The Austin Chronicle

WilCo Pot Baker Takes a Plea

Lavoro might avoid jail time

By Chase Hoffberger, October 24, 2014, News

Final sentencing won't take place until mid-November, but the nuts and bolts are in place: Last week, Jacob Lavoro – the 19-year-old Williamson County resident arrested in April when police found a pound of marijuana and 660 grams of pot brownies and cookies in his Round Rock apartment – accepted a plea deal that will sentence him to seven years of deferred probation. In exchange, said Lavo­ro's attorney Jack Holmes, the marijuana charges against Lavoro will be dropped altogether; he still faces charges of possession of a controlled substance (for the baked goods) and also intent to distribute. He'll find out about additional terms – Holmes mentioned rehab (either inpatient or out) – at his sentencing hearing Nov. 13.

Lavoro's case made national headlines this summer as people learned that a Texan with an otherwise clean record could be sentenced to life in prison for the act of baking pot brownies. Possession of hashish or concentrates – in this case, the brownies and cookies – amounting to anywhere between 4 and 400 grams (of entire weight) carries a Texas prison sentence of 5-99 years. And the possession and intent to distribute charges could have added four more.

Lavoro's charges were later reduced to second-degree possession of a controlled substance (2 to 20 years) shortly after Holmes filed a motion to suppress evidence, claiming in July that police entered Lavoro's apartment without permission, a search warrant, or probable cause. They never should have found the pot in the first place, he argued – though a police affidavit claims that Lavoro's girlfriend allowed police to enter.

Judge Stacey Mathews never heard the motion, however. Holmes and Lavoro wanted it to be heard early September, but the hearing got rescheduled until November, and Wil­liam­son County offered Lavoro the plea deal in the interim. (Lavoro spent a portion of that period in a Williamson County jail after violating pretrial parole – by getting into a traffic accident in Travis County in a friend's car, where there was reportedly a hash pipe.)

"I said all along with the motion to suppress that [the judge] could go either way," Holmes said after Lavoro accepted the plea and was released. "It's just based on what the cops say. They're saying they had permission to enter [the apartment], and we're not. When you have something like that, it's a coin flip. Jacob understood all that and realized he could lose that [decision] and they'd take the [plea] offer away."

As has become repeatedly evident – through the case of Michael Morton and the Texas Fair Defense Project's 2006 class-action lawsuit against a series of Williamson County judges, among other episodes – the justice system just a few miles up I-35 has earned a reputation of favoring prosecutors. Lavoro's case with Williamson County is wrapping up just as another accused possessor of controlled substances enters a similar predicament.

On Oct. 3, 28-year-old John Fleming Lumpkin was arrested after being pulled over on Highway 183 for a broken brakelight. Officer Erik Detlefsen reported he witnessed Lumpkin shaking "considerably" during the traffic stop, and asked him to exit the vehicle. Lumpkin rolled up his windows and locked his doors upon exiting, refused a vehicle search, and Detlefsen ordered a K9 air sniff. The dog responded to the smell of narcotics, and Detlefsen searched the vehicle.

In it, he found more than 7,000 grams of marijuana-related products, including wax hash, THC vapor pens, 2,061 grams of THC brownies, and 579 grams of "Keen's Ganga Balls"; all amounting to a first-degree felony. Lumpkin, who presented a Colorado license, maintains it's entirely medical. Pressed last week for an interview, he told the Chronicle that he is first "trying to get my ducks in order."

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