Kauai pot farm helper gets prison time
The first of five defendants who pleaded guilty to participation in a large-scale marijuana-growing operation on state land on Kauai was sentenced in federal court yesterday to three months in prison.
Because of the quantity of drugs involved, Ryan Edward Bihm, 23, could have received a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. He avoided that because he accepted responsibility for his actions and does not have a prior criminal record. The judge also said Bihm did not commit a violent crime and was not the head of the operation.
U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright said he handed down a sentence below the advisory sentencing guideline of 30 to 37 months because Bihm cleaned himself up while on supervised release and because of his limited participation in the operation.
"Mr. Bihm's role was as minimal as I've seen," Seabright said.
Bihm got involved because his father asked him to help him shovel some dirt, said Richard Gronna, Bihm's lawyer.
He was living on Oahu at the time and had been accepted into a master's degree program in ocean resource engineering at the University of Hawaii. He was arrested Aug. 31, the day after he paid his tuition, Gronna said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara said the government has no evidence that Bihm sold any of the marijuana, and that he helped his father, Edward Holland, who also was arrested, on four to six occasions, for only a portion of the growing season.
Seabright also noted that after Bihm tested positive for cocaine use following his release, he enrolled in a drug abuse treatment program at Hina Mauka and has not tested positive since. Seabright also credited Bihm for using his bachelor's degree in math from Hawaii Pacific University to tutor underprivileged kids through his employment with Tutor Hawaii.
State and federal officials captured Bihm, his father, brother Robert Jason Bihm, sister-in-law Melissa Ann Bihm and Mark Steven Darling on videotape cultivating, harvesting and smoking marijuana in July and August at the foot of Mount Waialeale past the end of Kuamoo Road.
Federal officials seized 5,922 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of about $5.9 million.
The rest of the defendants are scheduled to be sentenced next month.