Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2012
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2012 Helena Independent Record
Author: Eve Byron


In Exchange For Him Waiving Right To Appeal

In a highly unusual move, federal prosecutors have agreed to drop six
of eight marijuana convictions for Christopher Williams in exchange
for his agreeing to waive his right to appeal.

In addition, the government has agreed to ask U.S. District Judge Dana
Christensen to dismiss the $1,728,000 criminal forfeiture awarded to
the government by a jury earlier this year.

The agreement was outlined under a settlement filed Tuesday in U.S.
District Court. In the document, signed by Williams, U.S. Assistant
Attorney Joe Thaggard, and federal public defender Michael Donahoe,
they note that this agreement "constitutes the final and best offer to
resolve this matter."

Williams, a medical marijuana caregiver, was convicted by a 12-member
jury in September after a four-day trial. He was facing a minimum
mandatory sentence of between 85 and 92 years, due in part to four
counts that involved possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug
trafficking crime. Sentences for those counts, by law, had to run

Immediately after his conviction, Thaggard had offered to drop some of
the charges, but they still involved a 10-year mandatory minimum
sentence. Williams rejected the offer, saying he was willing to spend
the rest of his life in prison to fight what he believed were
violations of his constitutional rights.

Under the newest deal, the federal government dropped convictions for
conspiracy to manufacture and possess with the intent to distribute
marijuana; manufacture of marijuana; possession with intent to
distribute marijuana; and three counts of possessing a firearm in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. His convictions for one count
of possessing a firearm in connection with drug trafficking and one
count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana will stand.

He faces a maximum term of five years for the distribution of
marijuana charge and a mandatory minimum of five years - and a maximum
of life - for the firearm-related charge.

Kari Boiter, a friend of Williams, reported late Tuesday that she had
talked to him via a phone call. He was incarcerated at the time at the
Missoula County Detention Facility.

Boiter says Williams told her it wasn't easy for him to give up his
constitutional fight, but as he navigated the complex federal penal
system, it became clear that punishment was the only thing that was

"With the rest of my life literally hanging in the balance, I simply
could not withstand the pressure any longer," Williams said in a
statement released by Boiter. "If Judge Christensen shows mercy and
limits my sentence to the five year mandatory minimum, I could be
present at my 16-year-old son's college graduation. This would most
likely be impossible had I rejected the latest compromise."

Williams was a partner in Montana Cannabis, which operated
distribution centers in Helena, Billings, Miles City and Missoula, and
had a large marijuana greenhouse west of Helena on Highway 12. The
four partners - Williams, Chris Lindsey, Thomas Daubert and Richard
Flor - said they tried to set the "gold standard" for medical
marijuana businesses after voters overwhelmingly passed legislation in
2004 permitting caregivers to distribute marijuana to people with
physical ailments.

But under a federal crackdown in March 2011, Montana Cannabis was one
of about 25 medical marijuana businesses that were raided, since
marijuana is still considered a Schedule 1 narcotic under federal
laws. Williams is the only person in Montana to take his case all the
way to trial.

Daubert, Lindsey and Flor all pleaded guilty to various marijuana
possession and distribution charges. Daubert received a sentence of
five years on probation; Lindsey is expected to be sentenced Jan. 4
and prosecutors have agreed to seek a sentence similar to Daubert's
based upon Lindsey's health problems and limited involvement in
Montana Cannabis. Flor, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison, died
from health-related complications while incarcerated.

Since Williams' incarceration, a White House petition to pardon him
has received more than 27,000 signatures.

It's unknown whether Williams' sentencing hearing, slated for Jan. 4
in Missoula, will still take place on that date. 
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