Pubdate: Wed, 20 Mar 2013
Source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI)
Copyright: 2013 Star Advertiser
Author: Tracy Ryan
Note: Tracy Ryan is vice chairperson of the Libertarian Party of 
Hawaii. A hearing on Senate Resolution 42, urging the federal 
government to release Roger Christie on bail pending trial, is 
scheduled for Thursday at the state Capitol.
Page: A16


Roger Christie is accused of running a marijuana distribution 
business through his church in Hilo. His THC Ministry has long 
claimed marijuana as a religious sacrament and the use of it 
protected under the right to freedom of religion.

The federal prosecution argues that the THC Ministry is a front for 
illegal marijuana distribution. In its motion to deny bail, it 
presented evidence it says supports this allegation. However, this 
should not be relevant to a bail hearing. Whether the defendant has 
committed a crime or not is a decision to be made by a jury in a 
public trial, not by a judge in a bail hearing. Since July 2010, 
Christie has been denied bail and remains behind bars awaiting trial.

The prosecution argued that Christie is a danger to the community and 
should not be released on bail. The court accepted this argument. 
Marijuana was found in a March 2010 search and again in June 2010, 
leading the court to conclude that Christie would continue to violate 
the law while out on bail. As quoted in the Star-Advertiser on Feb. 
24, Judge Alan Kay remarked: "You would think the light would come on 
when the first search of his residence was made."

The problem with this "danger to the community" argument is that it 
is completely circular - i.e.: The defendant is a danger because he 
might break the law; that is a danger because it is illegal. No 
evidence was presented that the illegal activities are dangerous at 
all even if Christie was to commit them. Hawaii County demonstrated 
its feelings when voters there, in 2008, asked police to make 
marijuana offenses its lowest priority.

As for finding marijuana a second time in three months, that supports 
what the defense has maintained all along: that the activities of the 
church are constitutionally protected. The court's refusal to 
understand the defense's case and the unjudicial remarks attributed 
to Judge Kay point to bias. It seems Christie is being detained as a 
punishment for his activities without the benefit of trial.

The court went so far as to put the onus on the defense to come up 
with a plan that would prevent the possibility that the defendant 
would commit new crimes while on bail. That burden belongs to the 
prosecution, not the defense, which has been put in the impossible 
situation of attempting to prove a negative.

Evidence that the prosecution has a political agenda comes from its 
legal motions. When referring to the 2008 county vote, it remarks: 
"While arguably Christie's support and advocacy of the marijuana 
ordinance was an exercise of freedom of speech, this observation was 
not accurate, because as indicated during the Title III 
investigation, Christie's hidden agenda in supporting the ordinance 
was to enhance his marijuana sources of supply." Apparently 
prosecutors believe the right to free speech does not apply to 
advocating for changes in law that might benefit you or annoy the government.

In their zeal to destroy a man, who has been a political opponent of 
the war on marijuana, the prosecution and courts have lost sight of 
the fundamental principles of American justice. Our rules exist not 
to protect dangerous criminals, but to protect harmless people from 
politically motivated prosecution. There are too many countries in 
the world where people have more to fear from the police than the 
criminals. It should be clear that it is not Roger Christie who is 
the danger in this case.
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