Frank Cikutovich Article:
Man Pleads Guilty to Pot Smuggling Charges
Spokesman Review Apr 24, 2004
by Kevin Taylor Staff writer
Nathan Norman, a 22-yearold Coeur d'Alene man accused of masterminding a
major marijuana smuggling ring in North Idaho, was in federal court at 8 a.m.
Friday to try to reach a deal to avoid a potential sentence of 25 years to life
Norman pleaded guilty to five of the 59 counts against him, including the
major counts of conspiracy to import marijuana, conspiracy to distribute, and
three money laundering and property forfeiture counts.
In U.S. District Court, these hearings tend to be brief: A judge recites all
the civil rights and constitutional rights a person gives up by pleading guilty
to felonies while defendants listen. So when the hearing ended, the morning was
fresh enough that the north-south streets in downtown Coeur d'Alene were in deep
Frank Cikutovich, a Spokane attorney who represents Norman, walked through
the pool of shadow outside the federal courthouse shaking his head. "I've never
had a client where 54 counts against him are dismissed and yet he is still
facing life in prison," he said.
The conspiracy charges of importing and distributing marijuana carry
sentences of 25 years to life. Norman and Cikutovich are hoping for a sentence
that ranges from 10 to 20 years.
FBI and Idaho State Police drug investigators believe Norman assembled men in
their late teens and early 20s to carry marijuana across the Canadian border for
sale locally and as far south as Southern California.
A lengthy affidavit obtained by The Spokesman-Review a year ago reveals that
investigators believe the smugglers were tightly organized and moved more than a
ton of Canadian-grown marijuana - known as B.C. bud - by hiking through the
woods and fields at night. The organization made millions of dollars in profit,
federal charging papers contend.
By mid-morning, not only had Norman decided to work on a plea deal with
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Cook, so had Ben Scozzaro, 21, whom police see as
another of the main players in the smuggling ring.
With the guilty pleas entered by Norman and Scozzaro Friday, 11 of the
original 14 people named in a grand jury indictment last November have entered
guilty pleas. Federal agents have arrested 24 people in this case with more
arrests expected, they say.
Earlier in the week, Cikutovich said the number of co-defendants lining up to
make statements against Norman prompted his client's change of plea.
"This is significant," ISP Detective Terry Morgan said after Norman's plea.
"Some of the others were reluctant at first. They had a pact that they would
stick together. But once it started crumbling," it led to a flurry of plea
bargains, he said.
Norman remained in custody. Scozzaro, who traveled from Fresno, Calif.,
remained out on bail. Sentencing for both was set for July 13.
Copyright 2004 Cowles Publishing Company
Stiley and Cikutovich, PLLC.
1408 W. Broadway
Spokane, Wa. ,
Office Phone: (509) 323-9000