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Former PTO president arrested for possession of pot

Katherine Rasmussen 44 faces misdemeanor marijuancharges after authorities found small amount marijuanher purse.

Katherine Rasmussen, 44, faces misdemeanor marijuana charges after authorities found a small amount of marijuana in her purse.

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Updated: July 23, 2013 6:12AM

The past president of the Frederick School Parent Teacher Organization in Grayslake, who has been attending courtroom proceedings involving the former treasurer of the PTO arrested for theft, was herself arrested when court personnel searched her purse and found a small amount of marijuana and a smoking pipe.

Katherine Rasmussen, 38, of the 200 block of Deerview Drive, Hainseville, was arrested May 29 for possession of less than 2.5 grams of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia by Lake County Sheriff’s court personnel. She explained that she had been using the marijuana to help control nausea from chemotherapy. Illinois passed a medical marijuana law recently, but it has not been signed by the governor.

“I got very sick this year,” said Rasmussen, who took an oral form of marijuana when she had a bone marrow transplant in 2006. She has lupus and multiple sclerosis and other auto-immune diseases. On Friday, June 21, she was getting a chemotherapy treatment at the Lake Forest Hospital facility in Grayslake. She is being given Cyotoxon every other week and the session lasts 6 hours.

On the day in question, she was going to court to monitor the progress in the case involving former Grayslake PTO treasurer Elizabeth Bako who was due in court May 29 for a pretrial hearing on theft charges. Bako is accused of stealing more than $20,000 from Frederick School’s PTO fund.

“I’ve just been going to court to follow through on the case, to make it right and get the money back for the kids,” Rasmussen said. An unnamed person gave her the marijuana and smoking pipe and she forgot she had it in her purse when she went to court. “I have had short-term memory problems with my illness,” she said.

“I hadn’t done it in a long time,” she said of using marijuana, not since her bone marrow transplant in 2006. “I didn’t realize I had it in my purse,” she said.

Rasmussen finished her term as PTO president at the end of the school year and she no longer has a child attending the school, so she couldn’t serve again even if she wanted to, “There’s no way I’d do it again. It’s been way too stressful. Regardless of what happened,” she said.

She was charged with Class C misdemeanors for possession of cannabis and possession of drug paraphernalia. She is due for arraignment July 15.

Charges against Bako are pending. Bako is due back in court July 9.

Rasmussen said she believes the Bako camp has been calling media about her arrest as a way of trying to distract people from the fact she allegedly stole $20,000 from the PTO. “I don’t let people know how sick I am. That’s why I had it,” she said of the marijuana. “I don’t have a record,” she added. She said she takes over 20 pills a day. The prescription nausea pills “don’t always work,” said Rasmussen.

Hainesville Mayor Linda Soto fully supports Rasmussen. “I know her as a friend and neighbor. I’ve worked with her on PTO events, block parties and informal woman’s club events,” she said.

“Her future is bleak. She’s doing what she can to buy herself more time,” said Soto. “It’s been pretty ugly for her. She can’t work so she has been involved in the community,” she said, noting that she has written a letter of support for the court proceedings and that several other people have as well to attest to her good character.

Soto said she thought publishing the story was “in poor taste” when weighing in all the additional stress it has caused her.”

— Beth Kramer contributed to this report

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