Fords move for trial delay due to 'voluminous' government materialsCourt sets deadlines for James T. Ford sentencing
Bangor — The trial date of a Monroe family charged with establishing a marijuana-growing operation from which police seized more than $800,000 worth of the drug has been delayed because of what the U.S. District Court here characterized as a "voluminous" amount of materials the federal government has produced in connection with the charges.
The court had formerly set a March 5 trial date for 57-year-old James F. Ford, his wife, 57-year-old Darlene Ford, and one of their two sons, 32-year-old Paul Ford. According to records filed at the court, however, the court is considering a motion from the Fords' attorneys seeking a 60-day extension on the deadline for all pretrial motions, as well as a new trial date. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew McCormack did not oppose the request.
The motion to delay the trial date is the latest in a string of developments in the case against the remaining three members of the Ford family who have pleaded not guilty to the charges they face in connection with the November 2011 drug bust.
In December of last year the Fords' eldest son, 35-year-old James T. Ford, pleaded guilty to charges of 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. According to court records filed Thursday, March 21, Justice John A. Woodcock Jr. ordered that the government's sentencing memorandum be completed by Thursday, April 4, with the response from James T. Ford's attorney, Virginia Villa, due by Thursday, April 18.
The case against the Fords has taken several turns since the foursome were first arraigned after they were indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2012.
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 of 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.
Court records show James F. Ford had initially intended to plead guilty along with his son, James T. Ford, back in December, but that plan changed 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. James F. Ford's attorney, Charles W. Hodson, filed a motion to continue the previously scheduled change of plea hearing in response to a notice from McCormack stating that the prosecution intended 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.
In light of that information, Woodcock granted Hodson's request to continue, but court records do not indicate when or if James F. Ford still intends to plead guilty to the charges he faces, or if his case will go to trial along with the case against his wife and younger son.