A Ventura lawyer, charged with drug possession after police raided an LSD party at his office last month, says he did nothing wrong and asserts that some outlawed drugs should be legalized.
Attorney Douglas Andrew Palaschak admitted in an interview this week that he took LSD a few hours before his arrest May 9. He also acknowledged that conviction could lead to discipline by the State Bar of California.
But Palaschak, 42, maintained that the real crime is what he described as a knee-jerk, all-drugs-are-evil mentality that does not differentiate between good and bad drugs. He said some drugs, such as LSD and Ecstasy, can be useful if taken responsibly.
"The current company line is that all drugs are bad for everybody," the attorney said, "and that simply is not true."
Palaschak said he agreed to talk about the case in the hope that it will raise the public's awareness of distinctions between drugs. "Evil flourishes when good men remain silent," he said.
But the head of a county drug abuse agency disputed the lawyer's suggestion that some illicit drugs can be taken safely.
"It's not typical that we find somebody who is doing just one drug, and that it isn't affecting his life," said Stephen Kaplan, director of the Ventura County Department of Alcohol and Drug Services. "A lot of times, people we come into contact with don't make the assessment that it is affecting their life till they are very far down toward the bottom.
"So when somebody says it's no big deal and it doesn't interfere with their life, it would raise some antennas for me regarding the whole denial phenomenon."
And another Ventura County attorney, who asked not to be identified, said Palaschak's unrepentant comments may have dire consequences.
"I think his attitude will be a factor at sentencing," the lawyer said. "For an attorney to say, 'I disagree with this law, therefore I'm going to violate it.' It's one thing for a citizen to say that, but when the State Bar gets hold of that, they are not going to like it."
A spokeswoman for the California Bar declined to discuss Palaschak's case, other than to say he has no record of public disciplinary actions. He was admitted to the bar in 1984 after graduation from the Ventura College of Law. Palaschak's attorney, Steve Pell, declined to comment.
The arrest was not publicized at the time. It came to light Monday, when Palaschak appeared in Ventura County Municipal Court for arraignment, which was postponed until next Monday. He is charged with possession of LSD and conspiracy to possess LSD, both felonies. His secretary, Jessica Jobin, 18, is suspected of supplying the drug. She is charged with possession of LSD for sale.
Palaschak was released on his promise to appear in court. He said he will plead not guilty. "Am I a drug abuser?" he said. "No."
He said the only drugs he has taken are LSD and Ecstasy, a drug that was outlawed in 1988. He said he became interested in such drugs while trying to understand a former girlfriend. He developed a small library on the subject and has corresponded with researchers in the field, he said. He describes himself as a lobbyist for the legalization of certain drugs.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Kim George Gibbons, who filed the charges, declined to discuss the case. But Palaschak freely filled in the blanks.
He said he obtained the LSD the afternoon of May 9--the day after his birthday. He had never taken LSD, he said, but he decided to close up shop for the day and throw a little party for himself, Jobin, and another female employee whom he identified only as Melissa. Melissa had worked in his office for two days, he said.
"I thought the drug would make for a better social environment" in the office, Palaschak said, adding that he likes to have close relationships with his employees. Palaschak said he had experimented with Ecstasy and found that it increased his ability to empathize with other people. He wanted to know if LSD would have a similar effect, he said.
During the next three hours he began to hallucinate. In an account of the afternoon's events prepared for his attorney, he wrote that feelings of paranoia made a routine trip to the bathroom a terrifying experience.
"I was afraid of running into somebody," said Palaschak, whose office is on the same floor as several other attorneys. "I was glad to get back."
About 5:20 p.m., after Melissa left the office, two Ventura police officers arrived. Palaschak said he didn't know who called them. He said he made a mistake by admitting to the officers that he had taken LSD. When they threatened to "tear the place apart" looking for it, he said, Jobin removed the remainder of the LSD from her purse and gave it to the officers.
At the time, he was too high to consider his legal position, the attorney said. The drug enhanced his trust in other people, he said, and he now believes he told the officers more than he should have. He also recalls feeling confused, afraid and uncomfortable as he sat in the back of the police car, his hands cuffed behind his back.
He was released from jail about 8:30 the next morning, stopped by his office and then returned to Motel 6 in Ventura, where he lives, to sleep. Jobin never returned to work, Palaschak said. She is scheduled to be arraigned July 8. Her attorney, Joel B. Steinfeld, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Palaschak said he believes both he and Jobin will beat the charges, and he said the publicity might even help his practice, which concentrates on bankruptcy, drug and sex offenses and personal-injury cases. But he admits to being concerned that the case could affect his right to practice law.
"This is a piece of cake," he said, referring to the criminal charges. "It's the bar association that I'm worried about."