Carroll judges panel halves sentence for marijuana-rights activist Davis


A panel of Carroll County judges yesterday halved Westminster marijuana-rights activist Pamela Snowhite Davis' two-year prison sentence on a felony drug conviction involving less than an ounce of the drug.

The three-judge panel said they were impressed with the "attitude" Davis displayed before them at a sentence modification hearing Oct. 25. She apologized to the court during her appearance at that hearing.

The judges wrote in their opinion that they "reviewed the defendant's remarks made . . . at both the first trial and before this panel" and "concluded that had she displayed the attitude before Judge [Raymond E.] Beck [Sr.] that she displayed before this panel, her sentence may have been less severe than the one she received."

In April, Judge Beck sentenced Davis to five years in state prison, with all but two years suspended, for her conviction on charges of maintaining a common nuisance, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. A Carroll jury convicted her March 26.

The three-judge panel -- comprised of District Judge Donald M. Smith and Circuit Judges Luke K. Burns Jr. and Francis M. Arnold -- left the five-year sentence intact, but suspended an additional year. They also gave Davis credit for the 56 days she spent in the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women until she was released by an Anne Arundel County judge in June on an appeal bond.

The judges' order also directs Davis to serve the rest of her jail term at the Carroll County Detention Center.

In an emotional plea to the panel, Davis asked for a reduction in her prison sentence to the time she already had served.

Davis and her attorney, Daniel F. Goldstein, told the judges they believed she was being punished for being an outspoken advocate of pro-marijuana legalization. They argued that her sentence was out of proportion to those imposed on other drug offenders and that Judge Beck based his sentencing, in part, on Davis' provocative statements to the press.

She also apologized, something Judge Beck said might have swayed him to change the sentence.

"I am sorry that my beliefs have shocked and offended the senses of the conservative members of this community," she told the judicial panel Oct. 25. "I am sorry that my actions have cost taxpayers money that could have been used for more appropriate community needs. None of this was my intent or purpose."

Yesterday, Davis said she was disappointed at the judges' decision.

"I can't believe that they did this," she said from Terrapin Station, her Silver Run farm that is now up for sale. "I made a mistake in letting myself hope that this sentence hanging over my head would have been ended. Like every disappointment along the way, I'll get over it. But I'm looking forward to finding justice at the appellate level."

Mr. Goldstein said that he, too, was surprised by the judges' decision. "A modification is always better than no modification. But I can't believe they saw fit to impose any incarceration," he said.

Davis has appealed her convictions to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, where a three-judge panel is expected to hear arguments in January.

Regardless of the outcome of her appeal, Davis said she doesn't want to be jailed in Carroll County ever again. She said she would prefer to do her time at Jessup.

"Having spent time in both institutions, I feel I would be safer and looked after better in every way at the department of corrections," she said. "I'm terrified of being incarcerated in Carroll County. I'd rather do two years at The Cut [in Jessup] than a year in Carroll County."

Davis was a little-known Westminster businesswoman until May 1992, when the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force raided Terrapin Station after a police officer, dressed as a United Parcel Service employee, delivered a package from California addressed to the farm. The package contained 1.5 ounces of marijuana.

In the raid, officers found less than an ounce of pot in Davis' night stand, some pro-marijuana literature and a bong, or water pipe. The pot in the package was never recovered because Davis' son ate it.

The so-called "UPS Case" propelled Davis into the public eye and fueled her anti-drug war sentiments. The task force, on the eve of her trial in the UPS case last November, raided her now-closed Westminster counterculture shop, Liberation, and seized more than a pound of dormant marijuana seeds. Judge Burns acquitted her in that case.

Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III, the task force coordinator and the prosecutor in Davis' cases, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

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