MANITOU BEACH, Mich. — Edwin and Linda Schmieding’s home now lies deserted.
A closed gate blocks entrance to the 23-acre farm’s waist-high grass. The farm has been unoccupied since Mr. Schmieding, 62, and his wife were arrested in a June, 2011 drug raid at the property by law enforcement officers, a raid that yielded more than 8,000 marijuana plants.
Mr. Schmieding pleaded guilty March 12 in U.S. District Court in Detroit to manufacturing with intent to distribute marijuana. Mrs. Schmieding’s charges were dismissed May 8.
Mr. Schmieding will likely lose his farm, said his attorney, Sanford Schulman. He will also be on probation for two years and is now a registered convicted felon.
But he won’t serve any jail time.
The probation-only sentence handed down Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman frustrated prosecutors and law enforcement. But Mr. Schulman contends it was a fair sentence for his client, who had admitted to trying to grow more than 700 kilograms of marijuana. As it turned out, he didn’t come close to that.
In a sentencing memorandum filed June 10 on behalf of his client, Mr. Schulman wrote that University of Minnesota plant biologist Dr. George Weiblen calculated the quantity at 180 kilograms.
“It demonstrates that he was not a major drug dealer by far,“ Mr. Schulman said of Mr. Schmieding. “And it demonstrates that he was very bad at being very bad.”
The minimum mandatory sentence for Mr. Schmieding’s type of plea is five years.
His attorney convinced the judge to go easier on his client because he is in his 60s, had no previous criminal history, and cooperated with authorities.
Michigan state police Detective Lt. Robert Sinclair, head of an anti-drug task force, said the quality of the plants shouldn’t have mattered because Mr. Schmieding’s reason for growing the cannabis was to distribute.
“It does not seem logical or reasonable to sentence a person growing this much marijuana to two years of probation, especially when it obviously was not for personal use but for monetary gain,” Lieutenant Sinclair said.
The government’s sentencing memorandum filed Monday said an applicable guideline range would be 87-108 months in prison.
Mr. Schulman collected 23 letters from family, friends, and neighbors of Mr. Schmieding in May and June and filed them with his client’s sentencing memorandum.
The letters, one of which was from Mr. Schmieding’s ex-wife, backed him as an individual with good character.
“The court felt this person’s not going to commit a crime again, and we know from his nature this is kind of an isolated event,” Mr. Schulman said. “So that’s what the letters were for, to demonstrate his character.”
Ben and Linda Kincer live directly across the street from where the Schmiedings used to reside. They said the Schmiedings stayed mostly to themselves but were polite and hardworking.
“Him and Linda, they didn’t bother anybody,” Mr. Kincer, 70, said. “He wasn’t a violent person or anything like that.”
Mr. Schmieding has throat cancer. His sentencing memorandum indicated he turned to growing the marijuana when the economy was in a recession.
The Blade’s news services contributed to this report.
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