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The case of Thomas J. Franzen

Friday, Jul 26, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* June 6

A suburban man who, according to his defense attorney, bought over 40 pounds of drug-infused candy to self-medicate as he battled cancer, was sentenced to four years in prison.

Thomas J. Franzen, 37, pleaded guilty to marijuana possession in exchange for the sentence, the Kane County state’s attorney’s office said.

In a statement, prosecutors said they dropped the more serious charge of drug trafficking that carries a minimum sentence of 12 years in “recognition of the seriousness of Mr. Franzen’s medical condition.” […]

In 2014, authorities found a 42 pounds of THC-infused chocolate in a package shipped from California to Franzen’s home in west suburban Montgomery, prosecutors said.

Officers later searched Franzen’s home and found cocaine, over 100 additional grams of marijuana and other items used for drug dealing, prosecutors said. They allegedly found a digital scale, $2,000 in cash, ledgers used to track drug sales and packaging materials.

* Same date

Franzen has stage four cancer and was using the chocolates to “self-medicate” and relieve himself from symptoms, such as nausea, [defense attorney David Camic] said.

According to an August 2018 court petition for an expert to evaluate whether Franzen was fit to stand trial, Franzen was suffering from testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and abdominal cavity.

According to the motion, Franzen also had a reoccurrence of renal cell cancer in one of his kidneys, and Camic was concerned Franzen could not assist in his defense by providing an “accurate recitation of the facts” of the case. It was unclear whether a judge heard from an expert before Franzen’s guilty plea late last week.

Franzen gets credit for seven days served at the Kane County jail before he could post bond. He also can have his prison term cut in half for good behavior.

* June 14

After Franzen’s guilty plea, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon said members of the North Central Narcotics Task Force, a unit of the state police, searched Franzen’s home after his arrest and found “evidence of drug dealing,” such as ledgers, more than $2,000, a digital scale, hashish oil, paraphernalia, and receipts for packages he mailed across the country and Canada. […]

Camic disagreed with McMahon’s assessment, arguing Franzen was reselling items on eBay and other online sites.

“My client was not selling drugs,” Camic said. “What he was selling was sneakers, vintage clothing, vintage toys and sporting goods.”

* Yesterday

A Montgomery cancer patient sentenced to four years in prison for having 42 pounds of THC-infused chocolates mailed to his home in 2014 has petitioned Gov. Pritzker for a pardon or to have the sentence commuted so he can receive treatment at home.

Since he was sent to prison last month, Thomas J. Franzen, 37, has lost 20 pounds and is not getting the medical care he was promised, according to his petition filed by attorney David Camic. […]

In the petition, Camic details his client’s turbulent childhood and history of fighting various forms of cancer, which began with testicular cancer that now has spread to his lungs and other organs. The petition also notes Franzen was one of the first Illinois residents to receive a medical marijuana card in 2016 and this was his first conviction of any kind. […]

“His crime was motivated by an attempt to mitigate his pain and symptoms through the use of cannabis. His medical need to use cannabis is verified and supported by the fact he was granted a medical use card,” read part of the petition.

The petition also included letters and other documentation from his doctor, along with 19 letters of support from friends, his employer and relatives, including his uncle Chuck Nelson, who also serves as Aurora deputy mayor.

* Sun-Times

On Thursday, Pritzker’s press secretary Jordan Abudayyeh confirmed that the governor will “review the request.” David Camic, Franzen’s attorney, said he and his client are “gratified that the governor is reviewing our petition.”

“If he gives it the careful consideration we know he will that he will at minimum commute Mr. Franzen’s sentence,” said Camic, who submitted the petition on behalf of Franzen.



  1. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:36 am:

    He pled in exchange for the sentence. If this was just about self-medicating he might have been better off going to trial. However, the evidence appears to suggest he was dealing to support himself. If he had an eBay defense he should have rolled the dice and made it. I wouldn’t oppose a commutation, however, under the circumstances.

  2. - So_Ill - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:36 am:

    I hope he gets pardoned, but he was pretty dumb to commit multiple felonies considering his condition.

  3. - CubsFan16 - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:36 am:

    This is terrible. Truly compassionless. I hope the Governor commutes.

  4. - OutOfState - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    I believe Franzen was dealing, probably to support himself through cancer treatments. Cancer is painful enough without having to deal with medical treatment behind bars. A commutation would be merciful, but I don’t think the governor is unjust if he decides to decline the application.

  5. - Roger Abbott - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:45 am:

    Even if he was dealing the gummies, the right thing and the humane thing to do is commute his sentence.

  6. - H. Thomas - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:46 am:

    Social equity requires a pardon.

  7. - Techie - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:47 am:

    It’s just weed, and he was using it as medicine. Pardon the man, who’s fighting for his life.

  8. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:50 am:

    “I hope the Governor commutes.”

    Me too. Reefer Madness caused criminalization. Of course there’s going to be such a big black market when something consumed as much as marijuana gets criminalized.

    The black market problem should be dealt with nationally, and there are bills out now that although may not pass because of #MoscowMitch, they should hopefully help get the debate started for the 2020 elections. When we legalize piecemeal, state by state, that’s still a lot of black market out there.

  9. - Wensicia - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:50 am:

    Commute his sentence to time served.

  10. - Just Me - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:57 am:

    It does look like he may have been dealing on the side to generate some much-needed income. Desperate people do desperate things. This should have been a case of prosecutorial discretion but I can easily imagine a lack of compassion in Kane County. They probably think the plea deal is already generous.

    To me the largest argument here is that Corrections can’t provide the medical service he apparently needs. Commuting his sentence seems appropriate.

  11. - A guy - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 9:58 am:

    He’s not “fighting for his life”. He’s dying. He’s providing himself palliative care. Take away his WiFi and send him home. The system isn’t set up to treat him for this and it’s likely costing a fortune to mistreat him medically.
    He’s got nothing to lose and a timeline with his health. The only true thing he has to lose is very limited time with loved ones. Commute the sentence to time served or sentence him to home confinement, whatever. Send him home.

  12. - Joe Bidenopolous - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:00 am:

    All I can say is that if he was really dealing, there would’ve been a lot more than $2k lying around. Commute.

  13. - Glum - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:02 am:

    If he was dealing across state lines or to another country I think the feds would have been involved, not a local state’s Attorney. Then again Joe McMahon is one of the better states attorneys and doesn’t exactly need to make a name for himself as a tough on crime guy. He’s pretty practical. Something just doesn’t add up here.

  14. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:04 am:

    What A guy said. Send him home, governor.

  15. - 62401 - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:10 am:

    The coke, cash and ledgers seem to go against defense narrative. However, why did SAO not consider probation based sentence with home confinement and/or electronic monitoring? What will be the cost for IDOC to house and treat this offender/inmate per year? How many other elderly or terminal inmates deserve the governor’s consideration regarding commutation?

  16. - New Slang - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:17 am:

    He won’t get the care he needs in DOC. Let’s get that straight right now.

  17. - Jocko - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    The only thing that bothers me is the cocaine…which (I suspect) has a better markup than cannabis.

    So long as he named ‘bigger fish’ (prior to the plea), he should be sent home.

  18. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:31 am:

    Desperate people do desperate things. - Just Me

    Truer words were never written…Does this man truly deserve to die a painful death…in prison?

    Addiction is a disease…not a crime.

    Does incarcerating this man unto death serve justice?

    I wonder who can imagine suffering from terminal illness while locked in a cold steel cage.

    Governor Pritzker…what say you,Sir?

  19. - Gummo - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:35 am:

    Ledgers, scales, transaction histories, multiple drugs, he was a dealer.

    Accept that. Commutation is fine for the ill and dying. but don’t say it was an offense committed for “treatment.”

  20. - SSL - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:37 am:

    If he has stage 4 send him home.

  21. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:41 am:

    Yeah he was dealing, but that’s a federal matter. Commute the sentence, JB. No need to spend Illinois taxpayers money on his incarceration and the ridiculously expensive treatment he will need.

  22. - Froganon - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:50 am:

    Commute the sentence. The man is dying. Let him go home and monitor for dealing.

  23. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:50 am:

    I don’t trust the facts as presented by the defense attorney. Get a second medical opinion. If he is dying, send him home.

  24. - {Sigh} - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:51 am:

    =The petition also notes Franzen was one of the first Illinois residents to receive a medical marijuana card in 2016 and this was his first conviction of any kind=

    The licensed medical cannabis dispensaries opened in November 2015. Not sure I would agree with the statement that he was one of the first to get his card in 2016, since the first people got cards in 2015.

  25. - R A T - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:53 am:

    This is problematic…

    “and found cocaine”

  26. - Nick Name - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:55 am:

    Why we need national health care. Cancer patients should not have to resort to dealing drugs just to manage their pain. Every other developed country in the world understands this.

  27. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 10:57 am:

    Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal. - Arthur C,.Clarke

    Time does not wait…for disease…for suffering…for death.

  28. - Honeybear - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    I second A Guy

    Why do we need to be like this?

  29. - West Side the Best Side - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 11:20 am:

    Agree with Last Bull Moose, you don’t need a digital scale of you’re selling sneakers. If the defense is fudging things there needs to be a second opinion. If that is in fact Mr. Frazen’s condition then a commutation is appropriate.

  30. - DougChicago - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 11:26 am:

    Let the man go home.

  31. - Amalia - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 11:34 am:

    If he had committed a murder, would we let him go home and die? not seeing all the evidence, but viewing the story, he was probably dealing. that affects other people. what would prison care be like vs. home care? certainly not as comfortable, but perhaps better medically?

  32. - Demoralized - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 11:41 am:

    Send him home. If you want to maintain some sort of “punishment” confine him to his house.

  33. - DougChicago - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 11:59 am:

    Blessed are the merciful.

  34. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 12:08 pm:

    == you don’t need a digital scale of you’re selling sneakers.==
    I have a digital scale. I’m not a drug dealer. What of it?

  35. - Thomas Paine - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 12:14 pm:

    Put in the best possible light for the state, we spent four years prosecuting and are prepared to spend two years incarcerating (not to mention health treatment) for a low level drug dealer, on his first conviction.

    If he did not have cancer, and his name was Dante Smith from Englewood, we would not even be hearing about it, but it would still be loony public policy.

    Can I get a witness, Christian Mitchell?

    FWIW, McMahon is the guy who prosecuted Van Dyke, let’s not demonize a good public servant.

  36. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 12:23 pm:

    ==what would prison care be like vs. home care? certainly not as comfortable, but perhaps better medically?==

    Prison care might be better medically (emphasis on might), but then taxpayers would be on the hook for the tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars that treatment for Stage 4 cancer would cost. Prosecutors were the ones who decided to drop the trafficking charges, they should have to explain to JB why we should not only pay to incarcerate the guy for marijuana possession but also pay for his very expensive medical care.

  37. - LTSW - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 12:52 pm:

    Commute his sentence and send him home. Then at least the state can get federal match on the Medicaid payments for his cancer treatments.

  38. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 1:20 pm:

    Who has been the recipient of prison care?…I wonder.

    I believe it’s difficult to imagine.

    I’m no oncologist…by any means…but I’m fairly certain invasive and metastasizing lung cancers can be quickly fatal…and I’m positive prison is no good place to die.

    I also agree many other prisoners find themselves in this catastrophic position…except that they were caught wearing darker skin … and no deserved breaks (at all) comin’ for them.

  39. - Dotnonymous - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 2:10 pm:

    I wonder who can imagine suffering from terminal illness while locked in a cold steel cage.

    Would we even do that to the dog who bit the mailman?

    I think not.

  40. - State of DenIL - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 2:16 pm:

    It sounds like house arrest should be an option.

  41. - West Side the Best Side - Friday, Jul 26, 19 @ 3:22 pm:

    Da Big Bad Wolf - Do you also have cocaine along with your digital scale like Mr. Franzen did? Before you reply, “You have a right to remain silent, etc.” Just suggesting that the version the defense is offering should be viewed with a critical eye.

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