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Franklin gets five years for role in pot robbery sting

A California man will serve one day more than the minimum sentence for his admitted role in planning a robbery on what he believed to be a Southern Oregon illicit marijuana warehouse — but was actually a sting operation involving undercover federal agents.

Julius Diablo Franklin, 42, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene to five years and one day in federal prison for robbery conspiracy and a firearms conviction, according to a judgment filed by Judge Ann Aiken in the case.

Julius Diablo Franklin

Franklin will serve his time at the Federal Prison Camp in Lompoc, California — a minimum security facility.

Franklin is among nine suspects linked to alleged ringleader Shannon Christopher Harrop in the case, and the sole suspect to plead guilty.

Federal prosecutors allege that four illicit marijuana robberies were linked to Harrop prior to the sting operation intended to ensnare people who had been robbing Rogue Valley marijuana growers.

U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents set up a phony warehouse in the Medford area claiming it contained 700 to 800 pounds of “premium” marijuana, according to documents filed in the case. At $2,700 a pound, the marijuana in the warehouse would be worth about $2 million, they claimed.

The five-year, one-day sentence for conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime was characterized by Devin Huseby, Franklin’s attorney, as “sufficient but not greater than necessary.”

The minimum sentence is five years.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked that Franklin receive a sentence of seven years and three months in prison because he was involved in other marijuana robberies that included use of firearms and suspects posing as police.

“Franklin and his co-conspirators were orchestrating and executing violent robberies in Southern Oregon and elsewhere,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marco Boccato wrote in his sentencing recommendation for Franklin. “It is difficult to overstate the danger involved.”

Boccato asserts that Franklin participated in planning the ATF-conceived robbery of the warehouse, had brought in co-conspirators and was willing to discuss how to split the proceeds — at least as long as some of the other co-conspirators weren’t part of discussion among Franklin, Harrop, another suspect and the undercover ATF agents.

Ultimately, Franklin wasn’t charged for the other robberies, only the ATF sting. Two other sting-related charges against him were dropped as well: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Huseby, in his sentencing recommendation to the court, described the sting operation that provided the basis for charges brought against his client as “invented and orchestrated” by the ATF.

Huseby said ATF agents made it known that robbing the warehouse wouldn’t be especially dangerous because it wasn’t heavily guarded, though firearms would still be necessary to carry it off. Under those circumstances, “given the quantity and quality of the marijuana, it was a very tempting robbery.”

He stated that stings ensnare desperate people willing to “take the chance to change their circumstances, even by dangerous, illegal means” and made note of a recent article in The New Yorker titled “Stash-House Stings Carry Real Penalties for Fake Crimes.”

Huseby also cited results of a review of court files by USA Today focusing on stash-house stings across the nation. They found that 90% of people imprisoned because of such ATF activities are African-American or Hispanic.

“These fictitious stash house robberies are widely criticized by the courts as ‘disreputable’ governmental operations that disproportionately punish people of color,” his sentencing recommendation states. The defense lawyer’s sentencing recommendation also cites judges’ decisions criticizing federal cases stemming from such ATF-created scenarios.

A November trial for Harrop and six other co-defendants in the ring — Rashad Makkel Austin, Derrick Franklin, William Earl Pardue, Nathan Daniel Perkins, Julia Marie Maclennan and Michael Joseph Manring — was rescheduled earlier this week for Feb. 1.

The delay will allow defense counsel time to prepare and negotiate with the government, according to a U.S. District Court document filed Thursday.

Reach reporter Terri Harber at 541-776-4468 or tharber@rosebudmedia.com. Web editor Nick Morgan contributed to this report.