By Julie Wilson
A 19-year old Austin resident whose life has been turned upside down after he was caught baking pot brownies in his apartment last April pled not guilty in a hearing on June 19.
The defendant, Jacob Lavoro, is facing five years to life in prison for his charges.
District Judge Rick J. Kennon addressed the courtroom’s “unusually large crowd” Thursday afternoon before resetting the teen’s court date for Aug. 6.
Lavoro turned down a plea deal for second-degree felony. His lawyer, Jack Holmes, wants the charge reduced to a misdemeanor and is prepared for a fight in court if necessary.
Hundreds of supporters, friends and family members rallied outside the Williamson County Courthouse for the teen’s first court appearance since his April arrest.
Friends and supporters came to Jacob Lavoro’s defense, describing him as an “outstanding citizen,” one that surely, if given the chance, would contribute greatly to society.
“We’re seeing one of our friends being… compared to, like, rapists and murderers who are getting less time than him, and we don’t like that,” said a friend of Lavoro.
Lavoro’s friends confirmed that the teen has a clean record, “not even a speeding ticket,” they added.
“I feel like, if he were to get passed this, he would contribute a lot to the community.”
Lavoro’s father addressed the crowd, tearing up as he expressed his thankfulness and amazement at the support that his son’s receiving from the community.
“All of our plans were to see our kids happy, go off and retire, enjoy ourselves, travel around the United States if we could, and if we couldn’t, we’d just hang out, just relax,” said Mr. Lavoro.
“Well, whatever plans we had certainly for this year are done.”
A former Brooklyn resident, Mr. Lavoro said he loves living in Texas, and he’s confident that the “good people of [Williamson] County will wake up” and not want to prosecute his son.
“No one wants to see a child, a young man’s life or a young woman’s life ruined with the word felony, especially when it’s a victimless crime,” said Mr. Lavoro.
Entering without warrant
Police in Round Rock, a suburb of north Austin, were called to Lavoro’s apartment after a neighbor complained of smelling marijuana. When Lavoro’s girlfriend, Kaci Marie Hill, asked who was at the door, police disguised themselves as being maintenance.
Once Hill opened the door, “the two officers proceeded to enter the apartment, without a warrant or any exigent circumstances, meaning they did not see any sign of anyone attempting to get rid of evidence which would have given them legal cause to enter the premises without a warrant,” said Holmes, Lavoro’s attorney.
“What they should have done was secure the apartment and called for backup and a warrant.”
After discovering brownies and cookies Lavoro made with hash oil, police arrested and charged him with felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.
Police reportedly found nine bags of brownies and six bags of cookies, $1,675 in cash and 16 ounces of marijuana. The weight of the ingredients and the containers holding the baked goods, which amounted to 1.45 pounds, were used to determine Lavoro’s charges.
The total hash oil used amounted to approximately 7 grams, according to reports.
The teen is facing a ridiculously harsh sentence for a plant that’s legal medicinally and recreationally in other states.
For example, last March, Arizona lessened restrictions on cannabidiol (CBD oil), which makes up approximately 40 percent of the plant’s extract, but in Texas, possession of hashish, also an extract of the cannabis plant, is a class-one felony.
Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper of Maricopa County ruled in favor of allowing a five-year-old suffering from debilitating epileptic seizures to use CBD oil, one of 60 cannabinoids discovered in marijuana.
Just two days after Lavoro’s arrest, Wisconsiv Gov. Scott Walker approved a bill legalizing CBD oil for children and adults suffering from severe seizure disorders.
Other states, including Utah, Georgia and Missouri, have taken similar action, either passing or considering legalizing marijuana extracts for medicinal purposes.
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