Pubdate: Sat, 12 Jan 2002
Source: Herald, The (WA)
Copyright: 2002 The Daily Herald Co.
Author: Brian Kelly


COUPEVILLE -- Some people have posted messages on the Internet saying they 
think a statue should be put up in Stanwood to honor Paul J. Hirshbeel's 

But Island County deputy prosecuting attorney Michael Henegen is not impressed.

He has charged Camano Island's accused naked pot farmer with one count of 
manufacture of marijuana. Hirshbeel has pleaded innocent.

The story of Hirshbeel wandering naked around the Stanwood Cinemas caused 
quite a stir when it was first reported in The Herald in August. It 
garnered international interest as TV and radio stations around the world 
picked it up. Jay Leno used it in his monologue on "The Tonight Show." The 
Herald's Web site almost crashed when nearly a half-million people tried to 
read the story via the Internet.

Numerous Internet chat sites were devoted to discussing the case, with some 
people even calling for a statue to be raised in Stanwood as testimony to 
Hirshbeel's honesty with police. And many more said charges against him 
shouldn't be pursued.

That's not an option, Henegen said.

"As a prosecutor, when solid evidence of a crime is sent to me, it's my 
obligation to enforce (the law)," he said.

Hirshbeel, 30, was stopped by police in August after he was found wandering 
naked around Stanwood Cinemas, in full view of moviegoers and diners at 
adjacent restaurants.

While an officer was writing Hirshbeel a ticket for indecent exposure, the 
officer asked what he did for a living, and he allegedly told police he 
grew marijuana.

According to the police report, Hirshbeel then asked the officer if he 
would help him harvest his latest crop. The officer said he was too lazy to 
help, but offered to go look at the man's operation.

During the subsequent visit to Hirshbeel's property, police claim Hirshbeel 
was so proud of his pot plantation that he picked a large marijuana bud 
from a plant and handed it to a deputy.

Police took much more, however, confiscating 50 adult marijuana plants and 
33 starter plants, small cuttings used to grow new plants.

Henegen said the marijuana garden was a sophisticated hydroponic operation 
where the plants were grown without dirt. A watering system had pumps and a 
line running to each of the plants, with grow lights set on timers and fans 
set up to circulate the air.

"It's certainly a commercial-sized operation," Henegen said.

In a written statement he gave police, Hirshbeel wrote: "I grow marijuana 
for fun and profit, to support myself and my family, to help bring us a 
better life."

His wife told police she had never been inside the shed that held the pot 
garden, saying it was her husband's private place where he worked on 
artwork and practiced with his yo-yo.

Hirshbeel declined repeated requests for an interview with The Herald. His 
lawyer, Tom Pacher, also declined to discuss the case.

A trial has been tentatively set for March 19.

If Hirshbeel is found guilty, he could face one to three months in the 
county jail in Coupeville.

You can call Herald Writer Brian Kelly at 425-339-3422 or send e-mail to  ---
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