A Scientology foe is charged with growing pot in his back yard.
A high-ranking member of a group critical of the Church of Scientology was busted last week for having a marijuana plant growing on his pool deck.
Assuming the charge is pressed against Jesse Prince, executive vice president of the Lisa Mcpherson Trust, the main issue at trial is likely to be whether Prince was "cultivating" the marijuana.
To church leader Mike Rinder, Prince's arrest is proof of what he's been saying all along. Rinder calls the leaders of the trust, who contend longtime church member Lisa McPherson died at the hands of evil church operatives, a "pack of criminals that have come into town."
New Hampshire multi-millionaire Bob Minton, who is bankrolling the trust and a lawsuit against the church on behalf of McPherson's family, was recently acquitted of misdemeaner battery in a jury trial. In that incident, Minton admitted shoving the edge of a protest sign into the face of a church official who was filming him at close range with a video camera. A juror said the panel felt Minton was provoked.
Stacy Brooks, president of the McPherson Trust, said the whole scenario of Prince's arrest was "absolutely off the wall."
Prince told her that about a dozen Largo police officers descended on his home during an 8 a.m. raid in which the house was searched, Brooks said.
"It's a little overkill for one little sickly marijuana plant growing out of the bottom of a dead rubber plant," Brooks said. "Only time will tell what got into the Largo police to get them into such a tizzy."
Denis de Vlaming, the lawyer who defended Minton and is now representing Prince, said he is waiting for a chance to view the marijuana plant in question.
"It's too early and I"m not going to lay blame or say he was set up," de Vlaming said. "It wasn't potted in a sense that you plant it and cultivate it."
Largo police spokeswoman Lt. Carla Boudrot acknowledged that a "CI", police slang for a confidential informant, reported that Prince was growing marijuana in his home. The plant was obviusly being cultivated, she said. When questioned by police, "Mr. Prince said it needed a lot of attention." Also, she said, six officers and a supervisor conducted the search.
"We pretty much send the same team" to serve all search warrants, she said. "When you've got guys with guns outside your home they look double, especially when you are in your jammies and you just woke up."