One day, Philadelphia marijuana advocate and comedian N.A. Poe predicted after he appeared in court Wednesday, he won't be charged with a crime for throwing a bash for a few hundred people where marijuana burns all night and is sold.
But the selling was illegal last year in Pennsylvania — and still is today. And because Poe facilitated such sales when he held such a party at a Frankford warehouse, and because pot plants were found in his South Philadelphia home last year, a judge Wednesday ordered him to serve 100 hours of community service and four years' probation and fined him $2,500.
Poe, 38, whose real name is Richard Tamaccio Jr., had pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to two felony charges — possession with intent to deliver marijuana, and conspiracy. As part of the plea, other charges were dropped, including a felony offense of causing a catastrophe.
Assistant District Attorney Ryan Slaven said authorities had seized nine pounds of marijuana plants or derivatives at Poe's home that April 22 night. The charges to which Poe had pleaded guilty were tied to the seizures from his home and to his organizing of the Frankford party, the prosecutor said. Poe was at the party.
Common Pleas Court Judge Scott DiClaudio said in court that although Poe has a medical marijuana card, it remains illegal to sell marijuana in Pennsylvania, except by certain dispensaries and only in some forms.
Defense attorney A. Charles Peruto Jr., who in court called Poe "a true crusader" in the promotion of marijuana, told reporters that the charge of causing a catastrophe had been dropped because nobody was endangered at the warehouse. But Slaven said after the hearing that he believed the warehouse party risked causing a catastrophe, and that he dropped the charge because it carried the "same gravity offense" for sentencing purposes as the intent-to-sell charge to which Poe had pleaded guilty.
Poe told reporters that about 500 to 600 people had attended the party, on the 4500 block of Worth Street.
In addition to Poe, police arrested 21 other people, including his girlfriend, Rachael Friedman, and his father, Richard Tamaccio Sr.
Tamaccio Sr., 66, was convicted of a misdemeanor charge of possession of a controlled substance and was ordered to do 24 hours of community service.
Friedman's case is scheduled before DiClaudio on May 2. Her attorney, Fortunato "Fred" Perri Jr., said Wednesday that he hopes to "resolve this matter as favorably as possible."
As for the remaining defendants, some were convicted and ordered to do community service, charges against some were withdrawn, and other cases are pending, Slaven said.