American Nightmare: Will Foster and Justice, Oklahoma Style

Will Foster became a poster child for the mindless cruelties of the drug war more than a decade ago. The Tulsa small businessman and medical marijuana user — he suffers from degenerative arthritis — was raided by police with a warrant for a methamphetamine lab back in 1993. Police found no meth, but they did find a small marijuana garden. The unfortunate Foster was quickly sentenced to a mind-blowing 93 years in prison.

It took a growing national movement and, ultimately, an Oklahoma Supreme Court decision to get that sentence redressed. After the state high court threw out his sentence, Foster was resentenced to 20 years, twice denied parole, then finally paroled to the more medical marijuana-friendly state of California, where he moved in temporarily with “Guru of Ganja” Ed Rosenthal, who had testified in his defense in Oklahoma and then befriended him.

And they all lived happily ever after, right? Wrong. Although Foster settled into a law-abiding life in Northern California, picking up a new family along the way, and successfully completed what the state of California considered an adequate parole period, that wasn’t good enough for the state of Oklahoma. Upset that California officials hadn’t kept him on parole as long as they would have, Oklahoma parole officials demanded that he return to that benighted state to finish his parole and when he, perhaps understandably, declined, issued a warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his parole.

Nothing came of that until Foster had his ID checked in a police encounter, but then, the pending Oklahoma warrant popped up, and Foster was jailed in California to be returned to Oklahoma to finish the rest of his sentence. With nothing to lose, Foster fought the warrant by filing a writ of habeas corpus and winning its dismissal in the California courts in 2006.

Once again, Foster was a free man, but Oklahoma still wasn’t done with him. Oklahoma parole officials then offered to reinstate him in the interstate compact, which governs the supervision of parolees who parole to states other than the one in which they were sentenced, but then added that they had made a mistake when originally calculating the length of his parole period. His parole didn’t end in 2011, but in 2015, they said, demanding he sign a document to that effect. Again, perhaps understandably, Foster declined that offer, and again, the state of Oklahoma issued another warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his parole.

By then, Foster had moved to Santa Rosa, California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, and made a home with a local woman, Susie Mueller, and her three daughters. There, he had a medical marijuana grow, all completely legal under state law and county guidelines. But he also had a vindictive ex-girlfriend, who told law enforcement officials he was operating a major marijuana grow operation.

The next thing Foster and Mueller knew, DEA agents and Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies were kicking down their door, the couple was arrested on state marijuana cultivation charges, and Mueller’s youngest daughter was taken into custody as an endangered child.

“It was terrible,” said Mueller. “They did a full-on raid and arrested him over seven mature plants, and they arrested me and took my daughter away. They thought because he knew Ed there was something big going on. They said if I told them where the other grows were, they wouldn’t arrest me and take my daughter. I told them that’s all there was and that he was within the guidelines, and they said ‘take her kid,’ and they arrested me.”

A hard-nosed Sonoma County prosecutor delayed months before dropping the baseless charges, and Foster sat in the Sonoma County Jail the whole time. But even after the charges were dropped, Foster remains behind bars, fighting the extradition warrant back to Oklahoma. It’s now going on 16 months of imprisonment for him.

“In their warrant, they said I violated the terms and conditions of parole in Oklahoma, then fled Oklahoma to escape justice,” Foster said Wednesday in a phone call from the jail. “But I haven’t been back in Oklahoma since I left in 2001. I successfully finished parole here, I beat back that earlier extradition effort, and they’re still coming after me.”

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger routinely signed off on the Oklahoma warrant without knowing all the facts, Foster said. “The governor has not been given all the information. Oklahoma didn’t tell him I had finished parole, had an earlier extradition attempt thrown out, or that they had tried to extend my parole six years after the fact,” he pointed out.

Neither the California nor the Oklahoma governors’ offices nor Oklahoma parole officials responded to Chronicle inquiries about the Foster case.

Now, with his options running out, Foster and his supporters are pursuing two strategies, one political and one judicial. The first is aimed at the two governors, urging them to revoke the warrants. The second is to file another writ of habeas corpus, which Foster said he would do at the end of this month.

“I am asking the governor of Oklahoma to recall the warrant and commute my sentence and let me live in peace in California and just leave me alone,” he said. “I’m asking Gov. Schwarzenegger to not honor the extradition request. There is case law suggesting that he does not have to grant extradition; he can deny it and recall his warrant.”

Ed Rosenthal is leading the campaign to free Foster. On his blog is complete information about how to contact the two governors to ask them to recall the warrants.

“Every human being whose life is disrupted because of the marijuana laws deserves our attention, but Will’s case is important first because people already know about the terrible injustice done to him back in Oklahoma, and second because it’s just so weird and egregious,” said Rosenthal. “People just shake their heads and say this shouldn’t be happening. We’re trying to get him out, and we’re trying to bring this injustice to the attention of people who don’t already know about it,” he said.

“Apparently, Oklahoma has a lot of money to burn on this vindictiveness,” he noted. “This is a sad and stupid case.”

It’s costing cash-strapped California, too. The cost for imprisoning Foster for the past 15 months is now in excess of $100,000, and that doesn’t include the cost of the bogus marijuana cultivation prosecution.

“I’ll be filing a habeas writ on June 29,” Foster said, “and the state will have 15 days to respond. There will probably be a hearing in 30 days.”

It’s unusual for habeas writs to be granted, and Foster is uncertain about his prospects for victory, but is prepared for the long haul. “If I don’t win there, I can drag this out for years. I could go all the way to the California Supreme Court, and then into the federal courts. But that would require that I continue to sit here in jail,” he said.

Susie Mueller visits Foster in jail almost every day. “This is heartbreaking for me, it’s very emotionally difficult because he shouldn’t be in there,” she said. “But I’m really devoted to him. I go almost every night, and we talk for an hour and play tic-tic-toe and go over the case.”

In one of the strange ironies of Foster’s ordeal, Mueller said she had gathered signatures for petitions seeking his release when he was imprisoned in Oklahoma a decade ago. “I met him at work here in Santa Rosa and didn’t even realize he was that Will Foster,” she laughed. “What a coincidence.”

“Ed and Susie are the best advocates a guy could have,” said Foster. “I’m so grateful for all they’re doing.”

For Foster, Oklahoma’s efforts to punish him further are not about justice, but vengeance. “I beat them on the sentencing, I beat them on the first extradition warrant, and they want to teach me a lesson,” he said. “They want to impose their authority.”

Right now, the decision to extradite Foster back to Oklahoma is up to the two governors and their extradition specialists. An outpouring of public support in favor of allowing Foster to remain in California as a free man could make the difference.

– Article from Drug War Chronicle on June 26, 2009.

Comments

7 Comments

  1. Anonymous on

    THE UNITED STATES HAS BECOME THE ASSHOLE OF NORTH AMERICA, AND OKLAHOMA IS FIVE MILES UP IT. One of the most useless, inbreed states we have. Stay the hell out of OK.

  2. Afraid of my government on

    If you think this is sick add on what the Oklahoma state prosecutor can’t be bothered to lay charges for.If you go to youtube you can watch “JohnTV” which shows many people having sex with hookers, in public places like parks and on the side of the road in residential neighborhoods. This guy vids faces, license plates, gets voices, and catches the person in the act and the DA refuses to charge many of them. The state of Oklahoma should be sued for discrimination and harassment.

  3. Anonymous on

    Its OKLAHOMA you twit…

    In any case, I and several people I know have written our governor’s office here in Oklahoma and received -no- response. Its about time to start getting this story out to our local news agencies here in green country and make the public aware of our tax dollars that are being squandered on personal vengeance..

    ..this should make the people of Oklahoma absolutely sick..

    I for one remember the news story done on this man when he was first busted for his “meth lab”, and I can’t believe this is still going on..

  4. bokoo143 on

    I posted this article on several forums to let others know of the unjust going on here with Oaklahoma and Will Foster.

    It could help if we all get the info out to forums we all subscribe to, tweeter, facebook, youtube, contact these officials and let them know we are aware.

    I believe Oaklahoma will back off in a heartbeat when the news gets around and this family can finally live peacefully.

  5. Reggaesmoker on

    Fuck elections, it’s time for some payback. Lets find out who exactly is fucking this guy around and post their names/addresses/contact info here.

    Better yet lets start a national database for scum like this. Photos/personal info/ family info/anything we can find. It could include cops/lawyers/parole officers/judges/ basically anyone sidestepping justice to get their own way and hurt others.

    Who’s up for it?

  6. Dreamer on

    I think its time for the people to start acting more acordingly to things of this nature. I think it’s time to start looking into recall elections on state and federal officals who participate, indorce or allow things like this to take place. Thier job is to serve, represent and inforce the will of the people. This is not the will of the people. So maybe threating to disrupte and end thier cushy jobs as elected officals is the only option for getting them to act in the proper mannor, fitting of thier role in public affairs.

  7. Johnny Long Buds on

    What the funk 93 years man this makes me sick…sick….what is going on with this country holy shit I <3 Marijuana its so peaceful and soothing and amazing…free this man let him live in peace