KETTLE FALLS, Wash. - The US Department of Justice filed a motion October 16 to stay a case that pits state medical marijuana laws against federal pot laws. According to court documents, the department acknowledges prosecutors were prohibited by law from spending money to prosecute the now infamous Kettle Falls Five. Congress passed the Rohrabacher-Farr budget amendment in 2014, which prohibits the DOJ from spending money that interferes with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.
In 2012, federal agents raided Larry Harvey and Rhonda Firestack-Harvey's home near Kettle Falls, WA. Authorities said they found marijuana plants and a gun.
In 2015, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, her son Rolland Gregg, and his wife Michelle Gregg-were acquitted on almost all federal charges. They were convicted of a lesser offense included in one of the charges of cannabis cultivation. Roland was sentenced to 22 months in prison. Firestack-
Harvey and Michelle were sentenced to a year and a day each. They were allowed to remain free on bond pending the appeal.
"It's just hard to move on not knowing if we are going to go to jail. That all hanging over you. I mean, seriously, it doesn't leave your mind," Firestack-Harvey said.
A fourth defendant, Jason Zucker, accepted a plea deal in 2015. He was handed down a 16 month prison sentence. Firestack-Harvey's husband Larry Harvey was dismissed from the case because he was suffering from terminal cancer and later died in August 2015.
Firestack-Harvey and the the Greggs appealed their convictions, arguing partly that the prosecution violated an amendment that prevents the DOJ from spending money to prevent states where medical marijuana is legal from implementing state laws.
In the most recent filing, prosecutors admit they were not authorized to spend money on the 2015 trial or appeals. Kari Boiter is a marijuana law and policy expert who serves as a spokeswoman for the Kettle Falls Five Family. She said this decision by the feds was long overdue.
"I think your chances of winning the lottery are better than having the U.S. attorney admit, after five years of viciously pursuing five people, that they were wrong," Boiter said.
Defense Attorney Phil Telfeyan said he believes the case can be dismissed now based on the government's admission. He said the government has conceded the case but they've asked that the case go back to District Court. The defense will be filing a motion with the appellate court asking for the case to be dismissed entirely.
"What the government has already said is we shouldn't have prosecuted this family. We didn't have legal authority to do so. That's enough right there to have the case dismissed," Telfeyan said.
While Firestack-Harvey looks forward to moving on from this, she'll do it without her husband by her side.
"Ultimately, I had a really rough day yesterday, because the news is good. But Larry isn't here. And you know, this really killed him, hanging over him. Even though he had cancer, I think he went faster," Firestack-Harvey said.
Both Firestack-Harvey and Boiter said the family deserves an apology.
"What is the price that you can put on a man's life? What is the price you can put on four people losing their freedom? They were treated like criminals this entire time. And the truth is, they were innocent," Boiter said.