Medical marijuana collective officer due in court

The sole officer of the Oxnard-based medical marijuana delivery service Sespe Creek Collective is due in court for arraignment on Nov. 18, when the sole officer, Chelsea Sutula, says that she’ll learn for the first time what she and her business are being charged with.

On Thursday, Nov. 3, Sutula, 40, was taken into custody and brought to a Ventura County jail after officers from the Sheriff’s Department narcotics unit raided both her business and home, alleging that the operation was in violation of the Compassionate Use Act, also known as California’s Proposition 215. Sutula was later released on $20,000 bail.

In earlier reports, Ventura County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Capt. Garo Kuredjian had said that the investigation is ongoing and not yet concluded.

Sutula says that she still does not know what she is being charged with, which she says makes it difficult to know who to hire for her defense.

“I am hoping that they figure it out by [Friday]; they’re trying to take as much time as they want,” said Sutula. “They don’t care about my personal stuff at this point; that’s the game that I have to play. I have no choice and no control over it.”

Sutula says that since Nov. 3, both private and business bank accounts have been frozen, making it impossible to do day-to-day business, pay debts or even pay a potential lawyer for representation.
On Tuesday, Nov. 8, California voters approved Proposition 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative, which would turn some marijuana-related felonies into misdemeanors or be dismissed. The Sheriff’s Department is no stranger to raiding collectives in Ventura County, having begun a series of raids, arrests and proceedings against Ojai-based Shangri La Care Cooperative, which recently filed a lawsuit demanding the return of property confiscated over the course of several raids.

Sutula has begun a fundraising effort to mitigate the damage done by lost sales. She says that she is hopeful for the future in light of Proposition 64.

“I hope it removes the incentive to arrest people,” said Sutula. “I hope it removes some of the stigma associated with it. I hope we can see this as more of a positive thing in our community than a negative thing, because what it really does is generate jobs, tax revenue and generate wellness.”

This story was updated to clarify Sutula’s position and bail amount.

Camarillo man sentenced to 15 years to life for death of deputy

hogrefe-newsIn October 2014, Ventura County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Yevhen “Eugene” Kostiuchenko was struck and killed on Highway 101 in Camarillo while performing a traffic stop. A mile from the scene of the incident, Kevin Hogrefe, now 27, was arrested for the hit-and-run crash and was under suspicion of felony DUI.

On Monday, Nov. 14, Hogrefe was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for the death of Deputy Kostiuchenko after, on Oct. 16, being found guilty of second-degree murder as well as of felony fleeing the scene of the accident. During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Hogrefe had spent six hours drinking in local bars before taking to the road.

It was also announced that Kostiuchenko’s widow has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Hogrefe. Maura Kelley is seeking an undisclosed amount for “compensatory damages” and legal fees, claiming that negligence resulted in her husband’s death.