When brother and sister David and Natalie DePriest got busted last October for growing 17 marijuana plants in their Farmington home, they told police that there was no reason they should be arrested. After all, weed will soon be legal everywhere. Also, they supported Ron Paul.
But that argument didn't fly with the police, so they were arrested. And after a trial in which the DePriests were found guilty on charges of marijuana cultivation and trafficking, their statements to police were brought up again and Judge Kenneth Pratte took them into consideration. These were people who clearly believed they did nothing wrong and had no respect for Missouri law.
David DePriest,24, who also had an illegal gun, was sentenced to 22 years. His sister Natalie, 36, was given 15 years. David's only prior crime was a drug charge in the military, for which he was dishonorably discharged. Natalie's only prior crime was writing a bad check.
The lengthy prison sentences for nonviolent, first-time offenders will surprise many. Even more surprising is that the DePriests gave up a chance to get only four months in jail and a few years of probation.
"There were multiple offers made that would have had them released in 120 days," Jerrod Mahurin, the St. Francois County prosecutor, tells Daily RFT. "But they felt that marijuana should not be illegal and will be legal soon, so they refused. I don't know if it will ever be legal in Missouri, but in this case I have to follow the law."
Don't bring up your Ron Paul vote during your marijuana growing trial.
The Depriests' attorney, Dan Viets, who is also one of Missouri's top marijuana reform activists who heads the state's NORML committee and is chairman of Show-Me Cannabis, says his clients believed they would be let off with just probation and no prison time if they turned down the plea deal and took their chances with the judge.
"That's what they chose to do," he says.
The DePriests made the gamble despite Mahurin promising to seek the maximum sentence if they had to go to trial. And if he had to go to trial, other evidence would be brought in, such as the bulletproof vest and ledgers with numbers that looked like marijuana sales. Those things weren't illegal, but could serve as evidence, he warned, and wouldn't do the DePriests any favors.
The gamble didn't pay off: they were found guilty and when it came time for sentencing, Judge Pratte didn't have much sympathy for them.