Accused pot grower is own attorney

Tim Beck. Photo by Robb Fulcher

Despite cautions from a judge, Tim Beck, who describes himself as a medical marijuana grower, will serve as his own lawyer on felony charges of cultivating marijuana and cultivating marijuana for sale.

Beck also turned down a plea agreement that would have called for 90 days community service and three years probation in exchange for a guilty plea to one felony count.

Beck, 63, of Torrance, has appeared before the Hermosa Beach City Council to push for limited beach nudity, and to make a case that beach sand could be frozen to prevent its migration to other shores, and dry ice could be used to freeze oil spills for cleanup.

He also has consulted with Hermosa and Manhattan Beach officials about what he believes is a legal nonprofit pot dispensary, delivering to patients in the beach cities.

Beck, appearing in a Torrance courtroom on Tuesday in a necktie and tweedy jacket, told Superior Court Judge James R. Brandlin that he had fired his attorneys and would defend himself, at least for a time.

Brandlin took pains to advise Beck that being one’s own lawyer is not always the best move.

“It’s a bad idea,” the judge said, referring to the general practice of defending oneself in a felony trial. He also told Beck “It is your right.”

Brandlin told Beck that non-lawyers might be unaware of steps that lawyers would take to defend them. He offered to postpone the matter to give Beck time to hire an attorney, and he pointed out that Beck can seek a public defender.

When Beck declined, Brandlin directed him to fill out documents showing he was “intelligently and voluntarily” giving up his constitutional right to be defended by a lawyer.

Beck asked if he could change his mind later and seek a public defender, and Brandling said he could do that “in a timely manner,” but not, for instance, the day before trial.

The judge asked Beck if he wanted to accept the plea agreement offered by Deputy District Attorney Bobby Zoumberakis and Beck declined.

Beck proposed a plea agreement calling for him to make a $5,000 donation to Harbor General Medical Center, and the judge told him that such a donation would not typically be included in an agreement with a prosecutor.

Beck has been free on $25,000 bail since he was arrested in an August raid on his home, in which police seized 239 pot plants he was growing for home-delivery customers of medical marijuana. Beck has said the operation is legal, and he has disputed the legality of the police search and officers’ account of how much marijuana was seized.

Beck has said he has a license to grow marijuana and sell it for medical purposes, and he was delivering it to patients after they prove they have a physician’s prescription. He said his clients included a 60-year-old cancer patient whose oncologist prescribes pot smoking to stimulate his appetite.

Home delivery also saves “sick people having to drive to a dispensary,” Beck said.



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