BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge on Tuesday refused to release one of the men convicted in the Township 37 marijuana plantation operation so he could visit his dying father — 10 days after the father died.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock found that Malcolm French was a flight risk because of his estimated worth of $14 million and the long prison sentence he’s facing of between nearly 20 and more than 24 years.
French, 53, of Enfield, Rodney Russell, 51, of South Thomaston and Kendall Chase, 58, of Bradford were found guilty on a variety of charges in connection with the pot farm on Jan. 24, 2014, after a 10-day jury trial.
All have been jailed since while awaiting sentencings. Dates for their sentencings have not been set. Woodcock said in his most recent ruling that French, who is being held at the Piscataquis County Jail, most likely would be sentenced in late June.
French’s attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, filed a motion on May 1 asking that French be allowed to visit his 81-year-old father, Forest French, “before he passed away.” Federal prosecutors and the U.S. Marshal Service objected to the idea on May 5, when the judge held a conference to discuss the idea.
Forest French died on May 9, 2015, at Colonial Health Care in Howland, according to an obituary published May 13 in the Bangor Daily News.
“This is tremendously disappointing,” McKee said Wednesday in an email. “Think what you will of the case or Malcolm, the marshal’s refusal to let a son see his father one last time before he dies is just unfathomable.”
McKee said Wednesday afternoon in an email that he was unaware that Malcolm French’s father had died. His death is not noted in the judge’s order.
Woodcock said in his ruling that for French to be released, his attorney had to show that his client would not flee or endanger the safety of the community. The law allows a post-conviction detainee to be released only for “exceptional reasons,” the judge wrote.
In denying the motion, Woodcock said he considered the following factors:
— The lengthy recommended prison term French is facing under the federal sentencing guidelines of between 19 years and seven months and 24 years and five months.
— French’s suicide attempt in March 2013 while on bail before his trial was held.
— French’s net worth, estimated in a presentencing report prepared by U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services at more than $14 million.
— The objection of the U.S. Marshal Service.
— French’s testimony at trial, which was determined to be obstruction of justice in the presentence report.
— French’s involvement in arranging for the escape of illegal workers after the raid on the pot plantation in September 2009.
“If Mr. French could arrange for the successful flight of some of his workers, he has not demonstrated that he could not arrange for his own flight,” Woodcock wrote.
The judge urged the Marshal Service and jail staff to allow a virtual visit between French and his father if the elder man’s medical condition allowed for it.
“The court appreciates Mr. French’s desire to physically see and speak with his father and it regrets having to reject Mr. French’s request,” Woodcock concluded.