A Medford couple arrested by police last year for allegedly packaging and selling methamphetamine from home is pleading not guilty to all charges in Jackson County Circuit Court and is contesting the seizure of $18,000 and their west Medford property in federal court. (Correction: See below.)
The charges stem from a Sept. 27, 2012, raid on Jack L. and Suzanne M. Harsha's home in the 1200 block of Douglas Avenue. After serving a warrant, investigators seized nearly a half-pound of meth, half-ounce of psilocybin mushrooms, packaging materials, scales, drug records, $18,000 and five guns, according to a pair of court affidavits.
The affidavits in support of complaints seeking forfeiture of the Harshas' property were filed in December 2012 in U.S. District Court in Portland. They were prepared by Medford police Detective Mark Cromwell, who is helping local prosecutors piece together evidence against the Harshas.
Cromwell said he could not comment on the investigation or litigation. "We've got too many things going on with this case for me to talk about it," he said.
During their February arraignment, Jack Harsha pleaded not guilty to possession, delivery and manufacture of methamphetamine, five counts of felon in possession of a firearm, and possession of a controlled substance. Suzanne Harsha pleaded not guilty to possession, delivery and manufacture of methamphetamine as well as delivery and manufacture of a controlled substance.
A 12-person jury trial for the couple is set for 8 a.m. Dec. 4 in Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia's courtroom.
Medford-based attorney David Orf, representing the Harshas, said he would not comment on the case. The Harshas also could not be reached for comment.
In U.S. District Court in Portland, a motion to stay was granted on the the pair of affidavits supporting forfeiture of the Harshas' home and $18,000 until the outcome of the couple's criminal trial in Jackson County.
"We take these cases very seriously," said Amy Potter, Eugene-based assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Oregon.
"We will seek to forfeit the property ... but we are waiting on the criminal charges," said Potter, who is representing the federal government in the case.
For the government to win a forfeiture case at trial, prosecutors must prove their case by a preponderance of evidence, meaning the government's case is more likely to be true than not. That is a far lighter threshold than "beyond a reasonable doubt," the threshold in criminal cases.
According to the Cromwell affidavits, while police were serving the September search warrants at the Harshas' home, Jack Harsha admitted to detectives that he was selling about 8 ounces of meth each month, mostly from his home, for a price of about $2,000 per ounce. He also admitted to selling drugs from the home since purchasing it in 1979, the affidavits state.
The affidavits state Harsha also told detectives he supplemented his income over the past 30 years with money earned by selling drugs, and estimated he paid off about 10 percent of his home mortgage with drug money.
Harsha admitted that some of the $18,000 comprised money earned by selling drugs, but contended most of it was acquired by saving Social Security checks, the affidavits state.
In 2001, Jack Harsha was convicted of delivery of a controlled substance and felon in possession of a weapon in Jackson County Circuit Court. In 1996, he was convicted of delivery and possession of a controlled substance.
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the allegations that resulted in the charge of manufacturing methamphetamine. According to Oregon statutes, there are several actions that are considered manufacturing methamphetamine. The most common is the possession of large amounts of a drug which are broken down into smaller user quantities for sale.