|
|
Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Defense rests in synthetic drug case

  • Jurors in the trial of a Duluth business owner accused of misbranding and selling synthetic drugs have now heard all of the evidence they will consider, but they will have to wait awhile to begin deliberations.
    • email print
      Comment
  • Jurors in the trial of a Duluth business owner accused of misbranding and selling synthetic drugs have now heard all of the evidence they will consider, but they will have to wait awhile to begin deliberations.
    The defense rested its case Tuesday morning without any of the defendants taking the stand, one day after the government rested. But due to the complicated nature of the case, the jury was sent home early and the entire afternoon was set aside for attorneys and Judge David S. Doty to discuss jury instructions.
    “It’s going to take us a little while longer than normal to work through some issues,” Doty told the jury. “Go home and get some rest, because tomorrow is going to be a very intense day for you.”
    Before the trial began, Doty expressed frustration with prosecutors and the unusually long indictment, calling the case “overcomplicated” and saying it might be hard for jurors to comprehend all of the charges.
    Last Place on Earth owner Jim Carlson, 56, is charged with 55 federal crimes for allegedly misbranding and selling synthetic drugs at the store, as well as money laundering. His girlfriend, Lava Haugen, 33, and son, Joseph Gellerman, 34, face four charges apiece.
    Carlson’s attorney, Randall Tigue, had said before and during the trial that he expected Carlson to take the stand. However, he said Tuesday that it would not be advantageous for Carlson to do so because he would be limited in what he could say.
    Defense attorneys argue that public statements from members of Congress and agencies including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration led their clients to believe that products sold at the store were legal. But Doty has ruled that the statements could not be admitted into evidence.
    Doty advised the defendants of their Fifth Amendment rights. All three said they understood that they could take the stand, but opted not to.
    “Your honor, I’m not going to testify because I won’t be able to say my reasons (for believing the products were legal),” Carlson said.
    Also Tuesday, attorneys for Haugen and Gellerman renewed motions to have the charges against their clients dropped, citing a lack of evidence to sustain a conviction.
    Federal rules allow a judge to acquit defendants at the end of a case if there is insufficient evidence against them. Doty took the motions under advisement, and said he would issue a ruling before jury deliberations.
    Haugen and Gellerman both worked at Carlson’s store, which has been shut down since July following a state judge’s order. The store openly sold products that Carlson called “incense” and “bath salts,” which government attorneys say were actually illegal synthetic drugs.
    Page 2 of 2 - Most of the testimony and evidence in the case focused on Carlson, but several witnesses described interacting with Haugen and Gellerman. Former employees and customers testified that Gellerman worked primarily as a clerk, while Haugen handled some clerical duties and assumed some of Carlson’s responsibilities when he was away from the shop.
    Attorneys will present closing arguments to jurors this morning, after which Doty will provide legal instructions and narrow the jury down from 14 to 12 members. Despite the possibility of deliberations lasting several days, Doty assured jurors they would not be sequestered.
    If convicted, the defendants face a potential maximum penalty of five years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States; three years for violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act; and 20 years for each count of violating the Controlled Substances Act, or the CSAEA. In addition, Carlson faces a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for each count of engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from a specified unlawful activity.

        calendar