BANGOR, Maine — Three men convicted last year in a pot plantation case have lost their bid for a new trial.
Malcolm French, 53, of Enfield, Rodney Russell, 51, of South Thomaston and Kendall Chase, 58, of Bradford were found guilty in January 2014 on a variety of charges in connection with the marijuana farm in Township 37.
After a 10-day jury trial, all three men were convicted of conspiring to produce more than 1,000 marijuana plants between 2006 and 2009 in what the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency has called “the state’s most sophisticated operation,” which used undocumented workers to tend to the plants.
French and Russell were found guilty of manufacturing more than 1,000 marijuana plants in 2009. Chase was found not guilty on the manufacturing charge.
Chase filed the lead motion for a new trial in January, alleging that the prosecution failed to disclose a meeting with Kelley McTague, wife of witness Winston McTague of Newport.
McTague had been involved in a motorcycle accident on June 27, 2007, according to the court documents, and his wife was concerned that testifying would not be good for her husband’s mental health.
Chase claimed in his motion that McTague was the primary witness who could directly link Chase to the marijuana operation and that information about his mental state “could have been used to impeach the credibility of the government’s key witness and his ability to accurately recall information.”
The prosecution conceded it did not provide the defense with information on the meeting with Kelley McTague and argued that extensive additional evidence corroborated Winston McTague’s testimony, according to supporting court documents.
In his opinion issued April 27 on Chase’s motion, U.S. District Judge John A. Woodcock Jr. said such a motion needs to show that the withheld information was unknown at the time of trial, that there was no lack of due diligence on the defendant’s part, and that it is likely to bring about an acquittal.
However, trial documents show that during testimony, McTague was extensively cross examined and that the questioning revealed his memory issues, according to Woodcock. Transcripts describe conflicting statements and admissions of lies.
“My life ended 6/27/07. All my past is erased, everything. I have nothing,” McTague was quoted as having testified, according to Woodcock’s ruling.
“You mean for memories,” asked attorney Jeffrey Silverstein, who represented Chase, during cross examination.
“No, I have nothing anymore,” McTague replied.
“The defense in this case had ample ammunition to undercut Mr. McTague’s credibility,” reads the conclusion of Woodcock’s opinion. “The defendants were represented by extremely able and effective lawyers, and the defense as a whole made such serious inroads into Mr. McTague’s credibility that the additional information from the [interview with Kelley McTague] would have affected his believability only on the edges of the margins.”