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Pot grower could get five years

A Central Point man faces a possible minimum of five years in federal prison after a jury found him guilty of felony marijuana crimes.

Brian Wayne Simmons, 38, was convicted Friday of manufacture, distribution and possession of marijuana, as well as conspiracy to commit the same crimes. Simmons was the focus of a four-day trial last week at Medford's U.S. District Court.

Simmons was the proprietor of Brian's Green Thumb Farm that was raided by Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local police in October 2011.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Fong presented evidence during the trial that the farm had 455 large marijuana plants growing on its grounds. Fong said this marijuana was funneled into the black market under the guise of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

DEA agents seized the plants and found 2,000 pounds of semi-dry marijuana in a barn, court affidavits state. Afterward, agents dried the marijuana and found that it weighed 1,022 pounds.

In addition, a property on Dark Hollow Road was raided and found to be a grow site connected to the operation.

However, the man accused of overseeing the Dark Hollow Road site, Michael Scott Grantski, was found not guilty of charges similar to Simmons'.

Simmons and Grantski were tried at the same time and represented by two criminal defense lawyers.

Fong presented the jury with numerous bank account statements and records showing that the farm was intended to make money illegally off medical marijuana.

Michael Reed Peru, 70, seemingly bankrolled the operation by opening lines of credit for Simmons and contributing to the ongoing costs of maintaining the farm.

Peru recently pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess 100 or more marijuana plants and said on the stand that he hoped to have some time shaved off his prison sentence by cooperating with federal prosecutors.

He made local headlines about eight years ago when he tried to build a golf course on private and environmentally sensitive public land at the site of the Billings Ranch in north Ashland.

The charges against Simmons carry a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence, but there are ways to have some of that time lowered. The sentence is left to the discretion of U.S. District Judge Owen Panner.

Robert Stone, who is Simmons' defense attorney, said Simmons has no prior criminal history.

In a motion filed after Simmons' conviction, Stone said that Simmons will file paperwork asking for a new trial.

This is based on a statement made by a juror who said during jury selection that she did not hold unbiased views of marijuana use because she is a state investigator for children's services.

This juror was allowed to remain on the jury. Another juror said she was sympathetic to medical marijuana use because she claimed it helped her husband cope with an illness. This juror was dismissed, Stone said in his motion.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.