Pubdate: Tue, 03 Mar 2015
Source: Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Spokesman-Review
Author: Kip Hill


The fate of three people accused of growing and dealing marijuana out 
of their rural Stevens County home will soon be in the hands of a federal jury.

Those 12 people may also decide the future of federal prosecutions 
targeting marijuana growers.

A Washington, D.C., civil rights attorney representing Rhonda 
Firestack-Harvey, Rolland Gregg and Michelle Gregg made an 
impassioned plea to jurors Monday afternoon to throw out what he 
called an "overzealous, overreaching" case built by federal prosecutors.

"They roped in this innocent family," said Phil Tefleyan, who has 
taken the lead in the trial of the so-called "Kettle Falls Five," 
which is now down to three. They face drug and firearms charges that 
carry mandatory prison sentences of more than a decade.

Prosecutors have shown jurors emails, photos and seized marijuana 
grown on the family's forested land north of Colville in summer 2011. 
The case, brought in a state that has allowed medical marijuana for 
17 years and approved the drug for recreational use by voter 
referendum in 2012, has attracted national attention from advocacy 
groups citing the case as an example of federal law enforcement 
illogically tackling a small-scale medical marijuana operation.

U.S. Assistant Attorney Earl Hicks told jurors the state's stance on 
marijuana doesn't matter.

"Your question is, is it legal under federal law?" Hicks said.

A nearly full courtroom listened as Tefleyan and Hicks delivered 
their closing arguments.

Jurors could reach a verdict as early as today.

The defendants have maintained throughout the trial that they didn't 
distribute the marijuana.

They have been barred from telling jurors their claim that they grew 
the marijuana for personal medical use.

Tefleyan pointed out that the government could not point to a single 
sale of the drug by the family, and the evidence seized by drug 
enforcement agents during a raid in August 2012  four pounds of the 
drug and about $700 in cash  didn't support the conclusion the family 
was dealing.

"They would have found hundreds or thousands of dollars in cash; they 
wouldn't find eight-month-old marijuana," Tefleyan said.

The government has argued that the family grew about 75 plants in a 
small sun-drenched clearing on their property in violation of federal law.

Larry Harvey was dropped from the case last month due to his ailing health.

"I don't believe there's any question in this case that we're talking 
about the manufacture of marijuana," Hicks told the jury.

Tefleyan attempted to deflect blame for those plants on Jason Zucker, 
an original defendant in this case who took a plea deal last week, 
just hours before the trial started.

Zucker testified Friday that he fronted $10,000 in costs to get the 
operation on Harvey's land up and running, and that he had overseen 
marijuana grows on property in California and elsewhere.

"Jason paid for everything," Tefleyan said. "Jason ran the entire grow."

He added that the testimony showed the Greggs and Harveys "helped a 
little bit."

The remaining defendants face charges of manufacturing more than 100 
plants, which Tefleyan called "a real stretch." Zucker testified that 
he brought 75 flowering plants from his home in Seattle to the 
property twice, once in 2011 and once in 2012. Tefleyan said the 
federal government was unfairly lumping those two grows together in 
calculating the charges against the family and called Zucker "an 
opportunist" who may have been embellishing his testimony to receive 
a lighter sentence recommendation from the government.

Zucker revealed last week that his plea deal included a 16-month 
sentence for his role in the marijuana operation.

Monday's proceedings were interrupted a few times by supporters. 
Judge Thomas Rice ordered two attendees to remove sweatshirts with 
pro-medicinal marijuana symbols seated near the jury. Following 
Tefleyan's closing arguments, many in the audience began to applaud, 
which brought a stern rebuke from Rice.

"We're not going to have any of that," he said.

The government will finish its case this morning.
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