Not guilty! After representing himself, NJ Weedman freed by jury
TRENTON — New Jersey's most notorious pothead has called himself "conviction proof." He could be right.
A Mercer County jury on Thursday acquitted Ed "Weedman" Forchion of witness tampering — a charge that has kept him locked up in county jail for more than a year even as violent offenders have been released under the state's new bail reform law.
Forchion remained locked up even after a jury last November acquitted him of a more serious second-degree witness tampering charge. Mercer County prosecutors chose to retry him on the third-degree charge on which the first jury had deadlocked.
A spokeswoman for the prosecutor on Thursday declined to comment on the office's second loss in a row in the case.
Forchion and his supporters have cast the criminal case as a political vendetta by a prosecutor and city establishment against an activist who relishes thumbing his nose at authority. He opened a restaurant — NJ Weedman's Joint — and a marijuana church across the street from Trenton City Hall.
The witness tampering charges stemmed from a 2016 raid on his downtown Trenton eatery/pot temple. He was among 11 people charged with dealing and possessing drugs. Police said they confiscated $19,000 in marijuana. Forchion said that while people in the establishment may have had drugs, he denies dealing.
Those charges against Forchion are pending. A day after his arrest in 2016, Forchion said he would give prosecutors an "ass whoopin'" in court.
In the witness tampering case, prosecutors said Forchion outed an informant and then harassed the man's family by sending them letters. Forchion has remained locked up on the witness tampering charge since March 2017.
Forchion denied harassing the family and said he never defied any court order barring him from speaking about the informant. He also argued that the man's identify would have become public during trial anyway.
Forchion, meanwhile, is facing charges of cyber harassment after someone posted a video on Facebook showing Forchion on a city street calling a Trenton police officer a "pedophile." The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey said the charge is unconstitutional.
Forchion, who showed up to court in the latest trial wearing a suit of marijuana leaf print, has a history of representing himself and succeeding.
He defended himself in a 2012 Burlington County trial on drug-dealing charges and was found not guilty after a retrial.
In 2003 he convinced a federal judge to release him from prison after he was jailed for advocating marijuana law reforms, which officials claimed violated his parole.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.