More weed busts at court

About a dozen people arrested in connection with a major three-county illegal marijuana grow operation that was broken up by authorities late last month were formally arraigned in Grays Harbor County Superior Court on Monday morning.

All the defendants entered not guilty pleas. Most face charges of illegal manufacture of marijuana and use of a building for drug purposes.

The majority of the defendants were given a trial date of Feb. 6., with the next court appearance date for most scheduled for either late December or early January.

The defendants are all Chinese nationals, speaking either Mandarin, Cantonese, or Taishanese — a dialect spoken in part of southern China. Some confusion arose over which defendant spoke which language and this was compounded when the Taishanese interpreter was unable to appear. At one point Judge David L. Edwards paused the proceedings while it was determined which defendants in the case were actually present in court and which were not.

Bail has been set at $2 million for most of the defendants, and Edwards denied several requests made for reduction of bail due to the appropriate petition documents having not yet been filed with the court. An attorney for one defendant requested that his client be allowed to visit his pregnant wife in New York. Another defendant requested that he be allowed to return to the state of Georgia, where he had apparently lived previously. Edwards denied both requests.

Those defendants that appeared Monday were among dozens of Chinese arrested in a series of multi-agency raids that began Nov. 28 and which were overseen by the Grays Harbor Drug Task Force. Many of those arrested were later released without charge when it was determined that they had been led into working for the illegal marijuana grows under false pretenses.