John A. Steakely

Attorney John Steakley is a 1996 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law. He began his career as the Special Prosecutor for Drug Crimes for a multi-county, multi-agency drug task force in Tennessee, where he represented the State of Tennessee in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases in a 5-county judicial district.

Gwinnett Marijuana Grow House Searched, Bananas Found

Gwinnett Marijuana Grow House Searched, Bananas Found

A Gwinnett County amateur botanist got a hard lesson in the War on Drugs recently.  Police appeared at his door with "information" that he had a marijuana grow house and a search warrant to boot.  They were determined and rude, harassing the innocent homeowner for a confession to a crime he wasn't committing:  

"They said, 'Just say you had plants and you moved them someplace else.' And I just kept telling them the truth. There was never a marijuana garden here," said Scott Smithwick.

Smithwick has set up high intensity lamps, fans and a watering system in two basement rooms in the Lawrenceville home that he shares with his father. He said he does not grow, sell or smoke marijuana and uses the equipment to cultivate mostly tropical plants and flowers.

"I'm a plant freak. Inside I grow banana plants, orchids, and other tropical plants," Smithwick told Channel 2's Tom Regan.

Smithwick has banana trees growing in his basement in January.  Those aren't plants you can grow outside in Georgia in winter.

Several weeks ago, police went to his home twice, the second time with a search warrant. They said they had information that he was producing marijuana.

Information from whom?  Let's name the person who claims this guy was growing marijuana. Additionally, the police should have corroborated the information before getting the search warrant. It sounds like they skipped that part.

Smithwick said he asked if he could videotape officers while they search his home and was told no.

"The sergeant became extremely hostile. His response was, 'Are you serious? I'll handcuff you and detain you in that chair,'" Smithwick said. "They were convinced I had a marijuana garden in here and had just gotten rid of it."

So a guy who is not under arrest and standing inside his own home can't videotape the police while they search for evidence to use against him?  I think otherwise.  In fact, I think Mr. Smithwick would be a poster child for the claim that he has a Constitutional Due Process right to videotape this search as a way of preserving evidence that may be useful in his defense. 

Smithwick said when police found no marijuana they threatened to arrest him for having equipment and materials that could be used to grow pot.

'The sergeant told me based on (the) fertilizers and the lights in the room, I could be charged with manufacturing marijuana and held without bond and sent to prison," Smithwick said.

Uh, no.  Fertilizer isn't a crime.  Grow lights aren't a crime.  Fertilizer and grow lights together aren't a crime.  Even if he was planning on growing marijuana next week, Georgia courts are clear that "preparing to commit a crime isn't a crime."  Purchasing gasoline isn't arson, even if that's why you're purchasing the gasoline.

Smithwick said the threats and intimidation by investigators amounted to harassment.

When the don't have, you know, actual evidence of a crime, threats and intimidation are all they have left and that's what they fall back on.

"As a member of this community, a taxpayer and a voter, I think I deserve some answers," Smithwick said.

We all do, Mr. Smithwick, but don't expect to get them.  Enjoy your bananas.

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