In December 1991 police in the small town of Sedalia (population 20,000) got tipped off that Mizanskey was still holding and got a warrant to search his home. This time they discovered around two ounces (approximately 64 grams) of marijuana — a smaller amount than he had had in possession in 1984 but still in excess of the 35 grams of marijuana needed for felony charges. Again Mizanskey pleaded guilty.

That was strike two.

"We were gonna fight it, but to fight it, it takes a lot of money," Mizanskey says. "If you ain't got money, you can't fight it. [My lawyer] advised me to do another plea."

Taking the plea deal seemed like a good idea at the time. Mizanskey would have another felony on his record, but he'd only have to do 60 days in the county jail on work release, meaning he could keep his company going and earn money for his family. That sounded safer than paying a lot of legal fees and still likely getting an unfavorable outcome in trial.

"[The] lawyer told me that it was in my house, so there wasn't much I could do," explains Mizanskey.

Two years later Mizanskey would walk into that Super 8 hotel — his third strike in ten years.


This time around Mizanskey sensed he was in more significant trouble. He sold his '64 Chevy and his fishing boat, and several relatives pitched in to pay for the legal services of Randall Brown Johnston, a Columbia-based criminal-defense attorney with three years of experience as a prosecutor.

The first thing Johnston did was request a new judge. The Pettis County judge assigned to the case had heard Mizanskey the last time he was busted. Mizanskey recalls the judge telling him, "If I ever see you in my courtroom again, I'll put you away."

Mizanskey and his lawyer didn't want to test the judge on that. Unfortunately for them, their new judge was Benton County's now-deceased Theodore B. Scott, known for being a hard ass, especially with drug cases.

"Scott was kind of notorious. I hate to speak ill of the dead, but he was known for being a very harsh judge," says Dan Viets, a criminal-defense attorney and the coordinator of NORML's Missouri chapter. "I changed judges whenever I found myself in his court."

Just as tough was Jeff Mittelhauser, Pettis County's up-and-coming prosecutor. Johnston asked Mittelhauser about a plea deal, but the state's attorney wasn't feeling very lenient.

"He offered 25 years [without parole]," recalls Johnston, who figured he could get his client a lighter penalty at trial.

Although Mizanskey was indicted for possession and intent to distribute roughly five pounds of marijuana, Mittelhauser painted him at trial as a big-time dealer with Mexican connections who had grander plans than just the 90-plus pounds in the back of Reyes' Cougar. Had the strong arm of law not gotten ahold of him first, Mizanskey would have brought 100 pounds of marijuana per week into the good community of Sedalia, Mittelhauser argued.

Johnston, meanwhile, painted Mizanskey as a victim of happenstance who was never supposed to be at the Super 8 that day. As Mizanskey told it, he was simply doing a favor for a friend named Chris Whittington, whose ex-girlfriend had recently moved back to New Mexico. Quintana was the girlfriend's brother and was in Sedalia to move his sister's stuff back to her home state. Mizanskey agreed to assist with the move and stop by the Super 8 to pick up two more men Quintana had enlisted for the job. Mizanskey claims that he thought the package Quintana gave him to inspect inside the hotel room was Mexican food — not marijuana.

"It smelled like chiles," he recalls.

Police also videotaped Mizanskey making a phone call from inside the hotel room in which he could be heard discussing money. Mizanskey says the phone conversation was about some used cars he was planning to buy with a friend.

At trial Johnston called to the stand Quintana, Whittington and the guy buying the used cars, all of whom vetted Mizanskey's description of events. Finally, Johnston wrapped up about five pounds of kitty litter in the same fashion as the marijuana brick in order to demonstrate to the jury that anything could have been inside that package. Why not Mexican food?

But the Benton County jury didn't believe Quintana, Whittington or the kitty-litter demonstration. It found Jeff Mizanskey guilty of possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana and intent to distribute a controlled substance.

The trial lasted less than a day. Under the Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute, the jury was kept in the dark about what sentence the defendant could get. One month later Judge Scott accepted Mittelhauser's recommendation and sentenced Mizanskey to life in prison.

Johnston appealed the verdict on grounds that the judge should have allowed into evidence the fact that Mizanskey had three grams of marijuana in his pocket when he was arrested. The "lesser included offense," Johnston hoped, would show the jury that Mizanskey was just a harmless toker in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was guilty of a misdemeanor, yes, but not a felony.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
93 comments
el_urogallo
el_urogallo

I feel bad for his kids.  Why the heck did he not stop slinging weed after strike 2?  It should've been obvious to anyone that he wasn't cut out for that line of work.

Nathan Arnold
Nathan Arnold

That's because meth production has been so crippled that only the cartels are manufacturing for a profit at this point :(another bag of apples) Meanwhile, Hemp/Cannabis is such a potent economic force that any person who can grow a weed can create an in-demand product. That, in itself, is amazing. They don't want you coming up though, this is all a gamed-up law scenario that has enabled the ruling of class of corporations to dictate the punishment onto a person for a plant.

Nathan Arnold
Nathan Arnold

This is such bad press for pot prohibition, I love it!

Adela Falk
Adela Falk

thank you for sharing his story....just got off the phone with Jeff and he wanted you all to know how thankful he is ...... and to please call the governor..

Laura Dee
Laura Dee

Animal abusers get their victims given back to them, yet this guy, who hurt no one, is in jail for life. Our justice system is BULLSHIT.

Barbara Brown Lyon
Barbara Brown Lyon

But in my community, you can blow up your house with meth and get NOTHING! Maybe a slap on the hands.... Or if you play your cards right, you can get a local church to rebuild the house you blew up, give you clothes and money to restart your life, and no charges filed.

WeedBiz
WeedBiz

Missouri will likely see a ballot initiative in 2014 to legalize medical marijuana. Let's hope someone with some common sense that has the power to do something looks at this case.

modelhntr
modelhntr

I wonder what the prosecutor will say to God when he is about to be thrown into Hell "with no hope of parole".  Somehow I don't think he will think that a "fair" sentence.  People like him are the problem with this country.  He makes himself bigger, trying for the Statehouse, while walking over the bodies of the people he so overzealously prosecutes.  What a disgrace to the law.  Justice is supposed to be balanced with mercy, but mercy, compassion, common sense and impartiality all died at the hands of republican fear mongers under Ronny Raygun -- the actor, and then continued under the House of Bush.  As far as the prosecutor in this case -- maybe someone should lock him in a cell; place a banquet of food and drink just out of his reach -- and just walk away.  Sentence:  Life in the cell without the possibility of food.

queenofelbridge
queenofelbridge

This is an absolute outrage. I pray that he gets out and soon. Marijuana is the least of the world's problems!! Worry about something that matters.....this man's life!!!!

chatwithchuck
chatwithchuck

What a waste of good Nanny State money. We all know, marijuana is only dangerous if you're caught with it! 

This story perfectly defines the atrocities of Marijuana Prohibition.


Atrocity  (-trs-t)n. pl. a·troc·i·ties

1. Appalling or atrocious condition, quality, or behavior; monstrousness.

2. An appalling or atrocious act, situation, or object, especially an act of unusual or illegal cruelty inflicted by an armed force on civilians or prisoners.

generin68
generin68

As long as he has been in prison for his crime, Sedalia should be a drug free city. Well, its not.  Its probably worse than it was before this man went to prison.  These people that hold these offices and are suppose to uphold the law, only do so when it benefits them.  I am sure the one's who own these private prisons are making money hand over fist off of people that are poor.  I am sure there is a meth house on every other corner, if not every corner.  Let the man go, he is not bothering anybody.  He was not out harming other people.  He was minding his own business and making a living for his family. 

Jim Phillips
Jim Phillips

3 strikes and you are out was a knee jerk thing. It needs to be looked at, bunch this damn bunch in Jefferson City could make it worse.

Steve Podgorski
Steve Podgorski

blanket amnesty would not likely be the way to go.. but having a really really hard look at our incarceration policies and helping those that are clearly victims of it seems overdue at this point

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Well there's another [fill in the blank] heard from: Our "lovely government" can tax, regulate, mandate and charge anything WE damn well tell them to. It's called a representative republic Victoria. Witness ObamaCare. Get back to school, understand our form of government then come back and comment accordingly.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Well at least here's someone involved. I'm not so sure blanket amnesty is the solution but at least it's a proposal.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Well folks, here's a reason we have these laws and ObamaCare.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Doesn't matter if you "buy into" the social contract or not. Violate it and find out what happens to yer ass.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Nope: He broke several codified laws supported by society, went to trial as proscribed by society, was judged by society and sent to prison by society. A travesty of justice is when the rapist/child molester/murderer gets off on a technicality.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Well if that "Book" includes committing crimes then be prepared to be judged.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

Question: Did you get a second chance after doing something patently stupid but not illegal or did you get a second chance after committing a felony? Two different things. The felon get's a second chance after doing his time. If you don't like the sentence, work towards increasing or reducing it.

Rhonda Whelan
Rhonda Whelan

Why is it people have lost sight that he's a drug dealer? He wasn't some dude who happened to get popped with a joint in the ashtray. This guy had enough pot to sell to all the kids in my entire town. A drug dealer is a drug dealer no matter the drug. He's right where he belongs. They need to increase the time and punishments for drug offenses. Maybe that would be a start to cleaning all these trash felons off the streets.

Dave Noones
Dave Noones

No he could die in prison because (he ) broke a law. Many innocents have died during his days So don't feel bad for him. Change the laws and move on. Fuck him.

Grant Martin
Grant Martin

"If you can't do the time, don't do the crime."

Rhonda Whelan
Rhonda Whelan

"This is a story will make you re-think the state's drug penalties." No, this is a story that makes me aware that the journalist cannot write or speak correct grammar and nor can the editors. You are missing the word "that" between story and will. It's hard to take your articles seriously when there are blatantly poor grammar issues.

viscers
viscers

Really though, all non violent drug offenders should be released immediately.


The less time they spend around real criminals, the better. For us and them.

viscers
viscers

If you think law equates with morality and justice, I know a few countries that you might want to visit.

drewjord
drewjord

 but those technicalities are found in codified laws (procedural statutes) supported by society, proscribed by society, and constitutionally validated by the same judiciary you refer to. Either you support the law 100% or you can admit that some laws are bad laws. You think the law that lets a murderer go on a technicality is a bad law, because you don't understand the 900 years of so of jurisprudence and case law which have lead to the adoption of those principles of justice. I think a law that routinely over imprisons non violent offenders is a bad law because I have a brain.

modelhntr
modelhntr

You, sir, are full of shit.  Felons do NOT get a second chance anymore.  They come out of prison to a world of fear and hate.  A world of nearly universal background checks for every job.  Most people coming out of prison have nothing except the "gate money" some state give them to get to the next town from the prison.  This has become a society of labelers, putting everyone into nice little categories.  If you fall into the category of felon -- you better learn to be a better thief because nobody is wiling to give a second chance.


drewjord
drewjord

you suffer from the illusion that illegal and immoral are equivalent. Most crimes are both but some are only the former. We should only punish for the latter imo

Chevy
Chevy

Incredible myopic ignorance Rhonda.

Chevy
Chevy

You win the stupidest commenter here award. What a blockhead comment. We don't need people like you. People like you should be put in prioson. Alcohol and tobacco are the real killers. I dislike your attitude more than can be stated here, and you have extreme character flaw.

viscers
viscers

Firstly, you have no evidence he was selling to kids, you have as much evidence of that as you do the local liquor store is doing the same.


The war on drugs is a failure, it has destroyed far more lives, ruined jobs, families and communities than the drugs themselves ever could. This war has shown us that increasing penalties does nothing to help, it only causes more destruction. 
When you have a SWAT team bashing down people's doors, terrorizing their children, and murdering their dogs for a few grams of cannabis, (which happens today in this country) Tell me which is most harmful.

drewjord
drewjord

I detect so much crazy coming from you it's not funny. I bet you hear that often. This article is about how non violent offenders are routinely over punished, and this guy is facing life without parole for selling weed, or being with someone selling weed if you believe him. Doesn't matter if you do, how could you say that the time and punishments are too low? how is that even an option? People like you are the reason why America is the laughing stock of the world when it comes to criminal law and justice. I can tell fact checking is a difficult exercise for you, but do a very quick google search for the relationship between incarceration periods and drug offences before you open your mouth and make a fool of yourself the next time. If you were actually concerned for the chiildren of your town you'd advocate for regulation rather than criminalization.

walkergreer
walkergreer

You must have been abused as a child in order to be such a angry hard ass. F U

modelhntr
modelhntr

You must be a cop -- or persecutor (spelled the way I mean it).  Probably drive drunk from the bar and then put down a guy for smoking some weed.  Pull your backwoods ass into the 21st century and look around.  Weed is coming in and hopefully, people like you will be going out.


Chevy
Chevy

This is just as idiotic as your actual opinion on the article. So typos are the focus here? Rotten. Everything you say is shameful and ignorant. Get a life.

flbartzen
flbartzen

REALLY THAT IS WHAT YOU GET OUT OF THIS STORY.....GET OVER IT THINK ABOUT THE REAL ISSUE. WTF? HOWS THAT GRAMMAR?.

parxjunk
parxjunk

"No, this is a story that makes me aware that the journalist cannot write or speak correct grammar and nor can the editors."  Hehehe, the irony is delicious.  The word "and" is completely extraneous and doesn't belong that sentence, and if it did it would require a comma.  Also, in the sentence "It's hard to take your articles seriously when there are blatantly poor grammar issues", you use an adverb (blatantly) to modify a noun rather than a verb.  You should have either used the adjective "blatant" or else referred to the author's writing, an action, as "blatantly poor" instead of the grammar issues, a thing or things.  Grammar Nazis are annoying, but hypocritical ones are downright hilarious... Thanks!  ;)

viscers
viscers

@parxjunk Take a bow.


Also, people who try to attack content of an article by picking at grammar are implicitly admitting that they can't actually refute the points of discussion made, or else they would have done that instead.

 
Loading...