A Union Mills couple who pleaded guilty to growing marijuana on their farm were given probation before judgment yesterday, which means they could clear the conviction from their records.
Saying he was impressed with their lack of a previous criminal record and apparent display of remorse, Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. offered the sentence to Randy Scott Leidy, 32, and his wife, Carole Jean Leidy, 30.
"I don't feel a jail sentence is necessary in this case," the judge said. "I don't believe we'll be seeing Mr. or Mrs. Leidy in this courtroom again."
Leidy and his wife grinned and looked toward the back of the courtroom at his parents and their child as the judge handed down the sentences.
Mrs. Leidy will serve three years of unsupervised probation. Her husband was ordered to serve five years of unsupervised probation, perform 200 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine.
Should the pair successfully complete probation, the conviction will be expunged. Probation before judgment is often used for first-time, nonviolent offenders.
The Leidys were arrested in September after police found five marijuana plants -- 4 feet to 15 feet tall -- growing on their farm in the 3100 block of Littlestown Pike.
A state police pilot flew a helicopter over the Leidys' property on Sept. 22 and saw a marijuana plant next to some buildings, court records say.
The Carroll County Narcotics Task Force obtained a search warrant and raided the farm the next day. They found plants growing near the home and hanging upside down from rafters in the basement.
Officers also found pipes, two plastic bags laced with drug residue and loaded guns.
When he was arrested, Leidy told police he resorted to growing marijuana because he had not gotten a raise in several years. He worked for the Carroll County government until April, when he was asked to resign as a result of the drug conviction.
He has since been hired by a private business.
"I didn't know exactly what I was getting into," Leidy said yesterday. "I wish I had used a little better common sense."
In March, Leidy pleaded guilty to manufacturing marijuana -- a felony -- and Mrs. Leidy pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. Both crimes carry possible five-year jail sentences and $15,000 fines.
Yesterday, Judge Burns told Leidy -- a seven-year Army veteran -- that he had paid quite a price for his crime already.
"What he has lost -- and he has lost a lot -- is quite a punishment," the judge said.
The couple's attorney, Stephen P. Bourexis, told the judge that his clients were embarrassed, scared and sorry.
"They are extremely nervous, extremely remorseful and prepared to deal with whatever the court feels is necessary," Mr. Bourexis said.
Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III sought some jail time -- he mentioned work-release -- for Leidy.
"I don't think a slap on the wrist and a 'Please don't do this again' is the message we want to send to the community," Mr. Walker told the judge.