It began as a scam seemingly built on good intentions. The Oklahoma State Department’s leading legal eagle, 37-year-old Julie Ezell, was simply going to create a digital boogeyman, of sorts, in hopes of convincing state regulators to back down on their willingness to ban smokeable forms of marijuana. But, these days, not only does it take guts and nerves of steel to pull off the perfect felonious capper, but it also requires the technological aptitude to prevent investigators from tracking down the true culprit. None of these qualities Ezell possessed enough of to bring longevity to the hoax.
At the beginning of July, Ezell was threatened by a terrorist group with a seemingly violent passion for seeing the state’s medical marijuana program unleashed without being marred by overregulation. She began receiving nasty emails from supposed cannabis advocates that included personal information, such as the description of her car, her home address and messages such as “We will watch you.” But this was just the prequel to the terror. Additional emails came later, one of which said, “We will stop YOU and you’re [sic] greed. Any way it takes to end your evil and protect what is ours.” Another message read, “We would hate to hurt a pretty lady. You will hear us. We are just the beginning.”
The overall message from the would-be terrorists was let us smoke weed or you will die.
As anyone would in this situation, Ezell reported the aggressive emails to the authorities. But she didn’t count on the authorities sending in the experts to trace the messages back to their original source. This is where it all hit the fan. A forensic investigation of her phone determined that the terrorist group threatening Ezell was actually Ezell herself. Come to find out, she had been using the phony email address “MaryJameprotonmail.com” to send menacing threats to her government-assigned email account. It was upon this discovery that state investigators dragged Ezell in for questioning. Of course, as any inexperienced fraudster does when the heat comes down, she buckled, confessing to the whole ridiculous plot.
Ezell resigned from her position last Friday. In an email to Interim Commissioner of Health Tom Bates, she wrote, “I am so sorry.” But in the eyes of the state, sorry wasn’t enough. Earlier this week, Ezell was slapped with two felonies and a misdemeanor for being the mastermind behind the threatening emails and trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Still, her attorney, Ed Blau, suggests that her heart was in the right place and that “these charges do not reflect who she is as a person, nor do they reflect the type of advocate she had been for the people of the state of Oklahoma.”
But exactly what kind of advocate was she? What was her motive in conjuring up a hoax pertaining to the state’s marijuana laws? At the very core of this scam was a woman seemingly working to ensure that the will of the people was respected. Once the voters approved medical marijuana back in June, Ezell was part of the crew charged with drafting the rules for the state’s medicinal cannabis program. Other parties wanted to ban smoking and put a state-licensed pharmacist on staff at every dispensary. However, her version of how the regulatory affairs should shake out did not include these provisions. Both of these rules were eventually adopted by the state anyway.
But why did Ezell care enough about medical marijuana freedoms to risk legal repercussions as a result of fraudulent terrorist threats? A report from the Oklahoma City-based publication, NonDoc, suggests that Ezell “attempted to use the threats as leverage during an inter-agency political fight about the medical marijuana rules.” But this still does not answer the question why. The crime doesn’t appear to be financially motivated. In fact, reports indicate that she was offered a bribe by Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy director Chelsea Church that promised her a new job and a guaranteed pay raise if “you get me a pharmacist in dispensary.”
But she did not accept. In a text to Church, Ezell cited a “threatening email” as an excuse for not including the pharmacist requirement in the final draft. This texting situation has sparked a separate investigation.
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