“I have decided to fight the federal government because, for me, not defending the things that I know are right is dishonorable.
“It is the power of the people to control this government that is supposed to protect us. If we shun this struggle, this government will control us instead of protecting us. Every citizen has a responsibility to fight for what is right, even if it seems like the struggle will be lost.”
Former United States Marine, Christopher Williams wrote those words to explain why he went to trial rather than take a plea bargain or other deal, like everyone else involved in his marijuana case did.
Williams and partners operated one of Montana’s largest medical marijuana dispensaries in strict compliance with Montana state medical marijuana laws.
Nonetheless, federal authorities launched an all-out assault on the state’s medical marijuana program in 2011. During that sweep, Montana Caregiver’s dispensaries and its Helena grow operation were raided. Williams, along with his partners and employees, was arrested and charged with felony drug and weapons charges.
Military Style Raids
The government spared no expense to arrest Williams, using a heavily-armed, military operation-style raid, complete with an EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team that exploded some pipes on the property, just in case they happened to be bombs.
Chris estimates 60 to 70 officers, as well as canine units, were involved in the raids at four dispensaries and one grow operation.
When it was all over, the officers left over $75,000 worth of damage in their wake, a lot of it unnecessary, such as sticking scissors in the walls and urinating on lab coats. Williams says they also destroyed the hard drives on every computer after they had removed the information they wanted.
“It was like they wanted to have the evidence they needed without letting us keep what we could use,” Williams says.
For all the government’s military might and bravado, there were a number of things about the raid that didn’t make sense to the former Marine.
Williams says he walked up to and among the agents while the raid was in progress. He said they did not take his phone and they did not take the firearm he had in his backpack.
He says, “They didn’t even know that I was armed the entire time. Lucky for them I am not a violent criminal. They were not very efficient at their jobs. Had it been a hot zone like Iraq or Afghanistan, their methods would have cost people their lives.”
The agents also left over two pounds of green buds and leaf on the floor.
“That was kind of crazy to me,” said Williams. “If they consider cannabis as dangerous as heroin, why would they leave two pounds of it on the floor? My landlord was very nervous about it and he ended up sweeping it up and burning it in the garbage.”
About Those Weapons
Like another of our Marijuana.com Prisoners of the Month, Weldon Angelos, the guns involved in Chris Williams’ case were legal and registered and not involved at all in the “crime.”
The bulk of the guns belonged to Williams’ partner, the late Richard Flor, including many antique family heirlooms and collector’s items.
When asked about the other guns, Chris explained they did keep three guns at the greenhouse property.
“You have to remember,” he explained, “this is Montana, everyone hunts, and our property was on 100 acres. The staff regularly hunted on the property.”
None of the firearms were illegal and every person there was legally able to possess firearms, and trained in how to properly use them. The only thing that made the guns illegal was the fact that they were in the vicinity of marijuana.
Taking It to Trial
Williams, who operated under legal guidelines, refused to admit guilt in a crime he feels he did not commit.
”The main reason that I went to trial is because I felt it was my duty,” he said during his sentencing hearing.
The problem was, as in all federal trials, the defendants were not allowed to use a medical defense. That means that their juries never heard a word about state-sanctioned medical marijuana. To the jurors, Williams and his co-defendants were ordinary drug dealers.
Everyone else in Chris’s case – partners and employees, took some sort of plea deal. Some “cooperated” by testifying against others and received no prison time. Others, like Williams’ partner Richard Flor and his wife Sheri, took a deal for reduced sentences, but refused to testify against anyone.
Williams says of his late partner, “Richard Flor was an amazing person, a Vietnam vet, the first legal marijuana caregiver in the state of Montana, and a kind and generous man. “
Tragically, four months into his five-year sentence, Richard Flor died while shackled to a prison gurney at the age of 68. His daughter Kristin made the heart-wrenching decision to remove her father from life support.
In the end a heart attack did him in, but Richard Flor had multiple health problems, including diabetes, before entering prison and the lack of healthcare was more than his body could stand. At the time of his death, he had multiple bone fractures and undiagnosed cancer.
Of all the defendants involved in the case, Chris Williams alone stood firm and entered an innocent plea. In September 2012, a jury found him guilty of eight felony counts. The former Marine and single dad now faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 80-plus years in prison.
Judge Dana Christensen intervened, calling the opposing attorneys together to come to a rare post-conviction agreement.
”An 85-year sentence in this case would simply be unjust,” Christensen said.
In the end, prosecutor Joseph Thaggard agreed to drop all but two charges against Williams and waive the $1.7 million forfeiture requirement. Chris would serve just five years of the originally proposed sentence for a weapons charge and his time already served was punishment for the marijuana charge.
Williams has used his time in prison to better himself, completing a number of courses of study, including computer certifications, Spanish, guitar, fitness challenges and more. On his 40th birthday he was able to surpass the fitness scores he got in Marine boot camp.
Chris Williams is scheduled for release to a halfway house in 2017.
How You Can Help:
Keep up with Chris via his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/freechristopherwilliams
Write to the Pardon Attorney in Support of Chris’s Clemency Petition (again information on where to send it and what to write or on Chris’s Facebook page). Chris loves getting cards and letters from supporters. Write to him here:
Christopher Wayne Williams #11839-046
FCI Sheridan Satellite Camp
P.O. Box 6000
Sheridan, OR 97378
Want to help more? Here’s how to put money directly onto a prisoner’s books – no middle man, ALL of the money goes DIRECTLY to the prisoner – to be used for phone calls, email, legal expenses, food, personal hygiene items, etc.:
Send a postal money order (yes it must be a POSTAL money order or the Bureau of Prisons will not accept it) to:
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Christopher Williams #11839-046
Post Office Box 474701
Des Moines, Iowa 50947-0001
Or go to Western Union and find the link on the bottom of the page “send money to an inmate.” (www.westernunion.com).