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News >  Idaho

Claim Alleges Pot Case Bungled Man Was Sent To Prison For Green, Leafy Cigarettes

Associated Press

Ronald S. Thiel spent 11 months in prison on probation violations stemming from his July 30, 1995, arrest for possession of marijuana and drunken driving.

But the green leafy substance he had rolled into a bunch of cigarettes turned out not to be marijuana after all. And the drunken driving charge was dismissed 13 days after Thiel’s arrest because his blood alcohol level was determined to have been within the legal limit.

On Friday, Thiel’s attorney mailed notices of tort claims for false imprisonment, negligence, misrepresentation and civil rights violations against Latah County and the state of Idaho.

Moscow attorney Michael Henegen said a string of bumbles by state and county law enforcement agencies, the state parole board and the Division of Probation and Parole essentially erased Thiel’s civil rights.

It took five months for the Idaho State Police to send the “weed” seized when Thiel was arrested to the state crime lab, which released a report Jan. 18. It said no marijuana was detected in testing of a zip-lock bag containing “13.9 grams of plant material” and seven “handrolled cigarettes with green plant material.”

Due to red tape, Thiel pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver marijuana five days after the report’s release.

The drug charge was not dismissed until eight months after the arrest, and still Thiel remained in prison on probation violations - which included charges he left the state without permission and that he had consumed alcohol.

“Nearly two weeks after the state lab issued its report that the substance seized from Mr. Thiel was not marijuana, on Jan. 31, 1996, Olivia Craven, executive director of the Commission of Pardons and Parole, voided Mr. Thiel’s tentative release date, despite the fact that the plant material seized from his car on July 30 was not in fact marijuana,” Henegen wrote.

“She told him this was because of the pending charges in district court of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.”

Thiel was not informed of the laboratory report until April. He withdrew his plea and the charges were dropped April 3.

Despite the new evidence and numerous calls, Henegen claims Craven and the board denied Thiel a parole hearing in April, May and June. He eventually was released in July and is living in Boise.

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