Subject: "Got it!" - FULL DISCLOSURE
Date: August 6, 2010 5:54:06 PM PDT (CA)
To: firstname.lastname@example.orgAloha Claude-Michel,
In the interest of full disclosure, you need to know that Tim and I are under federal indictment, as of 9 July. How our lives have changed in the past three weeks....
This is the story....
We hit the wall financially in late 2008, and knew we were on a crumbling edge that would lead us to financial disaster. We were still about 10 months from getting the Costco account in place, and we were worse than broke, having gone almost a million dollars in debt to buy this land, build the house, and then build the aquaponics. What we did NOT know was that the entire country hit the wall at the same time we did. At any other time, we would have been ushered off our land by the County Sheriff within three months after we stopped paying the mortgage....So, we were profoundly motivated by what is known in behavioral psychology as "loss aversion", a phenomenally powerful motivator that makes human beings behave in very irrational ways, that are often not apparent until after the fact (20/20 hindsight vision), as we can personally attest, based upon current events....
In December, 2008, We were approached by a man named Roger Christie, who operated a "cannabis ministry" on Bayfront Avenue in Hilo, and had distributed marijuana openly for ten years (according to his story to us - we knew of his operation for three years, having seen his sign on the main street of Hilo), and asked to grow marijuana for his church. He claimed religious freedom, and that it was protected under the first amendment, and the Religious Freedom Act of 1993. So, we began trying to figure out how to grow marijuana in the aquaponics. Turns out, it does not work at all, as marijuana requires much "drier feet", as one former student of ours who has grown pot successfully in hydroponics has subsequently told us; this guy tried for over a year in every way he knew to get it to grow in his own aquaponics system, and finally gave up completely.
Last 22 July (2009), we were visited by the DEA but were not arrested until 8 July of this year, when they arrested 14 people total, in a show of media and political hype. (Tim and I only knew the "minister" Roger Christie, and his girlfriend, Sherryanne St. Cyr. We knew no one else of the group.) Tim and I spent the night in the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu after being transported with the other 12 in a C-130 from the Big Island. I never thought that my life would include handcuffs, let alone leg irons....
As I mentioned, it was a media event, and this is very political. California has gotten very uppity, what with their medical dispensaries on every street corner and the November ballot measure to completely legalize marijuana, and the Feds certainly do not want any other state getting such crazy ideas, especially around anything that would allow a religious defense. And a church is certainly NOT what this guy Roger Christie was running; he told me a lot of things that I have now found out were completely untrue, but based upon the fact that he had operated so openly, and for so long, Tim and I made the completely erroneous assumption that there would be no enforcement, even though we were clear it was not legal. (For example, everyone thinks everything is legal in Amsterdam, but it is NOT, there is simply no enforcement.) It looked to us as though the political climate here on the Big Island was such that there was no enforcement. We were wrong.
http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/global/story.asp?s=12778061 (for the media's version), or http://www.thc-ministry.org/forum/showthread.php?t=12668 (for the prosecution's rebuttal to the main guy's request for bail, which more or less tells the whole story, and why they made sure he'd not get out on bail).
This is by no means a small thing, but thanks to the support of Damon, Nadja, and an amazing number of others in our community who have stepped forward, our business and our family will remain intact. We have 10-12 months before sentencing, at point which we will stand in front of a Federal judge, who will determine the punishment we will have.
We've had a crash course in Federal Sentencing Guidelines since being arrested. These Guidelines were enacted to make sentencing more fair, because some judges were "tough", some were lenient, on the same crime, at different places across the country. We had 284 plants, most (~150) of which were toothpick-sized clones I had taken the day before, with no roots. However, according to the Federal rules, a plant is a plant, and they have arbitrarily assigned the weight as 100g per plant, which means we are charged with 28,400 grams, or 28.4kg. And because marijuana is classified as a Schedule One Drug (which means it is considered addictive, with no medical value, and is therefore equal to heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine), we face a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years per charge, with a maximum of 40 years per charge. We are charged with three charges: conspiracy, intent to manufacture, and intent to distribute. And we are guilty of these things; we tried to take the law into our own hands, and this is a near fatal error, in the eyes of our government. However, since we have co-operated fully thus far, and will continue to do so (easy for us to do, actually, as we had no involvement with anyone but Roger Christie, and therefore have no one to tell them anything about but him, and he is definitely the one they are after. As far as they are concerned, he was spitting in the face of the government, and their rules, and they really want to make an example of him.)
Any lawyer with federal experience would tell us the same thing. We will go to jail, unless the Federal Prosecuting Attorney says we should not, and the judge agrees, and on the day of sentencing decides that we are not the kind of people who should be put in jail. There will be no trial, unless the Federal Prosecuting Attorney wants a trial (and in our case they most definitely do not, it would be a media disaster for them, given the overall climate towards marijuana here in Hawaii, combined with the fact that we are well-respected members of our community, business owners with employees, as well as having small children). If we go to trial, instead of taking whatever deal they want us to (which involves pleading guilty, and testifying against Roger Christie, the "priority target"), they will charge us (and get) 15-120 years. So, we will accept the plea of guilty, and accept whatever punishment we are given. Realistically, 6 months-12 months for Tim, and 12-36 months for me, since I was far more involved than Tim in this project. And there is precedent for non-concurrent sentences, as if we have to "go in" at the same time, the case can be made that our business and children would be farm more damaged than if they allow us to serve our sentences at different times. There is also precedent for serving whatever sentence they impose here on the farm....it's very much up in the air, and we simply will not know until the day of sentencing.
And, there is a chance that if - on the day of sentencing - and every day between now and them (8 months to a year, these things progress at glacial speed), we can demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are NOT the kind of people who should ever be put inside their system.....
Welcome to Amerika. Even the DEA agent in charge of our bust (who is this amazing guy, whom if we had met at a BBQ or the beach, we'd have been great friends) said that "the federal laws around this drug are draconian". Exact quote.
At times like this, I wish there was someone/thing to pray to. However, I made this mess, trying to save my family, and it is now totally up to me to clean it up, and that involves going over to the other side of this cultural war. It's so ironic, because I never got good at raising the plants; they all died, and it turns out that marijuana does not even grow in our Aquaponics systems; I never made it past the learning curve, and the only reason I had so many plants because I kept killing them all!
The best metaphor I have come up with is this: There are times when I catch my children breaking a rule or doing something wrong. If they challenge the rule, and try to cover up what they did. or lie to me about it, they are punished more severely. If they "come clean", and tell the truth, and accept responsibility for what they have done, I punish them more lightly. But often, I still say "I am sorry, honey, but you still must be punished." That is very much the position we find ourselves. Except this "time out" involves serving time in a federal penitentiary, never voting again, and having to check "Convicted of a felony" box whenever that shows up!
So, that is the entire story. If you're interested in coming here, you are of course welcome. Like I said, the farm and the business will go on unaffected, as we have begun the process of "re-creating" ourselves in other people, notably Damon and Nadja, but several others, who will step in to cover for us if we have to go "inside". Please know that your being here will in no way implicate you, as we are completely clean and sober here (in fact, we had to ask an intern last week as she refused to stop smoking pot, and we simply cannot have it here on the land in any form whatsoever, as a condition of our pre-trail release. Our freedom is at stake here, and abiding by the conditions of our release is imperative.) It is also why it is even more important to get this knowledge into the hands of the people who will use it to save the world. I believe that - literally - people will die unless we find a way to feed ourselves....this is a matter of life and death, and we are on the side of life. Thank you for being there as well.
Bottom line, be very, very careful with your life. Know the law, local, state, and federal, and DO NOT STEP OUTSIDE THE LETTER OF THE LAW. This is critical. The rules are not to be messed with, in any manner whatsoever. There are horrendous consequences for landing on the wrong side of this cultural war, as we can tell you.
Thanks again for "listening". Let me know your thoughts.
Friendly Aquaponics, Inc.
PO Box 1196
Honoka'a, HI 96727