SAN DIEGO — Former Vancouver pastor John Bishop’s sentencing hearing will continue for a second day Wednesday in his marijuana smuggling case.
Tuesday’s proceedings in U.S. District Court in San Diego were sealed, so it’s not possible for the public to know how close the case is toward its climax. Due to early deadlines for The Columbian’s Thanksgiving paper, a follow-up story will be available online after today’s proceedings at www.columbian.com and also in the Friday newspaper.
Sentencing for Bishop, 55, has been set over six times since May, as the prosecution and defense readied their sentencing recommendations.
Bishop pleaded guilty in February to a federal charge of unlawful importation of a controlled substance-marijuana — a felony that carries a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence — for attempting to smuggle nearly 300 pounds of marijuana into the United States from Mexico.
The story of how the former pastor of Vancouver’s Living Hope Church ended up in federal court was detailed in a series of Columbian stories published in September, the week before Bishop was first scheduled to be sentenced.
But that sentencing date, which turned into a contested two-day hearing, was postponed in order to give Bishop time to provide another interview to authorities. He was taken into federal custody pending the resolution of his case.
Bishop’s plea deal fell apart when new evidence showed he repeatedly had been untruthful with prosecutors and the FBI. Bishop hopes to receive a reduced prison sentence through the so-called Safety Valve provision, which allows for a sentence below the statutory minimum for certain nonviolent drug offenders with little to no criminal history.
The prosecution, however, learned that Bishop had made many trips across the border running marijuana, and had contemplated transporting Mexican heroin to Vancouver. Court filings also alleged that his now-estranged wife, Michelle Bishop, and their son, David, were involved in the drug-running while the family was living in Mexico and that the couple spent the proceeds on luxuries such as cruises and a trip to a Disney theme park. Neither Michelle Bishop nor David Bishop have been charged with a federal crime.
At the September hearing, the prosecution also pointed to a Columbian article in which John Bishop made statements in an interview that were inconsistent with what he said during his Safety Valve interview with authorities.