Kettle Falls Five Case: Family Found Guilty of Growing Marijuana in Washington, Acquitted on Four Other Charges
Despite the fact medical and recreational marijuana use is legal under Washington state law, three people were convicted on Tuesday for growing marijuana on their property. However, they were acquitted of four out of five other more serious charges in the highly watched case known as the "Kettle Falls Five."
A jury found the three remaining defendants in the case – Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, 56, her son Rolland Gregg, 33, and his wife, Michelle Gregg, 36 – guilty of growing marijuana on their 33-acre property near Kettle Falls, reports the Los Angeles Times. However, they were found not guilty of distributing marijuana, conspiracy to distribute and firearms charges, which carried long prison sentence. They are set to appear in court for sentencing on June 10.
Defense attorney Jeff Niesen described the verdict as "bittersweet."
"It's a victory, but it's bittersweet," he said. "They've been convicted of a federal crime."
"It's not a complete win, but it's the best we could have hoped for with a criminal conviction," added Niesen, who represents Firestack-Harvey, reports the Spokesman-Review.
After the verdict, Firestack-Harvey declared victory in the case.
"The truth comes out," she said, according to The Associated Press. "We would have loved to be exonerated of all charges."
Back in August 2012, federal drug agents seized 68 marijuana plants from their property near Kettle Falls during a raid. Five people in total were charged, but one defendant took a plea deal while charges against another were dismissed since he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
During the trial, the defense criticized the government for bringing heavy charges against the family and asked jurors to throw out what they described as an overzealous and overreaching case.
The defendants were also barred from telling the jury that they grew the marijuana only for personal medical use and that some of them possessed medical marijuana cards. That issue can be raised during the sentencing phase.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks, on the other hand, emphasized that marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
Following the verdict, Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access released a statement, saying, "The jury saw through the deceit of the federal government and rightly acquitted on almost all charges. This should signal to the Department of Justice that prosecutions such as the Kettle Falls Five are a waste of time and money and, if anything, should be left to state courts."
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