Trial date for federal marijuana case delayed

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BANGOR – The trial date for defendants charged in connection with a federal investigation into a marijuana grow operation will be continued in order to accommodate the large amount of discovery that will be provided by the government.

U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison approved the delay, having previously set early December deadlines for pretrial motions and adding the case to the January trial schedule when most of the co-defendants were arraigned last week on a combined 15 counts. The charges are in relation to a marijuana grow operation that federal investigators allege operated illegally out of multiple locations in Franklin County as well as associated activity, including bank fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to commit theft of honest services. A dozen people were charged in late October and 11 individuals and three businesses were indicted on Nov. 9. Everyone named in the case that has been indicted by the grand jury has pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, the U.S. Attorney filed a motion to continue the case with the consent of defense attorneys in order to accommodate a large amount of material from the government’s case. In the motion, prosecutors indicated that they had already provided 6.5 gigabytes of discovery to defense counsel when the defendants had their initial appearance in front of Nivison in late October. The government will provide additional material by the week of Nov. 29, including an additional 300 gigabytes of data, as well as 115,000 email messages, the contents of six electronic devices owned by defendants and 4 terabytes of digital video from pole cameras. Samples of marijuana seized by law enforcement during the execution of search warrants on July 2020 will also be available for inspection at the request of defense counsel.

Both parties agreed that attorneys for the defendants will not be able to file all pretrial motions by the December deadline due to the large amount of discovery that needs to be reviewed. Both parties instead requested that the court set a status conference for Jan. 10, 2022, with a new schedule for motions and the trial to be determined at that time.

Nivison granted the motion Tuesday, staying all deadlines until the status conference on Jan. 10. The time period of Nov. 23, 2021 through Jan. 14, 2022 will be excluded from calculation under the federal Speedy Trial Act.

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