Feds Foiled in Washington State Medical Marijuana Case

In a dramatic and unexpected conclusion to a widely criticized federal prosecution, the jury for the criminal trial of the so-called Kettle Falls Five voted last week to acquit the three remaining defendants on all charges except one for manufacturing fewer than 100 marijuana plants. Significantly, that charge does not trigger any mandatory minimum sentencing under federal law, opening the door for a compassionate resolution during the sentencing phase.

Though the group of alleged co-conspirators had become known as the Kettle Falls Five, by the time the jury found their verdict charges had already been dropped against 71-year old Larry Harvey — who was recently diagnosed with Stage-IV pancreatic cancer — and greatly reduced for Jason Zucker, 39, as part of a plea deal Zucker struck with the US Attorney’s office. Thus, the verdict only affects Harvey’s wife Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 56, her son Rolland Gregg, 33, and daughter-in-law Michelle Gregg, 36.

The prosecution of a family farm in a legal state had drawn negative publicity for its cruel and wasteful use of public funds as well as for the sometimes underhanded tactics of the prosecution. Besides the fact that federal prosecutors were persecuting, in Larry Harvey, a very sick man who badly needed relief from the medicine he grew on his own property, the attempts by the Department of Justice to trigger mandatory minimum sentencing had many advocates crying foul.

For example, the US Attorneys attempted to accuse the Harveys of growing over 100 plants — which would automatically trigger a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence — despite the fact that only 68 plants were found on their property at the time of their arrest. Undeterred by such inconvenient truths, prosecutors attempted to introduce evidence of additional plants grown by the Harveys in previous years to argue that they had cultivated 100 plants over a period of time spanning multiple years. In an attempt to trigger yet another 5-year minimum sentence (which would have stacked to make 10 years minimum for each defendant), the prosecution tried to argue that the presence of a hunting rifle designed to kill deer and vermin showed violent intent by the accused drug ring.

Last week’s verdict clearly shows that the jury did not buy either argument.

The Harvey family was released on their own recognizance until their sentencing hearing on June 10th. The family has announced their intention to appeal their convictions.

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