Tag Archives: Life in Prison

EXCLUSIVE: War Veteran with PTSD Faces Life in Prison for Pot, His Wife Calls for Help

US Marine Corps combat veteran Kristoffer Lewandowski, who served in three tours of duty overseas including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, reportedly faces up to life in prison for pot charges connected to a June 2014 raid on his Geronimo, OK home that occurred after his wife and neighbors called police to get him help for a post-traumatic stress disorder flare-up. However, rather than providing mental health resources, police responding on the scene searched Lewandowski’s home for contraband and found six marijuana plants, weighing in at less than an ounce of plant matter in total, and charged him with, among other offenses, felony marijuana cultivation, which, under Oklahoma’s unusually-harsh marijuana laws, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Truth in Media obtained an exclusive interview with Kristoffer Lewandowski’s wife Whitney Lewandowski in an effort to get their family’s story on the record.

Whitney Lewandowski said that her husband, a loving father to three children who was honorably medically discharged from the Marines and is 100% disabled due to severe post-traumatic stress disorder, was growing the marijuana for personal use, “He was just using it… He couldn’t get any, and, of course, we’re a military family, we’re very poor, we couldn’t afford to buy it anyway. So he was just growing it for himself. He was on his way out of the military and just wanted to see if it would help with [his mental health issues]. He was taking 13 pills a day, and it was just killing his liver. He was having all these issues with his body and he just wanted to try something more natural to just see if he could do without that many pills a day.” She called his medical marijuana treatments “absolutely effective.

On that day in June of 2014, Kristoffer Lewandowski had a PTSD episode and Whitney Lewandowski left and took their three children to their neighbors’ house to “diffuse the situation.” When their neighbors called police in an effort to get mental health help for the struggling war veteran, officers responded, searched the Lewandowski’s home, and began a drug investigation instead. Whitney Lewandowski said that she was initially handcuffed under investigation for the same charges, placed in a police car, and told that her children were going to be taken by Child Protective Services. However, authorities offered her the opportunity to remain free and keep their kids if she pressed charges against her husband for domestic violence. In an effort to keep the children, she agreed to do so and later discovered that she could not rescind those charges without re-activating the felony marijuana cultivation charges against herself. Police arrested Kristoffer Lewandowski and charged him with felony marijuana cultivation, possession of drug paraphernalia, and a domestic violence offense. Whitney Lewandowski noted that, though police were originally called to help Kristoffer, “the kind of help he got was being tossed in jail.”

Whitney Lewandowski said that the domestic violence charge does not reflect the reality of her husband’s behavior, “They’re trying to use me as a victim and to make it look worse on his case. My husband has absolutely never laid his hands on me ever. He is not an abusive man, ever… quite the opposite. He is extremely doting.

She noted that, at the time of the raid, police included tomato plants that were also growing in Kristoffer Lewandowski’s home while weighing his personal-use cannabis which she said “made it look like he had this huge grow [operation] going” in media reports on his arrest.

After the arrest, Whitney Lewandowski pulled together funds to pay a bail bondsman to cover his $20,000 bail and their family moved and continued their life in California, where Whitney has family ties. While in California, Kristoffer Lewandowski was prescribed medical marijuana to deal with his crippling post-traumatic stress disorder and began treatment legally.

Meanwhile, the Lewandowskis’ attorney quit the case over a dispute over money, and, as a part of the bail agreement, Kristoffer no longer qualifies for a public defender, leaving him without legal representation.

Whitney Lewandowski said, “We tried to work with the DA’s office to see if he could do, like, a drug court or a mental health court, but he was denied both of those.” She said that Kristoffer does qualify for an alternative sentence through a drug court, but that the district attorney chose not to allow it.

Earlier this month in Laguna Beach, CA, despite the fact that the Lewandowski family remained in contact with authorities connected to his Oklahoma criminal case, undercover police apprehended Kristoffer by surprise in a dramatic, guns-drawn raid while the Lewandowskis were picking up their children from pre-school, as he had unknowingly missed a prior court date while in the care of a Veterans Administration psychiatric hospital. Whitney Lewandowski, who noted that the undercover officers who picked him up had been following them since earlier that day and could have chosen a different time to make the arrest, said, “To be picked up like that, we’re all blown away. Especially in a pre-school parking lot where all my kids’ friends are, their parents are. Everyone’s witnessing this, and it was horrifying.

Kristoffer Lewandowski currently remains in police custody in California awaiting extradition to Oklahoma where he will face his charges. The medical marijuana groups Weed 4 Warriors Project and Patients Out of Time have stepped in and are attempting to generate publicity for him. Also, his supporters have launched a Facebook page and a Change.org petition to raise awareness to his plight and a crowdfunding page to raise funds to help support the Lewandowski family throughout this ordeal.

Though his felony cultivation charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, Whitney Lewandowski said that her husband told her that other inmates familiar with Oklahoma sentencing policies said that “most people were doing at least 2 to 4 years per plant in their house. So Kris having six plants doesn’t look good for him.” She urged his supporters to spread the word about the serious charges that he faces.

Did you miss Ben Swann’s episode on medical cannabis? Watch below:


Should Gov. Nixon Set Free This Man Serving Life in Prison for Pot?

Aaron Malin recently wrote an article for Reason highlighting the unimaginable plight of Jeff Mizanskey, a grandfather in Missouri who is currently serving a life sentence without parole for marijuana-related charges. Missouri’s harsh three-strikes law is to blame for Mizanskey’s unusually disproportionate punishment, as he has never been accused of committing an act of violence yet remains in prison for life due to the technicality of having committed three marijuana offences. Mizanskey told Malin that, during the almost 21 years he has spent in the Jefferson City Correctional Center so far, he has personally seen over 200 murderers and rapists walk free after finishing their much-shorter prison terms.

Jeff Mizanskey was hardly a drug kingpin. He was originally busted on charges consistent with a small-time marijuana dealer who paid for his own habit by selling to friends and acquaintances. He was not selling hard drugs or pushing marijuana on children. In the above-embedded video, he can be seen asking Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to grant clemency and set him free.

Malin pointed out the fact that guards at Mizanskey’s maximum security prison do not treat him as a threat. Malin described an experience he had with a prison guard when he went to Jefferson City Correctional Center to interview Mizanskey, “On the way there, the guard made small talk and asked whom I was interviewing. When I told him about Jeff he didn’t mince words about the failures of our judicial system.” Malin continued, “During the interview, the guard stayed on the other side of the room from the table where the interview was taking place. There were no restraints on Jeff—he was free to walk into the visiting room freely and shake my hand. Near the end of the interview, the guard briefly left us alone in the visiting room. It was clear that despite being assigned to live with rapists and murderers, Jeff did not fit in with violent offenders.”

The imprisoned grandfather’s three strikes sunk him for life primarily because he could not afford a high-powered attorney. He caught his first offense when a family member, who had been caught with marijuana provided by Mizanskey, turned him in to police in exchange for a lighter sentence. He was busted a second time with a little under three ounces of pot. His third conviction happened when he gave a ride to a friend who was the subject of a drug sting. That friend, who was the focus of the sting operation, has since served his time and is now free.

Mizanskey, now 61 years old, became a grandfather while behind bars and has yet to have a proper opportunity to spend time with his grandchildren. His son, who was thirteen when Mizanskey’s prison term began, is circulating a petition calling for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to grant clemency to his father. Meanwhile, a growing number of states and municipalities are reducing penalties for marijuana-related crimes and, in some cases, outright legalizing recreational use.

The aging Mizanskey has exhausted all of his appeals and may die behind bars. He has spent his time in prison completing every offender rehabilitation program available to him. He has already served over 20 years for small-scale pot dealings. Supporters of Jeff Mizanskey are calling for those who sympathize with his plight to contact Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and request clemency.