Couple receives probation for Linn grow house
Rickels will spend time in county jail
|Amy and Freddie Rickel|
June 17, 2011 | 12:57 PMElkhorn — Freddie and Amy Rickel attend events at their children's school, sit on the sidelines during their son's football practice and by all accounts are loving parents.
However, they also orchestrated a sophisticated marijuana-growing operation in the town of Linn that yielded large amounts of the drug and cash.
On Jan. 8, 2010, the Walworth County Drug Unit raided the Rickels' home and found more than 150 marijuana plants, 150 grams of the drug and materials used for growing dope.
Both Freddie and Amy pleaded guilty Dec. 17 to three criminal drug charges.
When Judge John Race sentenced the Rickels he spared them prison and placed them both on probation: Freddie for five years and Amy for four years. Freddie also will have to serve one year in the county jail with work release privileges and Amy will serve 60 days in jail with work release privileges.
"This grow operation is a significant charge. It is aggravated that it went on for two years," Race said.
However, during the sentencing, Race said he also considered that the Rickels have no prior criminal records, as adults or juveniles.
"In every other respect they lived a wholesome normal life," Race said.
Freddie's attorney, Stephen Kramer, argued that the family was dealing with significant financial hardships when the grow operation began.
"Desperate people do desperate things," Kramer said.
Freddie told the court that his arrest and the charges have changed him. He also is embarrassed when people recognize him from his mug shot that has appeared in newspapers and online, he said.
"The hardest aspect is the fear of being taken away from my children," Freddie said.
When Amy addressed the court, she apologized for her crime and began crying when talking about her children and their accomplishments.
"I'm desperate to remain with my children," she said.
When sentencing Amy, Race said sending her to a state prison would be "harsh, unreasonable and unnecessary." He also said it would hurt the Rickels' two children, ages 7 and 12, chances of having successful lives.
"A placement in foster care is a guarantee that they will be here (criminal court) in 12 years," Race said.
Please see the print edition of next week's paper for more comments from the Rickels, their attorneys, Race and Deputy District Attorney Joshua Grube.