A man Oklahoma authorities wanted back in prison for growing marijuana and violating parole is now free of jail and moved on to California.
The case of William Joseph Foster stretches nearly 15 years and involves two states. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections wanted the governor to revoke Foster’s parole; administrators got what they wanted. Foster either wanted Gov. Brad Henry to deny the DOC’s request or grant him time served and release him from jail; he got the latter.
The governor signed a certificate of revocation finding that Foster had violated one rule of parole, Rule 10, or failure to follow lawful directives by not submitting or applying to be supervised. The state had accused Foster of violating four parole rules. But the governor also ordered the revocation to time already served by Foster, including parole time, of nearly six and half years. The governor’s finding was based on a recommendation from the general counsel of the state’s Pardon and Parole Board.
“The (general counsel) basically found him not guilty of almost all of those violations, except the technical violation of not reporting, which was the basis of the recommendation to the governor for such a light disposition,” said Foster’s Oklahoma City attorney, Mike Arnett.
The state’s law enforcement and legal systems have been fixed on Foster since 1995 when he was arrested in Tulsa for cultivating marijuana. The nation focused its eye on Foster when he was handed a 93-year prison sentence on charges related to the drug. That sentence was found to be excessive by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals and reduced to 20 years.
California, Here We Come
By 2002, Foster was out on parole and had moved to California, where he was under the supervision of the California Department of Corrections under the Interstate Compact Agreement. The compact allows parolees to move to another state whereby the new state would monitor their whereabouts and activities.
But California officials decided Foster no longer needed to be monitored and released him from their supervision. Oklahoma authorities then moved to get Foster back under supervision and sent a new contract to Foster for parole status. Foster signed the agreement, which he claims would keep him under supervision until 2011. Oklahoma charged it sent Foster a new contract for a different violation, which would keep supervision ongoing until 2015.
He refused to sign the new contract under advice from his California attorney, which prompted Oklahoma to issue an arrest warrant in 2007. A year later, California police raided Foster’s home and found he was growing marijuana. Nearly 300 plants were seized at his residence. He was extradited back to Oklahoma to await a parole revocation hearing.
The state charged Foster not only for violating his parole by not signing the new contract, but also with violating California laws, failure to report residence changes and possession of illegal drugs.
But Foster claimed he was not in violation of California laws, which allow for growing marijuana for medical purposes. He also pointed out that California officials never charged him with any crimes.
Both the general counsel and the governor agreed with Foster, save the one count of not applying for supervision with the state of California.
Arnett said the decision speaks more about where a person is as opposed to what a person does.
“If Will Foster had possessed medical marijuana in Oklahoma, even though he had a prescription to do so from California, I think he would have been found guilty of those violations if he possessed it here,” Arnett said.
“If he is following California law, even though California law is contrary to Oklahoma, he can’t be accused of violating a law if it is not a violation in the jurisdiction where he was arrested.””Scott Cooper