One defendant in a honey oil manufacturing case opted to take a plea agreement Thursday in Nevada County Superior Court, while his co-defendant opted to move ahead and was held to answer on his charges.
Michael Lee Hale pleaded no contest to manufacturing hash oil in connection with an April arrest where he and Devin Kyle Jensen were reportedly found making honey oil in the carport of a Ridge Road residence.
He also pleaded no contest to a second charge of manufacturing hash oil, stemming from an arrest less than a week later, when he was pulled over on a traffic stop.
Hale reportedly told the deputy who pulled him over that he was driving on a suspended license.
The deputy subsequently smelled marijuana in the vehicle, and Hale admitted to having some pot in the back seat and a bong in the trunk.
A search reportedly revealed a cardboard box in the back seat with items used to make honey oil and several individually wrapped brownies that reportedly tested presumptive positive for marijuana.
Hale, who faced a possible maximum sentence of 10 and a half years on both cases, took the plea agreement in return for 240 days in jail and three years probation. He is set for sentencing Aug. 18.
Jensen opted against taking a plea agreement, paving the way for a preliminary hearing into the evidence against him.
Nevada County Sheriff’s Deputy Michael Vingom testified that he was on patrol April 20 at about midnight when he spotted exterior lights on at the residence, as well as two people crouched down near vehicles in carport area.
“I could not see what they were doing,” Vingom said, adding that he turned his vehicle around to investigate.
When Vingom pulled up in front of the driveway, the two people “looked up, grabbed some items and disappeared around the corner,” he said.
“I wasn’t certain if they were stealing car parts … or what the deal was.”
Vingom testified that he saw several butane canisters scattered around the carport, as well as the odor of marijuana.
He also said he saw a Pyrex dish with clear liquid that still had some steam emitting from it, as well as stained coffee filters.
Jensen and Hale subsequently came out from a granny unit, and Jensen appeared “extremely nervous,” Vingom said.
“I made a comment (that) it looks like I caught you at a bad time, making honey oil,” he said. “He admitted that was indeed what they were doing.”
Jensen said he had taken a box with an extraction device and stashed it behind the back fence to the property, Vingom testified.
When he retrieved the box, he said he found the extraction tube, more stained coffee filter and marijuana shake.
Jensen claimed it was the first time he had made honey oil, but Hale said they had made it on “numerous” occasions, Vingom said.
Jensen’s attorney, Jennifer Granger, argued there was no evidence that what was contained in the Pyrex dish was honey oil, since there was only a presumptive test and it was not sent to the lab.
“Even for the purposes of the preliminary hearing, they haven’t satisfied the evidentiary standard that is required,” Granger said.
“They haven’t met their burden that what was being manufactured was hash oil. They can’t rely on the alleged admission of my client.”
Judge C. Anders Holmer disagreed. The pertinent language in the criminal code, he said, involved the manufacture of any schedule-one controlled substance, which includes marijuana.
“So the question is, on the basis of the evidence, has the defendant manufactured a cannabinoid?” Holmer said. “The answer is abundantly yes.”
Jensen was subsequently held to answer on that charge as well as a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, and is set for formal arraignment Aug. 4.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4229.