Last Place on Earth owner pleads not guiltyUPDATE: The owner of the Last Place on Earth head shop in downtown Duluth, his girlfriend, son and a former employee all pleaded not guilty Friday to violating federal drug and product-labeling laws.
The owner of the Last Place on Earth head shop in downtown Duluth, his girlfriend, son and a former employee all pleaded not guilty Friday to violating federal drug and product-labeling laws.
Their attorneys said they will seek to have the indictments dismissed. Twin Cities defense attorney Randall Tigue, who represents shop owner Jim Carlson, went so far as to predict the indictments will be dismissed.
“Virtually all if it is going to get dismissed,’’ Tigue said after the hearing in U.S. District Court in Duluth. “I don’t think we’ll need a trial on this case. I think virtually all of the indictment is going to be dismissed.”
When asked on what grounds he thinks that will happen, Tigue said, “I’ll wait until I have to file it.”
A phone call seeking a response from the U.S. Attorney’s Office wasn’t immediately returned.
A jury trial has been scheduled for March 11 at a still-to-be-determined location.
Carlson, 55, and his nine-year girlfriend, Lava Marie Haugen, 32, both of Superior, his son, Joseph James Gellerman, 34, and former store employee, Jamie Paul Anderson, 24, both of Duluth, were named in a 54-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury and unsealed on Tuesday.
All of the defendants waived the formal reading of their indictment Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois in Duluth.
The indictment alleges that Carlson and employees of the downtown Duluth counterculture store violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Controlled Substances Act and the Controlled Substances Analogue Enforcement Act.
In addition to charging the store employees with distribution of controlled substances and analogues, or close copies of controlled substances, the government is using consumer laws on product labeling to prosecute the case.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that the defendants intended to mislead government authorities with false labels that, besides suggesting that the products weren’t drugs, failed to describe package content accurately and failed to include health warnings about their use.
“We’re hoping to get it dismissed,’’ Carlson said after the hearing. “We’ll go along the lines as far as we have to with the process, but we’re hopeful it all gets dismissed.” He then followed the instructions of his attorney and declined further comment.
Duluth defense attorney Richard Holmstrom represents Haugen, who he said did bookkeeping and payroll for the business.
“There is going to be a mountain of discovery (evidence), literally a mountain of discovery, that’s going to come into this case,’’ Holmstrom said after the hearing. “Before I answer any further questions about any prospects in this trial, I’m going to want to review that. We will be seeking a dismissal, but I want to find out what kind of evidence they’ve got that supports this indictment.”
Holmstrom and Tigue teamed on a motion to have law enforcement agents preserve all of their rough notes from the investigation, including those made from September 2011 and July 2012 raids conducted at Carlson’s business. When agents conduct such operations, inventories are made of items seized and other information obtained is recorded. Holmstrom said the defense wants to see how the rough notes compare with what is listed in the indictments and what other information might have been obtained. Brisbois granted the defense attorneys’ requests.
Brisbois modified the release conditions for the store employees. At Tuesday’s initial appearances, the employees were ordered to not possess any firearms or dangerous weapons. The modification allows Carlson and employees to sell legal items that his store carries such as battle axes, throwing stars, swords, knives, stun guns and pepper spray, but the indicted employees cannot remove the items from the store themselves.
The four defendants voluntarily surrendered to authorities on Tuesday. They are free on $25,000 signature bonds with their travel limited to the Twin Ports area. The court ordered that Anderson, who faces theft charges in St. Louis County, reside with his mother in Superior pending trial.