Pot patch nets grower 10 years in prison

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By Tim McCarthy

The owner of a Lawrenceburg excavating company accepted a plea bargain and was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in jail for growing 79 marijuana plants and being illegally in possession of controlled substances.

Chris J. Stewart, proprietor of Stewart's Bobcat and Services, initially pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from his Jan. 16 arrest, but withdrew the plea to accept the penalty. Stewart, 37, could have been sentenced to an additional five years and fined up to $10,000 on the marijuana charge if the case had gone to trial and he was found guilty.

Kentucky State Police obtained a warrant to search Stewart's property on Lanes Mill Road after receiving two anonymous tips, one of which was first reported to the Anderson County Sheriff's Office last December and forwarded to narcotics task force. The source claimed to have witnessed Stewart harvesting the marijuana plants and start new plants from seedlings in an extensive artificial light environment.

Upon entering Stewart's home, authorities discovered the plants growing in a hidden room inside a basement closet adjacent to an old cistern, along with equipment and devices cited by the source.

In addition to the marijuana plants, investigating officers confiscated nearly 40 grams of methadone, a Schedule II narcotic, three handguns, six "long" guns, additional bags of pills, timers, tubes, grow lights, ballasts and a ph meter.

According to discovery documents, Stewart told police someone else started growing the plants and he continued to grow them because "it was interesting." He said that the marijuana was grown for his own use and that he did not sell the pot, and that he was addicted to the pills.

Stewart, 37, was convicted of an amended charge of cultivating marijuana, five plants or greater, first offense, and being illegally in possession of a controlled substance, Schedule II narcotic, first offense. He was sentenced to five years on each count to be served concurrently.

Stewart is currently serving his term in the Franklin County Regional Jail.