October 06, 2009
CHEYENNE, Wyo. A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced an Oregon woman
to serve 28 months in prison on a conviction stemming from a probe
into drug distribution at last year's Rainbow Family gathering.
U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson in Cheyenne sentenced Vanessa Marie
Griffee, 32, of Eugene, Ore., after she pleaded guilty earlier inthe
day to conspiracy to possess and distribute the hallucinogenic drug LSD.
Two other defendants charged in the probe have been sentenced to
prison time, and a third was scheduled to be sentenced this month.
According to court records, the investigation started when a source
told law enforcement that Wallace Burke, 29, of Durham, N.C., had
said he was distributing LSD at Rainbow Family in western Wyoming.
At the source's request, authorities said, Burke later mailed a
package containing LSD to a post office box maintained by the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration in Cheyenne.
Investigators said that Burke told them that Griffee had been mailing
LSD to him at "post offices that were located near music festivals
and hippie gatherings" for several months. Johnson sentenced him to
10 years in prison.
Both the prosecution and defense urged the judge to go easier on
Griffee, saying she has made strides to turn her life around since
her arrest last year.
Griffee told the judge that she had worked with others who sold LSD
at concerts. She said she made designs on papers used to hold the drug.
"At the time, I don't think I was trying to break the laws," Griffee
said. "At the time, people weren't thinking about it; they were
talking about spiritual missions."
About 7,000 members of the Rainbow Family attended the annual
gathering last summer on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, near Big
Sandy in western Wyoming. It was marked by a clash between members of
the group and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers.
Officers said they fired "pepper balls" at members after they were
pelted with rocks and sticks a charge that several members of the
group have denied.
A report by the Wyoming chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union
issued after the event contended that the Forest Service engaged
insystematic harassment of people who attend Rainbow Family
gatherings on public lands.
Jim Anderson, assistant U.S. Attorney, told the judge that Griffee
would have faced 63 months to 78 months in prison.
He noted that she's been a good mother to her infant daughter and has
taken substance-abuse classes.
Anderson also said the government wouldn't oppose a request from the
defense to reduce Griffee's sentence below guideline requirements.
Defense lawyer Terry Harris told the judge that Griffee had been
heavily involved in drugs. Harris said she resolved to change after
she lost her daughter to Oregon authorities following her arrest on
the drug charges. She now has her daughter back.
Johnson earlier this month sentenced Heather Lane McCoy of Eugene,
Ore., to four years in prison on her conviction of conspiracy to
possess and distribute LSD in the case.
Norman Wayne Metcalf, 30, also of Eugene, Ore., pleaded guilty to
conspiracy to possess and distribute LSD and psilocybin in August. He
was scheduled for sentencing this month.