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Judge To Announce Decision In Marijuana-Grow Case In May


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A decision on whether three men facing drug-related allegations in connection with a Brighton Township business that authorities said was a marijuana dispensary has been delayed until May.

On Friday, Livingston County District Court Judge Carol Sue Reader listened to testimony from a former undercover narcotics officer. Following the conclusion of his testimony, Reader said she needed time to review her notes from the five-day hearing that was spread out over several months before announcing her decision whether to send the case to Circuit Court for trial.

Reader's decision will come at a May 12 hearing.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Michigan State Police raided Grow Green MI on Canterbury Road in May 2013, as well as two homes on Dunlavy Road and Chilson Road in Livingston County following an investigation that began with a tip from a former Grow Green employee.

As a result of the investigation, Grow Green owner Jeffrey William Mote, manager Anthony Charles Portelli and alleged "marijuana farmer" Richard Lee Riley were each charged with possession of 20 or more marijuana plants with intent to deliver.

Testimony in the case, which began in July, revealed that the two houses were owned by Mote and that the homes were being used as marijuana-grow operations instead of residences.

A DEA agent testified that marijuana plants as well as fertilizer and other related equipment for a marijuana-grow operation were found at the Chilson Road home, while a second DEA officer testified that she saw "marijuana plants" in several rooms at a home on Pinckney Road. In all, she said, officers seized 40 plants and about two pounds of dried marijuana from the Pinckney Road home.

The former drug officer who testified Friday said he participated in the search warrant of the Grow Green warehouse on Canterbury Road. He said that inside officers found mail indicating Riley lived at the warehouse, and in that room officers found a small amount of marijuana. He said an estimated six pounds of marijuana was found in a break room and that Portelli "admitted it was his."

On cross-examination, the three co-defendants' attorneys questioned the witnesses about whether they knew if the men were medical marijuana patients and/or caregivers under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

One DEA agent replied he "wasn't concerned" about the MMMA paperwork because he was operating under a federal search warrant and seizing marijuana.

Although use of marijuana was legalized for medicinal purposes in Michigan, it remains illegal under federal law.

The defense attorneys also questioned the police report of the officer in charge, who admitted on the witness stand that his report was a compilation of the notes taken from himself as well as other officers. He also admitted that things were left out of the report that the officer felt was not important to the case.

"The police report is based on those notes that are incomplete, out of context and missing things, and, further, there's an admission he may have conflated those notes with things other people said during the interview," David Rudoi, who represents Riley, said. "Those would be inadmissible to my client."

Rudoi said the testimony is "completely devoid of evidence leading to probable cause." He said even if the judge considers Riley's statements to police, the record does not include any admissions his client "ever possessed any marijuana with intention of delivering it to anybody."

Assistant Prosecutor Betsy Geyer Sedore said there was evidence Riley lived at the warehouse and had marijuana there as well as his admission that he was a "farmer of marijuana."

Michael Komorn, who represents Portelli, essentially echoed Rudoi's arguments about the lack of context and evidence as did Neil Rockind, who represents Mote. Komorn also argued that his client had valid medical marijuana caregiver and patient cards, which could account for the amount of marijuana found.

Rockind said the alleged evidence against his client is that he owned the two homes where marijuana plants were found, he was an owner or partner in Grow Green and was present at the time of the raid at the business. He said his client wasn't seen at either of the two homes nor seen with marijuana.

"Absent that, there's no evidence associating him with marijuana, marijuana sales, marijuana trafficking, marijuana cultivation, marijuana manufacture, marijuana delivery or anything associated with that," Rockind said. "... There is no evidence Mr. Mote participated. ... The state should have stood up and said that the evidence is lacking against Mr. Mote."

Sedore said Portelli first owned the homes that were raided and worked for Grow Green. She said it was not credible that Mote could not know what was going on considering he received the homes from Portelli and was a business partner with Portelli.

Although authorities have called it a marijuana-grow operation, Portelli takes issue with that description, saying in an email Saturday that Grow Green "sells indoor and outdoor garden supply."

"We do not sell marijuana or supply anything in regards to it," he said.



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