A federal judge on Friday ordered a Lewiston man held without bail on charges that he ran a large-scale marijuana trafficking operation that was the focus of high-profile raids this week.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John H. Rich III said that Richard “Stitch” Daniels’ extensive criminal history, which includes a previous felony drug-trafficking conviction and a recent assault, made him a danger to society.
“It is a lengthy criminal history that continued up to the last 12 months, both of violence, drug trafficking and failing to comply with conditions of release,” Rich said in U.S. District Court in Portland.
Daniels was arrested Tuesday after federal, state and local law enforcement agents executed more than 20 search warrants in the Lewiston-Auburn area, targeting what the U.S. Attorney’s Office said is a drug-trafficking organization that grew and distributed large quantities of marijuana under the cover of Maine’s medical marijuana program, including to out-of-staters.
The organization also grew marijuana as a precursor for the illegal manufacture of marijuana concentrates known as butane hash oil and “shatter,” a product made from butane hash oil, according to court papers.
Police seized about 50 kilograms — roughly 110 pounds — of marijuana at a home on Danville Corner Road in Auburn and at a warehouse at 1830 Lisbon St. in Lewiston. Also seized were six Mason jars of butane hash oil and a kilogram of shatter.
The enforcement action involving marijuana is the third in less than two months by U.S. Attorney Halsey B. Frank, whose boss, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, repealed an Obama administration policy that said the federal government would not pursue marijuana possession cases in most circumstances.
Daniels, 52, is accused of operating a laboratory out of a garage at 1310 Sabattus St. in Lewiston, which is across the driveway from his home at 1302 Sabattus. He has been charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and manufacturing a controlled substance. Rich said that each count carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Police also arrested Brian J. Bilodeau, 33, of Auburn in the raids.
Bilodeau, an accomplished amateur golfer and a regular competitor in the Maine Amateur, has been charged with illegal possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking and possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He did not enter a plea when he appeared in court Wednesday. His detention hearing is expected to take place early next week.
Daniels entered the courtroom Friday wearing a yellow jumpsuit and blue jacket with “CCJ” on the back. With his hands and feet shackled, he turned to his family members, mouthing the words, “I love you.”
His stepdaughter, Shawn Bielawski, volunteered to be Daniels’ third-party custodian if the court allowed him to be released on bail, saying she would not hesitate to contact the court if he violated any conditions it imposed.
Under questioning from attorney David Joyce, who represented the U.S. government, Bielawski said she was a medical marijuana patient, but she had never seen any more than a pound of marijuana at her dad’s home. She also said that neither she, nor her boyfriend, had ever helped Daniels make, sell or deliver any “dabs,” which is another term for shatter.
But it was Daniels’ extensive criminal history, coupled with the seriousness of the most recent charges, that was at the heart of Joyce’s argument that Daniels be held without bail.
Joyce said Daniels’ criminal history dates back to when he was 19 years old. The only break was when Daniels served a 12-year sentence for drug trafficking, he said.
“Clearly, this sentence has done little to deter his ways and he has continued his criminal conduct,” he said. “This is someone who is involved in a significant operation and it’s not something that is a one-time lapse in judgment.”
Joyce also alluded to Daniels’ behavior while being taken into custody as being a concern, but it was not described in detail.
Defense attorney Neal Stillman, however, argued that Daniels was not a flight risk, since he was born and raised in the Lewiston area. He noted that Bielawski had testified that she was unemployed, but currently studying to be a veterinarian technician online, so she would be able to keep tabs on her stepfather.
“Her demeanor is such that a certain degree of confidence and trust can be placed on her,” Stillman said. “I suggest that she’s a trustworthy individual and forms a good basis for releasing the defendant.”
After the judge ordered Daniels to be held without bail, the defendant looked over his shoulder as he was led out of the courtroom and asked his family if his cat was OK.
The cat was fine, they assured him.
Sun Journal Staff Writer Christopher Williams contributed to this report.
Authorities raid the property of Richard Daniels just off outer Sabattus Street in Lewiston on Tuesday afternoon. (Sun Journal file photo)