Hearing Held In Case Of Arkansas Couple Extradited To America To Face Marijuana Cultivation Charges

Thursday, 27 March 1997

A hearing was held on March 20 in the case Cheryl and Les Mooring, an Arkansas couple who had been extradited last January after fleeing the United States for Holland in 1994 rather than face federal charges for marijuana cultivation. It is speculated that the Moorings are the first Americans to be successfully extradited from Holland by the United States government to face marijuana charges.

Evidence was entered by the defense alleging that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) violated the Moorings Fourth Amendment rights by gathering evidence without a search warrant, explained NORML Amicus Curiae Committee Co-Chair Michael Cutler, Esq., who defended Mrs. Mooring pro bono. After reviewing this evidence and the defense's motion to suppress, the prosecution conceded that the Fourth Amendment issue should be examined further and that Cheryl Mooring played no significant role in her husband's marijuana cultivation. The prosecution's admission marked a victory for Ms. Mooring and allowed to her to plead guilty to a lesser charge of "misprison of a felony" (failing to turn in someone whom she knew was committing a felony) for which she was immediately released from jail. No escape charges will be brought against Ms. Mooring.

Mr. Mooring's guilty plea to the marijuana charges carries a ten year mandatory minimum prison term. However, the defense negotiated an unusual provision allowing him to withdraw his plea if the suppression motion is eventually granted by the trial or appellate court. If the courts decide the search was illegal, he will be released.

Mr. Mooring claims that he uses marijuana to treat chronic pain. Cutler praised the dismissal of Cheryl Mooring's drug charges as a "tribute to NORML's advocacy." He further acknowledged the "moderate views" of the trail judge, and most importantly, the Assistant U.S. Attorney "who recognized the injustice of subjecting Cheryl to federal drug law sentencing."

Cutler notes the Mooring case clearly illustrates the insanity of the drug war. "The idea that the federal government would engage in a year-and-a-half battle against Dutch opposition to extradite this couple in an effort to keep children drug-free is absolutely ridiculous," summarized Cutler.

For more information, please contact attorney Michael Cutler at (617) 439-4990 or Allen St. Pierre of NORML at (202) 483-5500.