The second of two brothers charged with running what police called the biggest marijuana ring in Anne Arundel County history pleaded guilty to drug charges yesterday in Circuit Court in a plea agreement that could set him free in a slightly more than two years.
James Mitchell Emory, 50, of Pasadena pleaded guilty to charges of marijuana importation and to distribution of 50 pounds or more of marijuana before Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr. Judge Goudy sentenced him to 15 years on the importation count and a concurrent five-year term for distribution. Defendants in Maryland are eligible for parole after a quarter of their sentence.
Emory, who was given credit for the time served since his arrest on Oct. 29, 1992, has served 32 months of the 60-month term that is mandatory with a conviction for distribution of 50 pounds or more of marijuana. That means Emory will be eligible for parole in 28 months.
Emory and his brother, Roger L., 46, of Glen Burnie were convicted of drug kingpin charges in 1993 after a jury found they supervised an operation responsible for having 300 pounds of marijuana in storage lockers in Glen Burnie and Pasadena.
James Emory was sentenced to 25 years in prison and Roger Emory was given 20 years, but their convictions were overturned in September by the Court of Special Appeals.
But before being retried, Roger Emory pleaded guilty May 26 before Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. to possession with intent to distribute 50 pounds or more of marijuana and two counts of committing illegal financial transactions.
In exchange, prosecutors agreed to recommend a maximum term of 14 years and seven months and would not require him to testify against his brother.
James Emory would have been sentenced to a mandatory 20 years without parole if convicted of drug kingpin charges.
State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said his office decided to accept the plea to the lesser charges because of concerns about the health of Lawrence Leiben, a key witness. Mr. Leiben testified against Emory in the first trial, but since has undergone triple bypass surgery.
"We had a sick witness for one thing, and second trials are not the kinds of things that are all that easy to pursue," Mr. Weathersbee said.
Attorney Clarke F. Ahlers of Columbia, hired by James Emory for his second trial, said the state's case also was hurt by pretrial rulings requiring prosecutors to disclose to jurors the deals they made with Mr. Leiben to get him to testify.
That deal included allowing Mr. Leiben, originally indicted as a drug kingpin, to plead to a lesser drug count, go free, keep his Porsche and the $50,000 knife collection that could have been confiscated as drug proceeds, Mr. Ahlers said.
"Our plan was to let the jury hear all that," he said. "We thought the jury would be appalled by that."
Mr. Ahlers said evidence also would have shown his client was only one of eight people involved in the ring, that he played no greater part than any other, and that none of them was convicted as a kingpin. Also, the storage lockers used to keep the marijuana were not leased in James Emory's name, he said.
"When he was caught he had three grams of marijuana and $12,500 in cash," he said. "That's not a kingpin case. I think it was a very responsible plea for both sides."
In 1992, the case gained attention because James Emory's wife, Patricia Emory, then was principal of Severna Park Elementary School. Charges against her were dropped.