Brother and sister get prison time for marijuana operation.jpg

David and Natalie DePriests, shown on left, were sentenced for what police say was a marijuana growing operation. The photo taken during a police inventory shows a sampling of the items removed from the apartment of David and Natalie DePriest in the fall of 2011. Police discovered a marijuana growing operation, drug paraphernalia, weapons, bulletproof vests and more.

A brother and sister will be going to prison for a while for growing marijuana in their apartment.

On Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte sentenced 34-year-old David G. DePriest to 22 years in prison for production of marijuana, possession of more than five grams of marijuana and unlawful possession of a weapon. Natalie DePriest, age 36, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for production of marijuana and possession of more than five grams of marijuana. Both lived in Farmington at the time of their arrest on the charges.

While they were sentenced separately, both were represented by Attorney Dan Viets, who is chairman of Show Me Cannabis and the state coordinator for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Viets had asked the judge to place both individuals on probation.

While the Probation and Parole’s Sentencing Assessment Report found a prior felony for a similar offense for David DePriest while he was in the military, DePriest denied having such a conviction. The DePriests also denied police claims that the officers found marijuana sales ledgers.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Pat King asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence against David DePriest. He said the DePriests had a large-scale grow operation that was illogical to believe was for their own benefit. He added they had guns and bullet-proof vests.

King said they have been minimizing their operation since the moment they were arrested.

Viets said 12 plants and eight baby sprouts in a closet are not a large operation. He added that during the search, no money was found and the weapon that was “illegal” was a quarter of an inch shorter than allowable by law. He added that David DePriest’s drug tests since his arrest have come back clean.

As Viets began to talk about polls and how the majority of Americans feel about legalizing marijuana, Judge Pratte interrupting saying “the law is the law.”

Viets said the courts do recognize that marijuana is a less dangerous substance than other drugs.

Continuing his arguments for a prison sentence, King said that this was not an isolated incident but rather a long-time planned operation.

Judge Pratte said from the many pre-trial hearings held in these cases, it sounded like a large operation where David DePriest has finally admitted he was growing for distribution. He told Viets he was denying the request for probation and sentencing David DePriest to 22 years in prison.

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After the judge imposed the sentence, Viets asked if the judge would consider sentencing through a 120-day drug treatment program where DePriest would have a chance of being released on five years of probation after completing the 120-day treatment program in prison. The judge said no.

After David DePriest’s sentencing, Judge Pratte took up Natalie DePriest’s case. Viets again asked for probation, pointing out that Natalie DePriest was a prime candidate for probation — she has no prior convictions (other than a bad check), is employed and has a college degree.

King said that while Natalie DePriest admits to knowing of the operation and tending to the plants, she seems to minimize the incident as being just a big annoyance for her.

Viets told the judge that Natalie DePriest did break the law but she did not hurt anybody or distribute a “dangerous drug.”

King again asked for a prison sentence and Judge Pratte sentenced Natalie DePriest to 15 years. The judge again denied Viets request for a 120-day drug treatment program.

More about the arrests

According to court records, the operation came to light when maintenance workers entered a Farmington apartment early on Aug. 26, 2011, to do routine maintenance.

They reportedly smelled and saw marijuana in the apartment, and immediately called the police. The department’s narcotics officer began the process of securing a search warrant through the circuit court system and established surveillance on the apartment.

The warrant was issued that day. Officers converged on the apartment and entered to find a growing operation set up in one room. While the officers were on the scene, David and Natalie DePriest showed up and were arrested.

The list of items removed from the apartment was extensive. It included 20 live marijuana plants; notebooks containing growing records and information; marijuana smoking pipes and other related paraphernalia; a small vial possibly containing what appeared to be an illegal drug; a plastic container of hash oil, several large grow lights which were in operation; capacitors and air movers and piping; an air filtration system; approximately a dozen containers of liquid fertilizer and other plant growth enhancers; two bulletproof vests; an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle set up in an illegal configuration with an additional barrel; three handguns in assorted calibers; quantities of ammunition for all firearms found in the apartment; multiple cellphones confiscated as evidence; and electronic scales and more.

They found what appeared to be a homemade explosive device in the apartment but it turned out the device was not one.

Police also found approximately four pounds of high-grade processed marijuana. Most was either in a bulk plastic baggie, or in several smaller baggies of two different sizes. The smaller baggies appeared to have matching weight amounts of the dried plant material. Some of the baggies were marked with a sales price clearly visible.

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Teresa Ressel is the assistant managing editor for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3613 or tressel@dailyjournalonline.com


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