12:24, October 18 61 0 abajournal.com

2019-10-18 12:24:08
Former top lawyer for state agency pleads guilty to sending herself fake threatening emails

sending emails

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The former general counsel for the Oklahoma State Department of Health has pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors for sending herself threatening emails amid a dispute over medical marijuana regulations.

Julie Ezell pleaded guilty Wednesday to using a computer to violate the law and to falsely reporting a crime, the Oklahoman reports.

Ezell had posed in the emails as an angry medical marijuana advocate opposing restrictive regulations.

The conviction won’t be on Ezell’s record if she doesn’t violate any laws during a five-year probationary period and if she pays court costs, according to the newspaper report. She has already paid restitution of $21,810 to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Oklahoma voters had approved legalization of medical marijuana in June 2018. Ezell told state investigators she concocted the emails because she believed the health board would take the rules for medical marijuana more seriously amid a threat of harm, according to the Oklahoman.

Ezell and the board had disagreed on two proposed regulations that banned smokable forms of marijuana and required dispensaries to have a pharmacist on staff. Ezell had warned the board it might be exceeding its authority if it adopted the regulations.

The board adopted the regulations in July 2018 despite Ezell’s warning, then reversed itself three weeks later after public criticism.

Ezell sent herself the threatening emails beginning two days before the vote.

One of the emails, which used an incorrect spelling, read: “We will stop YOU and you’re greed. Any way it takes to end your evil and protect what is ours. We will watch you.” Another email read, “You impose laws like a dictator and respect none of them.”

Ezell’s lawyer, Ed Blau, told the Oklahoman that his client’s mistakes were in response to “numerous pressures and improper actions and motivations of others.” He said Ezell admits there is no justification for her actions, and she is grateful to prosecutors for a deal that allows her to recover and continue to serve others.

The OSBI had investigated whether Ezell had been offered a higher-paying job with the Oklahoma Pharmacy Board in return for her support for a pharmacist at every dispensary. No charges were brought after the DA concluded there was insufficient evidence of bribery.