The defendants found guilty of growing between 50 and 100 marijuana plants on their land near Kettle Falls may remain out of custody ahead of a sentencing hearing scheduled for June, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice ruled Tuesday.
Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, Rolland Gregg and Michelle Gregg were convicted by a jury earlier this month of manufacturing a controlled substance. Attorneys say the conviction does not come with a minimum five-year sentence as originally charged, and in the coming weeks will prepare arguments that seek to mitigate the trio's jail time. A sentencing hearing is tentatively scheduled for June 10 in Spokane.
Prosecutors Earl Hicks and Caitlin Baunsgard with the U.S. Attorney's Office for Eastern Washington had asked Rice to rule by Wednesday whether he would jail the members of the family pending their sentencing hearing. Prosecutors said the trio face a maximum 20-year prison sentence based on their crimes and should be jailed to prevent them from fleeing the country or contacting other people involved in the case before sentencing. Rice declined to do so.
A fourth defendant, Jason Zucker, is scheduled to be sentenced a week later. Zucker pleaded guilty to manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants and told jurors at trial he provided the initial 75 plants that were used to start a grow operation on Firestack-Harvey's property in Stevens County in spring 2011. Prosecutors have recommended Zucker, who already has two convictions on drug-related charges, serve 16 months in prison.
Larry Harvey, the patriarch of the family, was dismissed from the case before trial after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
Several interested onlookers in the legal community and legal marijuana industry in Washington state weighed in on last week's verdict in Saturday's edition of the Spokesman-Review.