Defense attorney: Monroe man not a ‘gun-toting drug dealer’

Posted Nov. 19, 2013, at 5:57 a.m.
Last modified Nov. 19, 2013, at 12:16 p.m.
James F. Ford, been charged with cultivating marijuana in connection with what police reported was large growing operation in a Monroe home.
PHOTO COURTESY OF WALDO COUNTY JAIL
James F. Ford, been charged with cultivating marijuana in connection with what police reported was large growing operation in a Monroe home.

BANGOR, Maine — A federal jury will decide if a Waldo County man was running a large-scale marijuana farm that supported his family while illegally possessing assault-style weapons or just growing a few pot plants in his garage where gun parts also were stored.

The trial of James F. Ford, 58, the patriarch of a Monroe family accused of running an indoor marijuana growing operation from 2006 to 2011 in his home, began Tuesday in U.S. District Court. The trial is scheduled to last three days.

Ford, who was convicted of growing marijuana in Massachusetts, allegedly moved the family pot-growing operation to Waldo County after he completed a sentence of probation in the Bay State. His wife, Darlene Ford, 58, of Monroe and their two sons, James T. Ford, 36, of Monroe and Paul Ford, 33, of Swanville, also were charged.

All were indicted more than a year ago on drug and gun charges by a federal grand jury.

The eldest Ford has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants, maintaining a drug-involved place and being a felon in possession of a firearm. His recorded confession to police will be played for the jury, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCormack, who is prosecuting the case, said in his opening statement.

The prosecutor said that when agents with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency raided the garage-style metal building with an apartment on the second floor they found about 200 marijuana plants growing on the first floor. McCormick told the jury of eight women and five men, including one alternate, that the growing operation was “sophisticated” and included environmental controls.

Defense attorney Hunter Tzovarras of Bangor in his opening statement said the government has overcharged his client.

“This is not a case of some gun-toting drug dealer moving to Maine and destroying a community,” Tzovarras said. “This was no crack house or meth lab. The purpose of the house was to live there.”

A jury in September deadlocked in the trial of Darlene Ford. She is scheduled to be retried next month on one count each of conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, maintaining a drug-involved place and aiding and abetting a felon in the possession of a firearm.

The couple remains free on bail while awaiting trial.

She sat behind her husband in the courtroom Tuesday just as he sat behind his wife during her trial.

Members of the Ford family were arrested in November 2011 when the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency raided the family’s Swan Lake Avenue garage where they allegedly grew hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of marijuana.

During the raid, police seized more than 300 marijuana plants in various stages of growth, 10 pounds of processed marijuana and two semiautomatic assault weapons. According to police, the potential street value of the marijuana found in the home was more than $800,000. Jim Pease of the MDEA said in November 2011 that the parents were suspected of harvesting about 20 pounds of marijuana every three months and shipping it to Massachusetts.

Due to his Massachusetts conviction, patriarch James F. Ford faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years and maximum of life in prison and a fine of up to $8 million on the conspiracy charge. His wife faces between five and 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million, if convicted.

If James F. Ford and Darlene Ford both are convicted, they would forfeit their Monroe property to the government.

The couple’s sons have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the grow operation. James T. Ford is serving a five-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Ray Brook, N.Y. Paul Ford is being held without bail at the Somerset County Jail while awaiting sentencing. A date has not been set.

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