The North Texas Aquaponics Meetup Group Message Board › An urgent request to the aquaponic community
Tim Mann and Susanne Friend of Friendly Aquaponics could use a little help. They did a really stupid thing in 2010 (details below) which definitely falls into the category of "I'll bet they never do THAT again". Long story short they were growing pot plants for a man who had been openly selling it as a "religious sacrament" with the full knowledge of local authorities. Of course the federal authorities have "higher power" and they arrived in March of 2010. What Tim and Susanne had been led to believe would only be a minor offense... turned very serious.
They asked for our help, and I have written a note to the judge on their behalf. If you feel inclined I would encourage you to do likewise, I would really hate to see their family broken up over this one offense. Anyway, if you're going to do this, please do it today, Tim told me that the letters need to be received by Wednesday.
Sorry for the short notice, he only informed me of the mailing deadline on Saturday, I thought we had more time than this, since they don't meet with Judge Kobayashi until February 13th.
Thank you for your time and consideration!
Original Letter From Tim Mann and Susanne Friendly of Friendly Aquaponics
In 2008, we had spent almost $200,000 of loan money to build our aquaponics farm, but had not yet generated any income, when we were approached by a man we thought was a minister, Roger Christie, who persuaded us to grow marijuana for his church. Mr. Christie operated “The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry” on the Big Island for almost ten years, with the apparent knowledge of both local and federal authorities, and claimed First Amendment protection for his activities with marijuana.
We knew we were breaking the law, but we were mistaken as to the seriousness. We were naïve and willfully ignorant. With the benefit of hindsight, it was an incredibly stupid decision on our part and we will always regret it. It was a terrible example for us to set for our children (who had no knowledge of what we were doing when it occurred).
To some people (our competitors in the aquaponics world), we are "narcotics traffickers"; to others, we are just normal people who were very frightened, and made a bad decision out of fear. You will have to make up your own mind about this matter. What we've learned about aquaponics, and what we're able to teach others from this serious mistake have been two very important things:
· Growing marijuana DID NOT work in our kind of aquaponics systems (called "deep water culture").
· That starting out small is critically important, particularly if you take out loan money to build an aquaponics system. If you have a loan, it's a race to profitability, from the day you sign the loan papers to the day the loan money runs out. If time runs out, and you cannot make your loan payments, you will be under the kind of pressure we were. Starting small means owing less.
Being arrested and charged with this crime has been the biggest challenge as well as the greatest blessing of our entire lives. It has focused our minds and hearts on our real mission like nothing else ever could have. We discovered how easy it is to go off our shining path and get sucked into the mission of another, and we will never allow it to happen again.
Our mission is to teach people to grow organic, healthy vegetables, so that they can be vibrantly alive, independent, and free. We believe the food that we choose to eat makes a difference in our lives. To accomplish that, we provide the best information possible to show people how to build their own aquaponics systems and grow the healthiest organic food possible, by offering the most comprehensive and clearly-written DIY manuals available anywhere for aquaponics systems of all sizes. We will never lose sight of that mission again. However, we're still not out of the woods.
On February 13th, 2014, Susanne and I will stand in front of a Federal judge who will determine our sentences for this crime. We could be given Supervised Release (also known as Home Detention), and be able to continue living our lives with our family. Or we could walk out of the court in leg irons, headed for five years in a Federal prison.
What will make the difference between those two outcomes is the letters you send to the Court, telling the judge why we would do society more good out of prison than inside. We've learned our lesson, and will never participate in any activity like this again. So, I'm asking you for a letter. I've attached a Word document to this email, which gives the necessary information about whom to address the letter to, and whom to send it to. It needs to be a printed, mailed letter, an email will not be read by the judge, and will do us no good.
Thanks for reading, and hopefully, being able to understand. If you have a story you'd like to share, about any mistake you've made in the past that turned out to be a great blessing, please email us. We're not interested in the details of the story as much as we're interested in the lessons you learned, and how you grew from the mistake you made, into a better Human Being.
Blessings to you and your family,
Susanne Friend and Tim Mann, and Victor (18), Jack (12), Lucky (11), Rose (8), and Isabelle (88) Friend
Susanne Friend and Tim Mann
Friendly Aquaponics, Inc
Thank you so much for being willing to write a letter of support for us to the Federal Judge. We are deeply grateful for your help. Below are some pointers and a suggested outline.
- Use letterhead if at all possible, and please type the letter (or print it from your computer).
- The letters should be independently prepared and signed by the author. If it's not too much trouble, a letter for me AND a letter for Tim Mann would be very helpful, edited accordingly. If you have a partner, a separate letter from them for each of us (in the same envelope), would be very helpful.
- Please address the letters to: The Honorable Judge Leslie Kobayashi.
- In the letter, you should tell who you are, what you do, and approximately how long you have known us and/or our work. You should not be modest about yourself. If you are the president of the local bank, the assistant librarian, the treasurer of the Optimist Club, or a stay-at-home mom, that information should be proudly included. This lets the judge know about you and your relationship with us, and more importantly, our reputation and relationships in our community (both locally and in the world-wide aquaponics community).
- You should explain how you know us (our aquaponics work, school, social, civic, family, etc.). This helps inform the judge about our interaction with, and our reputation in, the community, both locally and in the aquaponics community as a whole. If you're writing separate letters, and if you've known me and Tim for different amounts of time, please note that. Of course, if you only know one of us, please write that letter for which one of us you know.
- We have been candid about our legal problems, it will help of you let the Court know this. This shows the judge that we have admitted our wrongdoing to others, which could be a positive detail, and acceptance of responsibility is a big deal to the Court.
- Each letter should include one or two positive personality traits of ours (integrity, honesty, family people, good parents, hard workers, etc.), and use examples to illustrate these traits. If you're writing separate letters, please use different qualities to describe us, if possible.
- Please add anything else you want to put in your letter, in your own words. Anything added should be informative, but concise. "Use fewer words" has become my own personal motto!
- The letters should not make disparaging remarks about the judge, the prosecutor, or any other officer of the court, or about us. The letter should not minimize the seriousness of our offense or offer excuses. Above all, we do not need letters telling the Federal Government that their stand on marijuana is wrong! Please share that you do NOT approve of what we did, but rather you are in support of what we are doing now! Focus on our positive traits, and please share any positive impact we've made on your life, or the lives of others that you have personally witnessed.
- We need letters from everyone - family, friends, teachers, employees, co-workers, interns, etc. The more letters submitted, the better. If you know of anyone else who would be willing to write a letter, please pass this email on to them. We won’t be able to help anyone with their aquaponics questions if we are in prison.
PLEASE NOTE! This is NOT a "cut and paste" letter! You will need to read this carefully, think it over, and use your own words, based upon your experience of us! This is just to give you a general idea of what to say in giving us a character reference.
THANK YOU, from the bottom of our hearts. A deep and humble bow of gratitude to you, for taking the time to do this for us. It will really help.
We'll let you know after February 13, 2014 what is going to happen to us.
These letters should be sent directly to to my attorney:
Philip H. Lowenthal
33 N. Market St.
Wailuku, Maui, HI 96793