Kent Co. Officers Turn Down Plea Deal In ‘Pot Butter’ Case

Posted at 10:44 PM, Apr 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-03 06:17:32-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (April 2, 2014) – Four corrections officers suspected of illegally using ‘pot butter’ maintain the substance was for medical use only and they plan to fight the criminal charges in court.

The four, along with two alleged marijuana ‘care-givers,’ were in court on Wednesday, where FOX 17 was able to get a look at a possible deal on the table for everyone involved.

Tim Bernhardt, Brian Tennant, Todd Vandoorne, and Michael Frederick, all with more than 20 years experience at the Kent County Correctional Facility, waived their preliminary hearing.

At a preliminary hearing, the prosecutor has to prove there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. While the defense ,didn’t put forth any argument before the judge, Vandoorne’s attorney Bruce Block said the group is not going to concede anything at this point.

“This is medical use,” Block said of the marijuana allegedly found. “These were people that were medical patients, registered with the state for medical use.”

All four officers were offered the same plea deal from the prosecutor. According to court documents, the deal required the officers to resign and testify:

“If the defendant resigns his employment from the KCCF (Kent County Correctional Facility): Agrees to testify truthfully against any other defendants in this prosecution if necessary and doesn’t file any motions in Circuit Court under the MMMA (Michigan Medical Marijuana Act): Then he may plead to one count of maintaining a drug house. A two year Circuit Court misdemeanor.”

None of the officers accepted to the plea deal in court on Wednesday.

“It’s very routine to waive a preliminary examination, to negotiate, to set deals, to try to figure out each side’s case, because you can usually work out some kind of a better deal,” said Block.

In March, the Kent County Sheriff said officers found a suspicious package in the mail containing ‘pot butter.’ From there, search warrants were issued for the homes of the four corrections officers. That led to the discovery of more ‘pot butter’ and ‘pot brownies,’ leading to the arrests, according to court documents.

Block said the criminal process has already taken a toll on his client. “He’s devastated,” Block said. “When you give 20 some years of your life to an agency, it’s got to be hard when you face this kind of thing where people are talking bad about you. It always hurts.”

Block was the only attorney willing to speak about the case after the hearing. He said the prosecution and the attorneys for the defendants are still negotiating on a deal at this point.