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JEFFERSON CITY — A Capitol pot lobbyist accused of conspiring to distribute large amounts of weed in mid-Missouri pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to the federal charges in U.S. District Court.

Eapen Thampy, 35, faces 10 years to life in prison if convicted of the Class A felony of conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana. He also is charged with the lesser felony of possession with intent to distribute 50 kilograms or more of marijuana.

Eapen Thampy, 35, was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on a felony marijuana distribution conspiracy charge and a felony marijuana po…

Thampy appeared in court in an orange Cole County Jail jumpsuit, his hands cuffed in front of him. He panned the room before directing his attention to the judge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Scott Oliver withdrew the government's motion that sought to have Thampy held without bond, and Thampy was released from the Cole County Jail later on Wednesday.

"Well Mr. Thampy, that doesn't happen a lot," Magistrate Judge Willie J. Epps said when prosecutors withdrew the motion.

Thampy agreed to several conditions, including relinquishing his passport and refraining from illegal drug use. He will also have to submit to drug tests and pre-trial conferences.

Epps also ordered Thampy not to travel outside the state without prior permission, not to possess a firearm and not to communicate with co-defendants, among other things.

So far, nine people have been charged in an alleged scheme to distribute Oregon-grown marijuana in mid-Missouri: Osama Nadir Yanis, Nader Robert Osama Yanis, Blake J. Johnson, Dylan J. Blake, Christopher M. Bradshaw, Tamra G. Johnson, Craig D. Smith Jr., Michael J. Ricketts and Thampy.

The Yanises, father and son, have both pleaded guilty to federal drug charges.

Osama Yanis, the father, is the well-known owner of Coffee Zone in Columbia, Mo.

Federal authorities have been investigating the alleged distribution ring since December 2017, when Augustus “Gus” Roberts of Columbia, Mo., was killed in a drug-related homicide at his home, authorities said.

The charges say the marijuana-distribution conspiracy started at least as early as Jan. 1, 2015, and lasted through Sept. 1, 2018.

Since 2015, when Thampy registered as a lobbyist in Missouri, he has personally donated $26,507 to Missouri candidate campaign accounts and other political action committees. He represents 14 entities as a lobbyist, including several associated with the state's fledgling cannabis industry.

Thampy has pushed for drug-reform policies in the Capitol, including legalization of medical marijuana and civil asset forfeiture reform.

Thampy's attorneys, Michael L. Belancio and Shawn Lee, declined to comment on the case after the court hearing.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for Aug. 1 in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City.

Jack Suntrup covers state government and politics for the Post-Dispatch.

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