What You Need to Know
As Donald Trump is scheduled to surrender Thursday to authorities in Georgia on charges that he schemed to overturn the 2020 election in that state, he is changing defense attorneys.
Steven Sadow is replacing Drew Findling on Trump’s Georgia legal team, according to multiple news reports.
According to news reports, Sadow said in a statement that Trump “should never have been indicted,” adding, “He is innocent of all the charges brought against him.” He added that “prosecutions intended to advance or serve the ambitions and careers of political opponents of the president have no place in our justice system.”
Sadow is a longtime Atlanta criminal defense attorney who handles high-profile and white-collar on a counsel basis for Schulten Ward Turner & Weiss. Among Sadow’s recent clients have been rapper Gunna who was charged in a racketeering case in Georgia in 2022.
Sadow earlier this year helped represent Christian Fletcher, CEO of Atlanta medical testing company LifeBrite Laboratories, as part of a group accused of having roles in an alleged $1.4 billion drug-testing fraud case. A federal jury acquitted Fletcher in a retrial in Jacksonville, Fla., in March.
Sadow’s clients also have included Baltimore Ravens football legend Ray Lewis, who was found not guilty of murder in a 1999 case following the Super Bowl in Atlanta; and rapper and business mogul Rick Ross, who pleaded no contest to misdemeanors and received probation after facing mandatory life imprisonment on kidnapping and multiple violent felony charges in 2017.
Trump’s presence in Fulton County follows many of his associates. Rudy Giuliani turned himself in Wednesday to the Fulton County Jail to be booked on a variety of charges related to being former President Donald Trump’s chief organizer of an alleged plot to interfere in the 2020 election in Georgia.
Attorney Brian Tevis of The Tevis Law Firm in Atlanta entered the Fulton County Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon to negotiate a bond for Giuliani. The former New York mayor agreed to a bond of $150,000 in the racketeering case, CNN reported.
In a video posted to the X social media platform, previously known as Twitter, Tevis told reporters on his way to the courthouse it “remained to be seen” if he would be representing Giuliani long-term, who reportedly is cash-strapped.
“First we’re going in to negotiate a bond and I’m sure we’ll make those decisions after that,” he told a reporter.
Trump reportedly is scheduled to host a $100,000-a-plate benefit dinner and roundtable discussion with Trump and Giuliani at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Sept. 7 to raise funds for the former New York mayor’s legal fees.
Trump and 18 other defendants were charged in an Aug. 14 indictment for alleged interference in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. Trump agreed to a $200,000 bond Monday while co-defendants and attorneys John Eastman, Sidney Powell (who also turned herself in Wednesday), Jenna Ellis and Kenneth Chesebro each agreed to $100,000 bonds, according to The Associated Press.
The 41-count indictment in Fulton County Superior Court names Trump and some of his former attorneys, including Giuliani and Eastman, as well as some national and Georgia supporters of the former president, a sitting state senator and some former local election and Republican Party officials.
Those indicted included Trump; Giuliani; Eastman; former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; former Georgia GOP leader David Shafer; State Sen. Shawn Still; pro-Trump attorneys Robert Cheeley and Chesebro; former Coffee County GOP official Cathy Latham; former Coffee County elections director Misty Hampton; Trump campaign official Michael Roman; Atlanta bail bondsman Scott Graham Hall; and former Trump campaign attorneys Ray Smith III, Ellis and Powell.
Others include Harrison “Willie” Floyd, head of Black Voices for Trump, as well as Trevian Kutti, a publicist, and Illinois pastor Stephen Lee, both tied to an alleged intimidation effort of an election official. All the defendants were required to turn themselves in by Friday.
As the Daily Report earlier reported, defense lawyers for Trump and the 18 other defendants charged in the indictment range from a small-town defense lawyer to current and former Am Law 200 partners.
More defense attorney names have surfaced in the last two days.
An Idaho Department of Health and Welfare policy that places women on a registry for ingesting cannabis while pregnant discriminates against them for not living up to a certain "image of pregnancy and motherhood," according to a woman fighting to remove herself from the database.
Keeva Rossow is currently on the hook for using THC while pregnant, facing 10 years on a state list of alleged child abusers. But she argued in a Monday response that the registry is illegitimate as fetuses are not yet children, with the state exceeding its authority granted under the Idaho Child Protective Act, which doesn't have to do with prenatal life.
Plus, she argued, pregnant women have a constitutional right to be free from government interference with their bodies, including during pregnancy. And the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization does not suggest prenatal life confers personhood under the 14th Amendment, the response said.
"The leap in defendant's argument to expand current constitutional law would create not just a slippery slope, but rather an uncontrollable landslide," the response said.
"If a zygote at the moment of conception were legally recognized as a 'child,' what legal rights would it have?" it added. "Would a pregnant person have any right at all to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or engage in long-distance running? If a pregnant person were to lose a pregnancy due to poor nutrition, would she be liable for negligent homicide?"
In short, the response said, a woman's decision to ingest what she wants while pregnant is "no less substantial" than her right to use contraception or to carry to term. Rossow named Department of Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppesen as the defendant.
Rossow sued in March and said she, along with other women, had been placed on the registry for 10 years because of a prenatal drug test that showed she used THC, which she used to treat severe nausea and vomiting associated with her pregnancy.
Her suit noted that while THC is considered a controlled substance under Idaho law, alcohol and cigarettes are not, and the policy does not consider whether the substance poses any risk to the unborn fetus.
Rossow said her daughter, born in December 2021, is healthy with no known medical issues. But she received a letter two weeks after her daughter's birth saying she was being placed on Level 2 of the registry, a designation that states she poses a "medium to high risk to children," her suit said.
And while Rossow exhausted the administrative process for review of her placement on the registry, that does not mean she or other pregnant women receive due process under the law, she argued.
Counsel for Rossow and the state did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Rossow is represented by Emily MacMaster of MacMaster Law PLLC.
The state is represented by Lincoln Wilson of the Idaho Attorney General's Office.
The case is Rossow v. Jeppesen, case number 1:23-cv-00131, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.
A cannabis-friendly banking firm has agreed to pay $5 million to resolve a former client's claims that the firm failed to pay taxes on its behalf to California, the parties told a federal court Wednesday, with the firm asking the court to close the case.
Pacific Banking Corp. and Cann Distributors Inc. have settled the cannabis company's claims that the banking firm breached a contract by failing to pay taxes to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration on Cann's behalf, according to a stipulation filed with a California federal court. An attorney for Pacific Banking asked the court to close the case, citing the resolution.
Cann filed the case in March 2020, alleging Pacific Banking failed to pay millions of dollars in California tax payments and vendor invoices on its behalf. Cann and CCSAC Inc., an affiliated company, entered into agreements with Pacific Banking to conduct some transactions on their behalf and had asked the banking firm to make a $1 million payment to California for Cann's taxes, according to the complaint. The banking firm has operated as an intermediary between cannabis companies and more traditional banks.
While Pacific Banking said the payment had been made to the California tax department, the department said no payment had been made and assessed penalties and interest for nonpayment, according to the complaint.
Cann and CCSAC believe that their funds had been transferred to a company controlled by Pacific Banking's CEO, the complaint said. The court in April 2020 issued an injunction blocking the banking firm from using its funds while the litigation proceeded.
The parties have since sparred over discovery, and Cann has sought sanctions, contending that Pacific Banking's CEO turned in doctored business records.
The $5 million resolution settles all of Cann and CCSAC's claims in the case, including their bid for sanctions, according to the stipulation.
Steven M. Selna of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP, who is representing Cann and CCSAC in the case, told Law360 that "after more than three years of litigation, our client is pleased with the outcome and can now focus all their efforts on expanding and diversifying their cannabis business portfolio."
A representative of Pacific Banking did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Cann Distributors Inc. and CCSAC Inc. are represented by Steven M. Selna of Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP and Robert W. Selna of Selna Partners LLP.
Pacific Banking Corp. is represented by Stephen M. Lobbin of SML Avvocati PC.
The case is CCSAC Inc. et al. v. Pacific Banking Corp. et al., case number 3:20-cv-02102, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
The U.S. Department of Labor has determined that Ostrom Mushroom Farms owes $74,000 in penalties and $54,000 in back wages for failing to pay the required wage rate to 62 foreign H-2A farmworkers and depriving them of cooking facilities and meals.
The Washington farm placed arriving workers in a hotel, rather than the housing it listed in the job order, the DOL said in a statement Thursday. The hotel lacked cooking facilities, and Ostrom did not provide meals, leaving the workers to fend for themselves and buy their own daily meals, according to DOL.
The penalties come less than three months after the farm agreed to pay $3.4 million to settle claims from Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who accused the farm in an August 2022 lawsuit of firing female workers from the U.S. and replacing them with male workers from other countries through the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program, which allows U.S. employers facing a shortage of domestic workers to bring in seasonal agricultural workers from other countries who must continue to work for the employer if they wish to stay in the U.S.
The DOL's wage and hour division said Thursday it hit the farm with $70,000 in penalties "due to the violations' seriousness." More than $4,000 in additional penalties were tacked on because Ostrom did not get housing inspected before the workers arrived, it failed to keep accurate records and did not include all necessary information on paystubs. Additionally, one worker paid roughly $10,000 to a recruiter for a visa, DOL said.
Thomas Silva, who directs the department's wage and hour division in Seattle, Washington, said in a statement that the U.S. is dependent on agricultural workers to put food on families' tables, and the DOL is committed to ensuring industry employers live up to their legal obligations.
"Employers participating in the H-2A guest worker program must make sure that they provide housing as required, that housing is sanitary, that vehicles used to transport workers are safe and that workers are paid correctly for all hours they work," Silva said.
According to a consent decree in the Washington state litigation, Ostrom sold its business in February to Greenwood Mushroom Sunnyside IA LLC, and said it was winding up its business.
Ragan Powers with Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, who represents Ostrom, told Law360 on Friday that Sunnyside's new owner is well positioned for continued success and growth, while hundreds of local jobs have been secured in the community.
"Our investment in state-of-the-art facilities and in a dedicated local workforce over the past four years helped solidify the production of high-quality mushrooms as a valuable economic driver in this region," Powers said.
According to Ferguson's suit, Ostrom laid off 79% of its U.S.-based workforce — many of whom had spent years working on the farm — in order to qualify for the H-2A program beginning in January 2021.
Around the same time, an Ostrom manager posted to a Facebook group for Yakima, Washington, agricultural workers seeking "only males" to apply for its impending harvest season, the complaint had said.
Ostrom ultimately hired 65 mostly male workers under the H-2A system and only four female workers and 18 male workers who were based in the U.S., according to the complaint, which said there were dozens of Washington residents who were willing to work at the farm. However, Ostrom discouraged domestic workers from applying by misrepresenting the required qualifications for the job, according to the now-settled suit.
Instead, the farm turned down multiple domestic applicants in favor of foreign workers with no agricultural experience, and some U.S. workers were also paid less than the H-2A workers, receiving an average of $14 an hour while foreign recruits were paid $17.41 an hour, the attorney general had said.
The $3.4 million settlement was doled out to the domestic workers who the farm fired between January 2021 and December 2022, according to a consent decree in the case.
The complaint alleges that the regulators overstepped by issuing the first New York retail cannabis licenses exclusively through the CAURD program, which they say has no basis in law.
A New York state judge on Monday temporarily barred cannabis regulators from awarding retail licenses and ordered them to appear in court at the end of the week to defend their policy.
The temporary restraining order comes in response to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Albany state court by four service-disabled veterans, alleging the Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board violated separation-of-powers doctrine when they developed the conditional adult-use dispensary retail dispensary, or CAURD, program.
The order specifically enjoins regulators "from awarding or further processing any more conditional adult-use retail dispensary ... licenses and/or conferring operational approval upon any more provisional or existing CAURD licensees."
The court ordered a hearing on Friday on the veterans' request for a preliminary injunction, which would keep the block in place until this litigation and another lawsuit challenging the CAURD program are resolved.
In a letter arguing against a temporary restraining order, an attorney for the state parties told the court last Friday that regulators did not anticipate awarding any licenses until the next CCB meeting in September but would likely spend time "processing" the applications, such as by contacting applicants and reviewing results from background checks.
"Defendants respectfully submit that such processing activity, absent any approval of licenses, causes no harm to plaintiffs and has no impact on the court's consideration of the pending application for temporary relief," an attorney for the regulators said.
The regulators said they would not agree to cease all activities related to getting provisionally approved licensees up and running, noting the process of opening cannabis stores is expensive and onerous, involving multiple stakeholders.
"Asking for a stop to all this activity is not asking for the status quo to be maintained, but rather is asking for affirmative mandatory action that will harm current licensees, and which should be issued only in extraordinary circumstances, which plaintiffs have not established here," the regulators argued.
In their complaint, the veterans argued that the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act MRTA, the 2021 law that legalized cannabis in the Empire State, mandated the creation of a legal cannabis marketplace, but that regulators instead implemented a licensure program that exclusively privileged "justice-involved individuals" over other special interest groups.
"Rather than perform the tasks required by the MRTA, CCB and OCM have improperly assumed the role of the Legislature to impose their own social and economic policies over those of New York's elected officials and, by extension, their constituents," the complaint said.
The complaint notes the MRTA set a statutory requirement that 50% of all retail licenses go to "economic equity" applicants, a group that included businesses owned by women, minorities and service-disabled veterans.
The veterans argue cannabis regulators ignored that provision in favor of establishing the CAURD program with a narrower set of qualifications: CAURD applicants must either have a cannabis-related conviction or a relative with such a conviction, and also have experience running a business.
The veterans' complaint is the latest lawsuit to accuse New York's cannabis regulators of botching the rollout of regulated adult-use marijuana by focusing exclusively on licensing "justice-involved" individuals.
A coalition of medical cannabis operators and would-be adult-use retailers filed a lawsuit in New York state court in March, similarly alleging that when the OCM designed the CAURD program, it went beyond the scope of its remit in violation of the separation of powers doctrine.
The coalition's complaint alleges the regulators overstepped by issuing the first New York retail cannabis licenses exclusively through the CAURD program, which they say has no basis in law.
This is at least the second time a court has issued an order enjoining a piece of the CAURD program. A New York federal judge in November blocked cannabis regulators from issuing retail licenses for five geographic regions across the state, after a would-be applicant from Michigan said the process was discriminatory.
A federal appeals court later reduced the scope of that injunction to just one region, and the order was ultimately rescinded when regulators settled the lawsuit in May.
Regulators have come under increased pressure to get licensed stores up and running in the Empire State, which has seen the explosion of hundreds of unlicensed cannabis sellers in the two years since marijuana was legalized for personal use and possession. By contrast, fewer than two dozen licensed cannabis retailers have opened across the state.
A spokesperson for the veterans declined to comment on Monday. The New York Office of Cannabis Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The veterans are represented by Christopher J. Clark, Patrick J. Smith, Brian T. Burns and Selbie L. Jason of Clark Smith Villazor LLP.
The state parties are represented by Shannan C. Krasnokutski of the New York Attorney General's Office.
The case is Carmine Fiore et al. v. New York State Cannabis Control Board et al., case number 907282-23, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Albany.