Ellicott City man pleads guilty to growing marijuana

Police found 19 plants in home after car crashed into it

May 04, 2011|By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun

A 44-year-old Ellicott City man who police said used his basement for an "extensive" marijuana-growing operation pleaded guilty Wednesday to manufacturing a controlled dangerous substance.

Richard Marriott was arrested in December after the 20-year-old driver of a speeding sports car lost control and crashed into Marriott's residence in the 5100 block of Montgomery Road. The driver, later identified as Bryan Bolster of Elkridge, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police. The crash led to the discovery of the marijuana.

During Wednesday's plea proceedings in Howard County Circuit Court, defense attorney Leonard Shapiro said that Marriott had been home watching a movie when the BMW that Bolster was driving crashed into the house and burst into flames. Shapiro said that police estimated that the car was traveling at 100 mph when Bolster lost control.

"He's sitting in his house … this car falls out of the sky, and he runs outside to try to rescue the driver," Shapiro said of Marriott, who owns a catering company and operates a snowball stand. "This has been a tragedy."

According to charging documents, investigators checking on the home's structural damage after putting out the fire discovered the marijuana. Hours after the crash that caused extensive damage to the residence and also destroyed Marriott's sport utility vehicle, police returned with a warrant and discovered that "the entire basement was altered and had been converted to facilitate a marijuana grow."

Police said that four rooms were used to grow marijuana, including a "budding room" where 19 plants that stood between 3 and 4 feet tall were found. In Marriott's bedroom, police said they found a 5-gallon bucket containing marijuana leaves and stems. A scale used to weigh the marijuana was found in a desk drawer in Marriott's bedroom, according to documents.

Shapiro declined to say whether Marriott grew the marijuana to sell or use himself, but added, "It's not quite what it appears. We'll present things at sentencing that will put this in a different light."

Though the maximum sentence calls for a five-year prison term and a $15,000 fine, Marriott's attorney said he expects his client to receive a much shorter sentence — somewhere between probation and a year in jail. Assistant State's Attorney Les Gross told Judge Diane O. Leasure that he will ask for a jail term "in the middle of the guidelines" when Marriott is sentenced July 8.

Three other drug-related charges — including possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute — will likely be dropped at sentencing, Gross said.

Marriott, who is free on $15,000 bond, declined to comment.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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