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Colorado pot grower sentenced to prison

7:20 AM, Jan 29, 2011   |    comments
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Christopher Bartkowicz was sentenced to five years in prison and eight years supervised probation on Friday. Judge Phillip Brimer accepted the five-year prison term which was part of a plea deal Bartkowicz reached with prosecutors.

The sentence was described by prosecutors as "sufficient" but not greater than necessary.

"The five-year sentence is appropriate and proportionate given the circumstances of this specific crime," U.S. Attorney John Walsh said in a written statement.

Walsh's office declined a request from 9NEWS for an on-camera interview.

Supporters of Bartkowicz told 9NEWS they were disappointed with the penalty, but say it was better than the alternative. Bartkowicz could have spent the rest of his life in prison had he risked going to trial.

"Chris really didn't feel like he was doing anything wrong," Lannette Johnson, a medical marijuana user, said. "[Chris] lost his livelihood. He lost everything because the DEA stepped in."

She and a dozen others protested outside of the federal courthouse where the sentencing hearing was held.

"This is frightening. It's frightening for anybody who is involved in the medical marijuana industry in Colorado," she added.

Also included in the sentence Friday, Bartkowicz was banned from owning a gun and barred from using drugs or alcohol during his supervised probation. He will be subjected to drug testing and substance abuse treatment during his probation, Brimer ruled.

Bartkowicz has 14 days to appeal the sentence.

Bartkowicz had pleaded guilty to three drug charges after federal drug agents raided his Highlands Ranch home last February and seized hundreds of pot plants growing in his basement.

The raid came after 9Wants to Know promoted a story in which Bartkowicz talked about how much money he would make growing pot under Colorado's medical marijuana law.

Critics of the arrest have long said that Bartkowicz only became a target once he decided to go public with his story. They also say there are likely hundreds of other people doing very similar things but have chosen to remain under the radar.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with The Associated Press)

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