McCarthy pleads guilty to growing pot
Fontaine sentences defendant to three years in state pen
The drug case involving Tary McCarthy took many twists and turns over the course of the last 12 months. Last Thursday in Northeast District Court with Judge Laurie Fontaine presiding he changed his plea to guilty on the charge of manufacturing of marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school.
McCarthy, 55, of Fordville was arrested the morning of Nov. 23, 2010. He was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana with intent to deliver and unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance (marijuana) both are class A felonies. He was also charged with unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. Each felony charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and or a $10,000 fine. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and or a $1,000 fine.The search warrant executed on the home owned by Marvin Skavlem on Walsh Street in Fordville was conducted by the Walsh County Sheriff’s Office, the Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force and the Grand Forks Special Entry Team due to the fact there were weapons known to be in the house. A total of nine guns were removed from the home, one of which was loaded. Also found in the home was more than one pound of loose, green plantlike material found drying on the bed in the upstairs bedroom and five live green plants that were later determined to be marijuana.
The case was set for trial in the fall of 2011, but McCarthy’s attorney Henry Howe, of Grand Forks, had health problems and the trial had to be postponed. During that time his bond was revoked and he spent the remainder of the time in the Walsh County Law Enforcement Center.
According to Walsh County State’s Attorney Barb Whelan, McCarthy agreed to the plea agreement that had been on the table since the beginning.
Howe put McCarthy on the stand in hopes of trying to explain the situation that was occurring in that house in Fordville. He also asked Fontaine for a continuance for additional time to call witnesses to collaborate McCarthy’s story which she denied.
While on the stand McCarthy admitted he had a marijuana growing operation set up in Skavlem’s residence to provide marijuana to his brother in Forest River who was dying of cancer. His brother died Nov. 11, 2010. While very sick with cancer, McCarthy testified under oath that his brother was murdered by his wife, who allegedly had a boyfriend in Walhalla. He also testified that the confidential informant came by the information he turned over to the authorities by burglarizing Skavlem’s home. He also admitted that he smoked a little of what he was grown, but very little.
McCarthy also maintained that he was in the process of tearing down the grow operation when the task force raided the house. The loaded gun he explained was accidently left unloaded during hunting season. The rest of the eight guns were unloaded.
Howe also brought up the point that the home was 915 feet from the Fordville-Lankin School as the crow flies, meaning the distance by sidewalk or street was further than 1,000 feet.
“I was tearing down the grow operation. The marijuana that was present was what was left over. I didn’t know when my brother was going to die, so the supply had to be continual as he smoked more than a quarter ounce a day. Depending on the pain he would smoke much more than that,” he said.
McCarthy’s admission of growing marijuana for whatever reason didn’t matter because it is a controlled substance in the state.
“The State of North Dakota doesn’t recognize medical marijuana and there is no provision in the law that allows for it to be grown under any circumstance,” she said. “There were other aggravating factors besides being within 1,000 feet of a school, like having a loaded firearm where drugs are being manufactured.”
The paraphernalia charge was dismissed by the state, along with the possession with intent to deliver. Whelan asked for a sentence of five years in prison, serve three and five years of supervised probation. Howe asked for one year of incarceration to be served at the law enforcement center with work release, with four years of supervised probation.
Judge Fontaine sentenced McCarthy to five years, serve three with three years of supervised probation for the Class A felony charge of manufacturing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school.