A preliminary hearing for a Homer man charged with illegally growing marijuana was continued at the Homer District Courthouse on Tuesday. Homer District Court Judge Margaret Murphy, set a new date for Joseph Gabryszak, 32, to 3:30 p.m. April 19, also at the Homer Courthouse. The hearing will be for a change of plea.
Gabryszak is charged with three counts of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, with one count for intentionally manufacturing a controlled substance, one for possessing more than 25 marijuana plants and one for maintaining a building used for keeping controlled substances — all felonies.
Gabryszak attended telephonically and is out on bail. His lawyer, Evan Barrickman, attended telephonically. Kenai District Attorney Scot Leaders also attended telephonically. The change of plea hearing will be held in district court, which means the charge or charges will be reduced to a misdemeanor. A plea hearing for a felony charge would be held in superior court.
As the local judge, Murphy hears both misdemeanor and felony cases at arraignment and for preliminary hearings, but when the grand jury indicts a defendant on felony charges, or a defendant pleads guilty to felony charge, the case goes to superior court.
Police alleged Gabryszak ran a marijuana grow operation on Collie Street off of East End Road. Police and members of the State Drug Enforcement Unit, Soldotna, on Feb. 12 seized about 1,000 plants worth $1 million to $1.5 million from a 4,500-square-foot building.
In charging documents, police said Gabryszak also lived in an apartment in the building. Gabryszak told police he’d worked road construction for several years to finance his cannabis grow operation. Police also seized grow lights and ballasts worth about $25,000.