Jury in Township 37 pot trial asks to review testimony of Mexican men; deliberations enter 13th hour

Posted Jan. 24, 2014, at 3:53 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 24, 2014, at 6:50 p.m.
Winston McTague leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday, Jan. 13.
Winston McTague leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday, Jan. 13.
Kendall Chase leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday, Jan. 13.
Kendall Chase leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday, Jan. 13.
Rodney Russell leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday, Jan. 13.
Kevin Bennett
Rodney Russell leaves federal court in Bangor on Monday, Jan. 13.
Malcolm French and his wife, Barbara, leave federal court in Bangor on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
Malcolm French and his wife, Barbara, leave federal court in Bangor on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

BANGOR, Maine — Jurors in the Township 37 marijuana trial began their 13th hour of deliberations about 3:30 p.m. Friday in U.S. District Court.

The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for five hours Thursday without reaching a verdict in the trial of Malcolm French, 52, of Enfield, Kendall Chase, 57, of Bradford, Rodney Russell, 50, of South Thomaston and Haynes Timberland Inc., the French-owned firm where the pot was found.

The men face a variety of charges in connection with the operation on a plot from which the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency reportedly seized 2,943 mature marijuana plants valued at $9 million. The pot farm was discovered on Sept. 22, 2009, in a 10-acre swamp on 22,000 acres owned by Haynes Timberland Inc. French is part owner of the company.

All have been free on bail since September 2012, when they were indicted by a federal grand jury.

About 1 p.m. Friday jurors asked for the transcripts of testimony of two witnesses — Miguel Roblero, 26, of Harrisburg, Pa., and Moises Soto, 53, of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Roblero, who was in the country illegally, testified that he worked in 2008 and 2009 at the grow site planting, tending and harvesting the marijuana.

Soto said that French asked him in 2007 to find migrant workers to work and live at the pot plantation. The Mexican man said that he translated instructions at the beginning of the growing seasons and at harvest time. Soto also said that he sometimes paid the Mexican workers in cash that he received from Scott MacPherson. MacPherson, along with Russell, ran the day-to-day operation on the farm.

Roblero, who was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony, identified French, Russell and Chase by their first names. Soto identified French and Russell but not Chase.

The transcript of Roblero’s testimony, which first was reviewed by the defendants’ attorneys, was ready for jurors about 3:30 p.m. It was expected to be 5:30 or 6 p.m. before the Soto transcript was ready for review by jurors.

French and Russell were indicted on the following charges: 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.

Both took the stand earlier this week and denied being involved in or having knowledge of the marijuana operation.

If convicted of producing that quantity of drugs, both men would face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life. Each also would face a fine of up to $10 million.

Chase was indicted on charges of conspiracy to manufacture 1,000 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 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, Chase would face up to life in prison but no mandatory minimum sentence. He faces the same fine as French and Russell.

Haynes Timberland Inc., a corporation owned by French and his wife, Barbara Haynes French of Enfield, where the marijuana was discovered, was indicted on one count of maintaining a drug-involved place.

If French and the firm are convicted, jurors would have to decide in a second deliberation if land owned by Haynes Timberland should be forfeited to the government. Woodcock would decide how much land would be forfeited.

Two other men, Robert “Bobby” Berg and Soto, were indicted with French, Russell, Chase and Haynes Timberland. Both have pleaded guilty to charges and are awaiting sentencing. Berg, 50, of Dexter did not take the stand.

Berg, who remains free on bail, pleaded guilty the day before the trial began 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.

Soto pleaded guilty last year to a drug conspiracy charge and one count of harboring illegal aliens. He is being held without bail while awaiting sentencing. When he took the stand Friday, Soto said that by testifying he hopes to receive a lesser sentence.

MacPherson of Wesley, took his own life not far from the grow site in February 2011, just days before he was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury. He lived near the grow site and oversaw activities of the illegal workers, according to testimony.

Watch bangordailynews.com for updates.

 

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