Medical marijuana provider Chris Williams rejects post-conviction plea offer

2012-10-25T00:00:00Z 2012-12-29T00:02:55Z Medical marijuana provider Chris Williams rejects post-conviction plea offerBy EVE BYRON Independent Record Helena Independent Record
October 25, 2012 12:00 am  • 

In an unorthodox move, U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter is offering to dismiss six of the eight marijuana charges that a jury convicted Christopher Williams of on Sept. 27, but Williams is refusing to take the deal.

Due to mandatory minimum sentencing on four of the charges — which involved having a gun during the commission of a drug crime — Williams is facing between 82 and 85 years in prison.

In a letter sent to Anthony Gallagher, the chief federal defender, on Oct. 11, Cotter says that he’s willing to drop one count of manufacturing marijuana, two counts of possession with intent to distribute the drug and three counts of possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense if Williams will agree to waive his right to appeal the conviction and upcoming sentencing.

“Such a resolution would allow Mr. Williams to argue for and receive a total sentence of as little as 10 years between Counts I and V,” Cotter wrote. “Mr. Williams received a fair trial that will be upheld on appellate review. This offer is extended as a last effort by my office to treat Mr. Williams in a reasonable, sufficient and fair manner that will vindicate the federal interest in this case.”

The two remaining counts are conspiracy to grow and distribute marijuana, and possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense. The conspiracy involved his former medical marijuana business partners Chris Lindsey, Dan Nichols, Thomas Daubert and the Flor family.

All of those people agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a lower sentence. Daubert is on probation for five years, members of the Flor family received sentences between two and five years; Lindsey and Nichols are awaiting sentencing.

But in a letter to the Independent Record, Williams wrote that he will reject what he calls “the new compromise” as he has with all other proposed plea bargains. He argues that this case isn’t just about medical marijuana — U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen prohibited discussion of Montana’s state law during Williams’ trial — but is about people being in charge of their government rather than the other way around.

“I have decided to fight the federal government, because for me not defending the things that I know are right is dishonorable,” Williams wrote. “Every citizen has a responsibility to fight for what is right, even if it seems like the struggle will be lost.

“It is the power of the people to control this government that is supposed to protect us. If we shun this struggle, this government will control us instead of protecting us.”

The offer expires Oct. 31.

Michael Donahoe, a senior litigator for the Federal Defenders of Montana who is Williams’ attorney, didn’t outright dismiss the offer in court documents he filed this week.

However, he noted that in his 28 years as an attorney, he’s never seen a post-judgment verdict offer like this proposed, under which the potential sentence decreases by about 86 percent. He called it “unorthodox.”

“Generosity, maybe; but it may be equally true that the government has misgivings about this case going to the Court of Appeals,” Donahoe wrote. “Although this can be viewed as a magnanimous gesture by the United States, it also serves to acknowledge that even the United States Attorney for this district doesn’t view Mr. Williams as deserving of 82 plus years in prison.”

Instead, he’s asking Christensen to order the release of Williams from custody while appealing the conviction to the Ninth Circuit on a variety of issues.

One point Donahoe will raise is that he believes the government has a history of bringing gun charges against medical marijuana distributors, but never meant to prosecute those; instead, he argues that it was done in order to coerce plea bargains rather than challenge federal statutes.

“We know this for two reasons. First, because the government readily agreed to dismiss the firearms counts for virtually every other medical marijuana defendant in those cases where fire-arms violations had been charged,” Donahoe wrote. “And second, because insofar as (Williams’) ‘conspiracy’ is concerned, every other defendant had no real choice but to plead guilty in exchange for the firearms charges being dropped.

“Given the government’s conduct here that was a false choice inspired by an abusive exercise of government power, considering that it was the government’s reckless decision to change its medical marijuana policy that was the first cause of all these problems.”

The change Donahoe alludes to involves statements made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2009, who said the Justice Department no longer would raid medical marijuana dispensaries that are legally created under states’ law. That statement was followed up by the so-called “Ogden memo” in October 2009, in which Deputy Attorney General David Ogden said the same thing.

However, in June 2011 the “Cole memo” was issued, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole instructed federal prosecutors that people in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana are violating the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. Cole said that abiding by state and local laws is not a defense to breaking federal laws.

Donahoe notes that if Williams is released from prison, he has a place to stay with a friend in Bozeman and a job awaiting him. He adds that Williams shouldn’t be considered a flight risk and could have his movements electronically monitored.

Donahoe also believes that there’s a good chance the conviction will be reversed.

Federal prosecutors are opposed to releasing Williams, who is incarcerated in the Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby.

Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or

Follow Eve on Twitter@IR_EveByron

Copyright 2016 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(39) Comments

  1. BillCunnane
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    BillCunnane - October 31, 2012 10:24 am
    If he rejects the compromise then give him the 80+ yrs of jail time and be done with it. He knew he was breaking the law, is guilty and should pay the penalty for doing so.
  2. crush720
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    crush720 - October 29, 2012 1:16 pm
    Aspirin and the active ingredient in aspirin, salycilic acid are both listed on the FDA approved drugs list. Please visit the U.S. Department of health and human services for a link to the approved drug list. You may search for any chemical compound using that search.
  3. PeopleSupportedSlavery2
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    PeopleSupportedSlavery2 - October 29, 2012 8:16 am
    Agguy-- Clearly you don't realize what the Feds have done. Nixon made cannabis a schedule 1 drug alongside heroin (while crack-cocaine and crystal meth are schedule 2. Because cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug) which essentially prevented medical professionals from studying the plant for decades. Marionl is only synthetic THC and today scientists know that it is not just THC which has medical qualities. CBD counteracts THC. Both chemicals (along with 80 other yet to be researched because of the FEDS) in the cannabis plant interact with each other in what is called the "entourage effect." It is this yet to be discovered combination of chemicals which provides palliative relief. And sadly, the Federal government continues to follow President Nixon's B.S. classification of cannabis which makes it nearly impossible for researchers to really learn about cannabis.

    So yeah, Agguy, keep towing the B.S. party line.
  4. PeopleSupportedSlavery2
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    PeopleSupportedSlavery2 - October 29, 2012 8:01 am
    Agguy-- cannabis does not need FDA approval, just like every other drug that existed before the FDA. Asprin has never, ever, been approved by the FDA, and asprin can seriously damage your body.
  5. PeopleSupportedSlavery2
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    PeopleSupportedSlavery2 - October 29, 2012 7:56 am
    Agguy's comments in the 1920s: "These drunks trying to end the alcohol prohibition wanna turn this country into England/France/any 'free' country."

  6. jgrdh11
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    jgrdh11 - October 28, 2012 7:26 pm
    No, I prefer to get my information from pot heads, so you've completely changed my view on this......NOT!!!
  7. Harry Houston
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    Harry Houston - October 28, 2012 1:15 pm
    Jgrdh11: You would back a government that is lying to you???

    The government has told you that CANNABIS is a "Scheduled" controlled substance. Schedule I, meaning little to no use and a strong potential for abuse/addiction, and danger to persons using it. That is lying to you!
    The government actually holds patents for the medical use of the plant.
    Just check out US Patent 6630507 titled "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants" which is assigned to The United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services..

  8. FreeChrisWilliams
    Report Abuse
    FreeChrisWilliams - October 28, 2012 3:02 am
  9. FreeChrisWilliams
    Report Abuse
    FreeChrisWilliams - October 28, 2012 3:02 am
  10. ettubutte
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    ettubutte - October 27, 2012 6:16 pm
    Colorado has the same kind of medical marijuana laws as Montana does, but federal prosecutors do not dare to bring charges in Colorado. The reason they do not dare to prosecute in Colorado is because they are fairly sure that no Colorado jury could be found that would not "nullify" their anti-marijuana federal law in court.

    They do it in Montana because they know Montana juries are push-overs. They will do anything the judge tells them to do, even if it's against their conscience. Montanans just take orders better, that's all. That's why the Feds don't worry about Montanans. When they tell Montanans to step aside, Montanans always do.

    There is only one guy with any guts left in this state, and that guy is Christopher Williams. By the way, that includes me too. 80 years in prison scares the life out of me. Heck, 1 day does. So there is only one patriot in the state we can count on, out of all of us. What a disgrace all the rest of us are to let him do our job by himself.
  11. jgrdh11
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    jgrdh11 - October 27, 2012 8:22 am
    Interesting, 1 kitten versus him supplying potentially hundreds of kids and recreational users illegal drugs. The punishment clearly fits the crime. He's a gun carrying dope dealer.
  12. imapayne
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    imapayne - October 26, 2012 3:39 pm
    I hope he is acquitted for all of our sakes. It's a waste of Tax $$ to put people in prison. I smoke it for my neuropathy and gout and it works great. Hemp is a resilient material that is used for a lot of different things. Before WWII started, the government thought of using hemp for a cheaper way of making parachutes. The nylon industry was also wanting that contract. As we all know the nylon industry won the contract even though it cost more to make parachutes with it. The reason was the nylon industry went out of their way to prove that if Hemp was used, the rest of the plant would be misused by the general public. They brought in so called experts to say that people would get addicted to pot and that would raise the crime. Their example was: Black men would rape White women...........
    I have also read that Medical Marijuana people don't want it legalized. That would cut into their profits. DEA doesn't want to recognize the latest reports on pot because it would mean they were wrong and legalizing it would put most of them out of jobs. However the growing heroin problems in our country would certainly keep most of them employed. JMO
  13. FlamingLiberal1
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    FlamingLiberal1 - October 26, 2012 2:43 pm
    Of course. I'm simply comparing the magnitude of the punishment with the magnitude of the crime. Killing kittens is apparently not a big deal, but producing marijuana for sick people is BAD, BAD, BAD! About 60 times worse, penalty-wise.
  14. Grd
    Report Abuse
    Grd - October 26, 2012 11:42 am
    Farmer "a person who farms; person who operates a farm or cultivates land." A Cannabis farmer must take all the same actions as one that grows corn,citrus or potatoes. They must clear the land, they must till the land, they must plant seed in an "lined fashion" or a row, they must feed and water their plants, they must protect plants from bugs, diseases or other harmful things, they must then harvest the crop, they must sell the crop, so where is the difference?
    The main difference is cannabis grows a lot faster, uses less water and produces a much larger crop; whether it is grown for hemp or the marijuana flower.
    Yes there is a huge difference is growing for the marijuana flower and growing cannabis for hemp.
    Do some research Dolphind3 and get an education !!
  15. Grd
    Report Abuse
    Grd - October 26, 2012 11:31 am
    "Tetra Hydra Cannabinal into pill form and sell it in a pharmacy." Big Pharma did; it is called Marinol and is it ineffective for a lot of people, it takes to long to enter the system, the effects of marinol do not lost long enough to combat the medical issue at hand meaning it takes more pills. The natural plant grown in the ground on it's own with no human intervention works much much better.
    The true issue here is not just "pot" or "marijuana" that is the smoke screen(pun intended); the real issue is the entire cannabis plant. The entire plant can be used for medicinal factors as well as industrial(do some research for facts yourself). Cannabinoids are know to fight cancer cells back into remission; this is proven science now.
    Cannabis Sativa plant can be used to grow Hemp; the thing the first Model T was build with and ran on hemp oil. Growing for hemp is completely different than growing for the marijuana flower.
    Imagine all our farmers able to grow hemp; produce the oil and provide their own energy for their farm vehicles.
    As of now you must buy Hemp from Canada, Mexico or another country to produce Hemp goods in the USA, how does that make fiscal sense?
  16. Harry Houston
    Report Abuse
    Harry Houston - October 26, 2012 10:36 am
    The government has told you that CANNABIS is a "Scheduled" controlled substance. Schedule I, meaning little to no use (marinol?), strong potential for abuse/addiction, and danger to persons using it.

    The government actually holds patents for the medical use of the plant.

    Just check out US Patent 6630507 titled "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants" which is assigned to The United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services.
  17. Harry Houston
    Report Abuse
    Harry Houston - October 26, 2012 10:33 am
    “It is not only [the juror's] right, but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” —John Adams

    Juries have the power to judge the facts and the law. If the law is a bad one, like marijuana prohibition, vote Not Guilty to acquit. We are attempting to change the bad marijuana laws.

    "If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so."
    Thomas Jefferson.
    Share this!
  18. dolphind3
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    dolphind3 - October 26, 2012 9:45 am
    I love that there are those that want this guy to be the poster child for medical pot. LOL
  19. dolphind3
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    dolphind3 - October 26, 2012 9:44 am
    Apples and oranges.

  20. dolphind3
    Report Abuse
    dolphind3 - October 26, 2012 9:43 am
    Now you are a farmer? LOL

    I know farmers and they take exception to your claim.
  21. jgrdh11
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    jgrdh11 - October 26, 2012 8:11 am
    You do realize the difference between federal and state charges don't you Flamer?!
  22. Shenanigans
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    Shenanigans - October 25, 2012 10:56 pm
    steeline, how can you say "the TP has nothing to do with this issue"? You can't find a single issue that better encompasses all the principles the Tea Party claims to stand for. Re-legalizing Cannabis in all her forms is absolutely congruent with the TP ideals of: free markets, individual liberty, limited government, State's rights, lower taxes, and new revenue sources, just to name a few. Not to mention, virtually 100% of those who identify with the Tea Party also claim to be Christian. Considering God created Cannabis on the 3rd day, and how no stretch of the imagination can conclude Jesus would support criminalizing free will, it's accurate to say cannabis prohibition and the unconscionably immoral "justice system" that comes with it should be at odds with the moral foundation Christians claim to stand upon. Families are destroyed by the drug war. Real people are enslaved by it. The heart of America is perverted by it. You're bloody right we have to get America right. And may WE bless Chris Williams for shining light on the tyrannical darkness that has enveloped our Republic.

    "With Liberty and Justice for All" isn't just a slogan, it's the very soul of our Republic!
  23. 4fishing
    Report Abuse
    4fishing - October 25, 2012 5:50 pm
    That is a good question!!! Maybe you could email him with that. Please let us know if he responds & what he has to say.
  24. steeline
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    steeline - October 25, 2012 5:18 pm
    How can a law be half right. Legal in a state and illegal by Federal Law. I think the governments are at fault here. Why did they wait so long before they decided growing pot in Montana wasn't OK? It is not illegal to have a gun for protection of self and property. It pot were 100% legal, no gun violation. It don't make any difference if you are for or against MM law, I think everyone who was growing and selling MM and not violating any other legitimate laws should walk on this one. It is a classic example of government gone wild. It is not right what is happening to these people. Makes my head hurt. We have to restore America.
  25. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - October 25, 2012 5:07 pm
    The Tea Party has nothing to do with this issue. In fact most people don't have a clue about the Tea Party. They believe way to much liberal news BS.
  26. FlamingLiberal1
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    FlamingLiberal1 - October 25, 2012 3:27 pm
    The guy who smashed a kitten to death gets 59 days house arrest, but Williams hurts no one, helps sick people, and is facing a mandatory minimum of 82 years... a life sentence. So I guess smoking pot is worse than killing a kitten by a magnitude 59:3000.
  27. JVH77
    Report Abuse
    JVH77 - October 25, 2012 1:33 pm
    He employed over 30 people so I'm pretty sure a more accurate assessment would be more "dope", more jobs.

    This offer is pretty telling on the level of confidence the US Attorney's office must be feeling on appeal. The very narrow view of events they presented to the jury will likely be broadened substantially.
  28. Shenanigans
    Report Abuse
    Shenanigans - October 25, 2012 12:07 pm
    It's pathetic how the only person with any integrity involved in the case of US v. Williams, is Mr. Williams. He is nothing short of a patriot for standing for the principles this Nation supposedly holds dear.

    End the war on peaceful Americans who are merely exercising their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which are guaranteed by the 1st, 2nd and 4th amendments. All you Tea Party fanatics bleating about big government tyranny and the sanctity of free will and free markets, Chris Williams' plight at the hands of the Phederal Corptocracy is your call to action. But will you silently watch him be crucified?

  29. Jason J
    Report Abuse
    Jason J - October 25, 2012 11:52 am
    Chris Williams deserves all of our respect for standing up against injustice.

    Michael Cotter is truly a despicable liar... "a fair trial?" No one present at the trial could tell the honest truth about what happened, that everyone present during the marijuana cultivation believed themselves to be abiding by the law. Why is the truth so dangerous to the jury? How can anyone say it is a fair trial when material evidence is not allowed to be admitted? That is twisted Orwellian doublespeak.

  30. tiredofthelies
    Report Abuse
    tiredofthelies - October 25, 2012 11:11 am
    Where is Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock in all of this. Here is a Montana citizen who was following state law. Shouldn't the AG's office be weighing in on this and trying to defend this man's rights?

    Whether you agree with the medical marijuana laws or not, you have to admire the courage and convictions of Mr. Williams. Our elected officials should be standing up for state's rights and individual rights, and yet our AG is conspicuously silent on this.
  31. lilmtma
    Report Abuse
    lilmtma - October 25, 2012 11:02 am
  32. lilmtma
    Report Abuse
    lilmtma - October 25, 2012 11:01 am
    Dope?Slang. a. any narcotic drug taken to induce euphoria or satisfy addiction.
    Correction: Marijuana is not a narcotic. I was an Employee at Montana Cannabis, Pretty sure we created jobs and were helping the sick, sir what do you do all day long? Please refer to our documentary and realize farmers are amongst the hardest working class there is. Your shallow comment only makes you look ignorant.
    Thanks ,
    Jena Thompson
  33. FlamingLiberal1
    Report Abuse
    FlamingLiberal1 - October 25, 2012 10:53 am
    Williams was railroaded. He would forfeit his right to fight those remaining convictions if he accepts the deal. I don't know if I would be brave enough to continue fighting if this was me, but I admire Mr. Williams' courage. He is willing to sacrifice everything he has, including the rest of his life, for what he feels is right. Few people have that kind of moral fiber. Someday our laws will be more sensible but in the meantime we keep feeding lives into the meat grinder that is the prison-industrial complex over a drug war that was lost as soon as we declared it. Prohibition isn't working. It didn't work with alcohol and it doesn't work with marijuana or other drugs. The solution is not to enforce it harder. The solution is sensible regulation.
  34. Twangs
    Report Abuse
    Twangs - October 25, 2012 10:35 am
    Good for Williams, he certainly has guts.
  35. Agguy
    Report Abuse
    Agguy - October 25, 2012 10:13 am
    A gun and some pot hmm....explain the differance between smugglers, cartels, and fast and furious. If you want legal marijuana than first it needs FDA approval, DEA controlled substance approval, put the Tetra Hydra Cannabinal into pill form and sell it in a pharmacy. These smoke and mirror pot heads want us to be Denmark. We live in the USA and we realize the social problems with drugs. Legalizing pot will make the government larger and social problems bigger yet. If medical need is the case distribute it to the people that truly need it not the pot heads that cheapen the truth.
  36. jway86
    Report Abuse
    jway86 - October 25, 2012 10:05 am
    Paranoid old men keep
    marijuana illegal and
    make our children LESS safe.
  37. JVH77
    Report Abuse
    JVH77 - October 25, 2012 10:01 am
    If you bothered to read the article or learn anything about the subject which your clever joke attempts to ridicule you'd realize that the individual profiled in the article owned a state licensed business that employed no less than 30 people. So it would seem your analysis is incorrect, more "dope" (a real gem of a term by the way) in fact equals more jobs.

    As for the deal offered to Mr. Williams, the prosecution's willingness to offer an unprecedented post-conviction deal simply to avoid the appeal process is pretty telling about the confidence they have in the ability of their conviction to stand once all evidence is presented. During the trial, which I attended, the defense wasn't allowed to present any evidence concerning state law or the memos released by the Justice Department that started this whole mess. All of that was entered into record without the jury present so the appeals court will get to hear a much more complete version of events. I imagine Mr. Thaggard and Ms. Stewart, along with their ever present hero DEA agent Smith are sweating this one just a bit. How will they justify the three DEA chemists they flew in to testify what was seized is cannabis and all the other "expert" witnesses and their bloated fees once the conviction is overturned? This was a monumental waste of time and taxpayer money.

    There will be the obligatory accusations of inter-state trafficking and selling to non-cardholders but given that no charges concerning those accusations were ever filed against Mr. Williams or any of his former business partners there's little need to address them. The issue of guns is another area where reality falls a bit short of the stories being portrayed in the media. There were guns present on the recommendation of local law enforcement following robbery attempts. But the characterization of a band of bloodthirsty criminals polishing their machine guns in anticipation of a shoot-out with the cops the U.S. Attorneys office would have us believe is far from reality.

    All in all this case could be the key that unravels the Federal governments failed policies concerning cannabis. And it will undoubtedly shed some light on the incredibly underhanded methods they use.

    VOTE NO ON IR-124

  38. jgrdh11
    Report Abuse
    jgrdh11 - October 25, 2012 9:48 am
    He's a convicted drug dealer. Keep him locked up and off the streets.
  39. Montanaguy63
    Report Abuse
    Montanaguy63 - October 25, 2012 5:45 am
    Less jobs, more dope please! lol

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