Lake County men plead not guilty to pot charges

  • This undated photo released by the Lake County Sheriff's Office shows Ryan Balletto. Balletto, 30, and Patrick Pearmain, 24, are accused of forcing a 15-year-old girl to work on a Northern California marijuana grow, sexually abusing her and locking her in a metal toolbox for days, according to a federal complaint unsealed Monday, July 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Lake County Sheriff's Office)

SAN FRANCISCO — Two Lake County men accused of sexually abusing a teen runaway and keeping her in a metal box on their marijuana farm pleaded not guilty on Friday to federal drug charges.

The men appeared in San Francisco federal court in shackles and jail garb and were returned to custody after a brief hearing.

Federal prosecutors have charged Ryan Balletto, 30, and Patrick Pearmain, 25, with growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants on a remote Northern California farm. Both men are also charged with coercing a 15-year-old runaway to help with their alleged operation.

Balletto denied the charges even though federal prosecutors allege in court documents filed Wednesday that he confessed.

"The government ... has a recorded, Mirandized confession by Balletto, a recorded statement from the minor victim, and multiple recorded statements from others who were working on the grow site," prosecutors wrote Wednesday.

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