Pubdate: Mon, 23 Jan 2006
Source: Portage Daily Register (WI)
Copyright: 2006 Portage Daily Register
Author: Paul Ferguson
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


MADISON -- A federal judge handed down prison sentences Thursday 
against two Lodi-area residents found in June 2005 with around 200 
live marijuana plants, and a third co-defendant is now also facing 
charges after a federal grand jury handed down an indictment against 
him Jan. 4.

But a defense attorney in the case says the federal system, 
particularly in the Western District of Wisconsin, is unfair and 
landed his client an unduly large prison sentence.

U.S. District Judge John C. Shabaz sentenced Terrance Larson, 54, and 
Susan Lampert, 57, to 80 months and 26 months in federal prison 
without parole, respectively, for guilty pleas the two entered Nov. 
7. According to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Larson's 
sentence was larger than Lampert's because Larson was allegedly 
organizing the sales of up to 400 kilograms of marijuana out of his 
Koltes Road residence in the town of Lodi. Lampert also had no 
criminal history, according to the statement.

For pleading to manufacture of marijuana, Larson and Lampert faced a 
five-year mandatory minimum sentence, according to John Vaudreuil, 
chief of the Western District Criminal Division. But Lampert 
qualified for a "safety valve," a provision of federal sentencing 
guidelines that allows defendants lowered sentences if they do such 
things as cooperate with police, have little criminal history and not 
be the organizers of the crime.

The mere possibility of minimum sentences, however, is just a part of 
why moving the cases to federal court put all three defendants at a 
clear disadvantage. All three faced up to a 40-year sentence on one 
federal count, but Larson's maximum possible sentence of 33 1/2 years 
would have been the highest any of the three were facing in Wisconsin.

Larson's attorney David Mandell also said the district court judges 
sentence people more strictly than elsewhere in the federal system, 
and the federal system also allows no plea agreements, which could 
have made for a more reasonable sentence in Wisconsin circuit court, 
particularly considering Larson's persistent medical ailments such as 
vision loss, diabetes and depression.

Mandell also decried federal sentencing guidelines, saying they led 
to an unduly strict sentence for Larson. Vaudreuil responded that 
Congress passed the guidelines, which also upheld Supreme Court scrutiny.

As to the nature of judges, Vaudreuil did not comment. "We prosecute 
people, we think, obviously, fairly, and the judges look at all the 
facts and the Court of Appeals affirms those judgments," he said.

Larson and Lampert have had charges dismissed in Columbia County, 
which would otherwise be double jeopardy. Molitor still has charges 
pending, but they are likely to be dismissed as well.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman, the cases' prosecuting 
attorney, said the very decision to take a case to federal court is a 
balancing act, in which prosecutors consider the criminal history of 
the defendant, the amount and type of drugs at issue and how the 
possible sentences at each level suit the punitive and rehabilitative 
needs for the defendant.

Larson's Koltes Road home was seized by the federal government as a 
drug house before federal charges came down.

The Columbia County Sheriff's Department should be getting funds from 
the seizure -- perhaps as much as $250,000, according to Sheriff 
Steven Rowe -- but nothing has been received yet.

In Molitor's case, he next faces arraignment Jan. 24. He also faces a 
five-year mandatory minimum upon conviction, with a maximum of 40 
years in prison.

All three are accused of being part of the marijuana growing 
operation, which the Columbia County Sheriff's Department began 
investigating in November 2004. The June 27-28, 2005, bust yielded 
seizures in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with raw and 
processed marijuana at the scene alone being worth some $519,000 on 
the street, according to police.
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