On eve of Marin trial, pot suspect arrested by feds
A Petaluma stuntman on the brink of a drug trafficking trial in Marin was arrested on federal charges when he arrived for court Wednesday. Avery Badenhop, a skydiver and tattoo artist who calls himself “Tattoo Buckaroo,” is now facing a potential 10-year minimum prison sentence if convicted in the federal case. Badenhop is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Marin prosecutors dismissed their charges Wednesday after Badenhop was arrested by federal authorities. Jury selection was slated to begin Thursday in the local case. Badenhop, 47, came to court Wednesday for a pre-trial motion to get his case dismissed on medical marijuana grounds. Defense attorney Douglas Rappaport planned to call witnesses who would testify that Badenhop was delivering marijuana to legal dispensaries when he was arrested in San Rafael last August. Rappaport said Marin prosecutors dismissed their case and turned it over to the feds because they “smelled an acquittal.” He said authorities were apparently more interested in keeping the $750,000 in cash seized from Badenhop than hearing the truth about his legitimate medical marijuana work.
“I think we had them in check, and it was about to be checkmate, and they knocked the pieces right off the board,” he said. “The evidence was going to be presented today. They just didn’t care to wait.”District Attorney Ed Berberian said giving the case to the federal authorities “simplifies jurisdictional issues” in the case, which involves Marin and Sonoma counties. It also exposes Badenhop to a potentially longer prison sentence, he said. Had federal authorities declined to take the case, Berberian said, “We were prepared to go forward.”
Badenhop is being held without bail at the Marin County Jail pending an initial court appearance Thursday in federal court in San Francisco. Badenhop’s arrest by federal marshals is the latest twist in a case that began nearly one year ago with a routine traffic stop in San Rafael.
On Aug. 28, the California Highway Patrol stopped a vehicle that was speeding on Interstate 580 in San Rafael. Police found Badenhop at the wheel and the strong smell of fresh marijuana emanating from the
car. Badenhop’s hands were shaking and he was smoking several cigarettes simultaneously in an apparent effort to mask the marijuana odor, according to an affidavit by Special Agent Todd Enger of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
The CHP detained Badenhop and called the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force to examine the contents of the car. The task force found 20 pounds of processed marijuana in the vehicle plus half a pound of hashish and four ounces of hash oil. Investigators then obtained a search warrant for Badenhop’s home, where they found another 32 pounds of processed marijuana, $750,000
in cash, a stash of handguns, and evidence leading them to several other residences and five additional suspects in Petaluma.
In all, the task force confiscated $804,000 in cash, 62 pounds of processed marijuana, and a trove of hash oil, concentrated cannabis, marijuana plants and handguns. All six suspects were booked into
Marin County Jail on drug and conspiracy allegations.
In the end, only Badenhop was charged in Marin Superior Court. The task force vigorously sought charges in Sonoma County, where much of the investigation was focused, but none were filed there. Badenhop posted bail last fall after a judge reduced it from $2.5 million to $500,000.
Badenhop is a veteran stunt jumper and cameraman who has appeared on “Nash Bridges,” “Hard Copy” and “60 Minutes II,” among other programs, according to his website.