Township 37 pot tipster to defendant: ‘When the DEA comes, I’m going to remember everything’

Malcolm French and his wife, Barbara, leave federal court in Bangor on Tuesday.
Malcolm French and his wife, Barbara, leave federal court in Bangor on Tuesday. Buy Photo
Posted Jan. 14, 2014, at 11:14 a.m.
Last modified Jan. 14, 2014, at 5:57 p.m.

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Winston McTague leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday.
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Rodney Russell leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday.
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Rodney Russell leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday. Buy Photo

BANGOR, Maine — The man who tipped off law enforcement about a marijuana farm in Township 37 where 3,000 plants were seized said Tuesday that he demanded $10,000 cash in exchange for his silence from one of the defendants on trial in federal court.

Under cross-examination, Winston McTague, 48, of Newport testified that he sent threatening text messages to Kendall Chase, 57, of Bradford after investigators traced tips emailed to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency about marijuana growing in LaGrange and Washington County back to McTague. Agents visited McTague at his home about a month after the Township 37 farm was raided on Sept. 22, 2009.

McTague took the stand Monday and returned Tuesday in the trial of Chase, Malcolm French, 52, of Enfield and Rodney Russell, 50, of South Thomaston. All three are facing charges in connection with the marijuana growing operation.

All remain free on bail.

McTeague, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in June 2007 that has affected his memory, was granted immunity by the U.S. attorney’s office.

He testified Tuesday that he had lied to drug agents, federal prosecutors and the grand jury over the past four years.

Under cross-examination by Jeffrey Silverstein, the Bangor attorney representing Chase, McTague said that he signed the text messages he sent to Chase with his old CB radio handle “Red Patch.”

McTague testified that he wanted the money “for a lawyer.” He admitted that he told Chase in a text message to “leave the money in the freezer on the porch. I’m not sinking for you and Mac.”

He said that “Mac” was Malcolm French’s nickname.

“Where’s the cash, you’re out of time or when the DEA comes, I’m going to remember everything,” one of the texts admitted in the trial said.

McTague said he was aware that he would be provided a lawyer at government expense if he cooperated but said he wanted to hire his own attorney. Attorney Matthew Erickson, who was appointed to represent McTague in federal court, was in the courtroom for his testimony.

On Monday, the tipster testified that he met Chase in the mid-1990s through motorcycle club events. McTague said that he worked with Chase in the early 2000s growing marijuana at Chase’s camp in Danforth. Chase introduced him to French in 2005, McTague told the jury.

That year, the tipster said he worked with Chase and French on a grow of between 500 and 1,000 plants in a swamp near French’s hunting camp in LaGrange. The next year the operation expanded to Township 37, McTague testified. He did not tell jurors that Russell was involved in either operation.

McTague testified Monday that he tipped the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency in September 2008 and again a year later to the Township 37 operation because he felt Chase and French owed him money for work he did before his motorcycle accident.

Other witnesses Tuesday worked for or owned businesses where the defendants allegedly purchased supplies used to grow the marijuana. Workers verified documents that showed Russell purchased the type of peat moss, fertilizer, ground cover and plant food found at the grow site from a wholesale garden supply company in Gray.

A man who runs a fencing in firm in Massachusetts said that Russell submitted the largest order his company ever received for wire fencing designed to keep rabbits and animals out of gardens. He said that he ordered 1½ miles of fencing worth more than $3,300 and paid for it with a check that bounced.

A truck driver from Houlton testified that in March 2007 she delivered three loads of peat moss to the warehouse in Township 31 not far from the entrance to the grow site. Linda Archer testified that she talked with Rodney Russell about the deliveries by phone but did not identify him in court Tuesday. She identified French and Chase as two of the five men who unloaded shipments at the warehouse.

One of the undocumented workers who lived and worked at the marijuana farm is scheduled to take the stand Wednesday afternoon.

The trial is expected to last another two to 2½ weeks.

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 owned by Haynes in Township 37, or a portion of it, could be forfeited to the government.

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