A 2009 Pleasantville High School graduate was sentenced to 14 years in jail last Friday for his role in the beating death of a northern California pot farmer two years ago.
Michael Kane, 27, had previously pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter by use of a hatchet and robbery of an inhabited dwelling while acting in concert with others, both felonies, said Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster.
There are six other co-defendants, all of whom will be sentenced this Friday in the county courthouse. Eyster said that Kane worked at the illegal operation early in the 2016 grow season for the victim, Jeffrey Settler, 35, at the farm just outside of Laytonville, Calif. Settler would hire laborers, have them live on site and they would cut and process the marijuana, according to the statement of facts in the sentencing memorandum.
Kane left the job in May 2016 but remained in the area crossing paths with some of the area’s other marijuana workers.
Most of the co-defendants all had various grievances against the victim, including at least a few of whom believed they were owed money by the victim.
“Laytonville is a very small town…and it is common for the various marijuana workers from all around that area to know each other from the bars and grocery store,” Eyster said in an e-mail. “Kane was introduced into the robbery plan and introduced to the group by (Zachary) Wuester, one of the three convicted early on in the proceedings of first-degree robbery in concert.”
Settler told them that they would be paid when the processed marijuana was eventually sold on the black market and he realized his profits, Eyster said.
“This did not sit well with the workers, and they believed the victim had hidden funds on hand, that he was just holding out on them,” he said.
The men then planned to steal processed marijuana, which Settler kept in his sleeping quarters. They arrived at the grounds in the early morning hours of Nov. 11, 2016.
Settler got into a fight with one of the men when the group forced their way into his dwelling. Eyster said Kane feared Settler was going to injure one of the men in the group so he hit him in the head with a hatchet.
The men stole more than 100 pounds of processed marijuana.
Kane was on the lam for about two months living in Mexico. He surrendered to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents at the border at San Diego in January 2017.
The Examiner confirmed on Monday that Kane had graduated from Pleasantville High School in 2009 and was in good standing with the school at the time of his graduation, according to the disrict.
Kane then went on to the University of Scranton, majoring in forensic accounting with a minor in finance, according to the Probation Sentencing Report. He also earned a master’s degree in finance in 2014. He had been offered a job at a New York accounting firm the following year, Eyster said.
It is not known how he gravitated to the marijuana growing areas of northern California.
The report detailed a long history of alcohol and substance use dating back to middle school and that he had voluntarily sought outpatient treatment at a White Plains facility for two and a half months but did not complete the program.