RACINE — A judge Thursday sentenced John J. Gay to six years in prison after police seized almost a ton of marijuana from his Raymond property the man had been running like a “small business.”
Racine Circuit Judge Wayne Marik told the court that he wasn’t sure Gay, 45, understood the seriousness or wrongfulness of his operation described as “huge,” including an irrigation system, multi-room processing barn and several employees.
“This was a small business in which you were engaged in from beginning to end, from growing to processing to distribution,” Marik said before handing down the sentence that includes six years of incarceration and three years of extended supervision.
The one year Gay has served in Racine County jail awaiting sentencing will count towards his six year prison sentence, Marik ruled.
On Oct. 31, 2011 police executed a search warrant on Gay’s property at 2743 76th St. and removed 1,859 pounds of marijuana, requiring a dump truck to remove the large black garbage bags filled with the plants.
Before making his decision, the judge heard arguments from Gay, his attorney and the attorney representing the county who detailed the extent of the marijuana operation.
Assistant District Attorney Jacalyn LaBre said that when police executed their search warrant they found about 290 marijuana plants, some as tall as seven feet and as wide as ten inches in diameter.
“These weren’t just normal, small marijuana plants,” LaBre said. “These plants were very large plants. Some of them were more like trees than plants.”
LaBre also said that Gay had at least seven people working for his “business” and making up to $25 per hour.
Gay’s attorney, Steven Kohn, did not dispute the police findings or his client’s guilt, saying to do so would be “ludicrous.” Instead, Kohn highlighted Gay’s character, claiming his client was not a hardened criminal but instead a victim of the recession.
“I do believe what he did was an act of desperation,” Kohn said. “It was his view that he could get himself economically stabilized.”
When Gay addressed the court, he quoted passages of the Bible and apologized to his family, friends and to God.
“I should have figured out a legal way to scrape by like everyone else,” Gay said.
Marik, however, doubted Gay’s alleged intention to simply use the business to stabilize himself, citing the cash found during the search, approximately $100,000, as enough to help someone through tough economic times.
“You almost seem to demonstrate a feeling of pride in the success and the scope of the operation you were engaging in as much as if you were a soybean farmer,” Marik said.
Gay faced a possible sentence of 20 years, in part because his property was located near Raymond Elementary School, 2659 76th St., Raymond.
Marik said he settled on the nine year sentence after weighing Gay’s low likelihood of committing future felonies with negative impact on the community and the need to punish the Raymond man to deter others from starting similar operations.