EAGLE, Colorado - An employee of medical-marijuana dispensary Sweet Leaf Pioneer was arrested Thursday on a felony charge of attempting to influence a public official, two days after the Eagle Town Board voted to ban dispensaries in town.
Mike Friend was released on a $7,500 bond Thursday evening after an exchange involving Eagle Town Board member Scott Turnipseed resulted in his arrest on the felony charge and two harassment charges.
According to Turnipseed, Friend appeared at his business office Thursday afternoon. Turnipseed said Friend told him he had photographs of him smoking marijuana while on a rafting trip several years ago. Turnipseed claimed Friend threatened to make the photos public unless he reconsidered his vote to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in town.
"I told him regardless of what pictures he has of me, I don't care. I am not going to change my vote," said Turnipseed.
Turnipseed contacted the Vail Daily Thursday evening after the incident. Turnipseed said he wanted to go on record to say he is not intimidated by the threat of public dissemination of a photograph. Turnipseed said his past actions are not relevant to his vote Tuesday night. This week, Turnipseed was one of four town board members who voted in favor of the dispensary ban. Friend offered testimony in favor of medical marijuana use the night of the vote.
Friend contacted the Vail Daily Thursday night after he was released from jail. He disputed the accusation that he threatened Turnipseed. Friend claimed plans to write a newspaper article about Turnipseed's past actions. Friend said he is a freelance journalist with extensive experience.
"It's my goal to hold him accountable to the voters and make sure there is no hypocrisy there," said Friend.
Statements from both Turnipseed and Friend said that the incident began with a 30- to 45-minute conversation at Turnipseed's office. After that conversation, Friend followed Turnipseed to a job site meeting with a video camera. While taping the exchange, Friend repeatedly asked Turnipseed to comment about the photograph he claimed to have in his possession. According to Turnipseed, Friend was gesturing behind the camera, allegedly trying to illicit an angry response.
Turnipseed noted that Friend did not venture onto private property while filming and following him, a point Friend also stressed. Turnipseed said he called the police after more than an hour of being badgered and after Friend made the comment "Now, where are we going for dinner?"
After police arrived and interviewed Turnipseed, Eagle Police arrested Friend on the harassment and felony charges.
"There was probable cause to believe the suspect attempted to illegally influence the vote of a town trustee," said Eagle Police Chief Rodger McLaughlin.
"The case is still under investigation, but at this point, we believe our case against Mike Friend is airtight," McLaughlin said. "We will continue interviewing witnesses, and we are in the process of determining if there are co-conspirators."
Friend said Thursday night that he believes he will be exonerated in the case.