SACRAMENTO =AD More than four years after their rural Newcastle home was
raided and hundreds of marijuana plants seized, Newcastle's William and
Margaret Riddick are nearing sentencing in federal court.

The Riddicks were originally charged with cultivating marijuana, sale of
marijuana, conspiracy, and being armed while in the commission of a felony.
William Riddick, 68, said Friday after a sentencing hearing was continued
to June 1 that he and his 69-year-old wife were growing cannabis legally
under Proposition 215 guidelines. Facing a 10-years-to-life sentence for
cultivation, they pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of using a
communications facility to grow marijuana, he said.

Placer County Sheriff's Department Detective Tracy Grant testified Friday
that a total of 685 plants in various growth stages of growth were
discovered during the Feb. 14, 1997, raid at the Riddick property on Upson
Downs Lane, near Fowler Road and Highway 193.

The raid took place just over three months after statewide voter approval
of Prop. 215, the medical marijuana initiative. Defense attorney Tony
Serra, who recently represented former Libertarian Party gubernatorial
party candidate Steve Kubby in another Prop. 215 case in Placer County,
said after the hearing that the Riddicks face up to four years on the
communications charge. The plea essentially means they had a telephone on
their property while growing, he said.

Serra added that Dennis Peron, who established a San Francisco cannabis
buyers' club under Prop. 215 guidelines, had corroborated the Riddicks'
contention that they were growing for the club to supply patients who had
obtained doctors' recommendations for pot use.

Serra will be arguing against the Riddicks' imprisonment and for
cancellation of a 30-day notice to abandon their property according to
asset forfeiture laws.

The federal case, argued by U.S. Attorney Samuel Wong, revolves around the
assessment by investigators that the Riddick indoor garden, which covered a
network of rooms and included lights set to move across a room to control
artificial sunlight conditions and optimize growth potential, was a
long-time, high-yield operation.

Grant testified that the Riddick property's pattern of energy consumption
was traced back to the mid-1980s through PG&E records and showed increases
and decreases that would match grow cycles. Mold on insulating plastic foam
placed on the walls indicated long-time use, he said. So did dust and
cobwebs on equipment, he said. "High Times" magazines dating from the
mid-1980s were also evidence pointing to a long-term grow because they
provided growing instructions, he said.

On cross-examination, Serra questioned Grant on the number of plants
seized, noting that the count included about 300 plants that had been cut
and no longer were in pots. He suggested that the cut plants were actually
branches or portions of plants =AD something that Grant disagreed with. The
number of pots found at the site with fresh potting soil matched the number
of plants authorities believe were freshly cut, he said.

Serra also suggested that authorities should have counted marijuana root
balls inside the pots to determine a more accurate count. Grant re-iterated
that the match of plants vs. pots made the count a meaningful one. Serra's
questioning of Grant will continue at the June hearing.

Newshawk: Jo-D and Tom-E
Pubdate: Sun, 22 Apr 2001
Source: Auburn Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Auburn Journal
Author: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer