Christies can argue marijuana as sacrament
A federal judge has ruled Roger Christie and his wife Share Christie will be allowed to use religion as part of their defense against charges they manufactured, possessed and distributed large amounts of marijuana on the Big Island. U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi made the ruling July 31 during a status conference.
The couple and 12 other Big Island residents were arrested by federal agents in July, 2010, after the Christies THC Ministry in Hilo had been operating for nearly a decade. A total of 3,000 marijuana plants, 29 grams of processed marijuana and more than $21,000 in cash were confiscated from the Christies, which led to a federal indictment.
On Tuesday, KITV4 spoke to Share Christie, 62, by phone from Los Angeles, where she's visiting her parents. Share was heartened by Kobayashi's ruling, and said the next step is to get her 64-year-old husband out on jail before trial in early October.
"I know we're on the right track and feeling that this is our sacrament," said Christie. "Now, we're wanting to ask for bail; he's been in there over three years now without bail."
Among those supporting Roger Christie's plea for pre-trial release is Public Safety Chairman Sen. Will Espero. In April, Espero and Big Island Sen. Russell Ruderman, both Democrats, visited Christie at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu. The visit came just days before two resolutions that asked the federal government to grant Christie bail were shot down by Judiciary Chairman Sen. Clayton Hee. Both resolutions were sponsored by Ruderman and fellow state Sen. Sam Slom, a Republican.
"I personally think that it is a shame," said Espero when asked about Christie's extended incarceration. "In our state today, we are releasing alleged murderers, alleged rapists and people who have done sexual crimes, they are being given bail."
Meanwhile, the Christies received another legal boost Monday when U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department is shifting its stance on mandatory minimum jail sentences for drug offenders.
"By reserving the most severe penalties for serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers, we can better promote public safety, deterrence, and rehabilitation – while making our expenditures smarter and more productive," the attorney general said while speaking before the American Bar Association's House of Delegates in San Francisco.
Share Christie welcomed Holder's announcement, saying she and her husband have never owned guns, and have never been in trouble with the law before their arrest.
"This has been a war on people, not a war on drugs," she said. "There's just too much money being made on these prison systems, and this has got to stop."
In Hawaii, state lawmakers have been pursuing alternatives to incarceration for the past several years. During the past legislative session, Act 280 became law, which allows greater discretion for judges in setting prison terms for non-violent drug offenders.
"The period and era of just locking up people and throwing away the key and seeing our prison costs rise, those must come to an end because those funds are competing with schools and healthcare and other social issues," said Espero. "Like many other issues, people's attitudes are changing on this."
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