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Woman arrested at Mother's Market may sue city

Attorney says the Irvine woman did not commit any crime. Costa Mesa police chief contends that the officers acted lawfully.

June 12, 2012|By Joseph Serna

A woman is considering suing the city of Costa Mesa after she was arrested outside of Mother's Market & Kitchen last week while collecting signatures for a medical marijuana referendum.

Attorney Orly Taitz contends that her client, Deborah Tharp, 39, of Irvine was illegally arrested on the sidewalk just outside the grocery store's entrance. Tharp had been asking customers if they wanted to sign a petition to get a medical marijuana initiative on November's ballot.

"This was just intimidation and harassment of a journalist there to gather petitions," Taitz said. "Miss Tharp did not commit any crime. If Mother's Market did not want her gathering signatures, they could've filed a civil matter."

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Taitz, who joined a lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of Barack Obama's presidency on the grounds that he's not a natural-born U.S. citizen, said she and Tharp might sue the city, the Police Department and Mother's Market.

"At the request of the store manager, Costa Mesa police officers admonished the individual on two consecutive days to leave the private property," Police Chief Tom Gazsi said in a prepared statement. "On the second day, the individual was warned repeatedly that failure to leave the premises would result in her arrest for trespassing on private property and refusing to identify herself.

"Our officers acted professionally and in accordance with the law."

The Orange Juice Blog, a political website to which Tharp contributes, posted a video of her arrest. In the video, which was filmed by a fellow marijuana advocate, a store manager can be seen informing her that they want her to leave the property. Tharp refuses.

Police can then seen explaining to Tharp why they believe they have justification to arrest her.

In the days before her arrest, Tharp submitted her own legal argument as to why her signature gathering was legal, but it was to no avail.

Officers arrested her Thursday. She posted bail and was released from Orange County Jail the next day, according to Sheriff's Department records.

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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