GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The surviving corrections officer who pleaded guilty to charges related to the discovery of marijuana butter at his home will not face jail but must pay a $10,000 fine and potentially testify against two other officers.
Brian Tennant, a 20-year veteran of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, told a judge Thursday, Dec. 4, that he never meant to break the law.
“I pick up prescriptions for my wife,” Tennant told Kent County Circuit Judge Dennis Leiber. “I believed I was operating within the law.”
Tennant said when police came to his home to arrest him, he assumed they were there because something had happened to one of his children.
Tennant, 45, was arrested at his Wyoming home on March 17, the same night members of the Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team raided the home of Alyssa and Timothy Scherzer and the home of fellow corrections officer Timothy Bernhardt.
The investigation started with a tip from the U.S. Postal Service that marijuana was mailed to the Scherzer home. According to police, pounds of marijuana-infused butter were seized in the course of the investigation.
After detaining Tennant, police arrested Todd VanDoorne and Michael Frederick, both veteran corrections officers.
Police showed up at the Tennants’ home and demanded to see the Michigan medical marijuana card of his wife before they arrested the corrections officer.
Police say Tennant’s wife, Christine Tennant, was a medical marijuana patient under the caregiving of Timothy Scherzer. Brian Tennant does not have a medical marijuana card, according to court records.
“We are extremely disappointed that the sheriff and prosecutor teamed up in a witch hunt to prosecute four distinguished corrections officers who had no idea that marijuana butter had been ruled illegal by the Michigan Court of Appeals in a twisted bit of logic,” said attorney Jeffrey Crampton.
Crampton told the judge that the law is so confusing that it has even frustrated the chief judge of the Michigan Supreme Court. The attorney said the prosecution was not about the law, but about the personal preferences of the sheriff and prosecutor.
“(Tennant) has already paid for it with his job, his pension and his reputation,” Crampton said. “In a month or so, he will lose his license.”
But Leiber countered that as a graduate of the Michigan State University criminal justice program and a longtime officer of the law, Tennant had a heightened responsibility to know and follow the law.
“Is it your position that ignorance of the law is an excuse for a Kent County Sheriff’s Department employee?” Leiber asked.
Assistant Kent County Prosecutor James Benison said that the prosecution was not a witch hunt and that Tennant could potentially avoided problems if he had come to his union representative or someone in the department administration prior to having an admitted having four pounds of marijuana butter in his possession.
Tennant pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug house on Oct. 14, the same plea entered by Bernhardt the same month. However, Bernhardt was found dead in his home Nov. 16.
The Scherzers were also sentenced last month to fines and probation.
VanDoorne and Frederick are appealing a Kent County Circuit Judge Dennis Leiber’s ruling that the late night search and interrogation of the officers without a warrant was proper. The appeal resulted in the delay of the officers’ trial.
E-mail Barton Deiters: [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/GRPBarton or Facebook at facebook.com/bartondeiters.5
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