Maui man says he thought marijuana distribution operation was legal
By Lila Fujimoto
WAILUKU — A Wailuku man who said he didn't know there was anything illegal about an organization that provided him with medical marijuana was ordered to pay a $300 fine and perform 80 hours of community service for his part in what police described as a ring that illegally distributed the drug.
Douglas Kaleikini, 55, also was placed on one year's probation as part of his sentence imposed Tuesday.
As part of his plea agreement, Kaleikini agreed to "testify truthfully at trial, should any of the co-defendants in this case proceed to trial."
Trials for alleged drug ring leader Brian Murphy and co-defendants Brian Igersheim, 31, of Makawao; Robert "Bobby" Armitage, 58, of Wailuku; William "Bill" Cox, 48, of Haiku; Stuart Hirotsu, 48, of Wailuku; and John Cooper, 40, of Kihei, are set to begin Dec. 7.
Originally charged with a felony carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, Kaleikini had pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of criminal conspiracy.
Defense attorney Cary Virtue said the reduced charge, in part, reflected "evidentiary problems" in the case against Kaleikini.
Deputy Prosecutor Timothy Tate disagreed, saying wiretap evidence clearly showed Kaleikini conspired with Murphy, the organization's director. But comparing his role with that of others charged in the case, Kaleikini "was a remote conspirator," Tate said.
Kaleikini was among seven Maui men arrested last November as part of "Operation Weedkiller." The arrests followed a two-year police investigation that included the seizure of marijuana plants and clones, a vehicle, cash and drug paraphernalia.
Murphy, 53, of Haiku, was identified as head of the criminal operation, which police said exploited state medical marijuana laws to sell the drug to hundreds of people.
Murphy ran the medical marijuana advocacy group Patients Without Time, which had an office in Paia.
In court Tuesday, Kaleikini said he met Murphy after being referred to the group by the doctor he saw to obtain a state card allowing him to use marijuana to relieve pain from a back injury.
Kaleikini also said he saw Murphy explaining how to grow marijuana for medical purposes on a program aired on Akaku: Maui Community Television.
"When I go to the office for pick up, guys leaving, guys coming. It didn't dawn on me he was illegal," Kaleikini said. "I thought he was a legal man doing things for patients."
Court records show that on Dec. 1, 2007, Kaleikini called Murphy, who reported that 3 pounds of marijuana valued at $15,000 was stolen from his residence in a robbery. After Murphy complained that co-defendant Amitage hadn't called him back, Kaleikini reportedly said he would try to get in touch with Armitage to relay Murphy's message.
Armitage called Murphy, saying his cousin Kaleikini had relayed the message.
In a phone call to Murphy later the same day, Kaleikini said he had people on the lookout for the stolen marijuana, according to court records.
Tate said Kaleikini was trying to help Murphy get the drugs back and facilitated the contact between Armitage and Murphy so they could "handle this in a strong-arm manner on the street."
"This defendant was aware of what they were doing," Tate said. "By virtue of his own words and his own actions, he became a co-conspirator in this case."
Kaleikini offered another view of the interaction, saying he had been disturbed to hear that Murphy was robbed at gunpoint.
"I said, 'Wow, these guys wen' rob him and take my medicine and people's medicine,' " Kaleikini said. "I told him if I find out, I will let him know so he can call the Police Department and let them know. He taking care of patients like me and help people with chronic pain.
"I wasn't out there for hurt nobody. I don't want nobody think I'm a bad guy. I'm not."
Kaleikini, who had worked as a heavy equipment operator at Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., was moved to a less physical job in the company, doing body work, because of his injury, Virtue said.
Because Kaleikini's wife recently lost her job, he is the sole provider for a large family that includes children and grandchildren, Virtue said.
"He got caught up in some friendships, did some things he wouldn't have necessarily done normally," Virtue said. "Essentially, Douglas does have a good heart. His role in this was quite minimal."
Kaleikini has a valid state medical marijuana card that was renewed this year, and he wants to continue to use marijuana to treat his back pain, Virtue said.
Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza, who followed a plea agreement to sentence Kaleikini, ordered the defendant not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs "unless authorized by state law to do otherwise."
"If authorized by state law to use medical marijuana, that's an exception," Cardoza said.