A Canadian television network is working to unseal court documents in Eastern Washington federal court about the drug bust that led to a legendary young mountain biker's death in the Spokane County Jail.
Lawyers for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation filed a motion last week asking a judge to unseal documents in the federal case against a man arrested while en route to meet Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown.
Jail officials say Brown (left and bottom right) committed suicide in jail Feb. 27 after landing a helicopter filled with 420 pounds of marijuana in the Colville National Forest and being met by federal agents Feb. 23.
Federal agents had just busted Leonard J. Ferris and Ross N. Legge with 83 kilograms of cocaine in Utah on Feb. 21.
The arrests revealed a vast drug dealing conspiracy dubbed Operation Blade Runner, which federal agents believe dates back at least five years. '
Court documents say Ferris and Legge, who had rented storage facilities around Spokane, were to exchange the cocaine to Brown for the marijuana. Originally charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Ferris pleaded guilty in April, but no public record of a sentencing exists in the federal court file, most of which is sealed.
The motion, filed Oct. 5 by the Seattle law firm Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP, said it's unclear what exactly is sealed in Ferris' file because even the motion to seal is sealed.
"Presumably, these are sentencing-related documents," according to the motion. "The Ninth Circuit has recognized the media's legitimate interest in such documents because of the media's ability to explain how sentencing decisions are made."
A documentary news show for CBC called "the fifth estate" is investigating Brown's death, which is notably not refered to as a suicide in the network's court filings.
Brown's death came a week before another young man, Jeremy Snow, was arrested as he landed a helicopter in North Idaho meant to deliver 300 pounds of marijuana and 40,000 pills of Ecstasy.
Snow was sentenced Oct. 2 in Western Washington District Court to 46 months in prison. According to court filings, federal agents accessed Blackberry messages Snow sent to friends and the cohorts his lawyer says pressured him to take the flight.
"During the actual flight, he sent a message which read 'Flyen 300p over brdr right now! Cha ching,'" according to Snow's sentencing memorandum. "The government believes that this translates to read that he was flying over the US-Canadian border at that moment and that he was expecting to be well-paid for doing so."
After Brown, Legge and Ferris were arrested, undercover agents infiltrated the group and set up Snow, court documents show.
(Read a grand jury indictment detailing Operation Blade Runner here.)
The Fifth Estate documentary will likely explore all of this in much greater detail. Court files for Brown and Legge, who is in federal custody in Utah and has not entered a plea, have already been unsealed.
The unsealed affidavit in the case of Brown, who was profiled in Rolling Stone this summer, offers few new details on his arrest, other than this quote: "Lindsay-Brown stated that: "Morally, there's nothing wrong with what I'm doing. It's pot and that's it."
No hearing has been set CBC's motion to unseal.