Former Griz Washington gets prison for federal drug charges

2013-05-02T05:45:00Z 2014-10-15T17:04:21Z Former Griz Washington gets prison for federal drug charges

Jason Washington, a former University of Montana quarterback turned businessman and medical marijuana entrepreneur, was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison on federal drug charges.

That’s substantially more severe than the penalties for Washington’s six co-defendants in the case, but less than the five years in prison proposed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Elliott.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen rejected a request from Washington’s attorney, Kwame Manley of Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C., to sentence his client to probation and community service modeled on charity work Washington did while playing for the Grizzlies.

“There is an aspect of this case that I find troubling and it has continued to trouble me,” said the judge, who noted that he has handled several medical marijuana cases in his 16 month on the federal bench.

“Although there was generally an attempt to comply with state law, you appear to have walked a pretty fine line ... and in many cases went over the line,” the judge told Washington.

Although state law was of course not a factor in the case against Washington, Christensen noted it has been taken into account in federal cases in states where the medical use of marijuana is legal, as it is in Montana. Federal law holds any use of marijuana to be illegal.


Federal agents raided Washington’s businesses – a large marijuana grow operation at the Wye, the Big Sky Health medical cannabis dispensary on Reserve Street and his 406 Motoring automotive shop – in November 2011.

Washington and six co-defendants originally faced the same drug charges that carried sentences of up to 40 years in prison and a $5 million fine on each charge.

But five of the six pleaded guilty to conspiracy to maintain drug-involved premises, and the indictment against the sixth was thrown out. The others were sentenced to either probation or time served, with the longest prison sentence 125 days.

“All of those people are sitting at home,” Manley said Wednesday.

Washington, however, insisted upon going to trial and in January was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. Jurors acquitted him of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Several former business associates received immunity for testifying against him.

“An injustice ... a travesty,” Washington’s mother, Charlene Washington, called Wednesday’s sentence, pointing out the lighter sentences and the immunity for the others involved in the case.

Washington himself told the judge he had fully accepted responsibility for his actions, and apologized the court and his family for them.

He also sought leniency. “If I was some Mexican drug cartel runner, I would expect you to sentence me to five years in prison,” he said. But, he added, “me being in jail, that’s a waste. That’s a burden on taxpayers’ dollars, for what?”

He broke down in tears describing how he’d procured tickets to Grizzlies games for children with cancer, and bought them Griz gear with his own money. “I had to buy all that stuff on a scholarship that wasn’t that much,” he said. He also said he bought laptops for poor children to give them a boost in school.

Washington played for the Grizzlies in 2005 before being hurt, and sat out the 2006 season because of the injury.


Manley said he expected federal prosecutors – who saw their proposed five-year sentence shot down – would appeal. (Washington waived his own right to appeal.)

“This case will be a battle for a very long time,” Manley said.

Even Christensen said that “I think I have a pretty good idea where this sentencing is on its way to – the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

Christensen also sentenced Washington to four years of supervision after his release from prison, and imposed $200 in court fees. Although no fine was imposed, Washington still faces restitution payments of more than $233,000.

After the judge pronounced his sentence, Manley asked that his client be given some time to settle his affairs before reporting to federal prison. But Christensen ordered that Washington be taken into custody immediately.

As federal marshals fitted handcuffs onto his wrists, his mother tearfully asked to be allowed to hug him.

“Sorry, ma’am,” said a marshal. And he led Washington away.

Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio can be reached at 523-5268,, or @CopsAndCourts.

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

(25) Comments

  1. shu
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    shu - May 06, 2013 9:55 am
    I don't feel a bit sorry for Jason Washington. He carried a pistol with him, and was all to ready to use it. He also threatened to injure and kill high school kids who opposed his 406 Motoring business on Facebook. My son was one of those kids who received dozens of texted threats, I know they were from Washington. The continuous threats to his life did not stop until a school resource officer confronted him about it. Of course, he adamently denied everything about it, but the threats did stop....imagine that. He thought his untraceable phone would hide his evil ways, what a complete fool. He was very rude to my kids at his 406 shop on several occasions, and that's why they never went back. Good ridence to him, Missoula is a better place.
  2. Roger
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    Roger - May 03, 2013 8:22 am
    ONE example is meaningless - that guy clearly has mental problems - marijuana had nothing to do with his actions.
  3. The_Boneshackler
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    The_Boneshackler - May 02, 2013 5:50 pm
    Get caught being a low-level pot dealer? Federal Prison. Get caught laundering $Billions in Mexican drug cartel and terrorist monies? Have your common stockholders pay a penalty, and give yourself a bonus. You will NOT be prosecuted.
  4. JMontana
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    JMontana - May 02, 2013 3:31 pm
    It's the largest cash crop in America, and we don't tax it... just a quick input. But yes, it is currently a drug, and not approved by the federal drug laws as of now. To make it legalized in individual states is rediculous, it shouldn't even be voted on, passed, and hint to people that it is "OK." This is a shame though, major waste of tax $ to have this guy in prison, he doesn't sound like he is a danger to society.
  5. dsrobins
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    dsrobins - May 02, 2013 3:19 pm
    Yet another prime example of the utter lack of moral leadership and ethical behavior in the athletic programs at the U of M. What else is new?
  6. RPT
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    RPT - May 02, 2013 2:35 pm
    Looks like Washington State is the closest Federal facility.
  7. Re-Made in Montana
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    Re-Made in Montana - May 02, 2013 1:04 pm
  8. Re-Made in Montana
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    Re-Made in Montana - May 02, 2013 12:58 pm
    Federal Bureau of Prisons institutions located all over the country.
  9. Nils
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    Nils - May 02, 2013 12:43 pm
    Dope peddlers expect to be coddled. Why?
  10. up2here
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    up2here - May 02, 2013 11:40 am
    Sorry to disappoint but time has been served...NEXT...
  11. up2here
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    up2here - May 02, 2013 11:37 am
    I'm an old timer too....your comments are right on.
  12. up2here
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    up2here - May 02, 2013 11:31 am
    You MUST be against drinking alcohol.
  13. up2here
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    up2here - May 02, 2013 11:27 am
    Hear, hear.
  14. Old Timer
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    Old Timer - May 02, 2013 10:47 am
    You mean the guy that thought he was on a personal mission from God? That guy! The guy that told his family that he was Jesus Christ and the world was going to end! I haven't found anywhere where he says he hates Obama because of his stance on marijuana. I just see where he hates Obama. As for FDA they approve all kinds of harmful substances have you ever read any of the information that comes with a prescription? NIOSH doesn't approve medications their aim is "Providing National and World Leadership to Prevent Workplace Illnesses and Injuries". No mind altering medication should be used on the job. DEA-- you are kidding right? If they fight the drug war they don't have a job! They were created by Richard Nixon to eliminate those lousy hippies that use marijuana and didn't like him. If they were arrested problem solved.
    The drug war has been and will continue to be a total waste of time and finances. You cannot stop people from doing what they want in a free society. If they cause injury to others they need to be punished. But instead of wasting money with cops,courts, jails and prisons the money spent on these institutions would be much better spent on the individuals that need treatment. If they develop problems it should be treated as a medical issue not a legal one.
  15. raptor53
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    raptor53 - May 02, 2013 9:00 am
    imagine what the feds could have done with the money they spent in prosecuting all of these dangerous people. bet it's way more than they seized from the convicted. Big Brother keeping us all safe.
    Just another Obama-nation lie, concerning state sovereignty. Abolish the single party system.
  16. BSUjack
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    BSUjack - May 02, 2013 8:49 am
    You talk a funny game like this plant MJ is not harmful even in the slightest degree. Why then has all the government agencies that protect us from consuming things that don't pass food or drug muster as safe, like the FDA,NIOSH, DEA,and many others have ruled this drug as bad and illegal !!l You people who are admitted "Recreational Smokers" have the same attitude as you do when you smoke it ! You don't give a sh--t about anything the `whole world is wrong. You are all like the Idiot MJ smoker from Idaho who traveled all the way to the white house to shoot the President because he thought Mr. O was against Marijuana !!! He just put a few bullet holes in the White House !! What do you think Bad shot? or "Under the Influence" ???
  17. Yz250
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    Yz250 - May 02, 2013 8:07 am
    I am glad to him get some time. All of these med. marijauna providers said that they are so concerned about their patients well being. They are not concerned about them, if they were they would have continued to provide for their patients when the stricter laws went into place. They are wanting to be legalized drug dealers. I have never met a drug dealer who is concerned about his customers well being. Most of them were caught with ALOT of money that was not recorded in their books. If I ran my business like that the feds would come and prosecute me also. The ones who did run their businesses the right way did not get prosecuted. So these guys that broke the law need to get punished.
  18. Run - A- Mook
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    Run - A- Mook - May 02, 2013 7:16 am
    maybe right after you.

    next time come up with something new.
  19. montanamuralist
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    montanamuralist - May 02, 2013 7:15 am
    Ironic the anti government folks want the states to be responsible for things like health care etc etc but then when it comes to something they disagree with and violates THEIR moral principles ( thats a joke) ....prosecute and send these evil criminals to prison. I don't use the stuff personally but I do know the voters in this state approved medical pot. True, some regulation needed to be instituted over what was originally approved but this is ridiculous and points out again, no matter what we say in this state..the idiot right wing, elected by many of the same people who voted for medical pot, will ignore it based on their own opinions and the people can just take a hike. No, this is obscene...
  20. RPT
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    RPT - May 02, 2013 7:04 am
    So where does someone convicted of a Federal crime in Montana actually serve the time at ?
    Deer Lodge? Or where ?
  21. Roger
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    Roger - May 02, 2013 7:04 am
    As I recall, a statement by Obama led people to believe that marijuana violations wouldn't be enforced by the federal government. Jason Washington doesn't deserve prison - it's a waste of taxpayer money, and the prisons are already pretty much full or overcrowded - his cell would better be used for a violent offender or someone with multiple DUIs, rather than for a person who committed a victimless crime.

    In 1980, there were 220 people incarcerated per 100,000. By 2010, the number had more than tripled, to 731 - far more than other countries. The USA has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world - more than even the infamous Russian gulags. The scale and brutality of American prisons is shameful for a supposedly free country.
  22. Sukey
    Report Abuse
    Sukey - May 02, 2013 5:43 am
    He should have gotten more time in prison. Anyone stupid enough to think you are "safe" in Montana from obeying Federal Drug Laws is too stupid to walk the streets. He was greedy and wanted to get rich quick selling drugs. That is what pot is, its a drug, and its illegal at the Federal level which means its illegal to grow it, sell it, use it.
  23. up2here
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    up2here - May 02, 2013 1:30 am
    You are leaving for Afghanistan or Kosovo when?
  24. up2here
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    up2here - May 02, 2013 1:28 am
    Add another soul to the prison system....why not save the space for a REAL criminal...someone who is a danger to society. The war on drugs is an utter failure.
  25. hellgatenights
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    hellgatenights - May 01, 2013 9:22 pm
    Brother........embarrassing when a grown man is bawling in court over a couple of years in prison. It's not like the moron is walking the roads of Afghanistan or keeping the peace in Kosovo (yes......we are still in Kosovo......nice to be part of nato).
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