Judge refuses to reduce Davis' marijuana sentence

October 15, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. refused yesterday to change the two-year sentence for Pamela Snowhite Davis, the Westminster marijuana activist he ordered to state prison for a felony drug conviction involving less than an ounce of marijuana.

"Carroll County has been behind the crime curve when it comes to drugs, but we're rapidly approaching" the drug activity that exists in surrounding counties, the judge said. "We hate when that happens.

"When I was in the legislature, I found myself an extension of the community. . . . Sitting on the bench, I feel much the same way. I am an extension of the community, and we don't like drugs."

Davis, a 48-year-old Westminster businesswoman turned marijuana activist, was convicted last spring by a Carroll jury of maintaining a common nuisance and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

She chose not to address the judge during the 40-minute hearing yesterday, despite his suggestion that she do so.

Instead, her attorney, Daniel F. Goldstein of Baltimore, gave the judge statistics that show that Davis' sentence -- five years' imprisonment with three years suspended -- was among the longest the judge had imposed in the drug cases he heard between June 1991 and June 30, 1993.

"All of those statistics are interesting, but they are not persuasive," Judge Beck said. "What I am interested in is what Ms. Davis may or may not have to say to me. I have not heard from Ms. Davis. I think the sentence was fair."

During the hearing, Mr. Goldstein told Judge Beck that his client was given the five-year sentence because of the anti-drug-war campaign she had waged in the local and national media after Carroll drug agents raided her farm in May 1992.

Mr. Goldstein told the judge -- who has said he is never influenced by what he reads in the press -- that the court record contains no evidence of Davis' vocal opposition to marijuana laws nor her expressed desire to continue smoking the substance.

"Her big mouth . . . cannot be a basis for sentencing," Mr. Goldstein argued.

Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III said that a judge should take into account "the totality" of a defendant's behavior when determining a sentence.

"If she had come in, and said, 'I disagree with the law, but I'm sorry for breaking it, that I will work within the system to change it,' then she would have been treated differently," Mr. Walker said. "But if we do not mete out sentences based on conduct, we do a disservice."

Outside the Carroll County Courthouse, Davis fought tears as she struggled to comment on Judge Beck's decision. Between puffs on a cigarette -- and glances toward the sky -- she said, "I remain totally committed to my beliefs and maintain faith in the American justice system -- that, in the end, truth and goodness will prevail over evil."

Davis is living at her Silver Run farm because an Anne Arundel County judge freed her pending the appeal of her conviction before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. The court has scheduled a hearing the second week in January.

A three-judge sentence review panel in Carroll County will review Judge Beck's sentence in the Davis case Oct. 25. The panel can increase, decrease or leave unchanged the judge's sentence.

Davis was arrested in May 1992 after Carroll Narcotics Task Force officers raided her farm and found less than an ounce of marijuana in a night stand.

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