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2 plead guilty in marijuana-growing case

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Two more co-defendants of outspoken Hilo marijuana advocate Roger Christie pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday and have agreed to cooperate with the government.

Susanne Lenore Friend, 48, and her husband, Timothy M. Mann, 59, each pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 284 marijuana plants. They each face a prison term of five to 40 years when a federal judge sentences them in December.

Friend said she agreed "to grow marijuana for Roger Christie."

Mann said, "I grew marijuana for Roger Christie’s THC ministry."

In addition, Mann pleaded guilty to two counts of being a user of marijuana and possessing firearms and ammunition. He faces maximum 10-year prison terms for those charges.

Friend and Mann are the second and third of 13 co-defendants of Christie, founder of The Hawaii Cannabis ministry in downtown Hilo, to plead guilty and agree to cooperate. Michael B. Shapiro pleaded guilty last month. Two more defendants are scheduled to plead guilty this month.

Christie and the remaining defendants, including his wife, Sherryanne St. Cyr, are scheduled to stand trial in August.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara said investigators intercepted telephone calls between Christie and Friend in which Friend agreed that she and Mann would grow marijuana at their home and farm in Honokaa exclusively for Christie.

Kawahara said agents and officers of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Hawaii County Police Department raided the Hono­kaa farm on July 22, 2009, and seized 284 plants from an indoor growing operation. They also seized a pistol, shotgun and rifle from the home.

When the DEA and HCPD went back to the home on March 10, 2010, they seized another shotgun, Kawahara said.

In exchange for their guilty pleas, the government has promised to drop marijuana manufacturing and possession charges against Friend and Mann.

Christie has maintained that his use of marijuana was as a religious sacrament, and that the cultivation and enjoyment of it is a fundamental human right provided by God and protected by the First Amendment.

Hawaii’s medical marijuana law allows a person who has a physician’s certification to possess a certain amount of marijuana to treat a debilitating condition. There is no federal medical marijuana law.

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