By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
For the third time, federal trial for marijuana minister Roger Christie and 13 others has been delayed, while a plea deal may be in the works.
Christie and his co-defendants, who collectively call themselves the "Green 14," were set to face trial July 6 before U.S. District Judge David Ezra in Honolulu. That proceeding is now set for 9 a.m. Oct. 4 before Judge Leslie Kobayashi.
Christie, who'll turn 62 on Wednesday, was originally scheduled to face a jury last Sept. 8. He's accused of operating a marijuana distribution ring out of The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry in Hilo. He and the others are charged with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 284 marijuana plants, which carries a mandatory minimum prison term of five years and a maximum of 40 years if they're convicted.
The delay was requested by Christie's new attorney, Alexander Sivert, first assistant federal defender. Sivert inherited Christie's case after Christie's former lawyer, Matthew Winter, resigned May 1 from the Office of Federal Defender.
Sivert's motion to continue the trial says that he needs time to prepare, citing "over 12,000 taped phone calls provided in discovery (none transcribed) and at least four to five wiretap warrants to become familiarized with."
According to the document, Sivert is considering filing a motion to dismiss the case "based upon the mis-classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug," as well as a motion "to suppress evidence seized as a result of the wiretaps."
A letter from Christie published May 30 in Hawaii News Daily, a blog run by his supporters, claimed that a possible plea bargain "is on the table for consideration."
"It's obviously a big deal for each of us faced with a life-altering decision to make, either way we choose to go," Christie wrote.
Christie and the others, all Big Island residents, were arrested July 8 last year in raids by federal agents, assisted by local police. All but Christie have been released on bail.
Christie was denied bail by federal Judge Kevin Chang, who called him "a danger to the community," and remains incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu.
Christie's downtown ministry and Wainaku apartment also were raided March 10, 2010, by the feds and local police. According to court documents, authorities confiscated approximately 845 grams of processed marijuana from the Wainaku apartment, along with more than $34,000 cash and a bank safe deposit box. The money and the apartment face possible federal forfeiture.
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