The man accused of running a massive trespass grow of more than 10,000 marijuana plants near Bridgeville agreed to a plea deal on Thursday afternoon in Humboldt County Superior Court.
On Aug. 22, agents with the sheriff’s office Drug Enforcement Unit served a search warrant at the property and found the grow site along with numerous examples of environmental infractions and a lack of proper permitting. After searching the property, deputies located 23-year-old Mexican national Manuel David Aguirre-Cruz, who was taken into custody without incident.
Aguirre-Cruz, who appeared in court in custody wearing handcuffs and jail-issued clothing, is being represented by Deputy Public Defender Rebecca Linkous and Spanish language interpreter, Carlos Benemann assisted.
“Your honor, we have a plea agreement for Mr. Aguirre-Cruz,” Linkous told presiding Judge Christopher Wilson. “In addition to the other terms, there is a stipulation that any cash seized be destroyed and any personal belongings be returned.”
The prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada, outlined the charges that formed the basis for the plea, which originally included five felonies and six misdemeanors. Many of the misdemeanors were related to environmental infractions and they were dropped by Kamada, leaving two felonies and two misdemeanors. He said he was satisfied with the plea deal and that further action against the actual landowner could come in the future.
“I think we just came to a fair and reasonable plea in the case. It reflected everything we could prove at trial and the only things that were really dismissed were associated with water diversion and Fish and Game code violations, and that will be taken care of through a civil case through our office against the landowner,” Kamada said following the hearing. “We identified Aguirre-Cruz as the main operator and from land records, we know who the landowner is. Only they will have the power to fix the problems on the property, the defendant was the day-to-day guy running the grow.”
Wilson then questioned Aguirre-Cruz about whether or not he understood the plea agreement and the proceedings he was taking part in.
“You are pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, the unlawful possession of a firearm, unlawful cultivation and possession of marijuana for purposes of sale, do you understand that sir?”
“Si,” replied Aguirre-Cruz as Benemann interpreted.
Wilson then asked him if he understood the consequences of his plea and asked him if he had entered the plea freely and voluntarily and to each question Aguirre-Cruz replied “Si.”
“I find the defendant understands the conditions of his plea and that there is a factual basis for the plea,” Wilson concluded.
On the day of the search, Aguirre-Cruz was the only person located at the property and Kamada said he had been dropped off at the property about three months prior to the arrest by the property owner, only identified in open court as a Mr. Moreno.
“He was told he was the boss of the grow site and he was required to be armed at all times,” Kamada told Wilson. “Officers located a tent and inside found his passport and the loaded AK-47 and other personal belongings. He was told he was in charge of arranging work for others and he admitted the weapons were his.”
Aguirre-Cruz will be back in court on Nov. 6 for a sentencing hearing. According to Kamada, Aguirre-Cruz faces up to three years and eight months for the two felonies and could face additional time of up to a year for two misdemeanors.
Dan Squier can be reached at 707-441-0528.