A jury convicted Jason Washington of two drug counts, but acquitted him of a firearms charge Thursday in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

Washington, a former University of Montana Grizzlies quarterback, was charged with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking crime.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours Thursday before returning their verdicts.

Washington’s lawyer, Kwame Manley of Patton Boggs in Washington, D.C., called the verdicts disappointing.

“Mr. Washington has been a law-abiding member of this community for a number of years,” he said. “... We will keep fighting another day to do everything we can to make sure he gets justice.”

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 – were raided in November 2011. Those actions followed similar raids at medical marijuana operations around the state in March 2011. Montana’s thriving medical marijuana industry dried up after those raids.

Washington did not testify during the four-day trial. Several of those who testified against him, including former business associates, received immunity.

Manley hammered at that fact during his closing argument Thursday, questioning why Washington was singled out for prosecution.

Manley said one witness had “a clear and unambiguous motive to lie. He’s here to make payment on his get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s 2013 and he’s walking free.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Elliott said the scenario involving the three businesses “was an ever-changing landscape with people coming and going. But the constant was this defendant.”

Although Manley touched on Washington’s compliance with state medical marijuana regulations, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Six other people along with Washington originally faced the same drug charges in connection with the raids – charges that carry a mandatory minimum penalty of up to five years in prison and a maximum of 40 years, as well as a $5 million fine.

Five of the six pleaded guilty to conspiracy to maintain drug-involved premises; the longest prison sentence handed down was 125 days. The indictment against the sixth person was thrown out.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen did not set a sentencing date Thursday. He allowed Washington to remain free as long as he complies with certain conditions.

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

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

More from missoulian.com

(20) comments

waltinseattle
waltinseattle

I am outraged that the good people of the jury were not aware of their right and OBLIGATION to Nullify. see: Fully Informed Jury Association, www.fija.org

BreA

I think one of my biggest problems with all this is that his "former business associates" testified against him. This included the other owner of Big Sky Health, who did everything that Jason did with the business....yet he's walking away free. Missoula cops had a hard-on to bust Jason long before the feds were even watching him...but since Jason wasn't breaking any state laws, they had to bring the feds in. It's all a bunch of bs.

raptor53

Government by whim is one of the most important parts of any fascist regime. It is not enough that laws are imoral, they must be random so that citizens can not use reason to determine what is or is not allowed. These types of actions are all about intimidating the American people in an effort to break the spirit of liberty that makes them more difficult to control than the people of countries with a long history of tryanny. A feature of modern America predicted by Ayn Rand over 50 years ago. from: Jed Chancey

raptor53

where is your Savior, President Barack Obama ? His hypocrisy on state's rights is glaringly obvious to all but the pinheads that voted for him. Relentlessy suppressing state led marijuana tolerance with his brand of Federalism. Look out fools in Washington and Colorado. Eric Holder and his Gestapo will rain or your businesses next. Right after they take your guns away with executive order. Amerika ! Heil Obama !

beckmeister

What a stupid waste of tax payers money! The feds financially scored, big time! But in the mean time the state picks up the tab. We have had our votes taken away by a greedy government that can not spend our money fast enough. Jason could possibly be put in prison with murderers and child molesters because the feds needed some glory and Jason's hard earned money! Big tobacco and drug companies are free to kill a certain amount of people each year for money sake? Collateral damage. What is wrong with this picture? Take a good look at Washington, California and Colorado. They are proving that the feds can be dealt without getting steam rolled by them. However, doors will get kicked down everywhere if the government sees a large cash prize. Don't believe for 5 seconds that it is because they feel it is wrong and they want to uphold the law.

crewchief

The Trial was a joke! It was a witch hunt from the start. Over 20 other people involved in this case with Jason Washington where issued a get out of jail free card. I was in this court room and watched how the US Government singled out Mr.Washington like he was the sole person in this case! Who Cares if he was a former griz player years ago! He was and still is a successful business owner here in Montana who pays taxes and followed the rules ! The most obvious thing here is Mr.Washington is a African American man and was the only guy the government set out to get. If there is one issue in this case bigger than any, Its RACE!!! Shame on are Government the prosecutors and the unfairness of this case !!

Fandango

"Hey, how about we throw the book at this guy? His skin is dark - let's get him!"

dw111

Intresting article, but can any one explain to me why the term Former University of Montana Quarterback is included? When do you stop being a former anything and become a current what ever you are? I truly belive Ms. Florio has an obsession with denigrating the University. It does not matter if you like the University or not, it is a major industry for the City of Missoula, and Western Montana, it will have its flaws like any business and to continually have this Reporter run it down does not seem in the best intrest of the Community or the Missoulian.

LynnB

I find that the first sentence is rather interesting since it is only Thursday.

John P Weber
John P Weber

While under state law it is legal to use, medical marijuana has been badly abused in this state. Plus as long as it is illegal at the federal level, state law will be irrelavabt. What we need to have is more restrictive state laws regarding the use of medical marijuana. Such has requiring a persons primary doctor, whom a 3 year relationship has been established, certify a person for medical marijuana use. And we have to add medical marijuana to the DUI laws. U smoke, u no drive.

crewchief

Hey John you blow smoke! The fact of this case is people where let off who are guilty under this ruling as they SAID Jason Washington is. Have you been to any other state? I went to LA. this summer and walked down Venice Beach and therem where weed shops next to Doctor offices on the beach! Why are the feds not going after them?? Mr. Washington was following the laws as written and so asr many other that are still providine weed to people but yet they are not arrestede by the Government?!?! Stick to what the fact here is. Arrest them all not single them out cuz they are the biggest!

Alan Johnson

Unfortunately, this happens all the time in federal drug cases. The potential federal sentences are so harsh (plus no parole in the federal system) that it is easy for the government to get "snitches" who will sell their testimony to convict any other member of an alleged drug conspiracy that chooses his right to a trial. Cooperation allows the prosecutor to ask the judge for sentences that are below the range set by federal sentence guidelines.

thomascash

John

The 3 year suggestion is ridiculously arbitrary. You are a "restrictionist", you have unsupported nebulous moral reasons for still putting people in jail and stealing their businesses or professional licenses with the hypocritical justification that society is being saved. From what? You probably strongly believe regular people, who just want to relax or have uncontrolled hilarity in their life for a short period of time, should be criminally pumished. I wonder what health challenges your choices have contributed to? Ever had cancer? It can come and kill in months. Those few truly deserving patients you would allow to have cannabis will be long in the grave or have suffered through successful chemotherapy long before your three year proving period.

mtbrat
mtbrat

I love how several of the people who testified against him got immunity and others pretty much walked.

opal12

Yes, I find that very interesting also. THE ONLY ONE who is going to end up in Federal prison is the one who took the Federal Government to court.

partychief

He was abiding by state law.Was that mentioned in court? There is no justice here. They can just pick and choose who they prosecute to try and make an example ????.Because it is still being grown and sold in Montana. And now since this restrictive law has been put in place it has caused a wave of crime in Montana. Whenever Jasons business was thriving in 2011 it brought down crime in relation to the population,more than anytime in over 20yrs. "Where there is prohibition there is an illegal underground" I thank you Jason for helping me with this medicine. I hope the judge is compassionate .Peace to you and your family

grizcountry

You're not fooling anyone Partychief. Your username says it all.. Too bad he couldnt keep it out of the hands that didnt need it.. The Medical Marijuana Industry is where its at today because of this selfish man. I have no sympathy for him.

crewchief

The industry is the way it is From the work of Jason Christ not washington! Your name Griz country? So your one of those who tailgates all morning getting drunk at games and driving home?!?! A screen name means nothing! The fact is guilty or not guilty there where 20 other two got ammunity. So whay do the other 18 walk! Two words, "BLACK MAN" !!!

grizcountry

Nope.. I live within walking distance to the stadium and if screen names mean nothing, then why did you change yours?

I see you threw out the "race card"... How original.

crewchief

been my nick name a long time . wasnt picked it was given! your point is what john??? I threw the race card since its fact. He was the only guy to get arrested and he was the only black guy! this was about your stupid comment you made. not mine!!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.