BANGOR, Maine — Malcolm French, convicted last year in federal court of growing marijuana in LaGrange and Township 37, is seeking a new trial, arguing that the LaGrange plot was not actually on land he owned but on adjacent land.
Information in a typewritten anonymous note discovered in March by French’s son, Thomas French, in the truck weighing station in the family business in LaGrange led to the motion, according to attorney Thomas Hallett of Portland. The note states that the marijuana plot Winston McTague, a key witness at the January 2014 jury trial, worked on was “one mile as the crow flies from the French camp, almost 3 miles by foot, and not located on French property.”
That property is owned by four individuals, according to the Penobscot County Registry of Deeds. The Bangor Daily News is not naming the landowners because they have not been charged with a crime.
McTague, 50, of Newport, who said he helped grow pot in LaGrange in 2005 and 2006, falsely told jurors during the trial that the grow was 300 yards northwest of the French hunting camp, which conflicted with the location McTague described in his grand jury testimony, the motion said. McTague’s description to the grand jury coincides with the location outlined in the anonymous note.
Malcolm 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. The jury ordered French to forfeit land in LaGrange and Township 37 where it found marijuana had been grown.
If a new trial were to be ordered, all three defendants would be tried again.
The motion for a new trial, the third filed by the defense team, accuses the U.S. attorney’s office of prosecutorial misconduct, being aware that McTague perjured himself, and withholding discovery information.
The deadline for the prosecution to respond to the motion is Aug. 21.
Donald Clark, the public information officer for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment on the specific allegations in the motions.
“Since his conviction 18 months ago, French has filed two motions seeking a new trial, one alleging juror misconduct and the other alleging government misconduct,” Clark said Tuesday in an email. “Both were denied. This is his third motion seeking a new trial. This office takes all such motions very seriously, and we will respond in opposition to this motion within the deadline set by the court.”
French, Russell and Chase are scheduled to be sentenced along with Haynes Timberland Inc., the firm that owns the land where the farm was located, by U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock on Sept. 30 in federal court in Bangor.
French and Russell face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life. Each faces a fine of up to $10 million. Chase faces up to life in prison but no mandatory minimum sentence. He faces the same fine as French and Russell.
French, Chase and Russell have been held without bail since their convictions in January 2014. That time will be applied to their federal prison sentences.
The 48-page motion for a new trial was filed Friday in U.S. District Court by French’s attorney, Thomas Hallett of Portland. Hallett recently joined the defense team.
The single-spaced, typewritten note with very worn “n” key that does not properly strike the paper was submitted as an attachment to the motion. It was signed, “a friend and nieghbor,” and it is riddled with misspellings and profanities.
The note also says that French was wrongly charged and convicted because McTague lied to police, prosecutors and the jury.
McTague, who sent six anonymous tips by email to the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency in 2008 and 2009 about marijuana grows in LaGrange and Township 37, testified over two days at the trial. He was granted immunity by the prosecution.
McTague told jurors that he tore the ligaments in his shoulder lifting a fallen tree in the spring of 2007 at the Township 37 grow site. As he was recovering from that, McTague testified that he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident on June 27, 2007.
He said, “I hit a car going 87 miles an hour with my face.”
McTague said that he asked for the money he felt he was owed for work in 2007 to pay hospital bills but instead was given 13 pounds of marijuana as payment. He told the jury of 12 women and three men, including three alternates, that the pot was stolen and he never got the money he felt he was owed.
The tipster admitted on the stand that he suffered from short-term memory loss because of his brain injury. He often paused longer than other witnesses before answering questions. He also did not recall or confused details of his interviews with investigators and prosecutors.
McTague 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 following year the operation expanded to Township 37, McTague testified.
The note filed Friday with the motion for a new trial said the writer and others had tried to persuade McTague not to testify against French.
Hallett said Tuesday it is unclear whether the judge could find that the LaGrange marijuana plot was not on French land and set aside the verdict on those counts but let the verdict on the Township 37 operation stand.
Woodcock most likely will hear oral arguments on the motion in September.