Drug charges dismissed against three in Hubbard County pot growing case
PARK RAPIDS -- When three suspects accused in a Hubbard County marijuana growing operation showed up Tuesday for their omnibus hearings, they were euphoric. County Attorney Don Dearstyne unexpectedly dropped all charges pending against them, without prejudice.
That means the county could potentially refile charges in the future.
James B. Young, 67, Talora A. Smith, 62 and Tyler C. Englund, 47, of Park Rapids all faced felony drug charges in the May bust of a sophisticated hydroponic growing operation near Two Inlets. Young and Smith resided on the property.
The three defendants and their attorneys left the Hubbard County District courtroom smiling.
Their euphoria was fleeting.
Waiting for them outside the doors were several U.S. Marshals, warrants and handcuffs in hand, who promptly arrested them,
They were driven immediately to Bemidji. They have been arraigned in U.S. District Court on federal drug charges. The secret grand jury indictment charging them with violating federal drug laws was unsealed.
The fourth defendant, Molly Riewer, 22, of Osage, pled guilty last month to a lesser charge of fifth-degree possession and is awaiting sentencing.
Part of her plea agreement calls for her to cooperate in the federal prosecution and testify truthfully against her co-defendants.
If she does, Dearstyne said, because she is a first-time offender with no criminal record, she could receive a stay of adjudication.
For Dearstyne, the dismissal was a matter of practicality and resources.
"There's no point in prosecuting them in both jurisdictions," he said. "It's a waste of resources."
Authorities seized 97 marijuana plants growing in a side building of the home on the Hubbard County line; they also located the remains of 402 harvested marijuana plants found on the grounds. A high tech grow lab, with lights, timers and a humidity control system, was dismantled.
Penalties under federal drug laws are significantly harsher and the three could face longer prison terms if convicted.
Additionally, federal laws allow for the seizure of real estate in addition to the proceeds of drug operations. In Minnesota, prosecutors would have to prove the house was purchased with 100 percent drug money before seizing it, Dearstyne said.