‘Not Guilty’ Pleas in Big So Pas Weed Bust

Noah Puni, the former South Pasadena resident arrested in the city on July 9 during a traffic stop and charged with carrying several pounds of marijuana and $116,000 in cash, has pleaded not guilty to two charges in the case — one felony and one misdemeanor.

Puni, 30, who once served on a City Council advisory committee, entered the pleas on Aug. 29 in L.A. County Superior Court in Alhambra before Judge Cathryn F. Brougham.

Puni’s attorney, William Fleming of the Moss Law Group in Pasadena, told the Review that the felony charge was for “possession of money in excess of $100,000 that was obtained from sale of cannabis,” while the misdemeanor rap was “basically, possession for sale or transportation of marijuana’’ in an amount greater than the legal limit for personal use under California law.

According to Superior Court records, Puni’s next court date is scheduled for Oct. 3, also in Alhambra, when he is set for an “Early Disposition Hearing,” or EDH.

According to Fleming, that’s “an opportunity for the parties to meet and negotiate a resolution of the matter before the preliminary hearing.”

While Fleming said that, in a worst-case scenario, Puni could be looking at three years in state prison, the attorney added, “We believe that this is the type of matter which should resolve without jail time.”

“I don’t think the facts merit a state prison sentence of any kind,” Fleming said.

According to South Pasadena police at the time of the arrest, Puni was pulled over on a routine traffic stop in the 1100 block of Huntington Drive back on July 9, and about three pounds of marijuana and the large amount of cash were discovered in the trunk of his black Lexus. A search warrant was later obtained for Puni’s El Sereno residence, and that’s where an additional five-or-so pounds of marijuana, along with some 400 cannabis-oil vape cartridges, were also found, police said.

A rifle and a handgun were also discovered at the residence, but they were later determined to be legal, according to Fleming.

“Noah lawfully purchased the rifle and has not been charged with any weapons charges,” Fleming said, adding that Puni had purchased the rifle legally at Turner’s outdoor shop in Pasadena in 2013.

“Both weapons seized were lawfully purchased by Noah,” according to Fleming.

In addition, the attorney said, the rifle seized – originally reported by police to be AK-47 – was in fact a Cugir Arms rifle.

Also, contrary to what police said at the time of the arrest, “At no time did Noah admit to driving under the influence of marijuana, nor was he charged with doing so,’’ Fleming said.

Puni’s parents, Marla and Meir Puni, have long operated the Grassroots Natural Market in the Vons Shopping Center on Fair Oaks Avenue. Noah Puni’s grandparents on his mother’s side, Robert and Bernice Wagner, were former longtime city residents. Robert Wagner served on the South Pasadena City Council from 1984 to 1988.

Noah Puni served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources and Environmental Commission starting in 2014, having been appointed by then-Mayor Marina Khubesrian. He was reappointed in 2017 for two years by the city’s then-Mayor Michael Cacciotti, according to council minutes. The commission is a seven-member advisory body to the council. 

Puni stopped attending meetings before his second term ended, according to two fellow commissioners.

“He did drift away, he wasn’t attending enough meetings,” Khubesrian, now the mayor once again, told the Review on July 18.

At the time, Khubesrian remembered Puni as a “young and enthusiastic” man “with a lot of promise.”

Fleming said much the same this week.

“Noah is a terrific young man,’’ Fleming said. “He is bright and dedicated, and he has been a member of the South Pasadena community his whole life. He is looking forward to putting this matter behind him as soon as possible.”

Puni remains free on $20,000 bail, court records show.

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