When narcotics officers appeared at a Castro home shortly after 7 a.m. on Jan. 11, they had permission from a judge to search for “proceeds” from an illegal marijuana grow.
The SFPD and DEA found no piles of marijuana money at 243 Diamond St., one of six addresses raided simultaneously in San Francisco that morning. Instead, they found Clark Freshman, who rents the penthouse at the two-unit building. Freshman, a UC Hastings law professor and the main consultant to the television show Lie to Me, was put into handcuffs while in his bathrobe as agents searched, despite Freshman's insistence that they had the wrong place and were breaking the law. “I told them to call the judge and get their warrant updated,” he says. “They just laughed at me — I guess that's why they're called pigs.”
Soon they may be called defendants in a lawsuit. A furious Freshman has pledged to sue the DEA and the SFPD for unlawful search and seizure of his home.
In his search warrant, Officer Scott Biggs of the SFPD's narcotics unit says that prior to the raid, he spent two days and two nights casing the address looking for Mahmoud Larizadeh, the property's owner. Larizadeh also owns a 13th Street warehouse, a part of which he rents to Bruce Rossignol, a licensed medical cannabis patient who now faces three felony charges for growing pot there.
Biggs describes 243 Diamond as a “two-story, one-unit” building in the warrant. There's no mention of Freshman or Larizadeh's son-in-law or seven-months pregnant daughter who were detained in the downstairs unit that morning. But property records — and a quick visual scan of the property — reveal it to be a three-story, two-unit building. That mistake alone may be enough to invalidate the search warrant.
SFPD offered no comment other than reiterating they had a warrant from Judge Richard Kramer to search 243 Diamond. But Peter Keane, dean emeritus of Golden Gate University's School of Law, says there appears to be a problem. “There's been cases like this in the past where police have a warrant to search [a single residence], then they get there and it's a multi-unit building and they search the whole building. In those cases, people have sued and collected substantial settlements. I think whomever is representing the government better get out his checkbook.”
“I've been on the fence for years about the legalization of drugs … and now I'm a victim of this crazy war on drugs,” says Freshman, who pledged to sue until “I see [the agents'] houses sold at auction and their kids' college tuitions taken away from them. There will not be a better litigated case this century.”