Saturday, December 01, 2012
Roanoke County man pleads guilty to growing marijuana for pain relief
Victor Layman, who has a prior cultivation conviction, said this crop was for pain relief.
Victor Layman, who ran an elaborate indoor marijuana-growing operation in the 1990s, admitted Friday that after his release from prison, he cultivated another crop.
But this time, he maintains, it was for a much different reason.
Layman was growing the herb for medicinal use to help him cope with hip and knee replacements and other health problems, his attorney said during a hearing in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.
"He was in a great deal of pain ... and that basically was the reason," Robert Rider said.
Federal prosecutors had charged Layman, 57, with growing 132 marijuana plants at his Roanoke County mountain home off Enchanted Lane. Under a plea agreement reached Friday, Layman was convicted of the lesser offense of manufacturing a measurable amount of the drug.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Bassford said the young, 6-inch-tall plants were "not a terribly great amount."
In 1996, Layman was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison for growing marijuana in about a dozen homes that appeared from the outside to be occupied, but in fact were sophisticated "grow houses" filled with high-powered lights, irrigation systems and other growing equipment.
The high-potency pot that Layman dealt, known on the street as Phototron, got its name from a type of device used in grow houses.
A real estate agent at the time, Layman was also an amateur horticulturist who used his expertise to cross-breed and clone marijuana plants.
Layman and about a dozen other people were charged in what police said at the time was the largest indoor marijuana-growing operation ever broken up in Western Virginia.
This time, Rider said, there was no evidence that Layman was selling the plants he grew in a hangar next to a helicopter pad on the property he rented.
There were at least 10 varieties of marijuana among the 132 plants, which Rider said showed that his client was experimenting to find the most effective pain reliever.
Although the plea agreement reached Friday calls for a sentence of 30 months, it's possible the term could be reduced when Layman is sentenced later. He was allowed to remain free on bond.
Layman's most recent growing operation came to the attention of police in April 2010, Bassford said in court Friday.
After getting information that a missing child, a distant relative of Layman's, might be at his home, police paid him a visit.
Layman allowed police to search the premises for the child, who was later found safe in a different location.
A police officer who walked into the helicopter hangar on Layman's property was met by the strong odor of marijuana, Bassford said. After obtaining a search warrant, authorities seized the marijuana.
On Friday, as with every guilty plea in federal court, Layman was asked to describe in his own words what he did.
"I had some marijuana plants in my garage," the defendant told Judge James Turk.
"And did you know they were marijuana?" Turk asked. "You didn't think they were some kind of flower, did you?'
"No sir," Layman replied. "I knew they were marijuana."