War Veteran Faces Life Sentence For Pot

free-krisMeet Kristoffer Lewandowski — husband & father of three, former Marine, war veteran, and facing life in prison for growing six marijuana plants in Oklahoma. Our system is imprisoning a man who fought for our country because he was self-medicating with a plant. This should upset you.

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update: June 22, 2015, Monday, Orange Co. Calif. Judge approves extradition of Marine Kristoffer Lewandowski to possible life in prison in Oklahoma for less than an ounce — 1 ounce — of immature half dead cannabis plants. 6/18, Federal Marshals descended on his sons’ Laguna Beach preschool, guns drawn; Kris awaits imminent removal from his home state of California to Oklahoma, which must collect him within 30 days. Bail is set at $100,000, in Oklahoma.

Laguna Beach June 18, 2015……
Kristoffer Lewandowski, a multiple tour Iraq War Veteran, honorably discharged, 100% service-related disabled Marine, pulled into his son’s preschool, in a church in Aliso Viejo, California A conglomerate of unmarked random SUVs, trucks & cars followed fast; nine armed men, guns drawn, ran in, swarming around the family’s car as Whitney, Kris’s wife, exited to take their two sons, ages 2 & 4, to Laguna Parent Participation Preschool. Only after she protested being dragged away, panicking to get to her kids, did the man holding her show her a badge identifying him as a Federal Marshal.

Two more armed Marshals, parked on the street posing as landscapers, entered the scene. Finally, a police cruiser (the only marked vehicle or officers) arrived as well. Luckily no one — not the children, parents and teachers present, including the Lewandowskis, were shot, and Kris peacefully exited the car and surrendered — to what the family wasn’t yet sure.

So, what had Kris done; what crime must he have committed to require the federal government to send nearly a dozen law enforcement officers?? Murder, assault, a white collar crime? No. A year earlier, while still in the Marine Corp, stationed in Oklahoma, Kris had a bad reaction to his PTSD meds and their neighbor called for medical help. Instead, the police came. When Kris came outside as the officers demanded, they handcuffed him and entered his home, saying later they found several marijuana plants in his garage, inside an insulated box. Even after the lab weighed all roots & the soil with the vegetative matter, it came to less than 1— One! — Ounce. This is understandable as the “plants” were only a couple inches tall and at least one was dead.

This arrest in Oklahoma occurred in Geronimo June 1, 2014. Kris was still in the Marine Corp., although stationed at an Army base in Oklahoma for two years to teach, as he was disabled and going through the required Medical Board process to determine his disability percentage for his discharge. Kris had completed that process, found over 100% disabled (VA max out rated at 100%), and he was already scheduled to be discharged June 18, 2014. He and his wife and their 2 young sons were planning on leaving Oklahoma forever June 19, back to their home and families in Southern California, where they were from and had lived prior to the Oklahoma deployment. Kris also has a nine yr old son from his first marriage. On June 6th, as Kris was in Comanche County, OK, jail awaiting his bail hearing, his Marine detail came and honorably medically discharged him.

Kris’s bail was set at $40,000. Whitney had to visit a bail bondsmen and did not have the 10% ($4000.) The bondsmen told her to give $500 to lawyer Michael Corrales, who he pointed to across his same office, and he would get the bail reduced to $20,000. Otherwise, he said, Kris would “never get out.”

The Lewandowskis attempted to bring up to lawyer Corrales the facts that:

—the warrant to search their home was obtained 6 hours after the initial search at 8:30am, hours they were kept separately in police cars after being read their Miranda rights. Basically arrest first, then get a warrant. Kris was not booked until 1am, which is when he got his first phone call.

—The warrant that finally did come that Sunday was just a printer-paper warrant, in Whitney’s mother’s name. They can discover no reason this would be so, as the mother does not and has never lived with them, and told the police, who did seem concerned that the warrant was bad, but they searched the home anyway, and found the seedlings, charging Kris with felony manufacturing of a Schedule 1 drug.

[It is instructive to note that if Kris and his family were back home in California, if police had happened upon his “plants” they probably would have given the Veteran —whose very severe PTSD symptoms were helped with cannabis— some good growing tips, or perhaps even sign him up for a class at a local dispensary, as what Kris did, the dastardly Crime he committed in Oklahoma, is legal and accepted part of California and, as medical cannabis is legal in California, Kris would still have every access to VA health care — exactly the opposite in a non-medical cannabis state, where the VA could deny him all services.]

Lawyer Michael Corrales was not very interested in their illegal search & warrant facts, although these facts may have PREVENTED the need for a trial (as the evidence so obtained should have been thrown out) and instead demanded $4000 more, to go to trial.

Corrales did get Kris’ bail reduced to $20,000; Whitney gave the bail bondsmen 10%; and Kris was released. Kris had applied for and been accepted to college in California and the family was ready to prepare for civilian life, but the next five months in Oklahoma were not peaceful as the family was followed and harassed continually by the Geronimo and County police.

Whitney Lewandowski says at a “preliminary hearing,” in Oct 2014, Judge Tayloe (a different Judge than who signed the warrant and a different Judge than who determined that the case was sufficient to go to trial, but continued the date). “ shook my husband’s hand; thanked him for his service” and said go home and enjoy your family. This was in the Judge’s chambers so there is no transcript, but the Judge did have Kris sign papers stating it was okay to go back to California.

We cannot obtain those papers or any other records of the case — at this time— as Corrales has refused to release any of Kris’s file to his wife. This is of course unethical illegal and just plain mean—we are working to get this essential file now, before Kris gets extradited back to Oklahoma where he now (with a Fugitive warrant added to the original charge), is looking at potentially Life in prison. (Michael Corrales has been sanctioned and reprimanded on another matter, more info http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ok-supreme-court/1604410.html)

48 hours after the Preliminary Hearing in Oct 2014, the family was driving back home to Southern California. Whitney had never lived full time in Oklahoma; she went home to Calif. to have their baby, and was now looking forward to their new life, where she would also be accessing the GI bill and start school in the Fall to be a Certified Nurse Midwife and an IBCLC. Kris would start at Saddleback College right away in aeronautical engineering.

The Lewandowski’s whereabouts were never a secret or unknown to the authorities …he was required to check in with the bailbondsman weekly. The first court date, scheduled for the winter, was continued several times since the initial bond hearing in June 2014. The lawyer told them it was moved to May, and warned them they had better “come up with $4,000,” in addition to the $2000 they had already paid.

Kris had long since been diagnosed with severe PTSD, and was receiving counseling and medication. While at the VA on April 29 2015 he had another very bad episode and was transported to Long Beach VA psychiatric ward, where he was hospitalized until May 5 and diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, in addition to his PTSD. He was prescribed additional medications and released. It is a good thing the family went back to California where cannabis is legal; otherwise, Oklahoma VA may have discontinued all Kris’s care as cannabis is illegal there.

Kris continued to ride his bike to college and the family volunteered at their sons’ preschool. But by mid May, it was clear the new meds were not doing so well. Also in mid May, lawyer Corrales angrily texted Kris and told him that he quit the case, refused to go to trial without the money first. When the family said they did not have it all yet, he told court he quit the case.

On May 26, Kris’s response to his meds had further deteriorated, Kris called the VA and asked for adjustment/advice; the VA told him to come in immediately for a med adjustment and to be admitted. On the way there, concerned about Oklahoma court dates should the VA need to hospitalize Kris again, they called both the Comanche Co. court and the DA’s office. The phone was on speaker; they both heard the same thing. Both offices had already noted that Corrales had quit. The DA’s office said the case was not on the docket and was in limbo until Kris retained a new attorney, and to have the attorney then call in to get a new date. They called Judge Tayloe’s office; the judge was away at a convention and the clerk said that Kris’s case was not on the schedule. They gave Kris name and identifying information, including social security number and birthdate, to check and recheck, but they said that if a lawyer quits in the middle of a case, the courts just continue the date. Relieved, Kris concentrated on getting help.

The Long Beach VA readmitted Kris the morning of May 26 (the day after Memorial Day) for four days; with new meds, Kris went back to his family and life went on; Kris seemed better, was enjoying classes and his children were enjoying life with Dad, back from overseas deployment, defending the Freedoms all the Citizens of these United States enjoy. That’s why we are deploying these brave people. Right? To defend our Freedoms — but for Kris, among his Freedoms is apparently NOT the freedom to decide even on his medication to alleviate his War Wounds! He is scheduled to lose every single one of his Freedoms, possibly Forever.

At the time of his arrest on June 18, on a Fugitive Warrant issued by the same Judge Tayloe of Oklahoma, for $100,000 bail, Kris was just adjusting to his second try on an additional (to his PTSD meds) round of very strong psych meds. One does not have to be a doctor to understand how dangerous this is to Kris. If he is kept in jail, or worse taken back to Oklahoma, how will he ever get help. The answer to that question is obvious… he won’t.

After his arrest on June 18, Kris was taken to Orange Co. jail in Santa Ana where he was thrown into a padded cell —naked. He is 6’7’’ and 276lbs; the jail said they had nothing to fit him. They gave him a “safety garment” which didn’t fit either, but they told him to just tie it around his waist. He was not even given a cup for water, but told to use his (dirty as he was also denied soap) hands. Worst, possibly, the jailers WITHHELD HIS MEDS TIL SATURDAY! 3 days, locked naked in a padded cell without his meds. He kept calling on the supposed emergency phone all night during some bad episodes, but as Kris told his wife “I called and called and NO one EVER came”. Whoever thinks that this is how we should treat our country’s Veterans…

Kris is part of the local chapter of the Weed for Warriors Project, the Veterans group planning a Fall cross country bus trip to Washington DC to raise awareness of Veterans’ need for access to cannabis to combat their PTSD and other service connected injuries/illnesses. Cannabis has been proven, over and over again to alleviate both the physical pain these wounded Warriors are in, as well as the severe PTSD that this decades long war seems to generate so efficiently.

Still stunned and desperately trying to figure out what the heck happened, Whitney wrote to his Chapter, who contacted the President Kevin Richardson, who then contacted his Vice President Ricardo Pereyda, in Tucson AZ. Ricardo posted her letter and sent it to everyone he could think of for help. Ricardo had just been to Patients Out of Time’s Clinical Cannabis conference in Florida a few weeks earlier. He reached out to us, too. Patients Out of Time has an informal Legal Brigade; we started cutting edge legal seminars last conference and this our second, in Florida, was outstanding! Whether it is one of our attorneys, or another who sees this wherever you may be — we need you. With just the right touch, this nightmare for the Lewandowski family could be over quickly. If it draws into something larger, like a constitutional challenge on Equal Protection, the family is ready for that too.

Update: June 23, 2015
It is now known that the US Marshals followed them at least for the entire morning before making the dramatic arrest at the preschool with guns drawn, though they knew exactly where the Lewandowski family was since Kris had been in touch, as required, with the bail bondsman once per week. They observed Kris leave the home to ride his bike to college; observed Whitney leave the home with their 2 young sons to pick Kris up and sit in the college parking lot for 10 minutes talking over his class he was so excited about. The US Marshals then followed the family to breakfast, then to the church preschool.


Kris’s facebook page; https://facebook.com/pages/Free-KRIS/771606779624825