Marijuana activist freed pending appeal Prosecutor argued Davis posed danger

June 24, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel County judge released Westminster marijuana-rights activist Pamela Snowhite Davis from state prison yesterday on unsecured bond while she appeals a felony drug conviction involving less than an ounce of pot.

"I'm actually free! Hallelujah!" the 48-year-old self-proclaimed "old-hippie" said as she hugged her children, her lawyer and reporters outside the county courthouse in Annapolis. "I can sleep in my own bed tonight."

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Bruce C. Williams set a $10,000 unsecured bond for Davis.

"This is not a question of whether her sentence was an appropriate sentence, but whether justice is served by having her incarcerated," the judge said.

Davis' new attorney -- William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr. -- said the case against Davis "is not just a prosecution, but a persecution. . . . All of us need to be tolerant. This is America, not Carroll County, but America."

Barton F. Walker III, the Carroll assistant state's attorney who prosecuted Davis, defended his office's handling of the case and said if Davis were to be released she would "be a danger to the community."

"In Carroll County, we don't have a big drug problem, and the reason we don't have that is because we follow the law. We don't lie down and play dead," Mr. Walker said.

Davis was serving two years of a five-year sentence on a March conviction on a felony charge of maintaining a common nuisance. The Carroll County Narcotics Task Force raided her 80-acre Silver Run Farm after a police officer -- dressed as a United Parcel Service employee -- delivered a package addressed to the farm. The package contained 1.5 ounces of marijuana.

In the raid, officers found less than an ounce of pot in Davis' night stand, some pro-marijuana literature and a water pipe.

In April, Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. imposed a five-year sentence in the case and suspended all but two years. He told Davis her lack of remorse and defiance of the system played a role in his sentencing.

"You fight for your causes, but your march here is under false colors," the judge said when he imposed the prison term.

Davis became an outspoken critic of the task force after her arrest in the so-called "UPS case," and used her Westminster counter-culture store as a soap box to promote the legalization of marijuana.

In November, on the day before she was to represent herself at a jury trial on the UPS charges, task force members raided her store. They found several pounds of sterilized marijuana seeds, and charged her with maintaining a common nuisance, possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.

Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. acquitted her of the charges in the seeds case June 10. He said prosecutors failed to show that the seeds would grow into marijuana plants.

During yesterday's hearing, Mr. Murphy -- who has joined Westminster defense attorneys Stephen P. Bourexis and Judith S. Stainbrook in Davis' appeal -- blasted the Carroll task force.

"We don't settle our disputes by incarcerating those with whom we have disputes," Mr. Murphy told Judge Williams. "Pamela Snowhite Davis is simply a citizen of a larger culture, a culture which Carroll County views as alien.

"This is 1993, and we need a real sense of proportionality, which is a lesson lost up there [in Carroll County]."

Mr. Walker said he was duty-bound to prosecute Davis, because, he said, she violated the law.

He said she was acquitted in the seeds case because she presented "false evidence."

"This is the way it goes sometimes," Mr. Walker said yesterday from his Westminster office. "I don't care for [Mr. Murphy's] characterization of Carroll County citizens. We have a nice community here, and we would like to keep it that way."

Yesterday, Davis' son, David Kif, and her daughter, Sarah, smiled as Judge Williams ordered their mother released on bond. Davis' husband, Daniel, was hospitalized with chest pains in Carroll County.

As Davis was taken out of the courtroom in shackles and handcuffs before her release, Mr. Walker wished her luck in her appeal.

In addition to the appeal -- which could take up to a year -- Davis' store faces eviction from the Westminster Shopping Center, and her farm is slated to be auctioned tomorrow by Taneytown Bank and Trust Co. to pay off her line of credit.

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