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5 Years - Marijuana Conspiracy
The "War on Drugs" is a personal matter to me. The government charge against me was, Conspiracy to Manufacture 100 Marijuana plants. I think the word "conspiracy" gives the government an unconstitutional right to do whatever the hell it chooses to do to, and I was sentenced on March 5, 2004 to a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison.
The plants were grown by my brother in his own place, and I lived next door. We lived in two small cabins, side by side. He was growing in the back half of his bathtub, had about 26 mid-sized plants in the tub, about 70 live cuttings, and 20 dead ones.I was aware of the plants, but was unaware of the cuttings my brother and his girlfriend had made, only ten days prior to her turning my brother in.
Pictures of plants I'd grown the year before were found on my computer - nine plants, and only three plants survived. There were no hard drugs founds, we didn't do hard drugs. I was indicted in April 2003 along with my brother on conspiracy to manufacture over 100 plants, which translated into 100 kilos or 220 pounds for the sentencing guidelines.
That much marijuana couldn't have fit inside my brother's small cabin.
I was a self-employed computer programmer. My computer, camera, scanner, printer was taken by the police, and $4,500. The money was never reported on police paperwork. I wrote a touch screen ordering program for a small fast-food burger place, and had been paid $3,000 just before the raid. The other $1,500.00 was cash I'd saved over the year to apply toward hernia surgery.
I took the plea bargain because I had a rifle in my cabin, and was advised by my attorney that if I didn't cop a plea, the prosecution was going to throw in a firearms charge. The additional charge, "Possession of a firearm during a commission of a felony" was another 5 year mandatory minimum. I was facing a 10 year sentence if I went to trial. My court appointed attorney said it was already bad enough I had to serve 5 years for something I didn't do, and encouraged me to accept the deal offered.
My brother had an attorney that knew the federal system better than my attorney did. My brother received two years, and qualifies for a drug program and early release.
I will surrender to Duluth Federal Prison Camp on April 12, 2004.
My 10-year-old son has joined the "orphans" of the drug war. I have cared and provided for Alex all of his life. Alex wasn't living with me at the time of the raid (thank god), but he did see the aftermath. Broken glass from the door, and his possession strewn around the small house. Pictures he colored for me, were trampled on, everything looking as if a tornado hit our home. My son is almost top of his class with good grades. I fear my incarceration will affect Alex's schooling and overall self-image and place of belonging in this world. His mother is left with the responsibility of raising him through his adolescent years.
Additions To My Story:
1-Year After Incarceration, April 1, 2005
In addition, I would like to point out that this story and the stories featured on the wall are but a small fraction of the stories of families broken apart by our judicial system. Stories of harsh sentencing determined only by guidelines. Guilty pleas obtained by tactics which borderline extortion. Sadly, stories of children deprived of one or both parents. A presence that can provide words of encouragement or a simple hug in a child's time of need.
I extend my deepest respect and admiration to my family, and all other families torn apart by this insensitive and aggressive judicial system. In my opinion, these families are the true heroes in this war on drugs, often paying the highest price.
The use or abuse of drugs is a medical and social problem, not a legal problem. Doctors and counselors should address these issues and not the police, attorneys, judges, and prison guards. It is time for this country to move beyond current failed policies of the drug war. We don't jail a person who over eats, and we surely don't jail the ones who supply and push the food. Let us stop burying the drug problem in prisons, let us bring these issues into a new light, and let us look deeper at drug use with more understanding. Then and only then healing can happen.
My family was able to retrieve my computer. Still no mention of the $4500.00 stolen during the raid. My brother will be released in July of 2005 after serving 15 months of a 24-month sentence. I'm scheduled for release in 2008.
Craig Hartman 10929-041
PO Box 1400
Duluth, MN 55814
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