Big marijuana grow results in prison time|
|Two and a half years in prison was the punishment ordered here Thursday for a town of Rolling man on whose property last summer law officers found marijuana plants standing tall as trees and having an estimated street sale price when harvested between $100,000 and $120,000.|
The sentence ordered in Langlade County Circuit Court for Matthew T. Karcz, W11252 W. Bear Lake Road, came five months after the 28-year-old entered pleas of no contest to two felony counts — the manufacture or delivery of marijuana and maintaining a place for the trafficking of drugs. He was charged as a repeat offender based on past criminal convictions including the possession of both marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
“I’m sorry I let peer pressure get the best of me,” Karcz said.
The sentiment, part of a prepared statement read by Karcz, was perhaps in reference to allegations made during defense counsel Jessica Schuster’s argument that her client was not the only individual who stood to profit from the large plot of marijuana which was eradicated from the property last August.
“He took the fall for the whole thing,” Schuster told the court, giving mention to a second man who she claimed sold drugs to her client and established the grow on the Karcz property on the understanding that the two men would share in the financial proceeds.
The grow was foiled prior to its harvest.
“He never made a dime out of the deal,” Schuster said. “It was busted before he sold a thing,” she said.
No other individual has been charged in connection with the investigation.
The plants, close to four dozen or more in all, were impressive in size and quality — many standing between four and six feet tall and sticking out of the ground like evergreens. Most were in flowering stage and covered in buds.
Law enforcement officials indicated that the plants’ roots were surrounded in protective material, suggesting they had been well attended to, and were evidently being watered by a garden hose which led authorties from a driveway down a trail to where the plot was located.
Following a recommendation provided by the Department of Corrections through a pre-sentence report, Schuster asked that her client be ordered to serve a year in jail followed by a term of probation.
She asked Judge Fred Kawalski to consider the actions of other states which have legalized marijuana, suggesting that the drug is not considered as harmful as other substances such as heroin or the new “bath salt” craze, and pointed toward her client’s success while under supervision for past criminal convictions.
“Probation gives him structure and keeps him in line,” she said, adding that incarceration at the local level would allow Karcz to receive treatment as well as maintain his employment.
District Attorney Ralph Uttke marked his surprise with the recommendation, explaining that Karcz had admitted to his involvement in the marijuana grow as well as his plans to profit substantially from its harvest.
“This is big time delivery of marijuana,” Uttke said, stressing that it was probable that the illegal substance would have filtered through the Antigo community.
He detailed Karcz’s criminal history which includes various convictions for disorderly conduct, battery, bail jumping as well as drug violations, calling it “significant” in terms of the defendant’s age.
Uttke also cited the timeline of Karcz’s past terms of probation, suggesting that the marijuana plot may have been planted within a short time of the defendant completing his latest term of supervision.
Countering Schuster’s recommendation, Uttke asked for a three year stay in state prison.
Judge Kawalski sifted through the arguments, noting the extent of the product found and Karcz’s goal to make a profit.
He agreed with Schuster that marijuana use is allowed in other states but stressed that “courts are not legislators” and in the state of Wisconsin, growing marijuana is a felony crime and until that changes, it will be considered a “serious offense.”
He noted Karcz’s criminal record and complimented his success while on probation but added that once off supervision, he “seemed to slide back into criminal activity.”
“There is both good and bad here,” the judge said.
Kawalski set the punishment at six years, splitting the time between two and a half years of initial incarceration and three and a half years of extended supervision. The sentence will be minus 54 days of time already served while the case was pending. Karcz will also be eligible to participate in various programs while in prison which could potentially cut time from his stay.
Kawalski also fined Karcz $500 plus court costs and set strict conditions of probation including absolute sobriety, maintenance of full-time employment and a restriction Karcz not associate with known drug users.
A pickup truck is overflowing with marijuana plants which were eradicated form a local property last summer.
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