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LOCAL Commentary :: Civil & Human Rights

Letter to D.A. Bob Lee

The following letter was delivered to Bob Lee today (May 6th) in hopes of getting some clear documentation of what's going on with the Drug War locally. It might then be possible to get the ACLU off its well-funded butt to look at our local jails, our local prosecutor, and our local lawmakers instead of ignoring all these "liberal" politicians in favor of national fundraising.

I encourage others to call Lee at 454-2400. Roger Mentch of The Hemporium, recently harassed by Lee's office for a year and a half, is only the tip of the iceberg.
309 Cedar PMB #14B
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

May 3 2005

District Attorney Bob Lee
701 Ocean St.
Santa Cruz, CA

Dear Bob,

In the past you’ve been helpful in providing informal information regarding the workings of the D.A.’s office. However when I’ve approached you for statistics on prosecutions under the “Drug War“ (which I term the “Drug Prohibition War?), you’ve replied that your computer system had been installed or wasn’t fully working. This letter is a follow-up to those earlier conversations.

I am seeking some statistics from your office regarding the amount of money spent by the District Attorney’s office in the Drug Prohibition War. Specifically,

How many charges have you filed involving either sale, use, or possession of marijuana have been undertaken since you assumed office?

Against how many individuals?

How many cases were prosecuted?

How many convictions?

How many cases were referred to Drug Diversion or Drug Court?

What is the average cost of a typical case?

How many have involved jury trials?

How many of such trials involved acquittals or hung juries?

What grants specifically have been received that particularly authorize or require investigation and prosecution of any of these cases?

How many people are currently serving time, on probation, or have on their record an arrest (whether custodial or non-custodial) for any marijuana offenses in Santa Cruz County?

How much money do you estimate has been spent each year on marijuana cases? How much money on all Drug War cases (that is, all cases involving Controlled Substances)?

How and where can the records containing the information above be readily accessed by members of the public?

In order to get a comparative sense of whether the public cost and focus on the Drug War is increasing or decreasing, I’d also like to know what the figures in the above categories were for the year before you were D.A.

This is currently an informal request, to which, I hope, you can respond fairly speedily. Please contact me by phone (831-423-4833) or e-mail (rnorse3 (at) to let me know if it is one your are amenable to granting .

I would also like to meet with you in the week following the release of this information to discuss it and clarify any ambiguities (as well as to give you a chance to air your own thoughts). I would like to record this interview and make it public in its entirety to educate the community about your progress in fulfilling your campaign commitment to rein in the Drug War.

In the event that you choose not to determine and release the information prior to May 15th , this letter also serves as a formal California Public Records that you provide access to our copies of all records that would allow me to adequately research the questions itemized above expeditiously, with the 10-day period for reply beginning on that date.

I prefer that such records be provided in e-mail form wherever possible.


Robert Norse
(rnorse3 (at)

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Re: Letter to D.A. Bob Lee

Right on! I am a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and would really like to see answers to every single one of those questions! I would also love to hear, or be present for questioning at, that conversation clarifying any ambiguities with the DA. Thanks Robert.
check us out at

Check Out the Jail Figures

Thanks for the interest and support. I'd encourage Students for Sensible Drug Policy to write its own Public Records Act request (just a letter asserting your right to review or copy all records containing the information you seek). Or you could reference my letter and state that your organization is seeking similar information and supports the request and would like to be cc-ed.

This would increase the pressure on D.A. Bob Lee to take speedy action.

I also urge you to request information from the Sheriff's Dept. asking how many people are currently serving time on drug charges of any kind. Ask for an e-mail copy of the name of every prisoner in jail serving time for a drug sentence and the charge s/he is being held on and the length of their sentence.

Once you then eliminate people who are serving time for other charges, you get a sense of the dimensions of the Drug War here in Santa Cruz.

Let me know if you or your group apply for this information.

Remember calling for national justice without acting locally (standard behavior for our own local ACLU) actually bolsters local injustice by ignoring and implicitly allowing it.

Re: Letter to D.A. Bob Lee


Latest Update from Bob Lee

After I publicly confronted Bob Lee (downstairs in the cafeteria of the County Building) during our weekly HUFF meeting, Eric Sibe, from his office, called back and said they were "working on" my request and would have a response "within weeks".
Call in your own requests at 454-2400.

D.A.'s Office Responds

D.A.'s Office responds to Drug War Stats request.
In late May, I received the following certified letter from the D.A.'s office. If anyone else has made inquiries, please post what results you've gotten or requests you've made. I'll be giving my analysis of this rather skimpy document in the near future.

Text of Drug War Stats reply from D.A.'s Office

I was unable to scan in the Eric Seib's letter, but transcribe the text below.

The information given is remarkably scanty. The claim that no accessible records exist before 2003 sounds implausible. The request for a ballpark figure on the cost of the Drug War is ducked entirely.

The request to view records to dig out statistics is rejected, sending us instead to "the Courts".

Though I have yet to ponder this letter and discuss it with knowledgable Public Defenders, it sounds like the issue is being largely ducked and information being withheld.

The D.A.'s information here is of perhaps a step up from Mayor Rotkin's reassurances. When asked what he's doing to end the absence of marijuana dispensaries in the City of Santa Cruz after 5 years of his de facto prohibition law passed in 2000, Rotkin replies "considering the issue". When asked specifics, like what public meetings he will be attending and what lobbyists he has met with, Rotkin stonewalls, in violation of the spirit of the Sunshine Initiative, passed by California voters in 2004.


May 25, 2005
Dear Mr Norse:

The Santa Cruz District Attorney's Ofice has now completed its review of your request for statistics dated May 3, 2005 and based on our phone conversation of May 18, 2005, I believed that your request remained informal. Our understanding is that your request for statistics for what you term the "Drug Prohibition War" deals solely with marijuana-related crimesa nd not with any other controlled substance.

Your request also asks for statistics going back to the time that District Attorney, Bob Lee, assumed office, January 6, 2003. Unfortunately, the system in place at that time is no longer in existence and we are only able to extract statistics from our current system which was put in place June 2, 2003. The information below, therefore reflects activity from that date forward. You must also understand that the statistics provided below are the best information we have available and are not necessarily inclusive of all potential date. There are also certain statistics that we do not track at all, and I will identify those where applicable or clarify as necessary.

Requested Statistic Outcome Comments

Number of Charges Filed 96 These are specifically identified felony cases, but not all peripherally marijuana-related charges are included here, as explained above.

Number of Defendants 96

Number of Cases Prosecuted 96

Number of Convictions to Date 62

Referrals to Drug Diversion/Court Unknown Due to the nature of this program, we do not track this statistic.

Average case cost Unknown We do not track this statistic due to the difficulty of capturing all related costs.

Number involving jury trials 2

Number involving acquittals or hung juries 0

Number of people serving time, probation, or have arrest record 96 At a minimum the aforementioned 96 will meet at least one of these criteria. Once the aforementioned 62 convictions occurred, we no longer track the status of their sentences. Thd ate would best be obtained from the Courts.

Grants for marijuana cases Approx $50,000 annually The Marijuana Suppression Program is a grant provided through the California Office of Emergency Services and administered by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Ofice to reimburse for costs associated with the investigation and prosecution of marijuana cases. The District Attorney is the prosecution component of that grant and our allocated amount of approximately $50,000 reimburses for our incurred costs.

Grants for non-marijuana cases Approx. $270,000 annually The Anti-Drug Abuse enforcement Program is a grant ptovided through the California Office of Emergency Services and administered by the Santa Cruz County District Attorney's Office to reimburse for costs associated with the investigation and prosecution of other controlled substance cases.

Public accessibility of records N/A The Courts are the custodians of the publicly distributable case records. You will need tomake arrangements with them to view any records.

Prior Year Figures N/A As explained above, we are unable to access the date prior to June 2, 2003.

If you havfe any further questions or concerns please feel free to contact me at (831) 454-2400 or by e-mail at eric.seib (at) .


Eric P. Seib
Adminstrative Services Officer

cc: Bob Lee, District Attorney
Fred Nohr, Chief of Administration


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