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Jury Shown Video of 'Pastoral' Grow-Ops


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Jurors at a Regina trial continued watching a DVD on Friday that appears like a how-to instructional video combined with someone's summer vacation clips. It gives a close-up look at how the plants were grown and cared for, as well as shots of sunsets, campfires, dragonflies, and a gopher frolicking in the prairie grass. Then it suddenly jumps to the money shot -- large greenhouses filled with bushy, green plants that an RCMP officer has identified as cannabis marijuana. "Action," someone yells, and two men, identified as two of the accused, are seen pulling a tarp closed on the greenhouse frame.

The three-hour movie is a compilation of seven video camera discs seized inside a teepee from which three men fled during a dawn raid on the site at the Pasqua First Nation. The Aug. 21, 2005 search, which included the RCMP's emergency response team (ERT), turned up more than 6,000 suspected marijuana plants, most of which were growing in six homemade greenhouses estimated to be about 60 by seven metres in size.

On trial for drug and weapons charges are Lawrence Hubert Agecoutay, 52, Chester Fernand Girard, 59, Nelson Edward Northwood, 58, Jack Allan Northwood, 55, Joseph Clayton Agecoutay, 47, and Robert Stanley Agecoutay, 48.

Ed Rodonets, a former RCMP corporal who has retired since the search, said it's quite common to find such images at a grow-op because people want "trophy photos."

While most of the alleged pot is housed inside the greenhouses -- fashioned from wooden planks, poles, ropes, and tarps -- there are also video images showing the odd plant growing in a flower and vegetable garden.

The six largest greenhouses are numbered in black marker. Beside No. 1, someone has written "love" circled by a heart. Accompanying No. 2 is the word "moon" and a drawing of a happy-faced crescent moon. Beside No. 3 are the words "Happy face" along with the matching symbol. What appears to be dates are also written on some of the planks.

Under questioning by the defence, Rodonets, who has taken part in more than 50 grow-op busts, was repeatedly asked about the differences between marijuana and industrial hemp, which resembles pot but is grown legally for use in such things as clothing, food, and fuel. Rodonets said the plants at the Pasqua site were much bushier than the usually taller, thinner hemp, from which seeds and fibres are harvested. As well, he said most of the plants in the greenhouses were the non-seed producing females favoured by pot users, unlike the male plants primarily used for hemp. Some male plants were found in a separate building, where Rodonets suspected they were being used to produce seed for the next year.

Rodonets added that hemp has a much lower THC level (the chemical which produces the high in pot) and the seed sells for 50 cents a pound compared to marijuana at $1,500 to $3,000 a pound.

Under further cross-examination, Rodonets said he never checked to see if anyone at the Pasqua site, located near the homes of Joseph and Robert Agecoutay, had a permit to grow hemp or plants for a medicinal purpose.

But Rodonets admitted that while most illegal grow-ops are hidden, this one "was fairly open. It wasn't like it was concealed."

Asked about an apparent pot plant growing in a planter in front of Robert Agecoutay's house, Rodonets replied, "I was quite shocked to see that."

The trial continues Monday.

Source: Leader Post (Regina)Regina Leader-Post
Copyright: 2008 The Leader Post
Contact: Regina Leader-Post
Website: Regina Leader-Post
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