Nearly a year after three Santa Ana police officers were accused of consuming edible marijuana during a pot-shop raid, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office filed misdemeanor charges against them on Monday but said there was insufficient evidence to support the most serious allegation.
Brandon Matthew Sontag, 31; Nicole Lynn Quijas, 37; and Jorge Arroyo, 32; were each charged with one misdemeanor count of petty theft on Monday.
Sontag faces an additional charge of one misdemeanor count of vandalism under $400.
The officers, along with others from the Santa Ana Police Department, took part in serving a search warrant to Sky High Holistic, a marijuana dispensary at 419 W. 17th St., on May 26, 2015.
During the raid, the three officers entered the break room and took snacks available to staff, including Detour Simple protein bars and Mrs. Thinsters cookies, the DA concluded after reviewing 16 hours of unedited video surveillance footage and interviewing multiple witnesses.
There was no evidence that any Police Department personnel consumed any edible marijuana items available at the dispensary, the DA stated.
The trio were also accused of sharing the protein bars with other officers, and there was “insufficient evidence that they knew the food items belonged to the dispensary and not their fellow officers,” according to the DA.
In addition to taking part in petty theft, Sontag was accused of damaging five surveillance cameras by banging and smashing the camera lenses into the corner of a dispensary case and cash register.
The cameras were valued at $80 to $100 each.
Police legally disabled 16 surveillance cameras during the raid, following investigatory and officer safety protocol, but were recorded by four hidden cameras.
Edited versions of the surveillance footage were later released to the media by attorney Matthew Pappas, who planned to file a lawsuit on behalf of Marla James, an amputee patient who was working as a volunteer manager at the dispensary at the time of the raid.
The videos “definitely” showed that the officers were eating pot-laced “edibles” at the time of the raid, according to Pappas.
“One of them talks about the candy bar, the edible, and says he’s starting to get light-headed. That would indicate to me that they’re eating marijuana edibles. They’re sitting right near a safe … where the edibles are located,” Pappas said in July.
However, police at the time said they were waiting to see the full video.
If convicted, Arroyo and Quijas face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, and Sontag faces one year and six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
All three were scheduled to be arraigned on April 11 at 9 a.m.