Port Washington - A 75-year-old marijuana farmer was sentenced to a year in
the Ozaukee County Jail Tuesday by a judge who said he was trying to
balance the needs of society against the fact that the man had never before
been in trouble with the law.
Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Walter J. Swietlik also ordered David Burmesch
to serve five years' probation, pay fines totaling $2,957 and perform 200
hours of community service.

"I am sorry for everything," Burmesch said to Swietlik. "It was my fault
because it was on my land. I am sorry for the trouble I caused."

State officials said Burmesch and his brother, Eugene, 80, were operating
one of the largest marijuana operations ever uncovered in Wisconsin. The
men were also two of the oldest perpetrators they could remember.

Eugene Burmesch is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday.

Agents from the state Justice Department's Division of Narcotic's
Enforcement went to David Burmesch's farm Sept. 1, 2000, after they
received an anonymous tip.

In an 80- by 40-foot plot, they found 498 marijuana plants averaging 6 feet
high. In a building next to the garden, they found 98.5 pounds of marijuana
in bundles averaging between 1.5 pounds and 2.5 pounds.

Money used to help son

David Burmesch told the agents he had been growing the marijuana since
1975. He said he had used the proceeds to pay for the costs of raising a
developmentally disabled son.

In March, David Burmesch pleaded no contest to charges of manufacturing
marijuana and maintaining a drug trafficking place. His brother pleaded
guilty to the same charges.

Defense attorney Kirk Obear asked that David Burmesch be granted
Huber-release privileges during the day to take care of his wife, his
mother-in-law and property. Swietlik said he wanted to see a written
argument from Obear before he decides whether to grant the request.

Obear said he might appeal the jail portion of the sentence. He argued that
Swietlik had the discretion to sentence Burmesch to only probation with no
jail time.

He was supposed to have been sentenced June 19. However, when Swietlik said
then that he believed state law required that Burmesch be incarcerated,
Obear asked for the extra week to research the issue.

After the hearing Tuesday, Obear said other judges in Wisconsin have read
the law as allowing them to sentence convicted dealers to probation without
incarceration. He said he has to discuss the idea of an appeal with his
client before making a final decision.

In sentencing Burmesch, Swietlik said that by imposing time in the county
jail, he was deviating somewhat from what the state Legislature wanted when
it passed the drug laws.

"If I followed the legislative intent, Mr. Burmesch would be going to
Waupun," Swietlik said.

Prior to the sentencing, David Burmesch's wife, Delores, asked Swietlik to
go easy on her husband.

"He is my right arm," she said. "We have both gone downhill quite a bit in
the last four years."

Delores Burmesch said her mother will soon be coming home from a nursing
home and she will need help in taking care of the woman. She said she can
no longer carry heavy bags of groceries and sometimes has trouble opening

"I know he is sorry for everything," Delores Burmesch said. "I need him
very much."

David Burmesch has severe arthritis, glaucoma and diabetes, Obear said. He
has raised 10 hard-working, law-abiding children, the attorney said.

David Burmesch cooperated completely with authorities, Obear argued. He
said it is clear from the dilapidated state of the Burmesch farm that this
was no large-scale drug dealer.

Obear also argued that Burmesch had not actively grown marijuana for
several years. He said that the packaged marijuana was rotting and the
plants had grown on their own in a plot once used to grow the drug.

District Attorney Sandy Williams noted that there were records found at the
farm that showed marijuana had been sold in 1999.

The Ozaukee County Jail is equipped to handle prisoners with health
problems, jail administrator Lt. David Lorenz said.

"I don't see any problem with housing someone in their 70s," Lorenz said.

Newshawk: Sledhead - http://www.drugsense.org/dpfil/
Pubdate: Tue, 26 Jun 2001
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2001 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Contact: jsedit@onwis.com
Website: http://www.jsonline.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/265
Author: Jeff Cole