Ex-Commissioner Avoids Jail Time In Plea Bargain Over Drug Bust

15

Noah Puni — the former South Pasadena Natural Resources and Environmental Commission member who was arrested in the city on July 9 during a traffic stop and charged with carrying several pounds of marijuana and about $116,000 in cash — has struck a plea deal and will avoid prison time, his attorney confirmed this week.

While attorney William Fleming of the Moss Law Group in Pasadena would not provide details of the deal, he did tell the Review, “We reached a plea agreement the last time we were in court. The case has been resolved, and no custody was required. That’s all I can say.’’

However, a spokesperson for the L.A. County Superior Court told the Review that as part of the deal, Puni, 30, pleaded no contest to violating penal code 11370.6 (a) — a felony that, in an earlier interview with the Review, Fleming described as “possession of money in excess of $100,000 that was obtained from sale of cannabis.”

According to the Superior Court spokesperson, Puni’s no-contest plea (changed from his original “not guilty” plea) was in exchange for 30 days of community labor and 18 months probation.

If Puni stays out of trouble during that probation, he would be sentenced to a misdemeanor penalty, the spokesperson said.

A second misdemeanor charge for possession for sale or transportation of marijuana would be dropped as part of the deal, should Puni successfully complete his probation, the spokesperson added.

As part of the probation, according to the court spokesperson, Puni “cannot own, use or possess deadly weapons” and must “not use any narcotics (or) be in possession of dangerous or restricted drugs or associated paraphernalia.”

While Puni was not charged with any weapons violations, a search of his El Sereno residence following his arrest turned up a rifle and a handgun —± which Fleming had earlier said were obtained and owned legally.

The plea deal was struck Nov. 7 in Superior Court in Alhambra before Judge Cathryn Brougham. Puni’s next court date is scheduled for May 7, 2021 — the 18-month mark after his deal, the court spokesperson 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 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.

Puni served on the 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. The commission is a seven-member advisory body to the council.

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

In a July interview with the Review, Khubesrian lamented Puni’s arrest, remembering him as a “young and enthusiastic” man “with a lot of promise.”

Fleming, the attorney, called Puni “bright and dedicated,’’ adding that “he has been a member of the South Pasadena community his whole life.’’