Pubdate: Thu, 27 Sep 2012
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2012 Helena Independent Record
Author: Eve Byron


Federal defense attorney Michael Donahoe requested a mistrial Thursday
in the medical marijuana case of Chris Williams after prosecutor Joe
Thaggard compared Williams and his partners to dogs.

In his closing statement, Thaggard told the jury that Williams was
involved in criminal conduct and when he did that, he would get
involved with bad people.

"If you lie down with dogs, you just might get fleas, and you can't
say you didn't know that would happen," Thaggard said.

Donahoe objected, but was overruled by U.S. District Court Judge Dana
Christensen. However, after the jury left the courtroom, Donahoe moved
for a mistrial based on the statement.

"The government's argument, which is not supported by evidence, is a
vilification of the people who testified," Donahoe said. "He said they
are guilty because they are animals. That's a violation of the Due
Process clause and the Sixth Amendment.

"There's no character evidence for any of these people to imply there
is and to draw attention to that matter is inappropriate."

However, Christensen denied the motion, and the jury is getting
instructions as they prepare to deliberate.

Williams is charged with four felonies involving the cultivation and
distribution of marijuana, and four related charges regarding
possession of a firearm when drug trafficking. He readily acknowledged
to the jury Wednesday that he is a "farmer" whose crop was medical
marijuana, but said that while he occasionally wore a pistol in a
holster around his waste, it was for personal protection.

He added that under the U.S. Constitution, he had a right to own a
gun, and also disputed that he knew of 20 guns at a Miles City home
owned by Richard Flor, one of the partners in Montana Cannabis.

Thaggard didn't buy that argument, noting that it was "reasonable and
foreseeable" for Williams to know that when drugs were involved, guns
probably would be present.

"It just doesn't make sense for the defendant to come in and say to
you 'It wasn't foreseeable to me that Richard Flor would have guns,'"
Thaggard said. "He had them in the vicinity of drugs and you use them
to protect the drugs."

Williams was partners with Flor, Thomas Daubert and Chris Lindsey in
the medical marijuana venture Montana Cannabis, formed in 2009. The
business grew marijuana at the old State Nursery west of Helena and at
the Flor home. They were raided by federal agents on March 14, 2011,
and shut down.

While the other partners have reached plea agreements or have one
pending, Williams has chosen to fight the federal government. He said
they were formed after the Montana Medical Marijuana Act was passed
allowing people to legally provide and access marijuana for health
reasons, and federal officials -- including the U.S. Attorney General
and President Barrack Obama -- made statements that prosecuting cases
in states with medical marijuana laws would be a low priority.

Williams said he believed they had been granted immunity based on
those statements. Donahoe has stated that he believes the federal
government is guilty of entrapment of his client.

However, Christensen refused to allow that defense to be presented,
saying that marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug under federal law and
possession, cultivation and distribution of it remains a federal crime.
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