Santa Rita Jail was a sight to behold on Easter Sunday, and I was there to visit the Reverend Eddy Lepp. I stood out in a rain inspired huddle with the other visitors, predominately female, and all of us looking sharp in our holiday best. Inside, Eddy himself was looking well, beard closely trimmed, eyes bright, and boasting his famous creased smile; the same creased smile that has earned him the nickname “OG” in Santa Rita’s general population. Eddy, “Original Gangster?” No. Eddy’s continued evangelism and guidance counseling has earned him the nickname of “Original Grand-daddy,” and it’s a role he not only prefers, but emanates. Plus, Eddy Lepp has reason to smile. Last week, Fear Factor host, Joe Rogan, donated 10 thousand dollars to retain Eddy’s new eloquence of lawyers. The law team is headed by Tony Serra and includes firm members Omar Figueroa and Shari Greenberger. Greenberger appeared with Eddy before Judge Marilyn Patel, March 22nd in San Francisco; a memorable hearing where the packed courtroom broke into a full applause when Judge Patel gave the prosecution an indignant, “And what ever happened to state’s rights?”
Eddy Lepp’s milieu of marijuana mayhem is memorable to say the least. He was the first person tried and acquitted under California Prop 215 in December, 1998 for the cultivation of 150+ plants. In August, 2002 the medicinal gardens were raided for 250+ plants, but charges were never pressed. Then, in August, 2004 Eddy was raided again, this time he had over 32,500 marijuana plants alongside California Highway 20. Eddy was out on bail pending trial for the massive grow when he was most recently arrested during another raid on his farm, February 16, 2005. The charges for the 2004 and 2005 raids have been made into one case; his new charges are for the cultivation of over 6,000 plants and allegedly selling a pound of pot to a wired DEA undercover on January 19, 2005.
I spoke with Serra and Figueroa, who are confident in the Charles “Eddy” Lepp case. Before retaining his prestigious defense team things were not looking good for Eddy, the probability of bail during pretrial zero to none. Now Serra states that he is 98% certain that Eddy will be released on bail following his April, 4th hearing. The prosecution is still pressing for a no-grow stipulation, but is likely to be denied. If the courts are able to confirm Eddy’s medical reasons for the herb, then under California state law he should be able to grow six outdoor plants. Serra said that the cannabis cultivation question is the only small unresolved issue in the stipulations attached to Eddy being released on bail. In order for Eddy to be able to return home once bail is granted, however, he must find a kind friend willing to put up 500 grand worth of property as a bond.
When asked about the allegations that Eddy sold a pound of marijuana to the DEA, Serra stated that they deny that the event occurred; he said that the undercover in question asked Eddy if he could buy a pound of marijuana and Eddy replied, “No, I don’t sell pot.” After the interaction, the wired individual made the exchange with someone else.
The attorneys are utilizing a religious defense along with medicinal. Eddy is, after all, the Minister for the Multi Denominational Chapel of Cannabis and Rastafari. When I asked Serra how confident he was feeling, his reply was, “He [Lepp] is the real thing. He is a beautiful and holy man… I’m Tony Serra, I came out of the sixties, I’ve seen a lot of gurus. The people that surround him listen to and respect him. He oozes charisma… He has the strength of an Old Testament prophet. So yes, we are very optimistic, despite the lack of good law on the subject.” Figueroa added, “He has an altruistic motive. He recounted to me a vignette about communicating with The Most High about his wife’s cancer; I have never been in a jail cell that had that kind of energy in it… Eddy may have a reputation for hogging publicity, but it is not like that. He took in drug addicts, prostitutes, people at their lowest points, and counseled them; it is a bona fide ministry. This case will be testing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
“OG” is keeping the spirit of The Most High close to his heart, even in these exacerbating times. “They can jail my body, but they can’t imprison my spirit,” said Eddy when talking about coming through the other side and keeping strong. Eddy has been finding strength in organizing prayer groups and knocking the proverbial crack pipe out of the hands of his fellow inmates. “God works in mysterious ways. I don’t enjoy this and believe I’m here wrongly, but I’m meeting men in here up to their necks in things they don’t need to be in. If I can get them to put down the crack, the bottle, the pills, then there is a reason I am here in this moment.”