Robertson pleads guilty in pot case

LIHU’E — Three men pleaded guilty to reduced charges that came about after an ‘Oma’o house was searched for marijuana by Kaua’i Police Department officers in March.

Jay S. Robertson, Nathan Prather and David Hibbitt appeared before Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe on Monday to plead guilty to reduced charges. Monday was the day that their jury trial was to have begun.

Robertson and Prather pleaded guilty to third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug. The petty misdemeanor charge carries a maximum of 30 days in prison and $1,000 in fines.

Robertson said he accepted responsibility for having a small amount of marijuana that was found in his house.

His attorney, Daniel Hempey, said that Robertson has been a member of the community for 30-plus years.

“My client suffered greatly at the time of arrest,” said Hempey. He added that the large amount of marijuana allegedly found at his client’s house as reported in The Garden Island twice was not accurate.

Watanabe accepted Robertson’s plea, and sentenced him to pay $180 in fines and fees.

Prather said he accepted responsibility for what he did.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Winn said he received a box containing marijuana from a codefendant on March 15.

Watanabe accepted his guilty plea, and sentenced him to pay $180 in fines and fees.

Watanabe told both men that it was a high-profile case — Robertson is executive director of Ho’ike Kaua’i Community Television, Inc. — and she also noted that they were taking responsibility for their actions.

Hibbitt pleaded guilty to first-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, and he accepted responsibility for his actions.

Deputy prosecutor Winn said that Hibbitt had marijuana sent by mail into the state.

Along with the guilty plea, Hibbitt filed a motion to defer acceptance of his plea.

Watanabe ordered a pre-sentencing investigation, and will take the results into consideration when Hibbitt returns to court on Feb. 23 for sentencing, she said.

After the hearing, Robertson’s attorney, Hempey, said, “We’ve held all along that my client was innocent of the serious charges initially brought and reported against him. Today offers some measure of vindication.”

The three were originally indicted on charges of second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana, a Class-B felony, and with having drug paraphernalia, a Class-C felony.

The Class-B felony carries a maximum time in prison of 10 years, while the Class-C felony carries a maximum time in prison of five years.

According to court records, the three men got plea offers from attorneys in the county Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.

In the offer to Hibbitt, the marijuana charge would be reduced to first-degree promotion of a detrimental drug, which carries a maximum time in prison of five years. Also, the drug-paraphernalia charge would be dropped in exchange for Hibbitt’s guilty plea.

Additionally, attorneys in the county prosecutor’s office would not object if Hibbitt asked for a deferred sentence, nor would they be opposed to probation with appropriate conditions based on a pre-sentencing report, along with no more than 90 days incarceration.

According to the offer to Robertson and Prather, the marijuana count would be reduced to third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug. Also, the drug-paraphernalia charge would be dropped in exchange for their guilty pleas.

Additionally, if Robertson and Hibbitt accepted the plea offer, then they would not have to serve time.

According to court records, on March 15, Robertson’s ‘Oma’o home was searched after KPD officers put a tracking device in a box containing almost 11 pounds of marijuana.

KPD officers found the box in a truck parked at Robertson’s house. But before arriving at Robertson’s house, KPD officers searched two houses first, according to court records.

In September, Hempey filed a motion to have the court declare the search warrant that was executed at Robertson’s home invalid, and that any evidence found not be admitted at trial.

Hempey argued in court papers that the search was based on a March 10, warrant-less search of a box by U.S. Postal officials in California.

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