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Federal Judge Rejects Effort To Imprison Defendants Pending Sentencing

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kettle falls five federal medical marijuanaJust one week after three medical marijuana patients were acquitted by a federal jury of all but one charge stemming from the widely watched Kettle Falls Five trial, US District Court Judge Thomas Rice rejected attempts by the Justice Department (DOJ) to imprison the defendants pending sentencing on June 10th. Judge Rice’s ruling comes just a day after defense attorneys filed their opposition to the government’s pre-sentencing detention effort.

The DOJ remains aggressive in its attempts to lock up the three family members, filing an emergencyrequest for detention just one day after the jury reached its verdict. Apparently unsatisfied with a hearing on April 3rd, more than two months before the defendants’ sentencing date, US Attorney Michael Ormsby filed a motion to expedite the detention hearing. Judge Rice granted the DOJ’s request for an expedited hearing, then promptly denied the government’s motion to imprison defendants Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 56, her son Rolland Gregg, 33, and daughter-in-law Michelle Gregg, 36, who remain free until sentencing on June 10th at 10am.

“Instead of reevaluating its approach after failing to convict on almost all charges, the DOJ doubled down and tried to imprison the remaining three Kettle Falls Five defendants as they await sentencing,” said Kris Hermes, spokesperson with patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “The DOJ appears unwilling to reverse course after being told by Congress to curtail its medical marijuana enforcement efforts, and sees no problem spending millions of taxpayer dollars to do so.”

In an unexpected verdict, a jury from eastern Washington State acquitted the three Kettle Falls Five defendants of all but one charge of manufacturing on a lesser-included charge of under 100 marijuana plants, which does not carry a mandatory minimum sentence. In a prosecution that lasted more than two years and used up over $2 million in resources, including a week-long trial, the DOJ aggressively pursued drug trafficking charges against a family of medical marijuana patients who were growing for themselves in full compliance with Washington State law.

Before the trial even began, the federal government agreed to dismiss charges against Larry Harvey, 71, the husband of Firestack-Harvey who was recently diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Co-defendant and family friend Jason Zucker, 39, took a plea deal one day before trial began and agreed to testify for the government against the three remaining defendants in exchange for a felony conspiracy conviction and a recommended sentence of 16 months. Zucker will be sentenced on June 17th at 9am.

In August 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided the Harvey property in rural Washington State near the town of Kettle Falls and seized 68 marijuana plants, charging the five defendants with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, manufacture and distribution of marijuana, maintaining a drug-involved premises, and possession of firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

Because the Kettle Falls Five defendants were acquitted of all charges that carry a mandatory minimum sentence, they could receive less than a year in prison or possibly probation. If sentenced to prison time, however, Firestack-Harvey will no longer be able to care for her ailing husband whose cancer has spread to his liver. “If Rhonda goes to prison, I don’t know who will take care of me,” said Larry Harvey.

Further information:
Federal Judge Thomas Rice decision denying DOJ effort to imprison Kettle Falls Five defendants as they await sentencing

Source: Americans for Safe Accessmake a donation

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34 Comments

  1. The cops are not the problem. Most cops are good and honest people just doing their jobs. The problem is a broken system that has marihuana improperly classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Pot is not the problem that cocaine or meth are, yet the Federal government places those drugs in Schedule 2.

    Attitudes are changing and the law is following. It might take a while, but it will be legal sooner or later.

    My only real question is what you do with the millions of people (primarily black, low income, and low education levels) that are currently locked up for marijuana and marijuana related crimes. These men had their youth stolen by bad drug policy and will need a lot of help adjusting to life on the “outside”.

  2. Because they were found guilty on one charge, so they had due process and their day in court. The DOJ is being stupid. The people of Washington and a jury of their peers sent a message. The rest of the nation needs to send that same message.

    And the judge got it right by both granting the expedite hearing and denying the motion.

  3. I’d venture to guess that a very large number of rank-and-file cops think busting marijuana users is a complete waste of their time. (But they have mortgages and responsibilities… and the peer pressure to conform is as strong for them as it is for you guys who are replying to me, here. So, they keep playing their part in this failed Drug War.)

    If we could end the drug war (and the related police militarization, asset forfeiture, and corruption), we might actually be able to get back to a time when the police were (mostly) valued and the law was (mostly) respected. If you don’t see that as a desirable outcome, I’m afraid that makes you part of the problem.

  4. ĐΣFΣCŦΣĐ on

    People who makes the most profit off misery. Obama is for the poor, but punishes the poor. Obama against war, but produces more war. Obama hates guns, but gives them to dangerous thugs. Obama calls for black males to become something, but locks them up for penniless crimes.

    The government is nothing more than a game of cards.

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