Celtics' Parish headed to a different court Center to be charged with marijuana possession

February 12, 1993|By Jordana Hart and Monica R. Young | Jordana Hart and Monica R. Young,Boston Globe

WESTON, Mass. -- Robert Parish, Boston Celtics center, will be charged in Waltham District Court on today with possession of seven ounces of marijuana, which authorities said they found yesterday in a package being shipped to his home as well as in his home in Weston.

At a news conference last night, Kurt Schwartz, a Middlesex assistant district attorney and the director of the district attorney's narcotics unit, said a narcotics dog alerted authorities to a package during a routine inspection in San Francisco.

Possession of small amounts of marijuana rarely results in jail time for the offender, particularly if it is a first offense, criminal defense lawyers said last night.

NBA officials last night said that convictions for marijuana possession carry no league sanctions. The league's drug policy, they said, covers only heroin and cocaine.

Schwartz said authorities believed the package, addressed to Parish, contained marijuana. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency San Francisco alerted authorities in Weston and allowed the Federal Express shipment of the package to Parish's address to proceed.

The package appeared at the Federal Express facility in Natick yesterday morning and a State Police officer disguised as a Federal Express delivery person delivered the package to Parish's home, Schwartz said.

He said about an hour later seven or eight State Police officers arrived at Parish's house, where they found Parish and Heather Graves, 24, of Atlanta.

Schwartz said they had a search warrant for the house and about 3 p.m. found two ounces of marijuana in the package and another five ounces in Parish's house.

Parish and Graves will both be charged with possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor, Schwartz said. Schwartz said there is no indication Parish intended to distribute the drug.

"We are satisfied he is not dealing or distributing," he said. "We found none of the typical tools of the distributing trade such as scales, packaging material or record-keeping books."

Schwartz said if Parish had no prior convictions it is likely he would receive probation if convicted.

Members of the legal community agreed. Unless prosecutors seek to make an example of Parish because he is well known, the Celtics center is likely to have his case continued without a guilty finding, or be convicted of a misdemeanor and given probation, the attorneys said.

"Nowadays, even a conviction for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute will not get you a stiff penalty in most courts," said John G. Swomley, a Boston criminal defense attorney who has handled many such cases.

"If this is a first offense, this will not be that serious a case, although it will receive a lot of attention because of who he is," added Harvey A. Silverglate, another Boston attorney who has defended people accused of drug possession.

For many first offenders, Silverglate said, judges typically continue the case without a finding for six months or a year. If the person charged is not rearrested during that period, he said, then the charge is usually dismissed, and no criminal record results.

Swomley said Parish's attorney is almost certain to fight any conviction, even one that carries a short probation. One reason for him to resist a guilty finding, he said, is because the state automatically suspends the driver's license for five years of anyone convicted of a drug offense.

But Parish's fame might work against him, Swomley cautioned, if prosecutors decide they cannot treat him lightly.

"If he was a nobody, he wouldn't serve any time for possession of a few ounces of marijuana," Swomley said. "But considering his celebrity status, I would not be surprised if the district attorney asks for some jail time."

Both lawyers, though, cautioned that the mere fact that Parish received a package of marijuana does not mean he necessarily solicited it.

"Not everyone who gets it in the mail necessarily requests it," Silverglate said, though he added that the larger the amount, the more likely it is the court will decide that the recipient did indeed ask that the package be sent.

It also appeared last night that the charges will not affect Parish's status with the league. NBA spokesman Brian McIntyre said that marijuana is not covered under the league's anti-drug policy but that the league probably would look into the incident if criminal charges are involved.

McIntyre said the anti-drug policy relates only to cocaine and heroin possession.

Parish, the NBA's oldest player at age 39, could not be reached for comment. He arrived in Dallas last night with the Celtics, who are embarking on a four-game road trip that will also take them to San Antonio, Phoenix and Houston, ending with the All-Star break.

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