Two people who promoted a large marijuana-smoking party raided by Philadelphia police last month are set to be released from jail after a judge drastically cut their bail.
Marijuana activist N.A. Poe — whose legal name is Richard Tamaccio — and his girlfriend, Rachael Friedman, were among 22 attending the pot party who were arrested after police narcotics and SWAT teams descended on the gathering at a former factory in Northeast Philadelphia.
Officials from the Department of Licenses and Inspections also responded to the site, where hundreds reportedly gathered for the “smoke out” get-together.
Tamaccio, 37, and Friedman, 24, were the last two still in custody; each of them face four drug-related charges, in addition to counts of recklessly endangering another person and charges of causing catastrophe.
The two were arrested and jailed on $250,000 bail.
On Monday, as family of both defendants packed the courtroom, lawyer Chuck Peruto told Common Pleas Judge Tracy Brandeis-Roman there is no doubt the duo will show up for their trial.
“This defendant likes to smoke his marijuana,” Peruto said. “But he’s an otherwise harmless guy.”
After Peruto convinced a different judge earlier in the morning to drop their bail from $250,000 to $50,000, he asked Brandeis-Roman to release Tamaccio and Friedman on their on recognizance without posting any bail at all. Ultimately, she lowered the bail to $10,000.
Among the reasons Peruto is convinced his client will show up to the trial?
“His mother would kill him” if he didn’t, he told the judge.
Assistant District Attorney Ryan Slaven said he is “super concerned” another pot party would be planned in a building that could be accidentally set aflame. Investigators, Slaven said, discovered that organizers had disabled the fire alarms in the former factory, something he said had been done at previous pot parties involving some of the defendants.
“There seems to be a pattern,” Slaven said.
Judge: ‘This case is serious’
But protecting party-goers from becoming victims in a warehouse fire similar to the deadly fire that left 36 dead in Oakland in December was not the only impetus for the prosecution, according to Slaven.
Though possessing small amounts of pot and publicly smoking it have been decriminalized in Philadelphia, “it is criminal offense in Pennsylvania,” Slaven said.
He noted that authorities confiscated THC-laced lollipops and gummy bears during the raid. He said he’s heard about at least one instance of weed-infused gummy bears being sold in public schools in the Philadelphia area— and he said that may be connected to the sellers who attended the April 22 warehouse party in the Frankford section of the city.
Peruto, after the hearing, called that suggestion a huge stretch.
“There’s really not much to argue about whether or not he attended these parties, and whether he’s the face of it. Because he’s the one blowing smoke on the Facebook ad,” Peruto said. “But whether or not he’s the organizer or some leader of a criminal organization, as the commonwealth is alleging, is ridiculous.”
Parents of the two defendants told Brandeis-Roman that the $1,000 they posted to release their children — 10 percent of the new $10,000 bail — came from legitimate sources. The judge reminded them that their kids cannot pay them back with money earned from selling marijuana.
Brandeis-Roman said giving Tamaccio and Friedman freedom does not indicate that she is not taking the case seriously.
“I’m not saying it’s not serious. It’s serious,” Brandeis-Roman said. “I’m taking a chance here,” she said, noting that it would be “really bad” if they planned another pot party and the facility caught on fire.”
“They’d say, ‘she let him out,'” Brandeis-Roman said. “I’d be on the front page.
“Not on my watch.”
While Tamaccio and Friedman await their trial, they cannot plan or attend any pot parties. They also are not permitted to travel outside of the tri-state area unless approved by prosecutors.
Failing to meet these conditions could result in their bail being revoked, meaning the two would sit in jail until their trial starts, and that might be two years away, the judge said.
“In its own way,” Brandeis-Roman said. “This case is serious.”