ corporation to agree to plead guilty.

The feds received much well-deserved criticism for spending in excess of $12 million of our money to make the world safe from these 50 bongsters. However, the feds felt that by bagging America’s poster boy for marijuana, the public would somehow see what a significant prosecution this was.

Independent film maker Josh Gilbert made a wonderful, hilarious, and highly-acclaimed documentary of this wasteful and meaningless federal exercise. It is titled A.K.A. Tommy Chong and plays occasionally on Showtime.

I had the pleasure of making my film debut in this movie. Unfortunately, additional offers have not rolled in.

As an interesting sidenote, when the feds raided Tommy’s home in Los Angeles, they seized five pounds of marijuana which was Tommy’s personal stash.  No law enforcement agency in L.A. was interested in prosecuting Tommy for possession of the five pounds, because the quantity was considered too insignificant!

Is there a lesson to be learned here?

–Stanton D. Levenson

Current Sex Offense Case and the Registration Requirements of Megan’s Law

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

Sex offense cases pose a particularly difficult challenge when they implicate the onerous, unfair, ineffective, and totally counter-productive Megan’s law registration requirements.

In Pennsylvania, certain sex offenses carry a ten year registration requirement, while other sex offenses mandate a lifetime registration. Failure to register is a separate crime punishable by a separate term of imprisonment.

Yesterday I represented a young man at his Preliminary Hearing for four sex abuse related offenses. Two of the offenses carried a ten year registration requirement.

Prior to the hearing, the Assistant District Attorney offered the following plea bargain: in exchange for waiving the hearing, the D.A. would withdraw two of the charges and recommend a sentence of probation.

One of the two charges that the Defendant would have been required to plead guilty to carried a ten year registration requirement. The Defendant rejected the offer.

We then had the hearing. Based upon my cross-examination of the alleged victim, I was able to persuade the District Magistrate to dismiss the two counts carrying the registration requirements.

We will have a trial in criminal court on the remaining two counts. The Magistrate’s decision deprives the D.A. of a valuable and unfair negotiating tool– the ten year registration requirement. In addition, by having the invaluable opportunity of cross-examining the alleged victim at this early stage of the proceedings, I was able to develop information which should pave the way to a successful result at trial.

–Stanton D. Levenson