Federal agents: Former UM quarterback considered bribing politicians to loosen marijuana laws

2012-01-11T06:00:00Z 2014-04-07T19:27:14Z Federal agents: Former UM quarterback considered bribing politicians to loosen marijuana lawsThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 11, 2012 6:00 am  • 

HELENA - Federal agents claim in recently unsealed court documents that a former University of Montana quarterback caught up in a medical marijuana raid contemplated bribing police and politicians.

But Jason Washington of Missoula told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday that the allegation is "ridiculous" and blown out of proportion by agents overhearing a running joke among friends.

The affidavit in the case was inadvertantly unsealed by a court clerk, said Clerk of Court Patrick Duffy, but was quickly resealed when the mistake was discovered.

The Missoulian attempted to view that document on Tuesday afternoon, but was denied access.

In the document, Drug Enforcement Agency agents said they were monitoring Washington's communications before raiding his and two other medical marijuana businesses in November, a multi-month investigation into what the agents called the "Washington Drug Trafficking Organization."

The monitored communications appear to show people naive about the political process, although a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency told the court he believed Washington and an associate would "use the proceeds of illegal marijuana sales to bribe public officials."

The affidavit against Washington gives no indication that he ever attempted the scheme.

The affidavit said Washington and Gregory Zuckert discussed bribing local and federal law enforcement as a way of getting tipped off before any raids. It also said they discussed bribes to state politicians, including the attorney general, as a way to get laws favorable to the industry.

In an expletive-laden conversation monitored by agents, Washington and Zuckert said they needed to "grease" the wheels if they wanted new medical marijuana laws. They contemplated talking to a well-known medical marijuana advocate to see if she knew of a way to be tipped off in advance of a raid, and considered if a Missoula County sheriff's detective "would take the grease."

Washington, who has not yet been arrested in the case although assets and equipment related to his medical marijuana business have been seized, said he has subsequently discussed the bribery allegation in the case with federal agents and told them it was a joke.

"The people we were speaking about, look at them, it was a joke. It was funny when it come out," Washington said. "All this will come out in trial."

*****

Three other people involved in the case are charged with the criminal sale of dangerous drugs, including Jesse Shewalter, Steven Sann and Darin Mower, all of Missoula.

All three of those men remain free, and all pleaded not guilty to the charges last week. Pretrial hearings are scheduled in their cases on Jan. 25.

Washington, who said he was out of state meeting with a lawyer, said he is restricted in discussing the case while the possibility of criminal charges loom.

Federal agents seized more than $184,000 from bank accounts associated with Washington's medical marijuana and automotive businesses, according to previous inventories filed in U.S. District Court, along with firearms, records and other materials.

But Washington said Tuesday that agents have subsequently returned some items that clearly belong to 406 Motoring Automotive Specialists, the customization business.

"406 Motoring was not involved. That business is still running," Washington said. "406  Motoring is up and well, and doing great."

Washington started five games for the Grizzlies in 2005 before being injured. He was kicked off the team in 2007 for reasons former coach Bobby Hauck never disclosed.

The U.S. attorney office wouldn't offer comment on the allegations, saying the court documents would be resealed by the court.

The public officials that Washington and Zuckert discussed said they were never contacted by the medical marijuana sellers.

"Attorney General Bullock doesn't know and has never met or talked to these individuals, and that a drug dealer would even fantasize or talk about trying to bribe our top law enforcement official underscores just how desperate criminals can become," Bullock spokeswoman Judy Beck said.

State Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, said he was "astounded" to hear the pair discussed ways to bribe him. Lewis said his support last year for tougher marijuana laws in the Montana Legislature has resulted in threatening phone calls that have prompted him to disconnect his phone.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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