An investigation of more than a month ended Wednesday morning as Faribault County authorities and two officers of a drug task force seized marijuana plants from a rural Kiester residence.
Around 11:15 a.m., Sheriff Mike Gormley, deputies Barry Meyers and Shane Dulac executed a search warrant with the assistance of Corey Farris and Andy Drenth, agents with the South Central Drug Investigation Unit.
Gormley says the type of warrant obtained required them to knock first and identify themselves as law officers.
“They have an opportunity to come to the door and let us in. If they don’t, then we’re going in,” says Gormley.
Authorities needed to kick the front door open to enter the house.
Once inside, officers found 14 marijuana plants growing in a basement room and 18 more in another nearby room.
Taken into custody was 65-year-old Patrick Mich-ael Marley.
He has been charged with one felony count of fifth-degree possession of a controlled substance. The maximum penalty is five years and a $10,000 fine.
On Thursday, Marley made his first court appearance before Judge Douglas Richards.
County Attorney Troy Timmerman requested bail be set at $25,000 or an amount the court determined to be appropriate.
Richards set bail at $25,000 without conditions, $10,000 with conditions or $2,500 cash.
Should Marley be released from jail he must:
• abstain from use of alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a physician;
• submit to random drug testing;
• report to the court any change of address and the name of his attorney.
For posting bail, Marley asked the judge if he could use equity of farmland he owns. Richards suggested he discuss that with a bondsman.
Marley told Richards he’ll have to hire an attorney because he probably does not qualify for a public defender.
Gormley says investigation into the marijuana-growing operation began after receiving a tip.
“We really rely heavily on the public for information. They are our eyes and ears because we can’t be everywhere all the time,” he says. “Any support we get from the public helps us do our job.”
Gormley also lauded the efforts of the drug task force.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve worked with them. We have conducted hand-to-hand operations in the past,” he says.
The SCDUI serves the counties of Faribault, Freeborn, Steele and Waseca, which encompasses 2,287 square miles and 103,000 residents.
According to a court complaint, Meyers obtained electric bills for the residence and they showed usage of nearly four times more than that of a similar size house.
Authorities were able to get a search warrant, says the complaint, to allow thermal imaging of the property. The results indicated marijuana likely was being grown inside the house.
Court documents show authorities confiscated several plastic bags containing a “green” substance, marijuana leaves and stems; grow lights and a sunlight power source; cell phones; drug paraphernalia; and $260 in cash.
Authorities will dry the marijuana leaves and send them to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to obtain an official weight.