|Free Chris Williams/Facebook|
|Chris Williams faces a mandatory minimum sentence of more than 90 years in federal prison|
Courageous Caregiver Refuses Constitutional 'Compromise'
By Kari Boiter
"I have decided to fight the federal government because for me, not defending the things that I know are right is dishonorable," writes Chris Williams from his cell at Crossroads Correctional Center, a for-profit prison in Shelby, Montana. "Every citizen has a responsibility to fight for what is right, even if it seems like the struggle will be lost."
Williams' words are particularly poignant. As he writes from prison, he faces the near-certainty that he will spend the rest of his life locked away in an industrial-size cage. His crime? Providing medical marijuana to terminally ill and disabled patients authorized to use cannabis under Montana law.
Williams co-owned Montana Cannabis, along with Tom Daubert, Chris Lindsey and Richard Flor. Daubert was a lobbyist who helped write Montana's medical marijuana law; Lindsey was a former public defender; Flor was the first registered caregiver in Montana; and Williams was the consummate farmer. Together, these men established a "gold standard" for strict compliance with Montana law.
Montana Cannabis operated openly and honestly with direct oversight from the State Drug Task Force and other law enforcement agencies. In fact, the Narcotics Bureau Chief for the State of Montana is captured on film as Williams gives him a tour of the Helena greenhouse. Despite clear and unambiguous compliance with State law, Williams's company was taken down in highly-coordinated federal raids that targeted 26 businesses across Montana -- all in the course of a single day.
Daubert and Lindsey accepted plea bargains which required cooperation with the federal government. In exchange for his assistance, Daubert was given probation. Lindsey is expected to receive the same at his sentencing this winter. That's where the federal government's leniency seemingly ends.
Flor was sentenced to five years in a federal medical prison, after being declared unfit to stand trial. Four months into his sentence, Flor died of severe complications which arose from a lack of needed medical care. Flor's widow, Sherry, is unable to lay her husband to rest due to her own confinement in federal prison. Sherry is currently serving a two-year sentence for merely being an employee of the business owned by her husband, Daubert, Lindsey and Williams.
In the days immediately following Richard Flor's tragic death, Williams joined his former business partner's family as they stood vigil outside the same federal courthouse where he would stand trial less than three weeks later. Williams is a man who has continuously proven he's willing to risk it all - even his own freedom - in the name of the U.S. Constitution.
|Free Chris Williams/Facebook|
|Williams -- shown above in his garden in happier days -- has refused all plea bargains offered by the federal government|
Williams has refused all plea bargains offered by the federal government, including a post-trial compromise that has been publicly called "unorthodox." The latest offer presented to Williams came with an 86 percent reduction in the prison sentence he faces.
In exchange, he would have to drop all appeals and spend "as little as 10 years" in prison, with several years of supervised release to follow. Williams says, "this is nothing more than slavery and completely disregards my rights as a Citizen of the United States of America."
After being convicted of eight federal charges on September 27, Williams faces a mandatory minimum sentence of more than 90 years in prison. In addition to the drug trafficking charges -- which carry a sentence of 10 years to life -- Williams was found guilty of four firearms violations.
Though he did not own any of the weapons confiscated by the federal government and he could not be linked to them by so much as a fingerprint, Williams was convicted using the unforgiving terms of "conspiracy." This means that Williams is being held responsible for the crimes of all of his co-defendants, even though the gun owners themselves have not been convicted or charged for their possession of firearms.
|Chris Williams and Kari Boiter share a last hug just before the jury announces their "guilty" verdict|
The first of the four gun charges carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. The other three firearms violations carry a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison; each and all sentences on the guns must run consecutively. When Reagan kicked the War On Drugs into overdrive in the 1980s, parole for Federal prisoners got abolished -- which means Williams could spend the remainder of his life behind bars.
Williams's public defender has developed a convincing case for appeal, and even potential acquittal. He recently presented a motion asking for Williams to be fully exonerated or receive a new trial at the least.
Williams's attorney also asked for his client to be released pending sentencing and appeal. A hearing on the latter issue has been scheduled for November 7 at 9 a.m., before U.S. Magistrate R. Keith Strong in Great Falls.
Here's where YOU come in!
A letter-writing campaign is now underway to convince the Judges to show mercy. Please contact Judge Christensen and Judge Strong using the information below:
The Honorable Judge Dana Christensen The Honorable Judge R. Keith Strong
U.S. District Court - Missoula U.S. District Court - Great Falls
201 E. Broadway 125 Central Avenue West
Missoula, MT. 59802 Great Falls, MT 59404
Fax: (406) 542-7284 Fax: (406) 727-7648
If you need a sample letter to work from, one can be found here, but please customize it yourself so the Judges can't deny that you care enough to put time into it.
Chris's fate could be decided less one week from now, so please don't delay! Once you have written a personal letter to Judge Christensen and Judge Strong, please sign this online petition, which has been designed so the Judges can see ALL of the supporters in ONE place!
It would also be greatly appreciated if you share this information with friends and family, as we all know the immense power in numbers! Lastly, to stay updated on Chris's case, please go to Free Chris Williams on Facebook.
Thank you in advance for your support!
|Kari Boiter wrote this article for Toke of the Town|
Editor's note: Kari Boiter is a grassroots activist who was born and raised in Montana and now resides in the Seattle area. With the generous support of November Coalition, Kari is helping to raise awareness about Chris Williams and the Flor Family. Kari proudly accepted an invitation to speak at Seattle Hempfest 2012 and has been featured on panels alongside NORML Founder Keith Stroup, Toke of the Town's Steve Elliott and ACLU-WA Drug Policy Director Alison Holcomb.