BANGOR, Maine — The conviction of the corporation that owns Township 37 should be set aside because there was not enough evidence to find Haynes Timberland Inc. guilty of being involved in a pot farm found growing in a 10-acre swamp on the 22,000 acres that make up the unorganized territory, an attorney said in a motion filed Thursday in federal court.
Haynes Timberland Inc., along with three Maine men, was found guilty last month in U.S. District Court in connection with the operation of Washington County pot farm from which the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency reportedly seized 2,943 mature marijuana plants valued at $9 million. Malcolm French, 52, of Enfield; Kendall Chase, 57, of Bradford; and Rodney Russell, 50, of South Thomaston were found guilty on a variety of charges in connection with the operation that grew pot between 2006 and 2009.
The marijuana plantation, tended by undocumented workers from Mexico, was discovered Sept. 22, 2009. French is part owner of the Haynes Timberland.
The corporation was found guilty of one count of maintaining a drug involved place.
In a second verdict, the jury found that properties owned by Haynes and/or French where marijuana was grown should be subject to forfeiture. including Township 37. The jury also found that French should forfeit his interest in Haynes Timberland, which he owns with his wife, Barbara French, and other property.
Thomas Marjerison, the Portland attorney representing the company, argued in his motion that there was not enough evidence for the jury to find Haynes Timberland guilty of maintaining a drug involved place. He asked U.S. District Judge John Woodcock to grant Haynes Timberland a new trial if he does not set aside the guilty verdict.
In a separate motion, Chase’s attorney, Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor, asked that his client’s conviction on one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana be set aside. Silverstein said that no evidence was presented at the 12-day trial that proved Chase was involved in distribution of processed marijuana.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, is expected to oppose the motions. Its replies are due the last week of February. Hearings on the motions most likely would be held in March or April.
Marjerison said that the prosecution’s theory was incorrect that French set up the pot plantation to repay a loan to H.C. Haynes Inc. the $4.61 million used to buy Township 37 in 2004.
“Malcolm French’s role as a guarantor [of the loan] merely provides that if Haynes Timberland goes bankrupt, H.C. Haynes Inc. would have recourse to collect the mortgage balance from Malcolm French personally,” the motion said.
Marjerison also argued that to find Haynes guilty, the jury had to conclude that the wooden structures built on skids did not meet the legal definition of the word “place” because they were movable. The buildings included drying shacks, a cookhouse and sleeping quarters for workers, according to testimony.
Courts have held, according to the motion, that movable structures, such as ice fishing shacks, are personal property not what is considered real property such as a residence. Marjerison also said that there was no evidence linking an agent or employee of Haynes Timberland with the structures.
No DNA from the three men convicted by the jury was found in the wooden structures, according to testimony.
It was not clear Saturday what impact an acquittal might have on the forfeiture order. But if the verdict were set aside, the corporation would not face up to $500,000 in penalties.
French, Russell and Chase are being held without bail while awaiting sentencing. Their sentencing dates have not been set.