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Most of Chris Williams’ marijuana convictions to be dropped

In exchange for him waiving right to appeal
2012-12-19T00:00:00Z 2012-12-29T00:02:54Z Most of Chris Williams’ marijuana convictions to be droppedBy EVE BYRON Independent Record Helena Independent Record
December 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

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 consecutively.

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 guaranteed.

“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 5 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.

Reporter Eve Byron: 447-4076 or eve.byron@helenair.com

Follow Eve on Twitter.com/IR_EveByron

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(18) Comments

  1. LegAdv
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    LegAdv - December 23, 2012 12:31 pm
    It's really pointless to speculate about the many possible reasons for offering or accepting a Plea Agreement or Final Settlement in any criminal case. While much has been discussed about the Government's possible reasons for offering a Final Settlement in this case, very little has said about the possible reasons for Mr. Williams's acceptance of it. The reality is that trials and appeals involve calculated risks for ALL parties in a criminal case and that there really is no such thing as a 'slam-dunk' outcome, no matter how straightforward a particular case may appear to be.
  2. JVH77
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    JVH77 - December 21, 2012 8:14 pm
    Perhaps that argument needs to be made to the people who regulate that industry, the Federal government.
  3. JVH77
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    JVH77 - December 21, 2012 8:12 pm
    If he "wasn't even close to operating within the State laws" why wasn't he charged with anything that violated state law? Perhaps you should have attended his trial, your hatred seems to need a dose of reality.
  4. dolphind3
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    dolphind3 - December 20, 2012 11:01 pm
    If they can't grow it then it needs to be obtained like real medicine, at a pharmacy.
  5. FlamingLiberal1
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    FlamingLiberal1 - December 20, 2012 12:03 pm
    It is not reasonable to ask those with a medical need to grow their own. If you need opiate painkillers, do you have to plant poppies, bring them to maturity, harvest them, and then figure out how much to take? If you need an aspirin, do you have to grow a willow tree and harvest the bark yourself? People who are ill lack the time to bring a crop to maturity, even if they are well enough to do it.
  6. Curmudgeon
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    Curmudgeon - December 20, 2012 11:28 am
    The Volstead Act (alcohol prohibition) was called "the noble experiment" by some, and was a dismal failure. All it did was decrease respect for the law and make bootleggers wealthy.

    My own parents told me, "We drank some awful stuff back in those days." Mom mentioned "bathtub gin" and "home-brew" beer. And Dad was a lawyer involved in state law enforcement.

    Some day our grandchildren will look back at cannabis prohiibition (a dismal failure) and shake their heads in disbelief.

    Hey, if it was good enough for the Father of Our Country (G.W. grew marijuana at Mount Vernon), why not for the rest of his country?
  7. jgrdh11
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    jgrdh11 - December 20, 2012 7:50 am
    Flamer, you really live in your own little world don't you?! Williams wasn't even close to operating within the State laws. He was selling in bulk, selling to non-cardholders, transporting large quantities, had at least one gun toting felon working for him, etc.. If he hadn't been so greedy and instead stayed within the State law, he wouldn't be in prison right now. Btw, the reason the deal was offered was to save the expense of the appeal, not because the case wasn't solid.
  8. FlamingLiberal1
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    FlamingLiberal1 - December 19, 2012 4:00 pm
    If the conviction was rock-solid, then why on Earth would the prosecution offer to cut such a deal after they had gotten the conviction? The only explanation I have is that they were relatively certain it would all be overturned on appeal. This way the government can keep all the money and not have to defend its prohibiting Williams from raising the most logical defense: that he was in compliance with state law, and the Justice Department memo explicitly stated prosecution of such businesses was "lowest priority."
  9. BillCunnane
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    BillCunnane - December 19, 2012 3:03 pm
    The state as well as Federal Government need to continue to prosecute those who violate the laws established to protect the community and people within. That means prosecute those who grow and sell marijuana for profit. Individuals with real medical needs should be allowed to grow and use as long as they have their card and follow the guidlines as provided by SB423.
  10. jlarsen
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    jlarsen - December 19, 2012 2:24 pm
    The government should have dropped the other two charges as well. It's too bad he still could spend life in prison and will likely still get at least the same 10 year sentence they were poised to give him before he cut a "deal". The federal government is a menace.

    Obama and the feds just promised the people of Colorado and Washington that they weren't going to go after people for marijuana related offenses. Does anyone actually believe that? The feds told the people of Montana the same thing over MEDICAL marijuana, and still swept in and raided most of the medical marijuana industry. I hope the citizens of Washington and Colorado aren't dumb enough to believe that the same agencies that lied to all the states with medical marijuana laws are telling the truth about turning a blind eye to state laws that allow for the 'legal' possession and sale of marijuana purely for recreation.

    Just wait and see, the federal government will wait for WA and CO marijuana industries to blossom into large financial ventures, then they will swoop down and throw thousands of citizens into federal prison, seize money and property and waste hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars prosecuting those that they "promised" not to.
  11. JVH77
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    JVH77 - December 19, 2012 1:12 pm
    They did it because they are terrified of his appeal and they should be, there's little chance those convictions would stand when the appellate court heard the part of the story the jury didn't get to hear. As for your opinion of the man you're entitled to it.

    Congratulations to US Attorney Joe Thaggard, you've silenced another one and protected your precious winning percentage.
  12. BillCunnane
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    BillCunnane - December 19, 2012 12:30 pm
    The judge should hit Williams witht he max on ALL charges left including the firearms charges. As for the petition..We need a petition to convict ALL those who openly wholesell marijuana as was the case here. Send a message that violations of Federal Laws will not be tolerated and those who grow and sell for profit will be punished to the full extent of the laws that are on the books today.
  13. jgrdh11
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    jgrdh11 - December 19, 2012 10:48 am
    He didn't plea, he was tried and convicted by a jury. I can't believe the feds let him off the hook on 6 of the 8 charges that he was convicted of. He's a gun toting, drug dealer that deserves to spend many years in prison.
  14. Human Rights
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    Human Rights - December 19, 2012 10:34 am
    We should all be thankful for Chris Williams who had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the Ashkenazim mafia of Washington DC.
  15. FlamingLiberal1
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    FlamingLiberal1 - December 19, 2012 9:52 am
    I am so sad he was forced to waive his right to appeal, although I completely understand why he chose that. I also believe that the only reason that the prosecution was willing to bargain with him post-conviction is that the convictions were almost certain to be overturned on appeal. The draconian mandatory minimum sentence was cruel and unusual and completely out of proportion with the nature of his "crimes".
  16. Lakota
    Report Abuse
    Lakota - December 19, 2012 8:51 am
    Congratulations to Chris Williams for making an arrangement to get his life back. So sad that he was strong armed by the Feds to plea. We need to un-schedule marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and allow states to make their own determination about the future of cannabis. Join the conversation: http://weedist.com/.
  17. 4MT
    Report Abuse
    4MT - December 19, 2012 8:37 am
    Wow, sure am glad they spent all that taxpayer money on this guy while in the meantime Brian Holm, who actually ran someone down and killed them while on booze and RX drugs is out of prison getting ready to head to the Mayo clinic for a liver transplant. A transplant no doubt needed due to the legal chemicals he has been pumping into his body for the last 40 years. When will we start locking up real criminals instead of people for victimless crimes? gmafb
  18. jway86
    Report Abuse
    jway86 - December 19, 2012 7:11 am
    So he still ends up with life in prison, but this time with no right of appeal. It's not a deal I'd take for a "crime" of selling a herb that's safer than coffee!

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