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Key witness faints during marijuana trafficking sentencing hearing

Posted on April 12, 2010 3:00 AM EST

The lead investigator in a marijuana trafficking case fainted during a hearing in federal court. While being cross examined during the sentencing hearing, the lead DEA agent fainted on the witness stand. As a result, the United States District Court Judge presiding over the case rescheduled the sentencing hearing. The case involves a four co-defendant marijuana trafficking ring out of Port St. Lucie and Hobe Sound, Florida. The Miami criminal defense lawyer representing one of the four co-defendants, Kobie O. Gary, was cross examining Special Agent Darren Singleton when the agent slumped over and fainted, causing the judge to clear the Miami courtroom.

The four co-defendants, including Gary have previously entered guilty pleas to the charges and are currently awaiting sentencing. Gary is facing between five and forty years in a federal prison for his alleged involvement in the conspiracy to traffic marijuana case. Along with Gary, Stephen Shepherd, Scott Gibson and David Grant are also facing charges. The indictment stems from the creation and operation of a marijuana grow house in Port St. Lucie and Hobe Sound. As a result of an executed search warrant, 237 fully grown pot plants were seized from the residence. Despite the fact that all of the co-defendants entered guilty pleas, they are each trying to limit the sentences that will be imposed against them.

Each of the co-defendants are trying to avail themselves of level reductions available under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Gary's criminal lawyers are blaming Gibson for being the mastermind behind the grow house operation. They are doing this for good reason. If they can prove to the judge that Gary was only a minimal or minor participant, he would be eligible for a two to four level decrease under his applicable guidelines. However, if Gary is shown to be an organizer, leader, manager or supervisor in the marijuana trafficking operation, he would be eligible for a level increase rather than a reduction.

As Gary has entered a guilty plea, he is also trying to receive a reduction for his acceptance of responsibility. By pleading guilty and offering a written acknowledgment of his guilt to the government and the court, he will be eligible for a two or three level reduction depending on the weight of the marijuana. Another reduction that Gary is trying to obtain is called Limitation on Applicability of Statutory Minimum Sentences or more commonly called the "Safety Valve". If a defendant does not have a prior criminal history, did not use violence, threats of violence or a firearm, the offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury and the defendant was not an organizer, leader, supervisor or manager of the offense, a two level reduction is possible with a waiver of any minimum mandatory sentences that may apply.

The case is representative of how a qualified criminal attorney can limit a client's sentence by having an intimate knowledge of the federal sentencing guidelines. While it is always important to evaluate to the strengths and weaknesses of any case before going to trial or entering a plea, an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer is necessary to evaluate the sentencing guidelines in order to effectively represent a client and obtain the best possible sentence.

DEA Agent in Kobie O. Gary Case Faints on the Stand, The Miami Herald.com, April 9, 2010.
Categories: Sentencing