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Bennett man pleads in marijuana grow

MADISON - A Bennett man pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to growing marijuana in rural Douglas County.

James G. Hammond, 54, told District Judge Barbara Crabb that he "planted some seeds in the woods."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman said Douglas County sheriff's deputies spotted four suspected marijuana plots in during aerial searches in July 2009. Surveillance cameras subsequently recorded a man who had visited one of the plots returning to a vehicle. A check of the vehicle's license plate showed it was registered to Hammond.

Authorities stopped Hammond in October and recovered some marijuana and pruning shears in his backpack, Altman said. Hammond told Deputy Mike Miller that he planted some marijuana seeds in May 2009, said Altman.

Hammond was charged last year in Douglas County Circuit Court with felony marijuana manufacturing and multiple counts of molesting or destroying state property and planting crops on state land, both non-criminal offenses. The counts were dismissed and prosecution of the manufacturing charge transferred to federal court because Hammond had a prior drug conviction here, said Altman.

Hammond pled guilty in 2001 to conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance was sentenced to 10 years in prison. After an appeal and the government's motion to reduce his sentence, Hammond's prison term cut to nine years in 2002 but then he was placed on supervised release.

Hammond worked for a construction company in recent years but his supervised release was revoked after his arrest in October on the manufacturing charge.

When told he faces maximum penalties of 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine and four years supervised release at his Aug. 4 sentencing, Hammond replied, "I'm broke."

His attorney Michael Lieberman had requested a competency evaluation for Hammond who was found competent to stand trial.

Hammond complained Monday of "ringing" in his ears and "voices" and said he was taking Thorazine, which is prescribed for the treatment of schizophrenia. It is also used to control nausea and vomiting and to relive restlessness after surgery, according to the Web site.

Hammond also has a 1998 conviction in Douglas County for possession of amphetamine/LSD/Psilocin, according to online court records.