Rick Meredith -- #22061-018

Medical Marijuana Provider

Rick Meredith, prisoner of the drug war
My name is Rick Meredith. I am 45 years old and married to a beautiful and amazing lady named April. For the crime of cultivating marijuana at a cancer patient's home, I am serving 12 months and 1 day at the Federal Prison in Jesup, Georgia. The prison term will be followed by 3 years of probation. The cost to the taxpayers' of the United States for my incarceration is roughly $25,970. This expense does not take into consideration the amount of money that I could be contributing to the system if I were a free man.

In the summer of 1995, an old high school acquaintance of mine, Kenny Prevette, contacted me through mutual friends. I had not seen or even heard of him for over 20 years. In fact, the last that I had heard of Ken he was in the army and was going to Vietnam.

In the next few days, Ken and I had some very frank discussions. Ken is 6 foot 2 inches tall. He weighed less than 125 pounds. He was suffering from colon cancer. He had just gotten over surgery. The doctors had removed most of Ken's lower intestine. Needless to say, he looked terrible. His doctors were trying everything including anabolic steroids to put weight on him. Nothing was working. Ken hardly had enough strength to go to the bathroom on his own.

After a week or so, Ken took me into his confidence. He led me to a back room in his house. "This is why I looked you up Rick", Ken stated. In front of me, there were 6 of the worst looking marijuana plants that I had ever seen. They looked sicker than Ken. Ken continued to state that he knew that I had been busted for cultivation a few years earlier. He stated that he had heard that I was one of the best cultivators in the state. I replied that that was in my past, and that I still had 6 months of probation to serve. He asked me to help him grow. I refused and stated the penalties if I were to get caught.

As soon as my probation was over, Ken contacted me again. He was recuperating from more surgery. I went over to speak with him. He looked like the living dead. He was still trying to grow marijuana and was still having no luck with it. Again, Ken asked for my help. My employer had just sold his business, and I was now unemployed. I reluctantly agreed to help him.

Over the next few weeks, I turned Ken's back room into a lush tropical garden. Within 9 weeks, Ken and I cut our first harvest. In the 2 weeks that followed the harvest, Ken gained 10 pounds. He was up and moving around again. Instead of looking like someone out of a Nazi Concentration Camp, he was starting to look like a human being. By the time of our second harvest, Ken weighed 170 pounds and was back at work.

Ken was not the only one who was benefiting from this lush garden. Sense I was no longer subject to random urine test, I also smoked from the garden. Marijuana had not only eliminated my migraine headaches, but it had also brought me out of the deep depression that I had been suffering from for over 2 years. I felt whole again. Once more, there was joy in my life.

Ken and I continued to grow marijuana until July 9, 1997. This is a date that I shall never forget. At 12 noon, I went to Ken's to tend to the garden. When I arrived, Ken was gone. He was at work: he was a productive employee again. I entered the house and went to the bathroom. In the middle of me relieving myself, I heard a loud boom followed by the Tampa Police Department screaming that they had a search warrant. My first reaction was to get out of there. The only way out was through the bathroom window. I busted the glass out with my fists and jumped headfirst through the window. I landed in a 12 foot in diameter-satellite- receiver dish. The glass that was left in the window had caught my right forearm and gave me a nasty 3 and 1/2 inch laceration. I had completely cut through the major vein that runs down the backside of my arm. By the time that I had gotten out of the satellite dish, the police were in the back yard with guns drawn. I decided that it was time to surrender.

I spent the rest of that day handcuffed to a hospital bed. I was later booked on cultivation, conspiracy to cultivate, possession with intent, conspiracy to posses, and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. I was placed under a $13,000 bond. Shortly before midnight, a very dear friend, Tom Holder, posted my bond. My wife picked me up from jail and I was on my way home. I was in a state of total shock.

By mid afternoon the following day, I had retained an attorney. I knew before I talked to my attorney that the case against me rested on the validity of the search warrant. The police had given me a copy of the search warrant, but they had refused to give me a copy of the affidavit that they had used to obtain the warrant. It took my attorney 2 weeks to obtain a copy of this affidavit from the state prosecutor's office.

As soon as my attorney received the affidavit, he forwarded a copy of it to me. The affidavit was weak. It was riddled with lies and deception. According to the affidavit, the police had followed me to Ken's house on a day that I had spent at the beach with a friend who had flown in from Colorado. The police had run a thermal scan on Ken's house at 2:30 am. They showed this scan to a judge. The police told the judge that the scan revealed the growing operation in the southeast corner of the house and in a lean-to storage area on the eastside of the house. The judge signed the search warrant.

The police's interpretation of the scan was nothing more than lies to obtain the warrant. The garden was located on the northwest end of the house. The lights in the garden were on timers and were out at 6:30 p.m. The scan could not have picked up any heat from the garden. There was a separate air conditioner in the growing area that kept the room between 60 and 70 degrees. The end of the house were the police claimed that the growing operation was located was Ken's bedroom and kitchen. The lean-to storage area was full of automobile engines.

The police told the judge that Ken was using twice the amount of electricity as 2 other houses in the area that had similar floor plans. However, the police did not tell the judge that the other 2 houses were not air-conditioned and that these 2 houses were totally shaded in--the sun never hit ether house. Ken's house was air-conditioned, and there were no trees on his lot.

After my attorney reviewed all of the facts, he stated that we did not have to worry. It would be no problem proving that the police had flagrantly lied to obtain the search warrant. All that we had to do was to depose the police and prove that they lied to obtain the warrant. This would only leave 1 leg of the affidavit for the search warrant to stand on. That leg was the word of an informant, who had never been to the garden, did not know where the garden was, and I had not seen him in over 2 month. This alone was not enough evidence to obtain a warrant. We would be granted a suppression motion on the ground of fruits from a poisonous tree.

Weeks went by. The weeks turned to months, and the state prosecutor had not filed any charges. The state prosecutor realized that the case that he had was built on a bad search warrant. Ken and I were breathing a sigh of relief. We were going to beat this thing.

On September 19, I was awakened at 7:30 in the morning by a phone call. Ken was on the phone. He asked me if I had read the morning newspaper. I stated that I had not. He told me to brace myself before reading it. The newspaper stated that we had been indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on 3 different counts. Count 1 was to conspire with another person to manufacture more than 100 marijuana plants with intent to distribute. Count 2 was knowingly manufacturing approximately 170 marijuana plants. Count 3 read that we knowingly possessed with the intent to distribute marijuana. I immediately phoned my attorney.

My attorney was as surprised as we were. He told me to get out of my house as soon as possible. He stated that I should get to a safe house and call him back. I left the house with just my pants on and the rest of my clothing in my hands. A couple of hours later I contacted my attorney. He stated that he had made a deal with the Federal Prosecutor for me to turn myself in the following morning. It was now safe for me to return home.

The next morning at 8:30 I turned myself in at the Federal Courthouse. Ken and I sat in a holding cell until 4:30 that afternoon at which time we were taken up in front of the judge. The judge stated that the state had dropped all charges against us, but the Federal Government was now charging the both of us on the 3 different counts. He placed us both under another $13,000 bond, stated that we would be randomly urine tested, and that we were to report to the Pretrial Federal Service Center for further instructions.

The stakes were higher now. If we were found guilty, Ken and I would be facing 45 years to life in prison and a 4 million-dollar fine. My attorney stated that he still believed that we would be able to have the search warrant tossed out of court. This was somewhat comforting.

A few weeks past before our next court appearance. At this appearance, my attorney entered a plea of innocent and asked the judge for a motion of discovery. The prosecutor objected to the motion, but the judge granted it. I thought that we were home free. I knew nothing about the rules of Federal Court. The motion for discovery was meaningless. The prosecutor did not have to turn over anymore evidence to my attorney than he already had.

After this latest court hearing, the prosecutor mailed my attorney a letter. The letter stated that if we continued to fight this case and lost it at trail that he would seek life in prison for the both of us. The next paragraph of the letter stated that if we would cooperate by pleading guilty that the Federal Government would not seek any enhancement and that the maximum sentence would be in the range of 5-45 years. When I read this, I almost had a heart attack. I phoned my attorney and ask him when he planned on deposing the police officers. My attorney stated that in Federal Court the rules are different. In Federal Court, you are not allowed to depose the police. At this point, I felt as though the sky had just fallen in on me.

I ask my attorney what he thought were our chances. The attorney stated that things had taken a turn for the worse. He said that the way that the government had stacked the cards against us that the only way that we could beat this was if we were willing to take the case to the United States Supreme Court. He then stated that after we lost the first round in court that we would go to prison while we appealed and that there were no guarantees that the Supreme Court would hear the case. I then asked the attorney what he would do if he were in my place. He stated that he would talk to the prosecutor to see what kind of plea bargain could be arranged.

Weeks went by and my migraine headaches as well as my sever depression returned. I could not sleep or eat and the slightest light sent excruciating pain through my head. My health was failing. To no avail, I spent over $1800 at different doctors seeking relief. Finally, my family doctor put me on some migraine headache medication. The medication helped the headaches but made the depression worse. I was on the verge of suicide.

While on the Internet one night, I stumbled across Peter McWilliams site. Peter had a wonderful book on his site called "Hypericum and Depression". The book was about healing depression and St. John's Wort. It described ever symptom that I was having. The next day I bought a bottle of St. John's Wort. Within weeks, my headaches had all but disappeared and my depression was no longer as severe. Thank you Peter.

Finally, the plea bargain came in the mail. It was no bargain at all. We were to plead guilty to count 1 of the indictment and give up all of our rights that are guaranteed to us under the Constitution. In return, the federal government would drop counts 2 and 3 and recommend to the judge that he sentence us to the lower end of our sentencing guidelines. The guidelines were 5-45 years in Federal Prison followed by 5-10 years of probation. This did not seem like something that I wanted to do.

While surfing the Internet looking for a way out of the country, I ran across the Families Against Mandatory Minimums' (FAMM) site. I e-mail them and told them my story. A gentleman by the name of Jeff Stewart got back to me. He told me his story. He had been through the same thing that I was going through. He told me that there were FAMM meetings in my area and that I should try to go to one of the meeting. I took his advice.

I took everything that I had about my case to the next FAMM meeting. There were a lot of nice people there with very sad stories. Jack Hanes was one of these people. Jack is a Federal Sentencing Guidelines Specialist. He started looking over my case. Within a few moments, he stated that he believed that I would qualify for the Safety Valve Provision. I had no idea what he was speaking of, but it sounded interesting. Jack took my case for free because he knew that I was broke, that my attorney was incompetent, and because he is a hell of a nice guy. Thank You, Jack Hanes and Jeff Stewart!

A few weeks later my presentence investigation report came in. I had qualified for the safety valve. My sentencing range dropped from 5-45 years to 12-18 months. The prosecutor had stated in the plea agreement that he would recommend the lower end of the guidelines. We made him stick to the agreement. Ken and I received 12 months and 1 day followed by 3 years probation. I will be out of prison by April the 7th 1999.