Crime lab case casts doubt on prior drug conviction for Monroe man

One member of Ford family pleads guilty to federal charges
By Tanya Mitchell | Dec 27, 2012
Source: File image James F. Ford, left, and Darlene Ford

Bangor — The eldest member of a Monroe family charged with operating a marijuana-growing operation in which police seized more than $800,000 worth of the drug did not plead guilty at U.S. District Court as planned Dec. 19.

Instead, 57-year-old James F. Ford’s case was continued because of concerns over evidence that was collected prior to his 2004 conviction on a similar marijuana charge in Middlesex County Superior Court in Massachusetts. Court records show Ford's attorney, Charles W. Hodson, filed a motion to continue the previously scheduled change of plea hearing in response to a notice from Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCormack stating that the prosecution planed to rely on the defendant's 2004 conviction to seek the imposition of enhanced penalties.

In his motion to continue, Hodson referred to the involvement of Anne Dookhan as a chemist for the commonwealth of Massachusetts.

According to national media reports, Dookhan was arrested in September on accusations that she forged paperwork, faked drug results and mixed up samples at a state police lab that has since been closed. CBS and the Associated Press reported that Dookhan tested more than 60,000 drug samples involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the lab.

On Friday, Dec. 21, Justice John A. Woodcock granted the motion, to which court records show McCormack did not object. Woodcock further ordered that the trial of James F. Ford, as well as those of his co-defendants, his wife, 57-year-old Darlene Ford, and their son, and 32-year-old Paul Ford, of Swanville, would go forward March 5, 2013.

But court documents state that another of the Fords' sons entered a guilty plea as scheduled on Wednesday, Dec. 19. James T. Ford, 35, of Monroe, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants and being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Woodcock ordered that he be held without bail while awaiting sentencing, and court records do not indicate when that hearing will be held. James T. Ford had been free on $5,000 cash bail.

The Fords were arraigned after a federal grand jury indicted the family in September. At that time, the elder James Ford and his two sons were indicted for conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants and for manufacturing 100 marijuana plants or more — "manufacturing" is the federal term for cultivation. The parents were indicted for making their Swan Lake Avenue residence available for manufacturing and storing the drug. Court records also state that James F. and James T. Ford were each indicted for possessing firearms as convicted felons, and the grand jury also indicted Darlene Ford for aiding and abetting her husband's possession of firearms.

Included in the indictment was a directive that James F. and Darlene Ford forfeit their Monroe home and property to the federal government.

The Fords first came into contact with Maine law enforcement on the night of Nov. 15, 2011, when Maine Drug Enforcement agents, as well as officers with the Maine State Police and Waldo County Sheriff's Office, raided the residence of James F. and Darlene Ford. The search and seizure effort reportedly yielded about $800,000 worth of marijuana and an additional $80,000 in growing equipment, such as lights and a hydration system.

According to previously published reports, drug agents found the growing operation in the garage section of the home, and seized more than 300 marijuana plants in various stages of growth. The raid also reportedly resulted in the discovery of 10 pounds of processed marijuana and two semi-automatic assault weapons.

The elder Fords were suspected of harvesting about 20 pounds of marijuana every three months and shipping it to Massachusetts, MDEA stated at the time of the arrests.

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