East Hawaii News

Resolutions Call Holding of Roger Christie ‘Illegal and Unconstitutional’

February 28, 2013, 1:42 PM HST
* Updated February 28, 1:44 PM
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State lawmakers are weighing in on the nearly three-year-long incarceration of Roger Christie, the Big Island’s best-known marijuana activist.

The Senate today referred to committee two Senate resolutions asking President Obama to launch a formal investigation into whether the federal government is violating Christie’s constitutional rights.

Senate Resolution 12 was co-introduced by six senators, including Big Island Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-Puna) and Sen. Sam Slom of Oahu, the body’s sole Republican. Senate Concurrent Resolution 31 was co-introduced by the same six and two other senators.

The measures, which are identical in wording, state that the holding of Christie is “illegal and unconstitutional,” and call for him to be released immediately.

Christie, a reverend in the Church of Jesus Christ and the THC Ministry, both of which consider use of marijuana a sacrament, has been held in federal detention on Oahu since his indictment along with 13 others in July 2010 for allegedly growing and distributing marijuana.

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The others have been released on bond, but the resolutions note that Christie has been denied bail on the grounds that he is a “danger to the community,” despite not being accused of any acts of violence.

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They also note that Christie has been prominent in efforts to stop marijuana eradication programs known as “Green Harvest,” and was also active in the passage of a ballot initiative approved by Big Island voters in 2008 which directed county police to make personal use of marijuana on private property their lowest enforcement priority. (The future of that is in question following subsequent court rulings that it is unenforceable.)

“… Reverend Christie’s political activities have caused annoyance and embarrassment to the Federal Government leading some Hawaii residents to suggest that his denial of bail is based on his prior political acts rather than any “danger” he poses,” the resolutions state.

The measures cite the eighth amendment of the US Constitution which mandates that “excessive bail shall not be required.”

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They also request that Obama determine whether federal law enforcement personnel could be held “civilly or criminally liable” for Christie’s detention without bail.

The resolutions have been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Judiciary and Labor and the Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs.

No hearings on the measures have yet been scheduled.

Christie has had bail denied seven times, including by a US appeals court. Reasons given by prosecutors at those hearings include Christie’s continued pursuit of marijuana distribution even after those operations were raided by police in March 2010.

Christie was indicted last month by a federal grand jury on additional marijuana charges as well as tax offenses.

His trial, which has been delayed by changes of lawyers and other postponements, is currently scheduled for July 23.

Elliot Enoki, first assistant US district attorney in Hawaii, today declined to comment on the proposed legislation.

“Anything we have to say we’ll address in the criminal judiciary process,” he said.

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