A Boulder judge this afternoon didn't buy a California pilot's claim that the 55 pounds of pot he flew into Boulder Municipal Airport earlier this year was fresh inventory for a local medical marijuana facility and imposed a fine of $10,000 and two years probation as punishment.
"I think you were dealing," Boulder District Judge Thomas Mulvahill told defendant Carl Steven Gruber as he handed down his sentence from the bench. "I'm not convinced this was a benevolent transfer of medical marijuana to Colorado. I hear that explanation and my eyebrows go way up."
Gruber's attorney said his client, a professional pilot who flies in air shows and for the film industry, inadvertently caught the attention of the Department of Homeland Security and was swept up in a drug smuggling investigation.
"It seems like Homeland Security was tracking the wrong plane, and they got lucky," said lawyer David Moorhead. "He didn't think it was legal, but he didn't think it was that big a deal to transport pot to a medical marijuana dispensary."
An arrest report in the case stated that Boulder police received a request from the Department of Homeland Security to assist with a suspicious plane that had landed at the Boulder Municipal Airport in late January.
Mulvahill significantly reduced the $25,000 fine the prosecution was seeking after Moorhead told him his client was "destitute" and that Gruber's plane, which provided him with his livelihood, had been seized.
"Money is very, very tight," Moorhead said. "He's not going to be able to pay a $25,000 fine."
Gruber, 46, admitted to the judge that what he did on Jan. 28, the day police arrested him at Boulder Municipal Airport with 55 pounds of pot on board his plane, was a "big mistake." He said he lost his house in California and now lives in a trailer there.
"It has cost me everything I've worked for," he said.
Gruber was originally charged with possession of between five and 100 pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of more than 12 ounces of marijuana. In October, he pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of distributing less than five pounds of the drug, while prosecutors dismissed the more serious counts.
Prosecutor Karen Peters said this afternoon that her office decided against seeking jail time for Gruber because he didn't appear to be in possession of marijuana for his own use.
"From my understanding of the pre-sentence investigation, he's not an addict -- he's more of a businessman," she said. "I think the focus should be on taking away the profit."
She said a $25,000 fine seemed like a reasonable estimate of the profit level on what police said was an illegal cargo valued at $165,000 in Gruber's plane.
Mulvahill said Gruber could complete his probation in California. ___
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