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Sirens & Gavels

Charges dropped against ‘Kettle Falls Five’ patriarch due to health concerns

Rhonda Lee Firestack-Harvey, left, Jason Zucker, Rolland Gregg and Michelle Gregg stand with Larry Harvey outside the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse on Thurday, Feb. 12, 2015, in Spokane, Wash. A federal judge will decide whether the criminal case against the Kettle Falls Five will take place later this month. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Rhonda Lee Firestack-Harvey, left, Jason Zucker, Rolland Gregg and Michelle Gregg stand with Larry Harvey outside the Thomas S. Foley United States Courthouse on Thurday, Feb. 12, 2015, in Spokane, Wash. A federal judge will decide whether the criminal case against the Kettle Falls Five will take place later this month. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Larry Harvey, 71, will not stand trial for his involvement in the so-called "Kettle Falls Five" marijuana collective farm, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Harvey, his wife, Rhonda Lee Firestack-Harvey, son Rolland Gregg and his wife, Michelle, as well as family friend Jason Zucker had all been charged in federal court with manufacturing and trafficking marijuana based on a raid of their home in rural Stevens County by federal authorities in August 2012. Investigators found more than 100 plants at their residence and ledgers indicating the family was paying trimmers to process their marijuana. Federal prosecutors say this is evidence the family was operating outside the state's Medical Use of Cannabis Act, opening them to prosecution under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

But lawyers for the group argued last week that Congress stripped federal prosecutors of their authority to seek jail time for medical marijuana growers operating under state law through its appropriations act passed in December. They also say state prosecutors should decide whether the group was acting in violation of state law, not the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Harvey's attorney, Rob Fischer, notified presiding U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice he would seek a dismissal for his client based on a diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. A wheelchair-bound, bald Harvey said after the hearing he'd lost 70 pounds as a result of weekly chemotherapy treatments since his diagnosis last year. Earl Hicks, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, indicated last week he would seek medical records to support dropping Harvey from the case.

That request was made official Thursday, when Rice approved the deal between Hicks and Fischer to dismiss the charges against Harvey. He will only attend the trial, currently set for next week, as a defense witness.

The defendants have sought a delay in that trial date to allow a ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on a request for dismissal of all charges based on the Congressional action. But Hicks wants the case to move forward, with any appeal to come after the scheduled trial date, which is Monday.




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Kip Hill
Kip Hill joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the City Desk covering City Hall, Congressional politics and the marijuana industry. He previously hosted the newspaper's podcast.

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