A judge dismissed marijuana-related charges against a South Lyon businessman whose Livingston County homes were used by a friend to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Jeffrey William Mote’s attorney sought the dismissal after a preliminary exam yielded no “reliable evidence” to support the prosecution’s allegation that the 50-year-old man, who owns and operates Grow Green MI in Whitmore Lake, possessed with an intent to deliver or that he delivered 20-200 marijuana plants.
“This is a case that should never have been bound over,” defense attorney Neil Rockind said Wednesday. “Jeff Mote runs a clean business. … It’s a legitimate business, and he has nothing to do with marijuana cultivation, sales or shipping. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Judge Michael P. Hatty dismissed the charges Friday against Mote without prejudice, which means the prosecution could refile charges.
Livingston County Prosecutor William Vailliencourt said his office would review the case to determine if the charges should be refiled “if police are able to identify or uncover additional evidence.”
“While we thought the evidence was sufficient to support the charge, and the district judge agreed, Judge Hatty had a different view of the evidence,” the prosecutor noted.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Michigan State Police raided Mote’s business, Grow Green MI on Canterbury Road, in May 2013 as well as two homes on Pinckney and Chilson roads in Livingston County following a three-year investigation that began with a tip from a former Grow Green employee.
Testimony at a six-day preliminary exam that spanned nearly 10 months revealed a DEA agent found marijuana plants as well as fertilizer and other related equipment for a marijuana-grow operation at the Chilson Road home, while a second DEA officer testified that she saw “marijuana plants” in several rooms at a home on Pinckney Road.
In all, she said, officers seized 40 plants and about 2 pounds of dried marijuana from the Pinckney Road home.
Mote owns the homes, which were quit claim deeded to him from co-defendant Anthony Charles Portelli, 42, of Whitmore Lake, who is manager of the Grow Green MI business. However, Portelli pays the mortgage and maintains the homes, according to testimony.
In addition, an undercover narcotics officer testified that Mote was not seen visiting or entering the two homes during the three-year period he was under surveillance.
Following the hearing, District Judge Carol Sue Reader bound over the cases to Circuit Court for trial.
However, Rockind argued Reader erred in her decision because there is no evidence connecting Mote to the marijuana-grow operations in either home.
The defense’s position is arguably supported by testimony from an undercover narcotics officer who admitted that his memory and police report of the situation were not reliable and were factually inaccurate.
In the police report, the officer stated Mote “purchased” the homes, but he later acknowledged that Mote quitclaimed the homes and that Portelli pays the mortgage. The police report also notes that Mote discussed his relationship with a third co-defendant, but the officer’s notes contain no such discussion.
The officer also testified that although his notes from Mote’s interrogation were taken in chronological order, the police report did not reflect the same order. He also said Mote knew how marijuana was being distributed, but later acknowledged the Mote did not actually know anything about the alleged marijuana distribution.
At the end of the officer’s testimony, he acknowledged that his report and his memory were not reliable.
On Wednesday, Rockind said Mote’s case emphasizes the importance of recording police interrogations.
“No person’s life or liberty should be left to the things we had to argue in this case,” he said. “We can do better. Everyone has a cellphone, and every cellphone has the ability to do a voice recording.
“If it’s important enough to discuss in court, it’s important enough to be recorded,” Rockind added. “I think if we had tape recording of Jeff, we wouldn’t have gotten here.”
The third co-defendant was sentenced in January to six months of probation for maintaining a drug house. Portelli’s case is still pending in Circuit Court.
via Livingston Daily