District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is filing criminal charges against the owner of a medical marijuana company and his attorney, shortly after being ordered by a judge to return $100,000 seized from the family of the business.
The 15-page felony complaint accuses James Slatic, two of his executives and his attorney, Jessica McElfresh of conspiracy and manufacturing a controlled substance.
Read the full complaint here.
The Drug Enforcement Agency agents raided Slatic's Med-West Distribution in Kearny Mesa in January 2016 confiscating inventory, equipment, records and $324,000 in cash.
McElfresh, a defense attorney, wrote in a 2015 email to Slatic about trying to distract a retired San Diego Police Department investigator, according to the complaint.
“I didn’t flirt (wouldn’t have worked), but I just kept focusing on the papers," she wrote. "I’m convinced they walked away knowing it wasn’t a dispensary in the typical sense… but it probably seemed like something other than just paper."
After the January 2016 raid, agents froze assets in bank accounts for Slatic, his wife and two teenage daughters.
A San Diego Superior Court judge ordered the return of those assets, despite the DA's objections, after a 15-month court battle that made national news.
Filing charges against criminal defense attorneys is rare.
Defense Attorney Marc Carlos said this:
"At the outset I would say that it is always very difficult to charge an attorney for legal advice being requested by the client. The attorney must act in the best interests of the client and sometimes that means safeguarding their interests so that they do not incriminate themselves. That being said, the attorney has an ethical duty to act within the ethical cannons of the state bar and applicable laws. An attorney can not actively engage in activities which obstruct justice. Under these circumstances that DA will have to prove that she acted with criminal intent in conspiring to violate the law. This is extremely difficult given the ethical duties of the attorney."
NBC 7 reached out to James Slatic who said he has a license to supply other licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.
"“I am already out of business," Slatic said. "How are these charges in the interest of the public good? This is a waste of the taxpayers money.”