Heidi Groover writes in The Stranger about the verdict in the Kettle Falls Five case in Eastern Washington. Down from the original 5 defendants, the 3 remaining medical marijuana patients were facing long jail terms, essentially being charged as big-time drug traffickers rather than ordinary folks pushing the plant limits of our state’s collective garden law. The jury saw through the bullshit being thrown around by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Eastern Washington and acquitted them on all but one charge.
I’ve written before about this case and the incredibly cynical and spiteful behavior of U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby. There’s really no excuse for the Obama Administration to continue having him serve in that role openly defying the Obama Administration’s desire to leave ordinary patients alone. Groover details the more egregious aspects of this prosecution:
The U.S. Attorney’s Office combined photos they found of 75 plants grown in 2011 with the 74 live plants they found in 2012 in order to charge the family with growing 100 or more plants. That’s the number that triggers a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. This actually made up three of the counts facing the defendants: 1) conspiring to grow and distribute, 2) growing, and 3) distributing. (On Tuesday, the jury found them guilty of growing fewer than 100 plants, but not guilty on charges one and three.)
Then, the feds tacked on another troubling charge: use of a weapon in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The Harveys keep multiple guns in their house, which they say are for hunting and protecting their dogs from bears and cougars on their property. (I know this is weird. Guns are terrifying. But they’re common enough in Eastern Washington that having them near a pot grow doesn’t mean you were using them to protect that grow.) It was troubling because it would have added another five-year mandatory minimum.
Anyone could see that the defendants in this case weren’t big-time drug dealers. No evidence was ever presented that any of the defendants sold what they were growing. Nor was any evidence presented that their legally owned firearms were used in any way other than for protection. This was nothing more than an attempt to railroad innocent people, for reasons that aren’t clear to anyone. And, as Groover points out in her article, Ormsby is unapologetic and continuing to pursue other cases. If there are other victims of Ormsby’s office out there, I hope we’re able to shine some light on their cases as well.
More news items from the past two weeks…