Pot activist’s bail reduced; plans to use trial as ’cause célèbre’

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In his arguments for a bail reduction for his client Monday, attorney Chuck Peruto said there are two reasons why marijuana activist N.A. Poe will be sure to show up for his trial.

“Number one, his mother would kill him if he didn’t,” Peruto said. “And number two, he wants to go to trial because he’s using it as a cause célèbre.”

Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Tracy Brandeis-Roman reduced Poe’s bail to $10,000, 10 percent of which he must post to be released. She granted a similar bail reduction request for Poe’s girlfriend, Rachel Friedman. Poe and Friedman, whose original bails were set at $250,000 each, have been incarcerated since April 22.

On that evening, police raided a Frankford warehouse where Poe, whose real name is Richard Tamaccio Jr., and Friedman had allegedly organized a large marijuana party and charged people $50 to attend.

Police said they arrested 22 people at the party and confiscated 50 pounds of marijuana, 100 pounds of THC-infused edibles, $50,000 in cash, and four handguns.

The city’s Departments of Licenses and Inspections was called to the scene and found about 20 provisions of the fire, building, and business codes were violated at the warehouse, according to an L&I spokeswoman. One of the owners of the warehouse said the space for the party was sublet by one of his tenants against the terms of his lease. 

In court Monday, Peruto said he had known Poe’s mother, Joanne Tamaccio,  “since grade school.”

“She actually witnessed my first kiss,” he told the court.

Assistant District Attorney Ryan Slaven argued against a bail reduction and hinted that the biggest concern for prosecutors is the danger that the pot party patrons may have faced if a fire broke out. Along with drug and conspiracy charges, Poe has been charged with causing a catastrophe.

“He is the face and brains of the operation,” Slaven said. “It’s not a little basement pot party.”

Peruto said Poe is far from dangerous.

“This defendant likes to smoke his marijuana but he’s a harmless guy,” Peruto said.

Slaven requested the judge order random drug screenings for Poe while he awaits trial. Poe’s mother let out out an audible “Oh no” from the gallery when the request was made. Peruto immediately objected.

“We all know he smokes pot,” he said.

Brandeis-Roman denied the request for drug screenings. In granting the defense motion for a bail reduction, she ordered that Poe not plan, run, or attend another marijuana party while he awaits trial.

“I’m reducing it but I’m not saying it’s not serious. It’s serious,” Brandeis-Roman said. “But, it’s going to take a long time to try and I don’t think he should be in.”

Brandeis-Roman said she was taking a chance on Poe and Peruto assured her that his client would follow the rules because “he’s pretty scared.”

“I know he’s making a statement and it’s a cause, but not on my watch,” the judge said.

Joanne Tamaccio declined to comment after court, as did Friedman’s parents.

Richard Tamaccio Sr., Poe’s father who was also arrested in the raid, did not attend the hearing. Tamaccio Sr., who faces lesser charges than his son, was released on a much lower bail shortly after his arrest. He has declined to comment on the case.

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