AUGUSTA — Three people accused of trafficking in more than 20 pounds of marijuana while armed with a firearm pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of unlawful marijuana possession charge this week at the Capital Judicial Center and were placed on deferred disposition for two years.

Ernest Chasse, 64, and Patricia Chasse, 67, both of Farmingdale, and Michael R. Bridges, 28, of Oakland, entered the pleas Wednesday while accompanied by their individual attorneys.

Under an agreement with the state, if the three defendants commit no new criminal conduct and refrain from possessing firearms, they would withdraw their guilty pleas to the felony-level possession charge, which would be dismissed, and they would plead guilty to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.

The sentence then would be 30 days in jail and a $400 fine.

If they do not comply, the guilty pleas to the felony charge would remain and they could be sentenced to up to five years in jail.

All three were indicted in August 2016 on identical charges of aggravated trafficking in more than 20 pounds of marijuana while armed with a firearm, unlawful trafficking in more than 20 pounds of marijuana and unlawful possession of more than 20 pounds of marijuana. The offenses allegedly occurred Oct. 8, 2015, in Farmingdale.

Defense attorney Leonard Sharon, who initially represented both Chasses, said the Chasses “had a fenced-in grow operation.” Sharon said a neighbor reported them and Maine Drug Enforcement Agency officers saw plants above the fence line.

“A search by MDEA disclosed that the grow exceeded the prescribed amount and seized the overage; leaving behind the permissible amount,” Sharon said Thursday via email.

He said the Chasses had feared robbery, so “the co-defendant supplied security and was oftentimes legally armed.”

Sharon said the defense attorneys worked with the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Katie Sibley, on the deferred disposition arrangement so the defendants would be able to avoid a felony conviction.

The original charges from the indictment were dismissed by the state in exchange for the pleas to the charge of possession of 1 to 20 pounds of marijuana.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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