Accused hemp farm thief in court

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BENNINGTON — One of three New York men charged after police said they stole plants from a hemp farming operation appeared in court this week to have his bail reviewed.

Leon Lovelace, 22, of Hoosick Falls, who according to court records had been detained in New York, has denied charges in his pending Vermont case.

Judge David A. Howard ordered a $5,000 secured appearance bond to ensure Lovelace's future court appearances, meaning the defendant had to post a refundable $500 deposit before he was released with conditions Thursday evening.

An arrest warrant was issued after Lovelace failed to appear for a January court date; according to court records, he was detained in New York on an unrelated charge.

Vermont State Police were called early on Sept. 27, 2016 for a suspicious vehicle complaint near Rollin Road in Shaftsbury. Troopers said they found three men who had freshly harvested plants that appeared to be marijuana, but were in fact from a nearby hemp farming operation.

Lovelace pleaded not guilty in Vermont Superior Court Bennington Criminal Division in November to felony grand larceny greater than $900, and misdemeanor providing false information to police and unlawful trespass.

Cody Smith, 21, of Mechanicville, pleaded not guilty in the same court March 24 to felony grand larceny greater than $900, and misdemeanor unlawful trespass. Smith has been detained in Rutland prison on $5,000 bail since his arraignment. A jury draw is scheduled for Oct. 3.

The third defendant, Brett M. Stone, 25, of Hoosick Falls, pleaded guilty Aug. 30 to misdemeanor petit larceny $900 or less, which was amended from the felony grand larceny charge. Stone was referred to a community reparative program. Misdemeanor counts of trespass and false information were dismissed by the state.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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