Power Records Contradict Claims from Prosecutor Behind Pot Warrant


I have an idea. Government has no money, and the people want no new taxes. Let's just quit enforcing drug laws.
Apartment buildings typically have a wall of individual power meters near the service entrance, one for each residence, and a couple for apartment-wide power use. The assertion that the individual bill is unavailable is ridiculous. The only way this could be true would be if electricity was included in Mr. Laudanski's rent by the landlord. Not likely.
@1: Let's make our police abide by existing laws. As far as we can tell, SPD had no reason to suspect that this case involved anything more than that which is by law their lowest priority. If they had treated it as such -- as the law requires them to -- they would not have had sufficient resources to send over a half-dozen officers to bust in Will's door SWAT-style and hold him on the floor at gunpoint while they searched his home. Either that or they're overstaffed. If the latter, then we have a prime candidate for budget cuts.

Phil, CDC member
@1 ftw. Fight the Power!
Seriously, Dominic? This is like 3 levels of hearsay and based on that, you're prepared to say that 1 person isn't telling the truth?

Goodhew could be wrong (either he misheard, is confusing 2 cases, or is making it up). O'Neill-Stephens could be wrong (either she misheard, is confusing 2 cases, was told by SPD that they had checked, or is making it up). Or SPD could be wrong (could have gotten bad information from City Light or is making it up). It now seems like someone got a fact wrong, but you definitely don't have enough information to determine who it is. Also, I don't think that the information about the power was in the affidavit for the search warrant, so at least it wasn't something that was sworn to under penalty of perjury.
Or you could be running a server farm in your apt, in addition to old non-energy saving appliances.

I was paying 90$ a month in power for a studio apt behind dicks drive in. 3 PCs, most of them running Folding @ Home 24/7 with 20 year old fridge. I managed to get the power down to about 70$ a month by only having one PC on 24/7 and putting everything else on power switches (cutting off electical vampires, ie; home theater system).
What is the total electrical consumption of the fourplex? Bet it's still lower than what a "large" grow would be.
Gidge @5) It's not clear where the inconsistencies are coming from--City Light, SPD, or the KCPAO. It may have been any of them. But the reason O'Neill Stephens is mentioned is because she was the person who, according to Goodhew, the information came from.
good work
Anyone know if the Times corrected their "and the cops fixed the door, like the blessed public servants they are," lie?
@6 or you could just have a lot of the old incandescent bulbs and really miss the sun ...

Some people have large numbers of servers in their places - I think at one point I had ten functional computers, of which 6 were running ... (does the math) ... with monitors on that's like 3000 watts plus if you had a few full spectrum lights you could easily pull 5000 watts without breaking a sweat.

Nah, I didnt have much lighting in the studio apt, lots of visible daylight in this sub basement studio. All electric lighting was eventually switched to more modern energy saving bulbs. No CRT displays, all LCD.

But agreed, one could be running a small to medium server farm (not unusual in Seattle area) and REQUIRE fan cooling for it and from the outside of the apartment, and from the billing point of view, might actually look like a grow operation.

Would not suprise me if the police attempt to bust grow operations that turned out to be amateur server farms.
Once again, Will is babbling. There isn't a single fucking thing in his last post that's accurate.
Dominic bolds "wide discretion". The residents of Seattle petitioned, balloted and approved a measure that said pot was the lowest priority. That certainly cuts into that discretion. Maybe we need to go back to the polls again and state that all non-violent vice offenses without a specifically harmed individual will not be investigated. It's not just pot, it's SPD wasting tens of thousands of dollars in strip clubs and simple possession charges. Widen the non-priority net to all consensual adult vice and remove that discretion completely.
It's possible someone could simply be wrong rather than "not telling the truth," as Dominic so boldly asserts.

After all, he's wrong all the time.
Both Holden and the cops are so fanatical and disingenuous about this stuff that I don't even care what he said and she said, and don't want to find out. Whatever the truth is, both sides will spin it into such a flaming pile of bullshit that won't matter any more.

Thank God that poor man got his new door from Lowe's.
@16: Fox, since you don't care what Dominic Holden or the Seattle Police say about this, please listen to what a concerned third-party has to say:

All of this happened based on a complaint from a neighbor, a fan in the window, and one cop's word that he smelled cannabis near the window. Given what the police knew prior to the raid, it seemed likely that an adult in that apartment possessed cannabis intended for personal use. Everything else that was going on at the time was of higher priority to the police, yet they put over a half-dozen officers in SWAT gear and busted into someone's home with a battering ram, then held him on the floor at gunpoint while they searched his home.

Either the police lied about fixing the door or the Seattle Times misquoted them and are unwilling to issue a retraction. The prosecutor who approved the warrant apparently lied about access to electrical records.

I hope you're concerned about this information, regardless of the route it took to reach you.

Phil, CDC member
@10, OuterCow wrote, "Anyone know if the Times corrected their `and the cops fixed the door, like the blessed public servants they are,' lie?"

The Seattle Times have not corrected the mistake in their article. Monday morning, we left a voicemail for co-author Emily Heffter, and another for her editor Beth Kaiman, requesting a printed correction of their errors. They changed "When they realized the tenant had a legitimate medical-marijuana card, they left without arresting the man and fixed his front door." to "When they realized the tenant had a legitimate medical-marijuana card, they left without arresting the man. And, police said, they fixed his front door." Notice she didn't attribute that to SPD spokesman Sean Whitcomb, the source of other information from SPD in the article. We eventually spoke with her, explaining that she misquoted the police, and her response was like, "huh."

Phil, CDC member
@18: Correction: Emily Heffter's response when Ben, another CDC member, spoke with her was that she had updated the article to attribute the quote to police. He told her it was a misquote and inaccurate. She said that's what she heard and she was sticking with it.

Phil, CDC member

No, dude, his door is FIXED now! I saw the receipt. The mayor took the bill. The whole door issue is taken care of. You stoners get so obsessed sometimes.

I had a stoner roommate like that once. Even when you gave the guy what he wanted he'd still mope around and be all pissed. Pot makes you paranoid and irritable. Not that you guys ever admit what it does to you.
@13 lol. I didn't say they were in use now. Besides, I switched to CFLs and low-energy machines years ago. One of my son's classmates used to have more than I did.

In one room. In an apartment. So he was a geek, so what?

In the old days, CRT monitors burnt a lot of power, but LEDs and better computer designs recently have kept those down. But when the heat builds up high, using fans is an option too.

Also, a couple of plasma TVs would have pretty high draw. I figured my LCD HDTV uses as much power as all my current CFLs now, but when I owned a 1920 built house, I had to use up all the breaker outlets and get it rewired to supply all the computers.

@20, your response to @17 doesn't make one fucking bit of sense. (Seriously, read @17, read @20 and try to tell me otherwise.)

You say, "Pot makes you paranoid and irritable"; now how about if you tell us what it is that's making you so adamantly irrational?
Dominic wrote:
“Just because we got the power records and it show normal usage that doesn’t mean the search wouldn’t have happened,” he said. The smell of marijuana alone—regardless of the size of the grow—is probable cause for a raid, he said. “That’s established by the U.S. Supreme Court and the state supreme court, in case after case."

That's a problem SPD need to fix. The smell of marijuana alone suggests only that there is marijuana within smelling range. There's no more reason for police to suspect when they smell marijuana that someone who might simply have some marijuana intended for personal use actually has a large commercial marijuana garden and should be raided than there is for them to suspect when they see a knife that someone who might simply be carving a piece of wood is actually a cop killer and should be shot in the back.

The police have yet to cite anything that would lead a reasonable person to suggest that what was inside Will's apartment was anything besides that which is by law SPD's lowest priority. They should have moved on to higher-priority tasks (which is to say, any other tasks). Instead, they put on their paramilitary gear and busted in the door of an innocent man.

Phil, CDC member
The only real questions left here are these:

1. Will McGinn order the police in writing to adhere 100% of the time to I-75, and then will the city follow through on enforcement and oversight of that Mayoral order?

2. If #1 won't happen, does that mean we need to do a follow up initiative to complete remove the decision from both the Mayor and Seattle Police Department? Something simple in it's wording, to get this end result:

No City of Seattle employees, including Seattle Police and City Attorney staff, may assist in the the investigation, enforcement, or prosecution of any and all marijuana laws.
@24: Joe, the final report of Seattle's Marijuana Policy Review Panel, which was created as a result of passage of I-75, states (emphasis and hyperlinks added):

RCW 69.50.608 establishes state preemption of “the entire field of setting penalties for violations of the controlled substances act,” so that individual Washington municipalities are unable to remove the criminal penalties associated with adult personal use of marijuana. This provision would have to be amended by the Washington State Legislature in order for the City of Seattle to decriminalize the adult personal use of marijuana altogether rather than simply making it the City’s lowest law enforcement priority. Furthermore, RCW 69.50.500 imposes on local law enforcement and prosecutors an affirmative duty to “enforce all provisions” of Washington’s Uniform Controlled Substances Act. The Washington State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have recognized that prosecutors enjoy wide discretion in deciding whether to charge, or not to charge, a suspect (see Appendix 4), but the Courts’ analyses did not involve a specific enforcement provision such as RCW 69.50.500.

Since we can't remove the penalties and we can't have our police decline to enforce state marijuana law, we used limitations on resources to our advantage and told our police that everything else they do is more important than arresting adults for marijuana intended for personal use. It's unclear whether 1) they think it's appropriate to put over a half-dozen cops on a project like raiding Will Laudanski's home while they let more important duties slide, or 2) they're intentionally operating in violation of the law.

Phil, CDC member
Good stuff.
Dominic doesn't think, though, that the police would have been justified if they had a different excuse for not "knowing" that the op was small. Indeed, the premise that "normal" power use would have automatically called off the dogs in this or any suspected grow-op is incorrect. Data that shows what last month's power use was is for one thing old news, but also the tenant could have just wired around the meter, stealing power. Such theft is occurring in every city, right now as you read this. My point is that the cops didn't have to bullshit us: their operation was apparently legal.
@26: Razorclammer: "The op"? There was no "op". There was a man's home, which contained that man's belongings, which included two potted plants.

The only things the police have reported finding that led to the raid was a call from a neighbor, a fan in a window, and the smell of marijuana outside that window. I think the response to that neighbor's call should have been very similar to one which would have come if the neighbor reported a habitual jaywalker: "Thanks. We'll get to that when we have time. Don't hold your breath." Or, maybe they should have called the neighbor to ask if the man seemed to have few friends but many visitors, or kept a sign in the window that said "marijuana for sale". Instead, they sent a cop out to investigate. He found a fan in the window and says he smelled marijuana near the window.

At that point, it seems the appropriate reaction would have been to move on to higher-priority duties. But unlike busting in to someone's home commando-style, moving on is no fun for cops, and unlike busting in commando-style, moving on never results in civil forfeiture. Moving on never provides cash or SUVs that cops can confiscate on-the-spot and keep for their own use. Moving on to higher-priority duties never provides justification for our police having the paramilitary gear they used to terrorize Will Laudanski.

Razorclammer, have you read anything that leads you to believe that the police had reason to suspect that anything was going on inside that apartment with marijuana that was not intended for personal use? I haven't. A fan in the window doesn't suggest intent to distribute. The smell of marijuana outside the window doesn't suggest intent to distribute. The smell of marijuana outside a window does suggest that there's marijuana inside the window, but most people who have marijuana in their apartments are adults and most of that marijuana is intended for personal use.

Inside apartments from which the smell of marijuana emanates, there is often unlawful activity, but dealing with any of the overwhelming majority of that activity is, by law the lowest priority of Seattle police. They simply do not have time to deal with it. Yet they continue to do so, in brazen defiance of the expressed will of the people.

Phil, CDC member
Am I the only one who thinks this is actually decent research by Holden?
Out of curiosity where is the police union on this? There numbers are risking layoffs due to budget, but some low level has to play cowboy.
Not only is the police you supposed to protect their members, but heed their requests. Most spd officers I know equate pot as paperwork they don't want to do. Why are so many of the trigger happy cops in drug detection?
@28: no Prompt, this is fucking great work by Dominic and I hope he keeps hammering away at.

And kudos also to Phil from CDC for focusing on the actual facts in this case and how it relates to I-75.
Lying is something prosecutors have down pat. They caught the disease from criminals. Now many prosecutors cannot be discerned from those they persecute... or prosecute.
@30 Indeed & agreed.
@30 & 32 I concur.
great coverage on this dominic. please keep it coming.
Hey Dominic-

I'm jumping into this a bit late, but I wanted to bring up one point. Focusing solely on the power utility rate is not always the best indicator. An intermediate sized grow could stagger artificial 'daylight' among several chambers which would keep the levels fairly low. This can still usually be detected by the power company, but it requires a more sophisticated analysis.

The other work-around to high electricity bills is to use a generator. Something small in an insulated compartment and well muffled can be surprisingly difficult to detect even in a small apartment building.

Water usage can actually be a better indicator if these techniques have been implemented. I'm sure you know all of this, but I mention it for completeness.
Huge power consumption in a small apartment can indicate that many high-powered lights are involved in a large marijuana garden.

Gee and I just ordered a 125w Phenom so I can play Ops.

Live pot plants have a unique odor. They don't smell quite like pot. If you put anyone trained properly (or anyone who's been to Amsterdam) within 20 feet of an apartment with 2 or more mature pot plants in it, they can tell you what's happening in there.

@37: Razorclammer: Are you trying to say that someone with a trained nose can tell from outside an apartment if the cannabis smell coming out of it is intended for personal use or not?

It's safe to assume that most people who have marijuana in their apartments are adults and most of that marijuana is intended for personal use. Thus, most of the time when marijuana is smelled outside an apartment, doing something about it is the lowest enforcement priority of the Seattle Police Department.

Also, you didn't answer my question: Have you read anything that leads you to believe that the police had reason to suspect that anything was going on inside that apartment with marijuana that was not intended for personal use?

Phil, CDC member
I thought that growing pot was illegal, and the matter of assuming personal use was irrelevant when it comes to the crime of manufacture of drugs.

"It's all personal officer, all 3 pounds of it!"

Did our hero have permission from the state to grow pot?
@39: It's illegal for some people and legal for others. That which involves only adults and is intended for personal use is -- by law -- at the bottom of SPD priorities, regardless of its legality. Police have reported that Will Laundanski was not found to be engaged in unlawful behavior when they broken into his home, held him on the floor at gunpoint, and searched his home.

I haven't read anything that leads me to believe that the police had reason to suspect that anything was going on inside that apartment with marijuana that was not intended for personal use. It seems that you haven't, either.

Phil, CDC member