MDEA agent: Slug bait, porn magazines link Township 37 pot farm to locations owned by defendant

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 10, 2014, at 6:38 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The lead investigator in the Township 37 marijuana case testified Friday in federal court that many of the items seized as evidence at the site where nearly 3,000 mature marijuana plants were cultivated also were found at a nearby warehouse and in a home and hunting camp owned by one of the defendants.

Those items included rat poison, slug bait, packages of plant food, insulation boards, large camouflage tarps, Army surplus ammunition cans and pornographic magazines in French, Agent Jonathan Richards, a 32-year veteran of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and its predecessors, told the jury.

Richards served search warrants at the Enfield home of defendant Malcolm French, his hunting camp in LaGrange, the warehouse he owns in Township 31 and the marijuana farm owned by one of French’s companies. Richards told jurors he was looking for items that would connect other locations to the grow site, which was abandoned by undocumented Mexican workers when police arrived.

The drug agent testified on day three of the trial of French, 52, Kendall Chase, 57, of Bradford and Rodney Russell, 50, of South Thomaston in U.S. District Court. All three are facing a variety of charges in connection with the marijuana plantation discovered Sept. 22, 2009.

All remain free on bail.

Richards testified that DNA was obtained from the defendants and others involved in the case but did not match DNA obtained at the scene.

On cross-examination, French’s attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, pointed out that some items found at the grow site, including flagging tape attached to some plants, were ordered and paid for by Scott MacPherson of Wesley.

He was the only person found in the small house next to the warehouse on Sept. 22, 2009, Richards testified.

MacPherson, who according to court documents was, like Russell, a mid-level manager of the operation, took his own life in February 2011, just days before he was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury.

While jurors paid close attention during the presentation of photographs and evidence taken from different locations, there was a moment of levity Friday when Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Casey asked Richards about the fact that female marijuana plants are harvested and male plants are not cultivated.

“So, the males don’t matter much do they,” Casey asked as the jurors stifled giggles.

“No, not much,” Richards said.

“Do the males kind of get in the way?” the prosecutor asked as the jury of 12 women and three men, including three alternates, tried not to laugh too loud.

“Yes,” the agent said.

French and Russell are charged with one count each of conspiracy to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 1,000 or more marijuana plants, maintaining a drug-involved place, harboring illegal aliens, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.

Chase was indicted on charges of conspiracy to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 1,000 or more marijuana plants, and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute marijuana.

If convicted, French and Russell face between 10 years and life in federal prison. Chase faces up to life in prison but no mandatory minimum.

Haynes Timberland Inc. was indicted on one count of maintaining a drug-involved place. French is a part owner of the company. It faces hefty fines if convicted. The 22,000 acres that make up Township 37, or a portion of it, could be forfeited to the government.

Two other men have pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the marijuana farm.

Robert Bobby Berg, 50, pleaded guilty Tuesday to being an accessory after the fact to manufacturing 1,000 or more marijuana plants. In exchange for his guilty plea, federal prosecutors will drop three counts of harboring illegal aliens.

Berg is not on the prosecution’s witness list filed.

Moises Soto, 53, of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, pleaded guilty last summer to a drug conspiracy charge and one count of harboring illegal aliens. He is expected to testify about his role in recruiting undocumented workers and his role as an overseer of the day-to-day operation of the farm.

The trial will resume Monday with the continued cross-examination of Richards. Other law enforcement officers also are scheduled to take the stand.

http://bangordailynews.com/2014/01/10/news/bangor/mdea-agent-rat-poison-slug-bait-pornographic-magazines-link-pot-farm-to-locations-owned-by-defendant/ printed on September 19, 2014