Hung jury induces prosecutors to drop their pot-growing case
by DAVID SOMMER
May 26, 2001
A hung jury in a hard-fought trial over a marijuana charge has prompted
prosecutors to drop the matter.
Jesse Prince, a prominent critic of the Church of Scientology, will not be
retried on a misdemeanor charge of having a marijuana plant growing in his
``I felt like enough of this office's time and expense had been put into the
case,'' said Assistant State Attorney Lydia Wardell, who prosecuted Prince.
Wardell said State Attorney Bernie McCabe approved dismissing the case.
Jurors deliberated more than five hours Thursday before announcing they could
not reach a verdict, and Pinellas County Judge Michael Andrews declared a
Afterward, two jurors said it was clear Prince did have a marijuana plant in
his back yard, but they said Scientology's involvement made them wonder
whether he had been set up.
An undercover Largo police officer made the arrest in August after being
tipped off by a private detective hired by Scientology.
The private detective acknowledged on the witness stand he was hired to
befriend Prince and get into his home. The detective also repeatedly invoked
his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when asked about his own
Mike Rinder, a member of Scientology's board of directors, said the church
hired detectives to investigate Prince because he has given what the group
calls false testimony in a number of court cases.
Prince is a former high-ranking Scientology official. He is expected to
testify against the group at an upcoming civil trial over liability in the
1995 death of member Lisa McPherson.
``If I were the state attorney, I would have [dropped the charge against
Prince], too. He's got murderers down there'' to deal with, Rinder said. ``I
don't think Bernie McCabe has the time and resources to keep going after
someone for marijuana possession. He'll get him next time.''