JURY RETURNS VERDICT IN MASSIVE GROW-OP CASE
REGINA -- Drawing comparisons to Christ, the self-described head chief of Turtle Island says he's being persecuted for making "medicine" at the request of the Creator after a jury convicted him and two disciples of growing marijuana.
"I'm a messenger. That's all. If they want to kill the messenger, they can go right ahead. They did it before with Jesus," an unrepentant Lawrence Hubert Agecoutay, who turned 52 on Christmas, said after the jury returned its verdict late Wednesday afternoon.
"I forgive them. They did their best," he added. "This is Creator's way. It is of love, peace and happiness and that's all I offer."
But the prosecution suggested he and five other men were offering a whole lot more from the 6,000 marijuana plants discovered in massive greenhouses during an RCMP raid on the Pasqua First Nation. Busted nearly three years ago, it was the largest grow-op ever discovered in Saskatchewan. Had the crop not been nipped on Aug. 21, 2005, before it budded, it was worth between $2 million by the pound and up to $7.5 million by the gram.
While the Crown contended the six men played varying roles in the operation, the seven women and five men on the jury weren't as convinced and acquitted three of the accused.
Lawrence Agecoutay, seen as the leader of the group, held his multi-coloured sacred bundle -- carrying a ceremonial pipe -- between his hands and bowed his head as if in prayer as he waited for the jurors to file into the courtroom. The verdicts against him were read first: Guilty of producing marijuana and guilty of possession for the purpose of trafficking. Identical verdicts followed for 59-year-old Chester Fernand Girard, an Ontario man who had the know-how to grow the crop, and Agecoutay's 48-year-old brother Robert Stanley Agecoutay, near whose house six large greenhouses were found. Younger brother Joseph Clayton Agecoutay, 47, was acquitted along with brothers Nelson Edward Northwood, 58, and Jack Allan Northwood, 55, who linked up with Lawrence Agecoutay through his website advertising adoptions by the Anishinabe Nations of Turtle Island.
Robert Agecoutay was acquitted of an additional gun charge, and Girard acquitted of forcible entry of a house -- a stranger's home to which he fled when the RCMP's tactical team descended on the grow-op in a pre-dawn raid.
The verdicts came after the jurors deliberated for about 10 hours over two days, returning once with questions. They were struggling with issues of criminal intent and aiding a crime. The strain was evident as several jurors, including the foreman, began quietly crying as the three acquitted accused stopped to hug or shake hands with those convicted before leaving the prisoner's dock.
"You've obviously taken your task very seriously," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Frank Gerein told jurors as the three-week long trial drew to a close. "Your verdicts are reasonable."
The Crown asked that those convicted be taken into custody pending sentencing set for April 4.
"They've all been convicted of very serious offences, and the Crown will be seeking a very serious sentence," prosecutor Darrell Blais said. He told the court Lawrence Agecoutay had an outstanding drug charge in B.C. at the time of his arrest in 2005 for these charges.
Thu, 14 Feb 2008
StarPhoenix, The (CN SN)
Copyright: 2008 The StarPhoenix