Pubdate: Sat, 13 Oct 2012
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2012 Helena Independent Record
Author: Eve Byron


The attorney for Christopher Williams filed a motion Friday seeking 
an acquittal or at least a new trial for his client, saying U.S. 
District Court Judge Dana Christensen erred when giving the jury 
instructions in the only medical marijuana case in Montana to go to trial.

The 12-member jury convicted Williams in Helena on Sept. 27 on eight 
counts, including conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess 
with intent to distribute marijuana; manufacture of marijuana; 
possession with intent to distribute marijuana; and four counts of 
possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense. Since the 
firearm offenses carry a mandatory minimum of five years to life 
imprisonment, plus mandatory minimums of 25 years for second and 
subsequent convictions, Williams could be facing a minimum of 80 
years in prison.

His attorney, Michael Donahoe, plans to file an appeal of the 
conviction, and also is expected to file a motion to get Williams out 
of jail until a ruling is made on the appeal. In the meantime, he 
filed the motions for acquittal on three grounds.

The first motion involves the conspiracy count.

"Under the law as defendant understands it, the government had to 
prove the conspiracy it alleged and not some other conspiracy," 
Donahoe writes. "Here the government alleged a conspiracy that dated 
back to January 2006. However, in instructing the jury on Count I, 
the court told the jury to disregard and not consider any evidence of 
events occurring prior to March 2009."

Donahoe said that measure either "constructively amended" the 
indictment or allowed Williams to be convicted on the basis of 
evidence or facts at the trial that were materially different than 
what was alleged in the indictment.

"In any case, the argument here is that the court should have 
acquitted (Williams) of the conspiracy ..." Donahoe wrote. He added 
that "the government's failed case should not have been resuscitated 
by jury instructions" that changed the beginning conspiracy date from 
2006 to 2009 and that there was no intent on Williams' part to be 
part of a conspiracy.

With the jurors in the courtroom, Williams readily agreed during his 
four-day trial that he had formed a partnership with Thomas Daubert, 
Chris Lindsey and Richard Flor in the spring of 2009 to do business 
as Montana Cannabis.

But what wasn't revealed to jurors was the reasoning behind setting 
up the partnership. With the jurors out of the courtroom, Daubert, 
Lindsey and Williams testified that they created the business to set 
"the ideal standards" for the burgeoning medical marijuana industry 
and were trying to create the most effective way for a company to 
operate under Montana laws.

They had an open-door policy, hosting tours for legislators, law 
enforcement officers and even the chief narcotic officer for the 
state. They hired accountants, paid taxes and tracked all of their 
plants "from the time they had roots to their harvest" and as well as 
when they were being packed and distributed.

They also believed, due to statements and memos from top federal law 
enforcement officers, that they wouldn't be prosecuted as long as 
they stayed within the boundaries of state law.

Donahoe said that if the conspiracy count is thrown out, that 
Williams should - at a minimum - be tried anew on the rest of the 
charges. That's because as part of the conspiracy, the jury was 
instructed to use what's known as the "Pinkerton" theory, which means 
that he should have foreseen that the activities were illegal. He 
notes that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the 
Pinkerton instruction is an error if there's no proof of conspiracy.

The third motion for acquittal involves the firearm offenses. 
Williams acknowledged owning and at times carrying a handgun in a 
holster around his waist, but said he did so for his own personal 
protection and it was his right under the Second Amendment.

However, during the trial prosecutors showed numerous firearms, some 
of which were kept at the Flor home in Miles City and three that were 
found at the Montana Cannabis nursery west of Helena. Although they 
didn't say that Williams owned the guns, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joe 
Thaggard and Paulette Stewart said Williams was responsible for them 
due to the conspiracy.

Donahoe argues that there's insufficient proof that Williams used the 
firearms as part of the drug trafficking. He said first, if there 
wasn't a conspiracy, Williams can't be held accountable for the guns. 
He added that the government failed to show the firearms were used to 
further the alleged conspiracy.

He noted that there wasn't sufficient proof to show that the firearms 
were used for anything other than self protection and/or protection 
of others, and Williams had a legal right to bear arms under the U.S. 

The U.S. Attorney's office, which doesn't comment on cases, was 
contacted by Donahoe, according to his motion. He said the government 
opposes the motion.
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