Guilty plea in large drug bust
By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
In a deal with prosecutors, a 59-year-old Ainaloa man has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an October bust that netted nearly 100 pounds of marijuana and other drugs.
Gilbert Espiritu entered guilty pleas on Friday to first-degree commercial promotion of marijuana and first-degree promotion of a harmful drug. Eighteen additional charges were dropped in exchange for his plea.
He’s scheduled to be sentenced June 21 at 8:30 a.m. before Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura, and according to terms of the agreement, will receive a probation sentence with a possible jail term of up to two years.
Espiritu could have been sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole because he was charged with multiple Class A felony offenses.
“Mr. Espiritu took responsibility. He pled guilty; he’s in treatment. And this plea is an acknowledgement of his guilt and he wants to deal with his addiction in a positive way — and this plea agreement is a way for him to do so,” Espiritu’s attorney, Brian DeLima, said afterwards.
Espiritu’s longtime girlfriend and co-defendant, 57-year-old Phyllis Morby, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Her next hearing is scheduled for May 17 at 8:30 a.m.
Espiritu and Morby were arrested Oct. 18 after police served a search warrant on three Tiki Lane properties led to what police described as an indoor marijuana-growing site they police believe is part of a larger drug distribution operation.
Police say officers confiscated 321 marijuana plants, 96 clones, 98.8 pounds of dried marijuana, 2.5 grams of heroin, 125 grams of hashish and 232 hydrocodone pills — which are marketed as Vicodin — in indoor-growing operations at two of the properties.
Espiritu and Morby were both charged with four counts of first-degree promotion of marijuana, two counts of second-degree promotion of marijuana, two counts of promoting a harmful drug, two counts of promoting a dangerous drug and 10 counts of possessing drug paraphernalia.
Espiritu is free on $66,000 bail while Morby is free on supervised release.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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