Interestingly, Judge Bucci of the Rhode Island District Court agreed to set bail on a Defendant facing two marijuana charges. One clear implication from this recent ruling is that individuals facing marijuana charges will be treated much more leniently if they are licensed and registered by the State of Rhode Island as caregivers. The effects of this ruling will be widespread and will take time for those effects become integrated into the system. If you have any questions about this recent ruling or Rhode Island's marijuana laws in general, contact Attorney Matthew Marin at 401-228-8271.
Judge rules on marijuana grower
01:00 AM EDT on Friday, April 30, 2010
PROVIDENCE — District Court Judge Elaine Bucci declared Thursday that a state-licensed medical-marijuana grower and user who killed an intruder at his apartment apparently had more marijuana than the law allows.
But she nevertheless agreed to allow his release from jail on bail, over the objection of a state prosecutor, if he qualifies for home confinement.
The licensee, Matthew A. Salvato, 22, of 902 Chalkstone Ave., is charged with two marijuana offenses and two firearms offenses, but he is not charged with a crime for having shot to death Alex Delasnueces, 26, of Providence, on April 15 in what the police called a daylight home invasion.
Detective Capt. James Desmarais said Salvato apparently killed Delasnueces in self-defense. The attorney general's office has said that all aspects of the incident remain under investigation and that the matter might be submitted to a grand jury for consideration of all possible charges.
Under state law and Department of Health regulations, Salvato is entitled to grow and possess marijuana as a registered caregiver, or supplier, and also as a registered patient. Salvato suffers from hypertension, according to the police, and immediately after the homicide he was briefly hospitalized for observation of what his lawyer called “high anxiety.”
Salvato and law-enforcement authorities disagree over how many marijuana plants, seedlings and clones that he may keep and how many that he actually had. A clone is a rootless cutting taken from a plant, according to J. Patrick O'Neill, Salvato's lawyer.
Salvato's downstairs neighbor also was licensed to grow medical marijuana and the two men had what O'Neill called a legal “collaborative grow” in the apartment house in the Valley neighborhood.
O'Neill said his client legally possessed 72 plants and seedlings and a number of clones and that the attorney general alleges that he illegally possessed more than 100 plants, seedlings and clones. Michael J. Healey, spokesman for the attorney general's office, said he does not want to address the conflicting counts until later in the litigation process.
Bucci set bail for Salvato at $25,000 with surety, which means that he must post 10 percent in cash or pledge property worth that much in order to get out of prison.
She said that she would free him pending trial on the four alleged felonies in Superior Court with conditions: he must surrender his licenses as a grower and as a patient; he must live with his mother on Ivan Avenue in Warwick; he must be confined to the house; he must not keep firearms; and he must surrender his passport if he has one.
Bucci said that she wants him to be “closely monitored.” It was not immediately clear if that means he would have to wear an electronic monitoring device.
She said that she “struggled” with the fact of his having firearms when the incident occurred, but that she would let him out on bail because he has no criminal record and is tied to the community as a lifelong Rhode Islander. The police seized the 40-caliber semiautomatic pistol that he used to kill Delasnueces and a rifle.
Under state law, Salvato is entitled to have guns at home, but not, as the attorney general alleges, if he is illegally manufacturing and delivering marijuana.
“I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt because I don't find that you are a danger to the community,” the judge told Salvato.
If the Department of Corrections determines that Salvato is eligible for home confinement, that will be reported to the judge and Salvato will be released, according to O'Neill.
At this point of the prosecution, the attorney general had a lower burden of proof to meet than the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” required at trial. O'Neill acknowledged that the attorney general had enough proof to meet that lower standard and Salvato waived his right to the bail hearing that was scheduled for Thursday.