Katie Fretland, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
Wearing a cannabis plant necklace and a long black robe, pro-pot advocate Thorne Peters defended himself on marijuana charges and a gun charge Wednesday in an afternoon punctuated by yelling between him and the judge.
Judge Bobby Carter repeatedly asked Peters to stop editorializing and opining in front of the jury as Peters acted as his own attorney during the first day of testimony in his trial in Shelby County Criminal Court.
“This is not productive,” Carter said.
“I know it’s not,” said Peters, who told The Commercial Appeal he had smoked as much pot as he possibly could on Wednesday.
“And it’s because of you,” Carter said.
“No, it’s because of you,” Peters told the judge, who immediately asked the jury to step out.
“This is your last chance. You are in contempt. You are absolutely in contempt of this court,” Carter said, before telling Peters to stop pulling out documents, stop characterizing them in front of the jury and stop waving them around.
“You have to control yourself,” the judge said.
The first day of testimony was heard in front of a group of a dozen public defenders and prosecutors who watched the trial.
At one point in his discussions with the judge, Peters implored Carter to “swing the gavel and end the siege of prohibition.”
“No, I couldn’t,” Carter said.
“You can,” Peters said.
“No, I couldn’t,” Carter reiterated.
The charges against Peters, who pulled paperwork to run as an independent for Shelby County mayor in the Aug. 2 election, stem from an arrest Feb. 3, 2015 in a search warrant for him at his girlfriend’s address in the 700 block of Marianna Street in Orange Mound.
“I’m proud to be a pot salesman,” he told authorities in a tape played for the jury.
On the day of his arrest, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Narcotics division and the Multi-Agency Gang Unit served a search warrant naming Peters as the suspect, according to a law enforcement affidavit. Detectives approached the residence and cut a lock to the front gate and entered the property.
Two large dogs charged the detectives, according to the affidavit, and a sheriff’s sergeant fired a less lethal shotgun round. A pit bull named Muggles was shot in the face. He lived but lost his right eye and hearing on his right side. None of the officers was injured.
Muggles was shot with a less lethal round in the face by a Shelby County Sheriff’s sergeant while the sheriff’s office Narcotics division and the Multi-Agency Gang Unit executed a search warrant with Thorne Peters as a suspect on Feb. 3, 2015. Muggles lost an eye and hearing on his right side from the shooting. (Photo: Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal)
Detectives then forced entry through the front door of the house. Peters and Linda Harrah were found in the dining room and taken into custody.
The affidavit says a detective searched the front room of the house and found a Gendarmeria Nacional .45 caliber pistol. A plastic baggie of 14.8 grams of suspected marijuana, a wooden pipe, glass pipe and two baggies of marijuana cigarette butts were found in the dining room.
Detective Jeremy Drewery, who has since been terminated from the sheriff’s office and convicted in federal court of unlawfully taking money from a drug dealer in 2016 and trying to have a witness killed, was also part of the search. The affidavit says Drewery searched a northwest bedroom and found three jars of suspected marijuana weighing 339 grams, a digital scale and five glass pipes. He also found $403 in a tin box, the affidavit says.
Drewery searched Harrah’s purse and found $184 which was released back to her, and 4.8 grams of suspected marijuana, according to the affidavit.
All of the suspected marijuana tested positive for THC, according to the affidavit.
Peters, who has represented himself before, has two previous misdemeanor marijuana convictions on his record. Three felony drugs counts were previously dismissed, according to court records.
The trial was still underway late Wednesday afternoon.