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Drug Case Costs Man Half Of His Home

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
A federal appeals court has upheld a decision that a former Branford High School teacher has to forfeit interest in his local home to the government, but decided that his wife shouldn't have to because she wasn't actively involved in her husband's marijuana cultivation.

Harold Von Hofe and his wife, Kathleen, were charged in 2001 after police raided their 32 Medley Lane home and found 65 marijuana plants, glass smoking pipes and other items associated with the cultivation of marijuana in the house's basement.

The Von Hofes ultimately resolved their criminal cases in state Superior Court. Harold Von Hofe pleaded guilty to manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance, and Kathleen Von Hofe to possession of a controlled substance. Both avoided prison time and received suspended sentences and probation.

The federal government moved to seize their property, a ranch home valued at $248,000. The couple has lived there since 1979, and doesn't have a mortgage on it.

In 2005, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Kravitz determined that the federal government's seizure of the home did not violate the Eighth Amendment protection against excessive fines. The couple appealed to the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. In a decision issued Wednesday, it agreed that Harold Von Hofe should have to forfeit his half interest in the home, but determined that Kathleen Von Hofe should not have to forfeit her half interest.

"Kathleen Von Hofe bears minimal blame for the criminal activity that occurred at 32 Medley Lane," the appeals court decision states. "The record is devoid of any evidence indicating her use of drugs or her involvement in any criminal activity whatsoever."

The appeals court indicated that Kathleen Von Hofe did know about the presence of the plants, and did nothing to stop her husband's "horticultural hobby," the decision shows. "Mrs. Von Hofe's culpability, falling at the low end of the scale, is best described as turning a blind eye to her husband's marijuana cultivation in their basement."

Attorney Jonathan J. Einhorn, who represents the Von Hofes, said the couple still lives in the house. Einhorn had contended that the forfeiture violated the excessive fines clause of the Eighth Amendment.

"We won the appeal for Kathleen, so she ends up owning half-interest with the government," Einhorn said. "Our position was that it was a violation of the Constitution to take her interest in the house. ... The worst thing she did was turn a blind eye to (the marijuana cultivation)."

Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said Wednesday the opinion is being reviewed in order to determine how to proceed .

The case will be remanded to U.S. District Court for further proceedings consistent with the appeals court's opinion, court documents show.

A possible conclusion, according to Einhorn, is that Kathleen Von Hofe will have to secure a mortgage for the government's half-interest in her home.

According to the decision, Branford law enforcement personnel asserted that Kathleen Von Hofe admitted that her husband owned the marijuana plants, but claimed she had no involvement in their cultivation. During a forfeiture proceeding, Kathleen Von Hofe testified to her lack of involvement, court documents show. Harold Von Hofe testified that he did his best to hide the marijuana from his wife, only tending to them when she was away from home.

News Hawk- User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: New Haven Register
Author: Michelle Tuccitto Sullo
Contact: %20mtuccitto@nhregister.com
Copyright: 2007 New Haven Register
Website: New Haven Register - Drug case costs ex-teacher half of home
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