Despite a passionate argument from his defense counsel, a Marietta man also facing Social Security fraud charges was sentenced to eight months confinement for possession of marijuana by Washington County Common Pleas Judge Ed Lane Wednesday morning.
Marvin Hodges, 66, of 1322 Colegate Drive, Marietta, pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of possession of marijuana on April 30.
Fifth-degree felonies carry a maximum possible sentence of 12 months confinement.
KEVIN PIERSON The Marietta Times
Marvin Hodges, left, is taken into custody by Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Roger Doak, right, after being sentenced to serve eight months in prison for a drug charge by Judge Ed Lane Wednesday morning.
The sentence against Marvin Hodges came six days after his wife, Patricia, 64, was sentenced to serve six months in prison for a related charge.
In November 2011 the couple was arrested after police discovered a marijuana growing operation at the Colegate Drive home.
Throughout the proceedings, both of the Hodges maintained the marijuana was being used to alleviate pain for Patricia Hodges, who is undergoing treatment for Stage 3 lung cancer.
Timeline of the case
November 2011 - Marvin Hodges, 66, of 1322 Colegate Drive, was arrested along with his wife, Patricia, 64, for illegally cultivating marijuana. The marijuana was discovered when U.S. Social Security Administration officials contacted Marietta Police to verify the welfare of Janet Kelly, Patricia Hodges' mother, for whom the couple was receiving benefits.
December 2011 - Marvin and Patricia Hodges were implicated in a Social Security fraud investigation. Kelly's body was found in Florida.
April 27, 2012 - Patricia Hodges pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree felony count of cultivation of marijuana.
April 30, 2012 - Marvin Hodges pleaded guilty to a fifth-degree felony count of possession of marijuana.
June 7, 2012 - Patricia Hodges was sentenced by Judge Ed Lane to serve six months in prison for the cultivation of marijuana charge.
Wednesday - Marvin Hodges was sentenced to serve eight months in prison for possession of marijuana by Lane.
Still to come - Charges against the couple for Social Security fraud are pending in the Southern District of Ohio federal court.
Source: Washington County Prosecutor's office; U.S. Office of the Inspector General.
"I think he's being punished for being a good husband and trying to seek any alternative for not seeing his wife in pain," said Hodges' attorney, Brian Joslyn.
Joslyn argued that the marijuana was intended for medicinal purposes, and that the couple had researched ways to use it to compensate for the pain Patricia Hodges endured while undergoing chemotherapy.
Lane disputed the concept of using the drug to treat the cancer.
"I can't understand why, if you have lung cancer, you would smoke anything," Lane said.
Joslyn explained the couple were cooking the marijuana into food products for ingestion, and were not smoking it.
Most of the marijuana discovered in the home was also aged, and no longer fit to be smoked, he said.
Still, the past criminal history of the couple indicated a pattern of drug addiction, Lane said.
"Drug addicts are always looking for a reason to take drugs, and I think cancer has just given them another option," Lane said.
Both Marvin and Patricia Hodges have extensive criminal backgrounds, having served time on federal charges.
In April 1975, Marvin Hodges was convicted of burglary and seven months later he participated in a bank robbery in North Miami Beach, Fla., for which he received a 10-year sentence.
The pre-sentence investigation report indicated an additional bank robbery committed by Marvin Hodges, but Joslyn contested the second incident was the initial offense committed in November 1975.
"They both had extensive criminal histories," said Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Amy Graham. "I'm not surprised they both got prison sentences."
The fact that Marvin Hodges received more time for a fifth-degree felony than Patricia Hodges, who pleaded to a fourth-degree felony charge, surprised both Joslyn and Graham.
Joslyn said he felt the court made the determination that Marvin Hodges was the primary offender, despite a letter from Patricia stating her husband was simply an accomplice.
The scenario is a common one indicating the need for legalized medicinal marijuana, said Joslyn, who is working on the case pro bono.
"I think this is a lesson that while you shouldn't self-medicate with any drug, our resources are very limited for those having debilitating diseases like cancer," Joslyn said. "These people are simply seeking options to aid their sickness."
Jeff Ferguson, the landlord of the Colegate Drive home where the Hodges were staying, said another result of the sentence will be that the dog and cat who were the Hodges' pets will likely have to be euthanized as he cannot care for them.
"Sometimes people don't realize the practical life considerations in a token sentence like this," Ferguson said.
The case came about after officials with the U.S. Social Security Administration contacted the Marietta Police Department to perform a welfare check on Patricia Hodges' mother, Janet Kelly, for whom the couple was receiving benefits.
By federal statute, the welfare of any person older than 103 receiving social security benefits must be verified.
Since Social Security Administration officials were having trouble confirming Kelly's well being, police became involved.
At the house, police witnessed the marijuana growing operation. Further investigation determined that Kelly was deceased, and on Dec. 9 investigators in Florida located a body based on information received from the Marietta Police Department. No foul play is suspected in Kelly's death, police said.
The Hodges were believed to have received social security benefits for up to 20 years after Kelly's death, according to police.
Charges for social security fraud are now pending against the couple in the U.S. Southern District of Ohio federal court, according to the U.S. Office of the Inspector General.