GEORGETOWN, Texas A 19-year-old man facing life in prison for pot brownies was back in court on Wednesday.
Supporters rallied outside a Williamson County courtroom for Jacob Lavoro, who faces between five to 99 years in prison for allegedly making cookies and brownies laced with marijuana and hashish oil earlier this year.
On April 14, a neighbor called Round Rock police on Lavoro after she smelled smoke coming from his apartment. Police showed up and said Lavoro gave them the OK to enter his apartment in the Austin suburb.
After entering, police said they found drug paraphernalia, hash oil, brownies and cookies that were packaged for sale.
Lavoro disputes the official account of what happened in April.
'No, I did not give consent... no way, shape, or form did I give consent,' he said.
Officers confiscated drugs worth more than $1,600 and charged Lavoro with felony possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.
Lavoro's attorney, Jack Holmes, said lab reports show 2.5 grams of THC was found, a second-degree felony in Texas.
In Colorado, where recreational marijuana is now legal, edible products are required to be easily divided into servings of 10 milligrams of THC about the amount in a medium-sized joint.
Holmes said the test results don't justify tough punishments but was skeptical of getting a break. Although neighboring Austin is a liberal haven in deeply conservative Texas, Williamson County has a long reputation of law and order, which came under national scrutiny in 2011 after an innocent man was freed after serving 25 years in prison.
'I'm scared. Very scared,' Lavoro said. 'I'm 19 years old and still have a whole life ahead of me. Take that into account.'
First District Attorney Mark Brunner said Holmes was 'grandstanding' and that prosecutors are not trying to lock up Lavoro for the rest of his life. His office has offered Lavaro a plea deal to a lesser felony charge that would include no jail time if he stayed out of trouble.
Holmes said they won't take the offer because they fear prosecutors would be overzealous if Lavaro missed so much as a mandatory meeting. Brunner said the county isn't trying to make some statement on the war on drugs and defendants take risks when they choose a trial over plea bargains.
'If this was just some college kid experimenting in his friend's Easy-Bake Oven, with a reefer's worth of pot and a bunch of brownies, that'd be different,' Brunner said. 'This man was trying to run a business, allegedly.'
Hash oil is a controlled substance that carries much harsher state penalties than marijuana. The oil has higher concentrations of THC. It's in a penalty group with amphetamines and ecstasy.
Holmes said he expects Lavoro to be formally indicted later this month. State District Judge Stacey Mathews set a key September hearing, when Holmes said he will argue that the charges should be dropped altogether over whether the search of Lavoro's apartment was lawful.
Associated Press reporter Paul J. Weber in Georgetown contributed to this report