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Convicted medical marijuana distributor Chris Williams to be sentenced today

2013-02-01T05:45:00Z 2013-02-01T15:26:01Z Convicted medical marijuana distributor Chris Williams to be sentenced todayBy GWEN FLORIO Missoulian Helena Independent Record
February 01, 2013 5:45 am  • 

MISSOULA — A last-minute flurry of activity surrounding the case of convicted medical marijuana grower Chris Williams did not halt Williams’ scheduled sentencing in U.S. District Court in Missoula on Friday.

Thursday afternoon, federal Judge Dana Christensen ordered that a sentencing memorandum, dated Monday, from an Ohio State University law professor would not be given the weight of an official memorandum.

Christensen said the memorandum from Douglas Berman, who has raised questions about a plea agreement in the case, was untimely and didn’t comply with local rules.

“He is a meddler at best,” Christensen wrote of Berman’s recent interest in the case. “This is not an academic exercise. Mr. Williams’ liberty is at stake.”

Berman did not respond Thursday to a telephone call and email seeking comment.

Meanwhile, a group of marijuana advocates was traveling from California to Missoula in a green-painted school bus, picking up people along the way so they could appear in support of Williams at his sentencing.

Among them was Joe Grumbine of Lake Elsinore, Calif., a member of The Human Solution, a group that tries to pack courtrooms on behalf of people accused in marijuana cases.

As of midafternoon Thursday, the bus was midway between Seattle and Spokane and nine people were aboard, he said. Others planned to meet them in Missoula, he said.

“Chris Williams doesn’t belong in prison and we need to show support,” Grumbine said.

Williams was among several people charged with federal drug offenses after a series of raids on marijuana businesses around Montana in March 2011, and the only one to insist upon a jury trial rather than reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.

He was convicted in September on four counts involving marijuana production and distribution and four of having a firearm in conjunction with drug distribution. Those convictions carried a mandatory minimum of 80 to 90 years in prison, but a post-verdict plea deal could have dropped that minimum to five years.

According to that deal, if Williams agreed not to appeal his conviction, the U.S. Attorney’s Office would drop all but two of the charges and a $1.2 million forfeiture from Montana Cannabis, the Helena medical marijuana company in which he was a partner.

Enter Berman, who recently wrote that the extreme sentence Williams faced amounted to coercion, and expressed a willingness to help Williams. But mindful of Montana state law that says a defendant must reach out to the person first, Berman said he’d never contacted Williams directly.

Still, Williams’ federal defender, Michael Donahoe of Helena, tried to withdraw from the case last month, saying that because of Berman’s comments, his client had lost confidence in his ability to seek the best sentence. Christensen denied that request.

In court documents filed Thursday, Donahoe wrote that Berman’s proposed sentencing memorandum is yet another action that has “interfered with, if not wholly undermined, his attorney/client relationship with Mr. Williams.”

Berman’s “novel, if not questionable, legal theories … have zero chance of succeeding before this court,” but could still tempt Williams “to abandon, at his peril” the settlement appeal, Donahoe wrote.

“With Amicus like Berman,” he wrote, “who needs enemies.”

Christensen ordered that Berman’s information could be considered along with all the other sentencing materials submitted Friday.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. BillCunnane
    Report Abuse
    BillCunnane - February 03, 2013 10:04 am
    The real bottom line is he broke the law..in fact several laws and now must pay for what he did. He knew he was breaking the law He thought he was above the law and now will be spending his next 5 years where he belongs.
  2. FlyingTooLow
    Report Abuse
    FlyingTooLow - February 01, 2013 11:57 am
    Law enforcement needs to re-direct its focus on crime...to those that are REAL crimes.

    I was in Federal Prison for 5 years for a marijuana offense. No, it was not for simple possession. I was arrested aboard a Lockheed PV2 in Marianna, Florida...charged and convicted for conspiracy to import and distribute 12,000 pounds of marijuana.

    As those 5 years rolled by, what I did see were armed bank robbers, coming and going...while I still sat there for marijuana. Most of the bank robbers only spent 17 to 24 months. But, I and my fellow 'drug offenders,'...we stayed for YEARS.

    I wrote about the escapades that led to my incarceration.
    I admit, I had a great time.
    No one was injured, no one was killed, firearms were not involved...there were no victims.

    We were Americans...doing what Americans do best...living free.

    My book: Shoulda Robbed a Bank
    I think you may enjoy it...
  3. FlyingTooLow
    Report Abuse
    FlyingTooLow - February 01, 2013 11:56 am
    With all of the rhetoric surrounding the marijuana debate, the concept most overlooked:

    Freedom of the individual.

    “…over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign”.”
    — from the essay On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

    What happened to, "This is a FREE country"?

    That is what we have been telling the rest of the world for decades.
    Please, let us live up to it.

    Lead by example.

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