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Federal Judge Refuses Bail for Roger Christie After Two YearsBonnie King Salem-News.com
The minister sits in a Federal holding cell in Hololulu with no end in sight.
(SALEM) - At age 63, Roger would never have believed his life could have taken such an ugly turn. Roger Christie has lived in Hawaii, on the Big Island, since 1986. It is his favorite place to be, and he expected to live in peace with his friends and family in the small community of Hilo for the rest of his days.
Two years ago, everything became surreal. In one fail swoop, fourteen people from their church congregation (The Hawai`i Cannabis Ministry) were arrested and charged with several marijuana-related crimes. Not assaulting, killing, raping, murdering, robbing, stealing, bribing, child porn, espionage, terrorism or anything of the like. Just pot.
The Feds claimed jurisdiction in the case and took the “king pin” Reverend Roger Christie into their custody, along with 13 other Big Island residents, on July 8, 2010.
Dubbed “The Hilo 14”, they were charged with conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute 284 marijuana plants.
All the others were granted bail, but Christie was ordered by Judge Chang to be held without bail, calling him “a danger to the community.” Christie has been held without bail in the Federal jail in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center since then.
Now, Roger Christie has just suffered the indignation of not being allowed bail for the seventh time, while awaiting his upcoming trial. On Tuesday, the U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi again refused to set bail for Roger Christie.
Christie faces three marijuana charges carrying a mandatory minimum prison term of five to 40 years if convicted.
Judge Kobayashi said she was “concerned about Christie's ability to follow bail conditions if he is released”. Christie's lawyer, Thomas Otake, reiterated that his client has agreed to absolutely not reopen his Cannabis Ministry in downtown Hilo if he were released. The Judge simply dismissed the notion that Christie would keep his word.
This is a story almost too unbelievable to relay. A peaceful, law-abiding citizen, Roger Christie is the founder of The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry. He is a spiritual “man of God.” He has no criminal history, and has never posed any type of threat to society. Yet, he and the hippies in Hilo were the target of a huge federal investigation lasting at least two years.
They sat outside Christie’s house taking pictures of locals coming and going. They tapped his phone and discovered that cannabis was changing hands within the congregation. Finally, they filed search warrants and took the fourteen people into custody.
Medicinal marijuana is legally used by thousands in the state of Hawaii, and the herb has been grown and consumed there for many uses since the beginning of known history. No one, to this day, has ever died from marijuana, not even Maui Wowie.
This hearing was a big disappointment for Christie and his family. After the last time U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin S.C. Chang denied Christie’s request for bail, his court-appointed Honolulu attorney Thomas Otake decided to appeal to Judge Kobayashi, but it was to no avail.
"He's absolutely disappointed," Christie’s attorney said after the ruling. "He's a spiritual man, and he really believed he was going home today."
“We feel we clearly demonstrated that he is a peaceful, harmless man of integrity that poses no danger to anyone.”
“The government keeps insisting that, upon release, he would just continue on with distributing marijuana, although we assured the court that he would not do that while on pretrial release,” Otake said.
According to court documents, there was some discussion about Christie’s release soon after his arrest. A report by Pretrial Services presented at a bail hearing on July 13, 2010, recommended to Chang that Christie “be released to his home in Hilo”, on $50,000 bond. He would have been restricted to his home and required to wear a locating device.
The office later amended their report to suggest that he be sent to a halfway house on Oahu. This reinforced the prosecutor’s stance, as they “advocated for stricter release conditions, including the consideration of the Mahoney Hale Halfway House.”
Christie “rejected the Court’s consideration of a halfway house, arguing that a release to a halfway house was not supported by the facts and would be punitive.” The Judge was apparently not pleased, and ordered Christie detained without bail pending trial.
Now he suffers the consequences of not taking the pittance the court was willing to give him two years ago.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara opposed Christie’s release this week, but he blames all the delays on Christie and his wife and co-defendant, Sherryanne. Kawahara wrote that a year of delay was caused by Christie “attempting to negotiate pleas for both St. Cyr and himself instead of going to trial.”
As if plea deals are something new.
The prosecution has cut plea deals with five of the co-defendants which could end up involving testimony against Christie. One other defendant has a plea hearing scheduled for August 29.
Prosecutor Kawahara said another cause was “Christie’s and his wife’s (St. Cyr) elections to change attorneys in midstream.” The Judge added that she realized Christie has been in custody for two years, but agreed with the Prosecutor, that all the delays were based mostly on Christie switching lawyers and “other requests that benefited him”.
The enormity of these benefits are somewhat difficult to define, as Roger Christie sits alone in a Federal holding cell.
Marijuana must be a very threatening plant in the state of Hawaii, to use this amount of tax payers’ hard earned money. It is somewhat comforting to know that there are no violent criminals worthy of taking Roger Christie’s jail space. Hawaii certainly must be crime free.
The trial is January 23rd, 2013, the SIXTH in this strange succession, before Judge Kobayashi. The world will be watching.
Portions of this report credited to Joy Graves, The Star Advertiser.com, Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
Bonnie King has been with Salem-News.com since August '04, when she became Publisher. Bonnie has served in a number of positions in the broadcast industry; TV Production Manager at KVWB (Las Vegas WB) and Producer/Director for the TV series "Hot Wheels in Las Vegas", posts as TV Promotion Director for KYMA (NBC), and KFBT (Ind.), Asst. Marketing Director (SUPERSHOPPER MAGAZINE), Director/Co-Host (Coast Entertainment Show), Radio Promotion Director (KBCH/KCRF), and Newspapers In Education/Circulation Sales Manager (STATESMAN JOURNAL NEWSPAPER). Bonnie has a depth of understanding that reaches further than just behind the scenes, and that thoroughness is demonstrated in the perseverance to correctly present each story with the wit and wisdom necessary to compel and captivate viewers.
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