Tuesday, December 02, 2008
'Weed king' found guilty
The Windsor Star
A medical-marijuana activist known as DaWeedKing and his wife were found guilty Monday of cultivating 27 pot plants, almost 44 months after they were arrested at their Albert Road home.
Though Fred Pritchard, 41, and Renee Pritchard, 45 -- who moved seven months ago to Vancouver where they now work -- were found guilty of producing marijuana, Superior Court Justice Steve Rogin dismissed a charge of possession for the purpose of trafficking.
Rogin sentenced Renee -- who has no prior criminal record -- to six months of house arrest, requiring her to remain at her home between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. unless she has prior written approval from a parole officer. A sentencing hearing was set Feb. 27 for Fred since the Crown is seeking a period of incarceration. He has a criminal record and is considered the primary marijuana cultivator.
The couple must forfeit grow-op equipment and $1,100 seized in the raid.
Fred Pritchard said outside court that he was disappointed the medical-marijuana aspect of his activities -- he has previously run the Marijuana Compassion Club of Windsor under the moniker DaWeedKing -- was not brought out at trial.
"It's sad," he said of his current legal troubles, which began when his home was raided May 6, 2005. "But at least it's over."
The case was adjourned last February after Rogin instructed Windsor police Const. Mauro Hernandez to retrieve notes indicating the reliability of the informants he used to obtain a search warrant for the Pritchards' home.
The Pritchards had filed affidavits swearing that nobody but them had been in the area of their home where they grew marijuana plants during the time of the police investigation.
The defence had suggested that if police don't have to provide any information on their informants, they can claim anything they like.
On Monday, Hernandez told the court the two informants he used had been between 20 per cent and 100 per cent accurate on eight previous occasions when they said drugs would be found at various buildings, which led to arrests.
Rogin did not require Hernandez to say anything that might identify an informant and dismissed the defence application to quash the warrant.
But Rogin added another wrinkle when he suggested he may have provided an opportunity for an appeal by letting slip how he planned to rule before asking for a defence submission on the topic. "I made a mistake in law," he told the court. "I can't take that back.
"It clearly opens the door for someone to say I prejudged the issue."
Defence lawyer Frank Miller said afterward he has no plans to appeal the verdict. But he called the case "a huge victory" for defendants who want to know more about how warrants are obtained by police.
"It's the first case where an application has been allowed to cross-examine a police officer on the reliability of an informant," Miller said. "The police officer says it's a reliable informant. We're saying, that's his opinion.
"We're no longer going to have accept the bald opinion of a police officer on the track record of an informant."
Federal prosecutor Richard Pollock, however, said the case provided nothing new for defendants.
"Defence lawyers have always been allowed to ask police about informants' reliability, as long as it doesn't infringe on the police-informant privilege," Pollock said. "I'm very pleased that privilege was upheld."
Hope I never run into that judge