By Van Smith
Baltimore, Feb. 21, 2019
While Free State Cannablawg’s attempts to ennumerate pending cannabis-crime cases in Maryland’s U.S. District Court remain hopeful (FSC has asked the U.S Attorney’s Office how many there are, so far without response), scouring the public terminals at the Garmatz courthouse has turned up two: one’s an apple, the other an orange.
The apple would be the case of a man who agreed to 12 months’ probation for possessing weed at the Naval Station Norfolk last August, and his supervision was transferred to federal court in his home state of Maryland. If the charge and sentence seem out of step in this day and age of pot liberalization, well, the court record reflects a defendant, Ayodei Ogunlade, who probably agrees.
When Ogunlade tested positive for cannabis, he “admitted to smoking the drug on … the day of sentencing,” U.S. probation officer Christine Hayfron-Benjamin wrote in her report of Ogunlade’s transgressions. By way of explanation, he said “he knew he would be appearing before the court, but he found marijuana in the house before leaving and ‘didn’t want to waste it.'”
Once under Maryland supervision, and despite not receiving required court permission to do so, Ogunlade promptly left the country for a week-long vacation in Cancun, Mexico – and then repeatedly lied to his probation officer about it, denying that he’d gone. Hayfron-Benjamin’s report reflects how he then proceeded to invent a whole suite of changing facts regarding the hospitalization and death of his father-in-law, and his wife’s mourning of it, so as to make excuses for taking the forbidden Cancun vacation.
“This officer,” Hayfron-Benjamin wrote, “encouraged Mr. Ogunlade to be honest and questioned why he refused to be truthful. He responded that he knew that this officer would uncover the truth but couldn’t explain why he continued to be dishonest.”
From FSC’s reading of these facts, Ogunlade seems not to have taken his crime seriously, and so is not adapting well to being punished for it. Not so the second case, the orange to Ogunlade’s apple: Jeffrey Putney.
(Jeffrey Putney, in a photo from prior to his 2010 indictment, courtesy of the U.S. Marshal Service.)
Putney took his pot charges very, very seriously: he went on the run, and remained in hiding for nearly a decade. He’s the last defendant to be adjudicated in a massive Baltimore-based pot and money-laundering conspiracy that was dismantled by federal law enforcers starting in 2010 after operating as a globe-trotting enterprise throughout the 2000s.
While Ogunlade is facing the possibility to being directed to “participate in a cognitive-behavioral program to address his poor decision-making,” according to Hayfron-Benjamin’s report, Putney is likely headed to a long stint in federal prison, possibly approaching the 10-plus years some of his co-defendants are serving.
In the meantime, Putney is being held in detention pending upcoming proceedings in his case, with the latest being the Feb. 15 entry on his docket, described as a “Sealed Document” with an attached exhibit.
FSC looks forward to updating the progress of these vastly different cases, whose sole commonality is cannabis.