A father will serve 18 months in federal prison for causing a marijuana-extract lab explosion that endangered his sleeping daughter and caused thousands of dollars in damage to a west Medford garage.
Troy Allen Wyatt, 44, and his three teenage children cried as District Judge Michael McShane handed him a prison sentence Thursday in U.S. District Court in Medford for causing a fire in a garage near the corner of Eighth and Hamilton streets while attempting to make a marijuana extract known as butane honey oil.
Federal public defender Brian Butler sought a probation-only sentence, arguing that Wyatt was an out-of-work welder helping a friend, and "not a part of the (marijuana) culture."
At the time of the Jan. 2, 2016, fire in a detached garage near 32 Hamilton St., Wyatt had been on supervised probation from Jackson County Circuit Court on a resisting arrest conviction, according to Assistant United States Attorney William Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald argued prison was appropriate because of the "defendant's attitude about the law."
"It's really the endangerment issue," Fitzgerald said.
Some 1.15 kilograms of marijuana, about 2½ pounds, was seized from the scene, court documents show.
Wyatt choked back tears during his plea for leniency, telling McShane he "made a poor decision."
"I don't want to minimize what I did," Wyatt said. "What I did was wrong, and I admit it."
Court documents show that Wyatt pleaded guilty June 5 to federal felony counts of endangering human life by knowingly manufacturing hash oil and knowingly manufacturing marijuana in the form of hash oil and marijuana plants. He entered the plea voluntarily and without the offer of a plea agreement.
Wyatt suffered minor burns when the lab exploded during his first attempt at making the extract early on the afternoon of Jan. 2, 2016, archives and court documents show. A fire investigation determined that a tank used to manufacture hash oil leaked propane gas, creating a combustible mixture that was ignited by a running portable propane heater. The fire did $12,798.52 worth of damage to the detached garage, and Wyatt's daughter, 13 at the time, had been sleeping in the bedroom closest to the garage. The property owner did not appear at the hearing.
McShane called manufacturing the extract, in which the combustible fuel is used to create a high-THC concentrate, "ridiculously dangerous."
"To say it's a 'bad decision' is an understatement," McShane said.
Fitzgerald sought a 30-month sentence, on the low end of a sentencing guideline drawing precedent from methamphetamine labs. McShane said "some prison term is appropriate," but he didn't believe the sentence should be "so unkind" as to make Wyatt miss his children's high school graduations. McShane allowed Wyatt to arrange a time to report to the federal bureau of prisons.
Wyatt's girlfriend, Tanya E. Fitzhugh, was unable to attend the hearing because of work, Butler said.
Fitzhugh was sentenced to probation in Jackson County Circuit Court last year after she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of tampering with physical evidence, admitting she took more than a kilogram of marijuana to a neighbor’s house in an attempt to hide it from investigators, but the neighbor refused to take it.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.