Pennsylvania – Father grew pot to keep son off of alcohol

June 23, 2009 – WEST CHESTER — An East Goshen engineer who built elaborate systems for growing marijuana in his home so that his son would use the drug instead of alcohol was sent to Chester County Prison Wednesday by a Common Pleas Court judge.Welcome_to_Pennsylvania_SignPennsylvania

“I find it contrary to my own beliefs that you would provide your own son with an illegal substance,” Judge Ronald C. Nagle told the defendant, 53-year-old Douglas Newell in sentencing him to 90 days to 23 months in prison. Nagle said he had witnessed from the bench the effects that drugs have on people’s lives, and could not treat Newell differently than others he imprisoned for long jail terms for drug offenses.

“I would have a hard time explaining to myself and others if I gave you probation,” Nagle told Newell, who said he personally believed that marijuana should be legalized. “It just doesn’t square.”

Newell, a thin man sporting a gray ponytail, said he had begun growing the marijuana police found in his home in February about one year ago, when he noticed that his son was abusing alcohol.

“I didn’t want to see him go down and attack alcohol wholeheartedly,” he said, noting that his ex-wife and brother-in-law struggled with alcoholism. He did not use the drug himself, and did not sell it to anyone else.

“This is not a drug dealer,” Francis Miller, the attorney representing Newell, told Nagle. “Doug believed that smoking marijuana is safer than becoming an alcoholic, and that he was protecting his son.”

The sentence Nagle handed down was three times what the state sentencing guidelines recommended for a defendant like Newell, who has no criminal history. He pleaded guilty to manufacturing a controlled substance, an ungraded felony.

After Newell was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, Miller said he believed that Nagle had been troubled by Newell’s explanation of what he was doing with the drugs he grew. Logan Newell, who was arrested along with his father, is now involved with the county’s Drug Court program for first offenders.

“I think the judge took into consideration that he was providing his own son with illegal drugs,” Miller said outside the courtroom. “I think that offended the court, and made the judge hand down a sentence that we will have to accept and respect.”

Nagle had on Tuesday rejected a plea agreement worked out between Miller and Assistant District Attorney Deborah Ryan that called for four years probation, as recommended by the state sentencing guidelines. Newell then pleaded guilty with an agreed upon sentence and left it up to Nagle to decide.

The case against Newell began with a drug tragedy — police discovered the pot growing operation when called to the home for a drug overdose.

According to Ryan, police went to the home on North Chester Road in East Goshen shortly after midnight on Feb. 10 and found 20-year-old Dean Powell, who rented a room in the house, dead from an apparent heroin overdose.

While at the house, Sgt. Bill Cahill of the Westtown-East Goshen police spotted a marijuana “bong” in the living room where Powell had died. He questioned Logan Newell, and the 21-year-old told them he had a jar of marijuana that he took from the room and hid in his bedroom.

When police asked Douglas Newell if they could search the home, he agreed, saying, “everyone smokes marijuana.”

Ryan said that police found on the first floor the bong, a scale for weighing drugs, the jar of marijuana, a marijuana pipe, marijuana seeds, and a book describing how to grow marijuana.

On the second floor, police found two growing labs inside closets in both the elder and young Newell’s bedrooms. The labs included ventilation and watering systems, as well as a timed lighting set-up and six pot plants.

They also found a video surveillance system that Douglas Newell said was used to watch for police.

Newell told Nagle that he had graduated from technical school with a degree in electrical engineering and had worked as a building systems technician until health problems forced him to leave his job.

Miller called Newell “an intelligent man” who had always tinkered with systems. Newell said that although he likely did say to police that the video cameras could be used to watch for police, they were more for general home security.

Newell also said that he had not meant to be flippant about marijuana use when confronted by police the night of his arrest. But he said he believed that marijuana should not be criminalized and should be allowed for consenting adults and for medical use. By Michael P. Rellahan Source.

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