WORCESTER – An ailing Millbury man released from jail as he awaited sentencing for using his plumbing business as a front to grow marijuana has died, and his conviction has been vacated.
Charles R. Laverty, 63, convicted of marijuana growing and money laundering in federal court in Worcester Jan. 28, died from stage 4 small cell lung cancer Feb. 27, his lawyer, Peter L. Ettenberg, wrote in court documents.
U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman ordered Laverty’s conviction vacated Wednesday, court records show.
Hillman had ordered Laverty released Feb. 11 pending his May sentencing after Ettenberg wrote that his kidney disease had worsened and he had lost 20 pounds after spending several weeks at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Center.
Ettenberg said a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court allows for the conviction to be vacated because Laverty had not been sentenced and had therefore not been able to appeal his sentence.
Laverty died surrounded by family at UMass Memorial Medical Center after a short battle with cancer, according to his obituary.
“In his leisure time, he enjoyed boating and riding his Harley and his ATV three-wheelers,” wrote his family, which will lay him to rest Saturday.
Laverty’s wife of 40 years, Andrea R. Laverty, is set to be sentenced April 9 after pleading guilty to helping grow marijuana and money laundering.
Their son, Thomas Laverty, is to be sentenced in May after being convicted with his father in January after a jury trial.
The jury found Charles and Thomas Laverty guilty of growing 100 or more marijuana plants in a Clinton warehouse where Thomas lived, and of laundering money through their business, Chuck Laverty & Son.
The penalty for money laundering is up to 20 years in prison, while the marijuana growing charge carries a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison.
Prosecutors had tried to convict both men of growing 1,000 or more plants – which carries a minimum of 10 years – but jurors would not grant that amount, agreeing with the defense that authorities hadn’t sufficiently proven their tally.
Ettenberg had appealed to jurors for fairness in his closing argument, observing that it was “amazing” how many resources the government had put into “investigating marijuana.”
Ettenberg said in an email Wednesday that it was “sad that Chuck had to spend the last month of his life on trial defending this case; being put into custody for 2 weeks and then after getting released by a compassionate judge, dying within a week.
“He was a good man who did a lot to help many people.”
While marijuana is legal for licensed dispensaries to grow and sell under Massachusetts law, it is illegal under federal law.
The unpermitted grow at the Lavertys’ warehouse was illegal under both state and federal law. Authorities alleged in court papers that the Lavertys failed to report income from marijuana on their taxes, and their lawyers intimated at trial that the IRS might come after them.