9/22/2011 12:43:00 PM
Beal gets prison, extended supervision
J. Patrick Reilly
Those who came to the Iowa County courthouse Tuesday to testify on Irvin (Dana) Beal’s behalf would not be shocked if he walked on water. Beal has that affect on those he has helped.
But the fact the 64 year old Beal was transporting 180 pounds of medium grade marijuana through Wisconsin when his 1997 Chevrolet Astro van was stopped last January 6 for expired registration, missing bumper and cracked tail light couldn’t let him walk out of the courthouse a free man.
Instead, Circuit Judge Robert P. Van De Hey sentenced Beal to five years in prison, 2 1/2 under incarceration and 2 1/2 under extended supervision.
Van De Hey also gave Beal credit for time served (267 days) and granted eligibility for early release. That is a better deal than the four years prison and four years extended supervision asked for by assistant DA Timothy Helmberger. It is a way better deal than the 15 years and $50,000 fine that is the maximum allowed by law.
Van De Hey reminded the crowded courtroom that while the passionate testimony offered by people from as far away as New Zealand, California, New York and Minnesota made valid points, he was forced to make a ruling that includes prison time.
“We are a country of laws,” he said. “People have acknowledged his deeds but it is not fair to give him a free pass especially with that much marijuana on board. He has committed the offense and now must be held accountable.”
“I have no problem with medical marijuana,” Van De Hey said. “But I have to keep in mind the 180 pounds he had in his vehicle.”
“I don’t make the laws but I have to enforce the laws as they are written,” he said.
This will be Beals’s sixth conviction. He was convicted of drug related offenses in 1971, 1987, 1993 and 2006. He was on probation for an arrest in Nebraska when his vehicle was stopped in Iowa County.
Beal testified prior to sentencing and told the judge he would not do that particular thing again.
“I am too old,” he said. “I need a different job.”
He said he was taking the marijuana to be used for medical purposes in Michigan, New York and Washington, DC where it is legal.
“Would law enforcement be upset if I was moving medical marijuana to where it was legal?” he asked.
A woman from New Zealand told the court how Beal had come to her country to help set up clinics and with the use of ibogaine, a drug that cures heroin addiction. Ibogaine is not legal in the United States.
“If you put Dana away his work will stop,” she said. “He has helped a lot of human beings in New Zealand and was planning to do the same in Australia. He is an expert and has paid for those who need treatment. This will all stop if he goes away. Help save our people from drug abuse.”
Ed Rosenthal came from California to testify.
“I have known Dana for 30 plus years,” he said. “Dana saves lives. He is not a drug dealer. You talk community service? Dana has put in 30 years of community service. Don’t be part of a system where a person is jailed for his efforts.”
Rabbi Issac Freese from Brooklyn said he has known Beal for 20 years and only knows good about him.
“He helped us open a medical co-op. He sacrificed himself. He lost money. He went ahead and did it anyway, not for himself but so people could get the help they need.”
“Dana is needed today by the people he has helped. He has given them shelter, relief and a trusting heart.”
A former meth addict credited Beal with getting her sober.
“Dana helped me get treatment,” she said. “Now I am sober and have a beautiful four year old daughter.”
Manhattan attorney Doug Green called Beal a champion of medical marijuana and ibogaine.
Dennis Brennen, formerly of New York and now of Wisconsin, turned to Dana when he couldn’t afford medical marijuana at $30 to $40 per gram.
“He could get it for me at $10 per gram. He has helped many get affordable medical marijuana.”
Jackie Rickard testified from her wheelchair and credited Beal with helping her get medical marijuana for her condition.
Paul DeReinzo, a school teacher in New York, compared Beal to Galileo who was eventually proven right in his theories after 300 years.
“Let’s not take 300 years to prove Dana right,” he said. “Dana’s been right all along. We can do the right thing here for future generations.”
Beal may eventually answer charges against him in other states.