Trial Testimony in Support of Michael Ruggles

Halloween 2019, Senator Ruderman appeared on the witness stand in the State v. Michael Doyle Ruggles trial. Others who testified included County Prosecutor, Mitchell Roth, former HPD Officer Leeloy and HPD Officers Bartz and undercover Faanunu. Dozens of patients were on hand to testify. The gallery was filled with patients in support of the collective for which Mr. Ruggles volunteered.

Initially charged with 33 felonies, Mr. Ruggles faced a veritable life sentence for “operating an illegal dispensary.” HPD claims resulted in a large bail and jail time. Newspapers ran wild with the story apparently delivered by Hawaii County police. The county prosecutor brought what some call the state’s most effective prosecutor in “marijuana” cases. He had retired but came back to try one more trial before Judge Nakamura. Mr. Ruggles was helped by and dismissed multiple attorneys before finding a hero that would stand by while Mr. Ruggles delivered his case “Pro Se”. He represented himself.

That hero would turn out to be Stanton Oshiro. Mr. Oshiro help guid Mike through the trial. Mr. Oshiro was on standby and constantly helping Mr. Ruggles. He is truly a hero in the story. He worked tirelessly on the case, seven days per week for months. Judge Nakamura was gracious and fair in the courtroom.

“I’d rather be audited by the IRS than prosecuted by Ricky Roy because of the lengths he goes to learn everything about anyone he prosecutes,” Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitchell Roth told the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

Thirty One of the charges didn’t have the evidence necessary for trial and were dropped the day before the trial. Examples included pounds of composted Cannabis and frozen leaves stored for patient smoothies without THC.

This was the first medical Cannabis patient trial ever to go before a jury. Fortunately for Mr. Ruggles, the state seemed to underestimate his sincerity and preparedness. Prosecuting attorney Damerville seemed unprepared to meet the collective’s team. The collective was prepared if a little unrehearsed given that 31 of the 33 charges were still pending two days before the trial. Few thought the collective’s stamina and perseverance would be of such high magnitude.

Mr. Ruggles had requested a speedy trial. He was prepared for trial before he was arrested. He had been running the collective in strict compliance with state law and the acknowledgement of many state and local officials. The state took 4 years to bring their case to trial. The result was two charges;

  1. Selling 1.5 ounces of medical Cannabis to an undercover police officer.
  2. Selling paraphernalia (vape pen and cbd) at the same time.

“I think they really felt my father’s heart,” Jen Ruggles said of the jury’s decision, “and his real purpose was not to hurt anybody.”

Jen Ruggles, former Hawaii County Councilmember

“Hopefully this is the last time we will waste our legal resources in such a travesty of justice. Mike Ruggles was helping people access the best medicine we know. Now there are dispensaries; at the time of the Collective, there were none. At the time our state was allowing the use of medical cannabis in theory, yet denying access to it in reality.

I had visited the Collective as a state Senator and was able to tell the jury about the serious efforts I saw there to access medicine for those in chronic pain. I also relayed to the jury my experience meeting a disabled veteran with a medical cannabis license who was forced to use opioids when he could not find medical cannabis. This showed me the seriousness of cannabis for pain in the most personal way. Fortunately the specially hired prosecutor was unable to prevent me from telling the jury these perspectives.

Mike Ruggles is a hero for standing up for our rights in court instead of a safe but unjust plea-bargain. He believed that a jury would not convict him if they heard his story, and thankfully a jury of his peers found this prosecution as absurd as I do.”

-Hawaii State Senator Russell Ruderman

“He’s a compassionate man, trying to help people,” Ruggles said. “The majority of the people that he was helping were actually hospice patients, that passed in the 4 years [since] he was arrested. A lot of them had passed not able to get Cannabis, not able to get their medicine.”

Thousands of medical Cannabis patients in Hawaii have plead “no contest” to lesser charges. When confronted with years of court dates and thousands of dollars in legal fees most make a deal with the prosecuting attorney. Afterall minimum/mandatory sentencing guidelines in Hawaii requires judges to send people to prison regularly. Seems archaic compared with other states where Cannabis is legal. Even in other states where only medical Cannabis is legal, Hawaii seeks to incarcerate and permanently mark citizens records for Cannabis charges.

Unfortunately, we do not know how many patients have plead to lesser charges and later failed drug tests of other conditions of probation. We can only guess how many patients have had their lives ruined from plea bargains resulting from minor Cannabis possession. The number is high in Puna. Tens of thousands of constituents in Senator Ruderman’s district have a family member or friend who has been through the legal system. Today everyone knows also someone that has been helped by Cannabis medicine.

Special thanks to Big Island Video News

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