Tuesday, August 01, 2000

Official's son may get plea deal


Crisenbery case focuses on pot plants

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Felony drug charges against the adult son and daughter-in-law of Warren County Commissioner Larry Crisenbery could end in a plea bargain before the case gets to a grand jury.

        As Steven and Tommie “Lynn” Crisenbery's 15-year-old daughter was set to testify Monday that her parents grew and sold marijuana, the couple's defense lawyer asked for a continuance of the preliminary hearing.

        Lebanon Municipal Judge Mark Bogen reset the hearing for Aug. 21 after the Crisenberys' attorney, William Kaufman, said he was negotiating a plea with county authorities and a special prosecutor from Hamilton County.

        “I don't know if things will work out or not,” Mr. Kaufman said outside the courtroom.

        In what he called an unusual move, Mr. Kaufman said sheriff's officials have agreed to show him the evidence against his clients — information not usually disclosed to defense lawyers until after a grand jury review of the case.

        “I don't think the state of Ohio is agreeing to do anything they would not do (for anyone else),” Mr. Kaufman said with regard to whether the Crisenberys were receiving preferential treatment.

        “I assume the state is interested in getting something more than just a misdemeanor.”

        Sheriff Tom Ariss said on Monday he is keeping distance from the case, and has not discussed it with the Cri senberys. Prosecutor Tim Oliver was not available for comment.

        However, the head of the Warren County Drug Task Force, John Burke, disputed any contention that the Crisenberys were getting special treatment.

        “If this was a Joe Blow, people wouldn't think anything of a plea agreement,” Mr. Burke said. “We discuss these things all the time.”

        The Crisenberys, both 40, were arrested July 13 after members of the Warren County Drug Task Force raided their East Warren Street home and said they found two large marijuana plants growing in the back yard and equipment for growing marijuana in the basement.

        Police also seized three small bags of marijuana, seeds, smoking paraphernalia and a portable scale from a pickup truck on the property, court records show. Altogether, including the total weight of the plants, police confiscated about 37 pounds of marijuana.

        Mr. Crisenbery is charged with cultivation of marijuana and preparation of drugs for sale, both felonies. Mrs. Crisenbery faces a felony charge of complicity to cultivation of marijuana. Each charge carries a prison term of one to five years.

        Mr. Kaufman has disputed that Mr. Crisenbery was selling the marijuana.

        He said the amount of marijuana found at the home was questionable, because the weight included the stalks of the two plants as well as their root balls.

        He said state law allows a suspect to raise a “personal use” defense if he is charged with possessing between 200 and 1,000 grams of marijuana.

        “One mature plant can be more than that,” he said. “To say there was commercial activity, by the weight that was found, is a stretch.”

       



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