Criminal Charges Dismissed After Oregon Medical Marijuana Parents Refuse to Quit Fighting After State Took Away Their Daughter
Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap.com Staff
For Kitrina Nelson and Cody Stanphill-Kiser, the year 2018 began with a celebration.
Initially taken over her parent’s medical marijuana harvest, 1-year-old Kaylynn was ripped from her parent’s arms on Oct. 24th, 2017, by Malheur County, Oregon Child Protective Services. Kaylynn was placed with strangers in foster care, as her parents were forced to fight allegations of Child Neglect in Family Court over their legal status as Medical Marijuana patients.
Kitrina represented herself, and won the case on Dec. 28th, 2017; and Kaylynn was returned home immediately – after spending 70 terrifying days in State Foster Care.
See our previous coverage on this family’s story:
Now, almost a year later, Kitrina and Cody are celebrating once again.
The Long Fight Against Criminal Charges of “Child Neglect”
As part of the civil claim of child neglect, that is used to ultimately strip parents of their rights to their children, CPS caseworker Shannon Casad had also worked with Malheur County Sheriff Deputy, Asa Palagi, to also pursue Criminal charges of Child Neglect under ORS 163.545.
The charges were listed as a basis of dependency in the state’s child welfare petition. This is a frequent tactic used by child protective services, nationwide, often used to trump up reports and intimidate parents into cooperation with dependency cases to avoid facing the criminal charges.
Kitrina and Cody were both charged with the same crime, were forced to book and release on the charges, and each faced up to a year in the county jail, if convicted.
After the charges were filed, both parents were reportedly offered a plea agreement of dismissal of the criminal charges – if Kitrina would just agree to the dependency case before the hearing on Dec. 28th, 2017.
When Cody and Kitrina refused to agree, and pointed out that the State had to prove child neglect by proving they had left Kaylynn unattended in a dangerous situation, as the law stated, the charges were amended on Dec. 13th, 2017, by Malheur County Prosecuting Attorney, Carrie Greenshields, to “Recklessly Endangering Another Person” under ORS 163.195.
After the Dependency case was dismissed on Dec. 28th, 2017, and Kaylynn immediately returned home, Malheur County refused to let go of the criminal charges.
Parents Reject Plea Bargain Offers
For the last year (2018), Cody and Kitrina have attended numerous court hearings, and been offered numerous plea bargains – all of which they refused.
Their trial date, originally scheduled for March 2018, was pushed to June 2018, after they still refused to submit to a plea bargain and insisted upon their rights to a jury trial.
In June, it was pushed again to December 2018 – where they were prepared represent themselves against the allegations.
The basis for the charges was that Cody and Kitrina had exposed Kaylynn to Cannabis, and that this had endangered her wellbeing.
Cody points out that the prosecutors still didn’t have anything to prove that they had endangered Kaylynn. Cannabis is a nontoxic plant and cannot cause substantial risk of harm, which is required of the law in order for a conviction of the Reckless Endangerment charge.
And on top of that, the Oregon Medical Marijuana law provides an affirmative defense protection from prosecution for activities under that law, a law of which both Cody and Kitrina were following by maintaining their medical marijuana recommendations from their doctors.
CPS Continued to Harass Family
In what Cody sees as intimidation tactics to convince them to plea to the criminal charges, the family has had to endure numerous encounters with CPS over the last year.
Fraudulent reports were allegedly stated each time caseworkers showed up at the door, but Cody and Kitrina stood their ground, refusing access to their house and to Kaylynn – without a warrant. CPS reportedly went so far as to even extend the harassment over the state border, where CPS in Idaho reportedly visited Kitrina’s mother as well.
Cody reports that in the last year, all of the caseworkers and officers involved in the case have allegedly been transferred out of the small town of Vale; and he has heard rumors that many were fired or resigned – including Caseworker Shannon Casad and Malheur County Deputy, Asa Palagi, both the original witnesses in their case.
As the trial dates approached, scheduled for Dec. 17th & 18th, the couple was approached with an agreement almost too good to be true. In exchange for dismissal of the charges, Kitrina would simply need to provide documentation that she had completed a parenting class.
Initially, Cody and Kitrina still attempted to press forward, refusing any kind of agreement, until they were told that the trial was about to be pushed off, yet again. This time, for another 6 months, and they wouldn’t have their day in court until June 2019.
In an effort to finally end the court battle they’d been fighting for over a year, the couple decided to finally agree. Kitrina took a $40 divorce parenting class, and provided a certificate of completion to the Malheur County prosecutor, David Goldthrope – who in turn, filed for dismissal of the charges on Dec. 14, 2018.
This year’s Medical Marijuana harvest came and went without any incident, and both parents maintain their medical marijuana status as patients under Oregon law.
Kaylynn celebrated her 2nd birthday in September, surrounded by her family.
Family Begins to Heal
Now married, and expecting a new baby girl, Kassandra Lynette, due in March – Kitrina and Cody are ecstatic over their recent win, and the ability to finally move on with their lives.
The family is finally able to begin healing and they are excited to move away from the fear and harassment of the last year and a half. They hope that their case helps show other parents that it is possible to fight back against the false allegations of both CPS, and the police.
Cody says that the whole ordeal has been such a strain on their family, that they almost lost their relationship.
But they found strength in fighting together.
Cody encourages other parents who face the same situation to “Stand loud and proud, and never stop fighting back. It is possible to bring your children home again, as long as you don’t quit fighting.”
Family advocate, Serra Frank, from the Fight for Lilly, has been following the case from the beginning, and personally witnessed the fight.
“Cody and Kitrina’s case is the epitome of how parents can successfully fight back against the corruption found within CPS. Their success just goes to show, if you fight them, you CAN win.”
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