Friday, July 23, 2010

DEA Holds THC Minister in Custody After Appeal

13 church members were also arrested, but are out on bail.

Roger Christie
Roger Christie, founder of the THC Ministry.
Photo by

(HONOLULU / SALEM, Ore.) - Fourteen people on the Big Island of Hawaii were apprehended in a series of raids, including Roger Christie, founding director of The Hawaii Cannabis (THC) Ministry two weeks ago. He is still sitting in a cell.

61-year old Roger Cusick Christie was arrested when his apartment at Wainaku Terrace was raided at 6:25 a.m. on July 8th, in Hilo, Hawaii. The police booking log did not list charges at first, only that Christie was arrested by local police assisting "other" law enforcement agencies.

A neighbor who wanted to remain anonymous said he saw the agents that morning, "Some looked like DEA, and one of them had a tag on his jacket that said IRS."

"We assisted federal agents in the arrest, and that's about all I can say," said Capt. Randall Medeiros, commander of the Hawaiian police Criminal Investigation Division. He asked for further questions to be directed to the U.S. Attorney's Office, in Honolulu.

A man staying with Christie, 34-year-old Nathan Clark, told the Tribune-Herald that he was awakened around 6:30 a.m. and asked to leave the premises by the agents. "These arrests are a civil rights violation," Clark said.

"Cannabis is a sacrament in our religion... and this is a First Amendment issue."

The Hilo 14

We now know that a federal grand jury returned a secret indictment last month against the fourteen people, and that a federal judge unsealed the indictment on July 8th.

Roger Christie is being represented by federal public defender Matthew Winter. Roger and seven of the defendants initially remained behind bars; but according to the THC Ministry website, all thirteen have been released on personal recognizance bonds. All except Roger.

Roger was denied bail by the District Court and then again by an appeal to that ruling, despite a recommendation for a $50,000 bond by the federal Pre-Trial Services.

Others arrested are 58-year old Sherryanne L. St. Cyr (Christie's girlfriend), of Pahoa, 51-year old John D. Bouey III, of Keaau; 50-year old Perry Emilio Policicchio, of Hilo; 61-year old Michael B. Shapiro, of Keaau; 32-year old Jessica R. Walsh, of Hilo; 58-year old Richard Bruce Turpen, of Mountain View; 28-year old Victoria C. Fiore, of Hilo; 41-year old Aaron George Zeeman, of Hilo; 46-year old Suzanne Leonore Friend, of Honokaa; 58-year old Timothy M. Mann, of Honokaa; 40-year old Donald James Gibson, of Pahoa; Wesley Mark Sudbury; and Roland Gregory Ignacio.

Many of the same people had their homes, and the THC Ministry headquarters, raided on March 10th. No one was arrested at that time, and no charges were lodged, "belying prosecutors' assertions that he was a danger to the community," attorney Winter contended.

Federal Custody for a First Offense

According to Roger's friend and Ohio attorney, Don E. Wirtshafter, "Roger is a first time, non-violent drug offender. This is not about Roger being dangerous; this is a government tactic to shut Roger up. This week Roger's public defender filed a proper motion for the federal judge to overrule the magistrate's decision to deny bail."

That motion was denied.

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