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Connellsville grandmother acquitted of marijuana possession

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Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012

Connellsville police did not believe a 67-year-old grandmother when she told them she had no idea the seeds she was given by a bearded stranger in a pointy Smurf hat would yield marijuana plants.

But a jury did.

The panel acquitted Alberta Kelley of 113 S. Cottage Ave., Connellsville, of possession and manufacture of a controlled substance after a two-day trial before Fayette County Judge Steve Leskinen.

"She said she was walking to the community center when some guy with a beard and Smurf hat she did not know gave her the seeds," said Kelley's attorney, Thomas W. Shaffer of Uniontown.

"He told her to plant them, that they would grow the prettiest flowers you've ever seen. So she threw them in the garden," he said.

Police filed the charges last January, alleging they found seven 4-foot-tall marijuana plants growing in Kelley's backyard when they went there to serve an arrest warrant on her grandson in July 2010.

In court documents, police said they learned about the plants from an anonymous tipster. With the warrants for Kelley's grandson in hand, they went to her house.

Officers discovered the cannabis nestled near tomato plants in Kelley's backyard garden.

"When I asked Kelley what the plants were, she stated that she did not know what they were," Officer Wesley Wilson said in a criminal complaint. "She also stated that a man that she did not know gave her the seeds and told her to plant them."

The plants were confiscated and sent to a state police crime lab, which positively identified them as marijuana, weighing in at 138 grams, according to the complaint.

In addition to advising jurors that Kelley was unaware the seeds were marijuana, Shaffer said he pointed out that eight other people resided at her home -- but only his client was charged.

"I told them if you convict her, you might as well start playing, 'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,' because it would be unjust," Shaffer said.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Brooks, who prosecuted the case, was not immediately available for comment after the trial. Kelley, who has no criminal record, could not be reached after the trial.

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