Sentencing postponed in Nevada County marijuana cultivation case |

Sentencing postponed in Nevada County marijuana cultivation case

The sentencing for a San Juan Ridge man who had pleaded guilty to federal money-laundering and marijuana cultivation charges has been postponed yet again — this time to Jan. 23.

It has been a lengthy legal journey for Charles Miller Hilkey Jr., whose charges date back to a September 2009 arrest.

A multi-agency raid on a number of properties owned by Hilkey uncovered more than 6,000 marijuana plants, 135 pounds of processed marijuana and $200,000 in cash.

Hilkey was the leader of a “significant” marijuana operation and “structured” various financial transactions with some of the money made selling marijuana in order to avoid financial reporting requirements under federal law.

He structured at least $859,000 in numerous transactions with one or more domestic financial institutions, usually post offices in Nevada County, according to court documents.

Since his indictment more than three years ago, Hilkey has been represented by five different attorneys, according to a review of court documents.

Hilkey pleaded guilty in February of this year to conspiring with others to cultivate marijuana and to structuring financial transactions to avoid federal reporting requirements. He agreed to forfeit approximately 25 different properties in Oregon and California with a combined value of more than $2.1 million, as well as more than $90,000 in cash. A potential sentence of 57 to 71 months was expected to be reduced in exchange for the forfeiture.

But his sentencing — which had been continued due to counsel’s objections to certain items in the pre-sentence report — ran into a new snag when he was arrested Oct. 16 for allegedly violating his release conditions. That detention led to his hiring a new attorney and a further delay of proceedings.

According to Hilkey’s new attorney, William Portanova, the government had alleged that Hilkey had been growing marijuana on two separate properties. Portanova argued that one of the properties, on Patterson Mine Road, had been forfeited to the government and was no longer under Hilkey’s control. The other property, on Tyler Foote Crossing Road, belongs to Siegfried and Sherry Knoll, who are growing medical marijuana.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Beckwith subsequently withdrew the government’s motion to detain Hilkey but maintained that Hilkey is currently involved in growing marijuana.

“The government made a tactical decision to withdraw its motion to revoke pre-trial release in order to protect the identity of its informant,” he wrote.

Hilkey was set for sentencing Nov. 6, but Portanova successfully argued to have that date re-scheduled to late January.

According to Portanova, Hilkey hired him because his previous attorney was on trial in Southern California at the time of his detention.

He added that because he had been only recently retained, he had not yet received the former attorney’s file or any discovery from the government and, therefore, needed more time to prepare for sentencing.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email or call (530) 477-4229.

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