Hung Jury Induces
Prosecutors to Drop Their Pot-Growing Case
May 26, 2001
by David Sommer
A hung jury in a hard-fought trial
over a marijuana charge has prompted prosecutors to drop the matter.
Jesse Prince, a prominent critic of the Church of Scientology, will not be retried on a
misdemeanor charge of having a marijuana plant growing in his back yard.
``I felt like enough of this office's time and expense had been put into the case,'' said
Assistant State Attorney Lydia Wardell, who prosecuted Prince. Wardell said State Attorney
Bernie McCabe approved dismissing the case. Jurors deliberated more than five hours
Thursday before announcing they could not reach a verdict, and Pinellas County Judge
Michael Andrews declared a mistrial.
Afterward, two jurors said it was clear Prince did have a marijuana plant in his back
yard, but they said Scientology's involvement made them wonder whether he had been set up.
An undercover Largo police officer made the arrest in August after being tipped off by a
private detective hired by Scientology.
The private detective acknowledged on the witness stand he was hired to befriend Prince
and get into his home. The detective also repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right
against self-incrimination when asked about his own marijuana use.
Mike Rinder, a member of Scientology's board of directors, said the church hired
detectives to investigate Prince because he has given what the group calls false testimony
in a number of court cases.
Prince is a former high-ranking Scientology official. He is expected to testify against
the group at an upcoming civil trial over liability in the 1995 death of member Lisa
``If I were the state attorney, I would have [dropped the charge against Prince], too.
He's got murderers down there'' to deal with, Rinder said. ``I don't think Bernie McCabe
has the time and resources to keep going after someone for marijuana possession. He'll get
him next time.''