George Norris, a 66-year-old retiree who ran a home-based orchid business was imprisoned for two years in a federal penitentiary because "he had failed to properly navigate the many, often irrational, paperwork requirements the U.S. imposed when it implemented an arcane international treaty's new restrictions on trade in flowers and other flora," reports
claims the The Washington Times
, in a story titled, "Criminalizing everyone
." (The orchids themselves were legal.)
When 60-year-old Kathy Norris asked court officials why U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's very own SWAT team had raided and ransacked her home, they helpfully explained, "You don't need to know. You can't know."
The judge who sentenced Mr. Norris had some advice for him and his wife: "Life sometimes presents us with lemons." Their job was, yes, to "turn lemons into lemonade."
The judge apparently failed to appreciate how difficult it is to run a successful lemonade stand when you're an elderly diabetic with coronary complications, arthritis and Parkinson's disease serving time in a federal penitentiary.
UPDATE: Read the comments for more context to the story. There seems to be more going on here than what the The Washington Times is reporting.
Here's an interesting post from 2004 about George Norris from Pollenatrix, a "botanical discipline" blog:
George Norris, a crusty old orchid grower from Texas, has yet again found himself squarely in the sights of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Department of Homeland Security.
George, along with his business associate Peruvian grower Manuel Arias-Silver, is charged with conspiracy to smuggle endangered phragmipediums (orchids) into the U.S. Since Manuel is one of only three growers to have been given permission by the Peruvian government to artificially propagate the newly discovered phragmipedium Kovachii, it appears that the U.S. government has singled out the pair for special attention over suspicions that this is the species they were smuggling. There appears to be little evidence of this, though it is likely the pair were taking some shortcuts on paperwork because of the challenges of importing other, legally propagated species, into the U.S.
In the orchid world, the CITES treaty is almost universally denounced; the charge is that it does nothing to stop habitat destruction, and actually encourages illegal smuggling of wild-collected plants because the regulations make it so difficult to trade in artifically-propagated specimens.
Federal SWAT Raid Over . . . Orchids
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