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8/15/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: Aug. 15, 2014


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By Shawn Dwyer

harsh sentence

8/14/14 7:30pm

19-Year-Old Faces Life in Prison for Pot Brownies


Life in prison for this? Photo via

A nineteen-year-old man in Texas is facing life in prison on charges of selling brownies made with marijuana and hash oil. Jacob Lavoro was arrested in April after a neighbor complained about the smell of smoke coming from his apartment.

Lavoro was charged with having nearly one and a half pounds of drugs with the intent to sell, a first-degree felony that carries a punishment of 10 years to life in prison.

“I’m scared. Very scared,” said Lavoro. “I’m 19 years old and I still have my whole life ahead of me. Take that into account, and I can do more good than evil.”

According to an arrest affidavit, officers confiscated hash oil in a container, $1,600, and what appeared to be a client list. Following a lab test, it has been confirmed that 145 grams of hash oil were in the jar and just 2.5 grams of THC in the brownies.

Lavoro’s attorney, Jack Holmes, wants the charges reduced to a second-degree felony, which would reduce the punishment to two to 20 years or probation.

The office of the District Attorney has offered Lavoro a plea deal to a reduced felony charge that would involve no jail time if he stayed out of trouble. First Assistant D.A. Mark Brunner claimed prosecutors are not intending to lock up Lavoro in prison for life. But Holmes rejected the offer, worried that prosecutors would be overzealous if Lavoro missed so much as a mandatory meeting.

Holmes is prepared to argue in a key hearing that the charges should be dropped altogether based on whether the search of Lavoro’s apartment was lawful. Holmes said police officers entered the apartment without justification, although the police claim Lavoro’s girlfriend allowed them inside. “That’s going to be a very important hearing because if the judge rules in our favor, the case is over,” Holmes said.

Holmes, a former police officer, said the smell of marijuana would have been enough justification for a search if Lavoro was in a vehicle, but that is not the case for a residence. “They just bowed their way in because they thought they smelled marijuana in the apartment…they had permission right then based on the law, and they’re wrong about that,” Holmes said.

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By Victoria Kim

trail blazers

8/14/14 5:30pm

Washington, Colorado Deny Pot Tourism Exists



Despite Seattle's Hempfest, which can attract up to a quarter million people, and Colorado's 4/20 Cannabis Cup in 2014, officials from both cities have said that legalization hasn't brought in pot tourists.

Contrary to such pronouncements, however, travel websites have claimed that both states have seen an uptick in visitors since choosing to legalize marijuana.

“We've seen that searches for both destinations have spiked dramatically,” said Taylor Cole, PR representative for Hotels.com.

Every year, Hotels.com has seen a 73% boost in traffic for tourists shopping for Denver hotels during the 4/20 event season. As for Seattle, there was a 68% increase in people searching for rooms there during the first month of legal weed sales in the state.

But if pot tourism does exist, regardless of what officials say, there is a clear winner for toking travelers. “Our search data does show that Denver and Colorado have seen more significant search increases in the first seven months of the year,” Cole said.

While Colorado had a six month head start on establishing marijuana, Virginia Nicholson of Hopper.com said that Washington fell behind because of a "recreational weed shortage." Only 79 dispensaries out of the 2,600 that applied were approved to start growing.

Despite this, state officials continue to deny that legal marijuana is having any effect on tourism. “It’s interesting to me, we’ve had fairly low amounts of consumer interest through our visitor information channels, our visitor centers and phones, even as retail sales opened here last month,” said David Blandford, spokesman for Visit Seattle.

“We're not Amsterdam,” said Deborah Park of Visit Denver. “When people come into the city, they will go to a recreational marijuana location. But it’s like shopping—one of those things they do while they’re here. They’re not making their trip around it.”

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By Bryan Le

still in mourning

8/14/14 3:30pm

Robin Williams Was In Early Stages of Parkinson's, Wife Says



On Wednesday, the wife of Robin Williams, Susan Schneider, released a statement that said her husband was in the early stages of Parkinson's disease at the time of his death. He was struggling with depression and anxiety, but had maintained a hold on his sobriety.

Here is the statement in full:

“Robin spent so much of his life helping others. Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the frontlines, or comforting a sick child — Robin wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid.

Since his passing, all of us who loved Robin have found some solace in the tremendous outpouring of affection and admiration for him from the millions of people whose lives he touched. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles.

Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.

It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

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By Shawn Dwyer

depression & death

8/14/14 1:00pm

Did Robin Williams Show Signs of Depression?



From the moment that the world learned about Robin Williams committing suicide, stories emerged almost immediately about his battles with depression and decades-long fight with substance abuse. But according to a report from the Los Angeles Times, Williams slipped deeper into the abyss in recent years following open heart surgery in 2009, mounting bills due to his divorce settlements, and the cancellation of his CBS sitcom, The Crazy Ones, this past May.

"He started to disconnect," said longtime friend and comedian Rick Overton. "He wasn't returning calls as much. He would send texts and things like that, but they would get shorter and shorter."

On Aug. 11, 2014, Williams was found dead by his personal assistant hanging by a belt attached to a closet door. He also had superficial cuts on his wrists, presumably made by a bloodied pocketknife found near his body.

Just a month before his death, Williams had checked into the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in Minnesota to "fine-tune" his sobriety, which proved to be fragile after the cancellation of The Crazy Ones. The show marked the comedian's return to television after the mega-success of Mork & Mindy decades earlier, but failed to catch on with viewers and was cancelled by CBS.

"He took the cancellation of the show hard," Overton said. "It would hit any of us hard...the one-two punch of that can make all the difference in the world. He got real quiet."

Prior to the show's demise, Williams was already diminished as a box office draw. He no longer commanded the big paydays like he did in the 1980s and 1990s, leaving him consigned to smaller indie films or supporting roles in blockbusters like Night at the Museum. The change in star status—coupled with mounting financial pressures from two divorces—appeared to have a deeper effect on him than anyone could imagine.

"You could just tell something was off," said friend Steven Pearl, who saw Williams in San Francisco just weeks before his death. "He seemed detached. It's hard to explain. He didn't seem like his usual self...I didn't know it would get this dark."

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By Shawn Dwyer


8/14/14 10:30am

Drug Addicted Mother to Get Compensation For Disabled Daughter's Death



The current hot topic in New South Wales, Australia, is over a drug-addicted mother receiving victim’s compensation for her disabled daughter’s pending death, despite her absence resulting in the child being brutally beaten at the age of seven by the woman’s then-husband.

The woman, who can’t be named for legal reasons, has been awarded half of the $50,000 in victim's compensation paid to the child after the violent attack. She will be able to collect the money when the girl, now 13, passes away. She is reportedly “on the brink of death,” as her congenital condition has dramatically worsened, despite requiring life-saving surgery at the time of her severe beating. She has been left with no skull over the left side of her brain and has to wear a rigid head covering at all times.

The child was placed in foster care after the attack and her current foster parents will receive the other half of the money. The Department of Family and Community Services wanted to split money between the foster parents and two children’s hospitals that treated the girl for five months after the assault. They argued that the woman had an extended history of drug abuse and neglectful parenting, which was partially responsible for the child’s assault. She has also reportedly had minimal contact with her daughter over the last two years. She was entitled to weekly supervised visits with her daughter, but stopped using them in December 2011.

However, the NSW Supreme Court ruled last week that the hospitals were entitled to nothing. "Whatever her failings, [the mother] was not beyond the pity of a child such as [the daughter], with whom there was a family bond and a shared life of tragedy," noted Justice Geoff Lindsay. He also believed that the girl would not have left her mother out of the will if she had the capacity to make one.

The woman’s then-husband was convicted in September 2011 of assault occasioning grievous bodily harm.

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By McCarton Ackerman


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