Story of Idaho drug smuggling murder becomes movie
COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) A movie set to be released later this week focuses on the 2002 murder of a northern Idaho man and the drug smuggling rivalry that led to the crime.
Director John Stockwell told the Coeur d'Alene Press that he was fascinated by the crime story after reading about it in Rolling Stone. He took it to HBO films to be optioned, and the movie, "Kid Cannabis," will be released on April 18.
The movie revisits the life of Kootenai County drug smuggler Brenden Butler and his rival, Nate Norman, a chubby 19-year-old who rose from pizza delivery man to marijuana kingpin. Butler hired someone to kill Norman, but instead was killed by his own hit man.
Kootenai County Sheriff's Sgt. Brad Maskell, who took part in the investigation, says he's not surprised to see the complex case become a movie. The discovery of 20-year-old Butler's body in the northern Idaho woods led police into Coeur d'Alene's underground drug scene. Most of the people involved in the pot trafficking schemes were young ranging in age from high school students to early 20s, Maskell said. The FBI and Idaho State Police eventually joined the investigation.
Norman was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for his role as head of the trafficking ring. Seven of his partners received prison terms ranging from 24 to 26 months for their roles in the operation.
Giovanni Mendiola, the hit man who turned on his employer instead of taking out Norman, accepted a plea deal and received an eight-year sentence in exchange for admitting to second-degree murder.
Stockwell, who visited Norman in prison, said he was drawn to the narrative of an "average guy" masterminding the multi-million dollar trafficking operation. But he believes Norman wanted to make people happy more than he wanted the money that came pouring in.
Jonathan Daniel Brown, who was cast to play Norman in 'Kid Cannabis,' agreed.
"He really just wanted to make his life better by giving people what they wanted," Brown said. "And that was pot."
Information from: Coeur d'Alene Press