Less than a week after charges were unsealed, feds dismiss them; “need more time” to handle 1,000 recorded telephone calls and 160 officers giving over 50 written reports
by Rick Thompson for The Compassion Chronicles/ October 22, 2013
GRAND RAPIDS- A criminal complaint lodged a week ago against 27 people alleged to have participated in a scheme to grow and distribute marijuana in Michigan will have their federal charges dropped- temporarily.
The federal indictment was unsealed a week ago with fanfare and grandeur. Federal agents postured that the group of Michiganders, who called themselves the Medical Marijuana Team (MMT), used the state’s medical marijuana law as a front for illegal activity- even though previous police encounters had resulted in determinations that some of the growing operations were “legal”. In the investigation, federal agents have acknowledged the following facts:
28 locations were raided with search warrants
27 people were named in the federal indictment
1,000 + telephone calls were captured between participants in the MMT
500 + marijuana plants were seized
Only one person has actually been identified as possessing a MMA registry identification card, per reports
“Several hundred” items that could have evidentiary value were captured by law enforcement
$3,200/lb is the price investigators say the MMT was charging for their high-grade cannabis
160 officers were involved in the investigation
50 + police reports on the raids and interviews are expected to be filed
$250,000 income in a single year is supposedly the claim of MMT ringleader Shawn Taylor
The investigation covered six counties on Michigan’s conservative western shore.
Lead investigator for the federal government, Patrick Frederick, said that the 1,000 calls captured came from “several weeks of wiretaps on cell phones used by principal members of the organization.”
Each of the persons involved was arrested and charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute 100 or more marijuana plants, per published reports from the MLive news media group. Now those charges are going to be dismissed.
Assistant US Attorney Mark Courtade asked that all charges against the alleged conspirators be dismissed until the feds have time to analyze all the data they accumulated during the investigation. The raids took place during October 16 and 17; Courtade asked for the dismissal on Oct. 21, less than a week later but after nearly all the alleged conspirators were booked into Kent County Jail by Friday, October 18.
Also seized: “several hundreds of other items of evidentiary value that must be itemized and cataloged,” per Courtade. His request for dismissal of all charges comes from his belief that “The government cannot guarantee that the investigation will be completed and ready for grand jury review within the next 30 days, therefore rather than have the defendants subject to continued court jurisdiction and constraint, the United State’s Attorney’s Office believes that a dismissal of the complaint, pending grand jury review, is appropriate.”
Several incidents precipitated the massive raid and arrest actions. On June 2nd, 2011, police investigated a break-in at Taylor’s mother’s home; police determine the garden containing 72 plants (18 of which were stolen) was proper and filed no charges. A man, arrested in Ohio with several pounds of cannabis, identified the western Michigan region as the source of the marijuana. He named a name; several months later two additional “informants” pointed to Taylor and another man as the ringleaders of a large distribution scheme.
Officers from the anti-drug agency Western Michigan Enforcement Team entered a home on Aug 10, 2012, where they found 28 plants and determined once again that the growing operation was ‘legal’. Those plants were owned by Taylor and the alleged co-conspirator.
This is the latest in a series of federal raids in Michigan on people registered to grow cannabis under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMA). The Lansing Seven, including Ryan Basore and the father and son team of Lance and Dennis Forsberg, were federally convicted of crimes relating to their legally-registered caregiving activities under the MMA; a second father-son team, Jerry and Jeremy Duval, are both in federal penitentiaries serving sentences for their cultivation of cannabis as authorized by the MMA.
Similar to the MMT story, the Duval family acknowledges that their marijuana cultivation operation was given approval by a Michigan law enforcement group just months before the federal government raided it and called it illegal. Basore and the Seven were advised byMichigan attorneys prior to the federal raids that their conduct conformed to current legal requirements of the MMA.
Jerry (Gerald) Duval is a multiple transplant patient who has been assigned to a federal medical facility for the duration of his sentence; despite the nature of the detention facility Duval still suffers from hemorrhages in both eyes that could rob him of his sight. Duval says he has not had medical attention for his ailments for several months. Americans for Safe Access representative Kari Boiter confirmed to TCC in an earlier interview that the involvement of a high-profile Washington legislator was necessary for Duval to get proper medical treatment after being assigned to the facility earlier this year.