by Matt Rosenberg March 21st, 2011
Last week I reported on a Washington State appeals court ruling affirming a King County Superior Court decision to reverse Auburn Municipal Court convictions of Dustin B. Gauntt for possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Gauntt admitted to the basic facts of the case which led to his arrest after being spotted by Auburn Police while driving and holding a pipe to his mouth. But Auburn had not expressly adopted the state statutes in question into the city’s municipal code, ultimately prompting the dismissal of the charges first in county court and then again last week by a state judicial panel after the city appealed. Auburn has until early April to decide whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court the second strike against their prosecution of Gauntt.
When I was writing up my original report for our Public Data Ferret news and knowledge base site last week, it was clear that beyond the plain facts of the case there was a person about whom the legal documents said nothing and about whom I knew nothing. I left a message for Gauntt through his attorney, and I spoke to Gauntt this weekend in a phone interview.
Gauntt graduated from high school in Port Angeles, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula. He’s 26 years of age, and has lived in the South King County city of Auburn for about five years, working in a warehouse. While still employed there, he’s been attending Green River Community College to complete a two-year degree in design and drafting. Gauntt says he’s aiming to land a job with a company such as Boeing upon graduation.
Asked about the incident which led to his arrest and subsequent conviction in Auburn Municipal Court prior to the county and state appeals court reversals, Gauntt said he believes “smoking pot while driving is a very stupid idea. I’m not condoning that at all.” The overturning of the conviction, he said, is ímportant personally, especially because he will be seeking new full-time employment after getting his two-year degree from the community college. Gauntt added, “Ï don’t consider myself a criminal. I’m a good person. I pay my taxes. I wasn’t responsible back then; I am now. I’m trying to elevate myself in life, going to school, and trying to get a good job.”
While the city of Auburn mulls whether to appeal the latest rejection of its conviction of Gauntt in its municipal court, Gauntt says that on the topic of drugs and the law, “there are bigger fish to fry. There’s a huge methamphetamine problem here in Auburn and South King County. And meth causes so much more damage to people’s bodies and to society.”
Gauntt added he believes that marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed. The revenues could be a “huge benefit,” he said, particularly if directed toward public health needs and programs.
The Washington state legislature has been considering a bill that would legalize and tax marijuana.
Guantt’s attorney was David Richard Kirschenbaum. Auburn has been represented by City Attorney Daniel Heid.