Wednesday, July 11, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — An Oakland medical-marijuana dispensary that has been billed as the largest pot shop on the planet has been targeted for closure by federal prosecutors in Northern California, suggesting that a crackdown on the state’s medical-marijuana industry remains well under way.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag has threatened to seize the Oakland property where Harborside Health Center has operated since 2006, as well as its sister shop in San Jose, executive director and co-founder Steve DeAngelo said Wednesday.

His employees found court papers announcing asset-forfeiture proceedings against Harborside’s landlords taped to the doors at the two locations on Tuesday.

Although medical marijuana is legal in California, a federal court complaint that Ms. Haag’s office filed Sunday says the dispensaries are violating federal law by selling marijuana.

It cites a federal law that “makes it unlawful to rent, lease, profit from or make available for use, with or without compensation, a place for the purpose of unlawfully manufacturing, storing, distributing or using a controlled substance, to wit, marijuana,” as justification for going after the landlords.


Arcing power lines caused Utah wildfire, investigator says

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah wildfire that left one man dead, scorched 75 square miles and destroyed 160 structures, including 52 homes, was caused by arcing between power transmission lines that were built too closely together and sent a surge to the ground that ignited dry grass, a fire investigator said Wednesday.

The central Utah Wood Hollow Fire began June 23 and wasn’t fully contained for 10 days, costing nearly $4 million to fight, according to state officials. The blaze began when winds caused two sets of high-voltage power lines to either touch or swing close enough to each other to create a surge than swept down the poles into dry brush, Deputy Utah Fire Marshal Troy Mills said.

Rocky Mountain Power, which owns the lines, said a thief stripped protective cooper wire from its poles that may have prevented the surge.


City of San Bernardino opts for bankruptcy filing

SAN BERNARDINO — As recently as last month, no city in California had opted for bankruptcy since 2008, and no U.S. city of more than 200,000 people had ever chosen that route.

The past two weeks have changed that, as the fiscal struggles faced by many American cities became too much for some to bear. San Bernardino became the third California city in that small span to choose Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection with a City Council vote on Tuesday night.

The Southern California city of about 210,000 people will also become the second largest in the nation ever to file for bankruptcy. Stockton, the Northern California city of nearly 300,000, became the biggest when it filed for Chapter 9 on June 28. The much smaller city of Mammoth Lakes voted for bankruptcy July 3.

San Bernardino’s City Council directed the city attorney to make the move during a meeting in which administrators explained the dire fiscal circumstances and urged them to choose the bankruptcy option.

“We have an immediate cash flow issue,” Interim City Manager Andrea Miller told Mayor Patrick Morris and the seven-member City Council, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Miss Miller said the city is facing a budget shortfall of $45.8 million. It already has stopped paying some vendors, and it may not be able to make payroll over the next three months.


Lawyer says man denies enslaving, torturing wife

MORGANTOWN — A West Virginia man tortured and enslaved his wife for much of the past decade, forcing her to endure two pregnancies and deliveries in shackles, authorities say.

The criminal complaint against Peter Lizon, 37, says one of those babies was stillborn and buried on the family farm in Leroy. The other survived but apparently has never had any medical care.

Mr. Lizon was in jail Wednesday on $300,000 bond. He was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on a malicious wounding charge Friday morning in Jackson County Magistrate Court.

Chief Deputy Tony Boggs said Stephanie Lizon, 43, endured more suffering than virtually any domestic violence victim he has seen.

“This appears to go beyond abuse to what I would consider torture,” he said. “Her injuries are much more than just getting pushed up against the wall. She’s been abused almost to the point of slavery and torture.”

The complaint says the wife was burned on her back and breasts with irons and frying pans, and had her foot smashed with a piece of farm equipment, among other things.

Shawn Bayliss, Mr. Lizon’s attorney, said the allegations made by an acquaintance of Stephanie Lizon are “the fabrication of a fertile imagination or a feeble mind, one of the two.”


Yale starts country’s first Ph.D. program for law grads

NEW HAVEN — Yale Law School is starting a doctorate program in law, calling it the first such degree program in the country.

The program is designed to prepare students who have earned a degree from an American law school to become law professors.

The first class of students will begin next year with applications accepted this fall. Students will be entitled to a waiver of tuition and receive a stipend to cover living expenses.

Yale says the level of scholarship expected of entry-level law professors has risen dramatically, so law professors increasingly pursue doctorates in related disciplines such as economics, history, philosophy or political science. Yale says the natural next step is to create a doctorate in law program that can focus on the questions and practices of the law itself.

The program will give students a broad foundation in legal scholarship and provide them the support and specialized training they need to produce their own scholarship, Yale officials said.

Entry-level law professors are expected to have a substantial portfolio of legal writings.


Oglala Sioux asks feds to re-examine reservation deaths

SIOUX FALLS — Oglala Sioux tribal officials want federal authorities to reopen investigations into 16 more unresolved deaths and disappearances at a South Dakota reservation, including one dating back nearly 50 years, an attorney for the tribe said.

Tribal officials gave the list of names to U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson during a meeting in Rapid City on Wednesday. The list adds to the 28 deaths on or around the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation that Mr. Johnson agreed to re-examine nearly a month ago. As with the first list, the majority of cases to be presented are from the 1970s, when the murder rate on the reservation was the highest in the nation and tension between the American Indian Movement and federal authorities was high.

But the new list broadens the scope of the requested investigations by several decades by including the 1964 death of Delbert T. Yellow Wolf, the oldest case presented for re-examination so far, and the 2010 death of Samantha One Horn. One person on the list is missing but has not been declared dead.

Mr. Johnson said last month that he does not want to get anyone’s hopes up that unresolved cases might be solved or prosecuted, but that he hopes that with the new attention on the cases, more people may come forward with new evidence or leads.

From wire dispatches and staff reports