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Shasta County judge rules, charges dropped against collective owner

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REDDING, Calif. - Misdemeanor marijuana-related charges were dropped against a Round Mountain man after a judge rules they entered his property unlawfully, and the attorney representing the man is taking steps to file a civil rights lawsuit against the county.

Shasta County Judge William D. Gallagher ruled on January 3 to suppress evidence collected against collective owner James Coleman, leading the Shasta County District Attorney's office to drop charges against him.

Coleman said Shasta County deputies entered his Round Mountain property on August 10 without a warrant, then destroyed marijuana plants he told them were legal.

"I asked him how did you get through a locked gate?" Coleman said. "They told me the neighbors took it down. I informed them that's the second time the neighbors have vandalized my property and the first time they assaulted me."

Coleman said he told officers at the time he had all the necessary papers to legally cultivate more than 275 marijuana plants for his collective. Coleman claims officers told him to move from the area.

Attorney Eric Berg said he feels strongly that Coleman's rights have been violated and his office has filed a claim against Shasta County that is considered the first step in a civil rights lawsuit.

"I think it's outrageous," Berg said. "It's a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, and the fact that they told him that he should move, that they told him they didn't want his kind here is outrageous."

Coleman said he still feels trapped even after the charges were dropped because he has been unable to obtain the proper permits for the collective, and the cost has become too great.

"And now they're asking me for $11,000 for the permits," Coleman said. "I'm going to the County of Supervisors on next Tuesday to ask for relief. It's my last administrative remedy."

The Shasta County Sheriff's Office has not commented.

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