Brothers granted $2M bail in pot case

Two brothers facing federal criminal charges for a multimillion dollar medical marijuana operation in Hayward were freed from a Dublin jail on $1 million bail bonds early this morning.

Harold Rosenthal, a lawyer for Winslow Norton, 26, of Lafayette, said that Norton and his brother, Abraham Norton, 23, of Oakland, were released from custody at Alameda County's Santa Rita Jail at 4 a.m. today.

The brothers were arrested Tuesday on federal charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, distributing the drug and money laundering in connection with the Compassionate Patients' Cooperative, a medical marijuana dispensary in an unincorporated area of Alameda County near Hayward.

They were temporarily held at the county jail and were each granted release on $1 million bail by U.S. Magistrate Wayne Brazil in Oakland on Wednesday.

The bail bonds are secured by the Nortons' mother's house in Berkeley.

Brazil ordered them to return to the court of U.S. District Judge Lowell Jensen on Nov. 16 for the setting of future court dates.

Prosecutors say the brothers made $26 million from the operation in the first six months of 2007, owned Mercedes Benzes and established $67,000 individual retirement accounts for themselves.

They each face a total of 23 counts in a federal grand jury indictment, including 18 counts of money laundering.

Rosenthal said today that the brothers “were playing by the book” under California's voter-approved Compassionate Use Act, which allows seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's approval.

Federal drug laws make no exception for the state law, however.

Rosenthal said the two brothers were closely supervised by the county sheriff's department, sold only to genuine patients and “paid massive amounts of taxes” on their sales.

The defense attorney said, “They ran a bona fide dispensary, helping people with bona fide medical problems. Their principal sin seems to be making money. The penalty for making too much money is to pay a lot of taxes.

“There's a clear contradiction between what is permitted under state law and what is permitted by federal law. That's not how federal is supposed to work,” Rosenthal said.

The attorney confirmed that the two men's father is Michael Norton, who ran a coffee shop in Berkeley in the 1990s.

Michael Norton was accused in a federal indictment in 1998 of defrauding business and retail customers by selling Central American coffee as more expensive Kona coffee from Hawaii.

By coincidence, that case was also assigned to Jensen. Michael Norton pleaded guilty in 2000 to one count of fraud and one count of tax evasion and was sentenced by Jensen in 2001 to two years and six months in prison.

— Bay City News

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Advocates want more public notice before SF euthanizes an animal

Animal control officials say web posting proposal would eat up resources, change few outcomes

Republicans sue Newsom over vote-by-mail order for November election

By Laura Newberry Los Angeles Times Three Republican groups have sued Gov.… Continue reading

Krip-Hop Nation’s Leroy F. Moore Jr. is a born fighter

Pandemic won’t slow this artist, disability rights educator and activist

When should bars reopen?

San Francisco residents weigh in

Pier 45 warehouse goes up in flames

Four-alarm fire causes walls to collapse, threatens nearby historic ship

Most Read