Harris County man acquitted of possessing 110 pounds of marijuana on his property, but gets 21 months for gun possession

More than 100 pounds of marijuana allegedly found by authorities in April 2008 on Ronald Kirkwood’s Harris County property could have put him in prison for at least five years. Instead, guns on the property — which Kirkwood said he didn’t know about — netted him a 21-month sentence in federal court on Wednesday.

A jury found Kirkwood not guilty in September of possession with the intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana. They convicted him of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Harris County authorities seized more than 100 pounds of marijuana from a Waverly Hall home in April 2008 during the execution of a search warrant, Sheriff Mike Jolley said. The drugs were found in a van in a storage shed, packaged into 5-pound bundles, he said.
A sawed-off .22-caliber rifle, other rifles and pistols were also found, the sheriff said.

John Martin, his defense attorney, said no evidence showed that the guns were owned his client. Kirkwood was convicted of what Martin called constructive possession of a firearm. That means he didn’t physically have it, but that it was on his property and he could exert control over it.

“When all of this happened, he was not at that property,” Martin added. “Federal law is fairly liberal — they don’t have to prove that you possess an item.”

Kirkwood, out on bond until the Bureau of Prisons tells him when to report, apologized to U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land. He said he knew ignorance of the law is no excuse, but added that he didn’t know that someone on his property with a gun made him at fault.

“I’ve lost everything I’ve achieved over my whole life,” Kirkwood said.

Kirkwood asked the judge to consider keeping him on supervised probation. Land declined, and in addition to the prison time issued Kirkwood a $500 fine and three years’ supervised probation.