Michael Pelletier

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“A life sentence, is worse than a death sentence!!! A death sentence you die once!!!
A life sentence you die a little every day!!!!”

Michael Pelletier, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair since he was eleven years old, was convicted of a non-violent marijuana conspiracy charge and sentenced to life without parole.  He has been incarcerated since 2006, with no hope of freedom unless he receives presidential clemency.

Drug War Stories contacted Michael, who responded to our questions and shared his story and thoughts.  The following are Michael’s own words, with editing for grammar and clarity:

“At the age of 11, I got run over by a tractor on my parent’s potato farm.  I’m a level T – 7 paraplegic.
I’m now 60 years old.”

Michael-Pelletier-300x300I was born in Canada, Edmunston New Brunswick in 1956, January 31.  I’m the fourth out of 10 kids, six girls and four boys.  I was raised in Madawaska Maine, on the long lake shore, on a 125 acre potato farm.  At the age of 11, I got run over by a tractor on my parent’s potato farm.  I’m a level T – 7 paraplegic.  I’m now 60 years old.

At the age of 15, I started to smoke cannabis, and I realized that it helped me to cope with life better.  Plus, it helped me with bladder spasms.  I was taking a pill for bladders spasms called Oxybutynin, still is Oxybutynin they recommend, (BUT) the side effects of oxybutynin are diarrhea.  Being a paraplegic, diarrhea is the worst!  Marijuana became my friend, and helped me cope with depression, spasms, and kept me motivated.

In 1977 I graduated from the Bulova School of Watchmaking in New York City.  Then I graduated from the Stewart’s International school of advanced diamond setting in 1980.  I’ve worked in the jewelry field ever since, on and off.  Now being incarcerated, I started doing oil paintings.  My father always instilled in me [the conviction] to never give up.  My father was in World War II, two of my sisters were in the Marines.

Living in Madawaska Maine, I didn’t have access to a good grade of cannabis, but across the border in Canada, they had a very good quality of cannabis.  Sharing my personal stash became the problem.  My friends wanted what I was able to get, and that’s the start of me being incarcerated in the federal system for life.  A conspiracy allows snitches to say whatever they want to get a reduced sentence for themselves!!  In my case the snitches lied and made me look like a kingpin.  I had two priors, a 6 ounce conviction, which the state said was around a pound.  And another one, a snitch and thief, for 4 pounds.  Then this third one, conspiracy with not even a gram, nothing but lies!!

“At the age of 15, I started to smoke cannabis, and I realized that it helped me to cope with life better.”

It destroyed the family, everything from losing their respect from society, shame of what their brother’s accused of, and making it hard to keep their jobs, definitely not a plus on their behalf!  My father is 90 years old, he can’t believe I’m incarcerated for a plant that now most of the US has it legal, even medical.

Worse, it made me feel like a killer at the time. My family didn’t know what society finally knows now!  That at such a young age, I was right about cannabis.

Today, I feel the respect from my family, that I [had] before my time with this cannabis.  [It has] medical uses and [it] helped me to cope with my situation.

“the snitches lied and made me look like a kingpin …
conspiracy with not even a gram, nothing but lies!!”

Clearly, a manifest miscarriage of justice occurred by convicting and sentencing me for importing and distributing over 1000 kg of marijuana.  The amount could not have exceeded a few hundred pounds, if one accepts the trial testimony of various government witnesses as being truthful.  Anything less than 1000 kg would have eliminated a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release.

Prosecutors are clothed with discretion when making a decision as to the offenses to be charged against the accused.  Clearly, there was a total failure on the part of federal prosecution to exercise that discretion against me.  I was not deserving of such a draconian sentence on marijuana offenses.  Regardless, federal prosecutors coerced and bribed witnesses in order to extract from them trial testimony that the quantity of marijuana exceeded 1000 kg.

“I was not deserving of such a draconian sentence on marijuana offenses.”

The record from my trial clearly demonstrates that [the] marijuana exceed[ing] 1000 kg was greatly disputed.  I would not have received the sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of release had the quantity been less than 1000 kg.  However, prosecutors coerced witnesses to exaggerate the amounts involved in order to reach the 1000 kg mark.

It was from Adam Hafford’s aforesaid testimony that the trial court extrapolated that I was guilty of importing and distributing over 1000 kg of marijuana.

The court relied on the sole testimony of Adam Hafford.  In a related and subsequent proceeding, United States v. Pascucci, 664 F. Supp.2d, 128, 135 (D. ME. 2009), [the] court, having become more familiar with the overall case and Adam Hafford, stated in pertinent part: “the court is reluctant to rest its findings on Mr. Hafford’s testimony alone.”  The irony of the statement is that the court was referring to the drug quantity determination in the case.  The judge was forced to rely on the accusations of the ex-felon because no marijuana was found on my premises, or on my person.  Therefore, all evidence was purely circumstantial.

“no marijuana was found on my premises, or on my person.”

In addition to the marijuana offenses, I was charged and convicted of defrauding the Social Security Administration because of not reporting alleged marijuana sales.  Based in my paralysis, I was drawing disability benefits.  Consequently, I was convicted of defrauding Social Security once the jury found me guilty on the marijuana charges.  I’m accused of furnishing medical marijuana to the co-defendants.

What I don’t understand is, I was 11 years old when I got run over by a tractor.  Since I never was old enough to work and pay Social Security, I was only allowed $480 a month??  But the federal [government] is spending close to $50,000 a year to keep me incarcerated.  If they would have allowed me that much in the outside world, I would never found myself in prison for life!!!!

I had a lady with three children. When the prosecutor said to the jury that I was bilking the system, I couldn’t believe it.  How was I bilking the system, when I was only getting $480 per month?  I had lost my food stamps in the 80s due to a cannabis charge which I surely missed.  I worked since 1977 on and off in the jewelry.  My parents gave me three properties [and] they bought me a few new vehicles through my life.  They would help me with money when needed.  I invested in real estate since my teens.  I’m 60 years old, not 16.  What the government called luxury, ATV, snowmobile, WaveRunner, are my legs. With them I was able to go ice fishing, hunting etc.  I should have been given some kind of award for trying to work my way off the welfare, not trying to stay on it …

I’ve taken oil painting, computer classes, and I shoot a lot of pool, play guitar. Being confined to a wheelchair, I’m not able to get a job to pass the time and make money like the rest! There is no sports for anyone confined to a wheelchair.

“Being confined to a wheelchair, I’m not able to get a job to pass the time and make money like the rest!
There is no sports for anyone confined to a wheelchair.”

PelletierWC

A life sentence, is worse than a death sentence!!! A death sentence you die once!!! A life sentence you die a little every day!!!!

Every time you don’t follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of power, a sense of spiritual that this period

“To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”

We can’t retract our past decisions, we can only rectify our future!

“A life sentence, is worse than a death sentence!!! A death sentence you die once!!!
A life sentence you die a little every day!!!!”

 In addition to other materials Michael sent us, he included a newspaper clipping from The Bangor Daily News, State Section, dated July 17, 2007, titled “Drug smuggler says he lied to grand jury”.

The article describes how the star witness in Pelletier’s case, Adam Hafford, admitted that he exaggerated the amount of marijuana he smuggled into the county.

According to the article, in exchange for his testimony against Pelletier, and others, Hafford’s sentence on a gun charge was reduced by five years and he was granted immunity from prosecution for drug activities.

hafford-news-clip

There is something truly wrong with the system when conspiracy drug convictions can rely solely on the testimony of co-defendants who have received immunity or reduced sentences for their testimony.  It is a system that encourages prosecutorial abuse and promotes rampant injustice when often far more culpable testifiers walk free in a matter of a few short years while others are condemned to a life in prison!  Michael Pelletier should be granted clemency and be freed!

Michael noted that he has filed for clemency, with the help of organizations such as Amy Povah’s Can-Do Foundation and Beth Curtis’s Life for Pot website, and he awaits a decision.  In the meantime, please sign Michael’s Change.org petition.

Drug War Stories will continue to follow Michael’s story…