The Honolulu Star Advertiser has published a story by Oct 26, 2010,
2 on Council back pakalolo advocate
By Nelson Daranciang
Two Hawaii County Council members wrote letters in favor of releasing outspoken Big Island marijuana advocate Roger Christie from custody pending his trial in federal court for conspiracy, marijuana manufacture, possession and distribution.
The two are Kelly Greenwell, who represents North Kona, and Emily Naeole-Beason, who represents Puna Makai.
U.S. District Judge David Ezra appeared unimpressed by the letters from Greenwell, Naeole-Beason and others.
“They’re from people who like him and believe in him,” he said Friday.
Naeole-Beason and Greenwell were the only two Council members to vote in favor in January of a failed resolution Greenwell introduced asking the state Legislature to decriminalize the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana.
Ezra denied Christie’s request for release pending trial next April.
Two other judges and the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals had previously rejected Christie’s request for release.
Other people who submitted letters in support of Christie’s release include Honolulu lawyer Jack Schweigert and Hilo lawyer Steven Strauss, who represented Christie in a 1992 state criminal case and a 1995 federal civil case against the county prosecutor.
Ezra said he cannot be sure Christie will not continue the activities that got him in trouble with the law while on release, especially since Christie believes what he did is not wrong.
Christie has said he is a minister who administers marijuana as part of a religious sacrament at his The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry in downtown Hilo.
The government said Christie continued to operate what it calls a major drug trafficking operation even after federal investigators raided Christie’s Hilo apartment in March and seized marijuana and cash from the home and a safe deposit box.
Greenwell wrote his letter on official county stationery.
Naeole-Beason said her support of Christie’s release is as a private citizen. She did not use county stationery.
County Clerk Kenneth Goodenow said the county Ethics Commission can decide whether it was OK for Greenwell to use his office to advocate Christie’s release, if someone files a complaint or asks for an opinion.
Greenwell said he has been associated with Christie since they both ran for mayor in 2004. He said he believes the government is punishing Christie for something the people of the Big Island have directed police to enforce with the lowest priority.
Big Island voters approved a ballot initiative in 2008 directing county law enforcement agencies to give the cultivation, possession and use of 24 marijuana plants or its dried equivalent the lowest law enforcement priority. The ordinance defines the dried equivalent as 24 or fewer ounces of usable cannabis.
County and federal law enforcement officers arrested Christie and 13 other Big Island residents in July.
A federal grand jury identified the 13 as Christie’s partner, two of his employees at the ministry and 10 people who supplied marijuana for the ministry. All 13 have been granted release pending trial.
According to the Federal Prosecutor, Roger Christie is being detained before trial because he represents a “danger to the community.” Evidently the Federal Courts agree, or Roger Christie would be free on bond, preparing his defense.
And in his defense, many friends — including two Hawaii County Council members — have signed testimonials stating that they know Roger Christie and that he is certainly not a “danger to the community.”
But the opinions of our local citizens and political leaders have been ignored, because “they’re from people who like him and believe in him.”
The Federal Judges in this case hold our community in contempt. Roger has been jailed, but it is our community that is on trial here.
And the whole world should be watching.
Judge Ezra said that one of his reasons for the denial of bond is that Roger Christie does not believe that the distribution of Cannabis is wrong.
But this is precisely the point: whatever Roger Christie is accused of doing is already legal and protected by the Constitution of the United States. Thus he maintains his innocence of the charges. Judge Ezra is effectively using Roger Christie’s plea of Not Guilty as the reason to jail him before trial!
The Establishment Clause of the Constitution holds that, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof“.
Rev. Roger Christie maintains his Constitutional Right to practice his religion. Yet a Federal Judge has used Christie’s own faith as the excuse to keep him behind bars, unable to prepare an adequate defense before his trail.
Judge Ezra is the trial judge set to hear Roger Christie’s case in April of next year. What does this portend for the trial to come?
See also, Christie denied bail a fourth time, by John Burnett, Hawaii Tribune Herald.