Pot preacher’s trial delayed again; new charges added
Trial has again been delayed for marijuana advocate Roger Christie and prosecutors have filed additional charges against him.
Christie, founder of The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry, had been scheduled to start trial Wednesday on federal charges of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess 100 or more marijuana plants, plus manufacturing and possessing with intent to distribute 284 marijuana plants.
Trial is now scheduled for March 19, the seventh trial date set in the case, although it may be delayed further.
“Defense counsel has requested more time and there’s currently an effort to have it continued,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara, the lead prosecutor, said Wednesday.
On Jan. 17, a federal grand jury in Honolulu returned an updated indictment against Christie and seven co-defendants.
“It just adds some additional charges with respect to Roger Christie. There were three purchases by an undercover officer of marijuana from him during 2008 and there were also two charges of his failure to file income tax returns for 2008 and 2009,” Kawahara said.
Christie still faces between five and 40 years in a federal penitentiary if convicted.
“That has not changed with the offenses that have been re-alleged against him,” Kawahara said.
An arraignment on the new indictment is scheduled for Feb. 1 in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, although defendants can waive appearances at arrignments through counsel, Kawahara said.
Christie’s downtown Hilo ministry and Wainaku apartment were raided March 10, 2010, by the feds and local police.
According to court documents, authorities confiscated approximately 845 grams of processed marijuana from the apartment, along with $21,494 cash found in a safe in the apartment and in a bank safe deposit box. The money and the apartment face possible federal forfeiture.
The 63-year-old Christie has been in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center without bail since he and 13 other Big Island residents were arrested by federal agents on July 8, 2010. In denying bail, Federal Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang has called Christie “a danger to the community.”
All of Christie’s co-defendants were granted bail, but one, 62-year-old Richard Bruce Turpen, had his bail revoked after he violated terms of his release by being arrested for domestic abuse on March 25, 2011. He’s also in custody in the Honolulu federal lockup.
Another co-defendant, Wesley Mark Sudbury, “is a fugitive,” Kawahara said. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Sept. 17, 2010.
The remaining co-defendants are: Sherryanne “Share” Christie, Roger Christie’s wife; Roland Gregory Ignacio; Perry Emilio Polichcchio; John Debaptist Bouey III; and Aaron George Zeeman.
Six co-defendants have made plea deals with the prosecution to cooperate with authorities. They are: Timothy M. Mann, Susanne Lenore Friend, Donald James Gibson, Michael B. “Dewey” Shapiro, Victoria C. Fiore, and Jessica R. Walsh, aka Jessica Hackman.
A call made Wednesday to Christie’s lawyer, Thomas Otake, was not returned by press time.