HELENA — A convicted Montana medical marijuana provider with a history of serious illness died Thursday after his transfer to a federal prison that could give him proper medical care was delayed for months.
Richard Flor's death came weeks after a federal judge denied an attorney's request to release the 68-year-old Miles City resident while he appealed his five-year sentence. U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell wrote in his Aug. 7 order that it was "unfortunate" that Flor's transfer to a Bureau of Prisons medical facility was delayed, but "it is not factually or legally significant."
Lovell sentenced Flor in April after Flor pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug-involved premises. Flor previously was diagnosed with dementia, depression and numerous medical conditions, and Lovell recommended that he be evaluated by federal prison hospital officials to determine what facility would be best suited for him.
Flor had been held at Crossroads Correctional Facility, a private prison in Shelby, while awaiting the Bureau of Prisons' decision on where he would serve his sentence.
He was removed from the Shelby facility Tuesday and was being temporarily held in a Las Vegas jail Wednesday when he suffered two heart attacks, renal failure and kidney failure, said his attorney, Brad Arndorfer. He was hospitalized, and his family decided early Thursday to take him off life support.
Arndorfer said Flor's death was a failure of the federal justice system at all levels.
"I can point the finger at everybody," Arndorfer said. "The fault is in prosecuting a man like this. The next fault is sentencing a man like this to prison. Then you've got the Marshals Service taking him to a place like Crossroads, which has no medical facilities capable of taking care of him."
Arndorfer said Flor was being transported to a destination that he did not know and was being held in the Las Vegas jail as a layover.
Lovell released a brief statement through his staff Thursday afternoon.
"I was sorry to learn of the passing of Mr. Flor. Judicial ethics prohibit further response," the statement read.
Neither the Bureau of Prisons nor the U.S. Marshals Service returned calls for comment. A spokeswoman for the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs Crossroads, did not immediately respond to an email.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr confirmed that Flor died Thursday in a Las Vegas hospital but said she had no further comment.
The Great Falls Tribune first reported Flor's death.
In July, Arndorfer asked Lovell to release Flor while he appealed his five-year sentence, which Flor believed was too harsh. Arndorfer made the request after Flor fell out of a bed in the Shelby detention facility and broke his clavicle and cervical bones.
Flor also reinjured the ribs and vertebrae hurt in a fall in detention the year before, Arndorfer said.
"He is in extreme pain and still is not being given round-the-clock care as is required for someone with his medical and mental conditions," Arndorfer wrote in his request. "It is anticipated he will not long survive general population incarceration."
Lovell denied the request Aug. 7, saying he checked with prison officials and Flor had recovered from his injuries.
"Defendant's medical requirements have been reviewed by the Bureau of Prisons, which is able to provide any medical care needed by the Defendant," the judge wrote.
Flor was one of the co-founders of the now-defunct Montana Cannabis, which provided marijuana for about 300 people out of locations in Helena, Missoula and Billings, and from Flor's Miles City home. It was one of the largest medical marijuana operations to be raided by federal agents in March 2011 in a crackdown on large providers.
Three of his former partners are either facing or have pleaded guilty to similar federal drug charges after protesting that they were operating in compliance with state medical marijuana laws.